A few days before I drafted this post, the United States basically shut down in response to the outbreak of COVID-19. Schools and universities closed their campuses. Museums and performing arts organizations shut their doors and canceled the ends of their seasons. Major conferences (most notably SXSW) were canceled. State governors and city mayors across the country called for states of emergency, banning gatherings over 50 ppl, asking all non-essential businesses to close, and urging everyone to stay home as much as possible. Multiple voting dates for the Democratic Primary were postponed. And that’s just in the USA. Abroad, whole countries went into full quarantine, and many closed their borders to nonessential traffic.
Unsurprisingly, the response most people have to this pandemic falls somewhere between extreme caution and full-blown panic. This is, after all, the first true global pandemic in just over a century. The stock market is in freefall, millions of workers are concerned for the future of their jobs, supply chains are falling apart, and at the time of this draft, some 1200 people have already died. Grocery store shelves are empty, and people have been caught on camera fighting over toilet paper. On The Daily Show, Trevor Noah has asked the question at the back of many people’s minds: “Is this how we die?” In other words, is this the end of the world?
It might be the end of the world as we know it, and not everyone feels fine, but as tragic as the pandemic is for the world in general, it’s actually pretty good news for business authors.
We all know the adage that problems are opportunities in disguise, and the cliche that every cloud has a silver lining. (We also probably roll our eyes at them most of the time.) But adages and cliches are adages and cliches because they’re true.
The world is changing. Business owners like you have the opportunity to change with it. And one of the biggest opportunities you’ll have in that vein over the next year or so is the opportunity to become an author.
“Wait a second, James, you just wrote like five blog posts about how a book has to come at the right time for me, and it’s okay if right now isn’t that time…but now you’re saying right now IS that time? What gives, man?”
I hear you! It totally sounds like I’m contradicting myself, doesn’t it.
Don’t worry, I still believe everything I said about the timing of your book. If you read this post and right now still doesn’t feel like the right time for you to start writing, that’s totally cool with me. I’m still not saying that EVERYONE MUST BECOME AN AUTHOR RIGHT NOW.
But what I am saying is that everyone will benefit from checking back in on whether now is a good time for their book — because the answer to that question today might not be the same as it was a month ago.
Why is that?
Because the coronavirus hasn’t only infected people. It’s also infected many of the excuses business owners use for not writing a book yet. And those excuses are dropping like grounded flights between Europe and the US.
Let’s look at four in particular:
Excuse #1: A book won’t help my business right now!
If I had to make one prediction about the economy, the business world, and the state of entrepreneurship over the next year, here’s what it would be: everything will be moving online — and a lot of it won’t come back.
We already know that pretty much everything IRL is on lockdown for at least the next few weeks, and the CDC is already talking about those limits needing to last several months.
This is bad news is your business has a big in-person factor. If you’re a professional speaker, a corporate trainer, a retreat host, an in-person consultant, an event planner, a conference manager, or even an avid networker, your business just took a pretty big hit.
But it’s also an opportunity for all of those in-person activities to move online. In the same vein, this online shift is also an opportunity (and frankly a requirement) for your clients to move online. So however you work with them will shift as well.
- Coaching and consulting can happen through Zoom, Skype, or GoToMeeting
- Accounting and financial services can be done via virtual conference or online software
- Real estate showings can happen virtually through video
- Training can be facilitated through online courses and mastermind groups
- Speaking at events can be handled virtually and/or refocus on webinars
- Even conferences and retreats can transition to virtual events
So over the next six months, say, a lot of the world and a lot of your audience and clientele is going to be much more online than before. Everyone who wasn’t focusing on online before will start learning the value and ease of that focus. And once everything is more online, a lot of it will stay there. The coronavirus may be gone in six months (I hope so!) but once it is, will the world go back to exactly how it worked before? I doubt it.
Whether your biz model shifts now or not, the biz landscape is going to change over the next year to be much less in-person. Which means this is an opportunity to either build an online arm of your business, or grow the online arm you already have.
What does this have to do with writing a book?
If you can’t interact in-person with someone, sending them your book is the next best thing.
And I’m not even talking about how a book is a new/better business card. That’s not wrong, but it’s also just the beginning of a book’s value.
I mean that a book is a way for someone to really get to know you, to understand who you are and what you believe and what you teach and how you can help them solve their problems, without ever meeting you in person. It’s also a way to show them you care about making their life or business better whether you ever meet them in person or not. And if you write about how they can find success in the current state and near future of your industry (which you totally should!), a book lets your audience know that you’re in tune with where the world is going — and you’d like to bring them with you into that future.
If the post-coronavirus world is going to be a much more virtual and remote one, then starting to write a book now is a great way to prepare your business for that world.
Excuse #2: I’m not ready to write a book!
Like I said a minute ago, if right now just isn’t the right time for your book, I respect that. If you just aren’t ready yet, okay.
But I’d like to lovingly challenge the idea that you can’t be ready now if you want to be.
What if this pandemic is your opportunity to get ready? And what if the most important thing you could do right now is to demonstrate to the world and your audience that you are ready?
Here’s where I’m going with this: in dark times, people look to leaders for hope and confidence, for guidance and strategy, for inspiration and motivation. What if your book could give them those things?
Authors are leaders. Almost by definition, writing a book is an act of leadership. And strong, compassionate, confident leadership is something a lot of people in this country are straight-up yearning for right now.
Plus, stepping up and being a leader is the opposite of what a lot of people are doing right now. Most people are hunkering down and trying to ride this out. Most people are either focusing on fear or sticking their heads in the sand. (Todd Herman, the author of The Alter Ego Effect, recently interviewed 29 high-profile CEOs on their responses to the pandemic –and while they all SAID they wanted healthy businesses during this time, the words they used showed that a lot of them fell into one of those two groups, either fear-focused or un-focused.)
