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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The Extraordinary Business Book Club





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Mar 23, 2020

A slightly unusual Best Bits episode, which is fitting for these unusual times. In the face of uncertainty and anxiety, we're talking about resilience: what it is, what it looks like in our day-to-day life, and how to build it. 

Very grateful to my guests for their courage, honesty and insights: 

  • Jenny Campbell on the dynamic nature of resilience
  • Celia Gaze on bringing herself back from the brink of bankruptcy by sheer creativity 
  • Ash Ali on finding 'unfair advantages' in the most unpromising situations
  • Lucy Werner on finding focus and purpose in the most difficult circumstances
  • Rob Baker on what resilience looks like day to day
  • Hassan Osman on overcoming excuses
  • Safi Bahcall on the best way to deal with failure and frustration
  • Alison Jones (yes, me) on harnessing fear and making it work for you
Mar 16, 2020

What does it mean to be resilient, and how can we become more resilient more often? That is Jenny Campbell's life work, and her findings at The Research Engine are revelatory. For one thing, your level of resilience isn't a fixed personality trait - it's contextual and dynamic.

And in the process of writing her book The Resilience Dynamic, Jenny had to draw on everything she'd learned about resilience and apply it to her own journey, overcoming rejection, discouragement and complexity along the way.

She shares her lessons here, in an inspiring and honest assessment of what it takes to write a book, together with the tools she developed to help.

Mar 9, 2020

'I'd love to write a book, but I have a full-time job and a family, I just don't have time.' 

If that sounds like you, you need to hear this. Hassan Osman has a demanding full-time job at Cisco and a young family, but he's written eight (EIGHT!!) books so far, including four 'short books for busy managers' and, of course, one called Write Your Book on the Side. He also hosts the Writer on the Side podcast, helping others to do the same. 

If you have excuses, be prepared to shed them now. And pick up some super-practical tips and hacks from this master of productivity. 

Mar 2, 2020

The dictionary defines ‘business’ as ‘work relating to the production, buying, and selling of goods or services.’ So if you’re writing a book that you’re planning to make available for sale, rather than simply writing a manuscript that’s going to stay in your bottom drawer, you’re in business. And thinking of your writing as a business is a really helpful way of thinking about what you’re doing and how you're doing it, and taking yourself and what you’re doing seriously. Because honestly - if you don’t take yourself seriously, who will?

In this week's podcast I share a sneak preview of my upcoming talk at the London Book Fair's Writers' Summit, and I'd welcome your thoughts and ideas on how to develop it! 

Feb 24, 2020

When she decided to quit a good job in the NHS to develop a run-down farm, people thought Celia Gaze was crazy. When business was flagging and her response was to put her father's old bow tie on a llama and share the snap on social media, they knew it. 

Now, with a string of awards and a hugely successful business to her name, those crazy decisions don't seem quite so crazy any more. 

In this fascinating conversation Celia reveals the highs and lows of her extraordinary journey, and why she wrote her book - Why Put a Bow Tie on a Llama? - to encourage others to find the crazy ideas that might just change their life. 

And if you're struggling to get your book written, Celia has some great tips for you! 

Feb 17, 2020

What does it take to write the most-recommended business book of the year? Safi Bahcall, author of Loonshots: How to Nurture the Crazy Ideas That Win Wars, Cure Diseases, and Transform Industries, talks about learning to write (and rewrite) a business book that matters, and it's pure gold for anyone who has the same ambition. 

This is straight talking and ruthlessly practical: people don't care about ideas, and people don't care about you, so how do you find a way of communicating your ideas in ways that DO engage them? 

And just as importantly, how can you have fun while you do it? 

Brilliant advice from one of the world's most brilliant brains. 

Feb 10, 2020

Writing a book, like doing pretty much anything that matters, involves a quantity of fear. Many people let it stop them, and instead spend their time and attention on the stuff that keeps them feeling safe. 

But not you, my friend.

In this very personal episode I talk about what I've learned about fear when it comes to writing a book (or indeed, as noted, pretty much anything that matters). I also share some of the insights from others I've found most helpful. 

Warning: may cause discomfort, curiosity, and action. 


Feb 3, 2020

'If we feel there's some of us, our fingerprints in the work that we do, and we're able to make a difference in the work that we do, and it's aligned to what's important to us, we're more likely to be engaged.'

Rob Baker helps companies and individuals with 'job crafting', finding ways of personalizing their work so it 'fits' the individual's strengths and interests more closely. And of course when it came to writing the book about it, he took a route that suited his OWN way of working perfectly: using a Trello board to build a table of contents, share it with others, and gradually refine both his own thinking and the structure of the book as he wrote. He also got clear up front on his 'writing budget' and used his experience as a runner to help manage the days when sitting down and writing was the last thing he wanted to do. 

It's a simple but quite brilliant approach, and it might just be one you can personalize for yourself. 

