Writing a book

Mar 26, 2023

Doing so will help you organize your thinking, present and preserve your work, and give you more credibility with your client base.

Some of you may be aware that my new book, Confessions of an Entrepreneur: Simple Wisdom for Starting, Building, and Running a Business, was published last fall. While I have done a bunch of books over the years since my first, Human Resources Management: The Complete Guidebook for Design Firms, more than 30 years ago, this is the first non-AEC industry-focused book I have written. We already won a Goody Award for best new general book on entrepreneurship, and the publisher felt that we had sold enough of them to merit making a recently-released audible version because that is how so many people “read” books these days!

I know many of our readers – architects, engineers, and businesspeople – are also writers, be that for technical journals, blogs, or other industry publications. And some of you have told me that you want to do a book someday. IF that is you, I thought I could provide some advice on how to actually get it done. So here it goes:

  1. Decide when you want to finish the book and commit to a completion goal as well as a writing schedule. I know everyone is busy and you all have so many commitments and responsibilities. But I find writing first thing in the morning works for me. My brain is the freshest and no one is contacting me at 6 a.m. Pick a writing time and stick with it!
  2. Get an editor to help you. I was really lucky here. Because my book was published by the Epic Book Division of the University of Arkansas Press, I had an experienced editor, Stephen Caldwell, who marshaled the entire project through from inception to completion. He was super helpful in terms of the organization of the thing and figuring out where there were holes in it that needed to be addressed. And he and the publisher provided needed encouragement!
  3. Make an outline. Outlines are critical! Lay it all out and take what material you have and then fill in the blanks. It’s just like doing a business plan for an AEC firm. It works.
  4. Get feedback from people you can trust to be honest with you. This is harder to do than you think. Asking someone you know to spend the hours it takes to read a book draft is a lot to ask. Reading time is short for most busy people. And more difficult still is getting those people to be brutally honest with you. But it’s essential that they are. You will need that.
  5. Don’t have unrealistic expectations of how many books you are going to sell. Getting 5,000 or 10,000 books sold is a difficult task. Very few ever sell that many. It’s not that hard to move 200 or 300 books if you have a good network, but more than that will take a lot of work in my experience.
  6. Be an absolutely relentless marketer. Most publishers commit little to nothing in the way of a marketing budget for a new book. So it will be up to you to do it. Book signings, social media, and PR all can work. You need to make these things happen. Book awards can help promote it but they all cost money to enter, and there’s no assurance you will win anything.

So there you have it – my best thinking on this subject. Even if you don’t sell a lot of books, writing one will help you organize your thinking, or present and preserve your work, and it may help you pass on lessons learned, and/or give you more credibility with your client base. So do it! 

Mark Zweig is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at mzweig@zweiggroup.com.

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About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.