You want your business to succeed, but it’s tough to stand out from the competition. You might sink tons of money into marketing and spend every free moment at networking events, but still struggle to get enough customers or clients.
What if there was another option that could establish you as an expert in your field while also bringing in a small stream of additional revenue?
Before you double your marketing budget, consider writing a book instead.
What Kind of Book?
A book, you say? That’s a huge project, and you have a business to run!
So let’s define what we mean by writing a book.
What we’re talking about is nonfiction book on a topic related to your business. Depending on what you do, your book could explain how to use a particular piece of software everyone in your industry relies upon, or offer tips for success in your field. You could talk about how to be more creative or productive, or explain something everyone’s always asking you about.
Many of these types of books are relatively short, perhaps no more than 100 pages. Or think of it this way: a book can be far less than a year’s worth of blog posts, or equivalent to a few white papers. It could be all the content of a single two- or three-hour workshop but in written form. It could even be a practical workbook.
The most important thing is that your book should somehow relate to what you do for a living so that by publishing a book you can establish yourself as an expert and boost your business.
You can get an idea of the kinds of books we mean by searching for nonfiction business books on Amazon.com.
How Books Build Business
When you see a nonfiction book, the natural presumption is that the author is an expert on the topic. And if you find out someone you know has written a book, your opinion of them usually improves because writing a book seems like quite an undertaking that only someone serious about their field would ever attempt.
What we’re suggesting here is that if you have your own business, you can be one of those people your friends and colleagues look up to and consider to be an expert, and it’s easier than you think.
So what can writing a book actually help you achieve, other than the admiration of your family and friends? When you have a nonfiction book, you can expect some or all of the following:
- Enhanced and diversified marketing for your business. You can use the book like your business card at important events, plus a book landing page and your Amazon.com listing offer extra marketing and SEO opportunities. And inside the book, you can link to your business page or portfolio.
- The ability to demonstrate expertise. Whether you’re an artist or an accountant, you can show others that you possess deep knowledge and understanding of one or more aspects of your field.
- More mailing list signups. You can include a link to your website in your book’s front and back matter, and then send out updates about what you’re doing to potential clients or customers.
- Extra income. While in most cases you shouldn’t focus on book sales as your primary goal, it’s nice to have a little residual income rolling in month after month.
- New networking and speaking opportunities. Whether it’s doing a book signing or using your book as a calling card to speak at events, you will have many more opportunities to engage with people interested in the same or similar topics.
- Opportunities for publicity. When you have a book, a magazine or your local paper might want to feature you or your book in an article.
Alison Jones, the author of This Book Means Business, told us that writing a book “forces you to get clear on your ideas, and explore them in more depth.” In turn, your deeper appreciation of your subject will help you improve your own business. Moreover, writing a book provides you a way to build your network and your platform. As she points out, as you work on your book, you can reach out to people as part of your research and build new connections that can only benefit you in the long run.
Still not convinced? We also reached out to Honoree Corder, the author of You Must Write a Book. She suggests that in many fields, people won’t consider you as the expert in your field until you have a book.
“Being an author elevates you to a higher level,” Corder says, “no matter how successful you are.” And as soon as you’re published, your professional ‘value’ increases, so you can charge more for consulting or speaking fees, and people will start seeking you out for your expertise.
Furthermore, Corder points out that “a book, unlike a business card or brochure, is something people will keep and even pass on to others (and most likely, never throw away).”
What Should Your Book Be About?
Once you decide that a book is a great way to take your business to the next level, you need to figure out what to write about.
It’s always a good idea to start with an area that you’re passionate about. If you don’t love the subject, it will be difficult to do the work required to write the book. But also make sure that the topic somehow ties back to your profession or business, so that you can use the book to demonstrate expertise in the field.
One thing you can do is look at what’s already been written, and see if you can find a niche for yourself. Maybe no one else has answered some of the common questions that you get asked, or the content out there is limited or outdated. Those are great places to start.
What If There Are Other Books Out There?
