Jeremy Miller

How to Write a Business Book Without Losing Your Soul

By: Jeremy Miller | November 18, 2014 | 
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How to Write a Business Book Without Losing Your SoulBy Jeremy Miller

Writing a business book is one of the most rewarding and difficult things you can ever do.

It’s incredible to consolidate your thoughts and put them down in a long form document.

It’s incredible to create a product that will bring other people value.

It’s incredible to have people read it, share it, and appreciate it.

But creating that product, that book, can tear the soul from your body—especially if you don’t have a plan.

A strong plan is your savior when writing a business book.

It will help you avoid losing every shred of your humanity as you toil through your words while trying to maintain a day job.

To write my upcoming book, Sticky Branding, I applied five principles to focus my time and protect my soul.

1. Your Book Proposal is Your Blueprint

You can’t build a house without a blueprint. The same goes for writing a business book.

A well thought out book proposal will save you a lot of headaches.

Spend the time upfront to map out your thesis, conduct your research, develop core stories and metaphors, and define the structure of each and every chapter.

The more focused your book proposal, the easier it will be to write your book.

Plus, a well-developed book proposal makes it a lot easier to sell your title to a publisher.

2. Set Your Deadlines

Writing a business book goes through predictable phases:

  1. First draft
  2. Substantive editing
  3. Copy editing
  4. Design
  5. Proofreading and page proofs

Work with your publisher from the start to define each of the major milestones with due dates. If possible, do it as part of the contract negotiation.

Once you know the dates, you can develop your plan for each milestone, and how you will accomplish them in the allotted timeframe.

For example, I figured out early on that it took me two-and-a-half days to write a chapter, and three days to rewrite a chapter.

I used that pace to develop my work schedule every week, and made sure I had the time available to reach my deadlines with some room to spare.

The due dates come upon you fast and furious. If you’re not careful you will find yourself behind schedule and stressed beyond belief.

3. Complete the First Draft, First

If you blog regularly you may get lured into the trap of making your words perfect.

I definitely fell into this trap as I found myself rewriting the first few chapters again and again.

Eventually my editor stopped me and said he wouldn’t look at my work until I completed the entire first draft. It was great advice.

A business book is 60,000 to 80,000 words. If you keep getting stuck perfecting the words in one section you can never get enough momentum to complete the project.

As Anne Lamott writes in Bird by Bird, “Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere.”

Get that first draft done, and then refine it.

4. Share the Load While Writing a Business Book

Writing is solitary, but writing a book is a team effort.

Build resources into your plan.

This could involve hiring a cleaning lady to keep some order in your house.

It could mean recruiting a writing buddy to help keep you on track and do weekly check-ins.

It could be a research assistant, a designer, or some other professional you need to complete the book.

Figure out the resources you need at the beginning, and lean on them.

It’s amazing how many people will help you and support you through this journey. It’s really inspiring to discover who is in your corner.

5. Work to the Best of Your Abilities

You may aspire to write such as Malcolm Gladwell or Gini Dietrich*, but that’s not the real measuring stick.

Create a book to the best of your abilities. Create a product that you are proud of. That’s all you can hope for.

Write the best book that’s in you, and then promote and market it to the best of your abilities.

The market will tell you if they like it or not. That’s outside of your control. But you can put your best foot forward, and that’s something to be proud of.

Do you have a business book in you? If so, I encourage you to write it. The world needs your voice.

Set your plan, do the work, and create your own bestselling business book.

(* As a side note to guest bloggers of Spin Sucks, it’s very important to praise Gini. She rewards compliments with cookies, and they are delicious! Just ask Jack Bauer. She keeps them in the freezer.)

About Jeremy Miller


Jeremy Miller is a Brand Builder, Keynote Speaker, and president of Sticky Branding — a brand building agency. Jeremy helps companies challenge the giants of their industry and grow Sticky Brands. His upcoming book, Sticky Branding: 12.5 Principles to Stand Out, Attract Customers and Grow an Incredible Brand, will be published in January 2015

  • StickyBranding

    SpinSucks Thanks Guys!

