Smart people learn from their mistakes. Smarter people learn from other people's mistakes. A good business book, written by someone who has been there and done that, will always contain plenty of success strategies and describe risks that paid off. But it should also talk about the failures from which the author recovered and the gambles that didn't work.  They're just as important.

And no less important is that the book should keep you turning the pages and remembering information. If you don't get to the end, the author has failed. If you can't remember what you've read, you'll have lost the lesson.

Bestselling books that keep readers reading and give them real, actionable wisdom always have two things.

They have a hook and a thread.

The hook is the book's central idea, that one concept that remains with you long after you've put the book back on the shelf.

Tim Ferriss, for example, had a simple idea: outsource everything you don't have to do yourself. He'd taken that idea to an extreme -- even hiring people to manage his online dating for him -- and he wanted to tell everyone how that outsourcing worked. But he didn't call his book "Outsourcing: A guide to doing less." He called it "The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere And Join The New Rich."

That's much more powerful and it's not just smart marketing. He focused not on the process but on the result and distilled the book's 416 pages into one simple idea. It's much easier to remember that hook than to remember the principles of outsourcing.

John Gray did the same thing with his relationship bestseller "Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus." If you've read the book, you might remember something about men retreating into caves and women... doing something else. But the hook in the title sums up the book's main argument that men and women are fundamentally different and need to treat each other differently. That wasn't a revolutionary new idea but the way John Gray presented his position in the title was a hook that has stuck in everyone ever since.

The Thread Pulls You Through

Even harder to produce than a strong hook is a tight thread. Authors of bestselling business books will usually have years of experience and enough stories to fill volumes and hold audiences for hours. Books work best, though, when that experience and those anecdotes are chosen carefully so that they follow the book's hook. Gary Vaynerchuck's "Crush It: Why NOW Is The Time To Cash In On Your Passion" had both a great hook that connected the book's knowledge to Gary's wine-making experience and it maintained that message all the way through. It was valuable knowledge that kept its focus --and that's much harder to do than it sounds, especially when you're describing case studies or talking about your own experience. It's much too easy to lose your way and write a book that's a tangled mess.

Amazon sells nearly two million business books but only a fraction of them have become bestsellers. The ones that made it to the top hooked their readers with a strong, central idea and held onto them with a central idea stretched into a tight, straight thread.