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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: 2023
Dec 11, 2023

'Sometimes it's just writing to get it out... you can almost interrogate it more. You can hold it in your hand and you can explore it and you can look at it and then maybe it becomes something or maybe it doesn't.'

Having a good idea is a great place to start when you're writing a business book. But it's only a start. Then comes the real work: testing that idea out, articulating it clearly, and - perhaps hardest of all - drawing out the 'so what?' 

Andy Brown has been through all these stages with The Emotional Overdraft - from recognising that business growth often has a human cost that's hidden from the balance sheet but is no less real for that to developing effective metrics to help leaders manage that cost for themselves and their people. 

If you're a 'doer' whose go-to answer is 'just work harder' or a writer struggling to develop your idea or - even better - both, this is for you.  

Dec 4, 2023
Kathryn Bishop, CBE and Gillian Camm are seasoned members of both private and public sector boards. And they've learned that effective governance comes down not to rigid structure and process but to one of the most ancient human skills of all: conversation. Conversations on the right topics, with the right people, in the right way. 
So it made sense of course to structure the book around the various types of conversation essential for strong boards; but what they hadn't expected was that their collaborative writing process would itself embody the honest, energised, respectful conversational style they were advocating in the book. 
Essential listening if you're a board member, a writer, or simply a human being who needs to talk to other human beings to Get Things Done. 
 
 
Nov 27, 2023

'That book that's for everyone is for no one, right?'

Naren Aryal is laser-focused on the business of publishing for business. In this week's episode he talks to me about how Amplify Publishing Group developed from a single title to one of the world's leading business imprints, the unique goals and expertise of business authors, and why it's so important that you're clear on the target market for your book. (Spoiler alert: it's not 'everyone'.)

 

Nov 20, 2023

"Business books are unique because they are in that sweet spot between business activity and creative endeavour, that’s why I love them so much, that’s why I do this podcast, that’s why you’re here. It’s a beautiful thing."

Too often, people see writing a business book as something comletely different from business itself.

It's not.

In this best bits episode, I draw together the choicest insights of recent Extraordinary Business Book Club guests to demonstrate that writing a business book is in fact a business activity, not simply because it contributes to your business success, but because it draws on your core business strengths. And the skills you develop as you write your book will develop those skills, too. 

You'll hear from: 

  • John Simmons on individuality in business and writing
  • Ginny Carter on the persuasive power of stories
  • Adrian Hornsby on the 17-mattress problem (or how you stop your stories from dying under their own weight) 
  • Ed Haddon on how telling your own stories can build human connection 
  • Josh Bernhoff on why stories beat bald facts every time
  • Catherine Stothart on bringing in workshop experience to increase your writing's impact
  • Katie Lewis & Matthew Stafford on why having a co-author is like having a co-founder
  • Karen Williams on assembling an expert 'project team' for your book
  • Luan Wise on making your marketing smarts the foundation for your book. 

It's so full of inspiration you're going to wish you had an extra of ears... 

Nov 13, 2023

"I started where I think a good marketer should start, by asking some people to read the book and give me their feedback."

Luan Wise, a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing with over 20 years of experience in B2B and B2C sectors, is an expert on all things social media. She's also become something of an expert on writing and publishing business books over the last few years, and in this week's conversation we talk about social media tactics, the difficulty of writing about a topic that won't stand still, the value of collaborating with academia for research, the difficulty of fitting the writing around the day job, and advanced procrastination strategies.

With insights into both traditional and self-publishing, this is a classic Extraordinary Business Book Club cocktail of practical inspiration.

Nov 6, 2023

'If I'm not doing my own writing, I'm not properly thinking.'

You'll be familiar with the idea of visual identity in branding: but what about verbal identity? John Simmons, director at Interbrand, recognised that the language you use as a business is just as important - if not more so - as the logo, colours and fonts. 

He also realised that most businesses were doing this badly.  

In this week's though-provoking conversation, he talks me to me about human-to-human business writing, the value of learning to write well, and the joy of it. In his Dark Angels workshops he delights in introducing business people to their own creativity and building their writing confidence. Because when we write well, we think well, and when we think well, we are powerful. 

Oct 30, 2023

"Unless you have a way to differentiate, then you don't really have any sort of justification for putting out yet another book."

