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The Extraordinary Business Book Club

Alison Jones, publisher and book coach, explores business books from both a writer's and a reader's perspective. Interviews with authors, publishers, business leaders, entrepreneurs, tech wizards, social media strategists, PR and marketing experts and others involved in helping businesses tell their story effectively.
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Now displaying: 2018
Jul 9, 2018

'The more people you know, the more stuff you get done. It's as simple as that.'

But reaching out is an art: targeting the right people, approaching them in the right way, getting over yourself in the first place. In Reach Out, Molly Beck shares her simple, brilliant system for creating a network of connections that will turbo-charge your professional growth. 

Molly is a master of social media, and reveals how blogging and podcasting enable authors to build the readership for their book long before the book itself is published. She's also helpfully honest about what a slog the writing process can be if, like her, you're 'not a natural writer', and has some great tips for getting through it!

If you're thinking of starting a podcast, this will be invaluable: Molly is the founder of Messy.fm, 'the Wordpress of podcasting', and explains why podcasting is so powerful and how to get started.

 

Jul 2, 2018

Highlights from the last few Extraordinary Business Book Club episodes, with a focus on fixing the problem every writer cares about: how to get going and keep going. I guarantee you'll find at least one idea here that will get you unstuck, and one thing to make you go 'ew'. 

  • Denise Duffield-Thomas on not waiting for permission and not being afraid to reuse your best stuff
  • Paul Skinner on the 'symbiotic relationship' between business and book
  • Barbara Gray on embedding writing into your business
  • Campbell Macpherson on the joy of going 'blah'
  • Jonah Sachs on great questions and flow theory
  • David Burkus's end-to-end research and writing system
  • Roger Mavity on weather-dependent writing and perseverance
  • Sarah Kessler on the important of NOT writing
  • Euan Semple on why a book is like a plook, and the power of the timer

 

 

Jun 25, 2018

Think that what you say on the internet has no impact? Euan Semple says think again. 

'An avalanche only ever happens because the last snowflake falls. If it doesn't, an avalanche doesn't happen. Each of our conversations could be a last snowflake.'

Despite the fact that he's been blogging for 16 years and has written several successful books, he still recognises the resistance we all feel: 'this is obvious', 'who am I to write this', 'who's going to read this', 'who cares'... But his answer is simply this:

'Just sit down and write it and let other people work at whether it's worthwhile.'

Because not only does the process of writing force you to clarify what you think, putting that writing on the internet turns you from a passive consumer to an active participant in shaping our world.

(There's also some incredibly practical tips on structuring your book and muscling through procrastination, and possibly the best tagline for this show EVER if I can just summon up the courage to use it...)

Jun 18, 2018

The gig economy - flexible and empowering, or exploitative and uncertain? Sarah Kessler is fascinated by how work is changing, and her book Gigged follows five very different people over three years and tracks their experiences - good, bad and downright terrifying. 

In this week's conversation, we discuss the difference in writing an article (Sarah is also a reporter at Quartz, and before that Fast Company and Mashable) and a book, with the sustained timeline that implies, and the opportunity to explore not just the stories, but the context in which they're taking place. 

'I wanted to have relationships with people over a long period of time rather than just talking about the hot new thing they were working on for this month.'

Sarah also has some great advice for writers which involves NOT writing. This might just be my favourite tip so far. 

Jun 11, 2018

Former ad man, CEO of both the Granada and Conran Groups and Chairman of Citigate, Roger Mavity is also a renowned author, artist and photographer. 

In this conversation we explore the twin struggles of creativity and specifically of writing: the private struggle to articulate the idea, and the public struggle to broadcast it.

And if it's true as Roger argues that 'Virtually everything in the world that happens that's any good happens because there's one really bright person that lights the blue touch paper', how does this Promethean vision of creativity play out in our organisations and collaborations? 

A fascinating conversation with one of the world's most colourful and creative business experts.

 

Jun 4, 2018

We've been stuck on the idea of competitive advantage as the key to strategy for a long time now. Paul Skinner thinks it's had its day. 

'Where competitive advantage assumes that the way to succeed is by being better than others, I believe the way to succeed is by supporting others and sharing the value that you can create with them.'

Collaborative Advantage is what Paul describes as his 'book-worthy' big idea, and in this conversation he explains how it's unfolded from a principle that he's applied and developed through the various initiatives and enterprises he's worked with over the years into book form. 

There's also great advice on creating stories where the customer, not your business, is the hero. Because those are the stories that change lives. 

May 28, 2018

Campbell Macpherson hasn't really stopped grinning since March, when I handed him the Business Book of the Year trophy at the Business Book Awards ceremony. In this week's show we talk about the impact of winning such a prestigious award (or even just being shortlisted), and how your book can plug into the heart of your business. 

