Friday, July 19, 2013

So you wanna write a book

Thought leader.
Who doesn't?

I've got a couple of my own sitting around here somewhere. Don't worry: I'll remember you if you somehow crash my publishing party in a Fifth Avenue penthouse.

And I work with executives who want to write books. The first step in our collaboration: I jam one of their hands in a meat grinder and turn the crank.

If they enjoy that, we continue.

What most of them think is that to become a "thought leader," or just to attract more business, a book is the first step. It's a credential. It's true, I guess. Nobody will read the book, but that's not the point.

When I first got into the writing business I was an idealist. I really believed that as a journalist I was going to save the world. (You can decide if I succeeded.) Now that I'm writing mostly about business I think some of that idealism is useful.

When I was an editor at Reader's Digest I came up with the term "sincerity of purpose." That means that you aren't cynical when you put words on paper, that you are genuinely trying to help people. If you have that spirit you won't deliver trite junk or untruths. You will only deliver what you'd want: the best. You thereby create real value, which people will pay for.

I think Guy Kawasaki, the former "chief evangelist" at Apple, has written 12 books, including one about how to publish a book, agrees.

He writes that any wannabe author should stand in a bookstore and look at all the books. Would yours stand out? Why on earth would a reader/buyer choose your book? What's in it for the reader? However, most would-be writers focus on themselves when answering why they want to write.
Answers to this question include: “It’s good for my visibility.” “To make money.” “It will help me get speaking gigs and consulting engagements.” “It’s good for my company.” “It will make me a thought leader.” Any of these reasons may be true for the author, but they are not relevant for readers.
Think about this: How often do you peruse Barnes & Noble or Amazon while wondering how you can help an author achieve his or her personal goals? Your answer, like mine, is probably “never.” I’m happy for authors to earn lots of royalties, but that’s not why I buy their books. I’d bet the same is true for you, too. Let’s examine the good and bad reasons to write a book.
The rest of his piece is good material for anyone who wants to write. I will leave you with this one thought: it's all about what the reader wants or needs. It's not about you.

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