Guerrilla Intelligence A Books Value to a Consultant

The greatest value of your book is the exposure it provides and the additional opportunities that follow. Look at your book as a platform and use it to create consulting opportunities and new contacts.

consulting reports are dry, fact-filled analyses of an arcane problem that average nonfiction readers would find painful to read.

A winning book shares some characteristics with a winning consulting project. You must have a compelling idea, a new way of looking at an old problem, or a unique twist on a new issue. To determine whether you should write a book, answer these seven questions:

1. Do you have an idea that can fill a book? It may be easy to imagine that a single, critical idea could fill a book, but that's not always the case. Do you have something compelling to say that will fill an entire book: an idea, a process, a story, unique position, or a combination of those elements? Drafting a rough outline of the projected book's table of contents will help you see whether you've really got a book.

2. Do you enjoy writing? Some consultants get heartburn when it comes to writing reports and proposals. If you don't enjoy writing, you shouldn't try to write a book.

3. Are you willing to sharpen your writing skills? Publishers want books that are less formal and easier to read than most consulting reports. Most readers won't slog through dense prose—they look for information that is presented clearly and concisely. You may have to change your writing style to appeal to business readers.

4. Do you have the time and patience to master the details of preparing a book-length work? Because of their expertise, consultants are often afforded great respect in the client environment. In the world of traditional publishing, the consultant is just another author, not a guru who commands high fees. You'll need time and patience to master the ins and outs of the publishing world.

Realize that you'll spend considerable time finding and working with agents, lawyers, publicists, and others. Ask yourself if you have the time to write a book proposal, find an agent, endure contract negotiations, and undertake a long-term writing project.

Writing a book usually requires a juggling act as you try to balance consulting assignments, your family, and your writing. Before you get too deeply involved, set your priorities and understand that everything will take longer than you think. Estimate the time you think you'll need—then double it. Then expect delays.

5. Are you willing to write a detailed book proposal? You will need to write a book proposal that meets stringent specifications because most literary agents won't discuss your project without such a proposal (see the discussion later in this chapter). Your book proposal, which can be a lengthy document itself, requires a substantial commitment. When you spend time writing a book proposal, you'll incur opportunity costs—you could have devoted that time and effort to other marketing efforts.

A word of caution about book proposals is in order. Most consultants see the word proposal and believe they can knock one out quickly. A proposal is, after all, a routine activity for consultants. A book proposal is very different from a consulting proposal, so be sure to read up on how to prepare one. How to Write a Book Proposal, by literary agent Michael Larsen, is a good resource.

6. Are you willing to forcefully promote the book once it's published? Authors are responsible for promoting their books, so you must be willing to invest time, money, and energy in this activity as well as in writing. Some of the hardest work in the publishing process comes after a book is in print. If you want it to stay on bookstore shelves, you and your firm must be willing to pull out all the stops to promote the book, particularly in the first few weeks after publication.

7. Can you handle rejection? Many first-time authors make numerous attempts before finding an agent willing to support their book proposals. With patience, you'll develop a salable idea, but you may get a stack of rejection letters from agents before you find someone to help you sell your book to a publisher. It can be a humbling experience.

If you answered yes to at least most of these questions, you're ready to take on a book project. If you're unsure, consider first writing on a smaller scale and then moving on to beefier publications.

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