Today’s interview on writing a business book is with Bonnie Marcus, one of the mentors I met at the beginning of my journey as a book coach and entrepreneur. It’s been exciting to see Bonnie’s work evolve–especially after her first book came out. In today’s interview, we cover lots of exciting ground about getting started with the book’s concept and early decisions, overcoming self-doubt,
Inspiration and Early Steps in Writing a Business Book Tweet This
Lisa: Can you start us off with the inspiration for Not Done Yet!? When did you start writing a business book and what inspired you?
Bonnie: A little over three years ago, I was coaching a 58-year-old female attorney who worked on the legal team of a large tech company in Silicon Valley. She had worked there eight years and had always been a star performer. But now, she was the oldest member of the team and the oldest woman. She began to notice that she was no longer invited to key meetings; that people didn’t seek her opinion any more, and most importantly, that her work load was being redistributed to younger colleagues. Without a full portfolio, she knew that she was vulnerable and feared being pushed out.
I coached her through that experience and then realized that this probably wasn’t an isolated incident. As I did more research and interviews, I learned that gendered ageism is a reality for professional women over 50 and I wanted to bring awareness to this issue and give women the tools to defy ageist assumptions and stereotypes and stay marketable and keep their jobs.
I started the research and interviews three years ago and completed my outline shortly thereafter.
Structuring a Business Book and Clarifying the Concept, Voice and Features
Lisa: How did you develop the book concept and structure? What advice on organization do you have for other business or self-help book authors?
Bonnie: My original approach to the book was similar to my first book, The Politics of Promotion, where I included a lot of both research and coaching advice. But I struggled to find the right voice for this new message. I wanted the reader of Not Done Yet! to feel like I was a close girlfriend sitting down and having a down-to-earth conversation about the reality of gendered ageism for professional women over 50. I wanted to build trust and therefore, added a lot of my personal story and my personal feelings about aging to this book. It was challenging as I felt exposed and vulnerable but I felt it was necessary to get the message across. It was the first time I ever wrote something so personal.
I organized the book in three sections to highlight the most important themes of the book. First, how to identify and overcome our own internalized ageist assumptions that hold us back and sabotage our success. Second, I offer basic career advice on how to stay marketable and avoid being marginalized and pushed out. Third, I inspire women to connect, own and celebrate the power and wisdom of their age.
Blogging Voice versus Writing Voice
Lisa: Your straight talk, unapologetic, “take no prisoners” approach makes for easy reading. How did you develop your voice? Is it the same or different from your blogging voice?
Bonnie: I worked with a writing coach to help me fine tune my voice, which is very different than the voice I use for my Forbes column and other blogs, and I followed the structure of Rachel Hollis’ book, Girl Stop Apologizing, to create short chapters. I like her direct conversational approach as well.
Gathering Stories or Anecdotes for a Business Book
Lisa: You beautifully highlight the stories of many women over age 50+ who have experienced age discrimination in their workplaces. Was it difficult to find so many examples? How did you gather this information?
Bonnie: I put out requests on social media for professional women in this demographic to participate (anonymously) in interviews about their experiences with ageism at work. I reached out to different professional women’s organizations who helped me share the request with their members.
Lisa: You write about the value of mentors and mentorships. Do you mentor women in the workplace and do you have a mentor or mentors yourself?
Bonnie: I was lucky to have had a couple of female managers who were great mentors for me early in my career, and as an entrepreneur, I’ve developed a network of advisors. Now I often draw from my network to get advice and have many great mentors who help me build my platform and stay on track.
Because much of my time is coaching/mentoring, I often get requests from professional women to help them with career advice. I also offer complimentary coaching sessions.
Writing Habits and Tips
Lisa: What are some of your writing habits that helped you make consistent progress in writing a business book?
Bonnie: I work best with long uninterrupted periods of time early in the day. I block at least a minimum of a couple of these blocks of time per week.
Lisa: Did you work from an outline or on specific sections or chapters?
Bonnie: I worked from a robust outline. I transferred the section heads from the outline to an excel spreadsheet. It was then easier to add chapters under each section. The outline was invaluable to keep me focused and organized.
Lisa: Do you have any tips for our readers who are writing a business book?
Bonnie: Be clear about your target audience and your message. What do you want your readers to take away from reading your book? identify the best approach/voice to deliver your message and hold yourself accountable to stay true to that delivery.
Lisa: You write a lot about self-care. What self-care tips do you have for writers, whether writing a business book or some other type of book?
Bonnie: I find that meditating helps me a lot. It keeps me grounded and true to myself. I also start my day with exercise and that not only clears my head, but energizes me for the day. I get my best work done early in the day and schedule my other work around my writing blocks.
