What DON’T Editors Want?

In this post, Senior Editor Stephen S. Power continues his quest to improve the global state of business book proposals. Read on to improve yours.

Last month I wrote about the five things editors want to see in a book proposal. This month I’ll give you five elements and ideas I’d prefer not to see.

Let me say upfront: I feel somewhat bad about writing this post. I strongly believe that writers shouldn’t self-reject; plus, like all editors, I’m primed to give everything a chance. I’d rather love and lose than never love at all, and I really hate losing. So, here are five elements that can hurt your chances with publishers—and ways each can be turned around in your favor. Please take them in the same spirit in which Mrs. Scalera told my AP English Literature class we should take her red pencil: not as blood, but as valentine.

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  1. Sterling’s Gold. On Mad Men, Roger Sterling publishes a memoir about his life in advertising called Sterling’s Gold that he can’t even give away because no one cares about his career. Similarly, many business people want to write about their own careers, especially their secrets to success, but that success rarely comes with a waiting readership. Sadly, the vast majority of these books fail, even though they might be well-written and interesting.

The irony, of course, is that Grove/Atlantic actually published the fictional book Sterling’s Gold because many people in the real world do care about Roger’s career.

Turnaround: Instead of making yourself the subject of your book, write about a problem in your field that your target readers have and that you are best positioned to solve, given your expertise.

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  1. “Change is happening, now faster than ever.” I reject any proposal that uses this cliché, often as an opener, because it smacks of alarmism and uncritical thinking. In addition, the change that is happening usually remains nebulous or so all encompassing as to be meaningless and, worse, unmarketable.

Turnaround:  Ask yourself: What, specifically, is changing (or soon will), what and who is causing the change, what specific problems is this change causing for others, and why are you the one to solve those problems? Specificity will give your proposal a better hook and a more clearly defined audience. For a model, turn to Rise of the Robots by Martin Ford, which is seriously alarming.

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  1. Bestselling competition. Proposals should have a list of competing titles so editors can see how your book will fit on the shelf—and you imagine your book fits on the shelf. Too often authors put down a list of bestsellers such as books by Malcolm Gladwell and Daniel Pink, as if their huge audiences will come to the authors’ books too because they’re on the same subject. This is the equivalent of a first-time fantasy novelist saying their manuscript is comparable to Game of Thrones and The Lord of the Rings. It smacks of hubris and, more importantly, a limited grasp of a book’s market. And don’t get me started on those proposals that claim to “build on the work of Gladwell and Pink…”

Turnaround: Using Amazon’s “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” feature, find the books that are most similar to yours in subject and approach and whose authors have platforms and credentials most similar to yours. Look at the books customers who bought those books also bought, and so on. This will quickly give you a list of 3-5 books that yours should be compared to in your proposal. Then revise your proposal as necessary to create a better, more saleable book.

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  1. “This book is for everyone.” Which means it’s for no one, however long your bulleted list of potential audiences is.

Turnaround. You may think your book is for managers, leaders, HR professionals, general business owners, entrepreneurs and students, but you have to pick one and the write the book for them alone. Let their concerns dominate and use examples relative to their businesses. This will also help stores shelve the book because the business section is divided up audience. If others come to the book, great—for instance, I’m not in advertising, but I frequently use something I learned from Ogilvy on Advertising—but want to start with a target audience.

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  1. Cod liver oil. No one likes cod liver oil, however good it supposedly is for them. Similarly, no one will spend $25 for a prescriptive book simply because the author feels they should know, nay, must know its information. They’ll only buy the book if they both need the information and recognize their need for it. Unsurprisingly, academics make this argument most of all.

Turnaround: If you have information that people should know, couch it in terms of their interests as opposed to your own, however different.

Stephen S Power author pic

 

STEPHEN S. POWER is a senior editor at AMACOM and author of The Dragon Round (Simon & Schuster July 2016). See his recent posts for the AMACOM blog here.

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Sample Chapter of JOBS TO BE DONE Now Available

When Clayton Christensen proposed that innovators should create products not based on customers’ attributes but for their “jobs to be done,” many lauded the idea–but for those seeking to put it into practice in their own businesses, no guide existed. This November, that guide will be available to you, and we’ve uploaded a sample chapter for a sneak peek.

