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The Book in the Box Method
- Here are the basic steps required to write a book: Figure out exactly what your book is about. Figure out exactly how to structure the book so it’ll make sense to the reader. Find a quiet place you can concentrate while you write. Find several hours a day of free time to write so you can write your book. If you aren’t already, give yourself enough time to become a good enough writer so you can actually convey your wisdom properly in the book. Then, even if you can do all of that and finish your book, you still have to figure out how the hell to publish the book, which is a lot of work.
- Wisdom is not the same thing as knowledge or information. Wisdom is information plus knowledge plus context, and only a human can do that. Wisdom is information you can actually use.
- This is precisely what a well-constructed non-fiction book does: it takes information, adds contextualization, explanation, and application, and turns it into usable wisdom for people.
- In essence, in order to know if you have a book in you, you must answer the questions: Why are you writing this book? Who will care about this book? Why will they care?
- You MUST be honest with yourself about what results are important to you, or your book will fail—commercially, personally, or both.
- Things to Consider If This Is Your Goal: It makes sense to understand precisely why you care about influencing what people think about your subject. What are you going to do with that influence? How do you want to use it? Where do you want it to lead? The answers to these questions impact the content of your book at every level (we cover this more in the audience section, below).
- Things to Consider If This Is Your Goal: This type of book cannot just be a sales document or a promotional brochure for your company. It must provide real value to customers and, more importantly, be marketed in a way that makes that value clear. For many people, this means giving away information you would normally charge for, so prepare yourself for that if this is one of your goals. But the point is not to give everything away, the point is to only pull in the customers and clients who are right for you and your service.
- We informally call it the “Book As Business Card” goal, and a book can be very effective in opening up all sorts of speaking opportunities for you as the author. Example: There are so many examples it’s hard to point to just one, simply because even our authors who don’t write a book for this reason get asked to do speeches.
- It’s the difference between being a political theorist (who’s a thought leader) and drawing attention to how abortion laws have impacted low-income women in Appalachia, for example (that’s a specific cause). Be careful of having a vague goal of just “helping people.” If you can’t specifically talk about exactly how your book will help people, then this is just a wish and not an actual goal.
- Example: We worked with an author, Simon Dudley, who was a prominent figure in the teleconferencing industry. He was well known as an expert in his field. The problem was that he didn’t believe in his field. He was starting to put the pieces together about a bigger global trend about innovation, and he realized that the teleconferencing industry was in trouble. Simon’s book, The End of Certainty, breaks down his philosophy on how technology evolves. The goal of the book was to get him out of his role as an evangelist for the telecom industry, and develop his thought leadership in this new direction, so that he could launch a speaking and consulting career helping companies facing these “excession events” (as he calls them) work through the transition. Things to Consider If This Is Your Goal: We don’t recommend that authors put a book out with just anything in it. It can be tempting to throw something together and call it a book, but this tactic can backfire. Make sure you have something substantive to say first, and be very clear about what career result you want your book to help you achieve.
- Bad Reason #1: “I want to sell millions of books and make a lot of money.” Last year, there were about 300,000 books published—just in America. According to BookScan, only about 200 books per year reach a 100,000 copies sold. That means you have, statistically, about a 0.007% chance of selling one-tenth of a million, much less a million.
- Think about it—how many times have you had a problem, and tried to solve it by finding a book about it? Well, what if you were the person who WROTE the book on how to solve that problem? Then you’re going to get all those people coming to you. This doesn’t work for everyone, but does work really well for companies, entrepreneurs, coaches, consultants, and even certain types of executives.
- Bad Reason #2: “I want to be a famous, bestselling author.” Everyone wants to be famous, and some people think a book will do that. I’ve already explained why rich won’t happen (except indirectly), and the worse news is that a book is even less likely to make you famous than rich.
- If you reframe your goal from, “I want to be a famous bestselling author,” to something that is closer to what you actually want, like, “I want my book to make an impact on lives and get some recognition for that,” then it does two things: It makes the goal very achievable. It actually helps you to write a better book. How does it make the book better? Because if your goal is just to help people and be recognized for that, you can almost always teach something to at least a few thousand people that greatly impacts their lives. Doing that might not sell enough copies to be a bestseller, but it will help those people, and they will thank you and recognize you for it.
- Bad Reason #3: “I want to live the writer’s life.” I think this is summed up perfectly by Hugh Macleod, the awesome cartoonist and author: “A successful book agent I know tells me that at least half the people he meets who are writing their first book, are doing so not because they have anything particularly interesting to say, but because the idea of ‘the writer’s life’ appeals to them. Tweed jackets, smoking a pipe, sitting out in the gazebo and getting sloshed on Mint Juleps, pensively typing away at an old black Remington. Bantering wittily at all the right parties. Or whatever. Anybody who wants to write books for this reason deserves to suffer. And happily, many of them do.”
- Bad Reason #4: “I don’t care what anyone thinks, I’m just writing this for myself.” This type of “book” has a name already: a diary. If this is your goal—yes, many people have said this to me, and yes, it’s a perfectly valid goal—then consider that all you need to do is write it, but not release it.
- What’s the Better Version of This Goal? There is none. Just go write it for the reasons you want, and leave it in a drawer, and you’re good. Or, recognize that you DO want recognition for you book, and then focus on writing a book that will be appealing and helpful to other people.