This article first appeared on Forbes.com.
If you’re developing your personal brand or stepping into the role of a thought leader, you’ve certainly seen the same recommendation from every corner of the Internet: You need a book as a calling card.
My decade of experience guiding CEOs and thought leaders down the path of sharing their story with the world has validated that a book is an imperative step in creating greater impact. But I’ve also seen—through interviewing more than 2,000 people wanting to write a book—that 99 percent of business authors are wasting vast amounts of time and money writing the wrong book.
Allow me to explain.
At Round Table Companies (RTC), I surround thought leaders with a creative team to help them write the book they were born to write. When people find us, they are typically looking to write a book because they’ve been told they should or that they need a book for credibility to play a bigger game. Some want a book that will change their industry, grow their business or practice, launch a new idea or business, or become the centerpiece of a non-profit. Many want to capture their wisdom just for the sake of helping others. Nearly all of them come to me thinking they’re supposed to write a book that shares what they have learned.
But when I probe more deeply, nearly every conversation reveals that they all want something else.
They want a book that shows the world who they are. They want to be seen in their totality, not just for their accomplishments or knowledge. They want to share the essence of who they are so the right opportunities will find them and the wrong opportunities will get out of their way.
Two decades of storytelling has taught me this: A book that tells readers what you’ve learned doesn’t show them who you are. And if readers don’t get to know who you are, they cannot trust you.
If you’re writing a book, here are a few questions to consider:
You can play it safe or you can live into the version of yourself that the world desperately needs (and that is way more fun!).
What will your life look like in five years? How about in 10 years? If you write a book that tells readers what you’ve learned, you’re inviting more of the same to your front door. That book will become a prison that locks you inside your past and present, preventing you from exciting new futures. That book is as boring as a university lecture hall, leaving your readers sleepy in the front row while you drone on. That book offers no intimacy, little heart, and none of the magic you’re asking to invite into your life.
Consider this: most readers never finish the nonfiction business books they buy. Looking over to my bookshelf, I count 45 business books. I’ve finished maybe 14. Let’s check my Audible library: I’ve purchased 92 business-related books and finished only 49, abandoning 53 because I grew bored of hearing what their authors had learned. I wanted to discover who they were. I wanted to see myself in their journey and feel inspired and alive. Most business authors are failing to connect with their readers—and if you’re failing to connect, you’re failing.
Your social media flirts with your audience, trying to spark their interest. Your articles take them to coffee, allowing them to spend some time getting to know you. Your products and services take your audience into the realm of dating, working to inspire their curiosity and affection. And your book? Your book takes them to bed. Your book requires readers’ commitment—it’s a 4-8-hour event for them. If it doesn’t offer passion, intrigue, mystery, fear, pain, joy, vulnerability and adventure, then it’s doomed to become another one-night stand in the life of your reader, one that tiptoes away in the middle of the night hoping to just forget the whole experience. What a missed opportunity that would be.
Treat your book like a lover. Let it share the most authentic and beautiful version of you, full of all your light and all your shadows. Let that be what you send out into the world to romance your readers. Write a book that invites readers into not just what you know, but who you are. Expose your heart to them. Invite them into the poetry of your soul.
Be bold and write that book, and your world will open up.