Posts Tagged ‘profit’

Innovation. Barely a day goes by without some piece of content related to that topic dropping into my e-mailbox. Are you finding that?

And what about the 385 billion links that Google provides for the search term “innovation”? Or the fact that Amazon lists over 52,000 books on the topic (without getting into sub-categories and associated terms such as “creativity”)?

Sounds like innovation has been well and truly covered, doesn’t it? So why would anyone in their right mind write another book about it – aside from the fact that “the ability to innovate” remains a top concern and priority for CEOs?

Well, let’s employ one of the tactics commonly used by innovative individuals. Let’s ask a different question. Imagine that like Scott D. Anthony, author of The Little Black Book of Innovation: How it works; How to do it (Harvard Business Review Press, 2012), you’ve “been focusing exclusively on innovation for more than a decade.” How might you resolve the dilemma of writing on a topic that’s already swollen with content? You would ask yourself: How much of what’s currently available truly serves readers’ needs?

When Anthony reviewed what was already out there he came to the conclusion that, “Academics and leading practitioners have generated a huge amount of insight – but it’s not readily accessible. In addition, there isn’t a lot of practical information about innovation.”

Hence his Little Black Book  — an odd title choice given an association with the likes of Hugh Hefner and Tatler’s annually produced “shallow compilation of the 100 ‘most eligible’ below-thirty-somethings in London.” But I digress!

One of the most valuable services that have emerged in the era of information overload is “content curation.” Consider, for example, that every 60 seconds there are over 1,500 new blog posts available, more than 168 billion emails sent, and goodness knows how many presentations made. And if you’re an executive, entrepreneur, project manager, or consultant and want to know how to boost the innovative capacity of yourself or your team – well, you have over 52,000 books to choose from.

Who on earth has the time (or energy) to wade through all of that material to find which nuggets can actually help you be innovative?

Enter Anthony who (as many delighted Amazon reviewers attest) has distilled all of that otherwise confusing, conflicting, or unintelligible “wisdom” into a single book that is accessible, practical, and immediately implementable. And it’s an approach that can be “stolen” by any of you looking to write a book, whose core expertise lies in a similarly over-written area.

Instead of trying to figure out what you can say that’s new, think instead of how you can curate information that readers can use. Why not produce a “primer” that makes your topic understandable and shows people what they can do with that material to achieve their goals? Anthony does this by including, in Part Two of his book, “The 28-Day Innovation Program” offering four weekly sets of daily questions to ask, one-sentence answers to those questions, as well as how-to action points. There’s plenty of meat in the book too, including my favorite way of sharing information: stories.

How do you craft the kind of book that is truly useful in an over-populated arena where, in Anthony’s case, you’re competing with luminaries including Jim Collins and Clayton Christensen? Start with the end in mind, as the late Dr. Steven Covey outlined. What would you need to do for future reviewers to say, “If you read only one book on X, it has to be this one”?

Here are three suggestions:

  1. Make it simple: Distill what readers need to know – and no more.
  2. Make it practical: Give them a roadmap to follow.
  3. Make it readable: Write in a conversational style (as opposed to how some Amazon reviewers described Clayton Christensen’s The Innovator’s Dilemma: The Revolutionary Book That Will Change the Way You Do Business (HarperBusiness, 2011): “The book reads like a Ph.D. thesis written by a lobotomized 3rd grader” and “This book was as compelling to read as a college quantitative analysis text.”)

What business book have you read recently that offers all three of these must-haves? Share them by commenting below.

Resist the temptation to start your Author’s Journey to a brand-building book by immediately starting to write. The Author’s Journey refers to my series of 34 ActiveGarage posts describing the steps involved in writing a nonfiction book to build a personal brand.

Instead of immediately starting to write, take the time to ask the right questions. It’s important for you to get your bearings by developing a “big picture” view of your writing project.

An important part of the “big picture” is focusing on the desired end result. By identifying the goals of your journey, you’ll be better able to make the right decisions at every stage, so you can write and market toward them as efficiently as possible, helping you focus your writing and avoid digressions, false starts, and wasted time.

There’s magic in asking questions

Perhaps Brian Tracy, said it best in his international bestselling book, Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life: How to Unlock Your Full Potential for Success and Achievement:

The very act of questioning opens your mind and expands your options. It increases your creativity and stimulates your imagination. Questioning enables you to think more effectively and reach better decisions.

Brian Tracy re-emphasized the importance of authors asking questions before writing during a recent Published & Profitable interview, (Number 100 in my recent series). He discussed how asking questions helps authors focus on their readers, their needs, and their hot buttons while sharing the process he has used to write 50 books that have been translated and are sold in over 37 countries.

