If you’re a keen student of marketing and sales, you’re likely aware that publishing a book gives you many advantages in business. You can use it as a tool to get free media exposure. You can send physical copies to your clients as a way to get referrals. You can attract new prospects by sharing it on your website.
You can send it prior to a meeting and build rapport with prospects before you meet them. The real-world applications of your own book are virtually limitless. Yet, how many times have you thought about writing a book and haven’t started? Also: how many times have you began writing your book yet haven’t completed it?
If you’re like me: you have a folder on your computer that contains a “graveyard” of unfinished text files. You’ve started and stopped your book too many times to count, and it’s taking your mental energy.
Probably millions of other business owners share this experience. If you feel bad in any way about not producing your book: no worries. You are in good company.
This article will give you three main insights for producing your book without all the frustration. I gained these insights over 6 years, ghost-writing books for business owners, speakers, and consultants. During that time it was necessary to develop systems, processes and techniques for streamlining the publishing process. Ordinarily I would write about technique: “How to x in y time, without having to z.” It was tempting to share those step-by-step tips in this article.
However, the more fundamental issue preventing people from publishing isn’t a lack of techniques. It’s mindset. So, in this article I will share common metal blocks business owners have in regard to becoming an author.
The following three blocks are, in my opinion, the top sources of delay as it relates to business owners who want to publish a book. Enjoy Overcoming these Author Blocks.
The Page-Count Myth
How long do your legs need to be?
How wide do your lungs need to expand?
How many times does your heart need to pump?
Is there one answer to these questions for all people?
Your legs need to be long enough walk on. Your lungs need to expand wide enough to breathe. Your heart needs to beat enough times to pump blood through your body. Any longer, wider, or more frequent could probably kill you.
The same answer applies to your book. It needs to be long enough to help people. That’s the most essential concern. Does it help your reader, or not? Your book’s thickness does not increase its value. Helping people is what matters, and page-count has little or nothing to do that.
The Page-Count Myth is a common misconception that books need to be a certain size before publishing. It is unfounded, and not true. Here are five examples of famous books that all had fewer than 100 pages:
1. J.K .Rowling’s Very Good Lives has 80 pages. Plus: the title… Could you do better than that?
2. Sun Tzu’s The Art of War has 96 pages.
3. Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol has 80 pages.
4. Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde has 64 pages.
5. Karl Marx’s The Communist Manifesto has 96 pages. (As far as I’m concerned 96 pages less).
… and the list goes on and on.
My favorite example of a short book that made a big impact is called It Works: The Famous Little Red Book That Makes Your Dreams Come True. It was written by an anonymous author, RHL. The book only has 24 pages.
Twenty… Four… Pages!
It sold 1.5 million copies, and was written by someone who doesn’t even have a name!
You have a name, right?
Could you write 24 pages?
Maybe you’re the next big deal.
I must give one last example. This one’s quick. It’s The Elements of Style by E.B. White and William Strunk Jr. It’s one of the most common reference books on the topic of English composition, and it only has 85 pages. In regard to The Elements of Style, Steven King Wrote, "Little or no detectible bullshit." The less detectable BS, the better.
The Invisible Group of Critics
The Invisible Group of Critics are imaginary people we hold in our mind. They tell us why we suck, should give up, and stick our head in the oven. Sometimes these critics come in the form of teachers, family, neighbours, competitors, associates, school mates, or even friends. Other times they don’t have a face: they’re just echoes in a haunted house. When we hold the Invisible Group of Critics in our minds, we give them attention. We start writing to them instead of our target market.
One of my clients is a medical doctor who specializes in alternative healthcare. She does all sorts of diagnostic tests on her new patients and helps them overcome a variety of ailments.
During our interviews I could tell something was wrong. She was defensive and unwilling to speak her mind. I asked her what’s wrong. She told me that she was afraid what her peers would say about her book. I asked her, “Do your peers pay you?” She understood what I meant and said, “You’re right! They don’t pay me. My clients do!” In that moment she effectively fired her Invisible Group of Critics.
There was a tangible difference in her communication, and we produced a wonderful little book she currently uses to generate referrals.
Fear of social expulsion is biologically wired into our brains. It’s very human to consider our critics when producing marketing material.
But it’s counterproductive. Your best clients have far less information and knowledge than you on your topic. Most people who are seeking information that can help them are appreciative when they read what you have. Speak to them to the exclusion of the others.
I’d like to share a practical technique that will help you get in the right frame of mind before writing. It is one of best ways I’ve found to create a flow of authentic communication from your heart to your reader’s.
Imagine you’re sitting on a comfortable chair in a café. In the chair next to you is a great client (or customer, patient, etc.). You know each other well. They are a high-value client. They refer. They pay well. They’re easy to work with. Your client is going through some challenges that you know how to solve.
Think about how that conversation could go. What would you ask them? What would they say? What fears do they have? What questions do they ask? What does their daily experience of life look, sound and feel like? Really put yourself in that imaginary situation.
You’d likely answer all you’re client’s questions. You’d explain the steps, tell a story, give a metaphor, and maybe show an example or a case-study. You’d communicate to the best of your ability, and you wouldn’t think about it.
So here are a couple considerations: what if that conversation could be turned into text? Wouldn’t it contain almost all the information necessary for other clients or prospects to solve similar challenges? Isn’t that the purpose of a book: giving people new capabilities?
When my girlfriend and I pass a window-display and she says, “Oh my… I love that dress!” she’s not looking at the glass, or the manikin. The only thing she cares about is that dress, and how it would look on her.
The people reading your book don’t care about your words as much as they care about the capability they get from you. So, the faster you can transfer a single capability to your readers, the better. Less truly is more.
What should you include in your book? Include only the tips, suggestions and stories that help give your reader a new capability. Anything else: scrap it. Anyone who doesn’t like it: scrap them.
Understand that all your friends were once strangers. Your clients were once prospects. Your current success was once only potential. Don’t allow fear of exposure to prevent you from creating a new future.
Your ideas have value. However, they won’t make any impact if you don’t communicate them. You deserve to help more people, and a little book containing your best ideas will help you do that.
The idea that you can make something “perfect,” is a great way to delay your progress. It also erodes your confidence. Striving for progression on the other hand is faster, more profitable, and helpful to others.
We publish imperfect, yet functional material now, rather than later. We use that imperfect, functional material to attract our target audience. We get paid sooner rather than later. Our readers get the benefits. It’s a functional system, not a perfect one.
It’s important to understand there is no such thing as a perfect book. There’s no such thing as a perfect anything. Even Michelangelo’s David – his ankles are cracking.
Publish as soon as your communication is clear enough to understand. Get your ideas into the heads of people who want it. Your current understanding of your topic is likely more refined than your reader’s. Therefore you can help them. So do it now. If you keep putting off, you may put it off forever.
An Author Challenge
I dare you to produce a 27-page book. In that book share three insights you’ve gained that could help your prospect make a buying decision. Don’t try and be clever. Just write it like you’d speak to your real client or customer. Make the dimensions 6x9. Get someone from Fiverr to make you a cover.
Print a couple copies out. Share your books with people. Become an author as soon as possible. The feeling of confidence and capability will motivate you to do another, better version. Producing something fast does not mean you need to sacrifice quality.
I believe in your success, and hope you’re well. Take care for now.
Colin is a marketing expert, speaker and author of the book ReActivate: The Case-Study Campaign That Turns Old Leads into New Sales.