Posts Tagged ‘business writing’

Writing is a craft, and writers need the right tools to write a book that builds their brand. Here are some of the high-tech and low-tech tools you can use to write your book as efficiently as possible.

Low-tech tools

Simple tools can be very effective. For example, one of the most important is a 3-ring binder, a supply of 3-hole punched paper, and a couple of packages of tab dividers. This will make it easy for you to consolidate print-outs of everything associated with your book in one handy location.

I recommend choosing a binder with plastic inserts on the front and along the spine. This allows you to create a cover and spine identifying the notebook. The spine is especially important if you will be placing your 3-ring notebook in a bookshelf. I recommend a 2 ½ or 3-inch binder; smaller binders won’t have the capacity you need, larger binders are awkward to handle.

Choose a package of blank tab dividers that you can use for making it easy to locate your book proposal, table of contents, and documents such as your publisher’s writer’s guidelines. Choose a set of numbered tab dividers to use indicating print-outs of each chapter of your book.

Clipboard

Another recommended low-tech tool is a simple clipboard which you can use to bring home worksheets and print-outs. The clipboard keeps things organized, and provides a solid working surface for taking notes or filling out worksheets in your car, while watching TV, or reviewing your next day’s writing goals in bed.

Google calendar

As mentioned before in my previous post – How to make time to write your book, I highly recommend authors use an online calendar, like Google’s, to set aside time for working on your book each day. The advantage of an online calendar is that you can access it from any online computer, and you can share it with co-workers and family, letting them know when you’re not going to be available. You can also print-out daily or weekly views of your time commitments and writing goals, and save the current week’s printout in your 3-ring binder.

High-tech tools (Software recommendations)

Here are some suggestions for software that can help you save time while working on your book.

  1. ŸMind mapping software. Mind mapping software, available from numerous vendors, permits you to visually display your book’s table of contents or your marketing plan. You can collapse mind maps to show just the top-level topics (i.e., chapters or marketing activities for individual month), or you can expand mind maps to reveal the details associated with specific chapters or projects. After you’re through, you can export your work to word processing, project management, or presentation software programs. Be sure to visit the comprehensive Product Directory at Chuck Frey’s Mind Mapping Software Blog.
  2. Keystroke substitution software. Productivity software programs like Buzz Bruggerman’s ActiveWords save you time by eliminating unnecessary typing. For example, let’s say the title of your book is Looking Good in Print: A Guide to Basic Design for Desktop Publishing. Wow! That’s 69 characters! With ActiveWords, however, all you have to do is enter LGIP and the words are automatically inserted, saving you 65 characters! You can use ActiveWords to load and exit programs, address e-mail, insert boilerplate, and enter passwords. Best of all, your keyboard shortcuts are available throughout all of your Windows software programs. Download a free 60-day trial or read more here.
  3. Speech recognition software. Speed recognition software, like Nuance’s Dragon Naturally Speaking Solutions, eliminates the need to type every word of your book. Indeed, you can use your voice to open files, launch applications, dictate, and surf the web. You can also use it to transcribe ideas and short chapter segments typed into a digital voice recorder while stopped at traffic lights.

Mastery of word processing program

You likely have a word processing software program, but, Are you using it as effectively as you could? In my experience, few authors take full advantage of the tools already available in Microsoft Word. Here are a few examples of Word features that are typically under-used:

  1. Tables. I’ve created several worksheets based on tables to make it easy for clients to brainstorm and organize their book’s table of contents. With a 3-column table, for example, you can use Column 1 for Sections, Column 2 for Chapter titles, and Column 3 for the main ideas associated with each chapter.
  2. Sort. Word’s Table>Sort feature allows you to sort lists and tables on up to 3 variables, i.e., Column 1, Column 2, and then, Column 3.
  3. Keyboard shortcuts. You can create a highly efficient writing environment by using Word’s existing keyboard shortcuts to execute most commands, and you can also create your own keyboard shortcuts. I use keyboard shortcuts to apply text formatting to subheads, lists, and body copy. This allows me to format text without taking my hand off the keyboard and reaching for the mouse.

