Is writing a business book on your task list?
Rachel Extance, of Micro Business Inspo interviews Susanna Reay on how she went from idea to publication of her business book The Introvert Way™ Roadmap in just 45 days!
Imagine having your business book in your hands in 6 weeks’ time.
In the interview, we talk about:
- How I structured my book
- Figuring out what you want your business book to look like and what you want it to do
- Self-publishing a business book
- How I launched the book and got reviews
- What lessons I have learned for my next book
If you prefer reading to watching, here's the edited transcript of our conversation about 'Writing A Business Book In Just 45 Days'
This week on Micro Business Inspo, I am speaking to Susanna Reay, who is a business coach working with introverted business owners. And we’re talking today because Susanna has published a book and she wrote it in just 45 days.
From coming up with the idea over the summer to actually getting it published, I think it was in September. Just six weeks, which is fantastic.
It’s one of those things that, you know, we’re always told, raises your authority is to write a book. I thought it’d be great idea to get Susanna onto the show and ask her how she went about it.
Please introduce yourself
Susanna Reay; I’ve been working online a very long time! When I think about the first time I started working online, it was back in 2006. So it’s been a long time.
Since 2015, I’ve been focusing on supporting introverted coaches, consultants, service-based business owners basically set up and sell their expertise online.
How can you package your knowledge up to make it work for you, for your business, so you can scale your income and also earn your true worth.
A lot of us aren’t very good about getting our prices right, so that comes into the trainings.
Rachel Extance: You know, and this is one of the things where the online business, it’s so easy to look around at what everybody else is doing and go, oh, I need to go in with the need to be the lowest bidder, rather than actually thinking about all the value that we have. And one of the parts of that is learning to monetise your knowledge, your experience, isn’t it.
How to write a business book in 45 days
Why did you decide to write this book, what was it's purpose?
Susanna Reay: I would probably say the idea of writing a book had been inside me for about three years.
And it’s one of these things that I think that when you’re thinking about what should be the purpose of the book, you do need an absolute purpose and an idea.
And I think it’s why I wrote it very fast, but it also got to the point when suddenly everything sort of came together, locked together and went now I have a purpose. I know what I want the focus of the book to be.
Because I knew, yes it did take 45 days, but there was a lot of writing time in that. And I think it’s before I had too many ideas and my head was actually, you know, thinking it more had to be a tome like War And Peace rather than being really specific.
And it was earlier in this year when it suddenly occurred to me, actually, what my audience wants, what they really need, they do need a roadmap.
And so the whole idea of the book came and it started as being like, maybe this could just be a graphic, a simple download as everyone will know the term, a lead magnet, I thought, right, I could just do that for my audience because I know everyone asks, well, what should I do when.
But then in creating the graphic, which is where it all started with a roadmap of what to do when – I then realised actually I needed to give some depth and the reasoning and the bigger why behind it, because also my audience loves to know the bigger why.
They don’t want to just be told to do something. They want to know why you do it so it gives them the motivation to actually do it.
When I started writing my business book and expanding the roadmap, I saw that it had lots of different sections and there was short titles initially and these maybe needed to be given more depth into each of these sections.
So that naturally expanded into something that was far bigger than a simple download.
And then I felt I needed to bring the values, the philosophies around The Introvert Way™ into the book. These I've developed and gathered along the last 20 years, especially since 2015, of how you can create your own business route in a certain way.
I call it The Introvert Way™, that’s trademarked to my business.
The Introvert Way™ reflects that we think first, starting with your inner thoughts, being reflective first. Then working out what actions are aligned to your business. Only then you can come out and take the actions needed to grow. - Susanna Reay
This doesn’t mean if you’re extroverted and you’re listening, you can’t follow this route because absolutely you might find that those standard more extroverted ways of doing things don’t always sit you. They might some of the time, but some of the other time you don’t.
Writing the business book was bringing all these ideas together and I thought this is what the book needs to be about:
- It needs to be actually concise, not too big, not too thick.
- I wanted it to be an easy read as well, something that people would actually read.
I don’t know about you, but the number of business books I’ve bought and only read the first third, because then life’s taken over and I wanted this to be a book that people would actually read in the whole entirety, but also be a bit of a workbook that people can come back and dip back into when they needed at different points on their journey.
Rachel Extance: There’s so much in what you’ve just said. That’s absolutely brilliant.
One of the things that struck me about it was you started off with trying to boil things down effectively to a template, to a visual guide.
