Five More Ways to Impress a Business Book Editor

Earlier I gave some tips on how to get your business book published. Since this remains one of the most asked-for information areas, I racked my brain to come up with five more ideas on how to impress a business book editor or publisher. These are more subtle than the earlier ones, but probably more important:

*Be counterintuitive: This is a real key to capturing the attention of a book editor. Many of the bestselling business books are ones that have counter intuitive titles and take that approach in the book and title. Talent is Overrated  by Fortune’s Geoffrey Colvin is one great example. 

*Have mounds of “actionable” research: Many of the bestselling books are built on multi-year studies that have produced tons of data/research. Good to Great is the most visible example in the business category, based on a six-year research study. Portfolio’s Judgment: How Winning Leaders Make Great Calls by Noel Tichy and Warren Bennis is another terrific example. That book is based on dozens of interviews in the field with people like Jack Welch (former CEO, GE) and Jim McNerney (CEO, Boeing). The key is that the data be prescriptive. Data for data’s sake is useless.   

*Become a super-blogger (or the best friend of one): The best bloggers have incredible traffic on their websites. My new favorite site, our own Hugh MacLeod’s (ingenious cartoons), gets thousands of unique visitors per day. There are few things as powerful as having a big, fat email list. These are folks who know who you are, believe in you, and are likely to be interested in any book you produce.      

*Use language that brings your ideas alive: I can’t tell you how many proposals I have seen that are dead on arrival—not because the idea is hopeless (although that happens often, too), but because the words used to describe the book concept make it sound ordinary, academic, dry—you get the idea. If you can’t get passionate about your ideas from the start (e.g. a great table of contents), and inspire that in the people who read your stuff, you won’t get any editor enthusiastic about publishing your work.

*Target a bestselling book in the marketplace: On occasion we get an author who tells us: “The competitor’s book has sold 300,000 copies but it doesn’t do all of the things that my book does. My book will be better because it has all of that and more.”  Sometimes going after a market leader can work, but the new book has to do so many things right, and probably appeal to a slightly different segment of the market. For example, in 1998 there was The Electronic Day Trader. Six months later came How to Get Started in Electronic Day Trading. The second book was slightly down market and actually sold more copies than the first one. How you position a book in the market can be everything.   

Those are the five. I am sure I will have more in the future. I do realize that some of these are far easier said than done. For example, it can take years to become a super-blogger, but there are many blohggers out there who started with little more than an idea. Arnold Kim, for example (who was just featured in a New York Times story), has a site called (yes, he blogs about Apple Computer). He now gets tens of millions of hits and left his medical practice to blog full time. “It can all be boiled down to one simple accomplishment,” he told The New York Times. “If you have a site that attracts a lot of visitors, you will be able to make money. On the internet, traffic equals power, which subsequently equals money, ” he stated authoritatively. 

If you have some more tips to add, please send me a note. I would love to hear from you.


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