Here’s where you can take a free online assessment to test your knowledge of Word’s writing tools.

An invitation

The above just barely scratches the surface of the tools that efficiency-oriented authors and business owners use to write more in less time. There are hundreds more, most of which can be tried out for free. What’s your favorite writing tool? Which high-tech or low-tech tools do you use to get the most writing done in the least time? Share your suggestions as comments, below. We can all benefit from each other’s willingness to share our favorite efficiency tips and tools.

I’ve heard few authors say that they “found the time” to write their book! Time is not something you “find,” like a needle in a haystack (or, the New World).

Instead, time to write is something you create, and you create time using tools like planning, commitment, and efficiency.

Here’s a proven, 4-step process for making the time to write that works for me, and many of my clients.

1. Start with a plan

Whether you’re writing a book or a blog post, progress comes quicker when you know what you want to write before you sit down to write.

Your “plans” don’t have to be elaborate, and they don’t have to be formal. As you can see from the content plan I created at the start of this series, a simple mind map is enough to provide a framework for your writing success.

Likewise, if you’re starting a book, your plan might be as simple as a list of the 10 chapters you’re going to include in your book, plus the 7-10 main ideas (or topics) you’re going to discuss in each chapter.

For example, I just added a copy of a mind map I created a few years ago for a major project to my Active Garage Resource Center. It was one of my first maps, but it was enough to sell the project and help me write the project on time.

2. Commit to daily progress

Once you have created a content plan, or framework, the next step is to forget everything you ever heard about deadline-based “writing marathons.” Likewise, forget about “getting away” to write a book and myths like “I write better under pressure.”

I’ve interviewed hundreds of successfully branded authors, and the majority of them don’t believe coffee-inspired writing marathons. Instead, they commit to consistent daily progress, often in working sessions as short as 30 minutes.

Books are best written in short, daily working sessions, not stressful marathons!

It’s amazing what you can accomplish in 30-minute working sessions if you know what you’re going to write about. The act of creating a content plan, activates your brain so it is constantly working in the background, sifting and organizing ideas, searching for the right words, while you’re doing other tasks during the day, and when you’re driving or sleeping.

Fewer expectations equal less stress

One of the reasons that short working sessions are so productive is that there is less stress- -primarily performance anxiety- -involved in short 30-minute working sessions than in vacations or weekends. One of the reasons for this is that if you only expect to write a page or two during a working session, you’re not as likely to be disappointed.

But, if you have vowed to write a book over the summer at a vacation cabin, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. Why? Because the expectation of a completed book leads to the worrisome thought, What do I do if I don’t finish my book? Won’t I be a failure? Won’t people laugh?

Likewise, expecting to write a book during weekends and holidays, creates guilt-based stress because you’re not spending time with your family.

3. Harvest your time

Begin by taking an inventory of your time, locating specific time periods each day when you can commit to 30 minute working sessions. Look for opportunities like:

  • Getting up 30-minutes earlier each day, preferably before the family gets up.
  • Staying up 30-minute later each night.
  • Arriving at the office 30-minutes earlier and closing the door.
  • Taking your lunch with you, and eating a sandwich at your computer.
  • Taking your laptop to a coffee shop or bookstore café during breaks or mealtime.

Then, make both public commitment of specific times each weekday. Don’t say, I’m going to write a little every morning! Instead, specify, I’m going to get to my office by 8:30 AM and check my messages or e-mail until 9:00!

Your daily writing sessions don’t have to be at the same time each day; your working sessions on Monday might be between 7:30 and 8:00 AM, but your Tuesday working sessions might be 8:00 PM to 8:30 while the family is watching television.

Once you’ve made a commitment to daily progress, and shared it with others, you’ll find it much easier to keep your project on track.

4. Track your progress

Since we all find the time to do what we want to do, it’s important that you keep yourself motivated.

