How To Write A Business Book: The Ultimate Guide

If you want to write a business book, you probably won’t be surprised to hear that you’re not alone. Hundreds of coaches, freelancers, entrepreneurs, executives, leaders, managers and business owners consider going down this route at some point in their career. There are several benefits to writing a business book, so it’s not surprising so many people want to do it.

However, the number of people who want to write a book and the number of people who actually do it are very different. Why? – Because writing a business book is hard. Writing a good business book is even harder.

There is no quick way of writing a good book. It will be a challenge. If you want to make that book a reality, then you’ve got to be prepared to commit to the task.

If you’re convinced you want to do this and get your book out there to the world, then read on…

Covered in this article

  • Stage One: Planning and Preparing for Success
    • The Why – why do you want to write a book? 
    • The Who – who will your book be written for? 
    • The What – what will your book be about?
    • The How
      • Writing schedule
      • Book-length
      • Deadlines
      • Outline
  • Stage Two: Creating Your Content
    • Writing
    • Ghostwriting
    • Self-editing 
    • Outsourced editing
    • Proofreading
    • Title
    • Cover
    • Other
  • Stage Three: Publishing and Marketing
    • Publishing
      • Free eBooks
      • Self-publishing
      • Traditional publishing
      • Subsidy/hybrid publishing
    • Marketing

Stage One: Planning and Preparing for Success

The Why

The first stage of writing your book is understanding the why behind it. Why do you want to write your book? What is the objective? What does success look like? In other words, once the book is written what do you want it to do? 

  • Leave a legacy
  • Inspire or help others
  • Improve your credibility and authority
  • Generate new leads
  • Win speaking events
  • Make money

Decide which apply to you before you start your book journey. Maybe you want to achieve all those things, or perhaps you are only writing it for one reason. It doesn’t matter, as long as you understand what your goal is before you set out. Knowing what you want to achieve makes it easier to achieve it.

Leave a legacy – The bucket list book

There are people who want to write a book and get it published just to say they’ve done it. After all, it’s not an easy thing to do, so it is something to be proud of.

If your sole purpose is simply to get your story out there, and you aren’t worried about mass sales, making a ton of money or winning any business as a result, then there’s far less pressure on you. You will still have to invest a lot of time and probably some money, but once it’s written and out there, you can tick it off the bucket list.

Inspire or help others

Maybe you have an inspirational journey to share or have achieved success against the odds. Perhaps you have built a business from nothing and want to show others how to do it. Maybe you want to teach people the basics of something such as money management, marketing, public speaking, sales or leadership.

Your main dilemma is going to be making your book different from other books on the same subject. You might be good at what you do, but there are probably hundreds of other ‘how to’ books in your field. Your story may be unique, but overcoming adversity isn’t. How are you going to make your message stand out from the rest?

Improve credibility and authority

Writing a book is a great way of showcasing your industry knowledge. You can include case studies, research, and your own observations. As with the above point, the difficulty you’ll have is standing out from other books unless your ideas and theories are completely unique.

Think about who you are trying to establish credibility with. Are you showing potential clients that you are knowledgeable in your field, or do you want other people in your industry to view you as an authority on a subject? Is your aim to become an influencer, an expert, a guru?

Generate new leads

Books can be used as marketing tools to generate more leads. You might decide to write a couple of e-books to be used as lead magnets, giving it away to the clients you want to win or selling it at a low price.

If the purpose of your book is to win business, think about what to include to persuade people to invest in you. You’ll need to demonstrate proven results, build trust and show that you are an expert in your field.

Give the reader actionable advice that they can test out. When your advice gets them the results they want, they’re more likely to come back and invest in your higher-value services.

Win speaking events

Being a published author in your field will increase your chances of winning paid speaking events. The fact that you have written an entire book about something shows that you have in-depth knowledge of the subject. Speaking at events is an excellent way of raising your profile, which leads to more business and often, increased pricing.

Having said that, there are now so many people with their own book, that it doesn’t always hold the same status as it used to. You’ll need to back your book up with strong marketing, relevant speaking topics and an engaging presentation style.

Make money

This is probably the hardest goal to achieve. While you can make money indirectly from your book through speaking events, lead generation and increased credibility, making money directly from book sales is more of a challenge.

