by Gabriela Pereira | Featured Contributor
If you’re like most entrepreneurs, you probably spend a lot of time writing. Between crafting emails, composing sales copy, engaging on social media and building your email list, writing is probably the #1 activity you do for your business. Yet most entrepreneurs are terrified at the idea of writing a book based on their expertise because they don’t think of themselves as writers.
Well, I have news for you: you don’t have to be a writer to “bookify” your business. By bookify I mean turning your information and expertise into a cohesive book, ebook or other book-like piece of content. To bookify your business (and yes, I just made up that term) all you need is three things:
- Expertise in something that people want to learn more about,
- Organizational skills so you can put information into a logical structure,
- The ability to communicate your ideas in clear language.
If you’re an entrepreneur, you already have those three things. All you need are a few simple techniques to help you unlock these skills that you already have. That’s where this post comes in. I’ll delve into these three skills above, and home in on exactly what aspect of your business you should bookify. I’ll also discuss methods to help you structure your book into an outline. Finally I’ll share a few tried-and-true techniques so you can power through and write the book, even if writing is not your thing.
Let’s dive in.
1) Zero In On the Right Topic
As an entrepreneur, chances are you wear many hats in your business and you’re an expert on many things. The key here is to zero in on one angle for your book that not only focuses on something you know inside and out, but is a topic that people will want to learn more about. Just as niching down your business can help you build traction, you also want to make sure that your book fits a niche and–more importantly–fills a need.
The other key is making sure that your book serves your audience, and that you’re not just writing for other people in your business. Otherwise you risk getting caught in that echo-chamber of only talking to other business owners in your niche, instead of writing for your loyal customers (who are the people you really want to reach with your book.) At this stage, it’s important to know who your customers are, and what information they’re looking for.
2) Put Together a Mind Map
Once you’ve got your topic, do a quick inventory and write down everything you know on the topic. I like to do a one-page mind map, where I branch my main topic into subtopics. Then I’ll keep sub-dividing until I’ve got a detailed picture of everything I know about on the topic.
The beauty of mind maps is that they allow me to see the whole idea or “story” at a glance. Also, mind maps will weight the subtopics evenly, whereas itemized lists automatically imply a rigid order. At this early stage of a project or book, I like to keep things flexible, so mind maps work better for me than those traditional 1.A, 2.B outlines. The other fun thing with mind maps is that you can color-code it so it looks pretty, and then hang it in your workspace as a visual reminder of what you plan to write.
3) Write, Write, Write
At this point, you’ve got your topic and you’ve put together an outline in mind map form. This is what I call the “just add words” stage of writing. You’ve done the hard part, so now you just have to fill out your mind map by turning the different branches into chapters, sections or paragraphs. For most people, though, just adding words is easier said than done. Here are a few techniques that help me get from draft to done.
- Keep pushing the ball forward. It’s super-tempting to revise your first chapter, paragraph or even sentence until it’s perfect, but I’ve got news for you: you won’t know what your perfect first chapter/paragraph/sentence is until you get to the end. That’s just how writing works. Instead, focus on pushing the ball forward, getting those words on the page and reaching the end of your draft.
- Write “as if.” Another place where people often get tripped up with writing is that they’ll make a change partway through the book, and then feel compelled to go back and edit everything they’d written to that point so it fits with the new version. Big mistake. If you do that you risk getting stuck in that revise-as-you-write death-trap that keeps you from finishing. Instead, I like to write “as if” which means I just keep writing forward as if I had made that change, then when I’ve finished a draft, I go back and fix the earlier portions to fit the changes.
- Revise in layers. Once you’ve written a draft, you still have to edit it. Many writers revise by starting at the beginning and making changes chapter-by-chapter. I find this approach intimidating because it means I have to juggle big picture aspects of the book alongside nitty-gritty details. Instead, I prefer to revise in layers, where I start with overarching problems and then drill down to smaller details during subsequent passes of revision. This approach means I actually go through the draft several times, but each pass goes much faster because I’m only worrying about one aspect of the project each time.
So there you have it: my three go-to steps for turning your business concept into a book. You can also use these steps for putting together any written project based on your business (an opt-in packet, set of worksheets, an ebook, etc.).
Now I want to know: have you thought about turning your business into a book?
Gabriela Pereira is the Instigator of DIYMFA.com, the do-it-yourself alternative to a Master’s degree in writing, and she holds an MFA from the New School (New York, NY). While undercover as a graduate student, she learned the inside scoop on MFA programs, invented a slew of writing tools all her own and discovered new, more effective way for writers to learn their craft. Now she wants to share what she learned and help writers around the world get the “knowledge without the college.”
Before founding DIY MFA, Gabriela taught several writing courses in New York City at organizations like: 826NYC, Everybody Wins, EHTP and a local writing workshop she built from the ground up. More recently she has shifted gears to teaching exclusively at DIY MFA but continues to speak and lead workshops at national and international writing conferences both online and off.
Her favorite thing to do is come up with new dastardly plans and innovative resources for DIY MFA. When she’s not working, Gabriela loves to write middle grade and teen fiction, with short stories “grown-ups” thrown in for good measure. She is represented by Jeff Kleinman at Folio Literary Management and is currently working on a book on writing.
Gabriela lives in NYC with Lawyer-Hubby, Little Man, Lady Bug, and Office Cat. You can connect with her on Twitter (@DIYMFA).