Discover more from Pitch + Persuade
Write Useful Books summary & challenge
Have you ever finished a business book and thought, "It should have been an article." It could have been 25 pages instead of 250 pages of fillers and fluff.
This past week I read a book that's the opposite. It's called Write Useful Books by Rob Fitzpatrick. The book's premise is simple: the world needs more nonfiction books as long as they are short and insanely useful. Fitzpatrick follows his advice with a quick 136-page book packed with tips to write, test, and publish a useful nonfiction book.
Top takeaways from Write Useful Books
Get to the point - skip the introductions and the author's bio and immediately start giving value to the target reader. Help them solve their problem from the start. It's why they bought the book, so don't waste their time.
Front-load the value - if someone only reads the first 25 pages, they should get most of the book's value. Once they've read that far and it is helpful, they will read more. Add the details and nuance on the topic later in the book and front load the most valuable information first.
Write for "ah-ha's" per page - you want your readers to have something useful on every page. People stop reading when it gets boring. Be ruthless. Cut words to create a fast pace of 'ah-has' and helpful content.
Optimize your book's "recommendability" - you want to build the book people recommend on your topic. Recommendability also gives you a price advantage. A buyer will pay a premium for a recommended book.
Iteration is critical - most authors write and release a book into the world with little feedback from target readers. Instead of guessing, find out what your audience wants with feedback on every chapter you write.
Make feedback easy - most people are not good at feedback. They want to be nice to you instead of honest. So make it easy and ask test readers to give feedback in only four categories as they read: “love it,” “feels slow,” “confusing,” and “useful.” Then cut words where it feels slow, fix the confusing parts, and increase the useful sections.
Write evergreen books - write about your topic to make your book relevant for 5-10 years. If there are technical parts, direct them to a website you can update. Keep the written content evergreen so you can enjoy long-tail sales.
"Decide who your book isn't for" - narrowing your book's niche seems like it would make it less successful. In reality, a clear audience makes it easier to find your first 1,000 readers and makes the book more recommendable.
The book convinced me the world needs more useful books, and I will try it out as a side project. Over the next year, I'm using this approach to create a useful book on persuasive pitching. I'm not sure of the exact target audience yet, but it's likely people pitching in a business-to-business setting.
As I go through this process, I’ll share the behind-the-scenes of developing the book, running reader testing, deciding on the content, and everything I learn. And hopefully, in 12 months, you'll want to write a useful book yourself.
(Misery…I mean, writing…loves company. Let me know if you want to join the challenge.)
Thanks for reading Pitch & Persuade! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.