Another genius business idea: the “What Works in X” book series

July 26, 2012 by Joshua
in Blog, Creativity, Education, Entrepreneurship, Leadership

For the first genius business idea (the series I mentioned a couple days ago) I propose a book series based on the principles of the Art of What Works (the book I mentioned yesterday).

The product

A series of books like the “for dummies” and “for complete idiot” series, all with the same dimensions, cover design and color scheme, tone, writing style, etc called “What works inX”, like “What Works in Selling Your House”, “What Works in Nursing”, “What Works in Teaching High School”, or “What Works in Starting Your Own Restaurant.”

Each book contains anecdotes of people achieving success in the field that you can learn from — a series of solved problems you can use to solve your problems. The fundamental principle is the one quoted on the back of the Art of What Works — “someone, somewhere, has a better idea; and the operative compulsion is to find out who has that better idea, learn it, and put it into action”.

So when you decide to start something in a new area, you can pick up one of these books and look for solutions to apply. You start with successful experience and knowledge in your domain. The books can contain theory, but it’s more about practice.

Within a minute you could probably rattle off a hundred topics for What Works in X books — job hunting, fishing, buying a car, writing a book, looking for a job in Y field, applying to college, redesigning your home, quitting smoking, asking for a raise, starting a blog, traveling cheaply, leading, hiring, firing, … I wrote those in about thirty seconds.

How to make the books

Each title represents a chance for someone wanting to make a name in a field to contact, interview, and develop working relationships with successful people in it, then to attach their name to a relevant work. Since writing a book helps the author, the writing can be distributed. More than one writer can contribute to each book. For that matter, successful people can contribute stories themselves, perhaps with an online submission form (see tomorrow’s post for more on the web component).

When I had this idea in business school I had the idea to start the series by using business school students to help themselves and write the series. I’d start with “What Works in Banking”, “What Works in Consulting”, “What Works in Branding”, etc. I’d have students go to successful people in those fields and ask to interview them for successful anecdotes the students would edit for the book.

The students would benefit by making high-level connections with successful people in fields they want jobs in. The interviewees benefit by having their success published, likely improving their statures, possibly bringing them more or better candidates for positions (if they are hiring) than they’d get otherwise. The book benefits from getting anecdotes to publish. Readers benefit from the content of the book — successful solutions to problems in their fields and relevant knowledge.


We know what works for series like this because of similar series for dummies, for idiots, about Chicken Soup, and so on. We do what they do:

  • Similar color, size, type-face, and outward feel for each book so you can see them on the store bookshelf from far away (I am partial to the same blue as Bill’s original The Art of What Works book)
  • Similar title, writing style, reading level, etc for the content for each
  • Have them on many subjects so you see them everywhere and come to expect them.

Beyond that, you market the series like any other series.

Tomorrow I’ll also mention the web page, which could stand alone as its own product or be used to complement the books.

Do you want to do it?

You probably know enough to run with the idea if you want, even without me. I’ve thought more about it, so you could contact me. You might want to talk to Bill unless you want to change the name to avoid conflict with his title.

But you might as well work with one or both of us in some way. We figured out this much. We’d probably help more than whatever cost of involving us.

If you know an agent, editor, or publisher who might be interested, send them a link or put them in touch.

Also, wait for tomorrow’s post.

About entrepreneurship

I want to reinforce that the main point of this series is to show how ideas are easy to create. I see this as an entrepreneurial opportunity. Maybe you’d end up working in a publishing house, but you could make it your project as much as you’d like.

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