Danielle’s 2014 Must Read Books for Non-Fiction Authors

One of the side effects of passionately partnering with authors to spread their message is that I find myself reading all the time. I read everything from articles to newsletters to blogs and books.

If I had to pick only five books to share with my authors, I would choose the following because they collectively provide a helpful introduction to the mindset of a successful messenger, the world of publishing and the publishing process.

Here are my five picks for 2014: 

1. “Millionaire Messenger: Make a Difference and a Fortune Sharing Your Advice” by Brendon Burchard

Brendon Burchard had a near death experience during his college years and resolved to spend the rest of his life challenging people to make the most of the life we have left. On his passionate journey to share this message, he focused more on sharing his message than earning enough money to make a living. Consequently he lost his girlfriend and went bankrupt. About a year and a half later he earned his first million while working on his own. His book “Millionaire Messenger” describes what he learned on his journey from bankrupt messenger to millionaire messenger so that you can do the same.

This book earns the first spot on my list because it clearly explains why authors-who are messengers-need to focus on clearly understanding what they have to offer, who they are sharing that message with, and how to make enough money while promoting that message so they can afford to continue spending all their time promoting that message. I must caution that when taken out of context, it is easy to interpret the way he effectively applies a business model to sharing a message as a get-rich-quick scheme. For example, he outlines a plan that can make “anyone” an “expert.” But for the discerning independent thinker who is not afraid to keep their motivation in check, it is a great way to open your mind to new ways to share the same message and reach more people effectively. Even if you don’t intend to become a millionaire off of your message, it thoroughly explains the world of options associated with sharing information that people value enough to invest money in. When you read this book, don’t lose sight of this.

2. “The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th Edition”

This book, abbreviated as CMOS, is the publishing industry standard. It describes how to format a book manuscript, how to cite sources, how to navigate the publishing process and more. It is not unusual for publishing companies to adapt this guide to their unique needs, but any author who takes the time to at least skim this book would have the distinct advantage of understanding the process ahead. I especially recommend this book to authors interested in self-publishing because it helps them understand the essential steps necessary for success.

3. “Beyond the Bookstore: How to Sell More Books Profitably to Non-Bookstore Markets” by Brian Jud

Written by the book marketing guru to both traditional and self-published authors, “Beyond the Bookstore” introduces authors to the world of “special sales”-book sales that occur outside of bookstores. Many first-time authors set a goal of having their books available in every Barnes & Noble store in the country because this is America’s largest bookstore. However, if most of those authors took into account that the readers they are targeting with their books may be more likely to discover it and buy it from a book club catalog, Walmart book section or the gift shop of a museum or hospital, they may reconsider this goal. Jud also talks about the possibility of selling books in bulk to non-profit associations and corporations by creating tailored versions of the book to meet their needs. The CMOS introduces authors to the traditional world of publishing, but Jud’s 300+ page book lays out several strategies for connecting the book to the people who need it most.

Perhaps the best thing about this book is that it includes a “CD”-which is really a downloadable Excel file-that includes calculators to help you price your book for maximum profit, helps you determine how much money you will need for your book tour, and creates a custom marketing calendar for following the marketing advice in the book based on your target publication date. Whether you plan to publish your work traditionally or via self-publication, these marketing tools can help make the difference between being a published author and being a published author who sells books.

4. “APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur-How to Publish a Book” by Guy Kawasaki

APE is a guide specifically designed for self-publishers. It features:

  • a brief introduction to the difference between traditional and self-publishing features,
  • helpful writing tools,
  • tips for self-publishing a book without looking like a self-published book,
  • “guerrilla” book marketing tips (these are not quite as systematic as Jud’s approach, yet proven to be effective),
  • brand building, and
  • features an explanation of how Kawasaki “APEd” this book as an example of the process he recommends.

Jud’s book is great for authors who want a systematic process to produce sales for decades to come by taking advantage of all the tools in the publishing industry’s toolbox, but Kawasaki’s book focuses on how to use modern technology and contemporary platforms to produce and promote sales now. These two books are best when used together.

5. “Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World” by Michael Hyatt

If you have been reading my blog for a while or if you have ever asked for my advice on how to promote your book, you have definitely heard me mention this title before. Michael Hyatt is the former CEO of Christian publishing giant Thomas Nelson Publishing. His book does an excellent job of explaining how to build a platform that allows people who are interested in your message to find you and learn what you are about, for you to build meaningful connections with these followers, and for them to share information about your message with the people they know.

Hyatt’s blog holds countless insights to this effect, but he also has a “Platform University” online membership site where you can learn more about how he builds his own platform and even have the chance to talk with him. If you want more, you can attend one of his annual “Platform” conferences. (I can’t resist mentioning that Burchard’s book does mention membership sites and conferences as additional methods for sharing your message with those who are willing to pay for it.) These are great ways to learn how to recruit people to help you promote your message for free. But keep in mind that the only reason people are willing to promote you for free is because they value what you are offering (another lesson from Burchard).

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The Take Away

When I started ghostwriting, I simply focused on helping authors put their message into books that were organized logically in the grammatically correct version of what the author wanted to say. But after reading the books above, I realized that the book is not the goal, but the ability to affect the way a reader thinks, talks or behaves is the true goal. Each advocate, solopreneur or non-profit I work with is interested in making an impact to improve the lives of others. A grammatically correct book with a logically presented message cannot make this kind of impact any more than parent can impact the choices a child makes by telling them the “right” way to live.

Books that make an impact need to:

  1. Have authentic messages that have the ability to truly connect with the needs, desires, and learning preferences of readers as explained in Brendon Burchard’s “The Millionaire Messenger,”
  2. Have a creative package, but be formatted and presented in a way that meets or exceeds the quality standards of a published book as presented in the “Chicago Manual of Style 16th Edition,”
  3. Have a long-term marketing strategy that is based on reaching the ideal readers where they already are by taking advantage of the distribution, marketing and partnership opportunities that create the best opportunities for the readers to discover your message instead of focusing on making your book available in traditional bookstores simply because of the perceived prestige and the stroke to your ego as outlined Brian Jud’s “Beyond the Bookstore,”
  4. Take advantage of the modern technology and contemporary platforms that allow you to reach more people with your message than ever before as detailed in Guy Kawasaki’s “APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur-How to Publish a Book,” and
  5. Build a dynamic platform that allows the followers of your message to learn more by connecting with you and even presents opportunities for them to share your message with others as described in Michael Hyatt’s “Platform.”

I did not read the books above in the order listed, but I’ve arranged them this way because of how the wisdom of each book is enhanced after reading the book before it.

Here’s a question I would love for you to answer in the comment section below:
Question: If you have ever read any of the books above, what are your reactions to the book? 

Image Attribution: By User:Lisagc (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Danielle Fetherson

Danielle helps aspiring authors become published authors. She believes that everyone has at least one book on the inside of them that can make a positive impact on someone else's life. If you have been thinking about writing a book, learn how to start your book today with the free resources at DanielleFetherson.com.

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