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.
My personal favourite moments from the last 9 episodes of The Extraordinary Business Book Club. It's an incredible selection:
Make a cup of tea and settle down. Heck, grab a biscuit too.
Antony Mayfield runs marketing and communications agency Brilliant Noise, helping some of the biggest brands in the world transform their approach to getting their message out. He's got some fascinating stuff to say about how advertising and marketing are changing, and what it means to be digitally literate, with tips that work for microbusinesses as well as multinationals (in fact he says the reason he works with the big companies is that they need more help getting this right!).
But he also talks about Brilliant Noise's own approach to marketing, and particularly the way they create and use books within the company.
'Those books are like little avatars, little bits of you that you sent out into the world and they've got a life of their own and they're going round telling people what you think.'
A fascinating, inspiring conversation with one of the world's leading thinkers in digital marketing.
'I'm actually shocked at what writing now means to me relative to what it would have meant before I wrote two books. I used to dread writing... now it's a way to structure my learning, it's a place to put my creativity. It's a place to create a sense of intellectual flow in my life.'
Amanda Setili runs a consulting business, and she very deliberately uses her books to explore what fascinates her and what she loves to work on in order to attract the clients she's most interested in working with. In this interview she reveals how she goes about creating the models and tools that accompany her books, and how she learned to shift from dry, technical writing to a more creative, story-led approach.
This is an episode full of practical, usable insights for anyone wanting to make their book not only more useful to read, but more enjoyable to write.
Bridget Shine, CEO of the Independent Publishers Guild in the UK, is at the forefront of the revolution taking place in publishing today. In this week's episode we discuss what it means to be an independent publisher, and from the author's perspective, what it's like to be published by an independent publisher. The old rules and divisions are breaking down, and there are fantastic opportunities for those with the will and the energy to explore them.
She also has some great tips for approaching independent publishers, and advice for those considering setting up as publishers themselves. And if you get lost in the definitions - indie authors, independent publishers, partner publishing - she takes a reassuringly pragmatic and positive approach:
'The point about the IPG... is we're all about helping one another and supporting each other and if you start getting a bit too ground down by those definitions you would get stuck very easily. For us, it's about people sharing, it's about the spirit of independence.'
Warren Knight isn't your traditional entrepreneur (whatever that is). He began as a hip hop dancer, and quite simply saw the opportunities that presented themselves at each step and grabbed them with both hands. Today he helps companies around the world transform themselves into digital organisations. His book Think #Digital First came out of those conversations. First published in 2015, it's now in its second edition, but what's even more interesting to EBBC listeners is the way that Warren has created 'micro-niche' editions to serve specific market sectors.
This is a great example here of creating a book that's completely tuned to its readers' needs:
'I wanted to tell my story... all of these stories of closing doors, turning over 30 million dollars. All of those stories that I needed to put down in a book, but it needed to have a purpose and a goal... I was doing a lot of coaching, working with businesses. And the thing that they kept saying was, "Oh, Warren, I know I really need to be thinking digital first with what I'm doing, with my business. I have a great offline business but how can I take it online?" So their thinking needs to shift. "We've got a good business and we know what we do well, but my thinking needs to be about what we can do from an online perspective." And I came out of having a meeting and I went, "That's it." I'd written it down three times in three different meetings. I went, "That's the title of the book.... I now know what my purpose is, I know where it needs to start. And now I know where it needs to finish."'
The internet may be international, but is your content? Pam Didner shares the secrets of global content marketing for businesses of all sizes, and reveals the story behind her bestselling book (spoiler alert: she wanted to write a novel but it didn't work out).
She also explains how writing fits with her speaking and consulting activities:
'Working, writing and speaking, from my perspective they are interconnected and they are all related. The way I see it, if I can put an idea in writing, it means I understand that idea well enough to write it. If I can speak about it, it means that I can put the ideas in the right context to explain to my clients or attendees who come to the conference, and if I can actually apply that idea into some sort of framework or the process that I created, it means the idea is valid and can apply to real life.'
If you're tempted to procrastinate and if you've tried getting up at 5am to write and failed miserably, you'll find lots to encourage you here.
'If you want to be a good designer, you don't really bring an ego to the work, you listen to what people say and you try and design the most customer-centric thing that you can and I've tried my best to bring that mentality to writing. A book ultimately is a product.'
Matt Watkinson's first book, The Ten Principles Behind Great Customer Experiences, won the CMI Management Book of the Year award, so it's clear this approach is working well for him.
