Read about our pricing and services
Bulk discounts are non-returnable.
ISBN 9780312361983 Published Sept. 2006
St. Martin's Press
See all formats
Posted March 21, 2008 5:00 a.m. by todd-sattersten
In The Company - 800 CEO Read Blog
The following is my letter to the editors of Fast Company Magazine on Elizabeth Spiers recent column in their publication. You can read Spiers column here. Kate wrote about it earlier in the week, and I couldn't let it pass either.
I write to provide a needed counterpoint to Elizabeth Spiers April 2008 Not So Fast column titled "Library of The Living Dead."
I will start where she ends, agreeing in fact with Spiers' ultimate conclusion: Business books are self-help, by their very definition. The implication that business books fall strictly into the "I'm OK, You're OK" segment of self-help is where Spiers and I diverge. A book publisher recently shared research with me that showed the number one reason people buy business books is to find a solution to a problem. Sitting at the educational crossroads between "I know nothing about this," and "Let's hire a consultant," business books contain a high value proposition for the twenty dollars and two hours spent. Not, as Spiers says, to abdicate responsibility for the choices they make. Instead, it takes a great deal of personal awareness to look for answers from those who offer experiential lessons in books.
The packaging of those lessons receives the majority of criticism in Ms. Spiers column and I am always dismayed by the problems pundits have with this aspect of the industry. Human civilization is built upon stories and when an author chooses a fable as the delivery device, the writer is making the lessons more accessible to a wider audience.
The "12-step-ification" is a crutch that bloggers, business magazines, and book publishers certainly use alike, in the same way celebrity authors are used to garner attention and sell product. This is simply product marketing through concreteness and social proof.
The bestseller list as a guide to the "best" in the category is just another form of social proof. My optimism for the category would bring me to highlight Gallup's research-based StrengthsFinder 2.0 or Jim Collins' insightful and wonderful written Good to Great as evidence that some books that make the bestseller list really deserve the title.
In the case of John Kotter, we have the benefit of choosing either his current top-selling fable, or his 1996 book "Leading Change," which has sold over a million copies. Both books tackle the same content, but offer options for the reader to choose his method of consumption.
Ms. Spiers overall indictment of the entire business book category is an easy mark and one that could be applied to any genre of media. Her elitism about what constitutes good reading compounds the problem further. While I can appreciate her hyperbole as a method to communicate some criticism about the genre, a more subtle treatment of the subject would, I believe, be more effective.
Beyond that, Fast Company is a magazine that has always supported business ideas. A simplistic column like Spiers' goes against the very DNA of your publication. The mantra "WORK IS PERSONAL" matches well with Thoreau's or Emerson's definition of self-help. The publication of this column leaves me wondering just how that mission has been served.
What is it about fables?
Posted July 17, 2007 11:18 a.m. by todd-sattersten
In Publishing Industry - 800 CEO Read Blog
The New York Times interviewed John Kotter yesterday and reported on his business fable Our Iceberg Is Melting. These numbers set the stage:
Since its release last September, "Iceberg" has sold some 224,000 copies in hardcover (Leading Change [his prior book] has sold more than a million copies in 10 years), and been translated into 10 languages, with 10 more foreign editions in the works.
When I reported on the Publisher Weekly best-seller numbers, Our Iceberg Is Melting was the surprise on the list. I had no idea the book was doing so well.
The idea for the fable version came from reader Holger Rathgeber. In preparing for a presentation, Rathgeber became inspired by the drawing on the cover of Leading Change. The picture shows penguins jumping from one iceberg to another, so Rathgeber had everyone create penguin masks from construction paper during the workshop. Rathgeber sent Kotter a sample of the materials and Kotter was immediately taken.
So, Kotter rewrote Leading Change as a fable with the penguins and sent a draft out to friends in 2004. Requests started to roll in for copies of the book. Kotter decided to self-publish and went on to sell 15,000 copies. Publisher St. Martin bought the rights and published it in 2006.
I have to tell you I don't understand the popularity of fables like this. They are meant to appeal to a large audience, and that is the trouble for me. The messages these book convey are too simplistic. I guess this leaves me in the minority given the success that many of these books have.
My only solace lies in the fact that since the mainstream release of "Iceberg", we have sold twice as many copies of Leading Change as we have the fable. I guess our customers want the full version as well.
Publisher's Weekly 2006 Bestsellers - The Business Slice
Posted April 6, 2007 5:09 a.m. by todd-sattersten
In Lists - 800 CEO Read Blog
Every year, Publisher Weekly runs lists of the bestsellers from various genre (fiction, non-fiction, paperback). What is different about this list is you can see the number of copies sold.
I ran down through the non-fiction list to pull out all the business titles that sold more than 100,000 copies. You often see personal finance books show up on the bestsellers lists so I included those, as well as, a couple of crossover titles they I thought you might be interested in.
9. The World Is Flat (Friedman) - 869,610 copies
12. Freakonomics (Levitt/Dubner) - 697,848 copies
21. Why We Want You To Be Rich (Trump/Kiyosaki) - 490,000 copies
31. Jim Cramer's Mad Money (Cramer) - 360,000 copies(#)
38. Blink (Gladwell) - 317,303 copies
48. Jim Cramers' Real Money (Cramer) - 262,000 copies(#)
63. Rule #1 (Town) - 203,512 copies
66. Secrets of the Millionaire Mind (Eker) - 199,000 copies
72. The Automatic Millionaire Homeowner (Bach) - 178,000 copies
88. The Blind Side (Lewis) - 148,000 copies
100. The Long Tail (Anderson) - 130,427 copies
101. Social Intelligence (Goleman) - 130,000 copies(#)
109. The 360 Degree Leader (Maxwell) - 119,339 copies
120. Our Iceberg Is Melting (Kotter) - 107,621 copies
126. Everyday Greatness (Covey) - 102,438 copies
127. War on the Middle Class (Dobbs) - 102,248 copies
132. Stumbling on Happiness (Gilbert) - 100,000 copies(#)
The only title that caught my attention on the paperback list was The Tipping Point which sold 611,797 copies in 2006.
Other items of note:
- Da Vinci Code sold 7.5 million copies in trade and mass market paperback.
- For One More Day (Mitch Albom) led the fiction list with 2,735,000 copies sold.
- The Innocent Man (the first nonfiction book for John Grisham) came in the number one spot with 2,192,00 copies sold.
(#) - Sales figures were submitted to PW in confidence, for use in placing titles on the lists. Numbers shown are rounded down to indicate relationships to sales figures for other titles.