There's not much Josh Bernoff doesn't know about writing business books. And he knows that differentiation is everything. Whether it's your unique perspective or a groundbreaking solution, finding your distinctive edge makes all the difference. 

He also encourages authors to think of their book as a pivotal part of a larger ecosystem - and to create a sense of immediacy right up front to capture engagement.

This conversation is a treasure trove of actionable advice and profound insights, a must-listen for anyone aspiring to write a business book that makes a difference.

Oct 23, 2023

Ginny Carter, experienced ghostwriter and award-winning author in her own right, discovered when judging the self-help category for the Business Book Awards that authors were consistently making the same mistakes. The answer was obvious: write a great self-help book explaining how to write a great self-help book!

In this super-practical episode, Ginny pinpoints three critical missteps often made by self-help authors, demystifies storytelling, and introduces her ingenious 'chunking' technique as a way of structuring your content in a way that's more effective for the reader.

Whether you're an aspiring self-help author or a seasoned pro, this episode not only celebrates the profound impact of self-help literature but also delivers invaluable insights to take your own writing from good to great.

Oct 16, 2023

'The problem that you have here, it's not a writing problem. It's a thinking problem.'

When Adrian Hornsby faced the challenge of how to convey complex business information in a way that resonated with readers, he drew on his background in writing fiction for theatre to bring dense business concepts to life. But he quickly learned that using a story to convey information was the exact reverse of what he needed to do. The result is the award-winning Disruption in Action, winner of the 2023 Life and Work Business Book of the Year award. 

As well as a masterclass on storytelling, we talk about learning from feedback and the decision of Adrian and his co-authors to self-publish and the advantages it brings, as well as the challenges. 

Oct 9, 2023

'Motivation is what drives your choice of what to do, and also how hard you try and how long you keep trying for.'

With a wealth of experience in coaching and training leaders from top multinational companies like Airbus, Google, and Audi, Catherine Stothart has developed a deep understanding of what motivates individuals and teams. Understanding these needs can help managers create the right conditions for motivation and engagement within their teams.

We also discuss the importance of aligning communication styles with individual preferences, as it plays a crucial role in building rapport, trust, and uncovering what truly motivates team members, and how so much of writing is actually about talking. 

Oct 2, 2023

"Oh, this is why people write books. This is actually quite addictive, this feeling that you've produced something and it is having an impact."

Katie Lewis and Matthew Stafford are the co-founders of 9others, a unique community that brings together founders and entrepreneurs to find answers to the questions that are keeping them up at night. These conversations have brought some unexpected benefits too, such as the connections and friendships that have emerged from these shared dinners.

In this week's conversation, Katie and Matthew reflect on how their collaborative approach to entrepreneurship and the synergy that has fuelled their business journey as cofounders played out when they became coauthors of their book - Find Your 9others.

Sep 25, 2023

'I thought it was going to be a 20% update and I think the content has changed by about 80%.'

This might sound familiar to anyone who's sat down to update their book. But this conversation isn't just for you if you're considering a second edition: Karen Williams is talking about her bestselling Book Marketing Made Simple, and this conversation is packed with insights and ideas for marketing your business book from day 1. 

From tactical tools to timeless principles, discover best practice in modern marketing - including thoughts on AI - and the enduring joy of writing buddies and post-its.  

Sep 18, 2023

'We need, at the moment, mavericks. We need people of independent thought, courageous, wanting to do things differently, but we need to do that in service of others.'

Mavericks write their own rules. Modern mavericks write their own rules of success. 

Ed Haddon, author of The Modern Maverick, helps people think more deeply and more courageously about what success means to them. What really matters - in their private lives and in the world around them, as well as in their professional lives? As an elite athlete, corporate rebel, and the founder of the first B Corp-certified coaching practice in the UK, he's walking the talk, and might just inspire you to change your own life... 

Sep 11, 2023

In a sense writing a business book – any book, really – is quintessentially about finding and using your voice. You're talking across time and space to a reader for a conversation that lasts for hours; admittedly a bit of a one-sided conversation, but it's not possible to talk to someone for tens of thousands of words without them having a sense of your voice in their head.

So how can you use that voice most effectively? Here's some advice from some of the best writers in the business books business to give you some ideas... 

