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26.7.17

What is a business book, and what makes it sell?

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You’ll never guess what the dictionary definition of a book is: ‘a written or printed work consisting of pages glued or sewed together along one side and bound in covers’. Yep — that encompasses many possibilities, doesn’t it? In fact, as far as definitions go, your book can have blank pages and still qualify for the noun. Millions of blank books sell every year — why didn’t I think of that!

There is nothing in the dictionary definition about how many pages make a book, what size it should be, or if it must have one word or 20 or 5000 words per page.

Even so, will your readers be satisfied if you give them a book that is 10 pages long, with one word a page? I think not. Let’s define what readers expect from a business book, and how to make them so excited that they buy yours.

How many words is a business book?

I define a business book as between 25000 and 45000 words. The Thought Leader Business School, of which I was a member a couple of years ago, used the following convention: if the book relates directly to a program you run, 25000 words is plenty. If your book is designed to position your expertise within the context of other experts on your topic, 40000 to 50000 words is the right size.

How many pages is a business book?

Those word counts will give a book that is between 140 pages and 250 pages long. So many choices you make will influence the number of pages in the final book. Here are some:

  • Design factors such as the font size and line spaces.
  • Inclusions such as photos, illustrations or break out text.
  • Whether you have an index, forward or preface.
  • The number of chapters and the design treatment of new chapters.
  • The dimensions of the book.
  • The printing process you choose.

How many chapters in a business book?

Nine. Well, that is what I recommend for your first book. Three chapters about why I should read your book, three chapters about what is different about your book, and three chapters about how I can solve my problems as a result of reading your book.

Of course, there are many possible structures for a book:

  • A list book, such as the Steven Covey’s ‘Seven Habits of Highly Influential People’.
  • A memoir, such as Miles Franklin’s ‘My Brilliant Career’.
  • A back-to-front book like … oh wait, I haven’t written that one yet.

Truth be told, I have never read a book that did not have a why what and how section; the only difference is how much time the author spends on each. Covey’s book has a lot of how. Franklin’s has a lot of what. A book like ‘Firms of Endearment’ is dominated by the why. Yet, all have a bit of each.

What will make your business book a bestseller?

You know that annoying thing that politicians do when a journalist corners them with a question like: ‘Will the budget make it to surplus in 2017?’. And they say, ‘Depends on how you define surplus’. Sorry if I’m about to annoy you, but let us define a best seller.

If you sell 3000 books in the first week after publication, you will make The Wall Street Journal’s Bestseller list; for the New York Times Bestseller list, you’ll need 9000 copies sold in the first week. Does that surprise you? It surprises me because 3000 doesn’t seem like a lot. A typical royalty is 10% of the recommended retail price, say $25. That means a bestseller nets you between $75,000 and $225,000. It’s cool, but not life changing, would you agree?

I have another (better) definition of a bestseller: it sells you and your ideas and wins you contracts that make you $120,000 a year, each year and every year. Let’s say you get paid $10,000 for a three-day training course in a medium-sized or global company. Your book is a hit with 12 companies, and they all buy your training. Bam! $120,000. That is what I call a bestseller. And you can give away your book to your clients, and all the people who attend your training.

This blog in a nutshell

A book is whatever you want it to be, providing it has pages and a cover. But your clients expect more than 10 pages with one word a page. So, write between 25000 and 45000 words, give your book away to prospective clients and aim to make $120,000 a year from the effort and investment it takes to get your book written and published.

The verb, to book, fits my definition of the value of a book better than the noun: it means to reserve (accommodation, a place, etc.), or buy (a ticket) in advance. Your business book reserves your place as an expert in your market and buys you sales in advance.

PS: Want more? You might like Easy ways to promote your new book

 

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