(We also note how good it feels when, on the night, you come back to sit at your table clutching your award to rapturous applause, and the commissioning editor who turned your book down leans over and says: 'I don't always make the right decisions.')

 

May 21, 2018

Barbara Gray"I don't want people to buy my book."

That's a sentence I honestly don't think I've heard an author say before, ever. But Barbara Gray's vision for her second book, Secrets of the Amazon, was very different to that of most authors. It's part of what she calls high fidelity, and she argues it's the only response to today's retail economy.

"You can't compete on a functional value basis anymore. You can't compete against Amazon in terms of price, convenience, variety or choice. They will kill you on that. Whether you're retailer or whatever you're doing. So you have to move up one layer; it has to be about creating an emotional attachment with your customers."

Barbara was a guest on this show back in September 2016 talking about her first book, Ubernomics. It's fascinating to hear how her writing and self-publishing journey has evolved since then, and how she's walking her talk as a financial analyst through her books.

May 14, 2018

Networking is (quite literally, it turns out) a 'dirty word', but Dr David Burkus brings together studies and stories that show how we've got it wrong: we don't 'do networking', we ARE a network.

This is invaluable for anyone in business, but David also describes in detail how he gets from idea to finished, best-selling book, including the systems and tools he uses, so if you're also writing a business book you can't afford to miss this.

May 7, 2018

"People feel like, if they haven't been 'chosen', then 'Who am I to write a book?'... I just think: don't wait to be chosen. If this is something you want to do, just do it."

Denise Duffield-Thomas, author of Lucky Bitch, helps women overcome their hang-ups about money. In this episode, she helps writers overcome their hang-ups about, well, writing and life in general. It's packed full of practical tips on getting over yourself, connecting to your motivation, finding the title that works for you (even if it's controversial), and organising your life - apology-free - so that you can Get Stuff Done. Including writing the book that will change your business and your life. 

Listen up, girlfriend. (And blokes, you need to hear this too.) 

Apr 30, 2018

"There's this comfortable way of thinking that we're programmed by evolution to enjoy, which is thinking in patterns. That makes life so much easier and so much more approachable, when we rely on lessons we've learned in the past, when we observe other people and we do the things that they're doing, when we create predictability. It all just makes life easy to process. It's pretty good when the world stays still. The problem is, what feels safe is actually really dangerous if the world is changing around us."

And that's what prompted Jonah Sachs, storyteller, author and entrepreneur, to write Unsafe Thinking: How to be Creative and Bold When You Need It Most. In this episode Jonah reveals how he went about researching the book by interviewing high-profile unsafe thinkers ("I realised if I wanted to get them to talk to me I'd have to say I was writing a book...") and explains how he uses stories to translate facts and findings into a narrative that readers will connect with, and therefore understand and remember more easily.

There's some profound wisdom and practical tips for would-be business book writers, and some thoughts on what writing means for a 21st-century business owner.

This is pure gold. Put the kettle on and listen up.

 

Apr 23, 2018

Another helping of best bits from recent episode: we're talking about 'fast books' and 'slow books' - which kind is yours? - writing with a co-author, and how doodling can help you come sideways at a book.

Tune in, sit back, and listen to insights and inspiration from these superb writers: 

  • Steve Scott on how he's written 70 books in around a decade;
  • Robert Cialdini on why it took him more than 30 years to write a second solo-authored book after Influence;
  • Joe Pulizzi on how books fit into the content marketing mix; 
  • Jurgen Appelo on the agile approach to writing; 
  • Daniel Coyle on writing as a building process;
  • Elaine Gould on the sheer relief of finishing a 'slow book'; 
  • Morra Aarons-Mele on the different tempos of social media, blogging, content marketing and books; 
  • Lyn Bromley & Donna Whitbrook on how to write together without falling out; 
  • Edgar Papke & Thomas Lockwood on why co-authorship is more than the sum of the parts; 
  • Kate Raworth on how an idle doodle evolved into the award-winning book Doughnut Economics
Apr 16, 2018

Steve Scott started writing and publishing to build his business, but pretty soon his business became writing and publishing books: he now has more than 60 to his name, all focused on helping internet entrepreneurs succeed.

In this week's podcast this multi-bestselling author reflects on what he's learned about the process and where he goes from here, and generously shares his best tips for producing and promoting books. I learned a huge amount from our conversation - I know you will too.

Apr 9, 2018

Something a bit different this week: I interview myself to pull out some of the learnings from the process of writing This Book Means Business, a book about writing a book to build your business written to build my business. Meta, huh? 

Discover how and why this podcast began and some thoughts on how podcasting might work for you, what happened when I faced the fear and took the advice of my guests, and what's next now the book is out. 

