According to my research with executives across multiple industries for the past three decades, communication skills represent the one common denominator for success. Survey after survey confirms the same. (See recent CEO surveys by IBM, American Management Association, and PriceWaterhouseCoopers.) You may be brilliant at delivering results as an accountant, engineer, salesperson, marketing specialist, or recruiter. But others in the organization learn of your contributions and results only as you write, present, contribute ideas in meetings, or collaborate with teammates on projects.
Communication is the basic business act. The better you do it, the greater your chances for advancement.
I find these common traits: integrity, humility, confidence, persuasiveness, loyalty, a sense of humor, the ability to focus, vision, compassion, communication skills, critical thinking.
Some people are great communicators because they approach the skill with intention. They realize the importance of communication and how much it alters every relationship and transaction in life. So they observe those who communicate well. They analyze conversations, presentations, speeches, announcements, documents to determine what works well and why or what fails and why.
On the other hand, some people fail at communication because they see it as a “natural” process like breathing—and give it just as little thought.
Lack of focus. Lack of purpose. Lack of organization. Failure to set goals and deadlines. Lack of leadership. Poor communication. Unclear instructions. The absence of feedback or vague feedback. Technology with unnecessary and unused features. Information overload.
Personal presence involves much more than charm. Personal presence encompasses character, substance, and style. These are not things people are born with, but things they observe and learn: habits, skills, attitudes. People with presence look and move confidently. They think clearly and express themselves persuasively, even under pressure. They act with intention and poise in difficult situations. What they do and say matches who they are.
Communicate With Confidence (Revised and Expanded Edition) (McGraw-Hill)
Creating Personal Presence: Look, Talk, Think, and Act Like a Leader (Berrett-Koehler)
Your Signature Life: Pursuing God’s Best Ever Day (Tyndale, print and audio book)
Because bad news has become so prevalent today, several books have extensive chapters on that topic:
—Creating Personal Presence: Look, Talk, Think, and Act Like a Leader (Berrett-Koehler)
—E-Writing: 21st Century Tools for Effective Communication (Simon & Schuster/Pocket Books)
Speak With Confidence: Powerful Presentations to Inform, Inspire, and Persuade (McGraw-Hill) and Communicate Like A Leader (Berrett-Koehler)
—Faster, Fewer, Better Emails: Manage the Volume, Reduce the Stress, Love the Results (for help with writing productivity and organizing documents and files so you can find items quickly)
—E-Writing: 21st Century Tools for Effective Communication (for structure and content)
—Booher’s Rules of Business Grammar: 101 Fast and Easy Ways to Correct the Most Common Errors (for help with grammar)
You’ve hit the mother-lode of books here:
—Faster, Fewer, Better Emails: Manage the Volume, Reduce the Stress, Love the Results (Berrett-Koehler)
—Great Letters for Busy People: 501 Ready-to-Use Letters for Every Occasion (McGraw-Hill)
—To The Letter (Wiley)
—How to Write Apology Letters
—How to Write Reference Letters
—How to Write Sympathy Letters
—How to Write Thank You Letters
—Successful Sales and Marketing Letters
—E-Writing: 21st Century Tools for Effective Communication (Simon & Schuster, Pocket Books)
—Booher’s Rules of Business Grammar: 101 Fast and Easy Ways to Correct the Most Common Errors (McGraw-Hill) is arranged in short chapters (1-2 pages each) that focus on ONE frequent mistake. For example, there are chapters about the confusion of affect versus effect, good versus well, and who versus whom. Other chapters cover topics like how to punctuate an email greeting (Hi, Jack or Hi Jack; or Hi Jack,), how to keep a list parallel, and where the apostrophe goes in the hat that belongs to Charles!
—Good Grief, Good Grammar (Facts on File & Random House) starts at ground zero. That is, the first half of the book explains “everything you always wanted to know about grammar” but missed in your schooling. It covers all the basics, and gives you practices exercises at the end of every chapter to make sure you master the concepts (answers are in the back of the book). Then the final half of the book focuses on common grammatical mistakes that affect clarity.
