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Why Your Book Stinks

 

If you run a business – and particularly if you are a solopreneur where you are the product – the holy grail of publicity is often a published book. But many of you feel that there is this vast gulf between you and “Those Who Are Published.”

In reality, there is a process to getting published by a royalty publisher. If you follow it, success is not only reasonable, but in my view, likely. But maddeningly, most of you never follow it, probably because no one was ever polite enough to clue you in. So, here are the top reasons that you can’t get arrested published with your book idea:

You don’t know what a published author smells like. No, I don’t mean that literally. But I do mean it literarily. Pick up non-fiction business books that are selling well at your favorite bookstore. See how the key arguments of these books are structured? See how their sections flow? See how long their paragraphs and chapters are?

Now, hold that up against your book. See those 400-word paragraphs? See how many pages it takes for you to make your point? See your plain-Jane intro versus their a-ha moment? Gotcha. All of this is mechanical and easily fixed. Just study other successful books and follow the dots.

You don’t know what sells. Do you know what the most important part of your book proposal is – and the place agents and publishers probably turn to first? Your competitive analysis. People need to answer the question “how many copies will it sell?” before they even start worrying about your turgid prose. 

This means that the worst thing you can say is that there is no other book like yours – and the best thing is that you have something new and unique to offer in a genre that already sells in large quantities.

It’s all about you. If you blindfold me and make me pick a self-published business book at random, I can still make a pretty reasonable guess about what its content is like. It’s all about the author and his or her own experiences, with a tiny bit of summary advice thrown in for good measure. Right?

News flash: autobiography doesn’t sell well unless you are Lady Gaga. Conversely, most of us have a ceaseless thirst for actionable advice. Find a tough problem and solve it first, and then use your own life as a spice or a seasoning and not the main course.

Your title is whacked. People often scan the titles of books in a bookstore – or online – and decide in a split second whether to look further or whether to pass. If your book is entitled “The Dream of the Blue Elephant” or some such, you’ve squandered that split second.

Listen carefully: there is a reason that the best books tend to have simple, high-content titles. Good to Great. Crucial Conversations. Think and Grow Rich. And perhaps the best book title ever invented, The 4-Hour Workweek. Some people put as much thought into their title as they do the rest of the book.

The irony is that if you are smart enough to run a business, you are probably more than smart enough to become a published author, and for exactly the same reason: both require new ideas that change people’s lives. Study how other people do it well and then, join the club!

So, what do you think? Are there some reasons that I missed? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Article written by
Rich Gallagher is a former customer service executive and practicing therapist who heads the Point of Contact Group. His books include two #1 customer service bestsellers, “What to Say to a Porcupine” and ”The Customer Service Survival Kit: What to Say to Defuse Your Worst Customer Situations,” both released by AMACOM. He has taught over 25,000 people what to say in their worst customer and workplace situations.
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