The irony of writing a business title is that you can be the most successful and best-selling entrepreneur in your chosen industry, but that won’t necessarily translate to your business title becoming the bestselling business book.
The challenges of writing and marketing a business book is very different to running a successful business. This is a fact not lost on many business authors who devote 3 months to writing a book that goes on to barely clear 10,000 copies.
The reasons for business books succeeding or failing vary, and some are outside of an author’s control.
Is the business title ‘on trend’?
The best business books that cover hot topics will sell well. If you happen to write a business book about tech companies or start-ups, you can expect that book to find its way into the hands of many keen readers. Particularly during this decade, high growth tech stocks have created massive wealth and skewed the stock market. People like to follow a winning approach from a winning CEO, and tech founders & CEOs were certainly the winners of the last decade.
Of course, trends change direction and therefore a hyper-relevant title in one year can feel like ‘old news’ in the next. Books which focus on particular innovations or pieces of technology are very susceptible to this. Where business books with a focus on soft skills, general entrepreneurialism in generally don’t tend to go out of style.
Is the book entertaining as well as being informative?
A great business book has something meaningful to say, but also says it in a way that entertains the reader. For many, business books are as much a leisure activity as an educational tool. How many readers of Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance actually intend to launch a spaceship company? Few, I would wager. That means that the purpose of the book is to reveal insights and revelations in a way that delivers plenty of ‘ah ha’ moments to the reader.
Is the book humble or self-indulgent?
Business books are often written in a memoir style, as they are often the retirement project for ex-business leaders. This format provides the author with a treasure trove of content, but the memoir-slant can be a distracting focus. How many memoirs have you read where you felt that the over-arching objective of the author was to preserve or clarify what their legacy will be, rather than deliver a broader message about life for the reader to take away?
Of course, a good editor will batter a script back-on-track, but the first-person perspective can still leave many business books with a self-centred, flattering perspective on the subject. This can be a turn-off for readers who prize integrity, honesty and the truth. If the readers of the book wanted 400 pages of puff-piece they could have trawled through the press releases of the authors’ business.
Which business books are winning in the market today?
In 2021, the business books which are selling strongly include:
- Zero to One by Peter Thiel
- Dare to Lead by Brene Brown
- Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike (Phil Knight)
This is an interesting shortlist which exposes the variety of slants and genres within the business book market.
Zero to One is written by serial entrepreneur and venture capitalist Peter Thiel. Peter is a Billionaire with experience in the tech space.
Dare to Lead is a personal development and leadership book about personal qualities such as confidence. It could be described as a self-help book with plenty of business applications.
Shoe Dog is a traditional memoir that tracks the story of Phil Knight as he built the Nike Inc empire from its early days.
This list demonstrates that there isn’t a single type of business book which is winning in the market. Business readers and professionals demand a broad selection of titles to provide insights into the brightest minds in corporate America.