If you choose to self-publish, you’ll need to do a lot of marketing. Employing the services of a marketing company adds additional costs, but doing it yourself is a lot of work. If you work with a traditional publisher, they will do a lot of promotional work, but you still aren’t guaranteed huge profits.

Don’t let this put you off. If you have an established following, then this will work to your advantage. You might not make millions, but it is possible to make a nice residual income if you do the right things (or just get very lucky).

The Who

Once you know what you want to achieve, the next question to consider is who are you writing for?

What audience do you need to reach to achieve your goal? Who are you targeting and why would they read your book? What can you offer them? How will reading your book add value to their life? What pain or problem are they experiencing that you can help with?

The more comprehensive picture you can build of your ideal reader, the easier it will be to write to them.

Picture them in your head as you write as if you are having a conversation with them. Consider how much subject knowledge they already have, if any. Think about the type of language they use. What questions would they have? What actionable advice can you give them? How can you present information in the most logical way?

Think about what your audience actually wants to read, not just what you want to share.

The What

You’ve already decided what your goal is for the book; now you have to decide what the goal is for the reader. What will they gain from your book – more confidence, a greater understanding of a subject, knowledge to move their business forward? What is your book about and why will your audience care? If you’ve spent time thinking about the who, then this part should be easier.

Will your book solve a problem, address a fear or satisfy a curiosity?

Once you have the main objective, you can start thinking about what you are going to include. It can be useful to do a brain dump of all your ideas. List everything you could include, every analogy you could use, every anecdote, any theories, techniques or research. No matter how weird or wonderful an idea, add it to your list. You can cut this down during the planning stage, but for now, let your ideas flow. You might find that your original book idea completely changes and some ideas you wanted to include aren’t the right fit for your audience.

The How

Now you know the why, who and what, it’s time to get into the how. You could just start writing and hope for the best, but success is more likely if you make a plan.

Writing schedule

Writing a book isn’t easy. It takes a lot of discipline, time and effort. The first part of your plan should be setting your writing schedule. How much time per day, week or month can you realistically commit to writing? When will you do this?

Set aside specific times to write – one hour each morning or three hours every Friday – whatever works for you.

 If you block time out of your diary to write, you are more likely to stick to it.

If you go for the ‘write when I have time’ approach, you’ll find you don’t make progress very quickly because you’ll always find something more urgent to do. You need to schedule in time and stick to it. If you find extra opportunities to work on your book as well, then even better.

Book length

The type of book you are writing may have an impact on the word count you aim for. An average page in a book has somewhere around 250-300 words, and an average business book has around 200 pages, meaning a standard business book averages around 50,000-60,000 words.

However, shorter books around 30,000-40,000 words are becoming more common, and if you are only planning to publish digitally rather than print, then you can go for even less. For a free eBook, 7,000-10,000 words is sufficient. To give you some context, this article (the one you are reading) is around 6000 words long in total.

Write as much as is required to comprehensively cover the subject without waffling.

Don’t try and add extra sections in just to hit a word count if it doesn’t add value to the reader. Equally, if you can’t generate more than 5,000 words on your subject, you might need to rethink the idea of a book.

Deadlines

Now you know when you will write, and roughly what word count you are aiming for, you can set yourself writing targets. There are a couple of ways you can set your deadlines. Option one – set a target date for when you want to have your first draft completed, and then work out how many words per month, week or day you will need to write. Option two – set a target for words per day, week or month and then work out how long it will take you to complete your first draft. This could be 250 words per day, 2000 words a week, 3 chapters per week or 5000 words per month – it’s up to you.

If you’re not sure how many words you can write in an hour, test yourself. Pick a subject relating to your book and just write for an hour to see how many words you can come up with. Don’t worry about editing it, just write. The more often you write, the faster you’ll get and the less editing you’ll require.

Once your first draft is complete, you’ll need to edit, proofread and format your book. This could take a couple of weeks, even if you outsource it, so if you have a publish date in mind, you’ll need to factor this into your deadlines too.

There is no right or wrong answer to how long does it take to write a book. Some authors can do it in a month; others take years. It depends how much time you can dedicate to writing, how long your book is, how well you write and how much editing is required.

