Q&A time! We're back after the Memorial Day break with a Q&A session answering some of the questions we've had in over the last few weeks.
In this show we answer:
- How big should my book be?
- Where do I start?
- Should I include all this other 'Stuff'?
- Is it worth paying for a color interior?
- How do I know if my target audience is too big or small?
- Should I go for a short or descriptive title?
- What will a book do for my business?
Transcript - Book More Show 006
Hey everyone. Welcome to another episode of The Book More Show. We're back after a short break after Memorial Day last week, so this week we have the promised Q&A session, so just me today. We've got 9 or 10 questions that we've collected from the ones that have been sent in so far, so this should be a good show. There's going to be a bit of a mix of more high-level subjects and then some rapid-fire ones on a couple of specific questions. Hopefully everyone's going to get a pretty good mix whether you've got a clear idea of what your book is already or whether you're just thinking about something but you're struggling with where to start. We should have a good hit of all the questions. Let's get started.
The first group of questions that we had come in were more around the fact of people saying, "I know people who have written a book already. It seems like a big job. They hated the process. Is this something I really want to get started with?" This is an interesting. How big is big enough, I guess is the question people are asking.
It can seem a daunting task. I know that a lot of feedback from people writing books in a traditional sense it's very much a drudge. It's a job with work of getting through all of the content and the multiple edits and making sure that thematically it's together. If you've been listening to the show for a while, you've heard us talk quite a lot about being specific, thinking of this as a book that does a specific job of work. Most of the time we talk about lead generation because that's the easiest concept for people to think about. When we think about how big is a book required for a single job of work then it starts to become a little bit more manageable. We're not trying to entertain people, but if it's entertaining then that's a benefit. We're not trying to convince people of a particular big set of actions. This - as we've said before - is just a introductory piece.
The aim is to make invisible leads visible, and you can do that by answering one relatively specific subject. Even if it's all lead generation without ... We were working with Robin recently who had a book that he was using to onboard staff members, so the culture of their organization: they own a number of convenient store grocery markets up in New York, so they onboard a number of staff across various different locations. This was more talking about the culture of the organization and helping people come together. Again, the key is that it's trying to do a single job of work. It's not trying to be all things to all people.
So, answering the question of how big is big enough; it really comes down to what is the objective? What are you trying to achieve? The aim of your book can then be to start the conversation; to give something valuable that answers that one question knowing full well that there are other questions that aren't going to be answered by the book. Then you can start the conversation. Whether or not your book has to be 50 pages or 150 pages may vary on the subject and what you're trying to achieve, but I think it's very easy to get carried away with too much content; trying to make it too big. If you're not very specific on the message or the outcome that you're trying to get to, it can become a little bit rambling and go around in circles. Every extra word that you put in the book is another extra word that needs to be edited or considered whether it should be in there in the first place. Then the production costs go up on the book and the overhead goes up, so really as small as possible, but answering the question that you're trying to answer in the most coherent way.
The next one, then, kind of comes off the back of that. We're talking about the book should answer a single question. It should be fulfilling a single need. A number of people asked, "I have a number of ideas, but where do I start?"
As business owners we've got the visibility of the whole organization and it's very easy to see all of the questions that come in and every time we try and answer a question there's then 5 or 6 other contributing factors that are in our minds. We run the risk of trying to answer or address all of those things in the book. The key to remember is that's not necessary. Again, going back to the job of work, we're trying to achieve one particular goal, so the best place to start if you're overwhelmed with what it could be is to think about who the audience is that you're trying to address.
Whether or not you end up with ... There's another question about this shortly ... Whether or not you end up with multiple books down the track or whether you build on this first piece and make it into a larger book later because the market or the customers tell you that that's worthwhile, to start off with it's much easier to start small and go big rather than try to cover everything and put all of ideas into this one tomb of a book and then run into paralysis of not really getting anywhere.