Alexander Ward, American author and pastor, stated it differently:

Before you speak, listen.

Before you write, think.

What kinds of questions & answers?

There are 4 categories of questions you should ask before starting to write your brand-building book. These correlate to Published & Profitable’s 4 steps to Writing Success: Plan, Write, Promote, and Profit.

Your answers to these questions don’t have to be elaborate or formal. You don’t even have to work on your computer; it’s entirely to jot down your answers by hand.

The ideas behind your answers are what matters! So just quickly write down words, ideas, and phrases that you can go back later and expand. There’s no need to write in full sentences, and you don’t have to be concerned with grammar. The answers are for your eyes only- – it’s OK to change your mind when you go back later and review your answers.

Planning questions

There are three types of planning questions:

  • Your goals and objectives. Start by identifying your long-term goals and objectives beyond the rewards of selling your book. Concentrate on how you are going to leverage your book into lasting and profitable relationships with your readers. Avoid writing and publishing decisions that might limit your ability to achieve your goals.
  • Reader goals. Who are your intended readers, and what do they hope to gain from reading your book? The more you know, the easier it will be to target the right readers, choose the right title, and provide the right right content.
  • Competing books. Finally, you have to analyze competing books, so you can position your book as a better alternative to anything that’s currently available.

Just as you wouldn’t start a business without a business plan, you shouldn’t start to write a brand-building book without knowing your goals, your market, and your competition.

Writing questions

Next, you have to answer a series of questions about your ability to write as consistently and efficiently as possible, so your book is completed on time. This involves answering questions like:

When you’ve answered these questions, you’re ready to start writing!

Promoting questions

Books- -even the most helpful and best-written books- -don’t sell themselves. Authors have to begin promoting the book while writing the book.

Ideally, book promotion never really ends, because your book’s brand becomes your brand!

Creating a book promotion plan involves evaluating current online visibility (or author platform), looking at ways to build your expert network, exploring free promotional tools, and creating an integrated book marketing plan.

Profit questions

Leveraging your book to meaningful and lasting profits involves answering questions about looking at how other authors profit from their books, evaluating ways to create and manage information products, and looking at ways to attract lucrative speaking opportunities.

Questions, answers, and action

The above are just some of the ways that questions lead to answers, and answers lead to informed action. Take the time to ask- -and answer- – the right questions and save time writing the book your market is waiting to read!

If you’d like to get on the inside track to learning more about asking the right questions before writing a book to build your brand, drop me an e-mail or sign-up to receive my weekday blog posts in your in-box.

During the past 28 weeks, we’ve been exploring ways to plan, write, and promote your book. Now, it’s time to enter the final stage of the Publishing Success Cycle, Step Four, Profiting.

During the next few installments, I’ll share ideas and tips for leveraging your book into higher profits for your business.

Learning from the successes of others

As we have seen so often in the past, the starting point is to get in the habit of constantly researching the competition online, studying the websites of authors who have written books in your field.

The goal of analyzing your competition’s websites is not to copy them, but to explore ways other authors have profited from their books, suggesting ideas you can adapt for:

  • Creating information products, like reports, updates, videos, worksheets, templates, and webinars that readers of your book are likely to be interested in.
  • Developing coaching and consulting services that will help your readers implement your ideas and recommendations.
  • Building your speaker’s platform, cultivating invitations from event planners and speaker’s bureaus to deliver high-paying corporate keynote speeches, presentations, and workshops.

Research tips

Here are a few ideas to help you make the most of your explorations:

  • Look beyond the obvious. When searching for profit ideas on author sites, expand your search beyond the authors and experts in your field. Explore the websites of authors in a variety of subjects.
  • Know where to look. When you’re at their websites, explore keywords and navigation links like Products, Services, Coaching, Consulting, Assistance, To Learn More, and the like. You may also locate useful ideas in the Calendar, Press, or Media sections of their websites.
  • Expand your horizons. Look for profit ideas used by others who write books in similar fields. Look for ideas that you can be the first to offer in your field!

For example, instead of just exploring author profit ideas from authors who have written books in your field, consider expanding your research using, as a guide, Jack Covert and Todd Sattersten’s The 100 Best Business Books of All Time. Start by creating an alphabetical list of the authors of the 100 Best Business Books, search for their websites, and create links to the websites. Then, visit each website and explore how each author profits from their books.

