Innovate This!

The Basics Of Writing A Business Book That Sells

by | May 18, 2023 | 0 comments

person holding ballpoint pen writing on notebook

Every entrepreneur has a story to tell. Through your journey, you have learned a great deal. You have learned what works and what doesn’t work, and you’d like to share this with other entrepreneurs.

But you have never written a book before, and you’re not quite sure how it’s done.

I have now written five books. My first book, One Simple Idea, was a bestseller for McGraw-Hill. This book has been selling for over a decade. When you combine the first edition with the second edition, One Simple Idea has over 900 5-star reviews on Amazon. This book has also been translated into five different languages. It wasn’t easy, and it took longer than I thought. And the whole process was completely different from what I thought it was going to be.

I said to my agent, “This industry is crazy. I will never write another book.” She just kind of laughed and said, “We’ll see.”

Five books later, and I’m on my sixth book. I’m going to share with you my experience. I’m not sure if this is the correct way to write a business book, but this is the way I did it.

I never wanted to write a book. Sure, I dreamed about it, telling my life story. But I can barely put two sentences together, let alone write a book. 

I remember, back in 2010, getting a call from a vice president from McGraw-Hill in the San Francisco office. He said, Steve, you have a great audience and material people want to review on your website.

You should write a book.

So I emailed a few of my friends who had successfully written a few books that were well received.

I reached out to one of my early students, Tim Ferriss. Tim Ferriss had a number-one hit book that was selling basically around the world. The 4-Hour Workweek was a bestseller.

His advice to me was to make sure I had something else that the book would lead people to.

He was telling me your book was basically your calling card. It made sense because, yes, I had a coaching business, and the book might help people find me if they needed my services. 

But he also gave me this advice. Write this as if it were your last book. Do not hold back. Do not cheat your readers.

So once I decided it was okay, I should give this a shot. I went back and called this gentleman from McGraw-Hill and asked them what was required. He told me I’d need an agent. He also told me I’d need to create a  book proposal. He also told me he had a list of ghostwriters that could help with the book proposal and the book.

I called a good friend of mine who had written a book. I told her a publisher had reached out to me and I needed an agent. She gave me the name of her agent. I called her agent and told her I had a publisher ready, and she quickly took me on as a client. 

I’m here to tell you that having a publisher made it very easy for me to find an agent.  No doubt, finding an agent when you don’t have that type of demand is going to be a little more difficult.

But I also know agents are looking for new writers. It all comes down to relationships once again. I have referred many people to my agent over the years. Most of the time, she does not take them on, but occasionally she does. I will discuss later what she’s looking for.

Writing A Business Book: The 3 Major Elements 

 1. A Book Proposal

I didn’t realize at the time that you didn’t write the book. Publishers are looking for a book proposal. A book proposal is about 50 or 60 pages. It includes a chapter, your table of contents, why your book is different from other books, and how you’re going to market and sell it. What was interesting is that about 1/3 of it is how you are going to market and sell it.

That’s right. Publishers only distribute books. You need to sell it. You need to create demand.

I hired a professional ghostwriter to write my book proposal because there is a certain format that’s important. But it’s truly about marketing the book; this cost about $5000. My publisher recommended someone else write this, and that was great advice.

2. Knowing Your Point of Difference From Other Business Books

This is extremely important. Your book is a product. And your book needs to be different from other books. You need to have a different perspective. And your publisher and agent are going to know all the other books on your particular topic. You must do your homework and make sure you’re not writing something similar to someone else’s book. If you do, they will drop you like a rock. So, do your homework; be extremely thoroughly on the landscape of similar books and why yours is different.

3. Having An Audience

When my book was first published, I was told there were about 4700 books launched each and every day. So, how do you stand out? Selling books is not easy. Publishers and agents know this. That’s why having an audience is extremely significant to both of these entities. 

You must have eyeballs. If you don’t have an audience, they are less likely to take you on, and I can guarantee that without an audience, you will not get a book advance, which I will discuss later.

When you think about it, it makes sense. Without an audience. How are you going to sell books? Selling books takes time and effort. You need to be willing to be dedicated to marketing and selling your books throughout the year. I will give you a few tips and strategies.

The Big Benefits Of Writing A Business Book 

I will write more about this topic, but I can tell you that writing books is extremely rewarding. It’s a great way for people to get to know who you are. Travelling around the country and having people tell me that they have read my book is amazing.


  • Stephen Key

    Stephen Key is an award-winning inventor, renowned intellectual property strategist, lifelong entrepreneur, author, speaker, and columnist.
    Stephen has over 20 patents in his name and the d...