What Makes A Great Business Book And How Can You Write One?

What Makes A Great Business Book And How Can You Write One?

By Ivan Meakins

The other day, I was doing some client work when I got asked a question that has stuck with me since:

“What makes a great business book great?”

A simple enough question, but thinking of the best answer was infinitely more complex.

  • Is it the expertise of the author? 

  • Is it in the storytelling?

  • Perhaps the structure and flow of the argument or quality of writing?

Sure, these are all important ingredients that make up a great book, but this client wasn’t looking for an essay on book writing. He wanted a clear, simple answer…

So, after a moment of mentally flicking through all the greatest hits in my mind, I realised that most of the books I remember today are the ones that evoke a SIMPLE and yet powerful message.

The Big Idea

Books like Influence, The 4-hour Work Week, How to Win Friends and Influence People, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and the recent bestseller Atomic Habits all do one thing very, very well: They take seemingly complicated processes and ideas and distil them into something simple, memorable and unique. 

In marketing, this is called “The Big Idea”, and I believe it applies to your business book as much as it does to any other product you sell. 

Here is the classic definition of a big idea, courtesy of Wikipedia: 

Big Idea in marketing and advertising is a term used to symbolise the foundation for a major undertaking in these areas – an attempt to communicate a brand, product or concept to the general public by creating a strong message that pushes brand boundaries and resonates with the consumers.

Big ideas do far more than just sell something. They give age-old ideas a new lick of paint and elicit a massive emotional response from your audience. 

With a big idea, the very same thing a person rolled their eyes at yesterday can be a thing of wonder to them today.

It turns people’s heads, creates curiosity and has the power to turn the stale and the clichéd into a Promethean gift for your people!

Big ideas are hard to come by – they require a fair bit of research, industry knowledge and a spark of creativity, but when you get one it will hit you like a freaking thunderbolt from Zeus himself! 

To help you along the way to eureka, I’ll leave you with a little tip I picked up from Evaldo Albuquerque and his masterful marketing book, The 16 Word Sales Letter: A proven method of writing multi-million-dollar copy faster than you ever thought possible.

Evaldo breaks down the big idea into the following template that can be used for any business book (with a little tweaking): 

“This new opportunity is the key to their desire and it’s only attainable through my new mechanism.

Let’s break this down and apply it to the bestselling business book The 4-Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss.

The New Opportunity

The new opportunity is something exciting, unique and eye-catching. 

In The 4-Hour Work Week, Tim offers people a new way of working that isn’t the standard 9-5 grind that we have all grown to loathe in recent years. It suggests that there is a new, better, more enjoyable way to run your business and live your life − dreamy!

Their Desire

Their desire is getting inside the heads of Tim’s ideal audience.

These people want their freedom back. They want to work on their own schedule and not exchange time for money. They want ultimate freedom, but they don’t want to sacrifice their wealth to get it. 

My New Mechanism

My New Mechanism is: The 4-Hour Work Week. The thing that we need to follow.

This is the new, sexy method of working that is the key to attaining freedom without sacrificing wealth. It sticks in the reader’s mind and reassures them that they will achieve their desire if they read on and follow Tim’s teachings.

Come up with your own big idea.

Try having a go at this and see if you can come up with your own, awe-inspiring big idea. Do some research and list out some ideas for:

  • Your New Opportunity. What does your solution, process or product offer that others don’t?

  • The Desire of your ideal reader. What do they really want more than anything that you can help them get?

  • Your New Mechanism by which they can attain that desire. What is your process, thesis, theory or main argument?  

Then you can start drafting up some big ideas of your own in a similar format to Evaldo:

“This new opportunity is the key to their desire and it’s only attainable through my new mechanism.

The beauty of a big idea is that, once you have figured yours out, it can inform everything from the title of your book to the content itself. But, more than that, it can start to creep into every aspect of your marketing message, too!

It may take some time to find it, but the big idea is always around. It lurks under the surface like a sunken treasure ship. It’s your job to dive down and see what you can find!

As the great marketing genius David Ogilvy once said:

“You will never win fame and fortune unless you invent big ideas. It takes a big idea to attract the attention of consumers (readers) and get them to buy (read) your product (book). Unless your advertising (book) contains a big idea, it will pass like a ship in the night.”

Happy hunting!

If you’re struggling to pinpoint your own big idea, let the team at Write Business Results help you. Our creative and experienced team will work with you to uncover that big idea and shape it into a bestselling book. Reach out to book a clarity call if you’d like to learn more.


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