Kate Cassaday, Senior Editor at HarperCollins, Offers an Insider’s Guide to Writing a Bestselling Business Book
Adding “Bestselling Author” to your LinkedIn profile might be a goal you share with many entrepreneurs. And why wouldn’t it be? You’ve worked incredibly hard and incredibly smart to get where you are, and it’s only right that you’d want to tell your story. But what does it take to turn a great story into a book deal? If you want to be incredibly simplistic, it takes two things: a strong platform and an even stronger idea.
When my colleagues and I talk about platform, what we really mean is an author’s visibility to potential readers—in your field, and in traditional and social media. Are you a visionary whose ideas are sought after? Are you a trendsetter? Does your story get held up as an example of the kind of success others want to emulate? Are readers (not counting your mother and best friend) already asking for a book from you? If you answer yes to all of these, fantastic (and please call me!), but if you still have a few steps to go, there are many ways you can spread your message and become a better-known voice. Acting as a face for your brand is one method, building an active relationship with an engaged audience on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn is another, as is building your profile as a public speaker. The great bonus is that all of these things will be helpful to your business in both the short and long term, because after all, you are the heart of your company.
A great idea is a bit trickier. We all think our own ideas are great. You may pitch your idea to your partner or to your barber, and then they say, “That’s fantastic, I want to know more!” You’ll know you’ve hit on the right idea, though, when you reply by saying, “Perfect. Just give me $25 and I’ll fill you in,” and they start reaching for their wallet. A truly great idea is one that immediately clicks with readers and instantly feels necessary to them—it makes a promise to change the way they work and live in a tangible way (see: Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… And Others Don’t); it is at first entirely new and revolutionary, but quickly redefines the area it discusses (see: Freakonomics); it identifies a hole in a discussion, and fills it in a meaningful way (see: Arlene Dickinson’s new book, All In). A great idea is one that you can easily summarize for your partner or for your barber, but also has enough substance and depth to sustain an 80,000 word book (no typo there!).
In the right combination, platform and a dazzling idea can be the ticket to publishing the next Power of Why—but don’t be in a rush. As any of the authors of the books I’ve mentioned will tell you, the journey from that initial spark to the bestseller list is a long and often exhausting one, and contains many more all-nighters with your laptop than glitzy book launches. But when it works, there’s nothing more satisfying than watching emails titled “Congratulations, Bestselling Author!” roll into your inbox.
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