Why your business book isn't selling Have you written a business book that isn’t selling? How frustrating and demoralising is that? All those hours of work are not getting you the reward you would love, and more importantly your expertise and wisdom are not helping the people who need them most.

Or are you starting to plan your next book, and want to make sure it’s a seller? Either way, this post is for you.

First off, just because no-one is buying your book, doesn’t mean that they don’t want to read it. If you were able to get them past the cover, you might well find that your readers absolutely love what you have to say. So this is all about how you attract your readers to buy it in the first place (and it’s not just about marketing, cover design and catchy titles either – it goes much deeper than that).

I’ll let you into a little book writing secret

And it’s this: people only buy what they want, not what they need. Just think about it – when was the last time you bought something (other than paying your mortgage or utility bills) which you had no desire to buy at all? Even if you knew you needed it? ‘Aha,’ you may say, ‘I bought a cross trainer last month which I knew I needed, even though I would rather have spent my money on twenty boxes of chocolates.’ That may be true, but the fact is that you would not have bought that cross trainer if you hadn’t wanted the benefits it was going to bring you (over and above the choccies, sadly).

Everything we buy is based on emotion; we don’t tend to buy with our rational mind. Even decisions which may appear rational to begin with have an emotional need behind them – sometimes we just rationalise it afterwards to justify to ourselves why we bought it.

Business books are no different. We have to want to buy a book because of how it will improve our lives after we’ve read it. And in order to generate that desire in your reader to buy your book, you have to get them to feel an emotional connection with it right from the start.

So how does this affect your business book?

There are three ways you can get that emotional connection going for your prospective readers. The first is crucial, the second two are merely important.

  1. Is your book written about something which your target audience really wants to read about? Not what you think they should be reading (because you know how important it is), but what they want to read about? This can be hard. As an author, you know your topic is of value, so it’s difficult to admit that it might not feel so importante to your potential readers. However all is not lost – often it just takes a tweak in your title or marketing to show the relevance of your book to your chosen audience (more about this below).
  2. Does your book title get across the benefit of reading the book? This can be either in the title or strapline, or both. If you’re a famous author, then people will buy your book no matter what, but if you’re less well known you’ll need to use these factors to hook your readers in. If you’re finding hard to settle on a magnetic title, check out my previous post about choosing your perfect book title.
  3. Is your book cover design and ‘blurb’ geared towards your target reader? People buy with their eyes, and love being convinced of the value of what they’re about to purchase. If they’ve got as far as reading your book sales copy, they’re willing and ready to believe that what you’ve written is of benefit to them – but only if you tell them why.

OK I get it, but what do I do with my book now?

If you’re in your book planning stage, you can have a massive impact on your book sales by taking into account point 1 above. Do some research with your target market about what they’d like to learn (without necessarily telling them what you have in mind). Is it the topic you had planned? Go onto Amazon and type in some keywords related to what you’re intending to write about – do you find other books on that subject which are selling well? If not, it’s unlikely to be a fertile area for sales. You want to choose an area with a proven level of existing interest (and don’t worry about the competition, as yours will be unique to you).

If you’ve already written your book, or if what you’ve learned here doesn’t fit with your plans, don’t despair: it may be that a tweak in your content, title and/or cover design is all that’s needed. Or it could be a small shift in how you market and sell your book (small, but profound).

For example, you may have written (or be planning to write) a book about why finding the right business partner is essential and how to do it. But when you do your research, you discover that few people think about this subject until their existing business partnership is already causing them problems. They want a book about what to do after they discover the problem, not before. Of course, you know that the book your readers need is the one that helps them to avoid the problem in the first place, but that’s not the book they’re desperate to buy. So you change the angle of it so that the title and content address the problem solving side of business partnerships, and in doing so explain how to create a great partnership in the first place. And bingo – you’ve got a book which not only solves a real problem but does it in an ethical way, and sells in droves!

If you think about it, that’s what I did with the title for this blog post. I know that many authors will only think about this subject after they’ve been disappointed with their sales and not before, so I pitched it at writers whose books aren’t selling (when I could have titled it How To Make Sure your New Book Sells, for instance).

Similarly, depending on how you market and sell your book, you can tweak your messages and even your audience to fit this new angle.

So there we have it – how to write a book that your audience is desperate to read. Has this prompted any thoughts in you in terms of the angle you’re going to take on your next book? Let me know in the comments below!


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  1. […] more about, then your book isn’t likely to sell. Furthermore, there’s a difference between what your readers need to know, and what they want to know. So please write a book which answers the big question that your clients AND your readers are […]

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