In this interview he explains how he set about writing his new book The Grid: The Decision‑Making Tool for Every Business (Including Yours). When he was asked at a conference what his second book would be, Matt answered "Oh it's a single model that's going to explain all the factors that make a business succeed or fail and it'll fit on a single page." The entire audience burst into hysterical laughter, but he was quite serious.
This is a superb example of how a distinctive model can underpin a book, and also a generous, entertaining interview.
You'll also hear the suppressed squeal in my voice as I announce some big news of my own...
While publishing's been going through massive disruption over recent years, journalism has had its own problems. Ironically, in a world that runs on content, it's harder than ever to be a professional journalist.
'It's not that people aren't reading newspapers. It's just that they're not paying to read them anymore, so everybody wants content, but nobody is prepared to pay for it.'
So to succeed in journalism today, or indeed in any type of content creation, it's not enough simply to write well: you have to develop an entrepreneurial capability, and part of that is developing and marketing your personal brand.
In this week's episode I talk about these changes with Sara Kelly, associate professor and chair of the Department of Journalism, Film and Entertainment Arts at the School of Professional Studies, the National University in San Diego, a former newspaper editor who's also written two books, The Entrepreneurial Journalist's Toolkit and Personal Branding for Entrepreneurial Journalists and Creative Professionals.
'One of the drawbacks of working in the traditional publishing world is that they're very, very big on the idea that you need to go out and sell books. I've always thought of a book as something that should go out and sell the author, so the reason I write books is to get a message out there to connect with a lot of people. For me, it's more important that the book is out there doing its job, as opposed to just simply trying to sell the book. The book, for us, fits within a broader context of a bigger business.'
For Daniel Priestley, author of bestsellers such as Key Person of Influence, The Entrepreneur Revolution and Oversubscribed, a book is the ultimate business development tool. It costs a fraction of a business development manager, it never gets tired or leaves to join the competition, and it never goes off sick or off-message. His own books sit at the heart of his businesses, and in this episode he reveals the strategies he's used to integrate the two so successfully, and goes under the hood to share how he developed and wrote his new book, 24 Assets.
This is one to listen to again and again.
'Creative writing, creative publishing, creative living'
That's Orna Ross's byline, and it sums up her empowered approach to life as an independent author. Having 'won the literary lottery' and secured a deal with a major publisher, she didn't expect to get involved in self-publishing. But when she became frustrated with the way things were going, she decided to experiment with self-publishing.
'I loved self-publishing from the start. I love creative freedom, and the control that you get. Yes, there is responsibility that goes with that. Yes, it is not for those who don't like good, hard work, but if you do like good, hard work, and if you have a clear vision of who you are as an author, then I think it really is the most creative possible way you can publish.'
And from her own experience, and wanting to create a community to support others on the same journey, she founded ALLi, the Alliance of Independent Authors.
In this interview she talks about her experiences with both traditional and self-publishing, the power of writing for personal development, and the need to embrace the commercial along with the creative.
Oh, and yoga.
Pure gold from the last nine episodes of The Extraordinary Business Book Club - insights, ideas and inspiration from some of the world's leading writers and some who've just begun the journey. Hear from:
It's an extraordinarily broad and deep compilation from an extraordinary group of people. As you've come to expect.
John Hall practically invented content marketing. As CEO of Influence & Co he has helped companies of all sizes, from startup to Fortune 50, become 'top of mind' with their customers by establishing trust through useful, engaging content.
In this episode we discuss what it means to have a content strategy, and how a book fits with that. He also explains the thinking behind his substantial appendix and his offer to connect directly with readers, and gives his tips on writing a book for anyone still struggling with making it happen.
Louise Wiles took part in the very first 10-day Business Book Proposal Challenge. As the deadline approached to submit the completed proposal for a chance to win a publishing deal, she hesitated.
"I haven't sent it in. Am I going to send it in? Oh, I'm not sure."
In the end, encouraged by her husband, she submitted it. Which is lucky, as it turned out to be one of the winners.
In this week's episode, Louise describes how she and her business partner and coauthor Evelyn Simpson set up Thriving Abroad without ever having met in person, how she overcame the resistance and fear of putting the book out into the world at every stage, from initial proposal to just three weeks before publication, and what she'd do differently next time round.
If you're struggling with self-doubt and resistance as you write your book, this is for you.
'Computers and the networks that we connect to them, they're the nervous system of the 21st century.'
And yet Cory Doctorow argues passionately that right now, the way we legislate the internet isn't serving the creators, or even the consumers.
If you care more about people seeing and using your content than you do about restrictive copyright law, there are alternatives. Cory released several of his own books under Creative Commons licences, and in this inerview he explains why, and why it matters.
