Recently, Businessweek published an article on writing successful business books. What’s an up and coming publishing and communications consultant supposed to do? I lunged for it, curious about how an outsider sees this sub-industry and whether readers would need any guidance on what the piece said.
The article, “How to Write a Bestselling Business Book,” written by Eric Spitznagel, is to be commended for its clear prose, good interviews, and focus on how publishing has changed in the wake of the economic crisis. Certainly read it for the insights of major brand authors such as Jim Cramer and Seth Godin. I liked some of the tips Spitznagel proffers authors:
- know the importance of brevity
- realize that the days of big advances are mostly gone
- grasp the reality that many bestselling business book authors arrange for astroturf book purchases to make the bestseller lists
- pay attention to titling your book because your publisher will
- write a book you’d like to read yourself (Cramer’s advice)
In the tip ‘Jack Up Your Klout score’, I thought Spitznagel overstated the value of social media visibility and equated it with the celebrity and visibility of a Jim Cramer. (A Klout score is the measurement of a person’s overall online influence.) Many successful authors aren’t television personalities or household names—consider bestsellers such as Lean Startup by Eric Reis or When Markets Collide by Mohamed El-Erian, published when I was at McGraw-Hill. El-Erian was a respected fund manager who was well-known in the finance pages but only really became a star after his book was published.
To become a bestselling author, Spitznagel wrote, “you need name recognition or an impressive Klout ranking…”.
This reminded me of a point I’ve wanted to make for some time. Yes, social media traffic and influence are important—but with limitations. With so many experts—including me—evangelizing online promotion and smart content marketing, authors can’t be blamed for thinking this is the whole ballgame now. Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest are very important for many reasons, but only in rare cases does a big Klout score really drive book sales. My advice: Authors, get your Klout score up, but keep your expectations modest–and do a social media reality check against your business or book goals.