Case Study: Shirley Mansfield and The Grown-Up Business

Cover_webShirley Mansfield contacted me on 6 November 2013, saying “I hope you can help me…” and that she wanted to write a book. The Grown-Up Business was released on 4 November 2014. From starting point to release for a full-length high-quality published book in just under a year – now that’s superb! Read more to find out how Shirley did it and what she can teach you from her experience. Continue reading

The four pillars of your book: 4. Your passion

4columns_passionYour book rests on four pillars: your expertiseyour purpose in writing it, your readers, and your passion.  Your passion is your WHY for the book: why are you writing it?

You may feel you’ve already found your “why” with your purpose in writing the book: you’ve identified its role in your business, so that’s the reason, surely? Your passion, though, is a different and deeper kind of motivation. It comes from two places: from your enthusiasm for the subject and from your values, both in your business and personally. Nigel Collin’s story illustrates the difference beautifully and highlights the importance of this pillar. Continue reading

4 pointers to write great coaching sections

If you’re writing a book on your expertise, you’re coaching the reader and the quality of your coaching is what sets your book apart. When you plan your book, treat each subheading within a chapter as a coaching section: what does the reader need to learn and what do they need to do? This fail-safe structure will help you hit the bull’s eye, every time. For well-rounded coaching, each section should include these four things: Continue reading

Redeem your book plans

How’s your book going? Are you writing away steadily or have other demands pushed it onto the backburner? Does the question make you grimace with guilt; has it turned out a bigger challenge than you thought? Do you have a draft outline and notes or heaps of pages? Do you know what to do next?

Don’t put a black line through “Write a book” just yet: get yourself a review. This will clear the ground and give you a clear plan of what to do next. And you’ll keep your promise to yourself. Continue reading

What does your reader want?

When you start to write a book on your thought leadership, it’s easy to feel that you know better than your readers. They may think that their problem is time-management, but you know it’s an issue of aligning their goals with their values. They may think they’re struggling with an overload of work, but you know they need to sort out their time-management. And then your brilliant, well-written book jampacked with insights just languishes in a warehouse, or out in the ether, or as a potential click on a print-on-demand that never happens. And all around you are people struggling with issues which they could solve if they’d only read the damn book! So how do you make it a book they will read? Continue reading

Lessons from teaching: Use your coaching to create your book

One of the most exciting, challenging commissions I’ve had was to design and deliver a two-week teacher-training course on literary analysis. Teaching teachers – always a challenge to raise your game, and, yes, “literary analysis”, all of it, without much more to the brief than that. Could I do it? Uh… hell, yeah! It nearly killed me, but I did, and loved it.

I realised afterwards that my process for creating the course was an excellent model for book planning. Of course it forces you to think wholistically about the subject, but thinking about potential students for a course also gives you a much better sense of what to include and how to arrange it. It returns the planning process to being helpful and communicating with real people, both excellent touchstones to keep in mind. So here’s your six-step guide: Continue reading

The Evil Secret Stretch Goal

The Evil Secret Stretch GoalMost creatives and ambitious types know how difficult it can be to keep a normal, healthy self-esteem. Doing something good isn’t enough – you want it to be magnificent!  And if it’s not magnificent, you are shit. And so self-esteem gets trapped between unrealised magnificence and unrealistic shittitude. A close cousin of this is the overambitious idea-killer. You have an idea and it’s great. You keep imagining just how great it could be until it is so amazing that it’s impossible to do. The idea blows up like a bubble until it pops.

We know this stuff. We can all quote Voltaire, “The perfect is the enemy of the good.” (Or if we’re being really perfectionist, “Le mieux est l’ennemi du bien.”) But sometimes it still slips under the radar – and one of its techniques is The Evil Secret Stretch Goal. Continue reading

How long is a book? How long is a chapter?

how long is a bookWhen you first start working with books, you realise that everyone talks in word count – editors, publishers, layout people. At first that feels bizarre, like measuring tree-size in leaves. Surely pages is a better measurement? When you discover how much page count changes with minor tweaks to font, line spacing, and margins, though, you realise why. Book lengths vary, but they’re all measured in word count – so that’s where we start. Continue reading