  • Anne Janzer on what your writer's voice is and why it matters
  • Dr Lucy Ryan on writing for your reader
  • Catherine Garrod on the holistic nature of the writer's voice
  • Nicholas Janni on precision and the craft of rewriting
  • Rachel Lawes on caring, not selling
  • Robin Powell on aligning your interests with your readers'
  • Neil Mullarkey on using humour right (and avoiding the wrong kinds...)
  • Richard Hoare on finding a coherent voice with a co-writer
  • Dennis Sherwood on not getting too hung up about it all too soon. 

Listen in, and discover how to take your voice from meh to aMAZing! 

Sep 4, 2023

When Lucy Ryan's research revealed that midlife women were walking out of corporates in droves at the same age that the men around them were stepping into senior leadership positions, she knew it would make a great PhD topic. There was a massive data gap, and a clear benefit to organizations in understanding why one of their most valuable talent pools was quietly disappearing. Yet as she searched for a supervisor, time and time again she was told the research was 'unpublishable'.

Luckily Lucy is made of sterner stuff, and her research has given us not only a new understanding of why midlife women are revolting against the constraints and biases of corporate life [hint: it's not because they 'lack ambition'], but what changes leaders can make to retain their invaluable talent and experience.

In this conversation we talk through her findings, and also the tricky process of translating a PhD dissertation into a practical, inspiring book for every leader. Be prepared to be enraged, but also hugely entertained.

Aug 28, 2023

'There's all this academic, peer-reviewed, time-tested academic evidence as to how we should invest, and yet we have a whole industry that is trying to get us to do more or less the very opposite.'

Today more than ever, if you want a comfortable retirement, it's up to you to put the thinking and the work in. And the sooner the better. Financial journalist Robin Powell has made it his mission to counter the misinformation and cut through the jargon, and the result is How to Fund the Life you Want (co-authored with Jonathan Hollow). 

He talks to me about his own journey to financial literacy, via journalism, and how he went about turning his findings into a practical and readable book that could really make a difference to someone's life. We even touch on what happens when co-authors disagree! 

Jul 31, 2023

"In everything we write, we choose a voice."

Poets and novelists talk a lot about their writing 'voice', but nonfiction writers, and especially business book writers, can write a full manuscript without giving it a thought. Which is a shame, because as Anne Janzer - copywriter, ghostwriter and business book writer - knows more than most, being intentional about your voice is one of the most powerful tools at your disposal if you want to write a book that doesn't just tell the reader a bunch of facts, but engages them in a way that might just change their life. 

As well as learning more about how to choose and develop your writing voice, you'll also discover how to go about one of the best ways EVER for creating content, building engagement and crafting a marketing hook: carrying out original research. 

If you're going to write a business book and you want to do it well, you shouldn't miss this. 

Jul 24, 2023

"When we're talking about Do Deal, we're really talking about the verb of how you deal with people... as an ongoing kind of living thing."

Richard Hoare didn't set out to become an expert on negotiation. In fact his first attempt at negotiation, when he was offered a poorly paid first job in the music industry involved, he admits, no negotiation at all. But after a career at the top of legal services in the music industry he's learned a thing or two, and recognized the need for a short, straightforward book that set out the principles of successful negotiation in a way that anyone could grasp and use. 

Spoiler alert: It's not about getting your own way, it's about uncovering value and nurturing relationships. And because it was written with a co-author, the book involved some negotiation along the way itself.

In this week's conversation Richard shares his tactics for writing collaboratively, and indeed writing at all alongside a busy work schedule, together with some practical and profound insights on the art of the (better) deal.

Jul 17, 2023

'I'm not going to live to be 10,000 years old, so I'd rather just write material that someone's actually going to use. So top-down writing works for me because it's a very economical way to write."

Dr Rachel Lawes is the world's leading expert in semiotics and its application in the realm of marketing. (If you have no idea what that means, don't worry: I asked her for the 'explain-it-like-I'm-five' introduction and she did it brilliantly.)

But as well as taking in psychology, human behaviour, cultural dynamics, and the examination of societal constructs, we talk in gritty detail about her writing process. Rachel's straightforward and 'economical' top-down approach, together with her obvious delight in taking on a book-sized project ('The best bit about writing is reading... Your only job is to read your heart out for four months and write about what it makes you think about the world. What a treat.'), makes for an even-more-than-usually practical and inspiring episode.

