I’m plowing through my list of “to-read” articles. It includes several gems for people who write, speak, teach, consult and otherwise make a living from their ideas. (Ironically, two of these articles start with the words How To—a cliché but it works.)
I got the term idea entrepreneur from John Butman, author of Breaking Out: How to Build Influence in a World of Competing Ideas. All of his blog posts for Harvard Business Review are worth reading. Start with this one.
John notes that even in the twenty-first century there are are still things that only a book can do for you. For one thing, writing a book is hard work. If you can publish a decent one, you’ll gain more credibility than you’d get from creating an online presence alone. As John notes, “Charlie Rose rarely says, ‘My next guest has just posted a cat video.’”
In addition, a printed book is both beautiful and useful—better to leave behind than a business card, and a great gift item.
John also lists the potential downsides of publishing a book, including the time and effort it takes, the threat of backlash from readers, and the fact that books do not sell themselves.
Ignore the words “self-help” in this headline. This post is full of useful ideas for writing any non-fiction, how-to book. For example:
- Remember that chapter breaks give people and chance to rest and gauge their progress. For a 200-page book, give readers at least 10 chapter breaks.
- Organize your ideas by creating a table of contents. Write the actual chapter headings and subheadings that you want to appear in your book.
- Start by writing the chapter that you know the most about. Do this even if it’s not the first chapter in your table of contents.
- Connect with readers’ intellect, emotions, and behavior. For each core idea in your book, explain the basic principle first (intellectual connection). Follow with a story about someone who used the idea (emotional connection). End with an exercise that guides people to take action on the idea.
It’s hard to remain unchanged after reading James’s writing. He has a gift for throwing life-altering choices in your face in a way that you can’t ignore.
This post is full of ideas worth savoring, many of them counter-intuitive. For example:
- “YOU ARE A WRITER. If you sit down at a blank screen every day and simply do nothing then you are a writer. If you write one word, even better.”
- “BOOKSTORES ARE EVIL.” (See the post for his reasons.)
- “PLATFORM IS SHIT. I agree it’s important to have some Internet presence. You need to sell your first 1000 books once you publish and the Internet is a good way to do it. But your free audience is not the way to do it. They read your blog for free. They don’t even want to fork over 99 cents to buy your book.”
- “BLOG…. How come? Because it makes you write every day. And it also is fun to build friends and community around your blog.”
- “REWRITE EVERY DAY…. I feel better about the words I take out then the words I write.”