Apparently not everyone was excited about me suggesting you should write a book that sells like a sales letter…
Today’s Mailbox Monday is all about that. I got a note from a reader — a doctor — who likes the idea of writing a book, but disagreed a bit with my fundamental premise in A new approach to writing a best-selling book…
And while I plan to counter every objection, I have to acknowledge this…
These objections are grounded in a completely valid and I think correct viewpoint…
The problem that came up is I don’t think I explained my viewpoint in quite the right way. Because the objections are really about an approach to writing books that’s not 100% congruent with what I recommend.
Which means I did YOU a disservice in writing that previous essay. Because I didn’t create a clear picture of the best approach to follow with your book.
And if you were to decide, today, to follow my advice… Well, I hope you ALSO take what I’m about to tell you into account. Because you’ll end up with a better book. A better book for your readers, AND a better book for accomplishing your sales goals.
Firstly, the only reason I am writing this email is because it doesn’t seem congruent with your email persona — you come off as much much more down to earth and not salesy.
(BTW, I still remember the fact that you answered my question, I think in May, regarding networking – I really appreciated that!)
Lately a lot of folks have been writing “sales letter” like books and using shady marketing techniques to boost their Amazon comments and ratings just to become a “best seller.”
Honestly I think your advice (in your “approach to writing a book” email) is actually just feeding ego at the end — because the end result the author is looking for is for more clients (a self-serving goal).
I haven’t written any books, however based on the books that I like — I find them valuable. I imagine if/when I write a book (God-willing) it should ultimately be a self-existing entity that in the end helps the reader. Naturally if the reader is helped they will view the author as an authority. So the goal of the book should “help the reader.” Not to be a sales letter that feeds you clients.
Would love to hear your thoughts on this…
-Safi Shareef, MD
I think it’s time to get really, really deep!
There’s really no way for me to address this that’s tactical or superficial. I think you make good points, Dr. Shareef, but they miss a few fundamental assumptions in how I operate.
So, let’s dig into the assumptions…
- If your clients and customers are better off for having done business with you, it’s actually an act of service and generosity (not ego) to sell to them.
I’ve always tried to make sure that, at the end of the day, I’m selling things that people feel like they got the better end of the deal.
Think about this. You go shopping for anything. Let’s say a new TV.
When you go to the store, you have to make a decision. You’re looking at a TV model sitting on the shelf, and its price tag says $499. Now, for most folks, $500 is a lot of money. But how much money it is isn’t really what’s going to make you make that decision.
Rather, you’re asking yourself, subconsciously, “Would I rather have this TV, or keep my $500?”
If it’s the TV — if you think owning the TV will bring you at least $500 worth of pleasure — you happily buy the TV.
The way that the TV manufacturer, the distributor, and the store ensure your happiness is by delivering a TV and experience that collectively give you a bare minimum of at least $500 worth of TV enjoyment.
Now, let’s say that when compared to other things you could get for the money, that TV is actually going to give you $5,000 worth of pleasure — 10X today’s investment.
If the person who is selling you that TV is fully convinced of its quality and its ability to bring you pleasure, they are actually doing you a service and committing an act of generosity by trying to sell that TV to you.
Now let’s bring this around to some other areas.
I’ll pick on you, Dr. Shareef, because you asked the question. While I don’t know a lot about you, I imagine because you have an MD, you’re some kind of medical doctor.
In the US, medical care is most definitely expensive. But it’s something that we feel happy paying for, because our health is one of our most valuable assets.
To give someone health is to serve them, and give them a gift. Does that mean you shouldn’t or can’t sell it? To the contrary. While doctors don’t “sell” their services in the same way I sell things, you are constantly persuading patients to follow a course of treatment that’s in their best interests.
The same applies to all sorts of areas. If you’re providing a product or service that’s in your customer or client’s best interests… If you’re selling them something that will make their life better…
SELLING IS AN INCREDIBLY POSITIVE, BENEVOLENT, AND VIRTUOUS THING TO DO!
On the other hand, if you’re manipulating people to take advantage of them, to bilk them, to reduce the pleasure in their life through deception… Well, you should rot in jail!
But that’s not the kind of selling we’re advocating here.
You mentioned that you were surprised I came across as “salesy,” as if that’s an insult.
I think the media and pop culture SELL us a vision of salespeople that represents this one, inferior kind of selling. And some sales people and copywriters have bought into that junk.