Another option is to visit the archives of Jack Covert and Todd Sattersten’s 1-800-CEO Reads Top 25 Business Books of the Month to identify successful business-oriented authors and study their websites. You can go back many years, studying the most important books from different months.

Or, you can visit the Author Page of the Harvard Business Review, and similar book publishers, and track down the websites of their authors in order to study how they profit from products, services, and speaking.

Tracking the results of your research

As always, the key to success is to carefully track the results of your research, so you can easily pull-out the most important lessons.

To help Published & Profitable members and my personal coaching clients keep track of the author websites they visit, and the profit ideas they’ve gathered from each site. You can download my Author Profit Tracking Worksheet, along with previous worksheets, from Published & Profitable’s Active Garage resource page.

You’re invited to download the worksheet, and print as many copies as you need on 3-hole punched paper. Fill out the worksheets by hand, tracking each author’s products, services, and speech/presentation topics. Then, store the worksheets in a 3-ring binder.

Author profit ideas and examples

Few authors are fortunate enough to be able to ignore profit opportunities generated by their book, beyond what they earn from the initial sale of their book!

I encourage you to spend a minimum of 30-45 minutes a week studying how other authors profit from their books. For more inspiring ideas and examples of how other authors are profiting from their book, I invite you to visit my growing (22+) online list of Author Profit Ideas at http://urli.st. In fact, you’re invited to add links to your favorite author profit ideas to my online list, or you can add submit your author profit ideas below, as comments

In last week’s installment of my Author’s Journey, I described the importance of creating an incentive to encourage visitors to your blog to sign-up for your e-mail marketing program.

This week, I’m going to describe tip sheets, the simplest, easiest way to create an incentive to build your list and attract new prospects to your marketing funnel.

Tip sheets are powerful and effective because they don’t have to be elaborate, as the two examples, at below left, show; each is printed on one side of a single sheet of paper. They’re judged by the value of their information, not by the number of words or pages they contain.

Why tip sheets make great incentives

Tip sheets distill your expertise into 8 to 12 easy-to-implement actionable ideas. They are judged not by the length, but by the quality of the information you share.

Tip sheets save you money because they are usually distributed as downloadable PDF files, although they are multi-functional; you can easily print-out copies of your tip sheets to carry with you and to distribute at networking functions and speaking engagements.

Not only do the tip sheets save you money, they also save time, for both you and your market. Why? Because they are short and to the point – they are easily written and easily read.

  • Tip sheets save you time. Tip sheets leverage your existing knowledge into chunks of information with high-perceived value. In an hour, or so, you can write and format an effective tip sheet. The above examples contain fewer than 500 words.
  • Tip sheets save your clients and prospects time. The brevity and concisely-presented information that saves you time also saves time for your clients and prospects. They can easily judge your expertise and appreciate the value of the information you provide.

Tip sheets, of course, don’t have to be limited to one side of a single sheet of paper, and they can benefit from professional design assistance. As the example on the right shows, two-sided tip sheets provide extra space for graphics and more information to further enhance your image and communicate your expertise.

The better-looking your tip sheet, the more likely that prospects will save it and refer to it in the future.

Tips for creating and formatting tip sheets

Here are some tips for creating tip sheets.

  • Title. Choose a title for your tip sheet that engages your market by making a promise that’s relevant to your prospects.
  • Introduction. Provide a one-paragraph introduction that “sells” the relevance of the ideas that follow. The shorter, the better.
  • Content. Base your tips on the questions that clients and prospects ask you every day in person and via e-mail. Organize your tip sheet in a question and answer format, or use a short phrase to introduce each tip.
  • Call to action. End with a call to action, which can be as simple as an offer to obtain answer questions submitted by phone or e-mail.
  • Links. Use links to your website to make it easy for recipients to take the next step. Make sure that your links are spelled out (for those who may be reading a printed version of your tip sheet) and make sure the links are activated in your PDF.
  • Graphics. Personalize your tip sheets with a photograph, accompanied by a one-sentence background or positioning statement.
  • Design. Use contrasting typeface, type size, and formatting options like bold or italics to visually set the questions, or phrase introducing each tip, apart from the body copy that follows.
  • Color. Use color with restraint; less is always more. Avoid choosing light colors, i.e., yellow, for text. As always, the colors you use in your tip sheets should reflect the colors associated with your website and your personal brand.
  • Layout. Use a 2-column layout to keep lines short and easy to read. Add extra line spacing to enhance readability.

