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.
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.