You’re going to write a book. 40,000 words to go. Then the book goes to the editor, the typesetter, and the printer. Simple – right? Wrong.
Having worked with over 100 entrepreneurs on their books, I’ve found the writing and editing process rarely goes to plan. Content gets cut, reorganized and added. In four cases, I’ve even told clients to write new books.
After you’ve spent months waking up early, staying up late, squeezing your writing around family, friends and work; after you’ve said no to invitations, events and getaways; and after you’ve spent your hard-earned dollars on coaches and courses to help you put your knowledge on paper … you don’t want an editor telling you to start over.
So what can you do? Read on for the six mistakes entrepreneurs make when writing books and what you should do instead:
1. Choosing the wrong idea
You’re highly qualified in your field and have 15 years of experience but you’ve just started learning about a new area you’re really passionate about … and then your clients keep asking about something else entirely.
Most entrepreneurs choose an idea that only answers one of these areas. This is a recipe for disaster:
- If you aren’t passionate about your idea, you’ll give up part way through.
- If you aren’t knowledgeable about your idea, you’ll end up rambling and repeating yourself to bulk up your word count.
- If you aren’t addressing your readers’ desires, no one will want to buy your book, and you’ll be left with a very expensive paperweight.
Instead, brainstorm until you find an idea that hits the sweet spot – the intersection between your knowledge, your passion and what your readers want.
“To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme.” – Herman Melville
2. Not choosing one type of book
Great books come in all shapes and sizes, and entrepreneurs usually write one of the following:
- How-to books
- Thought leadership books
- Interview books
The problems start if you try to write a combination of all of them, which will result in a confused book with no clear purpose, or your editor cutting half of your content because it isn’t relevant. Instead, commit to one type of book before you start writing.
3. Failing to plan
Time and time again I see entrepreneurs getting stuck on their first drafts. Why? Because they have an idea for a book, then sit down in front of a blank Word document and rely on inspiration to provide the content.
Instead, plan your book!
- Start with your book’s central idea – in one sentence, what’s your book about?
- Brainstorm – get a blank piece of paper and write down your central idea. What other ideas does this sentence spur? Write down everything you can think of that’s related to your central idea.
- Organize your brainstorming – review your scribbling and see if there are any common themes that come up. These ideas will become the main sections or chapters of your book.
- Plan your chapters – brainstorm, organize and expand your ideas for each chapter. What do you need to cover to discuss the topic in detail?
4. Thinking they have a plan (when they don’t)
How can you think you have a plan when you don’t? They follow the first three steps of the planning process and then start writing. They have a central idea and five key areas they want to discuss. They’ve even organized these areas in a five-step process. Is that a plan? Not even close.
The purpose of a good plan is to guide every word you write. With a good plan you never need to worry about writer’s block, because you never have to come up with new ideas – they’re all laid out in front of you. You also never need to worry about the writing process stopping and starting, and taking months on end because, once again, everything you need to write is laid out in front of you.
A good plan takes the effort out of writing, because you’ve already done all the research, brainstorming and organization. Then all you need to do is expand your bullet points into full sentences.
Instead of relying on your chapter titles for inspiration, create a plan so detailed your book writes itself.
5. Including everything they’ve ever written
You’ve been in business for a few years now, and you have a slew of marketing content up your sleeve – brochures, flyers, blog posts, articles, interviews, case studies and more. Writing a book should be easy, right?
While using existing content is a great way to boost your word count, a big issue we see is clients who have copied and pasted entire blog posts or articles into their book when they don’t actually fit. And if it doesn’t fit, it often gets cut.
Instead, ask yourself:
- Is the content directly related to your central idea?
- Does your reader really need to know this?
It’s only when you can answer both questions with a ‘yes’ that the content should go into your book.
“It is the writer who might catch the imagination of young people, and plant a seed that will flower and come to fruition.” – Isaac Asimov
6. Not making time to write
I get it – you’re an entrepreneur and you spend all your waking hours doing client work, answering enquiries, completing quotes, catching up on admin, and more. You’re lucky enough to spend time with your family, let alone write a book! The truth is, you’re always going to be busy, and those who wait to find the time never get started.
Instead, you need to make the time to write. Get started with these tips:
- Carry a notepad/phone with you at all times for when inspiration strikes.
- Set a daily writing target, and don’t go to bed until you’ve written your words!
- Remember this is a short-term challenge. You only need to make the time for the next four to six weeks, and then you’ll be ready to send your book to your editor!