How do you decide to buy a book?
Think about the last business book you bought. The odds are that some combination of three things triggered the start of your buying process. Perhaps you learned that a favorite author just released a new book or you went looking for a book that someone else recommended. Maybe you were impressed by a blog post or other sample of writing by the author.
Sometimes the author’s reputation or recommendations are enough
Sometimes the author’s reputation is enough. I can tell you without knowing anything about it that I will buy the next business book that Bob Sutton writes.
Sometimes I’ll buy a book just because of who recommends it and why. If my friend Stephen Lynch recommends a book, I’ll buy it because of our similar taste in business reading.
Most of the time they’re not enough
Those situations are rare. Most of the time buyers do a little due diligence before they buy a business book. The people you want to read your book will do it too.
They’ll usually click over to Amazon (where most of us buy our business books these days) and check out the description and the reviews. They’ll probably look at the table of contents, which is why your table of contents should be a sales tool.
If they get that far, they’re thinking about buying your book, but they’re not sure yet. The last test comes when they open the book and start to read.
The crucial 30 seconds
You’ve got thirty seconds or so to capture the reader’s attention and convince him or her that your book is worth their time and money. If you don’t do that in the first half page or so, they will move on to something else. Here are some ways to convince them that your book is worth buying and reading.
Make a provocative statement
Come out punching! That’s what Patricia Fripp advises speakers about how to begin a speech. It’s good advice for authors, too.
Make a statement that tells the reader what your book is about. How about this one from Hacking Work by Bill Jensen and Josh Klein?
“We are exposing the cheat codes for work and sharing them with the world.”
Or you can tell the reader in a sentence or two what they’ll get out of your book. Here’s how Rod Santomassimo began his book for commercial real estate brokers, Brokers Who DOMINATE.
“What you learn from this book will help you achieve exceptional business growth and performance, regardless of your current level of success or experience.”
Share an example or a story
Instead of a challenge or a promise, you can begin with an example or story. Your example should be something your reader will recognize. You want them to say, “That’s exactly what happens!”
At the beginning of Moments of Truth, Jan Carlzon gives an example of a routine problem that doesn’t get handled well by the bureaucracy. It’s from the airline industry, but almost anyone in business will immediately think of similar situations in.
Tom Peters and Bob Waterman began their classic, In Search of Excellence, with a simple story about great customer service when they checked into a hotel. The story sets the stage of them to say that they’ve spent years studying business excellence and the book is about what they learned.
Powerful and meaningful
The bottom line is simple. You’ll sell more books and get more people to reading if you capture their attention and engage their interest in that critical first thirty seconds.