Thought Leadership Resources

#64 Why publishing a book gives you an edge in winning business

Imagine two business consultants, each meeting with a potential client for the first time. One consultant says to the client, “Here’s my business card.” The other says, “Here’s a copy of my book. Let me autograph it for you.”

Which meeting do you think is off to a better start?

In blog post #63, I talked about the four main ways to publish a book: commercial publishing, academic or association publishing, vanity publishing, and the newest way – print on demand. In case that’s perked your interest, in this post I’ll go into some of the ways that the effort to publish a book can pay off in helping you win business.

1. Your book is an amazingly effective business card

“Having a book” is, for some business professionals, the ultimate credential for standing out as a subject-matter expert. It helps make you the go-to person and the safe choice when it comes to competing for business: “See? She wrote a book on the subject. None of the other consultants we’re considering has reached that level.” Your book helps you stand out from the competition – even if your clients haven’t read it yet.

As an analogy -- back in the middle of the last century, there was a saying, “Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM.” IBM’s machines might be pricey, and the company’s legendary blue-suited salespeople sometimes had a bit of attitude. But compared to all the also-ran mainframe makers, Big Blue had the credibility to win a competitive bid just on the reassurance and safety its name offered.

Your book does the same thing for you. It reassures the person considering your services that even if the project does go sideways, they’ll be protected because they went with the “safe choice” – a recognized expert in the field. If that sounds negative, consider the fact that people always want to protect themselves – and your recognized expertise, demonstrated in being a published author, gives that reassurance.

Having a book also helps you in a situation where a prospective client has met you, but there were no projects available at the time, for which you are qualified. If you’ve given them a copy of your book, they’re more likely to be able to reach out to you when an opportunity does arise.

This is because when you meet someone and hand them a copy of your book, you’re giving them something that they’re likely to keep. Long after your business card has been digitized and forgotten (“Who was that consultant we met at the conference in Denver? He might be great for this project. What was his name again?”), your book remains on their bookshelf as a reminder.

In my own meetings with clients, I usually make a little ceremony out of opening the book I’m giving away, and autographing it with the person’s name.

I’ve used my books as give-aways at speeches. It becomes a door prize. Speech organizers are always pleased to be able to offer a give-away at the event.

My personal favorite is to hold up a copy during my speech, and say I’ll give it to the first person in the room who can pull out one of their their own business cards, and hold it up. I follow this with a little humorous reminder, “You’re at a networking event, people. You should always be in position to hand someone your business card.” This makes winning the book especially rewarding, because it’s not awarded based on chance, but on the winner’s preparedness.

2. Your book makes you think in depth about your topic

I can remember when I was first thinking of writing a book, in 2000, on the topic of how to write and publish magazine articles. My thought was, “Do I know enough about this topic to write a book on it? And is there even enough to say about the topic, to fill a book?”

It turned out that there was. Not a thick book, mind you, but a book nonetheless.

But writing the book forced me to stretch. I discovered I knew more about the topic than I thought. And being required to fill the book’s pages made me think through my ideas in depth.

It was also a chance to get ideas from other people – ideas I wouldn’t have thought of. Asking people for advice about your book is a good thing – writing a book is a respectable endeavor, and it gave me reason to approach all kinds of senior people in the business, who I’d have been reluctant to talk with otherwise.

You can easily use your book-in-process as a door-opener – “I’m writing a book and I’d really value you insights into this aspect of the topic. What do you think my readers need to know about it?” That will get you face time with some seriously senior thought leaders, many of whom have either written a book themselves and know what it’s like, or are envious of you for actually doing something they’ve only thought about.

As well as interviewing sources, you can expand your knowledge by researching the available literature on your topic. Maybe create some online surveys using free online tools like SurveyMonkey to create original research.

Writing a book is a good opportunity to prepare some case studies of your work, giving you a chance to get in touch with previous clients you may not have talked with for a while. Developing the case study is a great opportunity to reconnect, remind them what you can offer, and gently probe to see if they have any new needs you can meet.

3. It’s hard (and that’s a good thing)

Everyone who reads your book, gets a copy, or even just hears about it, knows how much effort it is to write a book. That’s why, “He wrote the book on that” is a phrase that still has currency in an age of Twitter and cute-cat videos on YouTube.

A good length for a book is 30,000 to 40,000 words. By comparison, this blog post is about 2,000 words. A typical two-page article in a standard magazine is about 1200 words. So you can see that having to fill up the pages of a book can be a substantial undertaking.

It takes dedication over a long time, a determination to stick with it, and the audacity to think that you can author a book. That is a huge point in your favor when it comes to gaining attention for your ideas, and as I pointed out at the start of this post, particularly in competitive-bid situations. Many people want to “have written” a book, and many have the start of a manuscript languishing on their hard drive. Far fewer get the text written, proofread, and ready for publication.

