One of the many opportunities open to authors today is the chance to crowdfund their book: to whip up enthusiasm for the project and get friends, relatives, ex-girlfriends (yes, really) and total strangers who want to see this book happen put their hands in their pockets and pledge to support it. And one of the leading crowdfunding platforms out there for books is Unbound. But what's really involved in crowdfunding, and is it a good use of your time?
In this week's episode Scott Pack, Associate Editor at Unbound - and Associate Lecturer with me on the MA in Publishing at Brookes University, where we recorded this interview - talks about how it works (and what happens when it doesn't), and who it's for (and who it's really NOT for).
If you're struggling to write your book, here's an idea: try drawing it instead. That's how Heather McGowan, academic entrepreneur and futurist, gets started.
'I don't usually start writing anything. I start drawing a lot of things. My starting process is: how would I put this on a single page so that people can understand it with very few words using shapes and different types of frameworks? I usually start with a series of frameworks that tell the story to me in my head and then after that I write.'
Visualising your ideas has a double benefit: for you as author, to help you get clear on what it is you're saying, how your ideas fit together and flow, but also for the reader.
'When you look at text, you turn those texts into symbols that you store in your mind visually. When you look at a picture, you can be something like 30,000 times faster reading all the same information... if [blogs or books] have visuals in them, they are much more often read and understood than if they're just plain text because it breaks it up, it allows you to process things differently.'
And given the astonishing quantity of information that comes at us on a daily basis, demanding our attention - the equivalent of over 280 newspapers a day - this shortcut to communicating complex ideas is a powerful competitive advantage for writers who want to be heard.
Heather and I also discuss the future of reading and writing and the skills we need to teach our young people to equip them for the future of work. A fascinating, thought-provoking episode.
'Anyone can read those things, whether they've met me or whether they haven't and go, "Yeah, that's about me," because the stories are relevant to so many people.'
Coaching psychologist Martin Goodyer has a very simple idea he wants to get across to as many people as possible: we can all do better if we ask ourselves better questions. To get that idea through to the reader, he uses stories. WTF Just Happened? is a collection of stories about individuals in all sorts of situations, from losing weight (or rather, failing to lose weight) to making disastrous relationship choices to bombing in business. I guarantee you'll read at least one of them and say: 'Oh my goodness, that's me."
In this interview we discuss the art and science of telling stories, particularly the tricky issues of truth and confidentiality, and explore why they work so well in engaging our attention and changing our behaviour.
Martin believes most 'self-help' books don't work, no matter how brilliant the advice, because fundamentally we don't like being told what to do. Stories, on the other hand, engage our emotions, they smuggle big ideas into our brain because we let our guard down - the book is 'a form of open-eye hypnosis'.
There's also a brilliant idea for an attention-grabbing book launch and an incredibly powerful question for you to ask yourself as a business-book author.
Back in 2012, Kelly Pietrangeli and her friends had a brilliant idea for a book. Project Me was all about helping busy mothers balance their lives with more effective time management, productivity skills and goal-setting, using tools techniques they'd developed for their own lives.
They began to write, but then:
'It just occurred to me one day, how are we going to get a book deal on this book called Project Me, when we have no website, no social media platform whatsoever, like who are we, you know? We're just a couple of mothers who are writing this book.'
She persuaded her friends to do it backwards, taking the content they'd written and putting it out on a website. She built a blog, a community and an online programme, and before too long she found herself the focus of a bidding war with several publishers vying to sign her up.
'That's what the book has come from, from a book idea into a website, into online programs and coaching, and now full circle.'
Kelly's story might just transform the way you think about your book and your platform, and how they work together.
Perhaps the most powerful thing you can do as the writer of a business book is to cut through the fluff and change people's lives. Many of us feel uncomfortable making grand claims for our ideas. We hedge them around with qualifiers and we're anxious to cover off all the objections we imagine readers might have, or all the various different ways our message might apply to people in different situations.
And very often, the message gets lost along the way.
David Taylor writes in a completely different way to any other writer I've interviewed. He calls it predictive persuasion, and he's refreshingly unapologetic about the simplicity of his message and the directness of his style.
Here's why - he cares more about what people do than what people think of him.
'I don't really mind what they think of The Naked Leader or the message. I just want people to fulfil their own potential in their own way in the very short time that we each have on this planet and it is a very short time indeed.'
There's so much here to inspire and challenge you about how and why you write. And even more to challenge you about how you live.