That’s why the final step is to find a way to demonstrate your daily progress. One of the ways you can do this is to add a check-mark, or a strike-through, to indicate finished chapters and topics on your content map.

Another way to show progress is to print what you’ve just written during each writing session on 3-hole punched paper, and store them in a 3-ring binder.

Each time you open the binder and insert new pages, you’ll enjoy a feeling of accomplishment, as you see your finished pages mounting up.

Conclusion

All the “how to write” books and workshops in the world won’t get your book written if you don’t make the time to make the time to actually write your book. The 4-step process of planning your content, commiting to short, daily working sessions, harvesting your time, and tracking your progress is a formula that works. But, it’s up to you to put the process to work!

The best way to achieve writing success is to cultivate the habits shared by successfully branded authors. As Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, and Les Hewitt wrote in their highly-recommended The Power of Focus, “Your daily habits determine your success.”

In previous Author Journey articles, I’ve described several of the habits that contribute to writing a successful book. These have included:

Putting theory into practice

This week, I’d like to describe how the above habits influenced the decisions I made selecting the topic, publisher, and format for my next book, #Book Title Tweet: 140 Bite-Sized Ideas for Article, Book, and Event Titles

Hopefully, this installment will help you apply the habits of targeting, positioning, and efficiency when you commit to writing a book to drive your business and career success.


Targeting

I had two goals in writing #Book Title Tweet:

  • Membership incentive. I wanted to create a tangible membership sign-up bonus I could send to new Published & Profitable members.
  • Credibility & Visibility. I also wanted to attract the attention of potential coaching clients who might be having a hard time selecting a topic and title for their book. I enjoy online coaching and brainstorming activities, especially when they involve critical decisions at the start of a project.

A printed book provides an excellent premium for Published & Profitable. It can be used for both member acquisition and member retention. (I can have it sent when members sign-up, or I can send it at the end of the third month.)

As a marketing tool, #Book Title Tweet will attract qualified prospects at the starting point of their journey to a published book. It targets a “pain point” that holds back the success of many authors.

Positioning

#Book Title Tweet was also “right” from the positioning point of view. Although every book (hopefully) has a title, there’s not that much available that focuses specifically on choosing effective book titles.

The closest book I could locate was Sam Horn’s POP!: Create the Perfect Pitch, Title, and Tagline for Anything, [7] which is a very fine book that appeared last year. I really enjoyed it, but it’s not specifically aimed a book titles. It’s more of a guide to memorable expressive names that can be applied to book titles, than a book about choosing a book title.

Sam’s book is also a 256-page book, and I wanted something a more accessible in our current time-strapped environment.

So, a book on book titles made sense from the point of a broad market with little specific competition. (There are, of course, books about titles for fiction books, but I wanted to target business-oriented authors of nonfiction books.)

Efficiency

I’m like everyone else. I don’t have enough time. So, like everyone else, I’m searching for manageable projects that won’t become time traps or energy-draining albatrosses.

I was initially skeptical when I first heard about Rajesh Setty’s #Think Tweet: 140 lessons for a bite-sized world. However, when I read it, I realized that this was exactly the right format for my book. Here’s why:

  • Most books are longer than they need to be. They’re also longer than time-sensitive readers want their books to be. As I read #Think Tweet, I realized that Twitter has shown us all that it’s possible to communicate a lot in just 140 characters.
  • It’s the ideas, the “sparks of recognition,” that count! Books with 140 ideas that can be immediately put to work are more valuable than books that share 10 or 12 ideas in exhausting detail. A concise presentation of options can be more valuable than discussing every detail.

The need for conciseness is not going to go away. It’s a sign of the times. We’re likely to continue to be subjected to greater time demands for years to come.

Note: It’s not that there’s no need for books that offer in-depth analysis and detailed explanation. It’s just that, for this particular project, and for many similar projects, shorter is better!

Existing content

A final reason to write a book in the #Tweet format [8] is that I could leverage my passion as well as my previous research and existing content about the essentials of successful book titles.

