17 Steps to Creating a Best-Selling Business Book
As an expert, a book is your ultimate business card.
10 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
You’re a respected business leader and expert, but there are hundreds of people who aren’t aware of your knowledge. You’ve been thinking about how valuable your life lessons would be to others, and leaving a legacy is one of your deepest desires. There are all these things you want to accomplish; the question is, how or what is the best way to do it?
The short answer is with a book. It’s a powerful way to increase visibility as millions of people have access to books through a variety of channels, such as online through Amazon or in person at the local library. Additionally, foreign publishers, including those in China, are seeking new books to introduce to their markets, which would also increase exposure.
As an expert, a book is your ultimate business card. Nothing increases your authority in the eyes of your customers, employees and strangers as much as being an author.
That said, most books struggle to sell more than a few hundred copies. Ensure your book has the potential of becoming a bestseller and revenue generator by following these 17 steps:
It’s important to start your book writing process with an end goal in mind. What will success look like for you?
In most instances, the key to success is finding an uncrowded niche. One of the top reasons I find that authors fail to meet their goals is not having identified a category where their book could simultaneously fit in and stand out.
With my book How I sold 80,000 Books, I fit into the book marketing niche by answering a key question (how do you sell more books?) while also standing out with my approach using the 4Ps marketing mix framework — product, place, price and promotion.
Writers are either pantsers (someone who writes by the seat of her pants) or plotters (someone who plans or outlines her writing). I believe in planning because it’s easier to engage your reader and convince them to take action if you know the result you want to achieve in the end.
Start with planning your outline:
- A “hook,” a sentence that’s so fascinating that the reader continues on to the next and the next, and so on
- A 25 percent point of no return
- A 50 percent midpoint
- A 75 percent point
- A satisfying ending (and a call to action)
Readers and film viewers are wired to expect something big to happen at 25, 50 and 75 percent of the way through the movie.
3. Getting the ideas out of your head
Now that you have a goal and an outline, it’s time to efficiently start your first draft.
The average adult typing speed is 38 to 40 words per minute. However, the average speaking speed is more than three times faster at 130 words per minute. Instead of spending years writing your book, do it in a couple of months by speaking and recording it.
One of the best things you can do when speaking your draft is to have someone interview you. Based on the interviewer’s questions, this exercise can also help you identify any topics you need to better explain.
4. Transcript to manuscript
Once the audio file is complete, have it transcribed and then have a professional ghostwriter turn it into a manuscript.
When interviewing ghostwriters, ask candidates to provide work samples so you can get a sense of their style. I recommend that you do several ‘”test drives,” having part of your transcript written by two or three different ghostwriters to see which style you prefer.
It’s also equally important to have a good relationship with your ghostwriter. You’ll want the person to adapt his or her writing style to your preferences so the book sounds like you.
5. Developmental edit
By now you should have the first draft of your manuscript, but you’re not ready to publish it just yet. Double check to see if you followed the 25-50-75 percent framework mentioned in step 2 to identify any missing elements.
This is where a developmental editor is crucial because it’s tough to spot your own mistakes or oversights. If the manuscript needs more work, it goes back to the ghostwriter. Otherwise, it’s time to move to copy editing.
6. Copy editing
Copy editors will ensure every comma, semicolon and period are in the correct place. Their specialty is grammar and spelling, and although it can be a tedious portion of your editing process it will pay off in the end when you don’t have to deal with negative reviews criticizing the quality of your work.
7. Interior layout and formatting
As you work with transcriptionists, ghostwriters and editors, you’ll most likely use a Microsoft Word document. That format works for internal communication, but it’ll need to be converted for publishing. Sites like Amazon will provide a list of file types acceptable for publishing.
This part can be a challenge because it’s technical and often outside an author’s area of expertise. I recommend getting it done professionally or you’ll risk the chance of receiving negative reviews based on formatting.