Combating Self-Doubt as a Business Book Writer
Lisa: You write about the story you once told yourself, “…that I was a mediocre author and no one would want to read my book.” And that story caused you to put your writing on hold. What happened to get you writing again?
Bonnie: I know that for myself, once I engage with a topic, I find my voice, my passion and commitment. Once I connect with that passion, nothing stops me.
Lisa: What kind of change do you hope comes out of Not Done Yet?
Bonnie: I want to build awareness about the effect of gendered ageism on professional women. I believe it needs to be addressed in companies as a DEI issue but right now, there is little attention paid to this in the workplace. It affects women’s career trajectories, job security, and financial viability.
I want to let women know they need to be proactive, know this is a reality, and do what they need to do to stay marketable, and stay in the game before they experience being marginalized and lose their jobs. I give women the tools to take control of their careers and remain visible and relevant.
Business Book vs. Self-Help
Lisa: Not Done Yet is listed in business book categories on Amazon, but it is also a self-help book for the reader. Did you struggle with how to categorize it or did you know from the beginning that you were writing a business book?
Bonnie: The decision to list it as a business book was a decision I made with my publisher, Page Two. Page Two set the categories.
Lisa: What are some of the reactions you’ve been getting from readers? Are you hearing from people who are empowered to step outside of their comfort zone and step into their power? Any particular story to share about this?
Bonnie: The feedback I’ve received from women who’ve read the book is that they are energized to step up and stop playing small. Many are motivated to create a movement around #NotDoneYet. I secured the copyright for Not Done Yet and have created swag items and invited women to post pictures of themselves with the book or in a Not Done Yet tee shirt to celebrate that they’re not done yet. I’ve received feedback that women are more comfortable owning the power of their age and feeling confident about stepping up in the workplace.
Lisa: You write that you started blogging about helping women advocate for themselves and Forbes reached out to you to become a contributor. Can you share more about your experience blogging for Forbes? How did that experience influence what went into the book?
Bonnie: I have enjoyed writing for Forbes on topics relevant to women in business and leadership. I am somewhat restricted by their policies and can’t share personal anecdotes etc. My voice is very business-like and professional and I’m encouraged to link to other articles on topic as well as research. My writing for Forbes definitely influenced my book, The Politics of Promotion.
That being said, my Forbes column had little influence on Not Done Yet! as my tone and conversational personal approach would not be acceptable on Forbes.
Promoting the Book
Lisa: One of the tenets of Not Done Yet! is self-advocacy. How have you applied self-advocacy in the promotion of your book?
What book promotion activities have been the most effective and efficient? Anything you tried that was not worth the time and effort?
Bonnie: I definitely have applied self-advocacy. I’ve reached out to my network to promote the book. I’ve sent out copies to many personal contacts and requested reviews. I reached out to organizations to do workshops/webinars on the book and the topic of gendered ageism.
I also hired a PR company to secure interviews, bylines etc. Their efforts have created more visibility for the book which leads to increased sales. My social media team does a lot of the book promotion on my different social channels.
Working with an Entrepreneurial or Hybrid Publisher Tweet This
Lisa: You worked with a hybrid publisher, Page Two Books. What led you to choose them? How did this process vary from typical self-publishing with your first book?
Bonnie: Wiley first published The Politics of Promotion in 2015. I was dissatisfied with them and after three years obtained the rights back for the book and then self-published the paperback and then produced the audio book. It is now available both in paperback and as an audio book.
Page Two is very professional and it is a great experience working with them. With them, I had total control over the editing process, layout, cover design etc. I had very little input from Wiley on any of these things.
Page Two has a very different business model than a traditional publisher who gives you a small percentage of the sales. With Page Two, you pay upfront to produce the book and then receive much greater royalties.
Lisa: How much of a role did Page Two Books play in the marketing and promotion of the book?
Bonnie: Page Two has a large sales and distribution team and they worked with me along with my marketing/social media team to create an initial plan to market the book. They lined up international distribution and translation services if requested.
I have just completed my own narration of the book and Page Two will help setting that up on Audible.
About Bonnie Marcus
BONNIE MARCUS, M.Ed., is an award-winning entrepreneur, Forbes contributing writer, and executive coach, who assists professional women to successfully navigate the workplace and position and promote themselves to advance their careers. Marcus shares her message globally through speaking engagements, live and virtual workshops, blogging, and her popular podcast, Badass Women at Any Age. A certified coach, she has been honored by Global Gurus as one of the world’s top 30 coaches in 2015-2020. She has been acknowledged as one
of the top 100 keynote speakers in 2018 by Databird Research Journal.
Marcus received a BA from Connecticut College and a M.Ed. from New York University. Connect with Bonnie Marcus on Twitter @selfpromote, Instagram @self_promote_, Facebook @bonnie.marcus, LinkedIn and visit her website BonnieMarcusLeadership.com.