The sweet spot for your book: the intersection of what you’ve got, what they want, and where things are heading.
What does ‘strategy’ mean to you? If I asked you what your strategy was for your small business, how would you answer?
It’s a loaded word which means different things to different people, but for my purposes I’m going to define it as the vision you have for the future of your business and the high-level roadmap that you’ve planned to take you there. If you feel you don’t have either or both of these elements in your business thinking right now, right now would be a good time to make a start.
Managing Directors and CEOs are paid specifically to do this sort of strategic thinking: which markets to target, how to manage the threats and opportunities that are emerging as the environment changes, what capabilities to build in the business, what partnerships to develop. As a small business owner you can often be too busy fixing the printer to feel you have any time for luxuries like this, but without the focus and direction that strategic thinking provides that’s almost certainly what you’ll continue to spend much of your time doing. And no one wants that.
Small business strategy is of course a whole book, possibly a whole library, of its own, and there are some great tools to help you: nothing beats a business coach, of course, but there are also some excellent free resources out there such ashttp://startups.co.uk/, www.businessballs.com, http://www.smallbusiness.co.uk/ or http://fitsmallbusiness.com/starting-business-resources/.
But assuming for the purposes of this blog post that you’re clear on your business strategy, where does writing a book fit in?
Here’s a simple, practical exercise to help you think strategically to identify the sweet spot for your book: the intersection of what you’ve got, what they want, and where things are heading.
Take a piece of paper and draw three circles in the form of a Venn diagram:
Alongside the circle entitled ‘my expertise’, write down a list of the professional skills/areas that you could possibly write about. You might need to do some more research for some, that’s fine. But the starting point is what you bring to the party. Many authors stop here: having identified a book topic on which they can speak with authority, they proceed to write it. That’s not strategic thinking.
Secondly, alongside the ‘customers’ needs’ circle, write a list of the questions you are most frequently asked, the concerns and problems that bring customers to you, the needs – well articulated or barely understood – that they look to you to meet.
Finally, look ahead. The future circle has three inter-related parts:
- your industry – what trends and technologies are emerging? and how will these change your sector in the short to medium term? How is the old order changing, and what new opportunities are arising?
- your business – in the light of these changes, where are you taking your business over the next five years? What are the areas of focus and growth, and are you planning to extend or develop into new areas?
- your customers – what are they just beginning to ask? What might they be asking next year? Five years from now? What do they not even know they don’t know yet?
Now look at where those three circles overlap. The sweet spot for YOUR book is where your expertise meets your customers’ needs as both they and you look towards the future.
Once you’ve identified your topic you can begin planning your book.
- Be specific.
If you address a broad area, you will be one of a number of competing titles. Find a micro-niche, or a series of them, and you will be an essential purchase for a very specific readership. If you have a blog, you may already have a sense of which topics attract the most passionate responses: this is a great place to start.
- Be unique.
Anyone can find the answer to almost any question if they’re prepared to put in the hours on Google, but if you can provide something uniquely your own – the research you’ve carried out, your experiences, your models and methodologies – you give them a reason to buy your book instead.
- Be yourself.
You have your own story, and your own voice. Write with passion, be honest and generous with your experience and insights, and never, ever plagiarise.
- Focus on your reader.
Resist the temptation to write an autobiography – unless you’re already a celebrity, no one outside your family will be interested. Put yourself in the place of someone interested in the subject and wanting to know more: what are their likely questions and how can you help them? What can give them that will be of real value to them, rather than simply general interest?
There’s a book waiting to be written that only you can write and that will make the world a little happier, wiser or well-informed as well as building your reputation – it’s a privilege and a pleasure, so enjoy the journey!