You’re sold on the idea of writing a book. You have a fantastic idea—it’s something that really gets at the heart of what you do, and you want to dive in. But wait—you go on Amazon and people have written a ton of books on the same topic!
Do you have to go back to the drawing board?
Not at all! Jones points out that finding similar books demonstrates there’s a proven market for that topic. As she says, “books aren’t like washing machines: people don’t just buy one. If they’re interested in a topic they’ll buy every book that catches their eye.”
And even if there’s a book exactly like what you’re thinking about writing, consider this: that book wasn’t written by you. Like Corder says, that book “hasn’t been written in your voice, from your perspective, or with your experience.”
So you shouldn’t let existing books stop you. Find a new angle or way to offer readers something better, or approach the topic in a different way, and you’ll be fine.
Are You Just Getting Started in Your Business?
Corder says that most people will want to consider tackling a book project once they have five to seven years of working in a given profession. That amount of experience will give you both the broad understanding of the field and the specific knowledge of problems that you can solve.
Jones likewise suggests that you wait until you have built up a stockpile of experience and “have something distinctive to say, which has been forged and tested in the real world so you can back it up with evidence and stories.”
But what if you’ve just launched your business or are new to your field? You need to show that you’re an expert and get the extra visibility that a book provides, but you don’t have years of experience. So what do you do?
Corder suggests you can take the position of “the reporter,” much like Napoleon Hill did in Think & Grow Rich. He gathered information and interviewed those with experience (the wealthy) and shared what he learned.
You can also use your own inexperience as an advantage. If you’ve just learned a complicated piece of software, for example, you might be the perfect person to explain it to someone else. All of those pain points and frustrations will still be fresh in your mind.
If you teach workshops or do training on a topic, that level of expertise will help you crystallize your ideas and make a book project easier. With that in mind, even if you’re relatively new in your field, there’s nothing stopping you from offering a local class or online webinar. An added benefit is that you’ll discover the kinds of questions people have on your topic, and then you can then answer the questions in your own book.
What If You’re Not a Writer?
You’re convinced that writing a book is a great idea for your business, but there’s a problem: you don’t consider yourself a writer now? How could you ever write a whole book?
“Most people who write business books are by definition not writers, so you’re in good company,” Jones says. Additionally, Corder points out that everyone writes emails and texts, and many of us might write other things like instructions or advice on blogs (our own or others), so that’s already a good start.
If you’re not a strong writer currently, here are a few ways you can improve your writing:
- Hire a writing coach. You can find dozens of people willing to help you work on your book. Here are some tips on how to choose the right one, from Writer Mag.
- Locate a writing group. There are tons of them on Facebook, or you can look for a local group on Meetup.com.
- Sign up for an online writing course. Writer’s Digest offers a number of online writing workshops, or try a free online course through Coursera or other online universities.
- Write a little every day. This will help you build your “writing muscles.” You might keep a journal or try morning pages.
- Consider NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) to knock out a draft. Each November the organization offers a ton of writing advice, cheerleading, and support for people writing novels as well as nonfiction books.
If all of that seems daunting, there are a number of ways you can make the whole process easier so you’re not stuck with a blank page with no idea where to start.
- Try dictation or use interviews. You can use Dragon Dictate to talk through your topic or record yourself and hire someone to transcribe it. Or if you have a number of interviews or Ted Talks, you can use that content as well. Once you have the raw material, a development editor turn your content into a manuscript.
- Find a coauthor. Perhaps one of your colleagues or a local author or editor would be willing to work with you on your book either for a flat fee or a cut of the sales revenue.
- Hire a ghostwriter to give life to your ideas. To find one, check out the Facebook groups for writers and publishers later in this article or look into local freelance and writer organizations in your city or state.
- Turn a blog into a book. Many business owners already blog, and if you have that content, an editor can use that for the basis of your book. And if you’re not blogging yet, you might check out our article on how blogging can help your business.
How to Publish Your Book
Once you’ve written your book, you’ll need to get it into people’s hands. To do this, you will likely want to go with self-publishing, as the traditional publishing route of finding an agent and a publishing house is very slow and time-consuming. When you’re trying to boost your business and share your expertise, after all, you don’t want to wait years for your book to come out.
