You’ve decided to write a nonfiction book. What a fabulous idea — you’re an expert in your industry, and you want to share what you know. BUT, can you harness that expertise and fashion it into a physical book people will read?
Of course you can. To increase your chances of success, though, you need a plan. That’s what this post is about: planning a nonfiction book.
And though I know a fair bit about the subject, I thought it prudent to talk to someone who knows more. So, I got in touch with Brisbane-based New Zealander Ocean Reeve, author of The Word and owner of Ocean Reeve Publishing.
How important is planning?
I heard once that entrepreneurial rock star Richard Branson sketches his business ideas on a napkin, which all seems rather casual. So, how robust must planning be? Doesn’t the cream always float to the top anyway?
Well, to be blunt, no. Writing a book takes a massive amount of effort. And, let’s face it, Mr. Branson, along with the likes of Steve Jobs and Henry Ford, falls into a unique category. Just quietly, though, I bet he puts in plenty of planning post napkin stage.
Anyway, when it comes to publishing, Ocean Reeve says most authors don’t plan enough, particularly in business.
“Planning is critical. If you haven’t planned correctly or assessed your idea in a logical and structured manner, you’re setting yourself up for, not failure as such, but a lot of difficulties,” says Ocean.
Those difficulties, he says, can manifest in the form of a weak message, an unclear purpose and many headaches during editing.
Okay, so most of us agree that planning is necessary. The question, though, is this: Where should we start?
What is your goal?
Ocean believes an essential first step is to determine why you’re writing your book in the first place.
Here are some common reasons:
- make money through sales
- generate leads
- build relationships.
Reasons number one and two, make money through sales and generate leads, says Ocean, are common. However, he believes, in most cases, the emphasis should be on building relationships.
Currently, Ocean is working with a New Zealand-based client whose motivation is clear: generate leads and earn more money.
“As much as this is an authentic reason to bring his book to life, no one’s going to buy it because they’re going to see that the only reason he’s doing it is to make money … I’ve tried to swing the brain of the business owner to understand that their book is actually about relationships. In this day and age, with the amount of uncertainty there is, the goal should be to strengthen the relationship between you and your customers.”
By focusing on strengthening relationships, Ocean says the leads and revenue will follow.
“People don’t care about how much money they spend on something nowadays, but they will care about whom they spend it with.”
Ocean’s book, The Word, is about how to self-publish. However, that wasn’t why he wrote it. Instead, Ocean wants authors to do their due diligence when choosing a publisher because he has seen many people get “ripped off.”
“I felt that if I was very Kiwi and real about what my book was, people would go ‘shit, this isn’t like reading a normal self-help book; this guy is talking about our legacy and the reasons why we’re writing.’”
“You write a book, you get it out there, and you want customers to come to you — I get that. But, you’ve got to take it from a place that your readers are going to feel valued, not exploited.”
Searching for the golden egg
I reckon great ideas are a ‘dime a dozen’ — we all have them. But, how many of those ‘flashes of brilliance’ become a reality?
Unfortunately, the ‘reality bus’ has a habit of crashing the party. The key, says Ocean, is to be crystal clear about your idea and goal.
“As you go through the process of writing, structural editing and copy editing, etc., you feel that you have this clear, golden egg at the end of the rainbow. It’s getting closer and closer and it hasn’t changed shape because your purpose is very well-defined.”
The 10 x Author Success sheet
To assist his clients to develop their ideas and goals fully, Ocean put together, what he calls, The 10x Author Success sheet. Though a series of questions, authors are invited to tackle head on the realities of writing a book.
I have paraphrased some of the questions:
- Is your book aligned with your goals?
- Is the timing right?
- To make your book happen, who else needs to be involved?
- What problem does your book solve?
- Who are your competitors?
Be under no illusion; writing a nonfiction book is a major undertaking. However, by planning thoroughly at the start, you create a clear map to guide you towards your golden egg at the end of the rainbow.