To accomplish my goals of creating a tangible membership premium and attracting writers in the early stages of choosing a book title, I could rely on my previously written articles, blogs, newsletters, presentations, and reports. This efficiency would help me get my book into print faster, without taking inappropriate amounts of time from my other projects.

Conclusion

The habits of writing success can be easily stated in terms of targeting, positioning and efficiency, plus, of course, consistent daily progress. After you have committed to writing a book to drive your business and career success, progress writing your book comes quickly when you put the habits of successfully-published authors to work writing your book.

To learn more about the habits of writing success, subscribe to Roger C. Parker’s daily writing tips blog and visit Published & Profitable’s Active Garage Resource Page [9] which offers several writing resources and tips. You can also a downloadable PDF mind map of the Author Journey series








[1] http://www.activegarage.com/authors-journey-2-how-to-target-the-right-readers-for-your-book

[2] http://www.activegarage.com/authors-journey-3-what-should-you-write-about

[3] http://www.activegarage.com/authors-journey-4-how-to-research-your-books-competition

[4] http://www.activegarage.com/authors-journey-5-choosing-the-right-publishing-alternative

[5] http://www.activegarage.com/authors-journey-6-whats-the-best-size-for-your-book

[6] http://www.activegarage.com/authors-journey-8-how-much-of-your-book-have-you-already-written

[7] http://www.amazon.com/POP-Create-Perfect-Tagline-Anything/dp/0399533613/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1266248625&sr=8-1

[8] http://www.happyabout.com/thinkaha/

[9] http://www.publishedandprofitable.com/public/564.cfm

Mention “book” to most people, and they immediately recall their endless lists of “required reading” in high school and college. Textbooks and required reading tend to be long, especially the classics.

Little wonder that most people don’t think they’re capable of writing a book, and even fewer think that they have time to write a book!

I’d like to counter the Moby Dick and Crime & Punishment mentality by recommending that you take a fresh look at the advantages of shorter and smaller books, i.e., books ranging in length from 140 to 160 pages.

The age of shorter & smaller books

As you’ve probably noticed if you’ve recently visited the Business books section at your local Barnes & Noble or Borders, books are getting both shorter and smaller. This is the age of the smaller, shorter book. Shorter, smaller books are “in” for several reasons:

  • ŸLower cost – In a time of economic ambiguity, smaller, shorter books are more affordable for everyone involved. A smaller, shorter book represents less of a financial risk for publishers. At the same time, smaller, shorter formats can be sold for less, meaning the books will be affordable to a more cost-conscious buying public.
  • ŸLess time – We are living in a time-starved environment. Time has never been as much at a premium as it is now. Your readers, especially your business readers, are interested in books that can be comfortably read in an airport waiting room or while flying. Readers don’t have time for theory; they are looking for short books with short chapters and practical, immediately actionable ideas. “Background information” isn’t as valuable as usable advice.

Evidence of the trend towards shorter, smaller books are on every business book shelf. Notice the shrinking size of Jim Collin’s books; [1] compare his latest How the Mighty Fall with his original Good to Great. Compare Bob Burg’s early Endless Referrrals[2] (288 pages, 6 by 9 inches) with his latest The Go-Giver[3] (144 pages, approximately 5 by 8), co-authored with John David Mann.

Implications

The implications of this societal need for economy of cost and economy of expression is a renewed emphasis upon the delivery of focused, actionable information. With few exceptions, the “textbook” era is over. Readers have problems they want to solve, and they want to get the necessary information- -and just the necessary information– – as quickly as possible.

Today’s books, as a glance at the many titles available in the Laura Lowell’s 42 Rules[4] series, for example, emphasize practicality and utility. The trend is not to “tell all,” but to tell just what’s needed.

By viewing complex problems and tasks from the point of view of a series of simple, step-by-step tasks, makes it considerably easier to write a brand building book. Authors with brands to build and information to share can easily take advantage of this emphasis on economy of expression by spending more time planning than writing.