Outline

Before you start writing, it helps to have an outline of your book. This might simply be a list of chapters with bullet points listing what will be covered. You may find that you move chapters around while you write or as you edit, but having a basic outline gives you a good starting point.

Refer back to your who and what to remind yourself who you are writing for and what you want them to get from your book. Think about the questions your reader would have about your chosen subject. How can you address these and at what stage in the book will you answer them?

Marketing

Think about how you will market your book once it is published. You don’t necessarily have to start marketing before you start writing, but you should at least be thinking about how you will attract your intended audience and convince them to invest in your book.

Look at your existing audience. Who is following you on social media? How many people have signed up to receive your emails? Do you have a blog, and does it have a strong readership? How can you capitalise on your existing audience?

What marketing activities can you do in the lead up to the release of your book to maximise sales? What promotional activities could you do when you launch your book? How can you increase your audience to reach more of the people your book is aimed at?

Think about the opportunities available and which channels will be most effective for you. Consider whether it is worth investing in some help with marketing.

Stage Two: Creating your Content

Writing

Everyone has their own way of writing. Some people like to start at the beginning and work through the chapters one by one. Others may start in the middle or choose random sections to work on and then put everything in order later.

There is no right or wrong way of writing; you need to find what works for you.

Your first draft doesn’t have to be perfect, so focus on getting your ideas down on paper, then go back and edit later with fresh eyes. If you try and edit each section as you write, you may find that it takes you hours just to write a couple of paragraphs.

Instead, write for as long as you have set aside time for. Leave what you have written overnight, for a couple of days or for a couple of weeks, and then come back to it. You’ll be more objective and will find it easier to spot mistakes.

One suggestion, which is particularly effective, is to start each writing session by editing the last thing you wrote. Let’s say you have decided to write one chapter a week. You write your first chapter in week one. In week two, you edit what you wrote in week one and then move on to the next chapter. This reminds you where you were and gets you back in the flow of writing. It is often much easier than starting with a blank page.

Write your first draft using software you feel comfortable with such as Microsoft Word or something similar. If you are including lots of images and charts, you might find PowerPoint easier to work in. You can convert your document to a more suitable format for publishing once you’ve finished your first draft.

Ghostwriting

If you have read all the above and decided that you just don’t have time to dedicate to writing a book, you could use a ghostwriter. A ghostwriter will write your book for you based on your ideas and tone of voice. Once the book is completed and you have settled the balance, you gain the rights to the book and can publish under your name.

Many celebrities use ghostwriters to tell their stories, and lots of businesses use ghostwriters to create blogs, articles and eBooks. The biggest benefit to using a ghostwriter is that it saves you time and ensures quality. A ghostwriter will have experience of writing and of the writing industry. They will know how to communicate your message.

The downside of ghostwriting is the cost. Ghostwriting a book can take months, and you will have to pay for this time. A ghostwriter will usually charge either a daily rate or a set project fee. Some may offer a lower initial fee in return for royalties, but most are unlikely to do this unless you have a solid marketing strategy or an existing book deal.

It may seem like cheating to use a ghostwriter, but it will still be your story, your ideas and your voice; they will simply be putting it down on paper for you.

You will have to work closely with your chosen writer, so make sure you choose carefully.

Self-editing

Editing is the most important part of the writing process as this is where you perfect your book. Once you have completed your first draft, go back through and review it. Even if you’ve been editing chapters throughout the creation of your book, you still need to go through it again.

Remember your intended audience

As you go through, remember who you are writing for and the purpose of your book. If there are sections which don’t add anything, remove them. Simplify any overcomplicated sections and include extra detail where required.

Read your book as though you were the intended audience. Would it hold your interest?

Cut down long sentences to make them more manageable. Avoid repeating the same points over and over without adding anything new.

Ensure consistency

Ensure consistency throughout your book. For example, write your dates and times in the same format all the way through. Ensure headings and subheadings are in the same font and decide whether you will capitalise the first word only, or each word in your headings.

The tone of voice and style should be the same all the way through. Switching tenses, changing from formal to informal or swapping from first to third person without good reason will make your book feel disjointed.

