The rise of the business book and the need for more women writers

By   Hannah Bickerton 5 min read

Lucy McCarraher co-founded Rethink Press in 2011. Rethink Press is a hybrid business model (between self-publishing and traditional publishing) and Lucy works as managing editor to publish over fifty books by entrepreneur authors per year, while also mentoring hundreds of authors worldwide through the process of planning, writing and publishing their business books via the Key Person of Influence programme. Lucy is also the founder of the prestigious Business Book Awards.

Over the past ten years, the world of business book publishing has been transformed. Where a decade ago most business books were solid tomes by well-respected experts based on years of research and published by big name or specialist houses, today’s authors, the range of their titles and routes to publication are radically different. Self-publishing and especially hybrid publishing are booming in the business book market.

Having seen the whole business book publishing market expand and flourish over the last few years, I founded the Business Book Awards in 2017 to celebrate the dynamism and diversity of the business book genre. With a female Head Judge, Alison Jones, we created entry categories and judging criteria that we thought were inclusive and fair, and which the eminent Judging Panel of equal numbers of male and female business experts, authors and publishers followed with integrity and rigour.

When the judging of the inaugural awards was completed, the standard of winning books and authors was outstanding. But every category winner and the overall winner of the first Business Book of the Year was a white male author.

I looked back. Of the one-hundred and fifty books entered, from big and small publishers and self-published authors, one third were written by women to two thirds men. Slightly fewer than a third of women authors had made it through to the shortlist and not one through to the line-up of eleven winners. I analysed our list at Rethink Press, where authors approach us to publish their books – we don’t select them. Our three-hundred-plus titles were also one-third female to two-thirds male authors.

To dig deeper, I carried out a survey and in-depth interviews with fifty female authors of business books and found that women entrepreneurs believe that they are up against the ‘6Cs’ both in business and in publishing. My survey respondents also had the following tips for other women entrepreneurs and authors to get over these challenges:

1. Confidence – women have less confidence than men in their own abilities.

The ABOO survey respondents exhorted other women to realise how valuable their own business experience is and to remember how much sharing it with their market will benefit others. Planning and structuring their book gave them an archive of great content which they could repurpose, and made them much more confident speakers, facilitators and pitchers.

2. Criticism – Women are fearful of judgement and criticism – with justification.

Th female authors I spoke to said they had overcome this fear by being very rigorous with their content, backing up their assertions with references and including real life anecdotes, interviews and case studies. They also worked very rigorously with their editors and publishers, so they could be very sure, when their books came out, that there were no chinks in their armour. The authors felt that they owned their own stories or business journey, and no one could disagree with the facts.

3. Caring – Women often have to factor in caring responsibilities and feel selfish taking time out to write their book.

Women are usually adept at, and experienced in, managing many things at once, and they can usefully apply this to getting their book planned and written around their business and family responsibilities. It’s also a good reason to encourage colleagues and family members to step up and take on more, and let our own feeling of being indispensable take a back seat.

4. Cash – Women are more risk averse and worry about investing time and money in writing and publishing.

All fifty of the ABOO Circle of women writers talked about how their book had become a valuable asset to their business, giving them authority, gaining them more clients and allowing them to raise their prices. Several could point to clients who had come to them through reading their book and had brought in hundreds of thousands of pounds in revenue they wouldn’t otherwise have had.

5. Credibility – Women are often seen to lack credibility with external organisations like funders, publishers and prospects.

Being the author of a good business book makes you an instant expert and authority on your subject matter. Women often don’t like to appear ‘pushy’ or to promote themselves, but simply sending your book to someone, or putting it on the table in a pitch or interview situation and asking, ‘Have you read my book?’ makes you instantly credible.

6. The Club – Women lack the role models, mentors and networks that men automatically have access to.

Women need to actively seek out mentors and support networks to help them get their business book written and published. I have a private Facebook group for aspiring and inspiring women writers who can get and give advice to each other, share tips and ideas. Where men find it easy to go for a drink or network through sports and hobbies, women can get together online without disrupting their busy lives.

I’ve published the full results of the survey and other research in my latest book aimed at women in business, A Book of One’s Own – a manifesto for women to share their experience and make a difference.

I’m on a mission to inspire more women entrepreneurs to write their book and claim their authority in their niche. I’m recruiting fifty women to a challenge to write and publish their business book by 31 December 2019, to enter them in the Business Book Awards and get us a fifty–fifty female/male split in this year’s entries.

For more information about Lucy and her new book, visit her website and Twitter page. And, if you’re an woman aspiring to write a business book, click here for writing and publishing support.

Hannah Bickerton
Hannah Bickerton
Hannah has worked in marketing for nine years, specialising in strategy development for start-ups and EdTech companies. Having recently jumped across industries to join the Whitefox team, Hannah isn’t a complete stranger to the publishing world with previous employment at Macmillan and TES Global. She is now dedicated to ensuring that anyone who has something interesting to say knows all about whitefox.