If you want to write a book, ask these two questions before you start — and every day as you work on it.
How will my reader see the world differently?
What are they going to do about it?
If your book is not going to help your reader to see the world differently, why are you bothering to write it?
I know you have objectives for yourself, like getting speaking opportunities, boosting your reputation, or generating leads. But those are secondary effects. Unless you make an impact by changing how the reader sees the world, no one is going to be interested in reading your book or hearing your ideas.
Think about it. Did you read a nonfiction book recently that you found fascinating, useful, and valuable? How did it change how you saw the world?
Here’s how this applies to books I read recently, for example:
- Talk Triggers made me realize that there’s a systematic way to generate word of mouth, and that we’re generally clueless about it.
- The Transparency Sale made me realize that salespeople who lead with honesty — including the flaws of their products — are more likely to succeed.
- The Disruption Mindset made me realize that at its core, disruptive thinking is a simple strategy: putting the needs of future customers above present ones.
- Crisis Ready made me realize that the key to crisis communication is not what you do in a crisis, but how you prepared well before the crisis happened.
Once you can help people to see the world differently, you’re in a position to get attention from readers — and give them advice. You can answer the second question: what are they going to do about it?
Right now, authors, ask yourself these question: How will my reader see the world differently, and what are they going to do about it?
If you can’t answer that, you’ve got some thinking and research to do before you know what your book is. (And if you’re already writing it, you’d better do that thinking right now.)
How can you find that answer? One way is by obsessing. Another is to ask what the “aha moment” is that your clients have. What do you see that no one else is seeing? That’s the start of your answer . . . and the start of your book.
Different types of business books create different types of worldview shifts
Here are some types of business books and the ways they shift the worldview of the reader. Which sounds like your book?
- Business trend. The world is shifting. Here’s how to understand that shift and how to position yourself to succeed based on it.
- How-to/practical advice. Here’s a framework that will improve your thinking about how to do something important, and how to execute on it.
- Leadership. Inspiring people isn’t what you think it is. Here’s what it actually is and how to do it.
- Personal productivity. You need to look at how you work in a new way. Once you understand that, here are some tips on how take advantage of it.
- Personal finance. Here’s a new way to look at value in the financial world, and how to invest based on that idea.
- Science/medicine. Here’s a new understanding of the natural world. It may change how you behave.
- Motivational/self-help. Your view of yourself and the world is skewed. Here’s how to think about who you really are and be more successful.
- Narrative. When you learn what actually happened, you’ll see the world differently. Learn from that.
- Biography. Here’s how this person thinks, and how it helped them to succeed. Learn from that.
- Memoir. Here’s what happened to me, which will expand your view of how the world works. Learn from that.
- Politics. There’s a shift in the way we think about political leaders. Here’s what that means for your voting and advocacy in the future.
- Compilation of interviews. These people have a new way of thinking about the world. There are useful insights here.
- Textbook. This is how to think about this topic. Here is everything you need to know to master it.
- Cookbook. Here’s a new way to think about food. Follow these recipes. (Admittedly, this isn’t a type of business book, but the questions still apply.)
There are a lot more categories of business and nonfiction books, but you get the idea.
If you’re working on a book, I hope this post has changed your worldview about writing. You don’t have to tell me about your idea, which may be proprietary. But I’d love to hear if I changed your way of thinking.
And if you’re stuck on how to do this or what to do next, drop me a line.