Get the kettle on and grab a notepad and pencil... 

Jul 10, 2023

When your work is about experience - helping people access a different physical and emotional state so that they can reconnect with their embodied, instinctual wisdom - you do it most effectively when you're in the room together. How can you possibly translate that somatic, relational, experiential work into words on a page? 

That was the challenge facing Nicholas Janni, and he rose to it so impressively that Leader as Healer was named Business Book of the Year 2023 at the recent BBA awards. In this week's episode he speaks to me about the challenge of that translation process, and the somatic experience of flow in writing itself. 

Jul 3, 2023

"What's important about creativity is not novelty, but difference. I want something different from what is happening now, and difference is much easier to discover because difference means different from now."

There's a lot of mystique around creativity, but for practical people - people like scientists and engineers - being able to have good new ideas reliably is vitally important in a fast-changing world. Luckily, there's a process for that, and Dennis Sherwood has put it into an award-winning book. 

In this generous and thoughtful conversation, we talk about that process for discovering difference (which makes, incidentally, a GREAT exploratory writing prompt), and we debate the order of writing and thinking. Fittingly, we land in different places here: what do YOU think? 

Jun 26, 2023

"It's not thinking on your feet, it's listening on your feet. Yes and, what are you saying? How can I build on that? How can I move in the direction that we are going to go together?"

If the thought of trying to be funny at work brings you out in a rash, don't panic: I have it on good authority from Neil Mullarkey that there's no need to dress up as a chicken or do karaoke. And he should know. Co-founder of Europe's top improv troupe, the Comedy Store Players, Neil has spent many years sharing the principles of improv with business leaders to improve their confidence, communication, and creativity.

Neil's new book In the Moment is a call to embrace the importance of listening and co-creating in the moment, a key principle of improv. It's not about being funny per se, but rather about fostering collaboration, navigating ambiguity, and embracing vulnerability. In this context, humour enhances human connections, builds rapport, and fosters creativity - the elements, in fact, that we need most in our workplaces today. 

Jun 19, 2023

Catherine Garrod led Sky to become the most inclusive employer in the UK. Her message is clear: if you're not consciously including everyone, you're unconsciously excluding someone. And the rewards of conscious inclusion are extraordinary, from employee and customer satisfaction to future-proofing organizations in our ever-evolving world.

When it came to publishing her book, Catherine was determined to walk her talk, ensuring both language and design were as accessible as possible. She also reveals how she managed the delicate dance between perfectionism and deadlines, and learned how important it is an author to keep your sights on the reader and the difference you want to make.

Jun 12, 2023

No, not the Michelangelo biography by Irving Stone, but the highs and lows of the maddening, marvellous process of writing a business book. In this best bits episode I pick out the pearls from the last few conversations, and this time the common theme is the pain and pleasure of writing a book, the unrelenting difficulty of it, and the extraordinary joy and meaning it provides. Often all in the same moment. 

Whether you're agonising over your manuscript or feeling ecstatic about the progress you're making you'll relate to all of this, and if you're lacking motivation, you'll find it here in spades. 

With insights from: 

  • Steven Adjei on the nature of pain; 
  • Richard Charkin on the visceral vulnerability of becoming an author; 
  • Melissa Romo on the challenges of making the complex simple; 
  • Catherine Erdly on detail wrangling; 
  • Susan Doering on the relentless work of marketing; 
  • Eloise Skinner on dealing with the soul suck of social media; 
  • Adam Bryant on the all-consumingness of writing a book; and
  • Alex Hill on why we do it at all. 

Imagine what Michelangelo could have achieved if he'd listened to this...

Jun 5, 2023

'Everything at its core has to be one of those three things: a great insight, a great story, or a great practical approach.'

Adam Bryant, creator of the New York Times's Corner Office column, has interviewed a LOT of top leaders, but not in the way they expected. He ask them  about leadership, rather than strategy, and their own leadership in particular: questions that allow them to articulate answers they haven't seen before. 

In this fascinating conversation we explore how he's built on this journalistic approach to write a series of books, and how writing in public builds credibility, expands networks, and creates a perpetual motion machine for authorship.

If you're interested in leadership and writing, and if you love a good metaphor riot, this is unmissable. 

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