Be concise and confident

It’s easy to go off at a tangent or spend longer than necessary trying to explain a point. Find where you have done this in your book and revise the copy to keep it concise. Readers don’t mind you including case studies, research or personal experiences to reinforce points, but they will get impatient if you spend 20 pages explaining something that only requires a paragraph.

Go back through every chapter and cut any unnecessary words or phrases. Quite often you’ll find that your copy will be made stronger if you remove the words that don’t add anything.

Avoid vague phrases such as ‘some people think that’ or ‘in some cases’ or ‘a number of’. Readers will wonder who these people are, which cases you are referring to or just how many this number is. If you know exact statistics, can cite real cases or have actual examples, then reference these. If you want to be viewed as an expert, then show you know your stuff and have confidence in your convictions.

Outsourced Editing

It’s a good idea to work with an editor or get someone to review your book before you publish it. You could ask a friend or colleague to read your book and give you honest feedback. However, working with a professional editor is the better option as they will have writing and/or editing experience.

There are different types of editor, so choose the right one for your needs. Some professional writers work with more than one type of editor as they each focus on different aspects of a book.

Developmental editor

Developmental editors work with you quite early in the process. They will help you structure your ideas, give you advice on style and phrasing, and help you make your writing more engaging. At times you may feel as though they are being overly critical, but their role is to make your book saleable, not to stroke your ego.

Manuscript review

A manuscript review will usually be just that – a review of your book. The editor will evaluate your book and provide actionable advice on how to make it more publishable. They might recommend a more in-depth edit, or they may suggest just a couple of minor changes and a proofread. You don’t have to take their advice, but remember you are paying them because they are an expert, so it’s worth considering all their feedback carefully.

Line editor

A line editor goes through your book line by line, working on flow, clarity and tone. They will eliminate clichés, long or badly-structured sentences and unnecessary repetition.

Copy editor

A copy editor will work on clunky phrasing, grammatical and punctuation errors, and inconsistency. They ‘tidy up’ your copy for you. They probably won’t make major changes, but they may make recommendations for improvements if they think your book has weak sections. 

It is important to understand the different levels of editing and clarify exactly what your editor will provide before agreeing the terms.

Proofreading

Proofreading of your book is vital, and it is definitely something you should outsource. Even the most experienced writers make the odd typo. It is a good idea to proofread once the manuscript has been formatted for publishing as sometimes software can change characters or spacing.

You could ask a favour from someone you know. However, it is better to invest in a professional proofreading service, especially if you are publishing print versions of your book.

Editors don’t always include proofreading as part of their package so don’t assume that your ghostwriter or editor will have completed a thorough proofread for you.

If you are insistent on proofreading your book yourself, read it out loud or use a screen reader. This will make it easier to pick up any errors.

Choosing a title

You may already have a title in mind for your book, but don’t rush into a decision. The title and cover are often the most important elements in selling your book as these are the things that draw people in. It is difficult to come up with something completely unique, so do some research into potential titles.

Book titles can’t be copyrighted, although in some cases they can be trademarked. This means it is possible to have the same title as another book. However, this comes with some downsides. If your book has the same title as many others, or as one written by a bestselling or well-known author, this could hinder sales.   

Business book titles can be obvious, they can be long, and they can be very specific. Many popular business books have a main title, followed by a strapline that clearly tells you what you will get from reading the book. Here are some well-known examples:

The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It by Michael E Gerber

The Chimp Paradox: The Mind Management Program to Help You Achieve Success, Confidence, and Happiness by Dr Steve Peters

Awaken the Giant Within: How to Take Immediate Control of Your Mental, Emotional, Physical and Financial Destiny! By Anthony Robbins

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg

Make it clear what your book is about. You don’t want readers to be disappointed because your book doesn’t deliver on the title.

Cover Design

They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but unfortunately, most people do. Investing in the design of your front cover can make a huge difference to the sale of your book even if you aren’t publishing a print version. Some publishers will provide cover design, but if you are self-publishing, you’ll need to source a designer yourself.

If you are writing an eBook, there are several sites that offer free cover templates that you can customise. For example, HubSpot offers free downloadable templates. Alternatively, you can use a site such as Canva to create your own.

Blurb and endorsement

The front cover is what makes people pick your book up, but it’s the back cover that convinces them to buy.

