What makes some business books bestsellers while others languish on remainder tables or barely see the light of day? Having written two New York Times bestsellers and sixteen other legitimate national bestsellers for my clients, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to craft a book that can scale the heights of the bestseller list. I’d like to share those secrets with you now.
First, make the book about the reader, not about the author.
Think about the problems you solve for your client. Why do they come to you, as opposed to any of your many competitors? Why do they stay with you? Why do they refer business to you, and those folks come pre-sold on hiring you?
It’s not just because you’re smart, well-spoken, and experienced.
It’s because you solve big problems better than anyone else.
So before you write a word, ask yourself, what are key problems I solve—the ones that get my clients the most relief, the ones for which they’re most excited and grateful.
Then ask yourself this: what’s the unique skill that I bring to bear to solve these problems? What is it that I look for in a balance sheet? What is it that I notice in a stack of legal filings? What patterns do I recognize that others fail to see, and what do I do with that key information I’ve gleaned that others might not notice?
Make that skill the central focus of the book.
In other words, business bestsellers are not simply recitations of “how great I am,” unless your last name happens to be Gates, Ellison, or Jobs.
For everybody else, successful business books identify one primary skill readers lack, and if they had that skill, they would succeed as never before.
So you aren’t selling your story. You’re selling a solution no one else has ever offered the world.
And your book doesn’t need five or 10 or 25 different solutions.
One gets it done.
Marshall Goldsmith wrote a book called “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There.” In it, he talks about the fact that the skill set required to get to the top is different from the skill set that keeps you there. How does he know that? Because he’s helped countless businesspeople get to the top… and keep their number one position.
One skill. One problem solved. One massive bestseller.
Years ago, Michael Gerber wrote a business book called “The E-Myth,” which has sold more than five million copies and is the single biggest-selling small business book in the history of the genre. Gerber’s realization: just because people are good at performing a task—in his classic example, making pies—they are not necessarily good entrepreneurs. In his book, he teaches people how to recognize their shortcomings as business owners, fill those gaps, and create a business that can be franchised.
One problem solved; more than five million copies sold.
Renée Mauborgne and W. Chan Kim wrote a book called “Blue Ocean Strategy,” which may well have been the most successful offering in the history of the Harvard Business Review. The authors identified one key problem—most companies operate in shark-infested waters (red oceans) where they have tons of competition. The solution: create a product or a service that no one else is offering (blue ocean), and you will own the market you create. Their classic example: Cirque du Soleil, which provides a circus experience aimed at adults.
I could go on, but you get the point.
If you want to write a business bestseller, the starting place once again is to ask yourself, what problems do I solve better than anyone else. And then ask, what skill do I use to solve those problems? And then take that single skill and turn it into the focus of your book.
Now you’ve got your own blue ocean strategy, because no one else in the world is as good as you at solving the problems you solve. That’s what makes a business book successful—it carves out its own audience, because people need exactly what that book offers.
If you’re ready to have a business bestseller of your own, and you’d like some help working through those key questions—what problems, what skill, how to turn that skill into the foundation of a highly successful book—let’s talk.