Once an author identifies the steps their readers need to take to solve their problem or achieve their goal, fewer words are needed to complete the book.

Twitter’s role

Twitter has played an important role in the encouraging economy of expression. Twitter has taught us all how to condense and express big thoughts in 140-characters, or less. There’s more respect for brevity now, than ever before.

Entire books, and series of books, are being written in the Twitter format, such as Rajesh Setty’s pioneering Upbeat: Cultivating the Right Attitudes to Succeed in Tough Times[5].

In fact, I’m so impressed by the Twitter format that I choose it for my upcoming book on book titles, #BOOK TITLE Tweet!

The idea of a book

In many ways, the idea of a book is more important than its manifestation as a finished book. The goal of a brand-building book is to attract the attention of others who want to learn more about the problem or goal addressed in the book title.

The title is the idea, not the length of the book, or the size of the book.

Awhile back, I saw a Twitter reference to a book called 18 Rules of Community Engagement[6]. It’s subtitle was A Guide for Building Relationships and Connecting with Customers Online. Without knowing anything else, I not only ordered a copy, but contacted the author and requested an interview.

I was like your prospects! Before ordering it and contacting the author, I didn’t count the number of pages in the book, nor did I pay attention to its size. All I knew was that the title promised a practical look at a topic I wanted to know more about.

In other words, the title and promised efficiency of the “18 Rule” approach promised me a good reading experience and an opportunity to connect with someone knowledgeable in the field.

So, think smaller and think shorter!


[1] http://blog.publishedandprofitable.com/2009/07/jim-collins-new-book-how-the-mighty-fall-suggests-that-authors-should-explore-the-advantages-of-smaller-and-shorter-books/

[2] http://www.amazon.com/Endless-Referrals-Third-Bob-Burg/dp/0071462074/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1264358971&sr=8-1

[3] http://www.amazon.com/Go-Giver-Little-Story-Powerful-Business/dp/159184200X/ref=pd_bxgy_b_img_b

[4] http://42rules.com

[5] http://www.amazon.com/Upbeat-Cultivating-Right-Attitude-Thrive/dp/1935073036/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1264360787&sr=8-3

[6] http://happyabout.info/community-engagement.php

Roger-Step1-PlanAuthors must look beyond the obvious – -the trends and the hype – -when choosing the type of book publishing that’s best for them and their family. It’s easy to get seduced by the many recent, exciting, changes in book publishing technology.

Before rushing into a decision, I encourage you to make your choice from a detailed analysis of how each publishing option will impact you and your family both before and after your book is published.

Publishing options at a glance

The 3 primary publishing options include e-books, trade publishing, and self-publishing.

E-books

E-books span the gamut from word-processed documents distributed as Adobe Acrobat PDF files to professionally designed books optimized for on-screen reading, like Rajesh Setty’s Defiant. A new generation of e-book readers has received a great deal of attention, like the Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble Nook.

When analyzing the pros and cons of e-books, authors need to be careful to ask the right questions. The questions should not revolve around the current popularity of e-books and e-book readers- -i.e., whether or not e-books will replace printed books, etc.

Instead, authors must ask whether or not an e-book, by itself, will be enough to build the compelling, income-generating, personal brand they desire.

The big question is not whether or not e-books are popular, but whether or not they can position you as a subject area expert in your field

Trade publishing

Trade publishing, i.e., printed books published by large, specialized firms and distributed online and through “bricks and mortar” retail channels like Barnes & Noble, Borders, and regional independent bookstores offer authors a “no cost” way to get their book published.

Trade publishers front the money for all of the costs involved in editing, designing, formatting, printing, and distributing the book. In fact, traditionally, authors would receive often-significant advances on the future earnings of their books.

In exchange for freedom from up-front investment, however, authors must pass the gauntlets of rejection; publishers typically receive hundreds of books proposals for each book they publish. In addition, authors typically sacrifice a lot of control. It’s no longer “author and book,” but “author and committee”- -and the committee is a huge one.

