There are many variations of the business archetype, but the overarching goal remains the same: become successful by selling. But doing this is more difficult than it sounds. According to the Small Business Administration, of the 600,000 or so businesses that are started each year, about 20 percent fail during the first twelve months, and half fail within five years.
Clearly, plenty of people are in need of business guidance—not just initially, but year after year. And that creates myriad opportunities for authors who write business books that offer them such guidance. But how does one go about writing a business book? How is it structured? And which topic(s) should be discussed?
While there are no hard-and-fast rules when it comes to writing a business book, it can be helpful to structure the book using one of these 12 popular approaches:
1 – Legal Start-Up Stuff
Entrepreneurs may feel overwhelmed and at sea when thinking about all the paperwork necessary just to open the doors for business. Thus, a reference manual explaining how to wade through the legal paperwork and red tape can be very helpful. The “legal start-up stuff” book clearly outlines items to be considered or tasks that might or must be done—for example, the fees, forms, and bureaucratic technicalities that are encountered when getting a business up and running. It could be a stand-alone book or part of a series that examines different important areas and includes case studies, quizzes, or websites to visit for more information.
Example: The Small Business Start-Up: A Step-by-Step Legal Guide, by Peri Pakroo, J.D.
2 – Entrepreneurial Start-Up Stuff
Everyone with a brand new, crackerjack idea for a business can use a book that explains how to turn that idea into profitable reality. The “entrepreneurial start-up stuff” book could look at creating a business plan, estimating a budget, finding a location, hiring the best people, acquiring financing, and marketing the business with maximum effectiveness. It could also include common mistakes made at any point during the journey but especially at the beginning.
Example: Starting a Business QuickStart Guide, by Ken Colwell, PhD, MBA
3 – Business Basics
In order to run a business effectively, leaders need to know at least something about every aspect of their organizations. This is especially true in smaller enterprises, where leaders cannot rely on area experts but must wear multiple hats and perform duties they have not prepared for. The “business basics” book takes a close look at the fundamentals of running a business, covering everything from sales funnels to developing and executing a strategy, from closing sales to inspiring workers to function as a team.
Example: Business Made Simple, by Donald Miller
4 – Leadership Theory and Skills
Managing a company is one thing; leading it is quite another. That’s because while management duties can be described and documented, leadership is a difficult-to-define set of skills that varies according to the needs of a particular company and may have to evolve over time as the situation within the company, industry, and larger society changes. The “leadership theory and skills” book explains how to lead—examining communication, problem solving, inspiring others, and other issues that will help leaders who wish to improve and grow their companies.
Example: The 5 Roles of Leadership: Tools & Best Practices for Personable and Effective Leaders, by Wladislaw Jachtchenko
5 – Dealing with Change
Change isn’t coming—it’s here, and it’s not going away. Unfortunately, as Blockbuster, Borders, Kodak, and many other companies learned, insisting on doing things the old way when change rears its challenging head is dangerous, often fatal. The “dealing with change” book looks at understanding innovation and change—teaching how to recognize, absorb, and capitalize on it. As the pace of technological innovation continues to increase, leaders will need to anticipate and recognize innovation just to survive.
Example: The Innovator’s Dilemma, by Clayton M. Christensen
6 – Effective Communication
Few skills are more important than communication, and a leader’s particular style of communicating can determine the success—or failure—of the business. A book about finding and adopting the most effective communications style may just be the most important book most leaders ever read. The “effective communication” book could include a look at various communication styles and which are appropriate for which situation(s)—such as the difference between aggressive and assertive communication, how to ask questions that produce results, how to manage difficult conversations with employees, how to be an effective group member, and so forth.
Example: Can We Talk? Seven Principles for Managing Difficult Conversations at Work, by Roberta Chinsky Matuson
7 – Business Improvement
There are plenty of guides available to help entrepreneurs get started but fewer aimed at those with businesses that are already off the ground who still need some guidance. “Business improvement” books are less about philosophical and foundational information, and more about practical matters like keeping the doors open, boosting orders, and keeping both employees and clients happy.
Example: Profit First: Transform Your Business from a Cash-Eating Monster to a Money-Making Machine, by Mike Michalowicz
8 – Success Habits
Among all the questions anyone should ask themselves before starting their own business, this one reigns supreme: Do I have the heart and mindset of an entrepreneur? Some may say that the best businesspeople are visionaries, that they see things the rest of us don’t or are willing to walk on a high wire without a safety net. That’s not always the case. In fact, many high achievers owe much of their success to perseverance and other rather “regular” traits and habits.
The “success habits” book helps budding entrepreneurs ask themselves the hard questions, beginning with: Am I willing to engage in a risky endeavor for the long-term? Do I relish the idea of wearing several hats? Am I calm, steady and focused, even when things aren’t going right? Do I have marketing savvy and knowledge of my business? Am I disciplined and hardworking? Unless they can say “yes” to all of these questions, they should probably rethink the idea of becoming an entrepreneur.
Example: Effective Entrepreneurship: The 7 Key Habits & Principles of Elite Entrepreneurs, by Walter Grant
9 – Workplace Etiquette
Businesspeople are focused on metrics, but oftentimes metrics are trumped—or crushed—by interactions between people and personalities. The “workplace etiquette” book offers readers tips on improving their personal behavior and develop better habits that translate into superior professional skills. These tips can cover everything from effective time management to being a good role model, from accepting personal responsibility to being prepared to listening empathetically. The importance of good office etiquette, tips for working effectively with others, and ways to become more tactful and diplomatic when dealing with others, might also be good topics for discussion.
10 – Biography with Lessons
The “biography with lessons” book combines the pleasure of reading about someone’s life with the excitement of discovering how and why they succeeded. There’s already plenty in the media about Amazon’s Jeff Bezos or Tesla’s Elon Musk. But many lesser-known folks succeeded admirably in business; distilling what these leaders learned can help entrepreneurs and established businesspeople hone their own ideas and skills.
Example: Bill Marriott: Success is Never Final, by Dale Van Atta
11 – Biographical Compilations
Rather than a deep dive into one person’s cache of experience and wisdom, an anthology of quick snapshots of top leaders might offer a range of ideas and lessons. Readers get a front row seat to the unique challenges leaders in different industries have dealt with and can easily see the ideas and traits many of them have in common that helped them become so very successful.
Example: Forbes Greatest Business Stories of All Time, by Daniel Gross and the Editors of Forbes magazine
12 – Autobiography
If you’ve enjoyed success in business, you may wish to share your story with others. You can tell your story with an emphasis on the story points, or you can highlight the lessons you learned on your journey to the top.
Example: Becoming Trader Joe: How I Did Business My Way and Still Beat the Big Guys, by Joe Coulombe with Patty Civalleri
IF YOU’D LIKE HELP WRITING YOUR BUSINESS BOOK…
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