Leveraging your tip sheets

Here are some tips for leveraging your tip sheets:

  • Print and carry. Print copies of your tip sheet on your desktop printer, or have color copies made at office supply stores like Staples. Always carry copies with you wherever you go. You never know when you’ll meet your next valuable prospect!
  • Promotion. Use the back of your business card to promote your tip sheet. Show a thumbnail of your business card, and the specific page of your website where prospects can sign up to receive it.

Most important, create new tip sheets on a regular basis. Add interest to your tip sheets, and a reason for visitors to return to your site, by creating a new tip sheet on a different topic each quarter.

But, limit access to your previous tip sheets to those who sign up for your latest tip sheet! Place links to previous tip sheets on a special landing page, with a URL that you share in the confirmation e-mail prospects receive when they sign-up for your tip sheet.

Limiting access to previous tip sheets adds strength to your offering, making it more and more important for prospects sign up for your tip sheet and e-mail newsletter.

Note: for one week only, you’re invited to download (no registration required) PDF samples of the tip sheet examples shown above; visit a special page I created for my Active Garage friends.

There are three basic approaches to getting others to help you write your book. As always, your choice should be determined by your goals and your resources. The three options are:

  1. Paying for Help. This option involves locating co-authors, ghost writers, and other forms of reimbursed writing assistance. Reimbursement can be based on a fixed-fee, work-for-hire basis, with the money coming either from the author’s pocket or publisher’s advance. Reimbursement can also be based on future royalties and book sales. Authors must carefully identify exactly what they’re looking for from others, and structure responsibilities and rights to avoid disappointment down the road.
  2. The Network Approach. Another option is to approach other authors and subject area experts in your field for chapters, stories, or suggestions. This often works well when combined with approaching clients and prospects with surveys and offers to contribute case studies or stories to your book. The better known you are in your field, the easier it will be to get free contributions for your book in exchange for acknowledgments and inclusion in the Resources section of your book.
  3. Social Media Approach. A newer approach is to combine the power of social media, like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, with the outreach power of online surveys, from sources like SurveyMonkey or Zoomerang to locate others who can help you write your book. This approach leverages the power of the latest Internet tools to help you save time writing a better book.

Social Media Approach at a glance

The social media approach offers many advantages and continues to evolve and improve.

The social media approach frees you from the limitations of the first two approaches. It eliminates the costs, possible disappointments, and possible future “entanglement” costs of working with co-authors. No agreement, no matter how well constructed, can anticipate all future scenarios, and—at one time or another–all books and relationships involve differences of opinion.

The social media approach can open the door to new relationships with others who are interested in your topic, or have had experience in it. This can broaden your perspective and pave the way for new friendships, ideas, and profit opportunities.

The social media approach to getting others to help you write your book involves 2 steps:

  1. Locate strangers with relevant information. This involves using a combination of search engine marketing, social media, and online surveys to locate others interested in sharing their views.
  2. Requesting follow-up interviews and stories. Your initial survey should contain an option allowing survey participants to share their e-mail address and permission for you to contact them in the future. This is your gateway to follow-up e-mails and, when appropriate, possible telephone conversation and interviews.

By participating in your survey, individuals are indicating their interest in your topic. This makes them likely to be willing to share their experiences and stories  with you in your book.

Driving traffic to your online survey

After creating your survey with SurveyMonkey, Zoomerang, or the dozens of other free online survey providers, there are several ways you can drive traffic to it.

You can begin with promoting your survey on your blog and in your website. You can promote your survey in your permission-based e-mail newsletters. You can Tweet about it, and encourage your followers to Retweet your requests for survey participation.

You can also add survey modules to your Squidoo lenses, and create a LinkedIn Answers campaign or post your question on Facebook. Step-by-step advice for working with LinkedIn Answers can be found at Dummies.com.

Finally, you can use pay-per-click ads to attract the attention of those interested in your field and drive them to your survey. Even a relatively small budget can be enough to drive qualified traffic to your survey each day.

Help a Reporter Out

Peter Shankman’s Help a Reporter Out, or HelpaReporter, is perhaps the most powerful, popular, and free outreach option for authors. Help a Reporter Out is a free subscription service that sends members 3 e-mails a day containing a digest of brief questions posted by authors and journalists.

Authors can use this service to drive traffic to their online surveys. They can simply ask for individuals interested in sharing their experiences to visit your survey page and answer a question, rate their concerns, or share their favorite shortcut or tip.

Over 29,000 journalists subscribe to HARO, which enhances the program’s power to drive qualified traffic to your online survey. In addition to attracting the attention of people interested in your topic, your query may prompt a journalist to contact you for a possible interview.

