The Bard Press Essays
Week 3 – February 18, 2021
Last week, an author I know who is working on a book sent me the title and book description for his project:
The Doer-Leader Dilemma:
A Trail Guide
Companies need their best people to grow into leaders. At the same time, no company can afford to lose their best people to burnout. The dilemma is particularly acute in industries where doer-leaders need to maintain a high level of billable hours and absorb the responsibilities of leadership. Architects, engineers, construction managers, attorneys, and consultants all have to constantly judge the demands of managing projects and people with how to lead the firm into the future.
This book is a trail guide for doers who are new to leadership and want a way to navigate all the demands on their time, contribute at the highest level, and still have a life outside the office. I share the lessons, strategies, and assignments from twenty years of coaching hundreds of new leaders.
Learn how to chart a course for yourself, make upward progress, use your time more effectively, relate to people in a way that encourages cooperation and trust, and build a stronger team and company along the way.
Each chapter is full of practical assignments to apply right away and feature stories of people just like you who have used these strategies to get their mountain, sooner and earlier than they imagined.
The author works as a coach for individuals and leaders. They want a book that can act as a resource for the clients and further establish themselves as a coaching resource.
I want to share some thoughts on how several components could be immediately improved.
The title uses made-up words. The #1 goal for a title is to be clear. Made-up words have no inherent meaning. The readers have to interpret or infer their meaning. It’s too hard. Now, you can use made-up words or jargon in the book itself because you can define the terms and you have pages of space to provide context. You don’t have that luxury on the front cover of your book that people are seeing for the first time.
The subtitle is also jargony and not doing enough work to help the prospect figure out how the book is going to help them. The author mentioned Trail Guide matched a metaphor in the book. Again, use it in the book, but be very careful what you put on the cover. Every word counts.
With the book description, it’s written for two different customers: the reader and their manager. When you write for two customers, it confuses the message about who the book is for. The book description should always focus on the problem and how the book is going to solve it. From there the customer can decide if the book is for them. In this case, it needs to be about the reader, the new leader who is trying to make their way with a whole new set of roles and responsibilities. If their manager feels this problem, they will find their way to the book and buy it from their reports.
Another rule – between those three elements – try not to repeat words unless you absolutely have to. You have so few to start with. Take the opportunity to use other vocabulary to be precise about how you want to build the frame for the book.
Now when asked who the primary customer was, the author replied “Mostly consultants, who work on projects and are responsible for building their own client list. Like I said in the description, they are architects, engineers, construction managers, and attorneys.”
“So, they work at professional service firms? That’s interesting,” I said. “Those folks have a unique set of responsibilities they are juggling.”
The author said, “They do, but the group I spend most of my time with is a smaller subset. They work in ACE or architects, construction, and engineers.”
“That’s interesting,” I quickly replied.
“I really want to make the book for them, but I am concerned that group is too small,” the author confessed.
You should know that this author has a video course and workbooks that he developed for this cohort, and he felt a book would be another good anchor for his teaching materials.
“I usually try to create books with bigger audiences in mind,” I said, “but in the case, you are going to be better served by talking specifically to that group. Those occupations are focused in the same industry and will completely understand the examples you give.”
After that, everything snapped together. Here is revised title and description the author sent me:
From The Ground Up!:
The Path To Leadership in Design + Construction
You love designing and building things–schools, houses, roadways, or bridges– but you are tired of being in the weeds of managing projects. You want to be a leader, with more pay and more say in how the firm is run. But you wonder if the skills that got you here will get you to the next point.
From the Ground Up! is a manual for new leaders in design and construction who want to take the next step toward a meaningful career. This practical guide will teach you how to take on extra responsibilities with practical exercises. Using methods we’ve develop for emerging leadership programs for American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC), you’ll learn:
-How to start your journey and not wait for an invitation.
-How to value your time differently and stay focused.
-How to delegate tasks so things get done.
-How to build long term trust and support in every relationship.
We’ll share inspirational stories from the hundreds of emerging leaders who have followed the principles and strategies in this book, adapted to their new realities, and are now enjoying the view from the top.
Look at the difference! When you get focused on the customer, the problem and the solution, your title and description get more focused and clearer for those potential buyers. Creating great book titles is a topic that we’ll explore more in future essays.