I met up with Paul Avins, Award Winning business coach and speaker and author of Business SOS (see here) to talk about a new book idea he had.
The idea was this: to create a book of new business growth strategies with chapters written by different authors. We chatted through the concept for a while and then Paul said, “Oh, and we want the book to launch at the Business Wealth Club Open Days.”
“Which Open Days?” I asked, “You don’t mean the ones on 6th and 7th of September? That gives us…” I looked at iCal on my MacBookPro, “5 weeks.”
“That’s right. We’ll need about 250 books for those events” said Paul.
I took in a sharp draw of breath. “Ok” I said, “How many authors do you have in mind for the book?”
“About, say, 30, each contributing 1500 words or so” said Paul.
“And how many have we got in so far?” I asked.
“None” said Paul.
So we we were going to contact 30 busy experts and ask them to write 1500 words, send a biography and a photo. I was to design the concept, the cover and layout the book. We were then going to publish it and print 250 copies… all within 5 weeks.
Stress is a major component to heart disease and stomach ulcers. A book from nothing to published in 5 weeks? Dear reader, I certainly don’t want to cause you undue stress and tension in this article so I’ll relieve you now and put your mind, heart and stomach at rest by revealing up-front: we did it. Not only that, the result was, even in my biased opinion, startlingly brilliant.
Let me back-track a little bit first. A multi-author book? I probably grimaced when he first suggested it. Multi-author books are often the worst kind of self-published books. Why? Because they’re usually cobbled together because the organiser doesn’t have enough material of their own, the contributions are often rambling, irrelevant, disparate, of varying quality and often, well, pointless.
First of all, Paul wasn’t short of material. He’s got at least 7 books all backed up to be finished up and edited ready for publication. So that wasn’t the reason. What was it then?
The key was this. The secret of wealth acceleration is collaboration. Collaboration and Joint Venturing on a scale hitherto unrealised by most businesses. By pulling together 30+ experts into one place, Paul would not only have introduced them and their material to his own audience, he would have introduced each of them to each other. That was the key to why they would want to be involved. It was a win-win from the start for everyone.
Paul has nurtured a great network of business experts so we weren’t short. They were contacted and given a deadline of a week to produce their chapter. They all did it. It just shows what can be done when you set a goal with a deadline. And these are busy people we’re talking about here, from all over the world. In fact, we got too many chapters in, so had to hold back of a few for volume two.
I was more than satisfied that the content was going to work. The short punchy chapters were all on the ball. They were all on topic and fitted into a number of topic headings. Paul thought there would be seven of those.
“Make it six” I said.
I had two challenges to sort out. One of the other weaknesses of multi-author books are in how they portray the authors with respect to each other and to the organiser. Usually, no-one comes of well. I knew that each author had to be treated with equal respect. After all, we wanted them to be proud of the book too and to be able to use it to promote their own businesses. They couldn’t do that it it made them look subservient to Paul or each other. I was also conscious that Paul should be positioned as a key player too, not just someone with famous friends.
The solution was in the design of the chapters. We started each one with a strong biography and photo to position the expert’s credibility. Then Paul wrote a piece about the expert, how he had met and worked with them before. That way you knew there was a personal connection. Then the expert had four or six pages where I could clearly layout their content in a readable way, ending with a call to action or offer.
The other nice touch was to have Paul comment on each author’s material by having ‘post-it’ notes dotted around the book, drawing attention to certain paragraphs and giving an ‘interactive’ feel to the book. When you read it, it feels like a collaboration between the author, with Paul and with you. It feels like having a conversation, of being in the room with the experts. Paul also contributed his own chapter and introduction to the book.
The best bit about the book for me, and the bit I’m most proud of, is the way the design cements the concept of the book being ‘non-linear’. What do I mean by that? Let’s face it, few people will read this book from cover to cover, not initially anyway. Partly because the readership is going to be busy business owners and partly because not everyone will be interested in every strategy at the time they read the book. To put it another way: they’ll dip in and out, reading the bits they want to read in a random order. (I still prefer calling it ‘non-linear’ though).
So how do you enable this ‘non-linear’ reading in a book? I used two design strategies. The first is to design and layout the book more like a magazine than like a typical non-fiction book. People flick though a magazine and their eye catches things of interest. That’s why the headings are all nice and big and bold. The sections are clearly delineated and we have the tabs down the side to help with ‘flicking through’.
The second way is to use the contents page. That’s why I wanted six sections as a six-sided shape is a hexagon. I used the hexagon to create a neat non-linear, sort of mindmap type contents page. You can look at the contents diagram and quickly see, in one glance, which topic area you may be more interested in and then easily jump to that page. You don’t have to scan your eyes down an endless, boring list over a number of pages. The contents diagram lets you know that it’s ok to pick and choose which bits to read in the book.
For the cover we knew a few things: we didn’t want Paul’s image on the front (that could undermine the other authors use of the book too much). We did want movement, acceleration and speed. The image we chose works quite well (I coloured it purple to tie in with the Business Wealth Club colours). I created the title as a strong block. We want it to be punchy enough to become a brand. We thought hard about how to bill Paul on the front too. We knew we didn’t want multiple names on there, but it did need a name. We settled on ‘From the network of’ rather than billing Paul as editor, as he is a contributor too as well as overseer. It also helped re-enforce that these are his contacts, not a collection of unsolicited manuscripts that fell onto his desk. These are freshly commissioned articles, unique to this book.
We did it. A week to get the manuscripts in. Three weeks to design, layout and check. One week to print.
The book is about new economy strategies and contains 33 expert chapters. But the book ITSELF is a new economy strategy
As Paul says in his workshops and talks, “money follows speed” and for a book that has ‘accelerators’ in the title, you shouldn’t expect anything less.
You can get your copy of the book from Amazon here. Go on, have a look and see if you agree with me.
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Here are the names of the authors featured in the book: Leigh Ashton, Paul Avins, Sue Avins, Bill Belew, Kath Bonner-Dunham, Steve Brooks, Nick Carlile, Marie-Claire Carlyle, Kim Castle & W. Vito Motone, Steve Catchick, Michelle Clarke, Ron Davies, MarcusDe Maria, Bernie De Souza, Gary Fox, Alan French, Dave Griffin, Nick Griffith, Andrew Griffiths, Dave Holland, Ron Holland, Gavin Holmes, Ayd Instone, Jeff Lermer, Joanna Martin, Daniel Priestley, Andrew Roberts, Peter Thomson, Simon Wallace-Jones, Daniel Wagner, Simon K Williams, Simon Zutshi