But if you buy into the kind of “greater good,” service and generosity form of selling, the insult of being called “salesy” will roll off you like water off a duck’s back.
On to the next big assumption…
- Helping the reader and selling them is not mutually exclusive — your selling materials can provide value and sell at the same time.
When I say you should write a “best seller” — meaning a book that does a great job of selling your products and service — instead of a “best-seller” — a book to make it to the top of the best-sellers list — I’m NOT telling you the book shouldn’t contain valuable insights and information.
Quite the opposite, in fact!
Gary Bencivenga is widely known as the world’s greatest copywriter. He’s retired from freelancing for now, but when he worked for clients he could beat almost any control, and he controls were almost impossible to beat.
I’d heard legend that Gary had bought his retirement house with the royalties from just one promotion, that mailed profitably to over 100 million households. Since he got $.05 per piece mailed, that means that promotion alone earned him $5 million in royalties.
Well, I couldn’t find out which promotion of his that was — though I already had many in my files for studying.
So, I wrote to Gary. I asked him which promotion birthed the legend.
Gary answered. He told me this famous promotion was a digest self-mailer for Rodale Books, titled The Doctors Vest Pocket Sampler of Natural Remedies.
Then, he answered a question I didn’t ask. He told me WHY he thought it was so successful.
He said it was because of his strategy of making the advertising itself valuable.
That is, not only should your product or service actually add value to your customer’s life, because they chose to do business with you…
Your advertising, marketing, and selling messages should enrich your prospects’ lives, simply because they engaged with it!
Gary’s copy was famous for this. You’d read through, and feel like you were getting so many valuable nuggets just from reading that you couldn’t stop.
And this is the world’s greatest copywriter! He wouldn’t hit you over the head with big promises and teases. Were those in there? Sure! But they were the icing on the cake of a much more substantial message full of valuable ideas and insight.
If you carry Gary’s advice through to writing the kind of books I recommend, this means your book-as-a-selling-tool should overwhelm the reader and prospect with value — while simultaneously showing what to do or where to go to get more.
For example, Russell Brunson’s DotCom Secrets, which is a selling tool as well as a valuable book, does a great job of presenting all kinds of advice on building a successful online business. It also gives scripts and diagrams for a bunch of different types of funnels, useful for different types of businesses. Somewhere in the middle, it mentions (almost as an aside) that Russell’s company created ClickFunnels software as a super-easy way to implement these funnels, and later mentions ClickFunnels in the context of rolling the funnels out fast to create rapid growth in your business.
Could you read ClickFunnels, never give Russell another penny, and get a ton of value out of it? ABSOLUTELY! Does the book also do a great job of selling the software? Yep!
Or take Perry Marshall’s 80/20 Sales & Marketing book (as well as all his other books). That book is used exactly like I laid out in the last article. Buy it for a penny plus shipping. Read it, and you learn a ton about Perry’s approach, and he installs in you an incredibly sophisticated mindset for structuring your business and your time.
Can you apply it without buying anything more? Absolutely! But you can also follow his recommendation to pursue the extra resources he offers.
I could go on.
A book can’t do the same thing as software. But a book that functions as a selling tool for software can help you get some of the same benefit as the software offers, while also educating you about why buying the software would be a smart decision.
A book can’t do the same thing as a consulting service. But it can introduce you to the consultant’s methods, put you on the right track with some generic advice, and may also set you up to want to hire the consultant directly.
A book can’t do the same thing as a medical doctor. But it could give you some specific medical advice that’s in line with what the doctor might give their patients, and set you up to want to go to their clinic for one-on-one treatment.
My approach, while focused on achieving business goals, is NOT about just turning the book into a stereotypical hard-sell sales letter.
Rather, I think you need to do what a lot of people don’t do. Which is think about how the book fits into the greater context of your business. How it can be used as a selling tool, doing the jobs of establishing authority, educating the customer, setting up buying criteria, and brining prospects into the fold.
Do that PLUS make it a valuable read…
THEN build a marketing and selling system around it to get it into the hands of your perfect prospects and then give them next steps to move forward…
And you can accomplish the dual goals of providing a valuable read and creating real business results for yourself, beyond the book sale.
Remember: Mailbox Monday NEEDS YOU to be awesome…
I need your questions about business, marketing, selling, copywriting, life, whatever… So that I can keep churning out awesome content each Monday.
Send your question to [email protected] and maybe you’ll see it answered here next Monday!
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,