So while your colleagues and competitors may be floundering or flailing, you can take this moment to step up and step forward as the industry leader your people need right now. For people specifically looking in your field, you can be the expert who isn’t panicking, who knows what to do and who’s ready to lead. For people not specifically looking in your industry but looking for inspiration and hope, you can still be a positive and confident presence for them (which may in turn make you the coach or consultant they want to work with when they DO need your services).
One important distinction: Writing a book makes you LOOK like a leader. Writing a GREAT book MAKES you a leader.
Especially in tough times, people want the real deal. They don’t want cheap and flashy and sexy and overhyped, they want real and tested and reliable and supported. They aren’t looking for messages that are confused or unsure or skeptical, they’re looking for messages that are decisive and dynamic and confident. And they’re not looking for fear or anger or arrogance, they’re looking for empathy and compassion and relatability.
In other words, this isn’t a good time to write a crappy book. But it’s a fantastic time to write a quality one.
Excuse #3: I don’t have time to write a book!
This might be the true silver lining of being quarantined for several months. If you’ve ever wanted to pull a Henry David Thoreau or a Steven Pressfield and go write in a cabin for weeks on end…well, now you can!
Not having time or bandwidth is one of the biggest excuses business owners have for not writing a book. And now that excuse is just gone. Poof. Kaput. You’ve got all the time in the world now…or at least you’ve got a lot more time than you did a month ago!
Even if you’re getting that time and bandwidth because you have fewer clients or postponed events or less paying work to do, it’s still time you didn’t know you’d have.
And you can spend the next few weeks of sheltering in place on Netflix or Call of Duty if you really need the break, but wouldn’t it be super powerful to use that time to do something that will help your business?
This is a time of great introspection, when business owners like you get to look inward and decide what their priorities are. It’s also a time of great preparation, where those same biz owners get to look forward and decide where they want to be when the world starts up again. Sean Ogle of Location Rebel (one of my mentors in building my location-independent business) recorded a great video about using this time to learn new skills, work on business projects, etc., so I’ll let him say more about that idea here,
While Sean didn’t specifically talk about it in his video, writing a book is a fantastic business project to dedicate this quarantined time to. Not only can you document the process to your audience to stay engaged with them during the pandemic, but when things start to go back to normal in a few months, the book will be timed perfectly to ride that wave. You’ll come out of this recession with a strong foundation for future growth, a high-quality asset you’ll be able to leverage for years to come.
So find a cozy nook in your house, cue up Disney+ for the kiddos, disinfect your keyboard, and start writing.
Excuse #4: I don’t have the money to invest in a book!
With so much of the economy shutting down, everyone’s got their mind on their money and their money on their mind. And if you have to choose between buying food and funding a book project, that’s a no-brainer.
But there’s one reason why coming up with the money to invest in a book project right now could actually be a good idea.
Recall the myth that books don’t make money. I’ve written about it here, here, and here, and I’m going to keep writing about it.
That myth is especially mythical right now. Why? Because books are outbreak-proof and recession-proof. If you look at the financial downturns and disease scares of the last two decades, including the SARS outbreak of 2003, the Ebola scare of 2014, and the Great Recession of 2008, one constant you’ll notice is that book sales remained constant during these times, and in some cases and genres actually grew! And one of the genres that actually skyrocketed during those crises was the self-help or personal development genre…which is the genre of choice for many coaches, consultants, and speakers. This is because in times of crisis, people want to feel like there’s something they can control — and taking control of some aspect of your own life can feel pretty damn empowering when the rest of the world is falling apart.
Not only that, but one of the biggest economic difficulties the world is facing right now has to do with supply chains deteriorating. Thousands of goods and supplies just aren’t getting where they need to go right now because the coronavirus would travel with them. But you know what doesn’t need supply chains? Books! Or more specifically, ebooks and audiobooks. Having your audience being quarantined might hurt your bookstore sales if you have any, but you’ll more than make up for it in all those people stuck at home needing entertainment and inspiration via Amazon and Audible.
The bottom line is that books are pretty much the only thing people don’t stop spending money on during recessions. In dark times, people want escape, they want control, they want support, and they want inspiration. Books give them those things like no other media or activities. (For more info on why books are recession-proof, check out this video from ghostwriter Joshua Lisec, another of my mentors.)
So even though book sales won’t likely be your main income stream as a business author, you also won’t have to worry about those sales imploding just because there’s a pandemic. And as a coach or consultant, you can be confident that readers who need your book for guidance will also want to hire you or work with you, even if all that work will happen virtually and/or otherwise be different than how you may have worked with them before.
I know, spending money during a recession feels counterintuitive. And I’m definitely not suggesting you compromise your living expenses or take on more debt than you can handle to do it. But if you have the funds, or you have access to them, or one of the small business loans the government is talking about putting together feels good to you, then investing in a high-quality, recession-proof business asset might actually be a great idea for you. Books are one of only two assets I know of that actually perform as well in lean times as in flush times. (The other, incidentally, is rental real estate — and no matter how much a book costs to write and publish, buying rental properties is going to cost a LOT more!)
So all your excuses are gone. Which means now is the time to seize the day.
You can see this pandemic as a slump, or you can see it as the chance to start writing the great book you’ve had inside you for months or even years. And if you’d like to step up and take that chance, I’d love to help you. The first step is to book your free Six-Figure Book Strategy Session at this link right here. I look forward to speaking with you!
Check out my book Don’t Write A Crappy Book!, a comprehensive guide to writing and publishing mistakes business authors don’t know they’re making — and how to avoid them!