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Five book writing mistakes entrepreneurs always make… and how you can avoid them

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You’re going to write a book.

40,000 words to go.

Then the book goes to the editor, the typesetter, and the printer.

Simple – right?

Wrong.

Having worked with over 100 entrepreneurs on their books, my team and I have found the writing and editing process rarely goes to plan.

  • 65 per cent of our clients lose over a quarter of their word count in their first round of edits.
  • 70 per cent end up with a completely different structure.
  • 100 per cent need to add new content, including case studies, anecdotes, explanations and exercises.

We even told four clients to write new books.

After you’ve spent months waking up early, staying up late, squeezing your writing around family, friends and work; after you’ve said no to invitations, events and getaways so you could get it finished; and after you’ve spent hundreds, or even thousands, of your hard-earned dollars on coaches and courses so you could finally put your knowledge onto paper… you don’t want an editor telling you to start over.

So what can you do? Read on for how to avoid the top five book writing mistakes made by entrepreneurs, and what you should do instead.

1. Choosing the wrong idea

You’re highly qualified in your field and have fifteen years of experience… but you’ve just started learning about a new area that you’re really passionate about, and what you think you’d like to make that your new direction. And then your clients keep asking about something else entirely…

The mistake most entrepreneurs make is choosing an idea that only answers one of these areas. This is a recipe for disaster:

  • If you aren’t passionate about your idea, you’ll give up part way through.
  • If you aren’t knowledgeable about your idea, you’ll end up rambling and repeating yourself to bulk up your word count.
  • If you aren’t addressing your readers’ desires, no one will want to buy your book, and you’ll be left with a very expensive paperweight.

The solution

Brainstorm until you find an idea that hits the sweet spot – the intersection between your knowledge, your passion, and what your readers want to learn about.

2. Not choosing one type of book

Great books come in all shapes and sizes – how-to books, memoirs, interview books and more. The mistake is not committing to one type of book before you get started – you start with a bit on your story, write five chapters that cover five steps, add some interviews, and hope for the best.

The result? Your editor will pick a book type for you, and will cut anything that isn’t relevant (I had one case where a client’s word count dropped by 45 per cent).

The solution

Commit to one type of book before you start writing.

  • 1. A how-to book.
  • 2. A thought leadership book.
  • 3. An interview book.
  • 4. A memoir.

3. Failing to plan

Only 3% of people who want to write a book succeed. Why? Because they have an idea for a book (or even ideas for their chapter topics), then sit down in front of a blank Word document and rely on inspiration to provide the content.

In other words, they fail to plan.

The solution

  • 1. Start with your book’s central idea – in one sentence, what’s your book about?
  • 2. Brainstorm – get a blank piece of paper and write down your central idea. What other ideas does this sentence trigger? Write down everything you can think of that’s related to your central idea.
  • 3. Organise your brainstorming – review your scribbling and see if there are any common themes that come up. These themes will become the main chapters of your book.
  • 4. Plan your chapters – expand your ideas for each chapter. What do you need to cover to discuss the topic in detail? 

4. Including everything they’ve ever written

You’ve been in business for a few years now, and you have a slew of marketing content up your sleeve – brochures, flyers, blog posts, articles, interviews, case studies and more. Writing a book should be easy, right?

While using existing content is a great way to boost your word count, a big issue we see is clients who have copied and pasted entire blog posts or articles into their book when they don’t actually fit.

And if it doesn’t fit, it will get cut.

idea sweet spot
idea sweet spot

The solution

When figuring out what to include in your book, ask yourself:

  • 1. Is the content directly related to your central idea? If not, it won’t fit into your book.
  • 2. Does your reader really need to know this? Some content might not be relevant for your reader given their goals and level of knowledge.

It’s only when you can answer both questions with a ‘yes’ that the content should go into your book.

5. Not making time to write

I get it – your days are consumed by client work, enquiries, quotes and prospecting. If you have a team, you’re also running meetings, coaching and reviewing their work, hoping that one day – someday – they will grow up and be independent mini-yous.

If you get a spare moment you turn to marketing – they update their Facebook status, upload a photo to Instagram, tweak their website or write a blog post.
You’re lucky enough to remember to eat, let alone write a book!

The truth is, you’re always going to be busy, and those who wait to find the time never get started.

The solution

Make the time to write with these tips:

  • 1. Commit to a regular writing schedule.
  • 2. Carry a notepad with you at all times for making notes when inspiration strikes.
  • 3. Set a daily writing target, and don’t go to bed until you’ve written your words!
  • 4. Raise the stakes – create a punishment for if you don’t meet your targets.
  • 5. Remember that this is a short-term challenge. You only need to make the time for the next four to six weeks, and then you can send your book to your editor!

Jacqui Pretty is the founder of Grammar Factory, which turns entrepreneurs into authors, and is the author of ‘Book Blueprint: How any entrepreneur can write an awesome book’. Get her ultimate guide to writing an awesome book at GRAMMARFACTORY.COM/AWESOME-BOOK-GUIDE.

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