How To Write an Expert Book
I began my professional career as a teacher of English at the high school level. Prior to that, I taught a first-year English course at the University of Western Ontario, while I was studying for my Master’s degree in English Literature.
As a university and high school instructor, I had a great many students approach me for help with their essay assignments. I would always begin by asking them what their essay was about. “Forget about writing it,” I would tell my students. “Just tell me your essay.”
The response was, invariably, awkward silence.
“Perhaps,” I would say, “you are having trouble writing your essay because you have no idea what it is about.”
The single, most important piece of advice that I can give to anybody who is trying to write anything is – make sure you know what it is about before you try to write it.
If you are considering writing an “expert” book yourself, make sure that you can “tell” your book either to yourself or to someone else “out loud” – just as if you were explaining it to the person seated beside you on a train.
If you can’t do that, it could well be a sign that you need someone to help draw the information for your book out of your head and get it down on paper.
That is the role of a ghostwriter. A ghostwriter is, or certainly should be, a competent interviewer, especially if you have a body of knowledge in your head, but have trouble organizing and/or articulating it.
Ways to “Write” an “Expert” Book
There are a number of ways to “write” an “expert” book, but the following are among the most common:
1) Write it yourself either at the keyboard or longhand – yes, some authors still write longhand.
2) Record your book, section-by-section, and then have the recording transcribed, edited and published in book form. (There are many ways to do this, including using a digital recording device or an “old-fashioned” tape recorder, as well as online services such as Audio Acrobat (www.audioacrobat.com). On a personal note, for my first book, Don’t Let Your Dream Business Turn Into a Nightmare: A Cautionary Tale for Would-be Entrepreneurs, (www.mybusinessnightmare.com) I experimented with a voice-recognition software program in an effort to bypass the writing, editing and transcription stages altogether. However, I found the software slow and inaccurate, and I soon abandoned it. A service such as Audio Acrobat can be very helpful, however, for anyone who is really more comfortable speaking than writing. Audio Acrobat allows you record an MP3 file, using your computer or phone, which can then be transcribed, edited or reworked and published in book form.)
3) Have someone else to interview you, record and transcribe the interviews, then either edit and publish them in the form of a book yourself or rework them in book form yourself. Michael Levin, whom I respect, suggests having your spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend, a college student or someone in your organization interview you for your book. If I may say, I think this is a terrible idea. In my experience, interviewing is a skill that is developed by repeatedly doing it and not one which can be readily taught to a complete novice within any reasonable length of time. If you choose to go the interview route, I would recommend hiring an experienced, professional interviewer to help you extract the information for your book, which you will, in turn, use as the raw material for your book.
4) Hire a professional ghostwriter to write your entire “expert” book for you. And, if you do choose to have someone write your book for you, make sure that person is an experienced interviewer. I always tell my prospective clients that ghostwriting is 50% interviewing skills and 50% writing skills. I also remind them that we are no longer in high school, and hiring a ghostwriter to create an “expert” book for you based upon your knowledge and experience is not cheating. It is simply a good business practice.
Keep It Simple
Whether you write your “expert” book yourself or hire a ghostwriter to write it for you, keep it simple.
Gregg Habstritt reminds us that “it’s a complicated world and we want to be the source of simple but powerful results for our clients.”
Your “expert” book is your opportunity to showcase the experience, knowledge, wisdom, insight and perspective which you have – and which enable you to solve the problem or problems which keep your readers up at night.
There is nothing more impressive than a simple solution to a complex problem.
Simplicity is, as the late, great Steve Jobs suggested, ‘the ultimate sophistication”.