8. An attention-grabbing cover
You know that old saying about how you can’t judge a book by its cover? Cliché maybe, but in the world of online publishing, definitely false. Work to make your cover visually appealing by focusing on two main elements: title and artwork.
For nonfiction authors, your title should sell people on the results they can achieve after reading it. For example, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey is one of the bestselling personal development books of all time because people know exactly what it can help them do from the title alone.
How-to titles are also great for nonfiction authors. For example, readers buy my book How I Sold 80,000 Books because they’re looking for a specific result: selling books.
When creating artwork, be mindful that Amazon and other sites and search engines often only show a thumbnail of your cover. That’s why it needs to stand out. The title should take up at least one third of the cover, nowadays even two-thirds, so that it’s clearly visible in the thumbnail size.
9. Optimization for online sales
Amazon may look like a digital bookstore, but it’s really a search engine. That’s why it’s vital to optimize your book for online sales by thinking about what readers will search for and optimizing your title and subtitle with keywords to get your book at the top of the search results. Software, such as KDP Rocket can help you determine keywords.
Another aspect of optimization is choosing the right category, such as authorship, so your book will be visible to readers who are searching for books about that topic.
10. A captivating book description
One thing I commonly see is authors who write a valuable 50,000-word book but write a lackluster book description that doesn’t convince a reader to buy the book. Writing a compelling description is essentially copywriting. The best thing you can do is follow the AIDA principle: attention, interest, desire and action.
For example, here’s the description I created for How I Sold 80,000 Books:
- Attention: “Discover how you too can sell 80,000 books even if you haven’t sold a single copy yet!”
- Interest: “Warning: Reading this 2016 Readers’ Favorite Book Award Winner and implementing its strategies may cause a significant income increase.”
- Desire: “Get your copy now and discover [compelling bullet points here].”
- Action: “Scroll up to grab your copy now!”
11. An outstanding bio
Now that you have an excellent book with an eye-catching cover and metadata that’s optimized for online sales, further sell yourself as an expert by writing an outstanding biography.
With your bio, answer the question of why someone should listen to you or why you’re the expert on this topic. The bio is an opportunity to build authority, credibility and likability. People buy from people they know, like and trust.
When the book is ready for distribution, carefully consider where and when it publishes. Think about casting a wide net to have the book available via all retailers or choosing to focus on just one. There are pros and cons to both and the right decision will depend on your situation and end goal.
Amazon has little to no competition when it comes to online booksellers, which means you should consider its Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) Select program where your book is exclusively available via Amazon in return for specific perks.
There are hundreds of thousands of books published every year and the best way to get yours noticed is with a structured launch.
Begin by creating a launch team months before the actual launch. Engage with launch team members, educate and motivate the group to review your book so when it launches it already has dozens of reviews. Those reviews will provide incredible momentum because Amazon’s algorithms will notice and promote the book further.
14. Bestseller status
Becoming a bestselling author is every writer’s dream. It’s not unobtainable if you know the algorithm. First, complete each step up until this point and then, add paid promotions. If you followed these steps correctly, you’re almost guaranteed to achieve bestselling author status.
15. Conquering libraries
Once you’ve achieved bestseller status, it will be easier to make your book available at libraries. Librarians will notice plus you can let them know yourself. Being available in libraries gives you access to millions more potential readers and clients.
16. Pitching foreign rights agents
Being able to sell licensing rights to foreign publishers is next-level success. With all the hard work that’s been done to get to this point, this part could seem easy. To get started, find the right agent or publisher and pitch him, then sell the rights and cash the check.
17. Your sales funnel
Book royalties are great, but you’ll almost always generate more revenue on the back end than on the front. For example, the ebook version of How I Sold 80,000 Books is free. That doesn’t mean I make zero dollars on it. The free book is the front end to my six-figure sales funnel. The first step in getting this set, is ensuring your sales funnel is in place the moment you publish your book.
If you’re ready to expand your skills and share your business expertise as an author, follow these 17 steps to increase your visibility and become a bestselling author.