Living in the digital age, as we do, it has long been predicted that the appeal of books will fade. But it hasn’t. Not even close. The ever-stubborn rise in sales quite clearly demonstrates that people still love and trust anything that looks and feels like a book. No wonder so many business people turn to the medium to get their message across and reinforce their expertise in a particular area. Plus, the added bonus is, if you author the book about sales/marketing/leadership/technology (what ever you do best) you immediately gain a certain cachet. If you wrote the book, you must know what you are talking about, right?
Get the book into the bestsellers list and you can multiply that halo effect a hundred-fold.
Competition is, of course, stiff. Thousands of new business books appear each year. So how do you make yours stand out from the crowd?
Firstly, it doesn’t matter how successful you are: don’t try to include everything you’ve ever done in your book. Yes, you may have years-and-years worth of experience and anecdotes under your belt, but keep your writing tight. Brevity is best. If you take too long to get to your point, or include meandering, self indulgent anecdotes, you will lose your audience. Try this test: if you read your own book and become bored or impatient, then it is definitely not hitting the spot. The author, of all people, should be able to read and enjoy their book. It might sound like a moot point, but it does really help if you are genuinely passionate about your topic too.
The best way to stay on track is to choose a strong hook and stick to it. If you’re a super-salesman, write about your formula to be a super-salesperson. Don’t stray away from a simple, say, ten-step process and the fantastic results to be gained from what you do.
Focus hard on the title. Bestselling author Tim Ferriss is a great example here. The single hook for his book was to outsource everything for a simpler life, right down to paying someone to manage his dating. He didn’t give his book the somewhat dull title of ‘Outsourcing: a simpler life’. No, he gave it the much more enticing title of ‘The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere and Join the New Rich.’ People remembered the hook because it was an attractive idea and a bestseller was assured.
Think about your audience as you write. Constantly come back to the question: is this useful and interesting information for the reader? If the reader understands and relates to what is being said, they’ll be more likely to enjoy the book and recommend it to others.
Don’t hold anything back as you pen your book. When I first start speaking with authors who want to use my ghostwriting services they often say: ‘I think there are at least three books here’. I always advise that they just do one, but put all their best stuff in it. (I know I am turning away business). Write it like it is the only book you will ever publish.
Whatever you do, check out the competition. If yours is a subject that has been done to death, you need to find something new to say or your book won’t stand a chance.
Writing the book, either by yourself, or in collaboration with a ghostwriter, is just the beginning. It is what comes next that is as, if not more, important. With hundreds of books appearing every month it is a crowded market and you’ll need to do everything you can to make your efforts shine. Even if you get a traditional publishing deal, I would never just hand over the manuscript and wait for them to make you famous. Publishers have limited resources and make strategic decisions about how much of those resources will be put into each of the many books that come out each year. First time and unknown authors won’t get a big share of the pie. You need to put the legwork with a well thought-through PR and marketing strategy. The same goes if you self publish, if not more so. I would certainly be working on your online footprint while you are writing the book. You need to be part of the social media conversation about the hook of your book. That doesn’t just mean tweeting ‘hey guys, my book about team-building is coming out in September’. It means regularly posting thought-provoking pieces about team-building for months in advance.
Then, once the book is published, the promotional effort shouldn’t simply run for three months and gradually fade away. It should continue indefinitely.
Reading this, it may appear that becoming a published author could take up a lot of time, certainly if you want to hit the bestsellers list. The truth is, it can. Certainly, if you want to be an overnight bestseller there needs to be a brilliant, tightly written book, and a great deal of intensive promotion. Alternatively, you could start with the brilliant, tightly written book (non-negotiable in bestseller terms) and tackle it more slowly. Rather than exploding onto the market and perhaps fading quickly, gradually build up a following with regular insightful posts about the book and help it to find its level. That way the author’s stamp of authority on his or her subject can last for years.
In bestselling terms there will always be an element of luck and being in the right place at the right time. However, if you’ve got something valuable to say, there is a lot you can do to boost your chances.