06Jun 2019

Is it worth writing a business or self help Book?


Depending on your reasons for wanting to write a book, its concept and content don’t necessarily have to conform to traditional publishing values as they would have had to do 20 years ago.

Traditional publishers’ first criteria were, and still are, that any business book – or any book, for that matter - must be likely to do well out there in its market on its own, with some promotional help, perhaps, from the author and what frankly can be the publishers’ rather lame marketing efforts.

However as some of us in the BGC know, many of these books are published (usually self-published) as marketing tools as the means to a PR or promotional end, rather than as little profit centres in their own right, and are sold and/or distributed to audiences other than the general or overall B2B public.

Self or hybrid publishing are all fine and dandy, but…

Don’t forget, though, that whatever it is you want your book to achieve, it has to be good – “fit for purpose,” as the saying goes. If your book is bad, it will make you look bad.

Hence the rather derogatory term for a book about your topic – an “expensive brochure.” This isn’t really fair, although the term’s existence is understandable!

What may be “bad” with a book published in these ways is the quality of the book itself. A good few years ago when self-publishing / hybrid publishing were very new, readers didn’t really cotton on to the differences between a professionally produced printed or Kindle book, and what often looked like 200 pages run off a photocopier and sandwiched between two hideous covers. ( a. k. a. "vanity publishing" as it was in the old days...)

Readers – and by that I mean your clients and prospects, if that’s how you are to use your book – have become more savvy now and quite rightly expect a book you either give them or sell them, to be as well produced as one they could buy at Waterstones (see below.)

The good news is that there are many excellent book producers around, who can take your edited text and make it into a book that looks even better than were it to have produced by HarperCollins.  

Key benefits of writing and publishing a book 

1.      You will be a published author. Can’t argue with that, especially now that good quality self-published books are seen as being as respectable as traditionally published titles. Judging from the number of business people you see these days listing “author” as one of their key attributes, being an author has kudos. I call myself an author, too, but then I’ve a head start on most of you (36 published titles.)

2.      You can be an Amazon number one bestselling author. Yes, you can. I could show youhow to do it and it would take just a couple of days. There are two amazing issues here: one, it’s a scam anyone can use and two, although it’s been around for about 10 years Amazon has made no effort to stop it.

3.      Your book will have a number of promotional uses. Whether it’s a presentation where you sell the book “back of room,” a workshop in which your book is included in the delegate price, a special offer on your website, a prize in a competition, a gift to the raffle at a conference, a door-opener into radio and even TV interviews, the book will work hard. You can extend its use into audio (see below) as an audio book or series of podcasts, too. Popular with business people who drive/train/fly long distances!

And what about your book’s content?

The actual writing of a book does not have to be difficult or expensive. Provided that you can talk coherently, you can write a book – with help, perhaps, but you can do it. And the best news is that these days the help you need, should you need it, is much more available – and affordable – than ever before.

But as suggested above, if your content is junk, the whole exercise will not have done you any favours and could waste a hunky chunk of your money.

Many people with a fairly analytic mind can work out andplan their nonfiction books quite easily. Some find it easier to work with an author coach, which is what I do.

Editing is another essential part of your book writing exercise and that can either be done by your author coach, or by another, fresh pair of eyes. Editing isn’t all that simple and to be done properly needs to go through three (well, four) stages:

Structural editing: basically a reality check to make sure your content makes sense and runs in the right orderCopy editing: similar to structural but on a smaller level, i.e. making sure sentences work properly, verbs agree with nouns, etc.Line editing: closest of all to proof-reading, picking up on small discrepanciesProof-reading: this is done later once the manuscript has been converted to a file ready for printing/uploading.

Book production

Once you have a finished and properly edited manuscript, that’s still not yet all over bar the shouting! You need cover design, interior design and layout and file production before the book’s ready to go to print and/or Kindle.

I now have a good virtual team of specialists in all areas of the book production process so check with me if you want to get a book out and are concerned.

Audio book production

Just as an aside, if any of you existing and/or wannabee authors want to record an audio book I can put you on to a wonderful recording resource in MK.

The head honcho is a friend of my son’s, ran the band they were in way back when, who now still records metal bands in the evenings and at weekends but does some nice serious work for my clients plus BBC Radio Three and various corporates.

With this being a music studio his kit is of very high quality with a proper VO booth and capability to upload directly to Audible, Amazon’s audio book enterprise. And his prices are still very good.

Let me know if you’re interested.

What if you want to go the traditional publishing route after all?

Business and self-help books get a particularly hard time in bookstores. In most of the bookstores I go into these titles are crammed into a few shelves on the top floor way over at the back by the entrance to the employees’ toilets.

Bookstore managers don’t like the people who seek business books because they tend to browse a lot and buy little, usually using the retail outlet to have a quick browse then go home and order what they want from Amazon which is probably cheaper.

In a way you can understand the book-sellers’ r policy of putting these books by the toilets, I suppose. But unless you have an absolutely rip-roaring business/self-help book to share…?

So who needs paper? Or….?

Aha, this is an interesting one. Time after time when I speak to people who buy and read business / how-to / self-help books, they come back with the same thoughts.

When reading fiction and other, lighter books – maybe to take on holiday or read on long, boring flights – nearly everyone I speak to says “oh, yes: I load up my Kindle as it’s so much more convenient than carting heavy books around.”

Fair enough. I do the same.

However when it comes to business and self-help books, invariably they want print. Huh?

“Of course,” said one lady who is a classic representative of the business/self-help learning brigade.

“When I get a book that is teaching me something, I want to highlight key areas; make notes in the margin; stick sticky notes in the pages I want to re-read and review. How the hell can you do that with a Kindle?”

Good point, and one which all of us business/self-help authors need to bear in mind.

Any questions? Give me a shout - suze@suzanstmaur.com

FYI I was an advertising copywriter since shortly before the Boer Warand since then have written and had published 36 books of my own: mostly nonfiction plus some humour titles, some revolting poetry and some horror fiction.

With my combined experience of marketing and the publishing world I help new authors conceive and write their books, then avoid getting ripped off while producing books we can both be proud of.

I am also honoured to be Baby Mama to the award-winning website resource HowToWriteBetter.net which has a mere 2,000 (nearly) articles and tutorials on how to write anything from a shopping list to a eulogy to a business book. You don’t have to sign up to anything: just help yourselves, so nooooo spam. And yes of course, my accountant is longing to have me sectioned under the UK’s Mental Health Act 1983 because I give away so much stuff for diddly.

She’s an understanding person. (Thanks, Julia, and some of them do buy my books.)

A version of this article first appeared on HowToWriteBetter.net Friday May 31st 2019.