"You've got to ask yourself what is more important. Is it selling books, or starting a movement?"
Sam Conniff Allende is in the business of movement-making. A young entrepreneur himself, he’s since inspired a generation of young entrepreneurs and hustlers, and when he decided it was time to write a book he began by writing ‘the worst book on earth’.
Luckily it didn’t end there: find out how he found the metaphor that transformed his message from worthy to world-changing, how he learned the secret of translating the energy of the stage to the page, and how he stayed true to his pirate principles in the marketing as well as the writing of the book.
'Now, I look at work and life and what I know in a different way, it's almost like I'm attuned to looking for opportunities to bring my thinking together and get it out there by way of a book.'
Michelle Sales never thought of herself as a writer. She didn't even particularly enjoy writing her book, The Power of Real Confidence (though she LOVES having written it). Maybe you recognise how it went:
'How I had thought to structure my writing was to block out my Fridays and I would get to Friday morning, and I would do a 9:00 Pilates class. That would finish at 10:00, and I'd do it with a girlfriend, and we'd say, "Oh, we might as well have a coffee." So we'd hang around and have a coffee and a chat. And inevitably it'd be about midday before I'd get home, and then I'd think, "Oh, I have to start writing now." So I'd open it and close it and open it and close it and think, "I'm not really sure I'm into this chapter." Then at about 2:00, I'd think, "Oh, it's Friday afternoon. I think I'm done."'
In this episode she describes how she found a different way to write that worked for her, and also how the process, rather fittingly, challenged and built her own confidence.
'The first draft of the manuscript is just ugly. There are pieces, and parts, and this part doesn't match that part. It looks like a Frankenstein monster. And that's why I call it Frankendraft. It sets that expectation low, that this will be an ugly, ghoulish creation with parts and pieces stuck and bolted on here. And we cut that part out and put it over here. It's not supposed to be the finished draft. We just have to make it come to life.'
The Frankendraft is just one of five stages through which ghostwriter Derek Lewis takes would-be business book authors to get the book in their head out into the world (but it's hands down the stage with the best name).
This is a fascinating glimpse into how a professional writer works with a business expert to create a book that is distinctively their own but better than they could have written themselves, and there's lots here that you can put into practice if you're writing your own business book.
'When you're being creative, all you're trying to do is see the same things differently, and from that, see if you can drive new ideas, solutions and new value.'
Ayse Birsel, multi-award-winning designer, decided to try an experiment. She tried to catch herself being creative and reverse engineer exactly what she was doing, and when she'd identified how this design thinking - Deconstruction:Reconstruction, as she calls it - worked, she tried applying it to the most complex, important project of all: her own life.
In this conversation, we talk about why design thinking is a great model for business book writing, and indeed for life generally, and why 'What if...?' is such a great start for a sentence.
And here's Ayse's business book #shelfie for your inspiration...
This is a very special episode for lots of reasons.
Firstly because it's shorter than usual.
Secondly because much of it was recorded live at one of the most memorable book launches I've ever attended.
Thirdly because Michael Brown, the author of My Job Isn't Working: 10 proven ways to boost your career mojo is not only a Practical Inspiration author but a graduate of the very first This Book Means Business mentorship programme.
And fourthly because something unimaginable happened while the book was in production that changed everything.
Books really do matter, and today's episode is a reminder to keep our attention and focus on what matters and not let our life and our life's work slip by.
A hand-picked selection of treasures from the last few Extraordinary Business Book Club episodes, with the focus on other people - how can they help you write a better book, faster, what impact will your book have on them, and how can you make them care enough to read it in the first place?
Money can't buy you happiness - unless you're smart about it. Dr Elizabeth Dunn reveals the surprising ways in which money CAN make us happier, and also why it so often fails to do so. Along the way we discuss the importance of getting rid of the long words, even if you're an academic, because:
'If you truly understand a topic, you should be able to explain it in simple language.'
Academic research can be an invaluable resource for the business book author, and there's lots of tips here on how to find it and use it without compromising the readability of your book.
Hugh Culver has done a lot of stuff in his life - from leading adventure holidays in the Antarctic to giving keynote speeches to companies and conferences all over the world.
