Don’t Write the Book Without Us

On occasion a prospective author comes to me while he or she is in the middle of writing a business book.  These prospective authors almosts always ask the same question: “should I finish writing the book before sending it to you?” My answer is always the same: “No, send me the preface, table of contents and three of your favorite chapters, and I will review that.”

When a top tier business publisher receives a complete manuscript from an author, it is most often rejected  Not always. But most times. And it isn’t because the sender is a bad writer. The quality of writing is of course important, but when it comes to business books, it isn’t the critical factor. That’s because poor writing can be improved through a myriad of ways (which will be the topic of a future posting). The key is the selection of the topic, the book architecture (outline or table of contents), how the book is positioned, titled, and executed. 

Business books are consumer products, and to be successful they have to meet some need in the marketplace, whether that need is perceived or not. Business books can also create a need where there wasn’t any. For example, what need was met when The Four-Hour Workweek (Tim Ferriss, Crown), or Wikinomics (Don Tapscott, Portfolio) was published? The key is that these books deal with some very real and vital changes taking place in our world, and more specifically, in the way we work.  

The key is to write on a compelling and/or informative subject in which you have some special insider knowledge or expertise. However, by working closely with an experienced book editor from the outset, you substantially increase your chances of success. That’s because a talented editor can: 

* Come up with a great publishing idea for you

* Help mold an unworkable book idea into a viable one

* Rewrite your notes or a draft proposal into a final one

* Closely collaborate with you throughout the writing process—sometimes chapter-by-chapter

* Help you to find your “voice” in tone, style and level

And those are only for starters. The sooner you get to work with a business editor the better your chances of not only coming up with a viable project, but one that has the chance to make a real impact in a crowded marketplace.

  

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