Jacqui Pretty is the Founder of Grammar Factory, a Melbourne based publishing company that turns entrepreneurs into authors, and the author of Book Blueprint: How any entrepreneur can write an awesome book. She and her team have worked with over 100 authors, her ‘Book Blueprint’ system was named one of Australian Anthill’s Smart 100 innovations, and she has been featured on Business Insider, Flying Solo, Addicted2Success, MarketingProfs and more.
Here we get the low down from Jacqui on what writing a book can do for your biz and how anyone, no matter how far from being a writer you think you are, has the knowledge and the ability to write a kick ass book that gets noticed and add some serious boom town to your ability to influence the world.
OC: Share with us a little bit about your entrepreneurial journey and how it led you to starting a publishing company?
JP: I’ve always been a writer, but struggled to find a role that I loved in the corporate world. I kept throwing everything I had at a new role, which meant by the three-month mark I’d learned everything I needed and started to get bored!
After this had happened six times, I started to think that the jobs might not be the problem, so went to a family friend for some advice. He suggested I start a business.
OC: What’s your elevator tweet for the Grammar Factory?
JP: We turn entrepreneurs into authors!
OC: Why do you think entrepreneurs should write a book?
JP: Today, most of what we hear about marketing for small business is online. Blog! Get on Facebook! Use Snapchat! The problem is that everyone’s doing it.
Only 3% of people who want to write a book actually do it, which means that if you’re one of them you automatically stand out from everyone in your industry. If you write a good book, it’s also a huge credibility tool, and your readers associate the quality of your book with the types of products and services your business can provide. And it’s an immensely effective sales tool –your ideal clients can spend three or four hours engaging with your brand and getting a taste of the value you offer – which often means they’re presold when they contact you about working together. (I get so many people who don’t even contact other publishers because they’ve read my book.)
OC: Who can write a book, do you have to be professional writer first?
JP: Definitely not! We’ve worked with over 120 entrepreneurs now and only three of them had a writing background. What’s interesting is that the books written by the ‘writers’ needed just as much work as those written by the ‘non-writers’, because writing a book is very different to writing a blog post or article.
The thing you’ll need to keep in mind is that you’ll probably need more extensive editing to ensure your book’s the best it can be. Rather than just choosing an editor who’ll correct your spelling and grammar, look for someone who’s willing to pull your book apart and put it back together if it needs it. Look for someone who’s not afraid of cutting repetitive or irrelevant content, who can give concrete outlines for how you can fill any gaps in your book, and who’s happy to rework the language so everything flows.
(The best way to find the right editor is to request a sample edit – that way you can see the actual changes they would make in the editing process.)
OC: What types of books do you recommend entrepreneurs write?
JP: A how-to book is the best place to start for two reasons. First, your readers can immediately see the benefit of reading the book (e.g. a book about how to invest in property is obviously going to teach them how to invest in property, while a book about losing 20kg will teach them how to lose weight). Something like a memoir, on the other hand, doesn’t have a clear benefit for the reader (unless you’re Richard Branson or Oprah and everyone already wants to learn your secrets to success!).
The second reason is that how-to books have a very formulaic structure, which makes them easier to write for first-time authors. In fact, in my book Book Blueprint, I break every chapter down into three simple questions. Check out how: here
OC: What resources does it really take in terms of money, time + IP?
When it comes to IP, I recommend giving your idea a test drive with a mind map, where you put your main idea in the center of the page and then ask yourself, ‘How can my readers do this?’ and see how many second and third level ideas that question triggers. Ideally you want at least five level-two ideas, and each of those level-two ideas should have three level-three ideas branching off them.
OC: What are you top tips for an entrepreneur who doesn’t know where to start with writing their first book?
JP: Focus on finding the right idea before jumping into the writing process. I threw out two edited books because they weren’t a match for my business, so it can be an expensive and time-consuming exercise if you don’t get it right!
If you aren’t sure what to write about, find some people in your target market and ask them. What are their biggest business problems, or money problems, or relationship problems, or health problems? What are the major goals they want to achieve in those areas? And, if you could come up with a simple, step-by-step system for them to follow (that works) would they want it?
OC: Can you explain the differences between traditional publishing versus self publishing?
JP: It can be a bit confusing today with so many publishing companies out there, but the core difference is who pays for the book. If you are paying for the expenses involved in publishing (editing, design, printing, etc.) then it’s self-publishing, even if you have a company managing the process for you. The advantages of self-publishing are that you keep all rights to the book, you keep all profits once it starts to sell, you maintain creative control and it can get done a lot faster (6-12 months). The disadvantage is that it can be expensive, depending on who you work with.
Traditional publishing is when a publishing company covers all of the expenses involved in producing your book, and then pays you a royalty from the book sales (usually 5-15% of the price of the book). The advantage of traditional publishing is that it’s a lower-risk way to get started, as there’s no upfront cost, but the main disadvantage is that it takes a lot longer (usually two years) and there’s no guarantee you’ll get published at all, which could mean you lose years that you could have spent marketing and seeing the benefits of a self-published book.
OC: In your experience working with publishing entrepreneurs, what is the difference between a good book and an awesome one?
JP: An awesome book is one that gives readers value, builds your credibility and grows your business, while a good one could have great content and professional presentation, but it might not generate the business return you want.
To make it awesome, you need to do three things really well. First you need the right idea, one at the intersection of you (your knowledge and your passion), your readers (their wants and desires) and your business (what’s going to lead people from your book to your business?). Then you need it to be professionally produced – you can’t position yourself as a premium service provider if your book isn’t a premium product. Finally, you need to leverage the hell out of it – people won’t buy it and read it if they don’t know it exists!
OC: What are the biggest myths out there blocking entrepreneurs from publishing a book and how can we flip them on their head right now?
JP: Most of them are limiting beliefs, rather than myths. So ‘I can’t write a book because…’
- ‘I’m not a writer’
- ‘I don’t have the time’
- ‘Who am I to write a book?’
- ‘I don’t have enough experience’
- ‘What will they think of me?’
- ‘It’s been done before.’
- ‘I don’t know enough.’
- ‘It needs to be a masterpiece.’
- ‘It needs to change the world.’
Whatever it is for you, what I’ve found to be really useful is not telling yourself that you’re wrong, but simply finding a way to negotiate with that belief that makes writing a book more possible. So my big one was that my book needed to be a masterpiece – it wasn’t worth doing unless it could win a Nobel Prize. As you can imagine, that held me back for months – I didn’t want to write anything unless it was perfect. So I made a compromise – I said that it didn’t need to be perfect, it just needed to be decent. Decent was something I could work with. Decent could be improved with revisions and editing. And decent was far less intimidating than perfect, which meant I actually got started.
For more info on how to get started writing your own book, check out grammarfactory.com/awesome-book-guide, which has a range of free interviews, webinars, booklets and more to kick start your book writing journey! Boom!