If you find yourself asking if you’re wasting time writing your business book, look out for these five signs. They’ll help you avoid getting an answer you won’t like.
You’re half-way through writing a book for your business, and you’d rather not tally the hours you’ve spent on it so far. And just like every other waist-deep-in-the-manuscript author before you, you find yourself asking, “Is this book any good? Will people love it or will they get through chapter one and put it down? Am I wasting time writing this book?”
It’s not uncommon to have your doubts – you are so close to your work, you can’t see it through your readers’ eyes. You know what you want to say, but how do you know if the information is coming across in a clear and persuasive way?
The last thing you want to do is to spend months toiling over a book to find that only your mother and her book club enjoyed it. You want it to be a resource for everyone who can benefit from it – not to mention announcing you as the leader and expert who “wrote the book” on the subject.
I work with and speak to a lot of writers who are in the same place you are. I know what a terribly insecure feeling it can be when you’re unsure if your book is good enough; that’s why this post explores five tell-tale signs your book isn’t on the right track.
1. You lack clarity
You’ll never know if your book is good enough until you determine the main thing you want your book to achieve. Will this book help a specific group of people? Are you writing to raise your credibility in a niche? Are you hoping to attract quality speaking engagements? Is this a promotion for your business? Having a clear understanding of your main goal is the first step to recognizing if your book will achieve it. Too many people embark on writing a business book in a misguided attempt to impart everything they know. To be successful, your book needs to be targeted to specific aims or you’ll run the risk of spending months and months floundering with no definite objective.
You may be a natural and hit the mark, but you may not. Why risk wasting all that time and energy? Clarify why you’re writing this book before you go any further.
2. You’re missing the question
Why do people buy these books? To help them solve a problem. A great business book answers a key question for its reader. Can you sum up the question your book is answering in one sentence?
Let’s say your readers want to know how to run their businesses while avoiding burning out from stress and exhaustion. Their question might translate to: “How do I run a business while staying calm and sane – and have a life outside of work?” Does every paragraph and chapter you’ve written address this question? No? Then you’re probably wasting your readers’ – and your own – time.
If you’re finding it difficult to stick to your main topic, maybe it’s not the right one for you. Or perhaps you need to employ a little more restraint and focus. Why not write a blog post for each tangential idea that comes up as you work?
As a side benefit, when you’ve got your question clear in your mind, it’s a whole lot easier to write your book.
3. There’s no logical flow to your ideas
When you have identified one clear, central question for your book to answer, then you need to do it in a logical sequence. Don’t assume your readers know more than they do, and don’t jump from one random point to another while you repeat yourself over and again.
When your points lack a logical flow, it’s like a stream filled with boulders blocking its path. Your reader will bounce around your ideas and feel frustrated because they can’t follow to where you are leading them. And because a book is a one-way communication medium (rather than a coaching session or Q&A), they can’t ask questions to clear things up.
The result is your readers will give up rather than make the effort to piece the puzzle together. This is where a structural editor can help you get your work flowing smoothly and persuasively.
4. You’re ranting
One author I worked with had a manuscript that oozed her burning passion for her subject: how increased travel is contributing to the destruction of the environment. Her work was grounded in solid research – she certainly knew her material – but the entire book was a lecture. It had an angry and accusatory tone and it didn’t give her readers practical advice on what they could do to help remedy the situation. When I finished reading the manuscript, I was left with a feeling of despair rather than motivated to take action.
When I talked to her, she insisted that wasn’t her intention at all. She was desperate to convince people to change their habits, but she had become so frustrated and angry, she let her emotions take over and her book became a rant.
People do not buy books because they have to, they buy them because they want to. Have you ever picked up a book and thought, “I think the content and tone of this book are totally off-putting, but it’s really important. I’ll buy it and plow through it because I feel obligated to.” No? Didn’t think so.
If you don’t write a book readers will want to read, you’ll be wasting your efforts.
5. You need help
None of us can see our books as readers do, we’re just too close to the work. Every writer needs help at some point, so when you’re ready, give yourself a break and get an objective professional to cast an eye over your manuscript. Whether you’re two chapters in or ready to submit for publication, get a second opinion to confirm you’re headed in the right direction.
And don’t turn to your family, a best friend, or a partner. Find someone who understands what your goals are as well as what makes a good book. A professional manuscript reviewer can identify the key strengths in your work (which can give you a major boost of confidence) and tell you how to shore up the areas that need improvement. With good advice and another draft, all those hours spent writing won’t be wasted, because you’ll end up with a book that gives your readers the answers and clarity they were looking for.
Start With Your “Why” When Writing Your Business Book
What Type Of Book Editing Do You Need? And When?
Why do you need professional editing for your novel?
When Do You Know Your Book Is Done?
Choosing The One Brilliant Idea For Your Business Book