Monday, 27 June 2011

Getting down to business

If you look really closely you can
see my name...
Before I became a popular science author I spent a few years writing business books. Never one to miss up an opportunity, I wondered whether there was a chance to do a business equivalent of Ecologic - after all, businesses have plenty to win and lose when it comes to getting it right with the environment.

I contacted one of my old publishers and the answer (as usual with a publisher) was no. And yes. While they didn't really want what I was offering, how about writing something on sustainable business (close enough to the Ecologic theme) for their new series, Financial Times Briefings? The idea of the series is an interesting one that I've pondered in the past. If you address a book to a particular niche - senior executives and CEOs - what you need is not a fat doorstop, but rather a slim summary of the essentials. And even more interesting is the pricing model.

Typically, slim summaries sell for less than an ordinary chunky business book - yet this particular market is not price sensitive. If you are a top person in an organization you are used to paying quite a lot up front for consultancy. So what I've ended up with is the most expensive book I've ever written, retailing at £49.99 (though Amazon does have it half price if you are intending to rush out and buy a copy).

Edward de Bono once tried this pricing strategy but took it to extreme. He charged over £200 per book. His argument was that many people were prepared to spend more than this to spend a day being trained by him, so why not pay it for a book that contained at least as much good stuff as his lectures? That does not seem to have been a success. But I can see the price point on the FT book could be about right for this market.

One thing that has been fascinating, coming back to business books after all this time, is how bad so many of them are. A lot of the books I looked at in preparation for writing this title were 5% content and 95% woffle. They would make a handful of useful points, but drown them in continuous repetition, pointless diagrams and meaningless jargon. You just couldn't get away with this kind of thing in popular science. I like to think that Sustainable Business is different, not only because it is relatively compact, but also because it's more about practice than theory.

So there you have it. The most expensive book I've ever written. I'll understand if you don't rush out and buy a copy, even at Amazon's bargain rate. But just in case, here it is at and here at


  1. I'm thrilled that you're a popular science author. I, on the other hand, am an unpopular science author.

  2. What can I say, Henry? It must be the aftershave.