(Oh, and how do you feel about that 'z' in 'Personalization'? We talk about that too....)

Jan 27, 2020

'We followed the lean startup principles of creating a product... we actually did an MVP version of our book... we kept testing our material... And we thought, this is going well.'

In this week's conversation, entrepreneurs and start-up strategists Ash Ali and Hasan Kubba reveal how they developed their 'unfair advantage' concept into a best-selling book through iterations and stress-testing, engaging an audience and attracting three publishers along the way. 

We also talk about 'business smarts' - how street smarts, book smarts and creativity work together, and how reading widely can help you create more 'dots' to join up so that you can be smarter and more creative in your business, and in your writing. 

A fascinating and frank conversation with two start-up legends, that will help you find and leverage the pants off your own 'unfair' advantage. 

Jan 20, 2020

If you have excuses, be prepared to shed them now... Lucy Werner's book story is quite simply extraordinary. Having entered the 10-day Business Book Proposal Challenge last January on a whim, she went on to win it. She was pregnant at the time so knew things might be tricky, but she wasn't prepared for the full enormity of what the following year threw at her. Nobody could have been. 

Despite having every reason not to finish the book, Lucy hit her deadline. And then of course she had to deliver the PR campaign to support it (because you can't credibly publish a book called Hype Yourself without, well, hyping it yourself). And she did that too, with incredible results.

Genius PR tips and an honest, challenging look at what it takes to write and promote a book when the world is conspiring against you. Essential listening.

Jan 13, 2020

Celebrate with me - The Extraordinary Business Book Club is 200 episodes young! So along with the Best Bits of the last few (absolutely brilliant) conversations, there's some reflection on what that means, and why it matters.

The bicentennial best bits are all about curiosity, experimentation, getting feedback, failing and trying again, and feature: 

  • Buster Benson on curiosity as a guide to writing a book;
  • Jono Bacon on the open-source philosophy as a rulebook for writing;
  • Helen Winter with the best feedback/user-testing story EVER; 
  • Richard Hall and Rachel Bell on collaboration as a feedback and accountability tool; 
  • Ginny Carter on the importance of tolerating mess; 
  • Karen Williams on strategic experimentation. 

This show is extraordinary because of the hundreds of extraordinary people like these who've talked so openly and thoughtfully about their business and their book over the last three years. I can't wait to start the next chapter...


Jan 6, 2020

No matter how many you've seen, there's still something a bit special about a new year: however 2019 panned out for you, 2020 is a blank canvas waiting for you to create something that matters. But how do you translate your big goals and aspirations for the year into the day-to-day actions that will turn them into reality? 

In this episode I share my personal goal-setting strategy, which I've refined over the last few years and which I use with my clients too to get clarity, balance competing priorities, ensure accountability, and make time for the important tasks amidst the daily clamour of the urgent ones. 

Your goals are a reflection of who you are and the dent you want to make in the universe: if you don't put in place a system to make them happen, you're cheating both yourself and the universe. 

Dec 30, 2019

I set myself a tough challenge for 2019: read 100 business books in the year. It was a close thing, but I hit my target (if we allow manuscripts as well as published books, and I don't see why we shouldn't). In this week's episode I've picked out the 10 titles that that have particularly stood out for me and which I'd recommend to anyone who cares about good business books, in the order in which I read them. 

Dec 23, 2019

Audio books are big news. But they're also expensive and complicated to produce - or are they? Determined to find out for herself, Karen Williams published her latest book Becoming An Authority audio first (in fact it doesn't even exist yet as a print or ebook). 

She discovered a huge amount about the process along the way, including how to write in a way that makes it easier to read aloud, the importance of movement, and how to get an audiobook out across all the different channels, and she generously shares it all here and in the accompanying resources. 

Dec 16, 2019

Writing a book is hard work. One of the best things about this podcast is that so many guests reveal the brilliant, extraordinary, sometimes hilarious strategies that got them through the hard yards of planning and writing and out the other side. 

This is one of those podcasts. 

From smart public transport hacks to testing concepts out on her mother, Helen Winter tells us exactly how she turned her idea for The Business Analysis Handbook from a twinkle in her eye to an award short-listed book - and how she came out of the the 10-day Business Book Proposal Challenge with a proposal that had three publishers calling her up within a week! 

Dec 9, 2019

This week saw the first ever Practical Inspiration author day. More than 40 authors at every stage of the journey - from just signed up to three years post-publication - to share stories and tips and to support each other. 

There were workshops on overcoming procrastination and marketing your book, and a wealth of practical (and inspiring, naturally) ideas, from setting up your writing habit to launching successfully and integrating your book with your website. 

If you were there, you'll know just how energising and useful this day was. If you weren't, here's a taste of the brilliantly practical learnings we took away with us. And maybe next time, you can be there too. 

Dec 2, 2019

There's never been a more entrepreneurial age. The barriers to entry for setting up a business have crumbled over the last decades while our sense of purpose and desire to be in control of our lives have sky-rocketed. 

