Business book publishing is no different than what it purports to cover: it is all about either anticipating or (ideally) creating trends. As technology, market forces and consumer preferences change locally and globally, business must react and innovate to stay competitive. The management of people, of course, is key to keeping up, and that's where business management titles come in. Our preview of some selected fall titles demonstrates that there is no handy consensus as to what the near future requires in terms of managing a business. Is it ensuring you have the best talent? The most tried-and-true approach? A handle on the Internet? Or do you simply need a guru's status accompanied by a dynamic personality? Well, it wouldn't be business without contrasting points of view on how best to compete.
Hottest trend: According to president and publisher Hank Kennedy, "A major issue facing businesses today is the war for talent. As the baby boomers retire, there is a smaller pool of talented, skilled workers. In this business environment, retaining and motivating good employees will be critical for corporate success. At the same time, executives have become skeptical of the promises of quick fixes offered by recent business books. They want substantive information that offers real solutions to complex problems."
Biggest Book: In response to the above need, in October Amacom will publish Judith Bardwick's One Foot Out the Door: How to Combat the Psychological Recession That's Alienating Employees and Hurting American Business. Says Kennedy, "Today we have a tight labor market, but in recent years it has been the other way around. Years of badly handled layoffs, more work handled by fewer employees and a take-it-or-leave-it management attitude have left employees feeling alienated and ready to leave at a moment's notice. This research-based book offers solutions for combating high turnover, low productivity and lackluster performance. It is a wakeup call to companies desperately needing to restore their employees' passion and enhance their bottom lines." Kennedy notes that Bardwick's previous Amacom book, Danger in the Comfort Zone (1991), was named one of the top 25 bestselling business books of the decade by 800-CEO Read.
Hottest Trend: "It is remarkable how brand-name books and brand-name authors are standing out in this crowded marketplace," says Steve Piersanti, president of Berrett-Koehler. "When the market is glutted, there is a flight to tried and true, known and proven. Often the books have a distinctive title and have become the dominant book on their topics. For example, Leadership and Self-Deception has been on the BusinessWeek bestseller list, as high as #3, for four out of the last six months, sold over 70,000 copies last year and has sold over 500,000 copies overall. It was originally published seven years ago, in 2000, and we have just this month repackaged it with updated front and back covers and front matter and back matter." Piersanti adds that the company's books by such brand-name authors as Ken Blanchard, Margaret Wheatley and Brian Tracy "are also selling very well in this crowded marketplace."
Biggest Book:Get There Early: Sensing the Future to Compete in the Present by Bob Johansen, president of the Institute for the Future, is coming out in August. Piersanti notes that it is the first title B-K is publishing with the Institute for the Future, and it's based on that institution's 10-year forecast of trends, challenges and opportunities. "The institute is very well known and respected," says Piersanti. "This book makes the most sense of what's going on in the world and shows how you can leverage that in your business management."
Hottest Trend: What's hot is 21st-century management style, says Business Plus (formerly Warner Business) editorial director Rick Wolff. "There's a growing awareness that managers have to pay more attention to their subordinates-really listen to them and address their needs. The new generation of 20- and 30-somethings can't wait to go out on their own and set up their own shops, and in order to keep that talent, companies have to learn what makes them happy and motivated and act on it. Today's management style has to be flexible and not take employees for granted-it's not the 1950s anymore."
Biggest Book: This coming September, Business Plus had big plans for renowned University of Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler's Bo's Lasting Lessons: The Legendary Coach Teaches the Timeless Fundamentals of Leadership, written with John U. Bacon. But Schembechler died suddenly just a week after the manuscript was finished. Says Wolff, "He was one of the most powerful leaders of our time-not just in terms of being a highly successful coach but also in the way he transformed lives far beyond the gridiron. His booming voice leaps off the pages of this book and gets in your face about such timeless principles as responsibility, accountability, leadership and doing the right thing in life." The national tour for Bo's Lasting Lessons, says Wolff, will go on as planned, with dozens of former players, coaches, friends and Michigan alum pledging their help and volunteering to do interviews.
Hottest Trend: "This morning when I was reading the Wall Street Journal and saw the business books bestsellers list, it was a flashback from 30 years ago with Lee Iacocca at #1," says senior v-p and publisher Steve Ross, pointing to the success of the former Chrysler chief's Where Have All the Leaders Gone? published by Scribner. To cope with a competitive workplace, he adds, people are looking for advice from proven authorities. "The central compass point of Crown Business is that people are still hungry for voices of people sharing their wisdom of a lifetime. We've generally focused on the reader buying with a corporate credit card who has an insatiable appetite to learn from people with deeper wisdom and expertise, especially if they can apply that information on Monday morning."
Biggest Book: One corporate legend Ross singles out is Cathleen Black, who distills her experiences at USA Today and Hearst magazines-which include Cosmopolitan, Esquire, Good Housekeeping and O, the Oprah Magazine-for her first book, Basic Black: The Essential Guide for Getting Ahead at Work (and in Life). Ross describes the October title as a "really practical book geared toward women who are eager for information on how to get ahead and have a personal life, what Black terms 'the 360-degree life.' " Although Crown Business has several fall titles launching with 100,000-copy first printings, this is the book that has touched the most people at Crown, says Ross, and Black will be a keynote speaker at BEA. Part of the book's appeal is case histories that include personal stories on media personalities like Oprah Winfrey, Harvey Weinstein and Rupert Murdoch.