You can also listen in to the short talk given at the launch itself on 26 March at the Free Word Centre in London, and join in the toast to us - may we be the authors our readers need. 

Apr 2, 2018

Leadership expert Jurgen Appelo's advice to first-time authors is simple: 'Iterate.'

He goes on to explain: 'You need a feedback cycle. You need to know as soon as possible whether it is making sense, what you're writing. People have to read it.'

Jurgen walks the talk, building his community as he wrote #Workout and selling 5,000 highly illustrated books immediately to his own fan base, before it was picked up by a traditional publisher.

This interplay between traditional and self-publishing is one fascinating aspect of this interview, as is the importance of building a platform and community as you write, but there are many other gems such as Jurgen's approach to illustrating his own book and his up-front permissions policy.

Mar 26, 2018

On 16 March 2018, the inaugural Business Book Awards ceremony took place in London. It was an extraordinary occasion, bringing together the top names in books and business in the UK and beyond, and with shortlists including books from the biggest traditional publishers to the smallest independent presses and even self-published authors. 

This was the culmination of founder Lucy McCarraher's vision, and as Head Judge I was closely involved in the journey. In this week's episode I talk to Lucy about how she turned the idea into reality in partnership with ThinkFest, the details of the judging process, how it all turned out alright on the night, and the lessons we learned along the way. 

The 2019 awards will be even bigger and glitzier, so if you're planning to publish your business book in 2018, find out more and maybe next time we'll be talking about you... 

Mar 19, 2018

Something a little different this week: a report from the bleeding edge of the publishing industry, also known as the IPG Spring Conference. This is one of the most exciting and diverse events of the publishing calendar, bringing together publishers from all genres of publishing and from all sizes of houses, from one-person microbusinesses to key players such as Bloomsbury and Kogan Page, and with an outstanding reputation for big name keynote speakers with big ideas.

It's a packed programme over three days, and this was the first year I've managed to attend from start to finish.

Here are the key messages I came away with - essential listening for anyone interested in publishing, but with many interesting insights for entrepreneurs in any discipline:

DISRUPTION - what's happening out there, and what might it mean for publishers?
DIVERSITY - how can we better reflect the full range of expertise and experience in the world?
DIGITAL - what's next in the transformation of our businesses?
DATA - why does it matter, how do you get it and what the heck do you do with it?
DEDICATION - the secret weapon of independent publishing: passion, creativity and entrepreneurial flair wrapped up in steely determination
DISTRIBUTION - how can we get books to the readers who need them?

Mar 12, 2018

Have you ever thought of business as art? Edgar Papke and Thomas Lockwood, experts in organizational culture and design respectively, wanted to encourage leaders to design their businesses consciously for innovation and collaboration. And what better way than to write collaboratively? This is a masterclass in writing with a partner, which when done right can create a whole that is so much more than the sum of the parts.

Discover whether you need a 'writing partner prenuptial', and why post-its and coffee are central to the collaborative process.

Mar 5, 2018

Music notation may seem a world away from business books, but the parallels are striking: when music editor Elaine Gould wrote what was to become the classic reference work Behind Bars: The Definitive Guide to Music Notation, her focus was relentlessly on the musicians who had to use those marks on the staves in performance. Good notation allows the composer's vision and the performer's skill to be translated without interference into the music the audience experiences. 

'My greatest joy is going along to a concert, and the composer dashing up to me from the other end of the room and saying, "Thank you!"'

When you're translating your expertise into a book, that focus on how the reader is going to experience and use your message is equally important. Her rigorous attention to detail is inspiring, and her reaction to seeing the finished book heart-warmingly honest - I for one can empathise with this: 

'When [they] handed me the first copy off the press, I was just so overwhelmed. It was wonderful. I hugged that book all the way back on the train to London, and I think I slept with it beside my bed. And in the morning, I looked up to see, was it really there? After all these years, was it there? And then it was there, and I thought you know what? For the rest of my life, I haven't got to write that book again.'

Feb 26, 2018

We like to think of ourselves as rational beings. But over the last 30 years or so behavioural science and psychological research has conclusively proved otherwise: the bit of our brain that makes decisions does so mostly on the basis of stimuli and associations, and pretty much all the meaningful action takes place below the level of our consciousness.

One of the pioneers of this research, and perhaps the first to bring it into the mainstream and particularly into business thinking, was Robert Cialdini, whose classic book Influence: The psychology of persuasion was published in 1984.

I wrote an essay on Cialdini's theories for my MBA: it felt surreal to be interviewing him on my podcast about what's happened since Influence was published. How have the principles he articulated more than 30 years ago held up in a world that is almost unrecognisable? (Spoiler: surprisingly well.) And why did it take him 30 years after the publication of Influence to write his second solo-authored book, Pre-Suasion?

