There is no formula for writing a book that works for everybody, although there are templates that tell you that a book should be X chapters, include a bonus chapter, contain these and those appendices, and each chapter should contain roughly 2,500 words, accumulating to a total of roughly forty to fifty thousand words.
What it comes down to is this: in writing a book, your job is to deliver your message in the least amount of words possible, not the most amount of words available. Yes, that’s right: the least amount of words possible. This doesn’t mean you have to skimp or take shortcuts or omit details.
Include everything that is NECESSARY.
If you can cut something and it doesn’t affect what you’re trying to say in your book, then it’s UNNECESSARY. It might be the greatest piece of writing ever. You may be sure it’s going to wow readers. Well, tough. If it doesn’t serve a purpose, your book doesn’t need it.
For example, you might have a particularly amusing anecdote. Ask yourself:
- are you telling this anecdote simply because it’s a nice story?
- are you telling this anecdote because it characterises some aspect of your business or imparts a lesson?
A book is as long as it needs to be to communicate its message. If that means it’s 10,000 words or 100,000 words, that’s fine. There’s NO set formula. Just say what you have to say. It’ll take as long as it has to take. Don’t feel short-changed if your book is shorter than others on the market. Consider The Go-Giver, by Bob Burg and John David Mann, which is only about 30,000 words but a global bestseller.
Here are some pointers worth considering …
Your message should be unique
If your book only exists so you can relay what other business and/or self-help gurus have suggested, then you have nothing original to say. Go away.
You are your own person. You have your own message, your own experiences, your own way of doing things. These other people might complement or support what you have to say, but your message should be truly your own. If it’s anybody else’s, then you may as well hand out a pamphlet recommending that other person’s book.
Make sure your book says what only you can say, that you wrote it because you were the only person qualified to write it, and nobody else could deliver the information you have.
What message are you trying to communicate?
What’s your book about? Make sure you have this clear in your head. A book about better business practices isn’t a memoir, although it might use real experiences to demonstrate those practices, whether successfully or unsuccessfully – as long as they have a point. Be clear on your message. Break down how you’re going to deliver that message. Outline it, if necessary, and what chapters will be dedicated to what components to deliver your message.
Cross-reference as little as possible
It’s not building anticipation if, in Chapter 1, you say, ‘In Chapter 7, we’ll discuss so and so’, and if in Chapter 2, you say, ‘But we’ll discuss this more in Chapter 6’. There might be a necessity for some cross-referencing, but limit this AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE. Too much cross-referencing is sloppy and confusing, and suggests that content is scattered haphazardly throughout the book, instead of self-contained to the chapters where it belongs.