For him, writing a book was an opportunity to reenergise and deepen his thinking, to create something distinctive, and it worked. In this week's conversation he reveals how the writing and the speaking work together, the writing mistakes he made first time round, and the speaking mistakes he sees all the time.
If you want your book or your blog to complement your speaking, or vice versa, this is an unmissable episode full of brilliantly practical - and occasionally counter-intuitive - tips from one of the world's top bloggers, speakers and writers.
Horses don’t care what your job title is. They’re not impressed by the car you drive. The only way a horse will follow you is if it trusts you. And it will trust you only if you’re leading authentically.
Jude Jennison discovered the astonishing power of horses to transform people’s approach to leadership when she faced her own fear of horses – now she has a herd of five, and I met them all at her book launch.
But how do you write about something that can only be experienced? And how do you draw out stories of uncertainty and leadership from others? Find out how Jude approached the challenge in this week’s episode, and why her launch was like no other.
'I've finally decided that I really should be writing books backwards.'
Instead of locking himself away in a room to write a book (as he did first time round), or even getting some supporting research in hand beforehand (book 2), top marketer Drew Davis is writing his third book backwards. He's started with a hypothesis and he's testing it out week by week on YouTube, taking on board the feedback, and discovering that the outline for this book looks very different to what he'd originally thought.
This is just one of the brilliantly practical tactics Drew shares with me in this conversation: you can also discover how he overcame imposter syndrome at a stroke, and what he learned from the Muppets.
For many CEOs, 'doing' social media is terrifying. Much easier to hire a millennial to do it for you. But in a world in which trust in corporates is at an all-time low, Michelle Carvill argues the best way to address that is to 'step outside of the boardroom and start having authentic conversations with your audience', not as a faceless corporation, but as a person. Yes, it's scary. Yes, it's hard to see a direct ROI. But there are also massive potential benefits.
This isn't a message only for leaders of multi-nationals, however. It applies just as powerfully to SMEs and even solopreneurs:
'If you are the owner of a business, you are the brand. You are the heart and soul of that business... you're the brand champion. You are the voice of that business and people want to know what you've got to say.'
Discover what getting social looks like for leaders, and also why Michelle - ironically - gets very anti-social in the process of writing itself. (And why she's never without a post-it pad.)
Most business book authors aren't professional writers. Martin Norbury failed his English O-level twice, but he knew that he had a story to tell that mattered. In this week's conversation he reveals how he went about turning the stuff in his head into a brilliantly readable book - from interviews with clients to interviews with himself to a supersmart process of consciously catching himself 'doing the right stuff' as he works with his clients to scale their businesses.
And you'll never look at Fridays the same way again once you've heard his story.
What's your mission statement?
We can get caught up in business - and indeed in business writing - in showcasing ourselves. We airbrush the version of ourselves that we present to others. And in doing so we unwittingly lose the emotional connection, vulnerability and authenticity that actually give us the power to make change that matters.
Sarah Windrum is a very successful, high-profile business woman, but her book The Superhero I was Born to Be is a deeply personal account of what she's been through, including her struggles with mental health, and how she developed the resilience and energy that underpin her success.
Here's HER mission statement:
'My mission in life is to touch as many people's lives as positively as I can, and that is what makes me happy. It's what brings me joy.'
This is a conversation that will encourage you to reflect on how you portray yourself, and maybe find the courage to connect more honestly.
I also talk about the Extraordinary Business Book Summer Reading List - are you in?
In the 1960s, Professor Laurence Peter articulated the famous Peter Principle: that an employee in a hierarchy tends to be promoted to 'his level of incompetence'.
As he looked at the evidence of women outperforming men throughout education and into the workplace, in the face of the ongoing gender pay gap and promotion statistics, Professor Tom Schuller was compelled to formulate a corollary: 'Most women tend to work below the level of their competence.'
The Paula Principle investigates the reasons for this oddly persistent inequality, and puts forward an agenda for change. But is this a book that should have been written by a man? Several publishers thought not. And do books like this make a difference anyway?
Tom Schuller and I discuss education, equality, writing, breaking out of the ghetto and, er, Bridget Jones.
'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.
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'.
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...)
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.
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.
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.
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.')
"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.
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.
"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.)
"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.