Successful Books Require Better Questions

Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers. ~ Voltaire

Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers. ~ Tony Robbins

My greatest strength as a consultant is to be ignorant and ask a few questions. ~ Peter Drucker

One of the joys of visiting bricks and mortar bookstores is when you come across a book you didn’t know about, on a topic you didn’t think you’d be interested in, about something that is largely out of date. Ever had an experience like that? Never happens for me on Amazon!

On one occasion, having visited my local Half Price Books, I chanced upon Randall Rothenberg’s tome Where The Suckers Moon: The Life and Death of an Advertising Campaign (Vintage, 1994) The purpose here is not to go into the content (it’s a hilarious yet disturbing account of the debacle that was Wieden + Kennedy’s early 1990s attempt at producing a winning advertising campaign for Subaru of America. Spoiler alert: they couldn’t). What I want to share with you  is something that former Advertising Age marketing and media columnist Rothenberg wrote in the Acknowledgments (a section that often makes for instructive reading for serious authors):

…the project really began with a troubling question asked me by Joseph Lelyveld, then the deputy managing editor (of the New York Times), who wanted to know why men and women in advertising were so passionate about what they did. Unable to answer, even after two years and some five hundred advertising columns, I (went) …to find the reasons.

Here was a respected expert on the media, who wrote for one of the most prestigious magazines in his industry, yet didn’t make the mistake of thinking he knew everything.

Had he done so, his book would have been quite different and — without a question he couldn’t answer to spur him on — have likely not become “the critically-acclaimed chronicle of the birth, evolution, and death of a single advertising campaign” that resulted.

Rothenberg produced a different book from what was typically written about the advertising industry.

How different and superior do you want your book to be?

In which case, what’s your question?

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