Major decisions, like titles, book covers, size, pricing, and market positioning, are taken out of the author’s hands, and many surprises occur. (Many authors don’t even see their book’s front cover until it’s too late!)

Other compromises involve the amount of money authors receive from sales of their books, copyright issues that can limit back-end profit opportunities, and rights to future electronic products (like DVD’s). Most non-fiction books fail to earn royalties beyond the initial advance, although the occasional “home run” can create life-changing cash-flow.

Authors must ask themselves if the publisher’s credibility, expertise, and bookstore distribution are worth the lack of control and reduced earnings characteristic of trade publishing.

Self-publishing

Self-publishing continues to enjoy growing popularity. And, like “hybrid automobiles,” the term covers a broad range of options. Self-publishing ranges from an author taking responsibility for everything- – including editing, designing, printing, and distributing their book- -to options where outside firms will take as much responsibility for book production and distribution as desired.

Self-publishing offers control and speed: author’s call the shots and can get book into the hands of their clients and prospects faster than trade-publishing.

In addition, depending on how much money the author initially invests in their project, authors can far more profit per-copy than they would ever earn from trade publishing. This is especially true with direct online sales and from selling multiple copies of their books to businesses and associations.

Before choosing self-publishing, however, authors must determine whether or not they have the resources necessary to self-publish their book, and also make sure they want to spend their time performing the tasks necessary to distribute their book.

Authors have succeeded, and are succeeding, with each option. In addition, hybrid options are becoming available. What’s important, however, is What will work best for you?

How to choose the right publishing option

Ultimately, the choice for most authors boils down to just 2 issues: cash-flow and task preferences.  Cash-flow and how the author wants to spend their time after their book appears are the crucial issues.

Cash-flow

For many authors, the issue is cash-flow. Self-publishing initially involves negative cash flow, the money flows away from the author. The author is investing (or borrowing) money against future profits. Authors must put out money for editing, design, production, and proof-reading- -in addition to paying up front for printing and shipping.

If the money is there, i.e., if an author can more comfortably invest in their book without risking their financial security, self-publishing makes sense.

But, if the investment will seriously impact their family’s standard or living, or- -, even worse- -put it at risk, self-publishing doesn’t make sense.

The Preliminary Cash Flow Projection worksheet displays the implications of self-publishing versus trade publishing.

Task preferences

Successful self-publishing requires a different set of tasks than writing a book. It’s up to you whether or not the tasks are those you’d like to either commit to on a daily basis or delegate to others. These tasks involve:

  • Processing and fulfilling orders, packaging and addressing individual books, handling the occasional, inevitable, returns.
  • Shipping cartons of books to distributors and bookstores, handling returns of unsold books.
  • Monitoring inventory, deciding when to re-order books.
  • Legal and accounting; monitoring accounts receivable and tracking down overdue payments, dealing with copyright issues.
  • Negotiating terms with bookstores and distributors, including discounts and return privileges.


There’s nothing inherently wrong with these tasks, but authors must balance their writing and client-service time with the minutiae involved in bookstore distribution and fulfilling individual orders.


The Author Task Preference Worksheet helps you identify your “fit” with the tasks involved in self-publishing.

Conclusion

As the above questions show, choosing the right publishing alternative involves more than simply “going with the flow” or choosing the most popular alternative. The right choice of publishing alternative involves carefully balancing their goals and resources with the realities of each publishing option.

To help my clients, I’ve created several worksheets, like my Self-Publishing Expense Planner, shown above, to help authors realistically run the numbers and make the right decisions. (E-mail me if you’d like to see a sample.)

No publisher wants to publish a book that covers the same ground existing books cover. Likewise, no intelligent self-publisher wants to waste the family’s resources on a “me too!” book.

Thus, not only does your book have to serve your intended reader’s needs instead of your interests or your ego, your book also has to bring something new to the table.

