One of the most common inquiries I get comes from business book authors who say no one is buying or reading their books. Can I help?
The answer to which is invariably “no.”
Like a house that’s been been poorly designed, oftentimes it’s easier and cheaper to start from scratch.
With that in mind, it’s better to anticipate the kinds of problems that readers have with so many business books (or any genre of nonfiction books, to be honest) that cause them to stop reading.
Here are three tips to help you do exactly that:
Tip #1: Have enough material
Honestly? So many books I see by self-published authors never should have been books in the first place. There’s maybe enough material for a lengthy article, or a one page summary, but certainly not enough for a book. Which is why it’s important–before you begin to write–to review Tip #2 and then go back and ask yourself: “Do I have enough original, insightful material here to fill an entire book?”
Whatever you do, avoid writing a book where the biggest criticism is that there’s way too much “filler” or “fluff.”
Tip #2: Be sure to say something fresh
This problem crops up when authors circumvent that all-important discipline at the very beginning of the book development process, which is to conduct a competitive analysis. This means reading and reviewing books that are in a similar space to yours.
For example, when Sharon Schweitzer and I worked on Access to Asia together — a book that has won several awards and received a coveted Kirkus Starred Review (and was one of their Books of the Month, July 2015) — the first thing we did was go through boxes and boxes of competitive titles covering global business culture, intercultural communication, international etiquette and customs, and many other topics associated with Sharon’s work.
If you don’t have anything original or insightful to say that people haven’t already seen many times before, they’re definitely going to feel cheated and will stop reading (or even buying in the first place).
Tip #3: Don’t leave them stranded!
My friend, Rajesh Setty, who inspired this blog post, as well as the Gloopt video I made with the same title, made reference to this in his recent LinkedIn article (see his points 2 and 3 in particular, as well as my lengthy comment under the piece).
A good business book requires people to think about what’s been written, to consider ways in which they might apply the material to their own situation (especially if it’s in the “how to” genre or is focused on solving a specific business challenge). This is particularly true of “workbooks” that contain exercises or prompts for thinking and discussing–such as my book co-authored with Craig Badings, Thought Leadership Tweet.
Which is why it’s important — if you are a coach, a consultant, a speaker, or a business owner offering workshops or other events — that you include a marketing page at the back of your book outlining your services, so that potential clients know how you can help them work through the material.
Remember, it’s one thing to have published a book, but it’s a whole different ball of wax to actually have people willingly buy it, read it, write glowing testimonials and recommend it to their contacts, because it was hugely helpful to them. Rather than be something they put down after a few pages thinking, “This was a waste of my time and money.”
What books have you read recently that didn’t inspire you to read beyond the first few pages or chapters? Which ones are your all-time favorites and why did you find them such compelling reads? Please contribute your thoughts by commenting–I always answer every one.