The trick in deciding where to start is to pick who that best audience is. At the end of the day, you're writing a book for a reason. It's not just to fill some of your own time. The reason, then, should be as specific as you can make it to achieve that goal. It may be that you've got several markets that your business addresses or it may be that you're running a group who ... On the way to record this I passed a billboard with a dance studio. Now, that dance studio could attract different types of dancers, different age groups of dancers, dancers that are looking to achieve different outcomes - whether it's to get into a class so they've got something to do or it's a couple's getting married and wanting to learn to dance - all of these different groups could be a different book; could be a different subject; could be a different chapter. Deciding which one is the most valuable is probably the best way to start.
Another element might be: Where is the biggest need? Perhaps one group of people ask the most questions. A book would be a great way to engage with that audience that's already there, that's already asking. Thinking about the outcome, thinking about the specific group that you're trying to target, deciding which group is the most valuable, which group you can answer the best ... Perhaps it's a new product or a new service that you're trying to launch and you're looking for this book to be part of the funnel that guides people towards that new product or service. Rather than thinking of the book as the outcome or the book as the purpose, the book is really just a mechanism to achieve that outcome. Thinking about who is it you're trying to target, what is it that they're most interested in finding out, should help you narrow down what the book should be about and where you should start.
Once you've decided that, then your other thing that I'd suggest as a check and balance is to make sure that there is enough to write about on that particular subject. As we'll talk about in a couple of questions time - the size of the audience - just validate the decisions you make at every stage A, support the outcomes and B, are they a big enough target market to make it worthwhile?
The next question kind of ties into the first one of “How big is big enough? I have a lot of other ‘stuff’ that I want to include. Should I include all of this in the book?" Quite often people will ask us, "I want to include some images, I want to include some charts, I want to include data or testimonials." The balance with all of this is complexity versus being able to being compelling. Every time you add something it adds an overhead to the process. Whether that's just the time and effort you need to put in to make sure that you've got the right data, whether you've got to make sure that you've got the correct permissions to use any images, whether the data you've got ties in thematically with what you're writing about at that point in time ... It depends on what you're trying to achieve.
Usually what we say to people is unless the point you're trying to make is very technical and detailed and a chart would be a valuable illustration for the point you're trying to make - that old saying of 'a picture paints a thousand words' - unless it really is the case that that supporting information is needed for it to make sense, then the suggestion usually is: Rather than put all of that supporting information in the book, why not have it as a follow-up sequence?
Lead generation is the easiest model to think about this, but it works across most use cases for the book: The aim of what you're trying to do is engage a potential customer in a conversation to start that journey with them and add something valuable from the start so that they build a sense of reciprocity and you get a rapport going with them. If you include all of this additional material in the book, 2 things tend to happen. First is: it's a one-shot deal. The kind of kudos or credibility that you get for giving someone a valuable book is one unit of benefit. If all of your information is included in that, then that's still just one unit of benefit. If you're able to deliver it to them in 4 or 5 steps afterwards; package up those pieces of information as additional material, then you're effectively multiplying those units of benefit that you're getting by delivering something of value. The book would be the first one, then there might be a free report - something white papered, some more reading information. Then you could have an info-graphic displaying some of the content. You could have some additional charts or worksheets ... All of those follow-up pieces allow you to multiply the benefit points that you're getting by delivering people more and more value.
The other element is that ... There's some figures out; I'll see if I can find it for the next show ... There's some figures out talking about the actual amount that people read of a book that they buy. The report that I'm thinking of was in terms of e-books. It was talking about whether less of an e-book actually gets consumed because it's not physically sat on someone's shelf. A bigger book tends to be read less because it takes more time. Having the main message in the main introductory piece and then allowing people to request more information if they want it is a great way to making sure that you're drip-feeding the content to them and people are more likely to consume all of the content rather than buying a big book up front and then only getting to read 40% of it because life happens and they move on.
