I just came across a BBC feature article that looked interesting:
The writer, James Melik, looks at the growing number of business books that comprise nothing more than hyped up twaddle and the idea that setting outrageous goals is the key to success.
As a publisher, we don't only see the books that actually make it into print, mainly because of the author's existing fame, we also see the manuscript submissions that promise to make us millionaires with the latest best-seller.
Here are one author's words on the subject; "The best selling copies have achieved even more than 50million copies.. Please check your sources carefully. I dream big and act big so I prefer to work with like minded people, not people that even doubt the sale of a few million copies."
If you are an aspiring author with similarly ambitious goals then please consider that thinking big within some realistic boundaries can help you to focus your efforts and achieve your dreams faster. The goal here is not to do something unthinkable that has never been done before, such as putting man on the moon or climbing Everest, it is to achieve something within the boundaries of what exists today - the worldwide book and ebook market. Books have been sold before, the market is clearly defined and others have covered your subject before you. Even the 'digital revolution' makes only a tiny shift in the industry, lowering barriers to entry and flooding the low end of the market with poor quality self published titles. Of course, in that flood is an occasional nugget of gold too.
The best selling business book of all time has sold around 26 Million copies (http://www.whomovedmycheese.com/SpencerJohnson.html) since 1998 - that's 2 Million copies per year.
Dale Carnegie's 'How to Win Friends and Influence People' has sold just over 15 Million copies since 1936 - 200,000 copies per year.
What Colour is Your Parachute? has sold 10 Million copies since 1970 - 245,000 copies per year.
If Richard Branson, Donald Trump or Bill Gates wrote a book on business (which they all have) then readers will say, "Ah! There's someone who obviously knows a lot about business!"
What sells a book is not the quality of the book itself; as with any product, sales are down to how well known the author already is (past reputation) and how much money is spent on marketing the book to get it in front of potential readers (future reputation).
The quality of the book is not what makes someone BUY it, the quality simply makes someone READ it. How many books on your bookshelf are still unread? How many life changing products are in your kitchen drawer unused? How many clothes are in your wardrobe with the tags still on? What makes us buy something is very different to what makes us use it - and recommend it to our friends.
If Richard Branson wrote a book on raising chickens, he would sell some books based on his past reputation because people would be curious, but he would need to invest heavily in his future reputation to prove to people that he had experience in this area and should be regarded as a credible source.
What is it that tells your potential readers that you are a credible source of business information when they could buy Donald Trump's book, or the books of a dozen other self made Millionaires and Billionaires?
Personally, we would not recommend that anyone takes the advice of someone with that big a comb-over. Obviously, he's so rich that people are afraid to tell him how it looks.
To get the kind of marketing exposure and therefore investment that will overcome the problem that not many people have heard about you requires a major publishing house to see a return on that investment. By not seeing your book as an investment that you are selling, but rather a fantastic idea that you are excited and optimistic about, I suggest that you won't get very far with the major publishing houses.
The best advice that I can give you is to watch a TV program on the internet, if your connection speed permits. It is BBC TV's Dragon's Den, and if you look at the reasons that the 'Dragons' invest their money, you will understand how to pitch your book.
A publisher doesn't really care how wonderful your idea is. A publisher is an investor, and any good investor is interested in returns, not potential.
Of course we'd love our books to sell in the millions, who wouldn't? You just need to remember that high sales come at a price...