Biz Book Bunk

The business book market is nearly as crazy as the rest of the book publishing industry.

best-seller-business-booksBusiness books are often one-off affairs by successful businessmen and women who want to share their thoughts on management and leadership with the world. There are many voracious readers of such books, mainly other people in management who constantly look to better their skills and learn from other peoples’ success (these books rarely talk about the mistakes made by the author).

What makes modern book publishing peculiar are platforms. Publishers want authors to have pre-existing mass audiences to carry the book to success. If you fancy the old days when a brilliant writer lobbed a manuscript at a publisher, who then got many taste-maker reviewers to carry the book into public attention and generate vast wealth for the author … those days died decades ago. In the Internet age, authors are expected to have a following.

In business books, publishers even suggest “buy downs” to seal the deal. This is where the author guarantees sales of a certain number of books. Some ego inflated businessmen have been known to buy ten thousand copies on book release day, and then store them in a warehouse. Not only was this necessary to get the publisher’s commitment, but to rig sales statistics and create “best sellers”.

Not all the mechanics of getting attention for a business book are that corrupt. Most require some skill, some tribe building, or at worst twisting the arm of corporate partners.

First is the Amazon play. Anyone with a platform can tell their tribe to buy a copy of a forthcoming book on a specific day and time. Doing so causes a one day pop in book sales and can make an Amazon Best Seller in one category. Likewise, using similar tactics combined with insider bulk book purchases can get a new book on the New York Times best seller list. For business books, this latter move might entail a CEO calling various partner companies and “suggest” they buy bulk copies and give them out the their management teams … all the way down to floor managers … in order to rocket “sales”.

As you can see, there is a difference between a platform – a collections of loyal followers who are authentically interested in your product – or a manufactured sales drive that gets the book in front of people who may not be interested at all in the book’s content. The former takes time and the latter takes influence and cash. One needs to be organic and executed well in advance of the books going to press, and the later can be rigged on relatively short notice. One requires producing something people want. The other requires an ego and a bank account.

Which book do you think is relevant, and why would someone read a management book that wasn’t?


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