Over the course of my career, I've written nine traditionally published business books and helped dozens of clients ghostwrite, publish, and/or promote their business book, non-fiction works.
As part of my series of posts on how entrepreneurs and business people can use books to build a brand, I wanted to step back and share what I've seen are the biggest blunders many businesspeople make when pursuing the path to publishing.
1. Hiring the wrong team.
The book world is fraught with a plethora of possibilities for how to get a book written, published, and promoted. Everything from one-stop-shopping book farms to high-end ghostwriting services and book PR firms peppers the landscape.
To the novice business book author, this can seem like a minefield of complicated options. Often unsure which path will lead to the best outcome, inexperienced authors often pick the seemingly easiest thing and just go with that.
I get multiple calls weekly from businesspeople who are frustrated at the time and money they have spent using the writer their friend recommended, the aunt they hired to do their website, or the one-person "publishing" company they engaged.
While there are great resources available in all these fields, not taking the time to vet and get to know them more often than not leads to an unhappy outcome.
The solution is to do your research. Depending on the type of book you are writing, your reasons for writing it, and the audience you are speaking to, different help is needed.
Is your book primarily a business book for CEOs? If so, you are better off with a ghostwriter who knows that audience. Is your book about health in the workplace? Look for a publicist who has knowledge of that market.
The bottom line is that a successful publishing outcome begins with the right team in place from the start.
2. Bad writing.
Sounds obvious, doesn't it? A shocking number of self-published (and a few traditionally published) business books shout out "amateur" with their wiring. Just a few of the common mistakes include: bad grammar, poor spelling, incomplete ideas, improper use of English, and confusing organization.
For this reason, it is critical that authors who are not professional writers use one or more of the following types of editors.
Content editors. These are folks who can take your book and do real work on organizing the ideas, flow, and structure. Their job is to make the book more coherent, logical, and readable.
Copy editors. I love these wonderful people because they are all about dotting the i's and crossing the t's. While I'm an excellent content editor, I am never going to win any prizes for spelling and punctuation. Everything I write gets sent to one of these fine folks whose job it is to go through a piece with a fine-tooth comb.
Wordsmiths. If you have all your basic ideas down, in a logical order, but just need some help sprucing up the language, an editor with flair can be your best friend in creating a book that goes from basic to breakthrough.
3. Poor book cover and interior design.
Businesspeople will spend hundreds (if not thousands) of hours writing their book, but then stop short when it comes to having a professional cover and interior design done.
This is a particular problem for self-published books, where hiring a good book designer is a must. If you want your book to be taken seriously, it has to look like a real book -- professional, substantial, and thoughtfully designed.
And by the way, most people do judge a book by its cover. For example, Smashwords founder Mark Coker tells the story of romance writer R.L. Mathewson, who was selling fewer than 200 copies per week of her novel Playing for Keeps. When she updated her cover image, that number jumped to more than 30,000 a month.
4. Neglecting the pre-launch activities.
Most authors put the majority of their time, effort, and resources into writing their books. However, in today's world, the degree to which you plan the launch of your business book is in large part what determines its success. A few factors pre-publication to consider include:
- Creating a modern, up-to-date website
- Shoring up and expanding your social media following and presence
- A pdf one sheet for the book and author
- A press kit including story ideas and images
- Building up a mailing list for pre-sales
- Writing a book marketing plan that includes social media and PR
- Putting a blog tour in place for the month the book launches
In the end business books are really a lot like babies. The better you love, nurture, and take care of them, the healthier, stronger, and more successful they grow up to be.