Books that changed my life 10, plus tips on writing your first book

This is the 10th and last in the series of books that had an impact on my life. And, come on, its only fair that I put one of me own in here. I’ve chosen the first book I wrote, the brandgym. I also share some tips for people thinking about writing their first business book.

I’d always wanted to write a book since being a kid, and it was a huge thrill to see the brandgym come to life. And unlike a lot of writers I’ve talked to, I actually enjoyed writing it, although it was a monumental amount of work.

The "big issue" in the book is what I call "brand bureaucracy": an intellectual, theoretical approach to branding. It then proposes the idea of "brand-led business", which is more practical and focused on growth, and is still the central idea for everything I do. The book has an overview to applying this in a wide range of areas including insight, vision, positioning, portfolio strategy and differentiation.

In case you’re thinking about writing your first business book, I thought I’d share a few tips and observations:

1. You won’t retire on selling business books: Unless you’re one of the handful of business books that "break out" by becoming what I call a "phenomenon" book (Long Tail, Tipping Point etc.). You might pay for a nice holiday, but that’s about it. Authors typically get 5-7.5% of the retail price. In other words, for a brandgym book selling at £20 I get £1. My publishers says 3 000 to 5 000 is a typical business book sales figure, for one published in the UK. Publish in the US and you can times that by  3 to 4, but even then you’re talking £15 000. So, OK, a very nice holiday.

2. Its a marathon, where stamina matters: Most people have at least one book in them. The next question is whether you can write half decently, which a fair number of people can. But the big question is then whether you have the stamina to write the bloody thing. A typical business book is 150-200 pages long. Being target-driven, I set myself an objective of 5 pages a day, times  30 days = 6 working weeks. This is like writing a pretty long article for a business magazine, every day, for 30 days. You then need to count the same time again at least for re-writing and editing. So, a total of 12 weeks or more, assuming you work every day. Phew.

3. A book creates connections: so, it’s a massive amount of work, for not much money. So why bother? Beyond the thrill of seeing your name in print, which mattered to me, one big benefit is the connections a book creates. I have had people from all over the world get in contact with me to share ideas, and suggest joint ventures of all sorts. More recently, it has also opened business doors. I got to meet people from Mars, Diageo and Kraft all through them having read one of my books.

4. A book can help build your brand: the other big benefit of a book is the way it can help build your own brand, for you as a person, or your company. I hit the jackpot in this sense with the brandgym, as my publisher saw the benefit of linking the book to my company, and so used not only the same name, but the same colours and typeface! And what better credentials presentation can there be than giving a copy of a book that captures your brand philosophy, tools and methods.

5. Be ready to be a 1-person marketing department: don’t expect much support in marketing your book. The publisher will expect you to do most of the work, such as speaking, writing articles, blogging and the like.

6. Demand from publishers exceeds supply of authors: this is the
opposite to fiction, where apparently less than 1% of authors get an
agent, who then has to pitch the book to a publisher! In business book
land, the amount of work is huge for limited financial gain, as described above. So, if you
have a good idea and the stamina to write a book, you have a good
chance of finding a publisher. To illustrate this, I met with my publisher a couple of weeks ago and pitched 4 ideas for new brandgym books, all of which interested her. I just need to find people to write them now!

If you are interested in writing your first business book, then add a comment, and I can send you an example proposal that worked well for me when I pitched my first one.