Hottest Trend: "Most of the books on the Gotham business list reflect an enduring trend-personality," says executive editor Lauren Marino. "People will always want to read about the accomplishments of successful people, especially if they have broken new ground or created a whole new industry. What propelled Russell Simmons onto the national bestseller charts? What makes Tom Perkins tick? [Simmons's Do You! marks its third week on PW's list; Gotham in October will publish Valley Boy: The Education of Tom Perkins.] They aren't traditional CEOs, yet they changed the culture and the way we live. Simmons brought hip-hop off the streets and into the mainstream; Perkins pioneered Silicon Valley and biotechnology. Readers want to know how these innovative thinkers have gotten where they are and the principles, beliefs and processes they have followed."
Biggest Book: Says associate publicity director Rachel Ekstrom, "Julia Flynn Siler's The House of Mondavi: The Rise and Fall of an American Wine Dynasty is not a business management title in the traditional sense, but it serves as an excellent case study for business leaders." Echoing Marino's comments, she notes that it certainly deals with a colorful array of personalities. According to editor Brett Valley, this June title is "an entrepreneurial story of an American brand that became a global brand and then crumbled after going public and facing demanding shareholders. So, in a way, it is the ultimate American business story, as it follows an immigrant family from their successful days as a family-run business to the point when they go global and bring a $400-million company to the brink of bankruptcy."
Hottest Trend: "It's very clear," says Kaplan v-p and publisher Maureen McMahon, "that readers-whether business students or professionals already embarked on successful careers-want books that will give them the up-to-date knowledge and skills they need to compete in today's global economy. And it's not just a matter of knowing another language or the customs of a country. They want books that will give them actionable advice and the innovative and perceptive ideas they'll need to build world-class organizations."
Biggest Book: McMahon cites Jack Stahl's Lessons on Leadership: The Seven Fundamental Management Skills for Leaders at All Levels (July) as "perfectly aligned to this trend. Stahl's wise, practical advice is based on his successful day-to-day management of two global corporations, Coca-Cola and Revlon." Stahl has already been interviewed by Harvard Management Update and M World magazine, done a podcast for the American Management Association and taught a seminar on his book at a business school in Paris. In July, via a webcast to students around the world, Stahl will kick off the Distinguished Speakers Series for the Kaplan University/Newsweek MBA Program.
Hottest Trend: In the words of Herb Schaffner, publisher of business and finance, "We believe the era of the globalization of the management book has arrived. Look at the appeal of global brands. Readers want to know how Google, Toyota and Starbucks do it," says Schaffner, who has published books on all three brands. With offices in the U.K., Asia, Europe, South Africa and Mexico, McGraw-Hill is poised, he says, to take advantage of books on global companies, written by gurus with platforms around the world and filled with global content. And, he adds, McGraw-Hill has benefited from this trend by listening to its colleagues around the world: "That's what's driving these books."
Biggest Book: In today's business world, organizations are flatter and managers don't have the authority they used to, says Schaffner, describing how just about everyone in a company-from the administrative assistants on up to the CEO-can benefit from Influencer: The Power to Change Anything (Oct.) by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, David Maxfield, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler. He cites this look at how to bring about change- from the authors of Crucial Conversations and Crucial Confrontations and cofounders of the global corporation VitalSmarts-as an example of a book that not only includes interviews with change gurus from around the world but also contributes to the global conversation on management issues. VitalSmarts will work with McGraw-Hill on a global launch and marketing campaign, which will include a 12-city U.S. tour.
Hottest Trend: Portfolio publisher Adrian Zackheim sees the rebirth of Internet-related management and strategy books as the trend to watch. "There was a big wave of these books in the late 1990s-bestsellers like Customers.com and Unleashing the Killer App. Then the Internet bubble popped and the whole genre disappeared for about five years. Nobody cared. But now we're back to seeing bestsellers aimed at managers who want to apply the lessons of the new Web 2.0 companies like YouTube and MySpace."
Biggest Book: Longtime Portfolio author Seth Godin may not have written a new technology management book, but the Internet is the centerpiece of the marketing campaign for his latest book, The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick), which boasts a 100,000 first printing. Godin's "Dip" blog (www.sethgodin.typepad.com/the_dip) provocatively describes the book as "a mind grenade, a little bit of insight that will help you see what's causing your organization (or you) to get stuck" and offers up a Dip Manifesto, Dip Blurbs, an interview with Entrepreneur magazine and information about the Dip book tour. Godin's fans can register online for an event in any of seven tour cities this month-Philadelphia; Chicago; Santa Clara, Calif.; New York; Salt Lake City; Ann Arbor, Mich.; and Phoenix, Ariz. If they register and buy five copies of The Dip on Godin's site, they get free admission. Or they can pay $50 to attend the event and still get five free copies of the book. A cyber-deal.