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?
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.
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.'
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.
'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.
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.
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.
'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!
'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.
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.
How do you turn a great talk into a great book? It's not as easy as you might think.
Miranda West is the founder of Do Books, which originated with the Do Lectures in Wales, focused on smart working and slow living. But as she explains, taking a message from stage to page involves more than mere transcription.
This is also an inspiring story about what can happen when you have a crazy idea and go ahead and send the email...
Joe Pulizzi is 'the godfather of content marketing'. Founder of the Content Marketing Institute and author of five books (one every two years), he has a clear vision of how books fit into a content strategy.
It all starts, he says, with the platform, and his sane advice will be music to the ears of any entrepreneur struggling with the overwhelm of multiple channels and messages.
'We've been built our advertising around our products and services when we should really build around: "Who's our audience? How do we love them? How do we know better than anyone else?" Deliver value to those audiences, great experiences to those audiences on a daily basis, and if you do that you will be rewarded in multiple ways outside of what you can even fathom today. That's the potential and that's why it's the best time to be in marketing that's ever been right now.'
On a personal note, this episode is dedicated to the memory of Lorraine Keelan, a great friend and former publishing colleague lost way too soon.
Welcome to 2018 - what are you planning to do with it? If the answer - in part at least - is 'some worthwhile writing', this episode is for you. I've pulled together some of the best thinking and most practical advice from past podcast guests, and sprinkled in more tips from members of the Extraordinary Business Book Club.
Let's make 2018 the year you stop with the procrastination and overwhelm and false starts. Let's make it the year you put in place your new writing habit, the year of making a difference.
Let's make 2018 count.
Pour a glass of sherry, munch on a mince pie, and put your feet up with a few of my absolute favourite moments EVER from the Extraordinary Business Book Club.
I hope you enjoy this (not-very) seasonal selection box as much as I did. And whatever you're doing and whoever you're doing it with, have a very happy Christmas Day.
The launch of Trusted was a very special occasion. When one of my authors has a book launch it's ALWAYS a special occasion, of course, but this one was exceptional for a number of reasons:
Sadly, the thing that can happen with live things happened, and the audio file was lost. So today's episode is a rerun of that interview. In it Lyn and Donna talk about the inspiration for Trusted, how they wrote together so effectively, and how their book is working for their business.
And as promised, here are some pictures from the launch, beginning (and indeed ending) with that fabulous T-spot cocktail:
Raj Nair hasn't written a business book (yet). As Executive Vice President and President, North America of the Ford Motor Company, leading one of the world's leading company's in one of the world's most disrupted, fast-moving and complex industries, it's hard to find the time. But he DOES make time to read them.
Because good business books make him think: 'There's another way to look at that.' No matter how senior or experienced an executive you may be, when a book brings a new perspective or insight it can transform the way you see your business.
This is a report from within the arena on how business books are used by leaders, and what they're looking for when they make the decision to invest their most valuable resource - their attention - to read one.
Another satisfying helping of the choicest morsels of practical inspiration served up by recent guests. Listen to:
Warning: this show is unsuitable for anyone wishing to remain within their zone of comfort.
'Neuroscience is the future of business,' claims Dr Lynda Shaw, and once you've listen to her talk about how emotion drives our decisions and how being generous helps us be more effective, it's hard to argue.
She also reveals how when we tell stories, we create neurochemical connections between ourselves and our listeners, which build trust and connection. But how can you use that powerful effect when your listener isn't in the room with you, when you're writing a business book, for example?
In the best traditions of The Extraordinary Business Book Club, this is a fascinating mix of rich information together with tips and ideas for making it work for you in practice and with a dash of the unexpected - this is the first mention of Coronation Street as a model for writing on this podcast or indeed any other, as far as I'm aware...
Matt Watkinson described Nigel Wilcockson, publishing director at Random House Business Books and his own editor, as the brains behind many of the best business books he'd ever read. Nigel is more modest about his role: 'a good editor is more like a mentor... there in the background to offer advice'.
But that advice can make all the difference. Business book authors are busy people, and while they may be used to writing blog posts or sales copy, a full-length book is a very different animal. Nigel helps his authors tackle issues such as structure and what he describes as 'short-breathedness', getting all your ideas across as quickly as possible.
This is a fascinating insight into the hard work that goes into making the world's best business books so deceptively easy to read. There are also invaluable tips for anyone thinking about pitching themselves and their book to the top business book publishers.
Something a bit different on this week's show. Meet Carol Wyer, blogger, author, and stand-up comedian.
'She know her audience so well,' Ben Cameron told me. 'She really taps into who her audience is and she has this ability to go out and do whatever it takes to promote her books.'
I trust Ben, so despite the fact I wasn't sure how useful this would be to my business-book-writing listeners, I interviewed Carol. And it turns out Ben was right: there is SO much good stuff here for Extraordinary Business Book Club listeners - on using humour effectively, on connecting with your readers, and on why it's ok if you hate your book right now.
Matt Locke tells a good story. He does, after all, run The Story conference, and his content studio Storythings helps businesses including Google and the BBC tell better stories. Right now he's fascinated by attention: how we measure it, and how it's changing.
In this episode we bring all that together. We discuss why stories are so important, how they work and how not to mess them up, and we talk about how attention is changing in the digital age and what that means for anyone creating content, particularly authors of books.
Intelligent listening, with a side order of practical inspiration.
Donya Dickerson is Editorial Director with responsibility for business books for McGraw Hill in New York. So what does she look for when a proposal crosses her desk? And what kind of authors is she keen to get onto the list?
A fascinating insight into the publisher's perspective of the partnership that is publishing a business book, and how you can position yourself for the best chance of success when you pitch.
David Newman describes the process of writing a book as capturing ‘lightning in a bottle’. In today’s episode he describes how Do It! Marketing has transformed his business, and reveals the brilliant book bonus tactics he used to make it a success (plus, refreshingly, some of the stuff that didn’t go so well). There’s also a Jedi mind trick for getting your own way with your publisher if you go down the traditional route.
This is The Extraordinary Business Book Club at its best – inspiring, thoughtful, practical, hilarious.
Rebecca Jones was told at school that she’d better hope she made ‘pretty babies’, because she’d never amount to anything. She left aged 16 with a handful of non-academic O-levels to her name. By her mid-twenties she was running her second company, and now she’s a world-famous expert in training and business growth.
She believes the dyslexia that had her labelled ‘hopeless’ at school has been the driver behind her entrepreneurial success, but when it came to writing a book, it meant a whole new set of challenges.
In this week’s conversation Rebecca tells me how she overcame those challenges, why red shoes matter, how she fixes businesses, and how her new book, Enterprise Within, could make possible a whole new phase for her own business.
Dan Underwood is part of the ArtOf team, whose mission is to use diagrams and drawings to help people and organisations see their challenges and opportunities in a fresh and powerful way.
He talked to me about how the ArtOf team have used the process of developing a book to explore and extend their own thinking and to engage with their clients - it's a great example of how books can be used playfully and dynamically in a business, as a live project rather than a static output.
'You have to open yourself up... away from making money from something and understand that nowadays you make money because of something, and that's a very different phenomenon.'
As a journalist, Dorie Clark used to make her living by writing content. But now she writes for free, and makes a much better living off the back of it. In this interview we explore the opportunities out there for anyone entrepreneurial enough to seize them, and the central role that writing and books play in this new world of attention and engagement.
I'm utterly in awe of this woman.