Tag Archives: book publishing

Breaking the silence

Sorry about that.

The silence I mean.

I’ve been away, I’ve been busy, all that, but the real reason I’ve been silent is that I’ve been thinking long and hard about what I should be writing about in this blog, and I’ve been planning what I’m going to write about. It should come as little surprise then that what with all this thinking about writing and planning writing that I’ve decided I’m going to write about writing.

It is after all one of the few subjects I really know anything about.

Over the next year I’ll be using this blog to write my next book – Good Business Writing – and this broadly is what I’ll be covering:

1. Why I’m writing this
2. Why writing matters in business
3. No one writes in the same way
4. The process
5. The fundamentals of the English language
6. What to include and what to leave out
7. Writing clearly
8. Bring your ideas to life
9. Making your writing flow
10. Inspiring your readers
11. Common errors to avoid
12. Putting this theory into practice

I’ll cover a chapter every month with 4-8 posts. Each chapter will be around 3000 words and will contain theory, examples, and real-life case studies of people who’ve succeeded in business by doing this well.

And lucky blog readers you’re going to get all this free! All I ask in return is that you give me feedback – tell me what works, what doesn’t, what you agree with, what you disagree with, what I’m missing out and what I’m covering in too much detail.

So, let’s begin….What do you think to this idea? Will you read it? Will you tell others about it? Is there a need for a book on business writing? Has someone already written one that you can’t see me bettering? What do you think to my content? Anything I’ve missed? What would you find useful in a book like this?

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How to get a non-fiction book published: Q3

Q: How can I get my publisher interested in my idea for a book?

A: The simple answer is to give them exactly what they ask for. This is detailed in the author’s guidelines I mentioned in my last post: authors’ guidelines. However, if the publisher you’re dealing with doesn’t produce these you need to decide yourself what to include in your pitch.

The first thing to prepare yourself for is the length of this pitch document. The one I sent for “How to Grow Your Business for Entrepreneurs” was ten pages and more than 3,000 words long. You’ve got a lot of material to prepare, but look on the bright side: if this was a work of fiction you’d have to write it in full before anyone would even look at it.

I believe that the proposal you send to your prospective publisher should give them confidence in three areas:

1) That people will want to buy it.

You need to detail exactly who will buy it. So, for my first book I was targeting owner-managers of small companies, those that have got off the ground but are struggling to grow for one reason or another. I found some research from BERR which suggested that there are 1.2 million UK companies with between 5 and 30 employees and turnover between £500,000 and £5 million. It was clear evidence that there was a market for this book.

However you need to make your pitch more than the old “if we get just 1% of this billion pound market” theory. You need to provide a compelling argument as to why they will buy your book. What are the problems they face that your book will help them solve? What evidence is there that these people actually do have those problems? How bad a problem is it?

Finally, you need to demonstrate that this fills a gap in the market. Outline its nearest competitors and describe how your book will be better than them.

2) That you can write this book.

First and foremost this is about your ability to write the book, and that involves knowledge of the subject and writing ability. So, let the publisher know about all your relevant experience of the subject in question, and about your credentials as a writer.

You can do even more than describe past experience: you can provide a detailed contents list (don’t worry, about them holding you to it; you can change this as you get into the writing part – this just shows that there’s enough to cover and that youve got to grips with the scope of your topic). Finally, you can include a sample chapter so they can see exactly how well you write.

3) That you will be a useful promotional partner

Sadly, authorship is not simply about writing a book. We writers have to get involved in the murky world of book promotion. Terrible I know – we’re artists after all – but your publisher will want to know what you can contribute to the promotions activity. Will you be able to get media reviews, speak at events to promote the book, or push it out through existing channels such as your own website, training courses, or blog? Your publisher is going into business with you, so wants to see that you are dynamic, innovative, and avbove all else committed to making the book a success.

There is then a great deal to cover. Spend time putting it all together. Make sure you get it right. Then, once your document is ready, attach it to your email, make sure you’ve spelt the publisher’s name right and have made no glaring spelling or grammar errors in your covering email, take a deep breath and fire it off…..

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How to get a non-fiction book published: Q2

Q: Do you need an agent?

A: No.