There’s no point spending months writing a great book and then limiting your sales by rushing the back cover. Even if your book is only available online, you still need a blurb to tell people what your book is about. It should let potential readers know what problem your book will solve if they read it or how it will add value to their life.

If you can get an endorsement from an influencer in your industry or a well-known author, then this can add to your credibility.

Additional pages

Depending on the type of book you have written and the length, you may want to include some of the following pages:

  • Contents
  • About the author
  • Foreword
  • Preface
  • Appendix
  • Glossary
  • References
  • Contributors
  • Resources
  • Acknowledgements

You don’t need all these pages, but as a minimum, we suggest a contents page. If you are using lots of terms your reader may be unfamiliar with, then it helps to have a glossary too. This article from Authors.me explains the anatomy of a book and what should be covered in each section.

ISBN

An International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is a unique number that is given to your book so that bookshops and libraries can identify and order your book. 

You do not have to have an ISBN by law, but if you want your book to be available in print to sold via bookshops (online or physical), then you will need an ISBN. However, if you are only selling on Amazon and/or your book is only available in digital format, then you do not need an ISBN, although you can still get one.

If you are publishing a book, you can apply for an ISBN through your country’s agency. For the UK, this is Nielson Book. If you work with a publisher, they will usually take care of this for you, as will some self-publishing agencies.

Stage Three: Publishing and Marketing

Publishing

Once you have written, edited, proofread and finalised all sections of your book, it’s time to publish. Each route has its pros and cons, so you need to decide which option works best for you.

Free eBooks

Free eBooks are the easiest, quickest and cheapest to publish. If you are only giving your book away via your website, you can simply convert your document to a PDF or ePub doc and make the file available to download.

Amazon’s Kindle Create software allows you to format your book for Kindle so you can give it away free on Amazon too, helping you potentially reach a wider audience. 

Because you are giving your book away for free, you don’t need to worry about setting prices or taking payment through your site. Once your book is formatted and saved in whatever format you have chosen, you are ready to start marketing your book.

Self-publishing

Self-publishing is a popular choice for business books as it is cost-effective and relatively easy to do. If you are sticking with a digital format, then there are many websites that offer free formatting for eBooks.

If you want to offer printed versions of your book, then print on demand (POD) is a good option. Print on demand means that books are printed when they are ordered, so you don’t have to pay out for hundreds of copies at a time.

Amazon offers excellent self-publishing options for both digital and print publishing, as well as audiobooks. They take royalties from your book sales but allow you to retain all rights to your book. Your book will also be available globally.

Many self-publishers use Amazon to self-publish as it is easy, cost-effective and quick, but there are alternative options. Sites such as Matador, CreateSpaceIngramSpark, Draft2Digital and many more offer free or low-cost self-publishing and print on demand services. Each offers slightly different services so do some research to find out which most suits your needs.

Traditional publishing

Traditional publishing, also known as commercial publishing or conventional publishing, offers many benefits but can be difficult to achieve.

You submit your manuscript to a publishing house, often via an agent, and they decide whether they want to publish it. If they accept your manuscript, they are effectively purchasing it from you. The reason this route is difficult for first-time authors is that the publishing house is taking a financial risk. They must be confident that your book will sell enough copies to cover their costs and make them money.

The downside of this route is the difficulty of getting your book accepted and the timescales involved. Self-publishing is a relatively quick and easy process, whereas it can take months and even years to get your book accepted by a publisher. The publisher will then take time to ensure your book is as marketable as possible. They won’t rush the launch as their aim is to maximise sales by providing a high-quality product.

The advantage of traditional publishing is that you get an upfront fee, usually an advance on royalties and subsequent royalty payments, depending on the terms of your deal. The publisher will also take care of editing, proofreading, formatting, cover design and publishing, as well as marketing your book. They are invested in your book and will do everything possible to generate maximum sales. 

Subsidy publishing

You might also hear subsidy publishing referred to as hybrid publishing, partnership publishing, co-publishing, independent publishing and author-assisted publishing.

Subsidy publishing falls between self-publishing and traditional publishing. The publisher offers many of the same services as a traditional publishing house, but the author is asked to pay towards (subsidise) the cost of publishing. This fee can range from a couple of hundred pounds to thousands of pounds.

