Meatballs are delicious.
Ice cream is delicious.
But when you combine them into a “meatball sundae”…that’s disgusting.
Even though they’re great separately, they don’t go together.
This is what many authors try to do with their book: create a meatball sundae. They do this by mashing several distinct ideas into one book.
This never works.
First of all, it creates a bad reader experience. People read books in order to get expert knowledge that will help them solve a specific problem they have. No one reads books to get a firehose of unconnected information.
Second, having too many different angles and too much information in the book makes it harder to position and market. In fact, most positioning issues we see come from the fact that the author is trying to combine two or three different books into one, and thus speak to multiple different audiences. This makes it almost impossible to have clear positioning.
Most authors try to combine everything they know into one book because they think they don’t have enough information for one book. They’re insecure about the book and try to compensate by cramming it with everything possible.
As I’ve said, that’s the worst thing you can do. It results in a bloated, meandering mess that is hard to describe to people and has no natural audience.
An Example of a Meatball Sundae
We worked with a pair of authors, Bryan and Shannon Miles, who together had built the most successful VA company in America (Belay Solutions) by connecting great VAs with a process that works at scale for companies and busy entrepreneurs. They also had built an incredible culture at Belay, being named the #1 Company Culture in America by Entrepreneur Magazine, and has also provided an incredible set of opportunities to mothers who wanted to work from home.
They were rightly proud of all three things, and had a vision of a book that talked about how VA will change work, and how to build a great VA culture, and how to use that culture to attract more women. They had a broad, but very vague idea, of how their book could talk about all three things.
This was not going to work. These are three different and very distinct ideas. We went around and around with them trying to find a positioning for one book about this, until I finally told them:
“I think you have at least two books here, maybe three. There is a book about how VA’s will revolutionize work. There is a book about how to build an amazing company culture. And there is a book about how women can use VA work to change their lives.
They’re all great books—but they are three different books, not one.”
They agreed, and Bryan worked with us to write a book about how VA’s will change the modern workforce, called Virtual Culture.
Shannon wrote her own book about women and VA work, The Third Option.
As an added benefit, by writing two books instead of one, they more than doubled the impact on their company.
Each book created a separate and distinct media campaign for their book. And each book served a different purpose–Bryans book did a great job bringing them clients, and Shannon’s book did an amazing job bringing them qualified VAs to serve those clients.
[Another important point, that ties into positioning: they ended up deciding NOT to write the book on company culture, and instead worked many of those ideas into Shannon’s book. The reason is because we helped them see that doing a book on company culture would result in them getting a lot of speaking requests and consulting requests about culture, which they did not want. They wanted to only focus on their business instead.]
How to Focus on One Book
If you’re doing this in your positioning–combining two or three books into one–don’t get down on yourself. It’s very common.
In fact, it can often end up being a good thing (once you fix the positioning).
It’s a good thing because it will both help you focus on finding the best book for you, and then it will help you see your next book(s).
The key here is to focus on your reader and how to best achieve them. If you’re crystal clear about what reader your book will serve, and how they will be served, then the ideal book idea to reach that audience should emerge. Once you have that, it’s easy to see if other ideas fit or not, and then finalize your book idea.
The reality is, if you’re an accomplished professional with deep experience in your field, you probably have multiple books in you. It’s okay to have several books that are specific, focused, and deliver different things. In fact, that’s preferable.
Almost every author we’ve worked with has more than one book in them, if they choose to write it. You can always write another book.
Don’t try to put everything you know into the first one. Focus on what book makes sense for you first, then focus on how to make that book the best possible for the reader.