Sometimes when I'm wrestling with a knotty problem, the perfect book will appear out of nowhere with the answer.

Here's what happened: For years I had been advising our clients that they needed to publish books to become thought leaders. But recently it had become too obvious to ignore that there are simply too many damn business books out there these days to have the kind of impact they used to.

Fortunately, I happened upon Peter Washington's Madame Blavatsky's Baboon: A History of the Mystics, Mediums, and Misfits Who Brought Spiritualism to America--the story of how a country founded by English Puritans came to embrace yoga, mantras, and kale smoothies.

And within its pages of this book, I found the answer to how our clients can solve this tricky problem. Now I bring it to you.

Not All Books Are Created Equal

Before I spend any more time on Madame Blavatsky, I want to first dig a bit deeper into why so many business books don't achieve what their authors intend them to. In short, most of them simply don't have much to say. But in a world where anyone can self-publish, that shouldn't come as a big surprise.

Everywhere I turn there's a new two-hundred-and-ten page monstrosity put out by a "publishing company" that hadn't existed a week prior. These books invariably have generic titles like Leadership Strategies For the 21st Century, Lead to Win, or The Lean Innovator's Entrepreneurial Matrix. And between the covers, there's usually about a half-page of new information accompanied by two-hundred-nine-and-a-half pages of regurgitated fluff.

But I don't blame business owners for putting out books like this. It has become accepted wisdom that in order to "establish your authority" and become a "thought leader," you need to have one.

Times have changed, however. Unfortunately, most aspiring thought leaders haven't yet figured out how to change with them.

The Written Word is the Smallest Part

In the age of self-publishing, the public is finally figuring out that just because someone has a book doesn't mean he's worth paying attention to. At the same time, it's tough to break thousands of years of ingrained thinking about the value of the written word.

Madame Blavatsky knew how to take advantage of this dynamic, even a hundred fifty years ago.

Helena Blavatsky was an aristocratic Russian eccentric who immigrated to the United States during the late nineteenth century and quickly managed to form a small circle around herself. These students would regularly gather to hear her discuss a new philosophy she had cobbled together from about a half dozen Eastern religions and a handful of popular gothic novels.

Blavatsky's teachings included letters written from invisible overlords, conversations with spirits, and previously unknown ancient civilizations. Unbelievable stuff. Yet while Blavatsky was charismatic enough to get her little group of followers to buy into this strange brew, that wasn't enough for her.

She wanted to be powerful, famous, and rich.

As Washington describes it: "Her problem was that she had to find a way of publicizing the communications from her Brotherhood of Masters and thereby establish herself on an altogether higher occult level than mere spirit mediums...the best way to achieve it [was] to write a bible. "

Become the Alpha and the Omega

You see, Madame Blavatsky was entering into a space with a lot of competition. Séances were a craze at the time and there were thousands of mediums claiming to have the power to communicate with the dead.

So as with so many idea-oriented entrepreneurs, she began writing. But she didn't produce a book called How to Conduct a Winning Séance or Innovative Spiritual Strategies for the 19th Century. Instead she published Isis Unveiled, a tome that claimed to have finally and definitely unlocked all of the secrets of how the universe actually worked.

It was an immediate bestseller.

This approach has profound applications beyond the spiritual realm. Think of the business and personal development books that have truly transformed the careers of their authors--The 48 Laws of Power, Think and Grow Rich,  How to Win Friends and Influence People, The 4-Hour Work Week. What they have in common is that they all provide a comprehensive explanation of how all things in their corner of the universe work.

These books promise--implicitly or explicitly--that if you want to understand everything there is to know about power, accumulating wealth, building relationships, or efficiency, there is no need to look anywhere other than between their pages. As such, their authors attain an almost magical aura.

Just like the Bible, your book needs to have all the answers--or at least appear to. If you can pull that off, your readers will have no choice but to follow you wherever you want to take them.

If you want me to send you a list of offbeat books like Madame Blavatsky's Baboon that will give you a competitive edge in your business, email me. It would be my pleasure.