Setting out to write a business book can be an intimidating proposal. There’s information to gather and organize; structure and format must be considered; and there are endless questions about word choice, target audience, and more.
It gets even more complicated if you want to get your book published, for now you have to think about agents and publishers, cover design, pricing, and more.
We’re Barry Fox and Nadine Taylor, New York Times bestselling authors and ghostwriters of business book and works in other genres. In this article, we’ll look at several of the questions people ask us about how to write a business book, and how to get it published.
Let’s begin at the beginning, with types of business book and book formats.
1. Are there different types of books on business?
There are many, including:
- Biography/autobiography – the story of a company or business leader
- New ideas – introducing new concepts or reimagining old ones
- From life to business – applying lessons learned in life to business
- From business to life – transferring concepts from business to other aspects of life
- Wealth-enhancing ideas – approaches to making money
In addition, business books can deal with leadership, finance, management, sales, innovation, company culture, and many other related topics.
2. How do I structure a business book?
There is no “best” business book structure. They key is to find the format that works best for your book. There are many possible approaches, including:
- “Presenting a New Idea” – a discussion of a new idea, broken into several parts
- “We’ve Got Trouble” – an examination of a problem, with a mention of the solution
- “Smashing the Paradigm” – a look at why our current understanding of some aspect of business is completely wrong
- “Telling a Story or Fable” – an entertaining way to introduce a concept
- “Borrowing from Other Fields” – an application of lessons learned in other areas to business
- “The Encyclopedic Approach” – a reference book addressing certain aspects of business
- “Topic 101” – a “basic course,” in book form
For a more detailed look at these business book formats, see our article, “How to Structure a Business Book.”
3. How do I start it off?
There is no hard-and-fast rule for determining whether you should begin begin your book on business with startling statistics, a quote, a case history, your own story, or something else.
A look at recent New York Times best-selling business books shows there are five popular approaches:
- A story illustrating the book’s topic, used in The Tipping Point
- A story about why the author(s) wrote the book, used in Think Like a Freak
- A dictionary definition, used in Outliers: The Story of Success
- An example of the phenomenon/situation the book is describing, used in Thinking, Fast and Slow
- An explanation, used in Money: Master the Game
For a more detailed discussion of each of these openings, see our article, “5 Bestselling Ways to Begin a Business Book.”
4. What should I think about before beginning to write?
Think of writing a business book just as you would launching a new business initiative or product.
Spending ample time upfront considering your goals, markets, consumers, etcetera, saves time and effort, while increasing the odds of success.
So think carefully about:
Why you are writing a book – Is it to increase sales? Share your business philosophy with the world? Tell your company’s story? Book more speaking engagements? The answer to this question will help determine your book’s style and substance and prevent time-consuming false starts and U-turns in the writing.
Who you want to read it – “Everybody” is not the best answer. Figure out who makes up your specific audience—those genuinely interested in hearing what you have to say. This will help you determine the book’s content, style, and voice.
What you want readers to know/feel when they’ve finished your book – Is the point to educate your readers? Have them enjoy a great story? Support your new idea? Hire you? Zeroing in on your overall message will help you determine how to format your book.
How you’d like the book to be published – Will you go with standard, self, or academic publication? Your choice will affect the book’s content and style.
5. How should I prepare to write my book?
While you’re thinking through the issues mentioned above, you can begin to gather materials you’ll need when you begin to write. These vary according to what you’ll be covering in your book, and may include:
- Articles by or about you and your company
- Transcripts of your speeches, or those by relevant associates
- Transcripts of podcasts or other presentations
- Blog posts, whether by you or your associates
- Company white papers, newsletters, manuals, and guidelines
- Relevant documents, perhaps memos or contracts that detail your company’s history
- Books and other outside sources you may want use as references, or as a source for quotes
In addition, you can prepare by interviewing key people to get necessary information.
6. How does one actually write a business book?
The process of writing a book about business is just like that of writing any other non-fiction book. And it involves lots of writing and revising.
Some people like to begin by creating a detailed outline, while others prefer to dive right in and see where the book “wants” to go on its own.
Some authors sit at the computer and dictate into a transcription program, others prefer to write it by hand, and have it typed up later.
But while materials and method vary from person to person, there one imperative for all writers: you have to write, write, and write more!
Time, routine, and regularity are key to completing your book. That is you have to devote ample time to the effort; develop a routine, which may be a specific time and place you write every day; and stick to your writing schedule.
For more on the process of writing a book on business, see “10 Habits of Successful Book Writers.”
7. How long should a business book be?
The standard length for a business book has long been about 200-250 pages. This equates to between 50,000 and 60,000 words.
Shorter books are becoming more popular, with “shorter” meaning quick reads of 30,000 to 40,000 words.
Ebooks, especially those sold inexpensively or given away for free, may be as short as 6,000 to 10,000 words.
8. How long does it take to write a business book?
The same amount of time it takes to write similar non-fiction books, such as health books.
If you’ve thought through your reason for writing and other matters described above, and have gathered all the necessary materials, you should be able to write your book within a year.
That is, it will take that time if you’re diligent about writing every day, and remember the importance of time, routine, and regularity.
