5 Reasons You Should Write a Book Now

I’ve probably told you this before, but so what? When did I ever learn anything from hearing it just once? Listen up, and absorb what resonates with you–and act on it:

  1. Credential. If you become an author, you become an authority. Notice “author” in the word “authority”? If you are an author, you are automagically an authority on your topic. So then whether or not you have a PhD, whether or not you have a knock-’em-dead resumé, whether or not you are skinny and beautiful–you are now an author, almost a law unto yourself. If you are service professional–a coach, a consultant, an attorney, a health professional–you are now a (coach, consultant, attorney, massage therapist, chiropractor) with a book.
  2. Effective. It’s a good use of your time and money–and it uses much less of either than you imagine. Most people think that writing a book takes a long time, and publishing it is expensive. But actually, if you follow just a few simple rules, it’s fast. And inexpensive. Much less expensive than building a fancy website or printing an impressive brochure.
  3. Growth. There is nothing like writing a book to teach you your strengths, to inform you about your gifts, and to confirm to you what you really know. When you think through your professional approach, you will be able to speak about it with confidence, and you will have a renewed and profound sense of your destiny. (Really!)
  4. It’s a product. Your book is not only a “big business card,” it is something you can sell. When a big company invites you to speak to their 100 sales professionals for your speaking fee, you can say, “Would you like to buy a copy of my book for each of the attendees? For an audience this size, it will only be $10 a copy, instead of the $15 it costs on Amazon.” An additional $1000 for you, for $200 in costs.
  5. Fulfillment. You’ve always wanted to write a book, and with good reason. And now’s the right time.

I am testing my course on how to write a good book quickly. For the next few days, it is free. No cost. If you want to check it out, click here.

It’s time. Write your book now!

Comma, comma, comma, comma, com-comma

James Taylor

James Taylor

(My goofy title is an allusion to the first line of “Handy Man,” of which Wikipedia says: “Handy Man” is a rock and roll song credited to singer Jimmy Jones and songwriter Otis Blackwell. It was originally recorded by The Sparks Of Rhythm, a group Jones had been a member of when he wrote it, although he was not with them when they recorded it. In 1959, Jones recorded the song himself, in a version which had been reworked by Blackwell [1], who also produced the session. “Handy Man”went to number three on the R&B charts and number two on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1960, becoming a million seller [1]. The song was a hit again in 1964 for Del Shannon and again for James Taylor in 1977. Taylor’s version of the song was the most successful, peaking at #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and topping the adult contemporary chart [2].})

I’m a fair grammarian, but this NY Times piece taught me a lot. Here’s a snippet:

The Most Comma Mistakes

As I noted in my earlier article, rules and conventions about when to use and not to use commas are legion. But certain errors keep popping up. Here are a few of them.

Identification Crisis. 
If I’ve seen it once, I’ve seen it a thousand times. I’m referring to a student’s writing a sentence like:

I went to see the movie, “Midnight in Paris” with my friend, Jessie.

Comma after “movie,” comma after “friend” and, sometimes, comma after “Paris” as well. None is correct — unless “Midnight in Paris” is the only movie in the world and Jessie is the writer’s only friend. Otherwise, the punctuation should be:
I went to see the movie “Midnight in Paris” with my friend Jessie.

If that seems wrong or weird or anything short of clearly right, bear with me a minute and take a look at another correct sentence:

I went to see Woody Allen’s latest movie, “Midnight in Paris,” with my oldest friend, Jessie.

You need a comma after “movie” because this and only this is Mr. Allen’s newest movie in theaters, and before “Jessie” because she and only she is the writer’s oldest friend.

The syntactical situation I’m talking about is identifier-name. The basic idea is that if the name (in the above example, “Jessie”) is the only thing in the world described by the identifier (“my oldest friend”), use a comma before the name (and after it as well, unless you’ve come to the end of the sentence). If not, don’t use any commas.

