SPS 171: How To Write Useful Books That Help Readers & Sell Well with Rob Fitzpatrick

Posted on Sep 25, 2022

Rob Fitzpatrick has been building businesses for 15 years. He’s also written three books about what he’s learned along the way. His first book, The Mom Test: How to talk to customers & learn if your business is a good idea when everyone is lying to you, resulted from his efforts to understand sales and customer development. His latest book is Write Useful Books: A modern approach to designing and refining recommendable nonfiction. It’s about helping nonfiction writers create books that customers want and that will market themselves by being in demand for having solid solutions. I found Rob by finding his book when I was looking for sales and development information. 

I found his book really valuable. I was looking forward to this interview, and it didn’t disappoint. We talk about some cool concepts that Rob has come up with including the recommendation loop and making sure that your book has the solution to a real problem that your customers have been asking about. He also gives some great tips about creating a promise about the problem and solution and putting that on the book’s cover. He also shares his philosophy of why his nonfiction books are shorter. We also go into concepts like thinking through the reader experience, stand-alone units of value, and clever beta reading strategies. There’s a lot of information in this interview. 

Show Highlights

  • [01:46] Rob read books on sales and felt it wasn’t working. The business he was working on didn’t make it, but he learned a lot. While on vacation, he started writing down everything he had learned. This ended up being The Mom Test, which is about how to do sales. 
  • [04:07] The book solves a specific problem. 
  • [04:56] He wanted to do his book right and make it a back catalog classic that he wouldn’t need to market forever.
  • [06:27] Rob shares his recommendation loop. First he used a PR Blitz where it seems like everyone’s reading it, because they are. Then make sure the book solves an easy to verbalize problem.
  • [07:43] Writing a book that is best in class to the solution of a person’s problem is the end of the recommendation loop. Avoid dates or temporary trends. 
  • [09:30] Doing enough marketing to get your book into the hands of the right 1000 first readers.
  • [10:42] The Workshop Survival Guide does three to five thousand a month in royalties. The Mom Test does about fifteen thousand a month.
  • [11:21] Rob is planning to spend the next five to ten years in service to non-fiction writers.
  • [11:35] Have the promise on the cover of the problem that people have and how the book is the solution. Start the solution right away, don’t waste the reader’s time.
  • [13:48] Modern startups are being more iterative and trying to get customers involved earlier in the process. Most books are written deeply waterfall where you do everything and then send the book out for feedback. If the book doesn’t work, no one will be willing to give you that feedback.
  • [15:18] The concept in product development is when you want to bring the bad news sooner. 
  • [16:35] You can pretend to be the book and have workshops where you use the books information as your answers, and you can actually see in real-time what is working.
  • [17:04] Rob uses conversations to hone the details of his really descriptive table of contents. He then maps out learning outcomes.
  • [18:07] Get the book’s core value out for beta reading by a trusted reviewer.
  • [24:31] Rob shares more about his beta reading strategy.
  • [25:20] It’s better to hear the bad news now than in an Amazon review. Writing a book is a long journey.
  • [31:11] Focus on the people who are your readers.
  • [32:43] He removed half of his first book after beta reading. Rob’s books are concise. He doesn’t want to waste his reader’s time.
  • [37:13] Big picture thoughts about promoting, selling books, and increasing revenue. 

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