If not, the writing process can drag on forever. When that happens, you want to either reconsider your motives for writing, or hire a business book ghostwriter.
9. Why not just edit transcripts of my speeches together?
There’s a major difference between communicating ideas via a speech and doing so through the written word.
When you give a speech, your mere presence has a tremendous influence on how people respond—often much more than the text of your presentation.
A great deal of what people take away from your speeches will be determined by your vocalization, gestures, and facial expressions, none of which will be present in your book.
That’s why the text that works as a speech often flounders as a book.
10. How do I write a best selling business book?
Don’t set out to write a best seller, for then you’ll be chasing fads and torturing your story or ideas to align with keyword research and networking models.
Instead, write the best book you possibly can.
Pour your heart into your story; present your idea in a clear and compelling fashion; make readers yearn for the change your propose; or otherwise fill you book with great content.
Write a book that readers simply cannot put down, and can’t wait to tell their friends about. That gives you a tremendous leg up when it comes to sales and best seller lists.
11. Suppose I need help writing my business book?
There are several experts who can help you write a business book, including a business book ghostwriter, book coach, developmental editor, line editor, copy editor, and proofreader.
In brief, the:
- ghostwriter writes your book for you
- book coach educates you and guides you through the process
- developmental editor reviews your manuscript and makes suggestions for major changes
- line editor tunes up your manuscript’s style and langue
- copy editor checks the manuscript for errors, omissions, and redundancies
- proofreader looks for errors and inconsistencies in the manuscript
12. How do I get a business book published?
Exactly as you would any other non-fiction book.
The two primary options are standard publishing and self-publishing.
The basic difference is that with standard publishing you have to convince a publishing house to invest their time and money into producing, distributing, and to some extent marketing your book, while with self-publishing you do it yourself.
Another difference is that there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to get your business book published the standard way, while with self-publication, it’s guaranteed.
13. Do I need to write a business book proposal?
You only need to write a book proposal is you intend to go for standard publication.
Once a literary agent demonstrates interest in your and your book idea, you show her your book proposal. If she agrees to represent you, she’ll show the proposal to the appropriate publishing houses, hoping one will purchase your book.
Then, with contract in hand, you’ll deliver to the publisher a full manuscript that matches the specifications in your proposal.
14. How about a business book outline? Do I need to write one?
The outline is strictly for your benefit as you plan and write your book.
Some people like to create a detailed outline and stick closely to it as they write; others prefer to start with a looser outline and refine it as they go.
15. Should I self-publish my book?
This is an excellent question, which leads to another question: Why are you writing this book?
What is your goal? To make money from sales of the book? Raise your media profile? Introduce your product/service to potential customers? Share your concept with the world?
For more on this, see, “Why Are You Writing Your Book?”
Your answer to this question will help you decide which type of publication is best for you: standard publication—getting your book published by Simon & Schuster or another major publisher—or self-publication.
16. Do I have to sell my book in “real” bookstores to make it worthwhile?
No. Selling books in Barnes & Noble and other brick-and-mortar bookstores is just one way to profit from your book.
There are many others, and here are some of the approaches our clients have successfully used:
- Selling the book on Amazon and other online outlets
- Using the book to present their expertise and getting invited to appear on radio and television programs
- Including the book as part of a larger package of consulting and/or educational services sold to clients
- Using the book to explain their philosophy/approach as they seek promotion or other professional advance
- Selling the book at seminars and other appearances Giving the book away to generate interest in their product/service
- Using the book to memorialize their achievements and/or their company’s successes
17. Bottom line: Will my business book be profitable?
As with all aspects of business, there’s no guarantee of financial success.
But keep your ultimate goal in mind.
If your true ambition is to introduce a new concept or present your hard-learned lessons to the world, earning a profit on your book should not be the primary concern.
If, on the other hand, profit is your driving motivation, remember that the increase in media attention and business generated by your book can greatly enhance your revenue, even if the book itself doesn’t make a lot of money.
18. Doesn’t every author want to write a “big” book?
Aspiring authors often thing BIG—a quarter-million-dollar advance from a major New York publisher, a New York Times bestseller, a 20-city tour complete with multiple appearances on all the big shows.
Thinking big is great.
But sometimes it’s better to think small.
And by “better,” we mean more profitable
We learned that small can be lucrative in a big way from a man who asked us to help him write a business book some years back. His intended to use the book to get himself hired to give more seminars—and then build the cost of giving each participant a “free” copy into his seminar fee.
He didn’t care about being on the bestseller list or the big TV shows, he didn’t care about making any money directly from book sales, or winning the Pulitzer Prize.
He didn’t earn a dime on direct sales of his book, but the book made him a lot of money.
So, big or small?
It depends on your goals, which are among the first things you should think about when you start to write your book. Better yet, think about them before you begin.
Want to write a business book, but need help?
Contact us! We’re Barry Fox and Nadine Taylor, business book ghostwriters and professional authors with a long list of satisfied clients and editors at major publishing houses.
Check out our Testimonials Page to read their comments.
Then call us at 818-917-5362, or use our contact form to send an email. We’d love to talk to you about your exciting book project!
Are you ready to write a business book? Call us.