Comedian Steven Wright famously quipped: “If how-to books
really worked, we’d only need just one.”
Well, recently I received as a gift a new how-to business book.
In the preface, the author shocked me by stating, “The average
person who buys any how-to information gets little or no
Do you believe it? From long experience, I certainly do.
And if so, is this dose of realism at the beginning of a new
how-to book demotivating, discouraging, a rude awakening?
Or is it inspiration to beat the averages … and be one of those
who DO get results?
I have no solid proof of these numbers, but I think they are
pretty accurate for business how-to books, and probably even
worse for self-help books:
If you sell 10,000 copies of your how-to business book or course,
10% of those who buy — a thousand people — will actually skim or
Of those 1,000 readers, only 10% — just 100 of them — will do
some or all of what you recommend in the book.
Finally, of the 100 who actually work your system, most will give
up to soon, because it’s hard work or they get distracted.
And therefore only 10% — just 10 people — will gain the skill,
start the business, and actually make money from it.
LM comments: “Yes, I believe it. One of my FB groups is filled
with people who are always buying info products and believing
that one of them is finally going to make them rich.
“But we’ve all been in the group for several years, and almost
everyone is in the same position or even worse off than they were
when the group formed.”
As a how-to author, I get the most satisfaction from those 10
buyers who actually follow the advice and get the result they
want. They represent just 0.1% of your 10,000 purchasers.
But if I can help even 10 people achieve their business or career
goals, I can be happy that at least I have changed their lives
for the better.
It does happen. Reader SS writes, “I built a career based on one
of your how-to books, Bob. That being said, I’ve read many how-to
books that were very good — yet, I didn’t do much with the
information. I don’t think I’m alone in that.”
And JM reports, “Bob, I bought one of your books 3 years ago from
my meager pay. The book paid for itself almost immediately.”
In consulting, where clients are paying thousands of dollars for
customized advice instead of just $15 to $25 for a book,
consultant HB once told me:
“Only half my clients listen to my advice, and of those, they
implement only half of what I tell them. So 75% of my
recommendations are ignored, despite the high fees I charge.”
In closing, Steve Wright said, “I went to the bookstore and asked
the clerk where the self-help section was.”
She replied: “I could show you, but that would defeat the