Writing a brilliant book isn't easy, so avoid these common mistakes if you want to start on the right track.
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A business book is the ultimate business card. It is a creative way to expand your voice, elevate your brand and build your credibility as a thought-leader in your field.
The world of publishing, however, can be a tricky one to navigate. There are so many unfamiliar aspects to publishing a book that even people who have taken the time to sit down and write one still make critical mistakes that undermine their chances of success.
So, we spoke to some industry experts and judges of this year’s Business Book Awards to find out their advice on the common mistakes authors make when writing a business book.
1 Writing for everyone
Lucy McCarraher, who is the founder of The Business Book Awards. She works with dozens of authors as a mentor and writing coach, so has seen the common mistakes that authors make first-hand.
“The first mistake most novice business book writers make is to try and make their book as widely popular as possible, rather than positioning it to their niche market. This will dilute your specialist knowledge and by trying to appeal to ‘anyone and everyone’, your book appeals to no one.”
2 Not having a detailed structure before you start writing
McCarraher adds that “another error is to start writing without having a robust and detailed structure. It is easy to think that you know what you want to say, it’s all in your head, and it will all just come together as you write.”
She warns that “this is a recipe for a manuscript that goes off the rails before it’s half-written, and probably never gets finished.”
3 Being too theoretical
Nadine Dereza, CNBC Business Presenter & Co-Author of Insider Secrets of Public Speaking believes that authors need to see their own ideas work in practice.
“Your pet theory isn’t any use if it doesn’t work in the real world, and business books more than any other genre are valuable when they’re helpful. When they’re all theory, they’re worse than unhelpful, they’re misleading.”
4 Not backing up statements and claims
“Don’t make sweeping statements or claims without backing them up with your experience, examples or stories” says Martin Norbury, author of I Don’t Work Fridays “Challenging the status quo – whether it be in your marketplace or on business ‘theory’ - is incredibly valuable, but if it’s not substantiated then there’s little credibility and it is just hot air.”
5 Writing an introduction that just tells your readers what your book is about
We all know that the introduction to a book is important and Ginny Carter, business book ghost-writer and writing coach believes that it’s the most important chapter to get right.
“A book’s introduction can make or break a reader’s decision to buy it. It’s the bit they read on the ‘Look Inside’ on Amazon, and the first page they turn to when they pick it up off the shelf in the book store.”
However, Ginny says that the “one of the mistakes it’s easiest to make is to think your introduction should only tell your readers what your book’s about.”
We asked Ginny to explain further:
“Opening your book with an introduction to the topic is how we were all taught to introduce an essay at school: we explained what we were going to write about and what angle we would take, so our reader would know what to expect.
"The problem is, unlike your teacher who was paid to read your writing, your book readers are the ones doing the paying – in both money and time. So, your introduction has to earn its place on their priority list. If your book starts like an essay you’re probably missing out on hundreds, or even thousands, of sales”
So, what should authors do instead?
“Write an introduction that sells your book. Show you know who your reader is and what problem they have – this demonstrates you understand them and reassures them they’re in the right place. Explain why they have this problem (and that it’s not their fault).
"Briefly outline your solution, including the benefits your reader will get from your book. Prove you’re the best person to deliver this solution. And finally, tell your reader what they can expect from your book. Now they’re hooked”
6 Thinking that retail sales are the be all and end all
Lucy McCarraher says that another very common mistake is “to believe that the point of a business book is to get as many retail sales as possible; it’s not – you’ll make your ROI from the books you give away to prospects, clients, potential partners, industry and media influencers.”
7 Choosing the wrong ghost writer
Some people may feel that writing is just not their thing and prefer to get a ghost-writer to help pull all their ideas together. Norbury, believes that “there’s nothing wrong with getting a ghost writer to help get that book out of you.”
But he encourages authors to “make sure it’s written how you would think, act and behave.” He adds “I’ve read business books by people I know, but it doesn’t sound like them or how they would speak, so it loses credibility”.
8 Procrastinating and lacking discipline
Norbury, an author himself, gives a final piece of advice “Too many people commit to writing a book but spend years procrastinating about it; stop putting off tomorrow what you can do today.”
Dereza, who is also an author, adds that writers should “get into the habit of writing every day. If you find yourself missing a day, one day can turn into a week, a month, an unfinished book.”
McCarraher adds, “it’s a big mistake not to have at least one person who will hold you accountable to your writing schedule and getting your book finished.”