Is Now the Best Time to Write Your Business Book?
It’s the beginning of the year and I bet someone somewhere reading this has set a goal to write their business book in 2024. That’s great. But is now the best time to write it?
In some sense, this is a trick question. There’s no “best” time to write a book when you’re also running a business.
I wrote my book last year and yes, I started out 2023 with this goal in mind, but I also had the same goal at the start of 2022, 2021, 2020… you get the idea. The point is that you can feel motivated to write your book and still not be able to get it done for any number of reasons.
The question I want to answer for you in this article is how do you decide when it’s the right time to write your book? The answer may surprise you.
It’s Not Just About Whether You Have the Time
One way to interpret the title question is: Do you have time to write your business book? This is NOT the question I want to answer.
First, I’m not here to give you the same tired time management advice you’ve heard 1,000 times. If writing is a new habit for you, go read Atomic Habits (if you haven’t already). You don’t need me to rehash old, but still brilliant, tips from James Clear. Not only is this boring, but also I’m skeptical of anyone handing out uniform time management advice. What works for me—some magical combination of ideation and binge writing—won’t necessarily work for you.
I’m also not here to remind you to operationalize your book writing project, though you definitely should. Writing a book is a big, hairy, audacious goal and you need to break that sh*t down into daily or weekly steps if you want to avoid ferrying “work on my book” from one to do list to another all year.
Whether this is the best time for you to write your book isn’t just a practical question about whether you can find the time. It’s about two things: finding your big idea and knowing how your book fits into your bigger business goals. Get these right and your business book will write itself and if it doesn’t, that’s what I’m here for.
Finding Your Big Idea
As a ghostwriter, everyone I talk to tells me they want to write a book, and here’s a secret: most of them never will. That’s because most people think that writing the book is the first step, and they get discouraged quickly when they discover that if you want to do it the right way, writing the book comes at the end of a long list of steps. So what IS step one?
Step one is to find your big idea.
You don’t need to overthink this. Take it from me, I spent a long time overthinking my business book idea. I was lucky that a friend came along and helped me come to my senses.
Your big idea is likely the thing that you work on every day. It’s the idea everyone associates with you. It’s the most obvious idea you have. Trust me.
I really didn’t want to write a book about how to write a business book—even though it’s the thing I work on every day. I wanted to write something really cerebral and research-intensive about self-awareness, but now isn’t the best time for me to write that book (or teach myself psychology). So I wrote a book about how to write a business book (coming to a bookstore near you in August 2024).
To find your big idea, I recommend that you first do some brainstorming and narrow it down to 1-3 ideas. Then, start testing out your ideas:
- Masterminds are a great place to float business book ideas.
- Share your ideas with your friends and see what kind of reaction you get.
- Going to a networking event? Use your ideas as conversation starters with a few new colleagues and (again) see what kind of reaction you get.
- Create some LinkedIn posts about your ideas and see if you can get a conversation started with your audience.
Once you’ve landed on your big idea and it’s gained a little bit of traction, you’ll feel more confident in writing your book. But just because you have a solid book idea doesn’t mean now is the best time to write it. So what is the deciding factor? The key is to evaluate whether your book aligns with the rest of your business goals.
Making the Business Case for Your Book
Do you have a business case for your book? This is often the first question I ask a prospect on a sales call about ghostwriting. If you’re going to spend time, effort, and resources to write a business book, then you need to have a clear understanding of your return on investment (ROI).
Too many business owners think that a book will put their business on the map. They see bestselling authors with multi-million dollar businesses and they think it’s the book that gained them the notoriety. While this may be true in some cases, this is not usually the way it works.
Most bestselling authors build their thought leadership platform first. This way they already have a huge following and an engaged audience that is ready to buy their book when it comes out. Everything they have done with their brand up until they decide to write the book helps them market and sell thousands of copies. In other words, the platform is marketing for the book, not the other way around.
If you don’t have a thought leadership platform, then you need to build that before you write your book. And this is true, by the way, even if you’re not interested in going after bestseller status.
So ask yourself some key questions:
1. What are my business goals and are they compatible with writing a book?
Before you decide to write your business book, you should consider what other goals and projects you have planned for this year.
If you are planning to launch a new product or service, then it may not be the best time to write your book. If, on the other hand, you recently launched a new product or service and your plan for 2024 is to build momentum, it might be the right time, especially if the book idea is related to the new product or service.
If you need to focus on business development because you want to take your business to the next level, then it may not be the right time to write your book. If, on the other hand, you have a strong business development system in place and have found a way to reduce your client load, you may have more space for ideation. It might be fun to put that brain of yours to work on a creative project.
If you are less than three years into running your business, then you shouldn’t even be thinking about writing a book. Your goals should be all about hitting your revenue targets, developing systems and processes, positioning, and nailing down what it is you want to be known for.
I don’t know any business owners less than three years in who have everything figured out. Writing a book at this stage is likely more of a distraction than a smart investment.
2. What will my book do for my business?
This is a continuation of the previous conversation. Will your book move you toward your business goals or detract from what you really want to focus on? For example, if one of your goals is to become a paid speaker, then having a book will move you closer to that goal. Event organizers who are gathering speakers for paid speaking opportunities often give priority to successful authors.
Think of your book as part of your marketing and content plan. If you want to become a thought leader, then your book can help you reach a larger audience. But there are other ways to reach a wider audience, e.g., start a podcast, borrow audiences from those with a larger following, publish other forms of long-form content, create an online course.
Whether a book is the best way to take your business to the next level depends on several factors specific to you and your business. It’s important to be able to tie your hypothesis about what your book will do for your business to what you actually want.
3. Will you be able to write, and more importantly, promote your book?
Finally, even if you’ve read everything above and believe strongly that you have a business case for your book, it may not be the best time for you to write your book because, for some reason, you won’t be able to promote and market your book as needed to meet your goals.
Yes, your business book is a tool to market your business. But to put that tool to best use, you need to market your book. Go to work promoting your book and your book will go to work promoting your business.
Unfortunately, many first time business book authors don’t realize how much work they need to put into promoting their book. I’m not talking about putting in the work to sell more copies of your book, though the work you put in will help you sell more copies. I’m talking about putting in the work to make people aware that you wrote a book and to gain the authority that comes from being an author in your area of expertise.
Promoting your book after it launches is a part-time job. You either need to hire someone to do the marketing and PR for you or you need to make the time to come up with a plan and execute on it. So just as you should consider whether writing a book aligns with your business goals, you should also consider whether promoting your book aligns with your business goals. You need to be a “hell yes” on both.
As a ghostwriter, I save my clients time when it comes to writing their business books—that’s one of my main value propositions. If you had asked me a year ago, I would have told you that the best time to write your book was last year and the second best time to write your book is NOW. I look at things differently these days.
When you work with a ghostwriter, yes the time management question is less of a concern, though I always warn clients that different parts of the project require more of their time. Still, even if you write your business book quickly, it will sit around collecting dust on your computer or maybe on a shelf if you haven’t taken the time to consider whether NOW is actually the best time to write your book. This is not what you want.
Think it over and when you’re ready, you know who to call!
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