The starting point is to evaluate the current competition. This is a task that you can easily accomplish online in two steps:

  • Step One is to locate competing books in your field. You want to know what’s already available, so you can avoid rewriting an existing book.
  • Step Two is to organize the results of your online research into a visual format that will help you position your book relative to the competition.

The procedure outlined below will help you keep track of existing books in your field and save you time identifying the ideal position for your book.

Step l: Locating competing titles

Start by creating a 4-column worksheet similar to the Competing Titles Worksheet shown at left. You can easily do this using the table feature built into your word-processing software. You can also create a spreadsheet using Microsoft Excel, or a mind map using Mindjet’s MindManager. (A writing tool we’ll be discussing in an upcoming Author Journey.)

As an easy alternative, to get you quickly get started, you can also work by hand using sheets of lined yellow paper, as described below:

  1. Draw 3 equally-spaced vertical lines on the sheet of paper. This divides the page into 4 columns of equal width.
  2. Add “Author/title” to the top of the first column. When entering author’s names, of course, be sure to begin with the author’s last name, followed by their first name. This will pay big dividends later.
  3. Title the second column “Big Idea.” Or, you can call it “premise” or “type of book.” The goal is to briefly describe the author’s approach to the topic.
  4. The title of the third column should be “Pros & Cons.” This is where you briefly comment on the book’s strengths and weaknesses.
  5. Add “Keywords” to the top of the fourth column. This purpose of this column is to pay attention to the Search Engine Optimization keywords associated with the title. The best book titles are those that contain the keywords readers are searching for online. The sooner you identify the keywords used with successful existing titles, the easier it will be for you to incorporate the right keywords in your book marketing and promotion.

Note that the above worksheet is not intended to include every detail about the books you locate online. Instead, it’s main purpose is to provide a handy way of seeing–at a glance–what’s already been written in your field as a prelude to positioning your book.

Step 2: Visually positioning your book

In order to position my forthcoming book apart from existing books on the topic, I created a simple Book Positioning Worksheet that you can use to position your book apart from existing books. This book will help you identify the most popular categories of existing books, so you can stake out a new territory for your book.

In my case, my goal was to help business professionals write a book that would position them as thought leaders and obvious experts in their field.

Surveying the available books in the writing field, I quickly noticed how most books fell into one of eight categories. For example, there were numerous books in the following categories:

  1. Introductory books about writing and publishing
  2. Locating an agent or preparing book proposals and query letters
  3. How to self-publish a book and make oodles of money
  4. Inside story, or “publishers are mean” books
  5. Creativity and inspiration books
  6. Editing and self-editing books
  7. Marketing and promotion techniques for authors
  8. How to make money writing books

With the competition displayed in the outer 8 boxes of the Book Position Planner, I could see that the missing book–the book that no one had yet written–was a book about book titles!

And, I was off and running! The breakthrough was being able to view existing titles as groups of titles, rather than individual titles.

In the next Author Journey, I’ll address the steps I took to choosing the right publishing alternative and the right publisher.

Offer

If you like the idea of a Book Positioning Planner appeals to you, drop me an e-mail at Roger@Publishedandprofitable.com. I’ll send the first 10 who respond a PDF copy of the Book Positioning Planner shown above. (Please include Book Positioning Planner in the subject line. Thank you.)

Roger-Step1-PlanOne of the most important decisions you should ask yourself during the planning process is, “Who is my intended reader?”

Your answer to the question will have a lot of bearing on the overall profitability of your book publishing project as well as help you make faster progress. Your response will influence your book’s title and subtitle, your book’s contents, as well as how you market your book.

More important, by carefully answering the above question, you can not only serve your most target market better, but you might also be able to write a shorter book and get it to press faster!

All readers are not created equal

Roger-Parker-Post-2-Reader-IDentif-Plnr-TWO.jpgThe market segments you want to sell to in the future should determine the readers your book targets. As every business owner and marketing professional knows, some segments are more profitable, more loyal, and easier to deal with than others.

