"When you have your own book, people will also look at you differently. They’ll have more respect. They’ll accept your ideas more readily."
True confessions. I have to admit my choice of Book Writing Mistakes: How to Avoid the Top 12 Mistakes New Business Book Authors Make by Jim Edwards was somewhat self-serving. You see I am in the midst of writing a new book, not my first, but any tips and advice are always welcome.
Also on its arrival, I was thrilled to see it was a small book and therefore a quick read at 104 pages, and my aging eyes appreciated the large font. All of which made this an easy book to read and to fit into my busy schedule.
Jim Edwards has been self-publishing books for the past twenty years and has been successful at it, with over 100,000 books sold during that period. So clearly he knows what works and what doesn’t. In fact he admits that he’s made many of the mistakes mentioned in the book, but learned his lesson and moved on.
The Big Idea
Just do it
"The biggest mistake people make when it comes to writing a business book – is simply not starting – and then finishing – their book."
Writing a book is the pipe dream of many would-be authors, yet there are many pitfalls and obstacles to be overcome, not the least of which is just getting down to it and actually writing the book.
Instead procrastination sets in and we make excuses about not getting down to the actual work of writing. Finding a writing “cave” where you can be creative can help. You also may have to schedule the time in your calendar otherwise it gets all too easy to avoid it.
Having clarity on what you want to write about, why you want to write it and who is your target audience, can make the writing flow more easily. Writing daily – even if it is not on your book – is a good practice to adopt.
Lowering your expectations helps too. Be prepared to fail and fail fast he says. If you think you are writing a bestseller and that’s all you want, you may be seriously disappointed. In a world where we want everything to be perfect, you could find that this drive for perfection will stifle any creativity and the book will never see the light of day.
I believe it all boils down to why you want to write the book in the first place. If you have a passion for the topic, are driven to see your words in print and want use your book as platform within your business, you are more likely to get past the biggest mistake of never actually writing it at all.
"Your book’s table of contents is one of the main things people look at before buying, along with the title, back cover copy and the ‘About the Author page.’"
So much is involved in selling a book – the cover, the title and as I learned through Book Writing Mistakes, the chapter titles, too. As the saying goes, a book is judged by its cover and getting one professionally designed does not have to be the big budget item we would suppose, but can make the difference between making the sale or not.
Edwards busts the myth about short, pithy titles and his explanation makes sense when you think about searching for a relevant non-fiction book on the Internet. You need key words that will bring your book to your potential readers’ attention. If you just have three or four words, your chances are much slimmer. He also recommends having a word to describe your target audience in the title – in my case, for example – it would be women. All told, he suggests that your title have seventeen words, a far cry from the short titles we’ve seen on book shelves.
But it was his advice around chapter titles that really caught my attention, as he says authors have “never really given the titles of their chapters much thought. In fact, chapter titles for them are often an ‘after thought’ at the end of the process.” And yet when you think about it, as we flick through a book to see what it is about, it is the titles that give us a clue as to whether the book appeals to us and whether we buy it or not.
“Boring chapter titles mean people won’t buy your book,” he advises. You want to create curiosity with your chapter titles to entice the person to believe your book will be an interesting read.
He also encourages the author to forgo the need to sound professional, which he equates to boring. And like the title, forget short, three word chapter titles. Instead come up with longer ones that give the reader further reason to buy. Have some real fun with quirky chapter titles.
Understand your who, why and what
"If you try to sell to everyone, you won’t sell to anyone. You’ve got to have a specific target audience."
Before you even start writing your book, you need to be clear on who you are writing it for, what their issues are and how your book can help. Too many people, he’s observed, rush into writing their book without doing the research, and this “ego-driven” approach to book-writing is doomed to fail.
Instead, Edwards encourages writers to really get under the skin of their audience, to understand their challenges, what holds them back and how best to provide tools to move them forward.
But even that is not enough. “In many cases the author mistakenly thinks they are giving ‘how to’ information when they’re actually giving ‘what to’ information” which leaves the reader confused and frustrated.
As he points out, people don’t have time to think in today’s world. You need to “spell it out for them in easy-to-understand terms so they just get the point without any extra thought. Also, you need to put it front and centre, and make every point obvious and useful for them without thinking.”
This means you have to be a teacher, and not everyone can do that, he observes. It also reinforces the need to know your audience, their skill level and ability to follow instructions. Sometimes simple is the best.
Another trap that authors can fall into is the need to make the book as comprehensive as possible. This is understandable, but as Edwards points out, from the readers’ perspective that may make the book an overwhelming read. Better, he says, to cover the material briefly in 100 pages, than risk it never being finished in a 300 page epic size book.
And that is exactly what Edwards has done in this book. At first I was skeptical of the depth of information the book would provide, but there’s a lot of meat on the bones and he covers information that the would-be writer may not have considered when first embarking on a book project.
He also speaks to a book being a worthwhile platform for growing other aspects of your business, as it creates a sales funnel and can potentially lead to new clients, new business and a whole new persona for you as the author.
His closing advice is to always have an outline before you start writing. This makes sense, because if you are not clear on your key messages, you could end up all over the map, or worst still, writing nothing of relevance.