That means that getting your book actually published is another hurdle that has to be overcome, and for which people will respect you. If you’ve read Post #63, you’ll know that you don’t need to get a “real” publisher for your book – it’s actually pretty easy to do this yourself (NOW will you go and read that post!! if you haven’t done so already). But most people think it’s still necessary to convince a commercial publisher to take a chance on your idea. So, while the illusion still holds, having published a book is still seen as a major accomplishment.

4. Having a book helps you get speaking engagements

I remember looking at the speaker lineup for a conference. As I scrolled through the pictures of the speakers, something caught my eye. I noticed that each smiling portrait had beside it, an image of a book. Specifically, the speaker’s book.

This was a conference that wanted to show its speakers had credibility, as expressed in having published a book. Once you start to notice this about conferences, you see it’s really quite common. No book? You’re not getting onto their program.

Even at conferences that don’t insist on it, having a book increases the chances that you’ll get booked. Or, you’ll get a higher billing for your presentation, or they’ll set aside a bigger room for your gig.

As I observed in post #39 on the benefits of public speaking, wearing a “speaker” badge at a conference or other event gives your ordinary conversations more power. People listen to what you have to say. That’s even more so if they know you’re a speaker who has a book.

Anything that gets you more speaking engagements is a good thing, because it’s through public speaking that people have a chance to connect with potential clients when you’re in a particularly powerful place. Books help get speaking gigs.

5. Your book helps you reach more people

If you have a corporate publisher for your book, you can expect them to handle issues like sending out review copies and news releases, with some social media buzz thrown in. But you’ll probably have to do a good deal of that yourself, using your own contacts and your own social media channels. But what’s different about having a book is that people pay more attention to what you have to say through social media.

Your book will attract attention when it’s on your publisher’s website. If you’re going the Print-on-Demand route, your book will attract attention when it’s listed next to books on similar topics: “People who bought this book also bought …

Your book manuscript can also be a point of origin from which many blog posts, video scripts, infographics, slide shows and other content can be spun. Use it to plug your book: “Based on information to be in the forthcoming book …

6. Your book can pull you into higher-earning work

Let’s imagine an architect named Jefferson who’s been doing ordinary, everyday work designing retail environments. Jefferson has noticed that this thing called the Internet is just killing sales in shopping malls. So he wants to become part of the solution – creating other ways to bring people into malls. To do this, he decides to jump onto the trend of malls becoming entertainment and activity attractions – building something that people just can’t get online.

So he thinks, “water parks.” Water slides, dump buckets, lazy rivers, wave pools. Quite a few companies design these attractions in big, high-ceiling domes. Jefferson wants to be a solution to shopping malls’ traffic problems, by designing small, compact parks that can squeeze into small and odd footprints, maybe a footprint left behind by a vanished big-box store.

Jefferson doesn't have much experience in designing water parks, but he’s done some. So, he decides to write a book on small-footprint waterparks – how to design them, maintain them, grow revenue from them, and market them.

Researching the book will force Jefferson to learn about his subject. It will give him the opportunity to talk with some of the best designers in the business – and to build contacts with equipment manufacturers. He’ll learn about safety and health issues related to water parks, and what it takes to design something that’s scary and fun, but also safe.

The book can help position Jefferson as someone with answers – someone who is a recognized expert in the field he’s chosen to make his own.

You, too, can use a book as a springboard to launch yourself into a new area, maybe one that’s particularly lucrative and/or fun for you (see Post #62 for more on how content marketing can help pull you into the work you love).

7. You walk taller as a published author

Finally, there’s the impact on your own self-image. As is the case when you earn an advanced university degree, run a respectable time in a marathon, win a client you’ve been pursuing for years – you walk taller after the accomplishment.

Why you need to get working on your book right now

Just think about it. You could choose to go down a road that leads to having a published book six months from now – or you could choose not to. Which option gives you the brighter future?

In an upcoming blog post, I’ll go into more detail about how you pull your book together, and the help you can bring to your cause.

But for now, if you like the “with book” option better, just get thinking about what you’d put into your book. Start a file with clippings, ideas, notes, the texts of articles you write, guest blog posts, LinkedIn Posts and other fuel for your book. It could be a paper file, or one on your computer, or keep a document in Evernote that you add to using whichever device you have at hand.

But the key is to just start.

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Carl Friesen

Carl is the Founder of the Thought Leadership Resources and helps business professionals gain the skills they need to build their profile as subject-matter experts and thought leaders.

You can connect with Carl on LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter

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