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How to Find Great Business Books for microISVs

September 9th, 2009


We all know that we should be spending more time reading good books about business, sales and marketing. But it’s difficult to find worthwhile books. Here are some tips for locating the best business books, buying them affordably, and building a library that will pay dividends year after year.
Choosing Good Business Books
Amazon.com has more reviews than other book sites. But it’s often difficult to tell if the book being reviewed is relevant to the software industry in general, and to mISVs in particular.  Many times I’ll buy a marketing book based on amazon.com recommendations, only to find that the book is targeted at larger enterprises. Most of us don’t need to read about strategies that ensure that our marketing staff is communicating effectively with our manufacturing managers.

In addition, there are a lot of books whose principles simply don’t translate well into the world of software development. A better source of information is to listen to recommendations from fellow software developers.

  • Read book-related threads in the ASP newsgroups;
  • Read the Software Marketing Book Club postings in the Educational Software Cooperative’s (ESC’s) blog;
  • There are more than 30 reviews of marketing and sales books in the archives of my Marketing Newsletter. All of them are written from the perspective of a mISV in the software development industry;
  • Ask for recommendations from other mISVs, and share information about your favorite books with the community.

Finding the Books You Need
Once you’ve chosen a book, the least expensive way to acquire it is to borrow it through your local library. Here in the US, town libraries’ book catalogs are searchable online. I’m able to easily search the catalogs of 20-or-so nearby towns. All local libraries here in Connecticut have inter-library loan programs that allow you to borrow books from any library in the state, for just a dollar or two.

Online stores such as amazon.com offer discounts on most books. And you can find deeply-discounted bargains in the used-book category for many business and marketing books.

Local bookstores are a great source for recently-published books. Generally, you can spend as much time as you like checking each book, to ensure that it will be useful in your business.
Building a Library of Marketing, Sales, and Business Books
There are quite a few bookstores on the Internet that sell remainders. My favorite is Book Closeouts. Remainders are books that publishers sell at deep discounts because they printed too many copies. Or they’re books that have been returned by book stores to the publishers, and the publishers don’t want to carry tiny quantities of them in their inventories.  Book Closeouts offers more than 50,000 books at deeply discounted prices, including some really great marketing and sales books. These books are so inexpensive, it’s easy – and affordable – to build a library.

Here in the US, local libraries sell used books to raise funds. A small town library might offer 15,000 books at its weekend sale. Larger libraries can have up to four times that number. The typical mix of books is 95 percent donations from the people in town, and 5 percent library discards. While books can cost between $2 (US) each and $5 per bag, you can generally expect to pay $1 for each book you buy.

At each book sale, there are typically a dozen-or-so dealers with their handheld PDAs and phones, reading barcodes and making big stacks of books. But most of the books are bought by book-lovers and bargain-hunters. You’ll find books that simply aren’t available at bookstores. And you’ll be helping your local library. Don’t go to these sales expecting to find recent tech books. But you’ll often find great business books, and books in every category. To find book sales in your area, visit Booksalefinder.com.

Finally, there are book-trading clubs online. You list the books that you want to trade, and you’re given credit for each book that other club members request and receive from you. You use your credits to request books from other members. All you pay are the shipping charges to send your book to another member. Check out Book Mooch.
The Bottom Line
Programming might be the most enjoyable part of your business. But building a successful software development business requires a lot of knowledge about business, marketing and sales. Spend a couple of hours each month reading hard-hitting business books, and watch your business grow, year after year.

Since 1984, Al Harberg has been helping software developers write press releases and send them to the editors. You can visit him on www.dpdirectory.com.

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  1. September 9th, 2009 at 11:00 | #1

    Enjoy going to the library books sales to find book at great prices. Good advice about taking time out to read books on sales & marketing.

  2. September 9th, 2009 at 11:21 | #2

    Some authors I recommend for the software authors:
    Bob Walsh, Eric Sink, Joel Spolsky, Kathy Sierra, Rick Chapman, Steve Krug, 37signals book, Seth Godin, Jessica Livingston.

    Some years ago I found Joel Spolsky list of books recommendations:
    http://www.joelonsoftware.com/navLinks/fog0000000262.html I keep as a bookmark :). how about you?

  3. September 9th, 2009 at 14:46 | #3

    Al’s suggestions are all good. I’ve bought books from Book Closeouts, and also have found that they are often very cheap when purchased used from Amazon. I’ve been participating in the ESC Marketing Book Club since it started. It’s much more productive than reading the books on my own, because of Al’s commentary and the excellent input from other members.

  4. September 10th, 2009 at 01:34 | #4

    Good post. I’d love to see a post with your book reviews compiled or the books you recommend from the 30 you have reviewed.


  5. September 11th, 2009 at 15:56 | #5

    Harry Keller gave permission to quote his comments from the ESC Members’ newsgroup:

    “Anyone who markets any sort of software will benefit by participating in the ESC Book Club because Al has taken the time (and has the experience and expertise) to recast the lessons in these marketing books in terms of selling software. Even without the discussion, that’s valuable.”

    “For myself, I find that writing down ideas that come from Al’s
    commentary and sharing them helps me to remember them and to use them.
    It’s just one more benefit of participating in the ESC Book Club.”

  6. October 11th, 2009 at 02:22 | #6

    I think it is extremely important to find books that are relevant and beneficial [not a waste of time]. I recently read “What You Don’t Know You Know: Our Hidden Motives in Life, Business, and Everything Else,” written by Kenneth Eisold and found the book to be truly eye opening… I highly suggest it.

  7. Timmy Fawley
    January 29th, 2010 at 18:43 | #7

    I have been using booksalemanager.com to find sales as well. Its a bit newer than booksalefinder but it allows me to do zip code search. When I travel and I don’t know the surrounding cities, it was hard to find sales within a decent radius. Now I can easy search with out doing the work of comparing maps.

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