Trick of the trade: how to keep your readers in mind

readersEvery book on writing says “Think about the reader” – and of course that’s essential, to think about what they need to know and how you need to say it. The content you choose and the way you write depends on who you’re talking to. In practice, though, how do you do that? Simple: look at them. Pictures of real people you really know. Writing can sometimes feel difficult, but communicating is effortlessly human. It’s part of what defines us as human. The throes of unrequited love aside, it’s usually easier to explain what we mean when we’re talking to a human face. So here’s how to do it. Continue reading

How to write something you can’t write

The_ScreamEveryone finds some types of writing difficult. Your thoughts hit a brick wall, your mind goes blank, your fingers freeze.  It might be a difficult chapter, a cover letter, your web text, or a biography. Usually, you’ve hit an emotional or psychological barrier: it’s too personal, too important, or too far outside your comfort zone. It feels like anyone in the world could write it better than you – but you’re the only one who can write it, because the information’s in your head. Longer term, you might want to sit down with your fears; if it’s just one piece of writing, though, and you need to get it done now, this is how. Continue reading

No glass slippers! Is your model working?

For thought leaders and experts, a great model is the gold standard.  It showcases your expertise, explains both the concept and the process in the best possible way, and becomes part of your intellectual capital. At its best, it tells you more than you already knew and opens up new avenues of ideas.  In your book, it creates the most logical and helpful structure you can use. But what if your model’s turning into a glass slipper? Continue reading

Why you need a developmental editor

Tom Allen’s successful Kickstarter project, Love on a Bike, reveals a discovery that every person writing a book needs to know. After the video’s beautiful intro of cycling around the world and falling in love, we see Tom typing away on his laptop. “My name is Tom,” says the voiceover, “And really, ever since I began travelling, I’ve been wanting to write a book. I’ve got to a point now where I’m on the very edge of having finished that book…”  Hurrah! we think. Done! But Tom has become wiser: Continue reading

Create your book… in 30 seconds!

What? Yes, really. Have you taken leave of your quality-driven senses? Not at all. This isn’t the book you’re going to publish, but it is a book full of great content, all carefully considered and written by you, and it might well be the John the Baptist to the Jesus of your book.  It’s The Book Of The Blog! And thanks to BlogBooker, it really does take 30 seconds. Maybe a minute, if you read the instructions carefully and take a couple sips of coffee. Continue reading

Quick – slow down! The paradox you need to practise

I make people work fast – and I insist they relax. I make them do an exercise in 10 minutes instead of an hour – then I tell them to take an extra-long shower. I give them a demanding schedule of work – and tell them to take it for a lovely long walk. I do all this not out of crazed split-personality psychosis, but because I know, intimately, the creative process. Continue reading

Why I do what I do: the passion behind the business

Creating my Springboard Your Book programme helped me define why I’ve chosen the work I have. It’s easy to just assume people already know, or can see my eyes light up, or realise this is obviously the most amazing thing in the entire world. Putting that into words (even as a wordsmith) is a different matter – and hugely rewarding. So this is why I do what I do and the passion behind my business. Continue reading

“What does an editor do?” in terms of ninjas

Ninja editing“An author working without a professional proofreader is a bit like a school bus with no brakes speeding toward a cliff on an icy road. And the school bus is on fire, and an angry ninja is stabbing the driver in the head.” – Scott Lynch

What is a proofreader’s job? What does an editor do? What’s the difference between an editor and a proofreader? And what are all these different kinds of editing – what’s style editing, what’s structural editing, what’s developmental editing, and who will help me kill the ninja? At last, the answers you need – in simple ninja terms. Continue reading

Why you should be reading… BPS Research Digest

Why you should read it

As thought leaders, business experts, and coaches, we need to understand how people work.  How they learn, how they think, and how minds tick.  There’s a wealth of information out there – but a lot of it’s wrong. As neurology gets more popular, even more info is exaggerated, misinterpreted, or just plain nonsense. SO – sailing into the rescue comes the BPS Research Digest, by Christian Jarrett. Continue reading

Why you should never write “Anon”

If someone’s idea is important enough to quote, 
they’re important enough to mention. - Megan Kerr