He also gives us an insight into his own prolific writing practice, with some practical tips for getting a writing habit established and sustaining it.
This man is a hero of the internet - author, blogger, campaigner, visionary - and this is a powerful analysis of what's wrong with the creative ecosystem and what we can do about it.
What does 'Carpe Diem' mean to you? In his fascinating new book, Roman Krznaric reveals how the meaning of this famous phrase has changed over time, and how it's been pressed into service as a rallying cry for both hard work and hedonism, mindfulness and political activism.
He also talks about crowdfunding - he rejected a traditional publishing deal to publish this book through Unbound - footnotes, developing new ways to share ideas online, and creating a movement rather than just publishing a book.
'I've always wanted my books to turn into art projects and social movements... My advice is to write your business book about something that you care about, that you're passionate about, that you consider is important. Do it in such a way that anyone can understand it and work with it and make it practical, but don't necessarily try and make it fit too much into being relevant to a particular industry, or for a particular product.'
I defy anyone to listen to this interview and not be inspired.
'I wanted to write a book about how magical people are, as opposed to machines. How enormously efficient we are at understanding things, particularly each other, in a way that no machine will ever come close to doing.'
Through his work with ReD Associates, Christian Madsbjerg helps companies make better decisions by better understanding what is meaningful to their customers. In a world of Big Data and machine intelligence, he argues, it's vital to remember the extraordinary power of human intelligence: the humanities, he argues, are the best starting point for business thinking.
He also offers a refreshing take on writing a book, as something which can and should create controversy, provoke a reaction, and acknowledges just how hard it is:
'I find writing delightful sometimes, but most of the times I just find it quite tough.'
A thought-provoking and insightful discussion that reminded me, at least, of what really matters in life.
Kogan Page is one of the world's leading business book publishers and one of the last big independents. The company has just celebrated its 50th birthday, and in this episode I talk to MD Helen Kogan - daughter of founder Philip - about what it means to be independent, what commissioning editors look for in a proposal, and some hands-on, down-and-dirty tips for writing a business book that sells.
This is a fascinating glimpse into the workings of one of the truly great publishing houses, and to hear from the very top what they look for in the authors and books they take on.
'How can I write books that people will read all the way to the end, they can open at any page and find something interesting or useful or inspiring or actionable, and they'll come back to again?'
And with that question, Bernadette Jiwa - author of Difference: The one-page method for reimagining your business and reinventing your marketing, Marketing: A Love Story and most recently Hunch: Turn Your Everyday Insights Into the Next Big Thing - nails the question for any business book author.
Discover how she goes about answering it, and particularly how she uses the principles of storytelling and the backstory to write such compelling, generous books, in this fascinating interview.
I first met Glenda Shawley in January 2016 when she came along to my 'The Year of the Book' workshop, in which writing productivity guru Bec Evans and I helped a small group of entrepreneurs get clear on the book they wanted to write and plan how they were going to achieve it.
By Christmas of that year, she was holding in her hand advance copies of Founded After 40: How to start a business when you haven't got time to waste, the first of the books to come out of that session (another one was self-published earlier this year, and I'm publishing another two shortly).
In this episode, Glenda reveals how she did it, with lots of practical tips for linking the book with the business and building a community around it, and reflects on what the impact has been for her, personally and professionally. It's a masterclass in how to Get Stuff Done and create an experience that not only helps but delights the reader.
If you ever find yourself thinking, 'Well, of course it's easy for THEM...' as you listen to illustrious best-selling author celebrities on this show and others, this will be a refreshing and challenging insight into how a small business owner without a big existing platform got on and did the work, and is reaping the benefits.
You've heard the mantra: 'Focus!' You know you need to niche. You understand that multi-tasking is inefficient, and you curse yourself every time your attention wanders from the one thing you know you should be working on. You're trying to put in place systems and processes to optimise how you work, and when things go wrong it feels like the universe is conspiring against you.
The good news is that it's not that simple. Tim Harford, the Undercover Economist and author of Messy: How to Be Creative and Resilient in a Tidy-Minded World, argues that a tidy mind is unlikely to be a creative mind, and it's when things go wrong that we're likely to step fully into our genius.
This is heartening stuff for me, at least, and a great insight to have in your back pocket next time someone criticises the state of your desk...
Tim also reveals how moving between different modes of communication - from writing a book to writing articles to speaking to presenting on Radio 4 - helps him clarify his own thinking, and he has some brilliantly practical advice for anyone writing their first business book.