Again, it depends which pieces should be included. I definitely invite people to err on the side of simplicity so it's very easy. Particularly we've seen a couple of financial books try and do this to include a lot of graphs and charts and detailed information and being able to contextually share that on a page can be a challenge because the numbers just by themselves often don't mean anything. If you think of the additional overhead of needing to explain what the charts do or what the data is displaying in words which is then an additional overhead in writing the book and editing the book. As you can see, simplicity is usually the best first start because it helps people in a very easy to get started way, consumes part of the information that you're sharing, do it in a way that doesn't seem exclusive or it's written from their point of view as much as possible and then deliver the additional information to them afterwards. It then makes it more likely that it will be consumed.
As I'm talking there's another point I didn't have in the notes, but it's definitely of benefit. The physical books that you have ... The challenge with the physical book is that there isn't the opportunity to usually collect the details of the person who's got it, so if they're requesting a copy from Amazon or if you've got a relationship with a partner who's giving the books out or if you're at an event and giving the books out, the challenge is you're not necessarily going to know who's picked up a copy and who hasn't, having an opportunity to give people additional supporting information. In the book you could say, "For this particular chapter we've grouped all of this information together into a white paper and we'd love to send you a copy of it. Just shoot me an e-mail at such-in-such or request a copy at this URL ... Gives you the opportunity to collect information off people who have physical copies of the book and not just relying on collecting the details of people who request the digital copy.
Now again, that's easy to think of in lead generation because you think of it terms of a funnel, but that might just be for audience participation. Your particular book might be targeting a known list of people you've got already. It may be a customer that you've already got in your practice. Maybe you want to share with them a new technique because this is where you want to pivot the business towards or this is what you're bringing on some new practitioners who are specialized in this area.
Sharing this information with people - you might not want to give the book to all of your clients - is part of a marketing campaign, but then you don't know which of them has expressed an interest in that information, so rather than delivering everything at once, having a way for people to opt in for more information does 2 things: Helps you collect the details of those who are interested in an offline sense, reading an offline version, and even if you've got the details already - so even in the online funnel version, it also allows you to collect the details of those who are more interested than others.
So, 100 people request the book at the first stage, 50 people request the second piece of information - the follow on - and then of those 50, another 10 select a final third piece of information. You know that those 10 who have engaged in three steps are probably the most engaged out of those 100, so when you think about doing some sort of execution with the book, you could try and execute with all 100 of them but it makes much more sense and it's far more efficient to execute with the 10 first who have made it all the way through the funnel. Those are the ones who are the hottest prospects; the ones who are most interested in doing something. Then once you've engaged with those 10, then start engaging with the people further back up the funnel. Far more efficient use of the time rather than just being presented with a list of everyone that's requested something.
That answer went a little longer than I expected, so let's move on. A couple of quick-fire ones. We had a couple of questions of, "I've seen books with color interiors, black and white interiors ... Should I pay for a color interior?" From our production cost - the couple of printers that we use that are similarly priced - color printing usually triples the price of the book, so there's a very immediate cost benefit of sticking with black and white. Again, as with every answer, it depends. If you're marketing for a very high-end audience, the kind of baseline it comes from a very high production value, glossy print, color interiors, custom graphics ... If that's your market place - I'm thinking brokers, high-end real estate, high end fashion - versus the end of those markets, the kind of high-volume low cost real estates or just more general fashion, then it might well be the case that that's just the cost of entry. You need to pay the extra because that's what the market expects and if you don't then you run the risk of falling below that threshold.
In those industries, the average conversion of a client is again lower volume but higher numbers, so the additional cost makes it worthwhile. For the majority of other people - so, probably the other 90% out there - it's usually not worth it because just by tripling the production cost, let alone the additional costs of having to pay for better quality images, pay license fees for images, again, the overhead - like the previous question of the other stuff in the book - all of that means that you can address a smaller market because the costs are higher, or your overall costs are going to go up.
Usually I'd say to people it's a distraction. The purpose of this type of engagement book is to be the start of the conversation. Again, I've said it time and time again: People fall in the trap ... I was just talking to Cathleen yesterday about a similar subject ... One of the psychological benefits of creating a book is that people see that we're a published author, that we have a book, and that has a certain amount of cache to it. The risk or the challenge is that we fall into the same trap as everyone else. We hear the word 'book', and we automatically think of a New York Times best seller or something printed by O'Reilly; a big thing that's got images and covers and cover jackets and all of these elements that are usually unnecessary in the context in which we're talking.