But what does it take to be successful in this new world? Richard Hall and Rachel Bell interviewed hundreds of entrepreneurs and discovered that those who succeed aren't afraid to experiment in small ways, learn, adapt, trial and rethink where necessary. 

In this conversation they also share how they set the pace for each other as they wrote the book and why their complementary skill-sets helped when it came to marketing. 

Nov 25, 2019

'It's tempting, especially when you're a consultant, to not share anything. Because you're worried that what you do, what you talk to your clients about, is your secret sauce... it took me about a year or so to realise that that's completely untrue.'

Jono Bacon has written a few books now, and every time he's learned how to do it better. In this conversation he shares all that learning generously, and reveals how open-source philosophy and the power of people have informed not just his career, but his approach to writing a business book. 

Accent-spotters will have particular fun with this... 

Nov 18, 2019

"Half of the reason I decided to do this book was to learn... what does it take to write a book? Not only the process that you go through but what is the personal journey I am going to have to go through to become the person that can write this book? And it turned out to be as expected very difficult, lots of ups and downs..."

Buster Benson is incurably curious, and luckily for the rest of the world, he's also generous and creative in sharing his journey. In this conversation we talk about the power of writing as a daily practice, how he had to learn to draw after deciding he wanted an illustrated book, and of course why learning to disagree well expands and improves your world, the topic of his book Why Are We Yelling? The Art of Productive Disagreement

Nov 11, 2019

When you write business books for a living, writing your own brings an unexpected problem: 'Sometimes I thought it was quite outrageous, in fact: Hang on a minute, nobody's paying me to do this, how can that be?'

But Ginny Carter discovered that she was richly rewarded as she took herself through the process she works through with her clients - articulating the knowledge, expertise and insights that would otherwise remain unexpressed. 

In this conversation she lifts the lid on how she went about putting her own book together, and reveals two of her top tips: how to 'seed' your business into your book, and how to use the 'even if' structure to solve the reader's real problem. 

Nov 4, 2019

Writing a business book is a delicate balancing act between being fully yourself and being fully in service of your reader. How do you "do you" to the max, without tipping over into self-indulgence or over-sharing? 

In the last few episodes of The Extraordinary Business Book Club we've explored this question from a number of angles. In this Best Bits episode, discover:

  • Karen Skidmore on how writing a book deepens and shifts your own thinking
  • Andrew Hill on curiosity, clarity and curation
  • Nancy Youssef on the vulnerability involved in telling your own story 
  • Chris Hirst on the discipline of what to include and what to leave out  
  • Norm Laviolette on writing in your own way and owning your material
  • Marianne Cantwell on recognising that what worked for you won't work for everyone
  • Kelly Glover on pitching your message to fit the audience. 
Oct 28, 2019

Kelly Glover is the queen of podcast promo. She's booked thousands of authors, entrepreneurs and experts as guests on top podcasts and taught them how to make the most of the opportunity, drawing on her own media experience as a radio producer, talent agent and podcast host. 

In this episode she reveals the secrets of being a great podcast guest: how to get the gig, how to prepare and perform, and how to squeeze every last bit of value out of the opportunity. And it's not just what she says, it's how she says it: Kelly walks her talk and this is a masterclass in how to be the perfect podcast guest. 

Oct 21, 2019

Another Frankfurt Book Fair, another series of fascinating book-related conversations, but this year I managed to capture just a few of them for the benefit of Extraordinary Business Book Club listeners. 

Hear from: 

  • Writer and publishing guru Joanna Penn on the latest developments in audio
  • Literary agent Jaime Marshall on what's hot and what's not
  • Blinkist curator Robyn Kerkoff on what makes a memorable non-fiction book
  • Networking supremo and founder of Byte the Book Justine Solomons on the business of storytelling and the power of connection. 

If you couldn't make it in person to the Messe, this is the next best thing. 

Oct 14, 2019

At the start of 2019 I set myself the ambitious target of reading 100 business books in the year. Now we are 78% of the way through the year, and I am 60% through my list. So really, who am I to be offering reading tips? 

But the fact remains that you don't consume 60 books in less than 10 months without picking up some useful learnings. Here, then, are a few reflections on what I've discovered so far, and some practical thoughts on how to supercharge your own extraordinary business book reading. 

Oct 7, 2019

'It sometimes feels like I get to see every business book published.'

As managing editor and business book reviewer for the Financial Times, not to mention the coordinator of the annual FT/McKinsey Business Book of the Year award, Andrew Hill reads probably more business books than anyone else on the planet. It's worth a listen to this just for his personal recommendations. 

But he's also a writer, and so his reflections on the value of books in the 21st century are doubly valuable, since he's reflecting on them both professionally and personally, and as both a creator and a consumer. 

Fascinating and thoughtful insights into the world of top business books from one of its most influential figures.  

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