And don’t worry—we’re well past the era of ‘vanity publishing’. Nowadays no one cares (or pays attention to) how your book is published.
You can publish as an ebook on Amazon Kindle, iBooks, Kobo, and other platforms. If you wish, you can also make a print version available via Createspace (which partners with Amazon.com), Amazon.com’s KDP publishing platform (currently in beta) or IngramSpark. (For a comparison of Createspace and IngramSpark, check out this article from the Alliance of Independent Authors.)
Steps to Self-Publishing
To get your book out into the world, there are a few things you’ll need to do once you have a rough draft written out.
First, plan on hiring at least one editor to review your book manuscript, and be sure to set aside money in your budget to do so.
Even the best writers need editors, so don’t take this personally. There are several different kinds of editors and editing, so make sure you know what you need at each stage of the process.
- Developmental editors will check the organization and content of your overall draft. Have you covered all of the points adequately? Does it make sense and flow well? Do you need to reorganize any of the content or expand on certain topics
- Copyeditors/line editors will go through your revised draft and make sure it reads well. They may make suggestions on wording, voice, and grammar.
- Proofreaders take the complete manuscript and double-check that all spelling and punctuation are correct, you don’t have repeated words, and so forth.
Some editors can handle multiple stages of this process, so be sure to ask anyone you’re thinking of hiring what kind of editing they can do for you.
Once the book is edited and ready to go, you’ll need to format your book for both ebook and print versions. The resulting document is what you will upload to Amazon.com and other online booksellers as well as your print-on-demand service. Like editing, you can also outsource this part of the process.
Finally, you also need an eye-catching and genre-appropriate cover for your book. Keep in mind that first impressions are everything. While many people think they can make their own covers (or they hire a friend), we don’t recommend the do-it-yourself approach here.
If your cover isn’t professional, or if it doesn’t fit in with similar books, potential readers (and clients) won’t take you seriously and they will pass you by. Your book will be far more successful if you hire a professional cover designer.
How to Learn More about Publishing and Find Pros
There’s a lot to learn when you publish your own books. To get tips on best practices for producing and marketing your book, as well as find professionals who can help with book production, there are a number of online resources.
- To network with fellow self-publishers and get marketing and other tips, check out the following Facebook groups: The Smarter Artist, The Business of Being a Writer, and 20 Books to 50K.
- Visit KBoards, a forum for people publishing on Amazon.com.
- Self-publishing expert Jane Friedman offers a ton of advice on how to navigate the world of indie publishing.
- David Gaughran is a wealth of knowledge about Amazon.com and marketing best practices.
- Alison Jones (This Book Means Business) runs the Extraordinary Business Book Club with a weekly podcast, newsletters, and a Facebook group.
- Honoree Corder (You Must Write a Book) runs The Prosperous Writer Mastermind group on Facebook.
Beware of Predatory Offers
Lots of people are writing books these days, so it’s easy to feel the pressure—and feel left out. Webinars and companies are popping up promising to take the work out of writing your book, and will charge you a pretty penny to help you through the process. For example, one recent promotion offers a “webinar masterclass” on the secret formula for writing your own book.
Be careful of these offers. Don’t let someone take your money with a bunch of promises to make your book project easy or share the secrets of the process. There really aren’t any secrets, and there are many fellow authors out there who are happy to lend a hand.
Also be wary of companies who offer to make the whole publishing experience easier but then charge an arm and a leg. While there are costs involved in the production process, don’t take out a second mortgage on your home just to get your book published. Do your research and if it sounds too good to be true, it almost certainly is.
To learn more about some of the scam and predatory companies, check out Writer Beware. Although it grew out of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, it’s a great resource for all writers.
Are You Ready?
There’s no better time to start than now. As Corder suggests, while it may be daunting to consider writing an entire book, you should take it one step at a time. Start by writing down your ideas, and then look into joining a group or getting a how-to book.
As she says, “the only thing you’ll regret is not doing it sooner!”