The advantage this gives you over self-publishing is that much of the work is done for you. Your publisher will create the cover, take care of formatting, apply for the ISBN and get your book into book shops. Some also offer marketing services.

If you decide to go with a subsidy publisher, you must be very careful about the terms of the contract. Make sure you understand exactly what your publisher is giving you for your money, what royalties you will get and whether you are signing over the rights to your book.

Unfortunately, there are many scammers who operate under the guise of subsidy publishers or partnership publishers. These are often known as vanity publishers, although they will never market themselves as such. This article about how to identify vanity publishers gives more detail about what to watch out for.

The Best and Worst Self-Publishing Services Reviewed & Rated by the Alliance of Independent Authors is a useful tool for quickly checking the reputation of self-publishing services and subsidy publishers.

Marketing

If your book has been accepted by a large publishing house, they will usually take care of the marketing. If you are self-publishing, then you will need to look after the marketing if you want your book to sell.

Countdown to go live date

Don’t wait until your book is live before you start your marketing activities. Build awareness of your book before it’s published and get people excited about its release. You could offer exclusive discounts on pre-release orders, or send out sneak previews of the first chapter, or post short snippets in the days leading up to the launch date.

Landing page

If you are selling your book through your own website, set up a dedicated landing page that tells people why they should buy your book. You can then link to this from your blog, guest blogs and email footer.

You might even want to run pay per click ads that link to your landing page if the topic is something people are likely to be searching.

Blog post

Create a blog post or a series of blog posts about your book explaining why you have written it and who it is for. Let people know about your book; get them invested in it.

If you write guest posts, then make sure you mention your book. Suggest ideas for guest posts that tie in with your book. Utilise your business network and look for opportunities to tap into a wider audience.

Social media

Social media is a brilliant marketing tool because it’s free. Utilise the audience you already have by creating engaging promotional posts. These could contain short snippets from your book, reviews from readers or a promotional video.

Don’t bombard your audience with sales posts; show them why your book will be a good investment.

Email footer

Include a link to your book in your email footer or signature. That could be a link to your landing page, to a blog post about your book or to the Amazon sales page. Every time you email someone, you’ll be promoting your book. 

Launch event

If you have the budget, you could host a launch event where you can talk about your book and sell signed copies. Invite those who helped make the book possible, your clients and potential clients as well as any local media or companies who would be interested in promoting your book for you.

Interviews

Find radio, TV, magazines or newspapers that are running stories that could be tied into your industry. Offer your services as a subject expert in return for a chance to promote your book. For example, if your book is about accountancy for small businesses, you could be interviewed about any upcoming changes that are being made to tax liabilities.

Networking events & exhibitions

Find local networking events where you can promote your book, or take a stand at an exhibition where you can sell or give away copies. Ask about speaking opportunities at events, conferences and seminars and put together a talk that ties in with your book.

Influencers

Research influencers in your industry and ask them to help promote your book. You could send them a free copy, reference them in your book where appropriate, or utilise paid promotion opportunities.  

Be passionate about the subject

You don’t have to give everyone you meet a sales pitch. If you are genuinely passionate about your chosen subject, this will come across in the conversations you have, and people will buy your book because they find you engaging. Take every opportunity you can to talk about the topics covered in your book. Show that you are an expert, and people will feel confident that your book is an investment.

Final tips

Hopefully this article has given you a good starting point for writing your book. The most important thing to remember is that everyone is different, so what works for one writer might not work for another. Find a writing routine that works for you and don’t worry about what everyone else is doing.

Tell people about your project. If you let people know you are writing a book, you are more likely to do it. You’ll find people constantly ask how the book is going which will motivate you to keep working on it.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help – whether it’s asking a friend to read through your book, or working with a professional ghostwriter, editor or proofreader. Even the most successful writers in the world don’t go it completely alone and you shouldn’t either.

Be prepared for criticism. Unfortunately, not everyone will like your book – even the most popular books on the market get the odd bad review. Focus on the positive feedback and work on marketing your book to the right audience.

At Make Your Copy Count, we love helping clients with their book projects. We can ghostwrite short business books, offer a manuscript review, edit your copy or provide a proofreading service. If you’d like a chat about your book project, get in touch.

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