The aim here is to get the fastest, most efficient lead generation piece out there that helps identify visible prospects and start a conversation with them. Unless the market demands that you have to do those other steps, it's very inefficient and costly to take unnecessary action. If you can not do it - unless the market demands it or unless you've got an unlimited budget and it's not an issue - then usually I would suggest people that it's not worth it. Stick to black and white. Put all of that extra effort into the follow-up sequence.
Dean talks a lot about, "Does this effort make the book go faster?" Color versus black and white usually isn't going to make it go faster. That extra $1,000, $5,000, $10,000 worth of effort that you've put in to get to that stage is usually better spent further down the funnel engaging people, helping them to self-select, to sift and sort themselves as more interested versus less interested.
Let's crack on through a couple more of these. This ties into one of the earlier questions as well; I mentioned it. A few people asked, "I don't know whether my audience is too big or too small”. We talked quite a lot about targeting a single target market, make it as relevant as possible to those people, and not make it too broad because A, it's more effective in getting people to raise their hand in the context of a particular funnel, and B, it's easier to write because you've got the self-imposed discipline of being more specific.
A couple of things on whether it's too big or too small ... The aim is to answer 1 question as specifically as possible so the person who reads the book really gets value from it, and there's no kind of feeling of really a bait and switch type of thing of: you attract someone with a particular title, but then the context of the book is very generic and doesn't really answer anything. It's just to kind of puff piece on, "Look how good I am. I'm going to blurb out all of the things that I know and then come and work with me." To debate about whether the audience is too big or too small it comes down to the cost analysis of, "Okay, it's going to take me 100 unites of effort to do this book. Is that audience big enough to make it worthwhile. And really, below that you really just want to be as specific as possible.
Whether the audience is too big or too small really just comes down to the amount of effort that you have to put against doing it and the effectiveness of it. So, too big would be the way you've written a book, but from there it's very difficult to have a follow-up funnel because either it's a challenge to follow up with people because there might be too many groups of people, too many types of people. Going back to the dance studio example from earlier, if you might have had a book about dancing targetint everyone, the follow up sequence then if you're talking about a particular style of dancing or a particular group of people you were dancing, so ... Men versus women or kids versus adults, or classical dancing versus flamenco or, um, jazz dancing.
If it's' a general book talking about all of it, that follow-up sequence is difficult because you don't know who that target market is. That's generally the context for: is the audience too big? Is the audience too small is at the other ind of the spectrum, so looking back at your customers set or doing some market research, and if you're trying to target a book at underwater cake decorating, so I'll use one of Adele's examples. I do all the cake decorating for men over the age of 72, then obviously that target market is going to be absolutely tiny. A bit of an extreme example to illustrate the point, but it should only be 2 small, only be too small. Only be too targeted. If the group of people you can address with it doesn't really make it worth while, it's too specific. Then the customer needs to exercise at ways to benefit that you'll get from the potential audience that you come to.
Let's move onto titles. Someone asked a great question saying, "Recently I've seen a lot of one-word titles, but we talk quite often about descriptive titles that state a problem. Which is better? To be short or long?" This is an interesting one and it's a more broader copy writing concept. There was a classic line that's quoted a lot and I'm going to do 2 things: 1, misquote it and 2, not attribute it because I can't remember who said and I can't remember exactly what they said, but it was something along the lines of, "In a response to them, apologizes for the length of this reply. I didn't have time to make it shorter." What that's saying is the aim is to be as brief and succinct as possible while still communicating a powerful message. That's difficult to do very quickly. Often short titles that really hit the mark are often the results of a lot of thinking, a lot of back and forth to really dial in. The length itself - the number of characters in the title - doesn't really matter that much. What's important is the power of the words.