And one of the things that people often struggle with when they’re trying to think about how to write is that they feel like they need to throw the kitchen sink at it. They come up with all of these different ideas that they’re putting together and it ends up in this kind of melting pot. Whereas you started off by distilling down.
Susanna Reay: Yeah, very much so. And it just reminded me of a quote that I’ve just pulled up that I absolutely love. It’s actually by a jazz composer, and he said,
Making the simple complicated is commonplace; but making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.- Charles Mingus, Jazz Composer
And I love that quote because it is about the more creative you are. The, you can actually simplify things. And these days that’s actually what we’re all aiming for in our businesses.
Our life, we want simple.
I mean, the world is so complex, but we go into overwhelm and I didn’t want to add to the overwhelm. So it was about that simplification and for myself being a graphic artist, that was my first profession, is that’s the key to being a designer is you take complex and very open briefs and you bring it down to something that’s useful, practical well-designed it looks nice that people want to pick up and use.
So my design background really started shining through and it was through this process that I realised I was harping back to my sort of integrative design thinking philosophies.
Rachel Extance: So you were able to bring in those other bits of, of knowledge and experience into something which people might think was unrelated, but you could, you could draw on that.
Susanna Reay: Yeah. You need to know when your past experiences come in again and so never forget about them.
Could you picture your book visually then?
Rachel Extance: Were you able to go right, there’s going to be this bit over here and then this bit here and then this.
Susanna Reay: I definitely did.
And it’s something I know I’d heard in the past from people who talk about how to write a book in the sense of it’s called create a wire frame or your menu, your table of contents. And I definitely did have that in place. And it was actually the graphic that created that initially for me. Because the graphic is actually set into three pillars and four growth sections.
So within the graphic, you’ve got a three by four grid that you’re working on. It gave natural chapters and things to work on. So that is why the graphic actually really helped me think "there’s a book in this", and that actually is a really nice way for the user to look at it and go, that’s where I am and that’s what I can need.
So writing the business book started with the graphic.
Top Tip Alert!
And then, and I think this is something that’s probably quite important to share is when you write a book, you don’t start at the start. I actually started with the second half and then wrote the first half and then sort of tweaked the introduction, which I kind of had. So it’s not a linear journey when you’re writing the book.
Rachel Extance: And this is one of the things that I think that, that applies to pretty much anything that you’re writing is.
So often people think you know, because you’re obviously in school, it’s just like, start with your introduction and you must write your title, then you must want your introduction. And it’s saying to people actually, if you’ve got a really good idea for this piece over there, right that bit over there, because that’s going to get you started.
That means that you’re no longer going I’ve got this huge wall to to overcome. You’ve actually gone past that blank page. You’ve got something down on paper that you can do, start to finish 45 days.
Business book outline
Rachel Extance: Is that the point where you woke up one morning and went, right, this is a book and we’re starting now? Did you start putting the book together once you’d come up with the roadmap, your graphic?
Susanna Reay: Pretty much, actually! It did flow very fast into that. It was also because when I started writing, I found myself saying, ‘I need to clarify this’.
One of the things, and I know most people won’t write books in the way I have, but maybe if you’re more visual, you might do it this way... but I actually went straight into the page layout software to write. I’m on a Mac, so I use the Pages app to actually write the book, and design the graphics as well within it.
So as I was writing it out and then I was adding pages, that’s where I started seeing it grow and grow and grow. But what it also meant is I was naturally formatting and laying out the book along the way.
Once I'd decided this is going to be a published business book, that I realised it would save me time writing the business book directly in the right format. It was at that point I decided to self-publish the book on Amazon, through KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing).
KDP have got so many help documents. You can download templates, whether it’s for Pages, Word, whatever it is that you use, and you can choose your book size. So actually from an early stage, I was like, I’m going to make this the standard book size, I knew it could go across all marketplaces, which is a six by nine inch format that also converts into hardback easily. There’s many sizes but they’re not all so uniformly able to be published globally because the common book printing press is six by nine.
To begin with, I had everything formatted as A4 as it was going to be a download in terms of a PDF. Once I decided this project is going to be a published book, I had to then change from A4 formatting into a six by nine book.
The moment I changed the template I was saying, "Wow, I’m already up to 50 pages.This is a book!" And I was only a third of the way through what I wanted to share.
I also realised, because I have a huge love of colour, that I didn’t want this just to be printed out black and white on someone’s printer. And I wanted it to be used and to look nice. And actually the cost of producing and creating a book now is so budget friendly for people and you get something that can sit on your bookshelf and you can refer to so all those things.
