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.)

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

View all posts by Jeremy Miller