Written with adult readers in mind, both books take a humorous approach to the topic.
—Communicate With Confidence: How to Say It Right the First Time and Every Time (McGraw-Hill)
(Chapter 5 focuses solely on meetings. Other chapters also provide related tips such as being persuasive, listening, giving feedback, cross-gender communication, and so forth.)
—Communicate With Confidence: How to Say It Right the First Time and Every Time (McGraw-Hill)
(Chapter 6 focuses solely on listening skills. Chapter 7 and 8 also provide related tips such as asking the right kinds of questions and responding to questions appropriately.)
—First Thing Monday Morning (3 different editions of this book: Thomas Nelson, Revel, New Leaf)
Most of my devotional writing has been a contribution to other larger works such as these:
—The Soul Care Bible (HarperCollins/Thomas Nelson)
—Women of Faith Devotional Bible (HarperCollins/Thomas Nelson)
—First Light Devotional and Journal (HarperCollins/Oxmoor House)
—The Answer Bible (HarperCollins/Thomas Nelson)
Ideas are a dime a dozen. Execution is the challenge! For the nonfiction books, most ideas come from my clients. I typically listen to them talk about the problems they’re grappling with and if those interest me, I decide to research and write about the solutions. And of course, my agents or publishers come to me with an idea from time to time.
The novels typically stem from some deep emotion that I’ve experienced, and I build a story around it. Other ideas sometimes spring from a situation that I see in the news. Sometimes they come from a scrap of conversation that I overhear. Ideas jump out everywhere.
That calling became clear late in life—at the age of 27. My husband, who had struggled with deep depression all of our married life, was hospitalized at the time. It became clear to me that sooner or later, he was going to be unable to work and that I would become the sole support for our family. I had two small children at the time and was substitute teaching a few days a month to help make ends meet. I asked a pastor friend of mind for some suggestions about how I could possibly make a living for all of us.
He asked, “So what do you like to do?”
“Well, I used to like to write English compositions back in school. But I don’t know how I can make a living with that.”
“I didn’t ask you how to make a living,” he said. “I asked you what you LIKED to do. I suggest you find out how to make a living at it.”
So I did.
I write rather quickly once I start drafting. Typically, I can complete a draft in about 25-30 days. (Of course, research may take forever. And editing may be endless.) When drafting, I start about 8:00 a.m. and work until about 10:00 p.m., so I put in a good 14-hour day. As you can see my 25- to 30-day drafting schedule is more like the typical 2 months of work.
For me, total immersion works better for consistent pacing and voice. Then I can edit at a more sane pace. When possible, I like to focus: That is, I like to write, then promote, and then hit the speaking trail again. Of course, it never quite works out that way. But that’s always the beginning plan.
Write an excellent book proposal. (See the previous question and answer.) Often, first-time authors think the trick is “who you know” and getting someone to introduce you to the right editor or agent. That may get your query or proposal to someone’s desk—but it simply will not get a book sold. Agents and editors are visual people; they must “see it to believe it.” They live by words. So an email introduction or phone call (if it doesn’t irritate them) may get a query or proposal in the door, but the proposal has to stand on its own merit.
Currently, the general consensus is that bestseller lists mean very little nowadays because they can be bought. Many authors now know how to pay a firm to buy or otherwise obtain addresses of approximately 10,000 people and place orders in “selected” bookstores around the country that report in to the various lists. Their book has an artificial blip on the bestseller list for a week and then disappears. Publishers also can bundle several backlist titles together in a collection to sell at a greatly reduced priced—often at the price of one title.
Subsequently, all those “bundled” authors can then call themselves New York Times bestselling authors forever. Publishers then can advertise these titles as “New York Times bestsellers” and sell them as such after the bundling.
None of these tactics measure real demand for a book. Until the various bestseller lists devise a way to measure and report true sales over an extended period of time, bestseller lists will continue to be ignored.
Yes. But you may want to click on the “Executive Book Coaching” tab to see if we can help you in other ways by guiding you through the entire publishing process. Also, feel free to contact our office about booking a keynote or breakout during your writers conference or retreat.
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