Grammatically, there are various ways of describing what’s going on. One helpful set of terms is essential vs. nonessential. When the identifier makes sense in the sentence by itself, then the name is nonessential and you use a comma before it. Otherwise, no comma. That explains an exception to the only-thing-in-the-world rule: when the words “a,” “an” or “some,” or a number, come before the description or identification of a name, use a comma.


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Hello again!

I traveled to Israel (and spent 3 days in Cairo) for the entire month of December. It’s great to be back in California, although I always love visiting Israel.

View from Cairo Tower
Image via Wikipedia

Speaking to many old friends and new acquaintances in the world of engineering and high-tech, my conviction that writing a book is the number-one way for professionals and startups to promote themselves has been confirmed and strengthened. People invest so much in printed marketing collateral that just winds up being thrown away. Books hang around, and continue to deliver your message for a long time.

So many startups have complex stories to tell, stories that require more than some pretty pictures and a few bullet points. Books provide an opportunity to wax eloquent on the complexities and make them understandable.

Of course, the same applies to individual professionals. What do you want your prospects to know? A book is a vehicle for conveying it in a comprehensible way.

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Most people are responsible. They make commitments and keep them, even when it is not convenient or pleasant to do so. We often say that someone who does that “has character.”

“Character is doing the right thing even when nobody is looking,” said JC Watts.

What has this to do with writing your book? Well, many ostensibly aspiring authors say that they want to write a book. They say they want to get it done by some date or some event. They even say they’ve committed to doing it.

But then they don’t.

The problem with allowing yourself to break commitments, especially commitments to yourself, is that it gets easier, the more you do it. Eventually you allow yourself to break commitments to others. As the cliche says, it’s a slippery slope.

You’d be much better off not to make a commitment, then to make one and ignore it. I’m focusing on book-writing, but this holds for everything in life.

One thing you can do to help you stick to commitments you make to yourself: Make them public. Let everyone know that your outline is going to be done by a certain date. That your book will be ready for editing by a certain date. And so on.

Another thing you can do: Work with a coach. A coach is a perfect accountability partner. The fact that you are paying them will help you keep your commitment, because you don’t want to have wasted your investment in the coaching.

If you are already working with a coach, your book belongs on the list of goals that the coach helps you prioritize. If you’re not working with a coach, and feel stuck in your business or your life, find one; just use your search engine and enter “coach” plus your area of interest.

If you want to focus on your book, get a book coach. (I’m a book coach; click here to set up a free strategy call with me.)


That’s the answer given more than two decades ago by Nicholas Negroponte (founder of MIT’s Media Lab and of the “One Laptop per Child” project) to the question, “What’s the next step beyond personal computing?” It came to mind when I read this piece from the New York Times this morning:

Intimate theater

Intimate theater

I attended such a performance in Manhattan in the early seventies, and loved it. Physical touch is important to me, and I experienced the event as being warmly and lovingly embraced, with safety and even propriety.

Not everyone likes to be physically touched. But every reader likes to be touched emotionally by what they read–even if the way into their emotions is through facts and logic.

When I write, I like to think about what my reader would experience as intimacy. Here are some of my thoughts:

  • The reader wants to feel as if the text is addressing them personally, not as part of a mob.
  • The author should come across as human and vulnerable, but without detailed discussions of hemorrhoids or other manifestations of TMI (too much information). Of course, what is and is not TMI will vary by audience.
  • For me, typos and misspellings are jarring. I’ve learned that this is not a universal sentiment, but I nonetheless work hard to eliminate them.
  • I avoid phrases such as “Some of you…,” which address a group of people rather than an individual reader.
  • I experience smart-ass “humor” and cynical statements as turn-offs; your taste may vary.

I strive for intimacy in my writing—appropriate intimacy. What’s appropriate? Clearly, that’s up to you. Lately, I’ve noticed that movie trailers open with a rating caution: “The following preview has been approved for appropriate audiences.” Huh?

You are the author of your book. You choose your audience, by design or default. It’s up to you to decide what’s appropriate. Be bold.

