Academics, experts, spokespeople, business owners–many of them publish non-fiction books. To look at these books as one giant group of promotable content packs is to ignore the fact that there is likely a “best way” to sell your book. There is not a set of “book media” who generically cover anything that is made between paper covers. And there is no giant pool of people who are awaiting the next “book”. There is much more to the story. How the book is structured and what it is about will determine how you sell it. Some books are idea driven, others are more “how-to” focused. Some are both. Do you know which one applies to you?
Is it an idea book, a how-to or both? It is one thing to pitch a mystery novel or a book on weight loss. It is an entirely different approach if what you want to sell is a new concept or a new spin on something we all know. Let’s break it down with one of the more difficult “idea” categories using some of my favorite tools from economics class.
Faux Title Study I: Selling The How-to Book
“Dominating the Widget Market for Investors”
Let’s say you are publicizing a book about investing in the widget market. Your book describes the market, it’s history, sample strategies, tips, potential outcomes, etc. It is a prescriptive book that can help people make money from widgets, and in general help them learn more about the stock market.
You would likely employ a strategy that included:
a “top ten strategies/tips” list
soliciting radio interviews
pitching long lead magazines and soft financial publications for the average investor,
trying to get on a morning TV show or other talk show that features self-improvement topics
outreach to digital networks about making money in the market
With this book you have a clear direction and advice you can impart. You are also directing your message to digital and traditional communities that want to know how to improve their financial situations. Now let’s look at the other side of the coin.
Faux Title Study 2:Selling The Big Idea Book
“Dominating the Widget Market in a Changing World”
This book is similar to the first in that the author talks about the market and history of the widget industry. He will also probably share some case studies of investors both successful and unsuccessful as a way of illustrating the changes. Theories of the future of widgets and why things are or are not improving will be in the book. The conclusion may be more gray than black/white and the author will present a picture of what things are going to look like. He may also suggest ways we might adjust to allow for a more (or less) volatile environment.
What Makes These Books Different?
I’m sure you are getting where I am going with this. Title 1 is a clearer “how-to” offering whereas Title 2 is based on a hypothesis and theory based on research and/or data. There may be some takeaways that suggest what to do, but they will be implied rather than listed as “tips”.
Clearly these are simplistic examples, but I run into this all the time. The thing is, we almost always want to try to promote the theory the same way we would promote the prescriptive, and it just doesn’t work. First of all, authors who are writing about theory usually have a combination of academic and applied credentials. They generally don’t want to give people “advice”. The kind of interview where “tips” are the goal is often awkward for this kind of person.
The other author loves giving workshops and presentations about how to do things better. For her topic, how we got here isn’t as important as what we are going to do about it.
It is challenging to make these distinctions, but it is important. If you do, you will be much more focused. You will see your path to selling your ideas and achieving your goals.