By identifying your most desired clients as early during the planning process as possible, you tailor your book to your A-list prospect’s needs, rather than “spinning your wheels” with more B-list and C-list prospects.

Thus, start to plan your book by analyzing your firm’s past and current clients. I recommend creating a worksheet similar to the Published & Profitable Reader Identification Worksheet shown at left. Worksheets make it easy for you to answer questions like:

  1. What characteristics do my most profitable, A-list, clients have in common?
  2. What are their problems and goals?
  3. Why is this reader segment important to me?
  4. What problems and services do I hope to sell them in the future?
  5. What keywords do they use when searching for information online?
  6. Who are the experts this market segment trusts?

What your answers will reveal

Your responses to the above questions will help you get started planning a profitable book, one that will open doors of opportunity by attracting qualified prospects and search engine traffic.

Let’s analyze each question and the information your answer will provide:

  1. What characteristics do my most profitable, A-list, clients have in common? Your response will help you better understand the readers market segment most likely to turn into profitable long-term clients.
  2. What are their problems and goals? By focusing on your most profitable market segment, you can tailor your book’s contents and marketing message to their particular needs. You can “go deep” and better address this market segment’s needs, without diluting your message by attempting to appeal to the needs of every market segment.
  3. Why is this reader segment important to me? Your answer will reinforce the reasons for focusing your book to appeal to a few, key, marketing segments. You can state your answer in terms of average cost per sale, frequency of purchase (i.e., cash-flow), the number of referrals they generate, the promptness of their payments, their long-term loyalty, or ease of dealing with them.
  4. What problems and services do I hope to sell them in the future? Knowing what you want to sell them in the future helps you identify the content needed for your book. You’ll be able to subtly plant the seeds of future purchases in your book, highlighting areas of your expertise and describing the benefits of taking action with the help of your tools or your qualified assistance.
  5. What keywords do they use when searching for information online? Knowing the terms that attract appropriate search engine traffic will help you choose the right title and subtitle for your book as well as the right section titles and chapter titles. Book titles that contain relevant keywords enjoy a great advantage over their more creative, but less SEO-friendly, competition.
  6. Who are the experts this market segment trusts? Your answer will help you identify your competition, existing books in your area as well as the blogs and websites that are competing for your ideal client’s attention. Addressing this question now saves you time in the future when you are preparing the “competing books” section of your book proposal.

As you can see above, there are numerous benefits to beginning your author journey by identifying your most desired readers. In addition to doing a better job of serving their needs, by focusing on your ideal prospects, you might be able to write a shorter book. A book that serves “everybody” has to be encyclopedic, but books that target specific markets can focus on just the desired market’s information needs. Thus, a shorter book that can be brought to market faster.

Take action now

Your Reader Identification Worksheet doesn’t have to be fancy. You can create one by simply taking a sheet of paper and dividing it into three equal columns.

  • Ÿ  Left-hand column. Label the left-hand column “A-list” or “Most Desired Prospects.”
  • Ÿ  Center column. Label this “B- and C-list” or “OK prospects.”
  • Ÿ  Right-hand column. Label the remaining column “Least desirable” or “More Trouble Than They’re Worth” prospects.

Then, thinking about your client and customer experiences over the past few years, look for commonalities shared by your best clients and ways they differ from your “just OK” and toxic clients.

The business of books

If all this sounds familiar to your previous experiences preparing business and marketing plans…that’s because books are businesses!

Just as a strong business plan begins with identifying the intended market and their needs, nonfiction books should begin the same way. Books have to be sold–that’s the bottom line. It’s a waste of time to write the perfect book, only to find out after it’s been published that nobody wants it.

So, as you begin your author’s journey, identify your ideal prospects and plan to write the book they want to buy!

Offer

I’ll send the first 10 readers who e-mail me at Roger@Publishedandprofitable.com a copy of the Reader Identification Worksheet shown above. Please mention Reader Identification Worksheet in the subject line