In a recent session of the Coaching Group that I'm a member of, we were discussing recent successes and I mentioned that I'd just finished the draft of my fifth book.
(You can check out the other four here. If you could also click the Heart symbol beneath my photo, that would be very much appreciated.)
As a consequence, one of the other members asked me to share my secret of being so prolific. The thing is, I'm not sure I have a secret around being prolific, it's just a way of presenting information I already have.
I suspect that if you looked at all the blogs and articles you've posted over just the last few months, add in what you've learned from your own self-development and all the books you read (filtered through your own perspective, naturally) and you would easily have enough content for a book as well.
The key thing for any book or similar product is to know what you want from it (hint, it won't be to make money).
Do you want an impressive business card? Do you want to raise awareness of an issue? Do you want a marketing tool that can build trust and point people towards your programme?
I'm a fan of books because they're tangible. You can give it to someone and they touch it, they feel it. And then it physically sits on their desk or on their shelf sitting as a constant subliminal image. Most other forms (e-books, downloads etc) are transient and get forgotten or deleted.
Then you want to think about who it's for and what you want them to get out of it. What are their problems? What are the questions that they're asking? What are the questions that they should be asking but need educating on?
If you're already looking at your target market and the things that you do for them, then you should have a very good idea on these questions, will know about situations of other people that reflect this (i.e stories) and know things they can think about to move forward (solutions).
Sometimes the ideas may come first and the realisation that it can become a book comes afterwards. If you're absorbing yourself in a certain space, your mind will be constantly working on things.
If you then decided that you're going to give a book a go, the most important thing is to to set out the structure.
What are the key headings, the chapters and the themes within?
If you can set out a really good structure then the writing is literally just a case of "filling in the blanks".
For completeness, here is how my various books came about.
Book One – Hope Won't Pay the Wages (approx 50,000 words)
The first one was never intended to be a book. When I started coaching I had a very specific niche, based on my background, of helping business owners deal with the emotional stress caused by a failing business.
As a new business, I went to networking events and presentations and saw all these things on how to market yourself and one of the things that kept coming up was to use Linkedin. “Go on Linkedin, join groups that your target market will go to, post good content” etc etc
The trouble was, there were no groups on Linkedin for companies about to go bust.
After a while I spun it round and thought "If there were such a group, what would it look like". That line of inquiry quickly got me to the possibility that there could be a group of "war wounded". Those that had been there and wanted to share tales and help others. Apparently it takes a lot of effort to get a Linkedin group going and to keep it going, so I then shifted to "Well why don't I just find these people, get their stories and then share them with those I work with?"
So I started looking for people who had been through an insolvency, devised some questions and started interviewing them.
I was probably about 4 or 5 interviews in before something at the back of my head started thinking "Hmm, there may be a book in this". Similar themes were coming through with some really powerful stories and it felt it needed more than just a few blogs.
Once that thought had opened up, I started exploring the book option and, as is often the way when your mind is switched in a certain direction, met someone that helped me think about structure, market etc etc.
I then found out about Createspace, Amazon's self publishing platform and just followed their guidelines. (They also publish on demand, so if you want 1 book, you order 1 book, so you're not left with a garage full of unsold books)
The whole thing took about 9 months. Two months of interviews and transcribing and getting clear on the structure. Two months of actual typing and 5 months of editing, proof reading, moving it around, getting a cover, loading it up etc etc.
The title was one of the last things that came, and it was taken from a quote from one of my interviewees.
"We have to stop … or make changes. We cannot continue just to go through the same motions.
Because HOPE WON'T PAY THE WAGES”
Book2 – Successful Start-ups: Get Going, Stay Going (approx 22,000 words)
This one was a little different. The person that had helped me with the structure had her own brand of books and was looking for authors to contribute.
She suggested that I do a "prequel". In other words, what do people need to do so that they don't go bust?
That felt too broad to me, so I played with it and realised that if you start off on the right foot, then you'll do well. Plus, they keep firing these statistics out about 80% of companies going bust in three years or whatever nonsense, so that felt a good place to come from.
And so the idea for "Successful Startups" was born
This was, therefore, a deliberate book.
I essentially just threw down on a piece of paper all the mistakes that people made - from what I'd done myself, what I'd seen other people do - both at the start and at the end of business - and things I'd read and related to.
Then I lumped those things together into appropriate groups and now we had the semblance of a structure.
And then I sat on it for months.
