Top tips for writing a bestseller

16th April by Alison Jones

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Top tips for writing a bestseller

The saying goes that everyone has a book within them and since the first lockdown of 2020, the coaching-related book market has been busier than ever with a flood of new publications. Here, Alison Jones, founder of Practical Inspiration Publishing gives her top tips on what not to do if you are an aspiring author. 

Everyone talks about wanting to write a BESTseller. But really, are you sure that’s what you want? It’s SO much quicker and easier to write a WORSTseller – and your time is precious, right?

So here especially for you are a few top tips for writing a coaching book that’s guaranteed NOT to complicate your life by being successful: an ABC, if you like - the Anti-Bestseller Course.

1. Don’t give away your best stuff

    This one’s obvious. You want people to work with you, don’t you, so don’t give them your best stuff in the book. Drop hints about what you COULD do for them if only they paid to work with you, and make sure they finish feeling unsatisfied. That way you guarantee that they’ll never recommend the book to others, or leave a review talking about what a difference it made to them. (Of course they may decide not to come and work with you after all, and instead approach one of the coaches who’s given them real value up front, but that’s a risk worth taking, surely.)

    2. Lock yourself away to write

      Speed is the name of the game here: the quicker you can write your book and get it out there, the sooner you can get on with other more important stuff. So give yourself a punishing wordcount – if you can manage 5,000 words a day you’ll be done in just a couple of weeks. Don’t be distracted by anything that might slow you down – background reading, research, conversations with other people or workshops to test out your ideas, reaching out to connect with people to find stories and insights. I mean, yes, it’s possible those connections might be really good for your coaching business as well as making the book better, but it’s just not worth the risk.

      3. Make sure you include everything you know

        The whole point of this book is to showcase you, so it’s important that you shoehorn everything in there, whether it’s relevant to the reader or not. Extra points here for using jargon and long, technical terms – you’ll look incredibly clever. And don’t worry too much about structuring the material – just break it all down into chapters of roughly equal length and nobody will notice that it doesn’t really hang together. (If you do this right, they’ll never get past chapter 1 anyway, so why waste your time creating a clear map of the territory for the reader to follow?)

        4. Stick to the facts

          Treat this like a training manual or lecture notes, if you keep it dry and factual you can beat the reader into submission by the end of the second page or so. You certainly haven’t got time for stories if you’re committed to grinding out a worstseller: stories take time and skill to craft, and they’re far too engaging. This includes your own story – though see below for an alternative approach…

          5. Make it all about you

            This is the one allowable exception to the no-story rule. You should feel free to tell your own story in excruciating detail – after all, as already established, this is about you, not them. Make sure you introduce lots of irrelevant peripheral characters so that the reader gets completely lost, and ideally take this opportunity to air any grievances with other coaches who’ve wronged or slighted you in the past – or even your parents. Yes, readers might be repelled by this self-serving bitterness, but you’ll feel SO much better.

            6. Find a clever title

              The best way to ensure worstseller status is to make your book impossible to find in the first place, so you need to avoid the sorts of words and phrases that people are actually looking for.  After all, people are going to Amazon all the time looking for answers to their questions – it would be disastrous for your worstseller status if they accidentally stumbled across yours. Ideally you want a title that’s meaningful to you and absolutely nobody else: an in-joke that only those who’ve read chapter 9 will understand, for example, or your first pet’s name. At a pinch a poor pun or meaningless acronym will do.

              7. Don’t tell a soul about the book

                If you’ve taken all the other points on board, nobody will be particularly interested anyway, but this is the vital last step: keep the book a complete secret while you’re writing it. That way you won’t open yourself up to distracting opportunities or insights, and you don’t risk building a group of people who feel they have a stake in the book’s success. Once it’s published, of course, you should feel free to bombard the world with ‘Buy my book’ posts on social media: they will have absolutely no impact on sales so you needn’t worry at that point.

                And they you have it: the Anti-Bestseller Course in a nutshell. You should be able to knock out your worstseller in a couple of weeks and then get on with your life.

                The advantages are enormous: no uncomfortable stretch as you struggle to articulate your distinctive methodology; no time-consuming connecting with interesting people who might challenge your ideas; no need to rethink your products and services or fee structure as you clarify your intellectual property.

                And if you ever find someone foolish enough to want to attempt a bestseller, you’ll be able to tell them exactly what NOT to do.

                A huge thank you to Alison for sharing her view. Alison Jones is the founder of leading business books publisher Practical Inspiration Publishing, host of the Extraordinary Business Book Club podcast and head judge of the Business Book Awards.