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What’s the Big Idea? Elements of Success in Your Book

Beneath the Cover, writing a book, success in your book, big ideaIn our last post, we looked at the results, changes and consequences you want your book – and message or service – to have on your audience. We also mentioned that it’s important that your work surprise and entertain people.

How do these factors contribute to the success of your message and, in nonfiction books, to the success of the book?

The answer to that comes from the most successful – and hands-down most consistently, repeatedly successful – publisher of nonfiction books in the history of the category, Ray Bard, founder of Bard Press.

Ray has published everything from nutrition books to autobiographies to conversation-starting business books and his books have sold hundreds of thousands of copies. He has come up with his own Big 4 elements of every successful nonfiction book:

  • Big Idea
  • Promise / Hope
  • Nuts and Bolts / Solutions
  • Pleasure / Entertainment

Now, different types of nonfiction books have varying amounts of these four elements, but every blockbuster has all four elements. And every blockbuster will have found a way to strengthen an element that’s normally a weak spot for its type of book.

For instance, time-management books always have plenty of nuts and bolts and solutions. They wouldn’t be time management books if they didn’t. But Getting Things Done, one of the most successful time-management book of the last decade or so years, not only has nuts and bolts, but it also has a stunning Big Idea and much more hope than the vast majority of other books in the category. (The big idea for Getting Things Done is this: our productivity is directly proportional to our ability to relax: it’s counterintuitive and all the more powerful for that.)

Good to Great’s big idea of how long-term sustained performance can be engineered into the DNA of an enterprise from the very beginning, was powerful. But the book had promise, or hope, built into its title: Middling companies can make the jump into becoming being sustained, highly respected world-beaters. More important, Good to Great had nuts and bolts in its how-to and step-by-step formulation and backed that all up with data.

The book was also (and remains) an entertaining read because it presented the discovery of the Good to Great elements and formula as an almost-classic detective story in the companies that author Jim Collins chose to write about. Good to Great has counterintuitive findings, a lot of surprise and suspense.

And you can go through these four points in looking at every runaway nonfiction bestseller, checking to see where the hope, nuts and bolts, entertainment and, most important, the big idea are. These bestselling books not only have all four elements, but they have significantly MORE of those elements than other books in their category.

We’ll explore this in our next post.

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