How to write a bestselling business book

If you run a business, a book is the ultimate business card. It shows you are an expert in that space. Write a bestselling business book and you will own that space.

Competition is, of course, stiff. Thousands of new business books appear each year but 99% never sell more than one thousand copies. So how do you make yours stand out from the crowd and become a bestseller?

Firstly, think about positioning. You may feel that your expertise spans across a number of disciplines, but what are you best at? Equally importantly, what category will your book best fit into and stand out? The best way to get noticed is to choose a strong hook and stick to it. If you’re a super-salesman, write about your formula to be a super-salesperson. Don’t stray away from a simple, say, ten-step process and the fantastic results to be gained from what you do. When you think you have your winning angle, check out the competition. If yours is a subject that has been done to death, you will need to find something new to say or your book won’t stand a chance.

Before you get start on the actual writing part, plan carefully and think about what you are going to include to engage your reader. Now map out your chapters. Think about an enticing ‘hook’ to draw the reader in from the start, and then how to make each chapter stand out by including nuggets of useful information and insights on each page. A useful tip to get yourself started on this process is to think about questions that you are most often asked about your business. What information do you find yourself repeating time and again. That’s what people want to know. Plan for a satisfying ending, with a call to action. It’s easy to focus on how challenging the writing will be, but this step is just as, if not more, important. If you get this right, the book will work well. If you don’t it could easily sink without trace.

Now start writing.

The goal here is to fill in the gaps in your chapter-by-chapter plan. While this might seem daunting, it is not as challenging as you think if you have completed the planning stage. You will simply be filling in the gaps between your chapter headers. Turn the bullet points into paragraphs, and the paragraphs into chapters. The ‘thinking’ bit has essentially been taken care of.

Don’t put yourself under pressure to make the first draft perfect, but do focus on keeping the writing tight with no waffle. It doesn’t matter how successful you are: don’t try to include everything you’ve ever done in your book. Yes, you may have years-and-years worth of experience and anecdotes under your belt, but the reader will be interested how this book will help them solve their problems, not in hearing about your early battles getting the coffee machine working properly. Some humour is welcome, but brevity is best. If you take too long to get to your point, or include meandering, self indulgent anecdotes, you will lose your audience. Try this test: if you read back over a chapter and become bored or impatient, then it is definitely not hitting the spot. The author, of all people, should be able to read and enjoy their book. It might sound like a moot point, but it does really help if you are genuinely passionate about your topic too.

Think about your audience as you write. Constantly come back to the question: is this useful and interesting information for the reader? If the reader understands and relates to what is being said, they’ll be more likely to enjoy the book and recommend it to others.

Don’t hold anything back as you pen your book. When I first start speaking with authors who want to use my ghostwriting services they often say: ‘I think there are at least three books here’. I always advise that they just do one, but put all their best stuff in it. (I know I am turning away business). Write it like it is the only book you will ever publish.

Once the first draft is finished, it is time to polish your book. I would recommend a three stage editing process. The first is to read it through thoroughly to make sure it meets the goal of the plan you made and that everything has been included. Secondly, there is the slightly more tedious task of going through it line-by-line to make sure every sentence is clear and succinct. Tackle this one chapter at a time, with a break in between, or you will just end-up reading, rather than editing. Then, finally, do one last read through to spot typos and make sure it flows. It really helps to read the book in another medium, either by printing it out, or changing the font. Oddly, this new perspective will help you spot errors that you previously glossed over.

It is only now that you really need to think about the title – although you may already have one in mind. Titles are, of course, an important part of the process and can make or break a book, so it is worth spending some time on getting it right. Once again, I would stick to the single compelling hook method. Bestselling author Tim Ferriss is a great example here. The single hook for his book was to outsource everything for a simpler life, right down to paying someone to manage his dating. He didn’t give his book the somewhat dull title of ‘Outsourcing: a simpler life’.  No, he gave it the much more enticing title of ‘The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere and Join the New Rich.’  People remembered the hook because it was an attractive idea and a bestseller was assured.

Writing the book is, of course, just the beginning. It is what comes next that is as, if not more, important. With hundreds of books appearing every month, you’ll need to do everything you can to make your efforts shine. Even if you get a traditional publishing deal, never just hand over the manuscript and wait for them to make you famous. Publishers have limited resources and make strategic decisions about how much of those resources will be put into each of the many books that come out each year. First time and unknown authors won’t get a big share of the pie. You need to put the legwork with a well thought-through PR and marketing strategy. The same goes if you self publish, if not more so. I would certainly be working on your online footprint while you are writing the book. You need to be part of the social media conversation about the hook of your book. That doesn’t just mean tweeting ‘hey guys, my book about team-building is coming out in September’. It means regularly posting thought-provoking pieces about team-building for months in advance.

Once the book is published, the promotional effort shouldn’t simply run for three months and gradually fade away. It should continue indefinitely. Regular insightful posts, podcasts and articles about the book will help it to find its level. That way the author’s stamp of authority on his or her subject can last for years.

In bestselling terms there will always be an element of luck and being in the right place at the right time which will make a difference to the success of any book. However, if you’ve got something valuable to say, there is a lot you can do to boost your chances and to become that 1% of business books that become notable bestsellers.