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Attract More Readers than Most Best Selling Authors

Jan 16, 2008
Many people dream of writing a best-selling business book. Surely, the world is waiting for their unique wisdom . . . or so they think. The reality is far different. The average business book offered by a major publisher sells about 5,000 copies. Even if everyone who gets a copy reads it, that's not a lot of influence.

By comparison, a best selling business book typically sells 50,000 to 100,000 copies. Of those copies, about 10 percent will ever be opened . . . and less than 5 percent will be read cover to cover. Reach 10,000 readers. Big deal.

Let's look at how creating breakthrough solutions (ways of accomplishing 20 times as much with the same time, effort, and resources) can change the result.

When both usage and delivery effectiveness improve, stakeholders can gain 20 times more benefits than from either improvement alone. When that combination happens, these two complementary breakthrough solutions acquire the power of 20 or more individual breakthrough solutions. That's what I mean by a breakthrough squared solution. You can also think of this concept as developing a 40,000 percent improvement, or a 400 times increase in benefits.

To some, that goal may seem remote. Keep an open mind while I share an example of creating breakthrough squared solutions for inexpensively attracting more readers to my books.

In 1998, a best-selling author friend told us that it was important to distribute tens of thousands of free copies of business books either just before the book is published or right after publication. Tom Peters, coauthor of In Search of Excellence (reissue edition, Warner Books, 1988), tells the same story about one aspect of how that book became a blockbuster.

When I was writing my first book, I heeded that advice. Before publication, I sent out thousands of draft copies for advance reading. After publication, I sent out thousands more free copies of the completed book to influential readers. In addition, I created a Web site for the book and put all but two chapters online there for free reader access. The cost to do this sampling was over $40,000.

I estimate that these activities have directly yielded 20,000 people who have read some part of that book. That means our cost per reader for just this activity was about $2.00.

Since royalties on books like ours are usually around $2.00, this was a money-losing proposition unless this distribution yielded sales of at least 20,000 additional books. In the case of our friend, this was no concern because his company had paid this sampling expense.

My costs, however, came out of my personal pocket. I needed to do better.

For my third book, I decided to create a breakthrough squared solution for advance distribution. For that book, I only provided free advance copies to those who helped us create the book. The cost for those copies was about $1,200. I then wrote brief articles based on the book and arranged to have them published in prestigious journals and magazines.

I next condensed the articles and turned them into brief guides that the online bookseller Amazon publishes for free. In the first four years, I estimate that over 50,000 people read some part of that book through these efforts. I estimate that total readership through this approach will swell to 100,000 people by the time the third book has been in print as long as the first book has been. If that occurs, I will have produced 100,000 readers at a cost of $1,200. That means the cost per reader will be $0.012.

The first book's campaign cost 166 times as much per reader as what the latter campaign did, and I will actually draw more readers with the new, less expensive effort. These estimated results will provide me with a 66,000 percent solution compared to our first approach (16,500 percent lower cost per reader multiplied by 400 percent more readers).

For a forthcoming book I am developing, that sampling solution has been further enhanced. The pre-launch involves a blog in which the material is tested for reader reaction. I estimate that more than 200,000 people will have read some part of the book through the blog before the book is published, and the cost is only the electricity to post the blog entries.

I will also reuse the Amazon guides that worked well for the third book to add another 100,000 readers at limited cost. Publication publicity will probably draw another few hundred thousand people to the blog samples.

I also plan to send millions of excerpts for free by e-mail to people who subscribe to various complementary newsletters. We should be able to increase our total readers by several hundred more percent. Since I carry advertising on the blog, I have a revenue offset to our costs. If enough clicks occur from the blog to advertisers' sites, this sampling program may well turn out to be free. As you can see, repeating such a process on the same or a similar problem can be profoundly valuable in making further improvements.

Now you know how you can reach best-selling reader levels for your next business book. What are you waiting for?
About the Author
Donald Mitchell is an author of seven books including Adventures of an Optimist, The 2,000 Percent Squared Solution, The 2,000 Percent Solution, The 2,000 Percent Solution Workbook, The Irresistible Growth Enterprise, and The Ultimate Competitive Advantage. Read about creating breakthroughs through 2,000 percent solutions and receive tips by e-mail by registering for free at

http://www.2000percentsolution.com .
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