…Self-publishing is the new business card. – James Altucher
Stand Out Among Your Peers
If you want to stand out among an ever-growing field of experts, write a book. Very few entrepreneurs actually go through the effort of writing a book. Some statistics say the number is 5% or less. It’s amazing, actually, that so few business owners make the effort, even as so many create blogs. Many think there’s no money in it or it’s just for vanity. “Vanity publishing” they used to call it. I call it money. Amazon reported last year that 31% of all e-book sales are self-published authors. That represented nearly 40% of all the e-book royalties for Kindle. Amazing! In other words, self-published authors were earning more than their proportionate share of royalties compared to other e-book authors. If that’s not enough to get you thinking, I don’t know what does.
We discuss how to write your own book in today’s podcast episode.
Book Ideas to Get Started
Of course, most entrepreneurial would-be authors get stuck thinking about what to write. There are a few book formulas that make sense for the first-time author. These can be used either for e-books or for traditional books. I’m going to cover 5 book formulas that you can use to put your first book on paper. These book ideas are tried and true formats that will help solidify your credibility and act as a door-opener for big clients and other revenue opportunities – like speaking engagements.
1. Interview style
In the interview style, you find an expert or a group of experts and interview them. As opposed to being the expert for the book, you bring the experts to the table. It’s the most powerful of the book ideas for new consultants and coaches. Sometimes people think that the interviewer doesn’t come off looking like they know anything and therefore, interviewing others isn’t a good strategy for gaining credibility. I think that is fundamentally wrong. As the interviewer, your credibility comes from bringing the experts to the reader. You, as the author, borrow credibility from the experts being interviewed. That lending of authority makes you look like the “playmaker” – someone who can bring the resources together to make things happen. In addition, just by being around these experts, you’re seen as an equal to them. To build this kind of book, create an outline of topics and find one or multiple experts to speak on those topics. Record your conversations with the expert(s) and have them transcribed. The transcription can be edited and shortened for the desired length of the book. Maybe you use one expert per chapter – or per section of the book.
2. FAQ style
The frequently asked question style is probably the easiest type to write of all the book ideas. You pick several questions you get asked all the time. Then pick several questions you wished you were asked. Now, answer them. Write down the answers or speak the answers and then have those answers transcribed. If you work on this every day, you’ll find that quickly you can generate a great deal of very valuable content. An editor can add connecting pieces between the questions, as well as and a summary introduction and conclusion. My clients that work with me directly often start with this book idea in order to get something published quickly. They find that they can quickly demonstrate their expertise, publish information which many people struggle with (hence the ‘frequently’ as part of the title.)
3. Case study style
The case study format is where you take an example and show how you or your process solved the problem. This works for both businesses and consumers. It’s the most appropriate of the book ideas for a reader that’s looking to solve a problem. What makes the case study so powerful is that it gets to the heart of the matter: the pain point. Structure the case study in a way that is meaningful for your target audience, but there is a nice format you can follow. I’m taking this format from Mark Satterfield’s book, The One Week Marketing Plan, where he uses it to outline a lead magnet report. But the same format can be used for a short case study book. For a longer book, you might include several of these. First, describe the case study subject and the problem that they have. Second, explain the consequences to the subject if they don’t solve the problem. This argues against the “do nothing” crowd. Next, outline a few of the options that could be considered as alternatives to yours and quickly dismiss them by showing their weaknesses or downsides. This sets the reader up for your solution. Next, outline what you did to solve this problem. If your solution has steps (and it should), describe the solution in that way to make it easier for your reader to follow. Then, explain the results of what happened. Focus on the outcomes for the case study subject and what positive impact was left. Finally, tell the reader what you want them to do. They should take action on your suggestions – including reaching out to you for help! 4. Story-telling style The story-telling format is one of the newer book ideas that blends elements of fiction with non-fiction. In some sense, all good books are a story, but in the story-telling style, the non-fiction author embraces the story and put it front and center. It’s similar to the case study, in that you want to outline your case study subject, their problem and resolution, but instead of telling it from a clinical perspective, you make your case study subject the protagonist of their own story. This story may be completely true, or it may be fiction. But either way, the story winds its way through some of the same steps we covered with the case study. Here’s it’s important to follow a three-act model of any good story. First, the exposition establishes the characters, the problem, and gets us to care about them and the outcome. Second, the conflict surfaces a problem. Several bad attempts are made to solve the problem, we, the reader, get worried about the outcome. Third, the resolution is where the problem is solved. The problem is brought to the climax, it’s most intense point, and then whatever process you are proposing is brought to closure to help the protagonist achieve what they were looking for – or potentially much better. The best stories actually leave the protagonist better off than he or she started, and often in ways we never would have guessed at the beginning of the story. It takes quite a bit of talent to pull this off – blending the non-fiction process you’re trying to teach to the moral tale of a fictional (or not-so-fictional) case. But it’s powerful and done well can leave it’s mark. That’s why Aesop’s fables have lasted so long. 5. Steps style Finally, you can write your book as a series of steps. Probably the easiest of the book ideas, but potentially also less interesting, the steps format provides an “easy to follow” guide for the reader. If you use this style, be careful not to lose the idea that a book is also in some sense a story. Don’t write each step as a disconnected unit from the other. You want the steps to carry an overall arch of the story forward. Otherwise, it feels like the book is just a bunch of unrelated blog posts.
Get To It!
Hopefully you have some ideas to get you started on your path to become an author. Writing your own book is a great way to establish authority and credibility in your field – regardless of your background. Even with the emergence of self-publishing, being an author is still a rarity and opens doors that aren’t open for you today. I help consultants, coaches, and experts get their book out there. If you want to see the steps to getting your book in the market, check out our free guide on the subject.