Jobs to Be Done: A Roadmap for Customer-Centered Innovation by Stephen Wunker, Jessica Wattman, and David Farber
Jacket cover of Jobs to be Done

Stephen Wunker worked with Clayton Christensen for years, building out consulting practices based on his teachings. He now runs New Markets Advisors, where has a long track record of creating successful ventures for his own companies and on behalf of clients. Jessica Wattman is the consultancy’s Director of Social Innovation, and David Farber is a Manager at the Boston-based firm.

Click here or on the cover image for your free sample chapter.

jobs-to-be-done-sample-chapter

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Podcast: Karin Hurt and David Dye on Winning Well

Jacket cover of Winning Well Karin Hurt and David Dye recently sat down with the AMA Edgewise team to discuss their book, WINNING WELL: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results–Without Losing Your Soul, and how managers can beat the win-at-all-costs mentality in order to build a more humane and more successful workplace. They discuss what you can begin immediately to build a better workplace, what managers can do within an environment that doesn’t support their values, and far more.

At work there’s winning and then there’s winning well. What’s the difference? It’s about getting results without sacrificing your soul. Authors of the book Winning Well (published by AMACOM) Karin Hurt and David Dye are here to talk about how to maintain your core values while still getting great results at work.

Listen to Karin Hurt and David Dye on the AMA Edgewise Podcast.

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Karin Hurt is a top leadership consultant and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders. A former Verizon Wireless executive, she was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. David Dye is a former nonprofit executive, elected official, and President of Trailblaze, Inc., a leadership training and consulting firm.

Listen to more interviews with AMACOM authors on the AMA Edgewise Podcast.

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Discovering the Library and the World

In honor of the new Librarian of Congress, Carla D. Hayden, who demonstrates how much more the Library of Congress is than a simple collection of books, we’re happy to reblog Andy Ambraziejus’s post from last year on the importance of libraries. Enjoy!

AMACOM Books Blog

The following is a guest post from Managing Editor Andy Ambraziejusabout his lifelong love of the library and the important role the library plays in the community.

“The library was a magical place for me.”
“The librarian was my secret ally.”
“Going to the library was a treat.”
“I loved books at an early age, practically living in the library during the summer months.”
“I loved walking to [the library], especially on snowy days.”

Those are some of the comments I got from my colleagues here at AMACOM  when I asked them about what going to the library has meant to them.  As you can see, the bonds many of us developed with libraries were deep.  Formed early in life, they made us think of libraries and librarians as our friends – nurturing, perhaps secret friends, who helped us discover new worlds through the books and other material we…

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THE RELATIONSHIP ENGINE Now Available on NetGalley

Cover art for The Relationship EngineWhile most leaders will acknowledge strong human relationships as key to business success, only a few take a structural approach to relationship development—and they yield exceptional results. In THE RELATIONSHIP ENGINE: Connecting with the People Who Power Your Business (AMACOM October 2016), author Ed Wallace shows business leaders how to cultivate the most effective relationships with employees, associates, clients, vendors, and the myriad types of people who drive a company’s success. Journalists, booksellers, book reviewers, librarians, and media professionals interested leadership and management are invited to request The Relationship Engine for review.

Relationships hold companies together and fuel future growth. From connecting with customers to forging high-performing teams, success depends on everyone working well together. Yet many leaders prioritize potential relationships and take established ones for granted. They shouldn’t. Research reveals that these core relationships are often the weakest…and can prove more vital than missed networking opportunities.

Whether working with employees or associates, vendors or customers, The Relationship Engine gives you the tools you need to become an intentional, masterful relationship-builder.

The book helps you establish common ground, focus on collaboration instead of command, put people before process, demonstrate worthy intent, and make every interaction matter. This insightful and practical guide includes:

A powerful RQ Assessment designed to measure and evaluate business relationships • A Relational Agility Action Planner • Lateral and vertical relationship strategy templates • And more

Even the best-laid strategic plans are worthless without caring, real-life connections. It’s time to invest in the bonds that will drive sustainable success.

ED WALLACE is president and chief relationship officer of The Relational Capital Group, a consultancy that serves many Fortune 500 clients. He is also on the Executive Education faculty at Drexel’s LeBow College of Business and Villanova University’s Human Resources Master’s Program. He’s the author of Business Relationships That Last.

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NetGalley is a service for people who read and recommend books, such as book reviewers, journalists, librarians, professors, booksellers, and bloggers.

There are a number of different reading options for this e-galley:

Find all of AMACOM’s e-galleys on NetGalley.

You can review how to get AMACOM’s digital galley request approval on NetGalley HERE.

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