Six New Rules for Writing Business Books

As a literary agent I get pitched business book projects constantly. Writing a business book – or having someone write it for you – is a very worthwhile and valuable process that can pay dividends for you and your business in multiple ways. Relaying business experience or a unique philosophy not only improves your profile but sets you apart from your competition in a distinctive and marketing-savvy manner. It can lead to speaking opportunities, workshop presentations, media coverage, and is a powerful brand-building exercise. Finding a publisher for your wise words is another matter entirely.

The book publishing industry is undergoing massive change and much like what the music business has gone through, it comes down to consumers buying products differently.

Downloading e-books has altered the value equation for all the participants who work together to bring a book to market. Simply put, the e-book pie offers much smaller portions for everyone. And that includes authors.

By extension, publishers are being squeezed and are more cautious about acquiring and investing in books, at least compared to ten years ago. This means your business book has far less chance of being picked up by a publisher. Even if you are lucky to be selected, there is less marketing money than ever to bring some attention to your message.

However, as someone who has spent the past 30 years in the book industry, I have seen new rules for business authors emerge that in fact make the publishing process more certain, more controlled, and just plain smarter.

#1. If you want to build your brand and the brand is your book, do it yourself and self-publish. While publishers do bring much to the table they also control much of the process (including the publishing rights!) and therefore, your brand. I have found that is far too valuable to leave to the governance of others.

#2. The Toolbox is ready. Increasingly, the tools at your disposal are magnificent from sophisticated blogs, websites, internet retailers, to extraordinary good freelance editors, designers, writers. It is getting harder to distinguish the success of a self-published business book from a traditionally published one.

#3. Control. Unlike a trade publisher’s timetable, with self-publishing you control all aspects of your business including book price, format, style, and most important, controlling the release date.

#4. Forget about brick and mortar bookstores initially. This is where authors get into trouble, believing the only way to sell their book is to get it into bookstores. They subscribe to the “build it and they will come” theory. Publishers have learned the selling happens months and months before a book is released, and is built outside of the retail market. The true work in finding an audience, developing name recognition, and image building should happen light years before the book ever appears on a bookstore shelf. It is equivalent to what you try to do every day with your business!

#5. Travelling brand. Some business books can be published in translation, although certainly not all. Business books from North America are increasingly being picked up for translation in Korea, China, and elsewhere in the world. If the message is universal, your brand could become global very quickly.

#6. Cost. With the advent of print-on-demand technology and a growing number of publishing services to help self-published authors, the cost might surprise some people. As well, the business book price tag is much more cost-effective than many other forms of business marketing and promotion.

In conclusion, business authors know how valuable a book can be for their image. The new rules for business books however dictate authors manage the message, the product, and the brand themselves. Why leave that up to others to control?

Do You have the DNA to Self-Publish?

There are many articles, blogs, websites, penned by a long list of experts telling anyone who will listen how self-publishing is easy and anyone can do it. And while there is some truth these claims, it is also equally true that not everyone should take the plunge. Here are five questions to ask before you think about entering this stage:

1. Do you have a plan or a roadmap for your book project?
2. Are you a sole decision maker or operate better by committee?
3. Do you have the patience to ride through the highs and lows of publishing?
4. Do you have the stamina to stay the course and not give up when things look bleak?
5. Do you have a long term or a short term plan for your book?

I have looked at hundreds of self-published books both in my role as a literary agent and as a book consultant. The vast majority have been penned by people who push the “send” button on the keyboard too quickly eagerly believing their book is ready to be printed. Most do not have a roadmap for the project. Most have not done any research about what they will do with the book after they send some copies to friends and family. Most think about marketing as a carton or two arrives at the door. Most send a few books out to the media and then lose the stamina to continue to do so when no one calls back. And most believe that bookstores will carry their book – isn’t that what bookstores do? – they ask.

I am not exaggerating. The publishing road is a long one and you really need perseverance and patience to see some success. Too many give up, eventually, when some planning or a reality check very early on would have worked wonders.
One of the key points to remember in self-publishing that is frequently overlooked – you are the author and the publisher. Are you prepared to do both? A publisher is a decision-maker and some people don’t have the fortitude to do that – every day.
In future blogs I will explore some answers to these questions for you to consider.
I’m not big on motivational gobblygook but before you consider the self-publishing approach – have a plan – both short term and long term. Take a look around our Brilliant Idea Books website or visit and explore our Publishing Roadmap option for some ideas on how we can help your next book project.

Author Marketing: “It wasn’t my fault my book didn’t sell – it was my publisher!”

I was watching a video clip on the internet the other day where four authors were discussing author marketing and technology trends and how it affects publishing. Invariably the subject of e-books vs traditional publishing came up and all wanted to explore that area. All interesting stuff but the comments that a couple of authors made resonated with me because it is one I hear all the time. They both alluded that the reason their respective books didn’t do well was because the publisher lacked effective marketing. They suggested that it had nothing to do with them, the subject, the writing, or anything else. In fact the book was perfect. The publisher – or rather publishing screwed it up! In their eyes it wasn’t them – it was the publisher.

I hear this all the time. If only the publisher had put more copies out or organized up more publicity or marketed my book properly then it would have been a bestseller. Now I am not absolving any publisher of their duties in the process of selling a book. And God knows they do screw up. Some are better at different aspects of book publishing than others. They might be advised to pay more attention to each book they publish. But there is a key point that many authors miss. I read it when queries or pitches come into our agency. Hear it in party conversations with authors and certainly when they are frustrated.

“It wasn’t my fault the book didn’t sell – it was my publisher.”

Really? I put it to you that any publisher can only do so much so understand, in the end, it comes down to you. The marketing budgets in publishing are laughably thin. The publicity departments face wave after wave of books and authors and are understaffed. Printers screw up, shipments delayed, sales people pitch as best they can – in short there is a long process and a lot of stops along the way to even get the book in stores and get some attention for it. But the only person who can take ultimate responsibility for the success or the failure of your book – is you. You are the best salesperson, best marketer, spokesperson, advocate, etc and etc. If your book isn’t finding an audience figure out some other way to find it. If your publisher isn’t helping find out what you can do to help. Some resist, some are jerks, some are incompetent – just don’t forget it’s your name on the book. This is a piece of you and leaving that to fail should not be an option and every sales avenue should be explored.

I have been in publishing for 32 years and the last 12 as an agent and every successful author I represent – every single one – where the book has succeded and they are earning royalties have worked and worked and worked their tails off building an audience, expanded it, and finding even more ways to sell their book. They don’t give up and certainly don’t leave the destiny of their book entirely up to what the publisher might or might not do. I tell any new prospect that they should not count on the publisher to make the book work – it’s up to only one person – the author.