Being quoted as an expert in your field, of course, will introduce you to additional potential readers as well as potential contributors.

Tips for following-up surveys

Here are some tips for interviewing individuals who have participated in your survey:

  • Always record and transcribe your interviews. Recording your calls, with the interviewee’s permission, frees you from the necessity of taking notes during the conversation. You’ll be better able to pay attention to the interviewee’s responses and ask for clarification or more details.
  • Obtain permission for quotes and stories. Clarify your intent to include portions of the interview in your upcoming book. Be sure to keep careful records of interviewee names and e-mail addresses. Your publisher’s Permissions Department will want to follow-up and confirm permission before your book appears.

Conclusion

Never before has it been so easy to get others to help you write your book. Social media makes it easy to locate others interested in your topic; free online surveys make it easy to begin relationships that can lead to in-depth interviews that can add richness and depth to your book.

Before you can write your book, you need to create a content plan for your book. Mind mapping makes it easy to identify and organize your ideas.

Mind mapping software, see directory here, allows you to work visually. Ideas are displayed as clouds, or topics, organized around the main topic. The main topic can be the title of a book, a newsletter editorial calendar, or a quarterly marketing plan.

When creating the content plan for #Book Title Tweet: 140 Bite-Sized Ideas for Creating Compelling Titles for Articles, Books, and Events, I followed the same 3-step process I always use when starting a new book:

  • Step 1: Sections. I identify the main sections of the book.
  • Step 2: Chapters. Next, I list the chapters and main ideas with each section.
  • Step 3: Export. When finished, I export the mind map to Microsoft Word.

This approach is extremely efficient. It eliminates duplicate typing. The mind map I use to plan my book and share with potential literary agents or publishers is also used to create a formal book proposal and prepare the manuscript for publication.

Step 1: Sections

Figure 1

Figure 1, created with Mindjet’s MindManager, shows what my project looked like less than two hours after I started work. If memory serves, it took me about 30 minutes to identify the major sections of the book, and another hour, or so, to fine-tune the section titles and their order.

At this point, my intention to write a book about book titles has already begun to take shape. There hasn’t really been much “stress,” and I’ve rather enjoyed the process of dragging and dropping sections into the correct order. And, I actually left the office early, after sharing copies of the map with a few key individuals.

Step 2: Chapters

Figure 2

My next step was to begin to populate the map with the next level of information, chapters.

In the case of the THINKaha book series edited by Rajesh Setty’s, the “chapters” consist of Tweets, or 140-character, ideas and examples. Accordingly, I began to write the book in MindManager, as shown in Figure 2.

A couple of things to notice:

  • Automatic numbering. MindManager, like many other mind mapping software programs, can automatically number each subtopic. This made it easy for me to track my progress and include the right number of points.
  • Keeping track of characters. Note the numbers in the call-outs. After I developed each idea and provided an example, I copied and pasted the text into Microsoft Word. I could then use Word’s Tools, WordCount feature to see how many characters I used (or had to edit to fit the 140-character limit. This quickly became a pleasurable game.
  • Notes feature. I used MindManager’s Notes feature if I had any additional ideas, such as alternative examples, for each entry.

You may have noticed that the subtitle in the mind map has been changed to “140 Bite-Sized Ideas for Compelling Titles for Articles, Books, and Events.” Change during the course of writing and editing a book is a normal, and healthy, sign of progress. Change is a positive byproduct of the collaborations and conversations between authors and publishers.

Step 3: Export to Word

When I was through, I exported my mind map to Microsoft Word, and was able to view the book from my readers’ perspective.

My initial manuscript editing was relatively easy, since, from the beginning, I was able to visually preview the order (or context) of each 140-character topic. As a result, there were no unpleasant surprises along the way.

Likewise, since my mind mapped plan was on target, there were minimum editorial queries or problem areas to adjust. The experience reminded me of what Jack Hart, veteran writing coach, had written in his A Writer’s Coach: The Complete Guide to Writing Strategies that Work and had emphasized when I interviewed him: Writing problems are usually the result of planning problems.

Only, in this case, starting out with a strong plan, writing (i.e., choosing the right words to communicate my ideas) was easy.

Conclusion

Good content plans create good books. Use the right tools to convert your intention to write a book into a framework you can use to sell, test-market, and write your book. The sooner you create your book’s content plan, and the more thought and care you put into it, the easier it will be to sell your book to the right publisher and finish your manuscript on time. What’s your favorite tool for creating content plans? Share your ideas, comments, and questions, below, as comments.

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!

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