I read a lot of books. Most of them have a business flavor but not all. Over the years I’ve developed a bias toward books that are smaller in size and that have shorter chapters.
By “smaller in size” I mean they are about 8 by 5 inches when you lay them down flat. (Most business books tend to be about 6 by 9 inches.) So they take up less room on a shelf, table or nightstand. And they’re easier to carry when I travel.
And the chapters (or sections) tend to be short, usually 1-2 pages. This makes them a faster read because you never get bogged down in long, text-filled chapters.
Two authors who do this well are Harry Beckwith and Jeffrey J. Fox. Their books are easy to pick up and start reading anywhere. You don’t have to start at the beginning and work your way through. And they’re full of useful and practical ideas that almost all of us can use in some way.
A couple years ago I was talking with Jeff Fox and he told me why he designs his books the way he does.
It’s to sell more books.
(That makes sense to me, since he is a marketing guy.)
He said the smaller size enables bookstores to fit more books on a shelf. But because they’re hard cover they still fetch a good retail price. And the smaller size makes them stand out among their larger peers. (To me they seem more approachable or accessible.)
The short, punchy chapters make them a fast and easy read. He doesn’t fill his books with a lot of fluff. It’s all direct and to the point. His books are designed for busy people who don’t have a lot of time but who still want to keep informed with new ideas.
Hmmm, a book designed with its readers in mind. What a great idea!
Of course, if you’ve ever read Harry Beckwith you know he follows a similar formula. His books are usually longer than the Fox books but they’re just as quick and punchy. I never travel without at least one of Beckwith’s books with me.
There are two reasons I mention these books.
First, I think anyone who owns or manages an enterprise (large or small) should read both Beckwith and Fox. These guys understand marketing and they know business.
Second, I think the “small book with short chapters” concept has a lesson for us. It’s about making your product or service useful, accessible and convenient. It’s about molding your product to what your customers want, not what you want.
The lesson is to discover as much as you can about how your customer’s lives intersect with your product or service. How do they use your product or service? Why? Where? When? How can you package and deliver your product or service so it’s most convenient for them? How can you make it so easy for them to do business with you that they wouldn’t think of talking to your competitors?
Find some good answers to these questions and maybe you’ll be writing the best-selling business books along with Messrs. Fox and Beckwith.