Writing Business Books: Creating Compelling Non-Fiction
Business books are instructional books that offer advice on how to be more successful at work or in business. They aim to offer the reader practical tips and wisdom about how to build a successful company, how to manage and lead teams within organizations, and how to get ahead at work.
Business books almost always aim to help the reader solve a problem they might have, and as such, it’s important that the title and cover make it really clear what that problem is, and that the book delivers on that promise.
What goes into a business book?
An increasingly large portion of bestselling business books are focused on entrepreneurship and seek to deliver key lessons about how to set up and scale a new company. But most business books offer more generalized advice for the majority of people who work within companies and want help getting ahead in their career, whatever their industry.
Business books explore things like how to develop successful habits, how to be productive, how to think more creatively, how to ensure your company is innovative, how to collaborate with others, how to manage people effectively, and how to be a good leader.
Business books address both the ‘soft’ skills needed to get ahead at work, like how to talk to people, how to get along with a horrible boss, and how to pitch your idea or speak confidently. But they also cover the ‘hard’ skills you might need to succeed, like how to negotiate effectively and how to code.
Prove your worth
Most business books are practical – they use case studies, research, and personal experience to provide the reader with concrete advice they can apply to their own work situations. Lots of books in this genre use diagrams, illustrations, breakout boxes, and bespoke elements that break up the text and help to explain key concepts or highlight important steps the reader needs to take to improve a certain skill.
While most business books are instructive in style with tips, tricks, and tools, they can also be more narrative-led.
Autobiographies or biographies of great business figures are very popular with business readers. While you might not see breakout boxes outlining the top five steps to scaling your startup in a memoir or biography of a successful entrepreneur, it’s likely you’ll still learn a lot from reading about these people’s stories through revelations about the key turning points, failures, challenges, and wins on their path to success.
Who should write a business book?
Business books are usually written by experts in their field, whether an academic who specializes in business studies, a seasoned entrepreneur who has a wealth of experience and knowledge to share, or a journalist who has researched a company or person to demystify their path to success.
Business books might have some crossover with psychology or smart-thinking books, careers, and personal development, depending on their focus and approach.
Tips for writing business books
- Identify the issue your book promises to solve and then think about the best way to deliver that content to your reader, whether through galvanizing stories, business models, graphs, or bite-sized takeaways.
- Think about the balance of inspiring stories versus instructional information and advice – are you striking the right tone for your reader?
- How might you use research, stats, and case studies to back up or demonstrate your ideas and advice?
Bestselling books to read
If you’re thinking about writing a business book, it’s a good idea to read some of the top-selling books in this genre to learn how business writers have addressed different topics with varying styles.
Start With Why by Simon Sinek
In this business classic, Start With Why, Simon Sinek explains why some people and organizations are more inventive, pioneering, and successful than others; because they have a strong understanding of why they are doing what they are doing.
Sinek argues that those who have had the greatest influence in the world all think, act, and communicate in the same way – they all use their ‘why’ to drive and guide them.
This book sparked a movement around purpose and its importance. Sinek features interesting and surprising case studies of successful companies, drawing on them to illustrate his beliefs and his golden circle model in action.
Filled with inspiring quotes and reflective insights on success, leadership, and business, readers always comment on how much of the book they highlighted on reading.
Shoe Dog by Phil Knight
In this candid memoir, Nike founder and CEO Phil Knight shares the inside story of the company’s early days as an intrepid startup and its evolution into one of the world’s most iconic and profitable brands.
In Shoe Dog, Knight charts his journey from borrowing fifty dollars from his father to create a company with a mission to import high-quality, low-cost sports shoes from Japan to the behemoth it is today, with sales topping $30 billion.
Knight recalls the formative relationships with his first partners and employees, reveals the transcendent power of a shared mission, and the marketing prowess that made them a globally recognised brand.
This is an honest, humble, and wry memoir packed full of unmissable teaching moments from a business giant. It is an example of a fantastic memoir, and while it doesn’t pull out business tips or tricks, every page is filled with meaningful lessons for entrepreneurs and driven professionals.
Grit by Angela Duckworth
In Grit, pioneering psychologist Angela Duckworth reveals the true qualities that lead to outstanding achievement.
Personal, insightful, and powerful, Grit is about what goes through your head when you fall down, and how that – not talent or luck – makes all the difference.
What makes this such an accessible and enjoyable read is that Duckworth blends cutting-edge science with captivating anecdotes. She is a masterful storyteller, offers rigorous research, and provides the reader with practical tips that are easy to apply, making this a joy to read and a real classic in the literature of success.
The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau
In this startup manual, Guillebeau explains the benefits of starting your own company – that you can earn a good living on your own terms, when and where you want, achieve the perfect blend of passion and income to make work something you love, and spend less time working and more time living.
In The $100 Startup, he draws on his own experience and insights from fifty ordinary people who started a business with $100 or less to help readers have the confidence and practical information to start their own business.
Again, what makes this book so accessible and helpful is the combination of interesting startup stories and practical tips that are easy to follow.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven R Covey
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is one of the most influential business books ever written. It has transformed the lives of millions of people of all ages and occupations.
Covey’s seven habits that have become famous and have been integrated into everyday thinking include Be Proactive, Begin with the End in Mind, Put First Things First, Think Win/Win, and Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood.
While some of Covey’s writing feels outdated at times, the overarching ideas he puts forward are still very powerful today. The book is filled with helpful and memorable models that help readers align their actions with their intentions and put them on the path to achieving their goals.
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