  • Poor Jack Bauer!! LOL!!

  • belllindsay Gini found leftover meat in the couch, but the cookies were gone! Jack Bauer was like Santa Claus in that freezer 🙂

  • StickyBranding

    belllindsay Thanks Lindsay!

  • Great outline. I think you nailed a lot of the main sticking points that not only steal an author’s soul, but also prevent them from ever completing their book in the first place (which seems to happen to many)

  • LauraPetrolino Thanks Laura. I can easily see how an author gets derailed. Writing a book is incredibly daunting, and more work than you ever imagine at the start. I know there was more than one time I questioned why I was doing this project, but I am glad I stuck with it. And I can’t wait to hear what others think when it’s published in January!

  • StickyBranding

    corinamanea thanks Corina. Are you working on a book?

  • StickyBranding

    MuseCOM thanks for sharing!

  • StickyBranding LOL Always eat the cookies first, doncha know!

  • Poor Jack Bauer. There is a padlock on the freezer now. There is no way he’s getting into it, which means he’ll find something else to get into that I’m not expecting. I’ll make sure the cookies are above the fridge, where he can’t reach even if he figures out how to pull over a chair to climb up there.

    I agree with your outline here. One of the things I did is get up an hour earlier and write for that entire first hour, before anyone else was awake. I accomplished more in that time than if I tried to write while also running a business. But the most important thing I think you nailed (and that no one realizes) is it takes twice as long to edit as it does to write.

  • corinamanea

    StickyBranding My pleasure Jeremy. Nope, I am not working on a book…yet. 🙂

  • Cookies? You got cookies? What’s up with that ginidietrich?

    Great post, Jeremy. I’m bookmarking this post right now for future reference.

  • Shelley Pringle Thanks Shelley. Yes, don’t let ginidietrich hold out on you 🙂

  • Shelley Pringle Shelley, it’s a new perk we created, uh, two days ago. Guest blog for us! You’ll get cookies!

  • ginidietrich Shelley Pringle As the branding guy it’s important for me to come up with new campaigns and programs. I come up with the stuff that others get to execute on 🙂 And the bar is set very high on this one Gini.

  • StickyBranding

    WaynePorteous1 thanks for sharing Wayne. Are you writing a book too?

  • JoshuaJLight

    Great advice, Jeremy. How long does it take you to write a book (on average)? What are your thoughts on using ghost writers for a few of your chapters?

  • Joshua, it took me 9 months to complete the actual “butt in seat” writing of the book. I started this project in June 2013 and it will be published in January 2015, so definitely a long process.
    In terms of ghost writing, I don’t see any problem working with another author. It’s a business book, not a piece of art. I know several authors that have ghost written for bestselling authors. They do great work, and help create even better books.
    Another option to help in the writing process is to dictate the chapters. You can use a tool like Dragon Dictate to transcribe your words to text.
    Treat your book like a product. What do you have to do to create a product that will deliver value and sell?

  • StickyBranding

    swoodruff thanks for sharing Steve. Are you working on a book?

  • StickyBranding that’s intense. It is a product. 
    I’m not an author, but I stumbled across this podcast you might enjoy listening to. It’s about a guy who publishes books solely online. He talks about his whole publishing process, and how he has become successful at doing it.
    It’s really interesting:
    http://www.smartpassiveincome.com/author-empire-steve-scott/

  • JoshuaJLight Awesome. I’ll check it out.

  • swoodruff

    StickyBranding I will be over the coming months. I know it’s a huge undertaking. But it’s part of my mission!

  • StickyBranding

    swoodruff great mission. It’s an incredible accomplishment

  • StickyBranding

    dundurnpress thanks guys. Anything you would add?

  • dundurnpress

    StickyBranding you seem to have covered all of the big main points! 🙂

  • StickyBranding

    dundurnpress woohoo! Jeremy for the win 🙂

  • StickyBranding

    EstateMag thanks for sharing. When will your magazine be available?

  • EstateMag

    StickyBranding Very soon Jeremy!! I may reach out to about it

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