Just my type

Fiddling with type is not a fruitful pursuit for most authors. Unless your expertise is page design or typography, this domain—full of subtlety, nuance, and beauty—will distract you from your writing.

I think it’s a left-brain/right-brain issue. If you are drawn to the niceties of fonts, it’s because your right brain has itches that need scratching. By all means, honor them—but not during writing time. Treat your attraction to typefaces as a hobby, a passion to be pursued in time you’ve allotted for it.

I’ve spent hours on type and typefaces with the feeling that it’s the stuff of books. And it really is—but for designers, not authors.

Having issued that dire warning, let me now share a couple of resources I ran across this morning. First, Typetester, a site that makes it really easy to compare fonts:

Next, the current issue of the Big Brand System biweekly newsletter has fascinating information, including why you should avoid Verdana on your website. (Sign up for this free missive here.)

Introducing Mindy Gibbins-Klein: “The Book Midwife™”

When I became a coach, I joined a BNI chapter in Palo Alto. And when I decided to focus on helping people write books, I was struggling to come up with a memorable “elevator pitch” that would encapsulate what I offered. One Wednesday morning, the words just popped out of my mouth, unpremeditated: “I’m Joel Orr, book midwife. You have a book inside you, and it wants to come out; I’m here to help it be born.”

Mindy Gibbins-Klein

I loved the image, and so did my BNI friends. It was sticky and evocative. And having attended a live birth in my youth, it resonated with my feelings on helping an actual human being into the world (as I had on January 5, 1975).

I began to use the “book midwife” term to promote myself–by inserting it in my email signature. Shortly thereafter, I received a warm and polite note from Mindy Gibbins-Klein. She’s been “The Book Midwife” since 2002, and has actually registered the trademark for it in both the UK and the US. She asked that I not refer to myself in that way, and I responded that I would stop doing so.

What I did not immediately understand was that calling myself a “book midwife”–quotes, no caps, no “the”–might also weaken her claim to her intellectual property, because it could lead to the phrase becoming generic. Now I know better.

As a coach of aspiring authors, I am very sensitive to such issues, and fully support Mindy’s position on this matter.

So I thought it would be appropriate for me to state publicly: If it’s “The Book Midwife” you’re looking for, that would be Mindy. From what I’ve learned about her products and services, they are first-rate. I encourage you to go to her site and sign up for her inspirational emails.

If your market is “everybody,” it’s nobody

I heard a coach say to another coach at our Silicon Valley Coach Federation meeting last night, “I tried to word my website copy so as not to exclude anyone who might become a client,” she said. The other coach replied, “Bad idea. Think of it like this: If you needed knee surgery, would you prefer to see a surgeon who does heart surgery, brain surgery, knee surgery, and plastic surgery? Or one who only does knees? You need to focus narrowly, so that your potential clients will see you as an expert in the domain that is of interest to them.”

It’s the same with your book. You must address it to SOMEone, not to everyone. If you attempt to reach everyone, nobody will see themselves addressed by the book.

So, yeah, you need to choose your niche carefully. If you choose one that is too small, you will have difficulty building your business.

One powerful set of tools for use in finding your niche are the ones used by Internet marketers for keyword research. Some of the best of these are free, like Google’s keyword tool. Use it to find out what keywords match the topics in which you are interested, and how many searches there are for them. That will give you an idea of the size of your market.

And within your niche, find out what the greatest areas of “pain” are. What are the problems to which most members of the target market are seeking solutions? Visit forums and blogs that focus on your niche topic, and learn what people are most interested in. Focus your book on your chosen niche, and address the problems of the niche in its title. That will help your audience find its way to you.

You are an expert; your clients are seeking your expertise. You can’t be a general expert.

Writing collaboratively

I’ve heard more than one account of friends who set out to write a book together–and lose their friendship. This won’t happen to you if:

  • You write alone, or
  • You have clear boundaries in the collaboration, and
  • You observe the boundaries assiduously.

