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When Should You Write a Book?

When I tell someone that I am a writer, I frequently hear, “Oh, I’ve always wanted to write a book,” or “People tell me I should write a book.”

Given the changes in publishing costs and the ability to self-publish a book for relatively little money, why not?

Better questions might be: Why? How? When? What?

I’m talking today about a business book, a way to share the knowledge of your craft or profession that will be a testament to your expertise in your chosen topic.

If you are in the personal service industry — a dentist, a banker, a lawyer, a Realtor, a plumber — you know things that can help others. It need not be a brilliant concept never before shared — those are rare. Simple facts that you take for granted, compiled in a logical fashion, can help others.

In a 2007 interview, lawyer and author Stephen Pollan (who has published more than 20 books, including best-sellers Live Rich and Die Broke) said “There’s a gift in every book, and the gift has to be apparent.”

A book that contains information of value to others establishes you as an expert in your field. It creates credibility when you seek clients and is a great giveaway. Ebooks, perhaps provided as free excerpts from a longer, printed book, can be made available on your website.

Authors, even in this new age of electronic and inexpensive self-publishing, are admired in our country. A book that establishes you as an authority is a great entrée for radio and television interviews. Once the media know you have subject matter expertise, they will ask for your opinion when they are covering your subject.

If you speak at conferences or attend trade shows, you can sell your book and increase your reputation as an expert in your field. A book can serve as a holiday gift, educational instead of edible. (For clients, not for your spouse.)

You can leave the book in your office for clients to read while they wait. Since the wait will be brief, they’ll want to buy it before they leave.

The book need not be long. In fact, it should be short, no more than ten chapters.

How to begin?

Some people start with an outline. I suggest you write down the questions you are asked most frequently about your area of expertise. Or the questions you wish people would ask you before they encounter problems. Consider what you wish you’d known when you started your business. Or surprising and helpful facts you’ve gleaned over the years. Determine who your audience will be and write what will help them. Use the outline or the questions as your chapter titles. You’re on your way.

Set a deadline and a schedule and make an effort to stick to it. Reward yourself when you do. Write using simple, clear language and avoid (or better define) the jargon of your trade. Have your book read and commented on by those familiar with the subject as well as those who know nothing about it.

Some professionals fear that if they write down all they know (not likely), people will no longer need their expertise. Not true. Few people will commit what’s in the book to memory. However, if they find and make use of a nugget that you have shared, they will be more apt to turn to you the next time they need someone who’s an expert.

You’re already an expert at something. It may be time to let the world know.