The answer turns out to be a radical statement of integrity in a world that demands more new stuff from us at every turn.

Feb 19, 2018

'I always wanted to write a book... but it was never my time. My husband wrote a book, my father passed away, I have three little kids, I mean, I have a business, you know, life gets in the way... And then finally, one day... I thought: I want to grow my business this year but I don't want to fly anymore.'

And almost by accident, internet marketer Morra Aarons-Mele discovered a new way of working that suited her as a 'hermit entrepreneur': instead of getting on a plane to meet potential clients and drum up business, she set up a podcast and wrote a book.

'Hiding in the Bathroom' has become a rallying call for anyone who's ever felt overwhelmed by the non-stop, always-on, fast-paced world of business and wants to do things differently. And Morra discovered (as I have) that 'the coolest thing about having a podcast, or writing a book, or having a blog is that you can really contact interesting people and say, will you talk to me?'

In today's episode we talk about how podcasting and books allow entrepreneurs to develop their business and their network on their own terms. But - spoiler alert - we conclude that no matter how wonderful it is that you can do this stuff in your yoga pants, writing a book also means getting out of the bathroom and hitting the streets to tell people about it.  

Feb 12, 2018

Join me to celebrate 100 episodes of The Extraordinary Business Book Club! I puzzled over how to mark this milestone for a while, but in the end I decided to keep it real: three business people just like you, carving out the time to write from the demands of the day job, none of them professional writers, all working out how to do this one step at a time. 

  • Julie Dennis is a menopause coach - her book The Hot Flush Freedom Challenge was published by Practical Inspiration Publishing in January 2017
  • Michael Brown is a trainer and consultant, who's just about to deliver to me the manuscript for My Job Isn't Working: 10 proven ways to boost your career mojo for publication in July 2018
  • Elaine Halligan is a Director of The Parent Practice, whose book My Child is Different, the story of her son Sam - who'd been excluded from three schools by the age of seven, but who went on to become Head Boy at senior school and is today a thriving young entrepreneur - is being published by Crown House in July 2018

Each of them shares what they've discovered on the journey, and their incredibly practical advice for anyone in the same situation. Each one of them inspires me with their passion for their message, and how they can make the world a little better, one reader at a time. 

I can't think of a better way to celebrate 100 episodes of celebrating extraordinary business books.

Feb 5, 2018

'We're all continually learning. Learning is a kind of scaffolding. To me, that's the most beautiful metaphor for writing a book and for learning in life, that you're continually building scaffolding. That scaffolding is expanding your capacity.'

Daniel Coyle is a New York Times bestselling author, and in this interview he reveals not only what he discovered about leadership in his latest book The Culture Code (and what happened when he put it into practice in the school writing squad he was coaching at the time), but also HOW he writes, the starting point and the tools and systems that take him from initial idea to finished book. 

There's also some exciting news about my own book, and I announce the winner of the 10-day Business Book Proposal Challenge. Make a cup of tea and settle down to the last ever two-digit Extraordinary Business Book Club episode! 

Jan 26, 2018

'If five years ago somebody had said to me, "So you know, Kate, are you ever going to write a book?" I would have said, "No, no, no, no, no. I don't write books. I draw pictures."'

But when Kate Raworth doodled a doughnut shape to capture her vision of how economics is bounded by human and ecological constraints, she unwittingly started a revolution in macroeconomic thinking. 

In this conversation we explore the extraordinary power of drawing for opening up thinking. And as Kate points out: 'You don't have to be Picasso to create something that has massive impact.'

We also touch on video, animation, the 60-second summary and the one-page overview - high-impact ways of getting your message across quickly and memorably - and the importance of bringing your own humanness to your book. 

Shortlisted for the FT/McKinsey Business Book of the Year in 2017, Doughnut Economics is an extraordinary book. And here's how it happened. 

Jan 22, 2018

David Roche has seen publishing from pretty much every angle: publisher, bookseller, author, reader, mentor, consultant and industry maven. He's been on the boards of HarperCollins, Waterstones and HMV, was CEO of Borders and Books Etc, he's the chair of New Writing North, non-exec chair of the London Book Fair, and executive chair of the publishing industry's online magazine, BookBrunch. And he's just published a crowdfunded book of poems.

So today's conversation is a look at where the industry's going from someone with unrivalled insights, plus a very personal - and very funny - view of what happens when the gamekeeper turns poacher. 

Audio, crowdfunding, subscription models, marketing, book events: bring yourself up to speed with what's happening in the industry in the company of publishing's most entertaining expert. 

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