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Why Some Books are Built to Fail, 2

As you read in my last post, some books are built to fail. That's right, they are built in such a way that failure is the likely outcome. Let's look at the second reason why some books fail.

Reason #2: They are too complicated or cumbersome to help the reader.

A kind of corrolary to Reason #1. If Reason #1 pointed to a writing style that is thick, cumbersome and obtuse, Reason #2 points to a core idea that is equally thick, cumbersome and obtuse.

Most great books, most genuine best-selling books, are built around a strong, memorable promise (a core value proposition) that appears real (in that it seems grounded in a reality like the one that we work in every day) and achievable. Readers emerge from the book with a new and different perspective, a big idea or a strong sense or purpose on a particular challenge, and they feel like that will open new doors for them right away.

A book that I published does this terrifically well, I think. It is CK Prahalad's, The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid. CK's premise, that at the bottom of the economic ladder (at the bottom of the pyramid) lies great opportunity--not only for the ventures that mine that opportunity, but for the people at the bottom of the pyramid themselves (who may be mining the opportunity themselves too). Making a market of the poor helps the poor rise from their poverty. It is a compelling, counter-intuitive perspective that changes the way you think about business and about the poor. When you leave the book, you see the world in a way that you did not before. And, as a reward for the clarity and uniqueness of the vision in the book, the phrase that is the title has entered the language as a commonly known idea.

However, so many books can't help the reader, because the book employs a four-stage, sixteen-step, multi-layered organizational model, one so obtuse that it leaves the reader grasping at his or her hair in confusion. Books are not for creating confusion; they are for reducing confusion, and creating clarity.

So, it is not an exaggeration to say that the sales of many books, beyond a small core audience of die hards, are inversely proportional to the number of paradigms that are shifted, tenets that are espoused, and transformations that are promised.

As a book writer, have firmly in mind that you want to help, that you want to make the confusing less so, that you want to bring fresh air to the stale air of life and business. You are not writing to show off what you know; there are no prizes for that. You are writing to bring help to persons who are seeking it: that's why they bought a business book in the first place!