As it hadn't been my idea and I didn't really work with startups, I wasn't that attached to it.
The first book was a real labour of love (plus wanting to prove a few things along the way), whereas as this was more “doing someone a favour”.
It ended up taking about the same length of time (9 months) as the first one, but it's a fraction of the size and I didn't do the editing or the cover.
Eventually I just forced myself to write it. It started on holiday and I got into a morning routine of up early, hour in the gym, hour at the typewriter, shower, breakfast and then free from about 10am onwards to enjoy the holiday part.
So, that was more of a distraction and is, essentially, a glorified blog. But it appeals to people and at least gets early awareness out there.
Book 3 - The Successful Business Owner's Guide to Reducing Stress (approx 10,000 words)
This one was a deliberate marketing tool.
I read a book by Steve Gordon called Unstoppable Referrals and then went on his online course . The concept was to create a "Referral Kit".
This is something that you give out for free but directly leads people back to you. For example, if you have a client or a potential referral partner - instead of trying to get you into a company or whatever - they write to them and give them a free gift of value (I.e. your book)
Makes them look good to their client and, if the person reads the book and acts on it, then it's their choice - so the risk of it not working doesn't flow back to the referrer. Two key reasons why people don't refer.
Inspired by the Prosperous Coach concept of selling the experience not the coaching, plus having a different coaching process to my business partner that created debate, I had created a study. A study of the different tools and techniques that I used and I was looking for volunteers to help me find out which worked best. Therefore, if they donated some time, they'd get a free coaching session.
This completely changed the invitation dynamic and made it a lot easier to get into a coaching conversation. I was totally up front and told them that I would ask them at the end if they wanted to explore working with me, and gave them permission to say no. And it felt a lot more authentic.
The book was very much as I relayed above. Who are my target clients? What are their biggest issues etc etc.
I think I wrote about 70 or 80 problems and brought it down to the top 13. Then each chapter was a question, and the content was the answer.
Throughout I peppered testimonials and a suggestion to turn to page 52 or whatever - where there was an opportunity for people to take part in study, what it was, why I was doing it, what the steps were etc etc.
That was quite a quick process as it was part of a programme that kept me on track. Also quite a small book. Essentially a glorified blog again.
And I don't think I've sold a single one. Every copy of that book has been given away, which was always the intention.
The title deliberately includes the word “Successful” as I wanted to shift away from people in trouble (I.e. no money) and recognised that successful people have stresses too.
Book 4 - Multiply Your Success (approx 80,000 words)
This was a collaboration between me and my business partner before we went separate ways and re-branded and is literally a collection of articles that had been written for another purpose.
We had decided to try an online marketing campaign and knew we needed content. Together we mapped out the 5 key areas of business (Personal Goals, Business Goals, Sales, Delivery, Finance) - brainstormed key themes in each area and then split up the writing process.
We came up with 7 issues in each area and 7 solutions/considerations for each issue.
We worked with a Facebook expert to set up all the systems so that people could choose an area, get the articles, be invited to a conversation etc etc.
And then we decided to go our separate ways.
However, it was an amicable split and we had all this content, so we decided to put it into a book.
This time we gave it all to a copywriter, paid quite a bit of money to get it done and he smoothed out the style, beefed a few things up and helped us pull it together.
It was his idea to work on the “5x7x7 = 245 solutions” concept which led to the title and the intention is it for it to be a "dip into every now and then" book, rather than a straight read as it is quite large.
Book 5 – How to Fall Back in Love with Your Network Marketing Business (approx 20,000 words)
Book five I actually drafted out 2 and a half years ago. As it happens, it was on the flight to LA for Rich Litvin's Prosperous Coach Intensive I went to in 2015.
I had been working with a lot of network marketers at the time (MLM companies such as Herbalife, Forever Living etc)
I had seen so many people sold by the dream that these companies promise and then crushed by the weight of expectation and demand.
On the flight over, my brain just did it's thing and from nowhere dumped out 21 key problems that these people face and that I'd helped them with.
That structure then sat on my iPad for months.
Last year, when I went solo again, I decided to resurrect it with the intention of doing an online training course.
It was something that had intrigued me but I'd never done, so, once again, the best thing way of learning is to do.
I fleshed out the first 5 chapters, created some slides and then recorded my narration over them. Set them up on an Online course platform, created some teasers, worked with the Facebook guy again to create some ads, spent a load of time and money - and it didn't work
Nothing wrong with the content. Just couldn't get anyone to get that far.