And again, this is my design brain coming in and asking, "How would I want to consume this information?"
And at that point, I thought actually I’d want it on my desk because I realised I love Kindle books, but Kindle fiction books. Whenever it comes to a business book, I buy the paperback. And so that sort of was a revelation moment in my head.
This needs to be a paperback because I spoke to a lot of my friends, colleagues, audience, and they’re all like, "yeah, I love buying paperbacks - my business bookcase is big". My fiction bookcase, not so big because people are more happy in the digital space with that because you don’t have graphs and tables in a fiction book in the same way you do as a business book.
Rachel Extance: And also there are things that you want to go back and read back over or check.
I’m listening to a business book at the moment. And I was listening to it in the car. And as I was driving down the motorway, the authors had something and I was like, that’s brilliant. But I was driving down the motorway and I couldn’t do anything about it. And then I had to try to go back and try to find it again.
Obviously with a book, it’s a lot easier. You can go right I was on this, I was in this chapter. I was about here. Put a bookmark in or post-it note. So yes, it’s it is that tactile thing, isn’t it you’re learning from it. You’re using it.
I thought it was really interesting the way that your designer brain kicked in there. And I’m thinking about people who maybe aren’t designers or might’ve listened to all of that and went, "Oh my goodness, I’ve gone from writing a book to how to publish it, to thinking about the design of it."
And I just thought, you know, let’s just slow down and unpack that a bit.
So one of the things I thought was very interesting was that we often we think about A4 and I think people can be quite surprised about how many words you actually put on an A4 page.
And then when you think about a paperback actually, it’s that (6x9) instead of that (A4). So, what would be your advice to somebody when they are getting started? Would it be set up in a word layout document?
What would be your advice to somebody when they are getting started?
Susanna Reay: I would, because even if you’ve got Word and you’re not going to design it, you can hand it over to somebody who will do the layout for you. In Word, in the same way you can brain dump, you can set up your page size.
So I would say, have a look at the books around you and think "What is the size I dream of my book looking like, what do I want to see?" Then take a look and see how many pages that book has. What appeals to you?
One of the things I did is I looked at Phil M Jones' books; he writes sales business books. His books are tiny, actually. And in fact, I’ve got one here. I’ll show you if watching on the video.
I looked at his book and his is bestselling, like millions of these books have gone out. He’s got three now. But they’re quite little.
Rachel Extance: They’re brilliant.
Susanna Reay: They are, but they’re only seven by five inches. They’re smaller than mine and they’re not that thick.
Here is my book, so I’ve got the two side-by-side here, and I looked at his and went what he’s done really well. Can you see how much smaller it is? Mine’s at six by nine, which I went for as it's a standard size, but I know sort of having read the reviews of his books, people didn’t go, oh, it’s too small. It’s too short. And it’s so it’s very small only 132 pages as well. Plus a lot of the pages don’t have much text on either.
How long should a business book be?
At this point I realised book size doesn't matter! I started moving away from the advice I had heard focusing on how many words make a book, and instead focused on the book’s purpose and focus.
As long as you meet that purpose and you’re meeting the mission of your book, the word count doesn’t really matter.
And for me, I was more going, I want to make it over a hundred pages and this was really because you want a certain depth to make the spine work as well.
You don’t want it to feel like a pamphlet. You want it to feel like a book.
And this is where, when I was looking at other books and thought, "I know with the smaller books I read the whole thing".
Even if you’re not a designer having listened to this, I would say absolutely start in Word and then you can see easily how the book is progressing.
I recommend having a focus of one point per page as well, so it’s easy to digest.
If you’re like me, a business owner with an online presence, you’ll know that you don’t want to overflow too much material in one go.
My book ended up being a nice concise 15,000 words over 122 pages.
Very doable in 45 days!
Stepping away from the scary advice of how big should a book "should" be? Quite often you hear 40,000, 50,000 words, and that just feels scary. Right?
You’re like, "how can I write that amount?"
Can you share your process of writing a business book?
I wrote the book over the summer. And I’ve got kids, but they’re teenagers, so they stay in bed till quite late, leaving very quiet mornings.
So what I would do is I’d get up and I’ve always, and again, I think this is part of me being introverted I wake up with lots of ideas in my head. It’s like my brain’s processed overnight. I would just come straight to the computer, often still in my pyjamas, and just start writing.
What I also found when writing, is that I’ve actually got half another book written, because what I would be doing is sitting down at the computer and letting my fingers run wild as I brain dumped my ideas. Writing out everything which included things that weren’t relevant to this book that I thought that is still relevant for a future book with a slightly different focus, a more granular focus.