I’ve never used one. I approached publishers directly. I did this by going onto Amazon and into my local bookshop and looking at books on similar topics to mine. I made a note of the publishers of those books. Then I cross-referenced it with a free online directory of non-fiction publishers and I came out with a list of about six publishers that I felt would be interested in my book.

Next I looked on their websites for authors’ guidelines and contact details of commissioning editors.

I then sent one of those commissioning editors a brief email. I didn’t pick the one I thought I’d have the best chance with – I wanted to try out my pitch before approaching that top target. My email was brief and to the point. It outlined who I am, my idea for a book, my credentials for writing it, why people might buy it, and it concluded with asking for initial expression of interest before I sent a full proposal.

The first publisher I sent it to said it was a good idea, but not quite right for them. I was encouraged and sent it to my top target. The commissioning editor there came back to me in 15 minutes saying it was a good idea but a little somiilar to something else they’re working on – could I give it a slightly different focus and present a full proposal?

I set to work immediately and within a month I had my first commission to write a book.

So, no it’s not necessary to use an agent.

That said, it might be a good idea to use one. It is quite possible that an agent would help you secure a better deal (in a later post I’ll go into more detail about the advance and royalties deals I’ve done – believe me, they could be better!). Since getting my first book into print I’ve spoken to several other people who are writing non-fiction books and who have secured deals with agents. None of them are able to comment on whether the agent has secured them a better deal smiply because none of them have yet got deals. I’ll allow you to draw your own conclusions from that….

If you do want to use an agent then there is a free online directory you can use to find one, but from my own experience all I can say is that if your objective is to get your non-fiction book published you don’t need one. You do though need to present your book idea in a way that will appeal to your publisher. In my next post in this series I’ll offer some advice on how to do that.

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How to get a non-fiction book published: Q1

I’m currently working on my third book – “Brilliant Online Marketing” to be published by Pearson in late 2010. After my first two came out last year – “How to Grow Your Business for Entrepreneurs” and “365 Ways to Cut Costs” – quite a few people asked me how I’d gone about doing it.

It was in fact much more straightforward than I’d ever imagined, and I’d encourage others to give it a go. Don’t expect glamorous launch parties, international book tours, and six figure royalty cheques. You’ll be lucky if you get any royalty cheques. But I wasn’t after all that. I’m happy just to write about topics that interest me. And no royalty cheque would have given me such a rush as seeing my book on a bestsellers shelf in Waterstones Piccadily did. (OK – don’t tell my publisher that last bit. Royalty cheques would still be nice!)

So, here, for anyone who fancies having a go at getting themselves their very own ISBN number, I’m going to answer some of the questions I’ve been asked. I’ll post as many times as I can over the next couple of weeks, answering a question at a time. Feel free to drop me a line with any questions you’d like me to answer.

Q: How did you decide what to write about?

They say that everyone has a book in them, and I think that’s true. You might be an expert on cycle routes in Surrey, the emerging iPhone apps market, or the life and music of Erick Morrillo. Whatever it is, you need to ask yourself three questions:

One, do you know enough about it? I’d spent ten years interviewing entrepreneurs, seeing what marked out the ones who grew their businesses from those who didn’t, and prior to that I’d been Client Services Director at a small business where I’d personally faced many of the issues I wrote about in my first book. For the second book I took a different approach. I’ve never run a charity, but I know a lot of people who have, so I invested a lot of time into the research phase. Either way – through experience or research – you need to know enough to be a credible expert.

Two, are you interested in it? This isn’t just a passing interest but an in-depth enthusiasm that will sustain you over several months as you struggle to put together tens of thousands of compelling words. I could spend quite a long time talking to someone about cycle paths in Surrey, iPhone apps and Erick Morillo, but I’d never be interested enough to write 50,000 words about any of them. I am though genuinely interested in how to grow businesses. Make sure you care enough about the topic you choose.

Three, will people want to read about this? If you really, really care about a subject so much that you just want to write a book regardless of whether or not a single person reads it there’s nothing to stop you. You can even get it published if you have a few thousand pounds spare. It’s called vanity publishing, and there’s nothing whatsoever wrong with it. However, if you want to write a book that’s going to make you money you need to be sure it’s on a topic other people find interesting. There are thousands of entrepreneurs who want to grow thier businesses. There are thousands of charity managers who want to cut costs. I knew I had a market. What is the market for your book?

Tomorrow I’ll answer the question: Do you need an agent?


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