It’s been a while since I posted, blogging kind of fell by the wayside while I was pregnant and when my little one first arrived (we also moved house again when I was 38 weeks pregnant – the joys of military life!). Now Joseph’s two months old and I’m starting to get some me time back, so I’m getting back on the horse!
Today, I’m going to talk about something slightly different to the usual posts on this blog, and that’s writing non-fiction. Specifically, ghost writing business books.
If you’ve been around here for a while, you will probably already know that I write Young Adult Fantasy and am querying my first novel, as well as working on my second. What you may not know is that by day I’m a marketing manager for a small accounting firm. I create content for the business on a daily basis, researching different aspects of the industry and building on my knowledge base with every blog post and article I read and write, despite accountancy not being my area of expertise.
I studied languages at University and sort of fell into marketing in my early twenties, my employer put me through evening classes so I could train on the job and gain a couple of qualifications at the same time. Six years later, my day job and my passion are finally about to collide! When I come back from maternity leave, I’ll be writing three books for my employer on various business and accountancy related topics.
When you write for someone else, it can be difficult to accept that their name will be attached to your work and the only recognition you’ll receive is a pay cheque and a thank you (if you’re lucky). For the past five years I’ve written every blog post for my employer’s website, and none of them carry my name, so the assumption always seems to be that my boss writes them. I don’t mind, I deliberately alter the tone and register I use to suit the audience we’re targeting, so the posts don’t come across in my voice anyway. I’ll have to do the same thing when writing these books, and with my boss’s input during the editing process the voice will be even less mine and even more his.
Ghost writing can be a tricky area to negotiate when it comes to acknowledgement, it’s often assumed you’ll receive absolutely none, and even when it comes to your author bio or CV you can’t always list the projects you’ve worked on. It’s good etiquette to ask the client before divulging which books and written pieces you were responsible for, and sometimes they won’t permit you to share that information, especially if you ghost write for celebrities.
Writing what you know
When I studied Translation at University, we were told that after completing the degree we’d probably need to work in industry for a few years before anyone would give us paid translation work. We could join a translation agency and pick up general pieces of work, but if we wanted to translate specialist medical, legal or technical documents then we’d need the experience in that industry in order to perfect our vocabulary, etc.
It’s the same with writing for business, you’ll need some experience in the industry, whether that be working in it or writing on it for a few years. With all the world’s information at your fingertips, it’s possible to become an expert on almost any topic nowadays, and setting up your own blog is as easy as deciding on a name and choosing a WordPress template. If you want to write for business one day, I’d recommend starting there. Learn about your chosen industry and start creating engaging content on your own blog, and eventually you’ll be ready to start approaching businesses for paid work.
In my case, I’ve got plenty of resources I can use to build a foundation for my books, as I’m basing them on three of the most common subjects my boss speaks about at events. I’ve got slideshow presentations on each topic, as well as a wealth of blog posts I can mine, and of course the many articles, blogs and books by other people on the subject. Just be mindful of plagiarism, you can take elements of another author’s work as inspiration, but taking chunks of their writing wholesale, or stealing the core message of their book, is a major no-no – as with fiction writing.
Formatting for business books
The standards for business books vary depending on the content, as with all books, but there were a few accepted norms that I came across during my research while I was preparing my proposal to my boss.
The word count is usually around 20-40k words (longer if the author is a well known business owner, like Richard Branson), chapters are short with lots of bold headings and subheadings. There are often diagrams and images, so the book may seem long but is usually a quick read as it’s easier to digest small chunks of information and remember pithy phrases and simple diagrams. The text is often larger too, so a 250 page business book will be a much quicker read than a novel of the same length.
Formatting specifics, such as margins and line spacing, will vary depending on how and where you choose to publish. Which brings me to…
Publishing your business books
It is possible to have your business books published traditionally, and there are lots of agents and publishing houses who specialise in this type of book, but the majority of traditionally published business books are written by well known entrepreneurs and celebrities, as these are almost guaranteed to sell. Most business owners who choose to write their own books opt to self publish, either as a digital only e-book or a small, self funded print run to give away at speaking engagements and sell on the company website.
It’s possible to self publish on Amazon Kindle, which is probably where I’ll upload the digital version of my business books. I’ve also been in contact with a local media company who we regularly work with for magazine features, as they have their own book publishing department, like a small vanity press. I’m not yet sure how much to expect to pay per copy, but we’ll be looking to print slim paperbacks to give away at events, rather than selling the physical copies, so there’s no expectation of making our money back on the print run. Hopefully the e-book will make a little money, but the books are intended to bring in new clients to the business, rather than paying for themselves or generating a profit on their own.
Are you a fan of non-fiction, business books? They’re a completely different kettle of fish to fiction novels, but I’m hoping that the process of researching and writing these books will only improve my skills when I sit down to write my next novel. I hope this little insight into writing business books has been interesting and useful, and maybe even given you a few tips.
See you next time!