So I created a second document and in that second document, I then just copied and pasted that extra text into the other place. So it’s still held the ideas are still good.
I was being really strict with myself to stay on target with The Introvert Way™ Roadmap's focus. I could’ve made this book double the size, but I don’t think that would have been better for the reader.
Rachel Extance: And that’s a really important point. There were two things there;
1) I love the advice: one point per page. I think that’s a really good thing for people to look at and go, have I got one thing on this page or have I got three or five or you know, have I explained this well enough?
2) It sounds like you were good at editing yourself as you went along. You were able to look at what you’d written and say, this doesn’t fit here, or that’s a good point, but actually it isn’t moving the reader forward with where I am now. I’m going to take that bit out and I’m going to put it over here and save it. And you know, I love that you saved it and you didn’t say "Oh, that’s no good. I’m just going to delete it", because then you find yourself reinventing the wheel, don’t you?
Did you set yourself a target each day or did you just see how it would go?
Susanna Reay: I didn’t set a target, I went with the natural flow and as I got into it, I found about two hours a day was about right, because that was about the amount that would just sort of pour out, be there.
And then what I would do is most days step away; have breakfast, get the kids out of bed, do everyday life as well, because this is when the kids were on their summer holidays.
But then later in the afternoon I would come back and revisit what I’d written in the morning and think, does that make sense?
So I was doing a bit of editing along the way. But I also got editing help when I got it to a certain point to make sure: does this make sense?
Because we all know when we write ourselves, it makes sense to us because you fill in all those missing gaps when you’re reading your work yourself, because you know the backstory, you know the history.
So yes, I was doing some editing, but it was super important to have an external pair of eyes come and look at it and go, yeah, ‘what did you mean here?’ Or that sentence is like six lines long. It needs to be broken up because it really was like verbal diarrhoea onto the page!
This was only possible because I’d been thinking, and working, and operating, and helping clients in this space for several years. I'd been living the knowledge I was now sharing by writing a business book.
And I’d got to the point through the online courses I'd created. When you create courses, you also need a system and a logic to share your wisdom.
Every lesson needs to have a point and an action. So a lot of my course creation background also helped feed into being able to write the book.
And I think this is one of the things as well is you get to a point where you go, yes, the time is right for me. I think some people can try and write books maybe too far in advance. If they haven’t got an established methodology, it could be a bit more awkward. So I think it’s about knowing yourself as what you have to share as well.
Rachel Extance: Yes. And that’s a really helpful way of thinking about it as well - that when you are putting together a book think about it like a course.
- See that you’re moving somebody through information.
- You’re going to have some kind of bigger picture thinking things, and then you’re going to have some more specific things.
- And what are their wins, particularly with a business book, somebody’s reading it because they want to do something, they want to achieve something.
- So thinking about: What is your reader going to get out of it?
Was this all on your book roadmap originally? Or did you, during editing ask, 'How would I complete that loop' for somebody?
Susanna Reay: I think that came as part of the editing actually at the end.
Because I had the roadmap laid out and I knew what the various wins were along the way, my course creator experience came in handy and I was then going back in the editing my work naturally on the fly.
I do have, at various points in the book, mini exercises that I suggest people do, because I know if they haven’t done that, it’s hard to get to the next stage.
But what I also did, being a business book in the digital era, is create an interactive digital version of The Introvert Way™ Roadmap.
This is printable, downloadable resources that go along with it so anyone who purchases the paperback can also access the digital copy and actually A4 printable worksheets for some of the things inside because again, I was very aware that actually we print on A4 paper at home and so just having the PDF of the book to be able to print means everything stays really teeny. Whereas when you start handwriting, you need things bigger. So I, do a lot of call-outs as well, I’ve got free resources on my website.
I’ve got paid training courses that can take people deeper, but then people can pick and choose what they need and when they need it. So there’s a lot of integration with my online training mentioned inside the book.
This is something that I’d seen in other business books and really liked. So again, it’s about thinking, researching, what do you like and how do you want your book to be.
Some business books read more like a novel, which can be great for certain areas. But I knew I didn’t actually want mine to read like a novel. I wanted it to be more workbook focused and really share the tips.
It’s a no fluff book.
Many of my reviews on Amazon reflect that, it's clear, concise, no-nonsense approach. You can just get into it, get it done.
And this validates my initial goal of having it very readable, easy to consume. Most people tell me they read The Introvert Way™ Roadmap in under an hour and then come back and refer to it.