The Facebook guy said he'd go away and explore want went wrong, I focussed on other things and the whole thing fell away.
Meanwhile, the content has been sat there burning away. It was essentially half written from the work I'd already done and I just wanted to get it out of my head.
So I just blitzed it in January and got the first draft done.
Coincidentally, I was randomly contacted by someone on Linkedin on a totally different matter (they were doing a survey of coaches). They happened to be a social media marketing expert who specialised in Network Marketing.
So, we had a call and I put a proposal to her.
For me, this is almost a throwaway book. I just want to clear it out of my head, as I say. However, if she likes the content, I'm happy to add any stuff she might have, put in a page that directs people to her courses - give her co-authorship and we can share the profits.
Essentially, I write it and she sells it.
No idea if it'll work, but I've got nothing to lose and everything to gain. Plus, it's impossible for her to market one book I'm attached to without the others getting increased profile, so win/win.
The draft is with her and we'll have a catch up later this month to see what we do next.
It's only a working title at the moment. It's a bit wordy so we'll see where we go with that.
Book 6 – The Secret of Business Enjoyment and the Meaning of Life (concept)
I have the structure drawn up for Book 6, which will be the One ring to bind them all. I've spent this last year re-branding, re-focussing and getting clear about who I am, what I do and what my mission is and this book will encapsulate all of that. It will be the book I really want to write.
It will also pick out where the other books fit into the model, as they all have a similar theme running through them.
You can get an idea of the basic structure and what I'm up to from this video
One again, it's a working title but this time, it will be written by and for the community I'm building.
This time I'll take the more sensible approach and sell it to a warm audience. The monthly meetings I run, the interviews I'm carrying out - will all contribute to the book. People will know about it, add to it and be involved in it - at some level.
I don't have a date for writing or finishing it but the intention is that there will be a group of people who will be wanting to buy it before it's published.
That's the idea anyway.
What is the result of all these books?
Well, every single book has been praised by people who've read them, which is nice but, in detail:
Book 1. I spent hundreds, possibly thousands of pounds on PR and promotion to get into the mainstream. I wrote articles for magazines and was asked by government to be a policy adviser on business failure because of what I was saying.
And with all that money spent and publicity - I didn't sell a single book from it.
I sold a few hundred in total, but they were generally to people I already knew.
Clearly it was something that people needed, but didn't want.
Which is why I changed direction.
Book 2. I never really got behind as mentioned. The brand didn't develop as hoped and the original run of 100 copies is down to about 30 and in the boot of my car now.
Book 3 never got me one single client through the intended process.
Book 4 is proving popular, but it's big which can be off-putting for some people.
Oh, and as a result of my business changes, I now want to go back and re-edit all the old books in order to have all the correct contact information, my new message etc etc., plus re-do the covers so that they are more 'brand consistent'.
The reality is, the book doesn't make you money or get you clients.
But having a book - and having a number of books - has certainly boosted credibility, my own confidence and my reputation and I will definitely have got clients indirectly.
Books don't need to be works of art or best sellers. They just need to be authentic and of some value.
Final point - I didn't intend to write this much when I started the response, but I got into flow. It didn't actually take that long and wasn't painful and do you realise what I actually have here (if I wanted to)?
The basis of a book on how to write books.
Some fleshing out needed, a few more stories - maybe from other authors - pull out a few actions, et voilá.
And, of course, I say books.
Could be an e-book, video, podcast etc etc. The book is just the delivery method.
As long as you get the structure sorted, getting the content down is actually quite easy. And once you've got the content, you can do what you like with it.
So if you think you've got a book in you, focus on writing it first and worry about the rest later.
Think I'll stop there.
(Don't forget to go onto my book website and click the heart under my photo. Thank you)
PS At no point in this post did I mention the fact that I always hated writing at school. I'm more interested in numbers and equations - the thought of stringing more than a sentence together when I was at school filled me with dread.
I never told my parents I was writing a book. The first they knew about it was when they got given a copy as a present at Christmas. Sounds a good tale, but beneath it was the fear of telling them in advance as I knew the comments I'd get.
"You! Write a book? Really?" and so on.
Neither have I covered off the fears I felt when putting my work out into the world for public display, having to promote me and the book and the messages within etc etc.
I need to leave something behind for the full book ;-)
PPS I still don't consider myself a 'writer'. Just someone that has transferred their thoughts and ideas into a different medium