Whether you have read my book, heard me speak on my method, or just been a reader of this blog, you know the essence of “The Simple Secret To Writing A Non-Fiction Book In 30 Days, At 1 Hour A Day!”: Structure first, then content.

Sounds simple, I know. But it is not something most people are used to doing, and they don’t know why it might be important when undertaking to write a book. The metaphor I usually use is the building of a house: You don’t start with a trip to the lumberyard. If you do that, you will wind up with a yard full of stuff, and no idea as to how to assemble it into a house.

You start a house with a trip to an architect, who creates a plan. The plan makes its way into the hands of a builder, who uses it to create a list of materials. Then, after the materials have been acquired, a foundation is prepared and a frame built. That becomes the skeleton of the house.

It’s the same with a book. If you create your “framework”–your outline–first, it’s easy to write your book. If you don’t–well, good luck. You’ll need it if you hope to get a book done.

Creating the framework has an additional benefit: It makes the delicate process of collaborative writing practical. It does so by creating boundaries.

You see, once your framework is complete, all the book’s pieces–its chapters and subchapters–are defined and named. So if two people are to work collaboratively on a book, they should:

  • Structure the book together, at least at the table-of-contents level.
  • Then they can split the chapters between them, and each create the list of subchapters for his or her own chapters,
  • Or structure the whole thing together, and split the subchapters up.

The place where many collaborations bog down is at the level of paragraphs. By dividing up subchapters and chapters, that opportunity for failure is avoided.

You and your partner may choose to identify yourselves as the respective authors of different parts of book. Or you may choose to have an editor “Homogenize” your distinct writing styles into a consistent “voice.” Either can work.

Structure makes collaboration possible.

Are you clustering?

I keep coming back to the power of clustering in this blog because I keep meeting people who once learned how to cluster and then never used it.

Part of an H0 scale model railroad layout
Image via Wikipedia

Our Creator did not provide our brain with an index. As a result, we usually don’t know what we know on any particular topic. “Do you know anything about electric trains?” “No. Well, wait–I had a Lionel set when I was 10. It had three tracks. I remember seeing some other kinds in my neighborhood hobby store–I think they were HO scale and NN scale. Oh, yeah, and…” 20 minutes later, you realize you do know something about electric trains. And given more time, you’d discover more.

Neuroscientists are making great strides in understanding how we remember stuff, but it is still mysterious in many ways. Without understanding how it all works, clustering gives us access to our knowledge so that we can make a list of what we know and don’t know about any topic.

This is useful at many phases of the book-writing process. You can cluster a title for your book; a subtitle; chapters; subchapters; and more. And before you talk to your book coach, you can cluster the topics you want to be sure to cover.

Cluster what to say in your presentation. What to tell people about on your web page. What you should pick up at the supermarket.

Clustering is a mining tool, to let you get at the riches you have stored in your mind. Gabriele Rico devotes an entire book to it:Writing the Natural Way. Highly recommended.

How do you cluster? Here’s a description from the blog of writer Dustin Wax.

Here’s the basic idea:
1.    Write a word in the middle of a sheet of paper.
2.    Circle it.
3.    Write down the first word or phrase that comes to mind and circle it.
4.    Draw a line connecting the second circle to the first.
5.    Repeat. As you write and circle new words and phrases, draw lines back to the last word, the central word, or other words that seem connected. Don’t worry about how they’re connected — the goal is to let your right-brain do its thing, which is to see patterns; later, the left-brain will take over and put the nature of those relationships into words.
6.    When you’ve filled the page, or just feel like you’ve done enough (a sign of what Rico calls a “felt-shift”), go back through what you’ve written down. Cross out words and phrases that seem irrelevant, and begin to impose some order by numbering individual bubbles or clusters. Here is where your right-brain is working in tandem with your left-brain, producing what is essentially an outline. At this point, you can either transfer your numbered clusters to a proper outline or simply begin writing in the order you’ve numbered the clusters.

Try it!

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