So until I put it to a wider market place, I wasn't sure that I'd hit my goal of keeping it short and sweet, which more than ever what people are looking for these days.
Rachel Extance: You’ve shared loads of practical tips there;
- about having a clear view of the different elements of your book,
- about the one thing per page,
- thinking about it like a course,
- how you’re going to teach somebody, what you want them to be able to get out of it at the end of it.
- And then knowing what kind of a book you are trying to create,
- what you liked from other things.
Those are really, really helpful for people.
How did you launch your book?
Susanna Reay: Before I published the book physically on Amazon, I set up a book launch team, reaching out to my existing followers. I started off with a few people who were closer in my network and I shared the PDF.
The plan was to get some initial reviews and testimonials back, and that was then really important to then help with the launch promotional material.
I put a call out to my subscriber list and asked, 'Hey, who would want to be part of my launch team in return for a free copy? You will then read it, give a review on a specific launch date'.
Calling out to my audience was the best way with the launch. And that’s where I ended up with I think I had about 50 on my launch team at the end and all over the world as well.
One of the things I did learn is, the majority of my audience is in the UK. So it’s on amazon.co.uk where the majority of the views are published. 24 that are written up at the time of this recording, but my readers in the States, their reviews are on amazon.com.
I’ve got a review on Amazon.es in Spain, Amazon.de in Germany, amazon.it, but they’re just single reviews. For some reason, Amazon does not pull all the reviews into each book page, maybe they'll amalgamate over time. Who knows? I don't!
I also learnt, you can only review a book where your local Amazon is. So that was a huge learning point.
This made me reach out to my launch team and also request reviews on an international book review site: Amazon actually owns a book review site called GoodReads. And anyone anywhere in the world can review a book and say, this is the book I’m looking at.
It was halfway through the launch week where suddenly, like when I was getting these messages from my launch team going, 'Amazon’s not letting me review it! I can’t go in and review it!'
You also have to have a minimum spend to make a review on Amazon. Who knew? But on Good Reads you don’t. People can just go and share their reviews‘.
So it’s been a huge learning curve, but I very much did a soft launch in terms of my audience first and my plans moving forward include recording an Audible Book. I hear a lot of people like to have both versions. They’d like to listen and then like having a physical copy. And then with that, I think I would go more into a full book launch.
I’ve now got endorsements now for the book from fellow introvert writers like Matthew Pollard, which are shown on the book cover. With a different version launch I would reach out for more endorsements as all these things will help grow sales and create a bigger launch.
Rachel Extance: You’ve shared so much value here Susanna. Thank you ever so much.
One last question, you said you got a second book from what you’ve learned from doing your first book.
What are you going to take forward to the second book? What would you do differently, or would you lean into?
Susanna Reay: I think I would definitely, in the same way as before, give myself a focused six weeks or 45 days block of time.
I really liked that in terms of a creation because, and actually over the summer, I was thinking to myself, I’ll do this again next summer, because what I tend to do in my work every August, I don’t do any client work. I purposely have it as more inward time so I’m not being distracted by other people’s stories. That really helped writing the book.
I think actually clearing out and maybe I’ll clear out six whole weeks to do that because the next book is probably going to be slightly bigger because of what’s going on in my head.
I think for a second book, I would actually allow far more time and do a proper launch.
And what that would mean is actually you still create a launch team, but rather than doing it in a very tight timeframe of just a couple of weeks, expand this to the general recommendations of taking a six month time span or runway for what I did in two weeks!
It would be looking at making it go further and wider, but I think you always have to if you’re going to get into books and writing books, I think it’s great just to get started and just get it out there and not get hung up on yourself.
But I have no regrets for how I did it this time round, as it was better for me to just do it and get it out there rather than now going with my perfectionism ‘oh, now I need to like launch it properly’ and it’d be another six months... because I’m a bit impatient as well! I was like, I’ve done it now. I want it out there and it’s great because now I’ve got something as well to talk about and people can really get what I’m doing to help other people.
Rachel Extance: That’s great. Susanna, where can people find out more about you?
Susanna Reay: Best place is my website, which is susannareay.com. And across all the socials my handle is my name. So it’s @susannareay. So Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook are the main places as well that I hang out, but you can find me occasionally on Twitter.
Rachel Extance: That’s great. Thank you. And I’ll make sure those links are in the write up. Thank you very much for joining me.
Note: This article is a reflection of Rachel Extance's original article here, and posted with permission. Do check out her other blogs!