I’m amazed by the number of books from thought leaders and experts that include quote after quote by “Anon”. Usually, it’s not actually anonymous – the writer just doesn’t know who said it. As the editor, I shoot off to Google, spend 5 minutes digging around, and come back with the person’s name and the exact words they used. This isn’t just a pedantic nicety: this is the heart of what we do as thought leaders.We all talk about the ideas economy and the value of expertise. Having ideas, good ideas, good enough for people to like and quote, takes time: they don’t spring out of nothing. They are the tip of an iceberg of thought and work. Likewise, expertise takes years – often unpaid or self-funded years, knowing that once you have it, it’s payback time. If you’ve put in your 10,000 hours, you know what you’re talking about. You can speak with authority and make a name for yourself. Unless, of course, people steal that.

When you write “Anon”, you’re stealing. It doesn’t feel like it, you don’t mean to, and it takes most people a while to realise that it simply is theft. Someone has had a great idea, for which the minimum payback is exposure, their name, and you’ve stolen it. Not just that sentence – but part of the 10,000 hours that went into them being able to say that, because that was their investment.

Writing “Anon” also looks unprofessional. It reads as “couldn’t be bothered to find out”. Sometimes, someone does know the source, but doesn’t want to say, because the name just doesn’t match up to the other people they’re quoting.  Uh-uh. If someone’s idea is important enough to quote, they’re important enough to mention.

When you’re writing online, on blog posts, Facebook, and Twitter, it’s easy to let things slide. For a start, there’s no editor pulling you up.  And as soon as something starts proliferating, it gets harder to track down the original source. It feels less important – everyone knows everything on the internet is basically free! No. Every great line, every awesome picture, was created by a person. Credit the person. Actually, this is even more important online. Things whizz around so fast that the chances are much higher of the original person seeing their quote or picture being used. Turn it around. Think of the ideas you’re proudest of. Now see them in a snazzy little online poster format, without your name, being shared by someone else. Your trust and respect for them capsizes. What are you doing to people’s trust and respect for you, when you write “Anon”?

Intellectual capital needs to be respected. People whose businesses run on intellectual capital need to lead the way. Attribute, attribute, attribute. There is no “Anon”.

Some tips on tracking down the original source

  • Only write “Anon” if a printed, respected dictionary of quotations gives the source as unknown.
  • Don’t trust a rash of Google results – mistakes proliferate. Hack back to a respected source, either first-hand (their own website, the original newspaper report at the time) or an established knowledge site, eg Mirriam-Webster, Oxford Press.
  • If the whole quote in quotation marks doesn’t get you good results, try using a few key words without quotation marks. Often a wrong version is doing the rounds.
  • For original image sources, work backwards in time, for the earliest chronological version. Check some image stock sites.
  • At conferences and panels, write each speaker’s name at the top of your notes and use their initials to mark their contribution in your notes. Afterwards, you can thank them for specific comments you found helpful and you can attribute their words if you write about it.
  • Online, link to people’s sites as well as giving their name.
  • Einstein probably didn’t say it. Check. Wikipedia has a helpful list of sayings commonly misattributed to Einstein as well as a list of general misattributions.

Want this this kind of vigour, rigour, and discipline applied to your book? Email me to book your work in and discuss your project.

Write brilliant headings

Book headingsHeadings and subheadings in your book are a fantastic way to help the reader.  ”Chunking” information like this makes the book easier to scan, so busy readers find the bit they need fast.  It makes your key points easier to remember – each one is clearly signalled.  It also breaks up the page for visual learners, who remember what pages look like.  Brilliant headings do what they say on the tin, are brief and bold, are positive, paint pictures, and for true sparkle have a touch of poetry. Continue reading

How to write great coaching questions

Question markIn your coaching sessions, consulting, and workshops, questions are the heart of the process.  And the people are sitting right there, so they can answer and you can listen.  In presentations and key note speeches, they can’t answer – but we still use questions and feel the frisson as the question hangs in the air.  It feels energetic and alive.  In writing, questions change their mood completely.  What works well in a speech suddenly turns patronising, even irritating, in a book.  So what do we do?  To write great questions, let’s first look at three kinds of bad questions: rhetorical questions, yes/no questions, and masterclass questions.  Then we’ll turn that around and see how to write awesome coaching questions. Continue reading