Being an entrepreneur is more than a job. It’s a calling to tell your story. Every day, you rise and tell a story about your company. You sell investors on your vision. You show early adopters how your service solves a problem they didn’t even know they had. And above all, you tell stories to convince yourself that — no matter how hard you grind or how often you fail — you’re going to survive. No. You’re not going to survive. You’re going to thrive.
Starting a business is a leap of faith. If you look down, you’ll fall. To elevate yourself and your business, you must be a master storyteller — able to move mountains (and money) with your vision and passionate powers of persuasion. You must shift your storytelling style according to the audience and situation. You must be crisp and convincing — whether you have 30 seconds in an elevator or a half an hour at a Ted Talk.
Your story is your greatest asset. It’s the heart of your company. You know that, intuitively: It’s why you revise your pitch incessantly, massaging the message of your deck. But you might not take time from the constant grind to realize that you’ve gained the basic skill any writer needs: to tell a story, clearly and concisely. To tell it in new ways for new audiences.
You’re already a sophisticated storyteller. And if you look a little deeper, you’ll see that you have the skills you need to turn your story into a powerful book. Here are four tips to bootstrap your business experience and become an author.
1. Start with a seed …
Building a book is like building a business. You start with something small: a story you want to tell or a problem you want to solve. You focus on achievable goals and meaningful solutions, then you build from there, brick by brick, word by word. As Brian Chesky, co-founder of Airbnb, notes, “If we tried to think of a good idea, we wouldn’t have been able to think of a good idea. You just have to find the solution for a problem in your own life.”
The same is true for authors. If you start with grand ambitions, you’ll go down in flames. No one ever wrote a bestseller by sitting down at his or her desk, rolling up his or her sleeves, and saying: “Okay, time to write a bestseller!” Books grow from small moments: observations that make you wonder, ideas that inspire your curiosity, simple phrases that hold your attention. Trust those small moments — just like you did when you started your business. Solving a simple problem and telling a quick anecdote can unlock a world of possibility.
2. … and watch it grow
So, you have an idea, a story, a seed. Now you need to scale it. Sound familiar? A business needs to grow at the right pace to thrive. Grow too fast and you’ll over-extend yourself. Grow too slow and competitors will swallow you alive. You must find a Goldilocks Zone, where your company grows organically with your customers and your cashflow, where your team is on the bleeding edge of culture as well as technology.
Writing a book is no different. Once you have an idea or a story that feels like a seed for your book, you must grow it — patiently, yet efficiently. Write too fast and the book will be shallow and flimsy. Write too slowly and your book will lose focus. You have to find that sweet spot — where one idea leads naturally to the next, one story unfolds into the next. Think of writing like networking: You meet someone who connects you with leads, who in turn introduce you to channel partners. You don’t forget the connections you make along the way — you cultivate them into meaningful relationships. It’s the same when authoring a book: each sentence, each story, spreads roots — the seed grows into something green and flourishing.
3. Know when to delegate
Writing is complex, time-consuming, and, let’s face it, often frustrating. As an entrepreneur, you learn to bootstrap: better to solve a problem yourself and save capital. And as your company grows, you want to command — and be responsible for — every part of it. But you have to delegate certain tasks to move forward efficiently.
Writing is the same way: It’s as collaborative as running a business. And to be successful, you should know when to delegate. You have to build a team that can support your work. Co-authors can help you realize your ideas, challenging your vision and voice. A good editor can help you shape your story — and improve your writing. An agent will help you find a publisher who you trust with your book. A publicist will help you bring your story to the world, identifying the readers who will respond to your book and reaching the people who can connect you with those readers. Think of your book as a product — a new app — that you’re developing. Build a team that will help you realize your vision and share it with the world.
4. Don’t be afraid to promote yourself
A team will help you shape your book and get it in the hands of readers. Ultimately, though, you’re the best ambassador for your story. Your energy will bring it to life for readers. Don’t be afraid to get out there and sell the book — and your story. Plan to do readings, talks and Q&As based on the book. Scout book reviewers and magazines where you want your book reviewed.
Selling books is personal, like most businesses. If you want your book to sell, you must go out there and meet your readers. Connect with them on their turf and their terms — then tell them your story. As you do so, you’ll find yourself gliding into a familiar groove. As an entrepreneur, you already know how to represent yourself and tell your story: You’ve been doing it your whole career.