It sounds obvious, but it's quite often missed. This is the difference in a strategy versus the tactics. A tactic might be that shorter titles have some power to them, but just a short title by itself might not make sense. The strategy would be to have the fewest number of words that deliver the power of the message. Obviously that's more challenging to get to. At the end of the day, the aim of the title is to get people to pay attention and then raise their hand and start that journey of, "I have a challenge. This is something that's going to answer that challenge for me, therefor I want to request a copy of that."
If you can do it in few words, that's great. We were working with Fabienne Fredrickson recently and started off with a slightly longer title but ended up calling the book Leverage. Now, Leverage really hit the nail on the book itself and the funnel in which she was promoting it through, so although that was just one word, the power isn't necessarily in the fact that it was one word; the power was in the fact that it was the right word.
It's very difficult to say it should be longer or shorter. As long as it delivers the power of the message ... As someone's looking through titles on Amazon, as someone's reading the Facebook post that you put out, as someone's reading a AdWords ad you put out talking about, the thing that you want to do is hit an emotional trigger in that the heading and the subtitle allows them to raise their hands interested because they designate with that problem. Whether it's one word or whether it's 5 words, 5 words it's sometimes easier to get that message across because you can communicate more in 5 words than you can in one. But, if there is 1 word that really hits the nail on the head, then that often is a good choice as well. The warning that you've got there is don't try and be too clever or be too glib about it. Inside jokes are only funny to insiders, and the risk of them is that you exclude everyone that's not on the inside. You might come up with the cleverest title that you can think of, but if it doesn't mean anything to the people who are your close audience, then it's a waste of time. You might give yourself a pat on the back, but it's not going to be as effective as something more descriptive.
We're right upon the 30 minutes line, so we're going to draw a line under it with one last quick question. We've got a number more questions and if there's anything that you're thinking of that we haven't answered today, then definitely shoot an e-mail to us or hit us up on twitter and we'll add this to the next Q&A session. Dean and I want to do one soon, we're just trying to schedule one with Susan as well as well and hit a bigger Q&A session - probably do that next month, so if you do have any questions that we haven't answered yet, then just drop an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we'll add it to the list. I'm, as always, @MrStuartBell on twitter, so feel free to hit your question up there and I'll save that for the next show.
I'm just going to quickly finish on a brief one which we'll probably cover in a later show more in depth, but this one is something that someone had asked that I felt really summed up all the purpose of what we're trying to do, so they just asked, "What will a book do for my business?", and I think the tagline that we use on the website for the work that we do sums it up perfectly. You can make invisible prospects visible or the invisible leads visible, and I think that's really the key.
Offering someone a compelling piece of information so that they can raise their hands out of interest and allow you to start a conversation is really the key to a lot of what we do and one of the big benefits of your business. So, in a very quick and easy way, you can create something that you may not come across otherwise. A book seems like a very low-threat way of starting that conversation. Both in terms of the individual person who requests it also to kind of leverage it with other organizations. It might be challenging for you to go to someone - a kind of complimentary non-competing business and say, "Hey, I want you to advertise my business," but it's a lot easier to go to them with a book and say, "Hey, I think this books' going to add value to your customers. I'd love to give you 100 copies for you to give to your clients. Because you're really adding value for them. You're making it very easy to put your message out there to help you start a conversation with their audience because you're starting from a position of giving rather than asking.
You're giving them value. You're helping this complimentary organization deliver more value to their customers by sharing this book with them and you have the added benefit as we said before. If you have a way within the book to create off-line leads at well or leads from an offline source. Then it's very valuable other than just asking for something first; asking to advertise your business. Asking for someone to come into your office. A book is a great low commitment low threat way of starting a conversation and helping making what were invisible leads or invisible prospects visual.
I think we'll go into it in more detail sometime in a future show, but I think that was a nice way to end this one to think about what it could do for you. To think about how you can engage your potential audience, make those invisible prospects, invisible leads visible by giving something of value first before asking for something later.
So, there we go guys. I hope that answered some of your questions as well. Again, and if you have anything that we haven't covered in this show, then shoot us a message. We'll definitely get another Q&A show next month. I'm looking forward to speaking to everyone next week. Take care.