“It was the best of books… it was the worst of books…”
~ Adapted from Charles Dickens (with apologies)
It’s December now, so, as I look back at the year past and think about the shape of the year to come, I’ve taken some time to reflect on the projects I’ve completed this (so far) year. In amongst the shorter copywriting and marketing strategy projects I’ve worked on, have been five business book projects and in this article I’d like to focus on two of them…
The First Business Book…
By all measures this book could be counted a success:-
- It spent several weeks on the New York Times bestseller list;
- It attracted new private clients and speaking opportunities for the author;
- It achieved the coveted Amazon #1 Bestseller ranking in its category;
- It enhanced the author’s star-status;
- It made the author happy because it sounded exactly like him;
- I had fun writing it and learned a lot about a new field.
At the end of the day, we were both happy because the book was as successful as we hoped it would be and has gone on to create the results we planned. He has already multiplied his investment in the project several times over.
Was it perfect? No!
Some people loved it, others… not so much. As soon as we signed off on the project I found some more things I’d like to change, the author found more things we could have added. It reminded me that no project is ever complete: there are always more things you could do, add, perfect… If you think of your business book as a single artefact you will never sign off on it. If you think of it like a stage production… a living, breathing, changing performance you are able to offer the best that you can do today… with tomorrow framed as a new opportunity to improve.
Yet, with all it’s faults, this book did all that we hoped, planned, and worked towards. And, as expected, the client revenue has already dwarfed the income from book sales.
The Second Business Book…
On first glance this book was a failure:
- With no marketing budget the book has remained obscure;
- The author hasn’t used the book to create speaking engagements;
- It has remained well below the top #10,000 in its category on Amazon;
- The author didn’t care about star-status and knew that no-one would think they had authored a book anyway;
- I had fun writing the book because we took a different angle to other books on the subject.
Yet, it has attracted the author a boat-load of new clients and generated even more profits than anticipated simply because it is used a pure lead magnet and client-convincer. At the end of the day, the client is happy because his closing rate is close to 100%, his business is booming and profitable, and his waiting list is full. I am happy because there’s nothing that gives me greater satisfaction than seeing businesses attract profitable qualified clients easily and economically.
Could the second book have been a New York Times bestseller? Frankly, no… because the target audience wouldn’t sustain that kind of status. It didn’t need to be, either. When the author and I discussed our goals before the start of the project we knew that and set a time frame and budget to match the goals. This made it affordable and profitable for both sides and it got the book finished, released, and working far sooner.
What Do You REALLY Want Your Book to Do?
“Begin with the end in mind,” definitely applies to your business book. Before you start writing, hire a ghostwriter, or decide whether you are going to self-publish or find a traditional publisher you need to know the purpose of your business book.
Most business books are not designed to be perennial classics. The reality is, that your book will need to be updated to reflect changing conditions. However, for your own personal satisfaction as well as for the sake of your reputation they should not be sloppy, careless, or banal.
One prospective client I spoke with said to me, “No-one reads these books anyway. Their only value is the ‘thud’ factor so it doesn’t matter how they’re written and I certainly wouldn’t want to risk someone stealing my ideas and processes by writing them down.” I completely disagree with this perspective! Firstly, it overestimates that amount of effort people are willing to put into mastering ideas and processes, and secondly it underestimates your prospective clients. Your best clients probably will read your book… or at least enough of it to understand your processes and the philosophy behind them… and these same people will be repelled if your book is blatantly lazy and careless.
Decide what you want your book to achieve. Then determine the best length, content, and format to achieve that goal.