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How Not to Write a Business Book

Jun 25, 2008
While it would take a much longer article to describe all of the things I tried that didn't work in writing a book, it's worth noting some of the many mistakes I made that others might see as opportunities to make faster progress.

Hopefully, others will avoid these pitfalls in similar projects. Here's an example: Many public speakers will tell you that you can simply dictate 10 hours worth of material onto a tape and then hire a writer for very little money who will turn that material into a finished book. Perhaps that's the case if your message is about your humble beginnings and how positive thinking made you a success.

I tried that approach for several book ideas. In each case, I found an intelligent, hard-working person who wrote much better than I do. I armed the writers with an outline for a book and invited the writers to interview me until he or she had enough material. We recorded those interviews and had them transcribed. The writers even got a floppy disk of the transcribed material so they could simply edit the interviews if that was enough for them.

M talented collaborators did their best. They worked hard. They wrote lots of material. They asked lots of good questions. But they could not produce manuscripts that captured the essence of what we wanted to describe. I devoted long and painful hours to the process, and these collaborations just didn't work. It became obvious that I could write the material faster than I could explain it to someone else who would then do the writing.

When people first learn about the project to accelerate all forms of improvements by 20 times, they often have a reaction like Peter Drucker's: Some smart CEO will want to take this perspective and gain enormous advantages by permeating his or her company with these practices.

I spent many years writing to CEOs who had such reputations, visiting CEOs we knew who had that orientation, and making presentations to senior officer groups. I remember one such visit when I felt very confident that we would get the go ahead.

To ease matters, I offered to do the work for no fee. That offer only gained me the reaction that each person in the room would rather go home five minutes earlier every night than spend even five minutes on learning and employing the problem-solving practices we had created.

Why? I'm sure the answer varied from organization to organization that turned us down. Our general impression was that people were overworked and fearful of losing their jobs. The continual downsizing of American organizations had been going on for some time, and there weren't many people left who did anything other than run from fighting one fire to putting out another one.

A little known fact was that many of the executives who had great reputations for installing new ideas were mostly doing so after these ideas had been around for 20 or 30 years. In addition, executive pay had reached the moon. Due to a combination of more emphasis on stock options and larger performance bonus opportunities, a senior management group could earn more in five years than a similar group would have earned in a lifetime two decades earlier.

Most executives didn't plan to stick around any longer than it took to cash out with their big payday. Something like this project required people who wanted to enjoy improvements for many years to come.

Marketing-oriented people will tell you that you can sell any idea to the media. Just write press releases; follow up with writers, editors, and producers; and you will be overwhelmed with demand for your idea. That wasn't my experience. Fearing that we had gone about it in the wrong way, we sought help in pursuing this path.

Marketers of ideas seemed underwhelmed by our project. One organization is considered to be unbeatable in this area. I spent months making daily telephone calls trying to get someone to speak with us. Finally, a sales representative from that organization called me back to say that they were very busy but that the CEO of the organization had agreed to discuss the project for 15 minutes by telephone three months in the future. Okay.

On the appointed day, there was a snowstorm in the CEO's town. The CEO didn't make it to the office in time for our scheduled call. I tried for the next six months to reschedule. O never got another slot. And that was one of the more promising leads I had for marketing and writing help.
About the Author
Donald Mitchell is an author of seven books including Adventures of an Optimist, The 2,000 Percent Squared Solution, The 2,000 Percent Solution, The 2,000 Percent Solution Workbook, The Irresistible Growth Enterprise, and The Ultimate Competitive Advantage. Read about creating breakthroughs through 2,000 percent solutions and receive tips by e-mail by registering for free at

http://www.2000percentsolution.com .
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