How writing a business book leads to a priceless marketing tool

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Having a book published” still holds a certain kudos and perhaps in Pavlov-dog fashion, people automatically associate someone who writes a book about something, with that someone being an expert on the subject.

The “$30 business card” gets people recognised as experts, even if they don’t deserve to be.

In the USA, one prolific speaker on business topics has been heard to describe his books – which he self-publishes – as “$30 business cards.” Cynical perhaps, but the folklore about the author of a book being an expert in his/her field is crystallised therein. However…..

article about writing business books

Business books: just $30 business cards?

If you work as a public speaker (even part-time) or as a coach, trainer, lecturer, motivator, instructor, actor, comedian, musician, or in fact whatever occupation that gives you access to captive audiences – a book is a useful product. After your performance or presentation in pre-COVID-19 days you could sell your book or books “back of room” after your events.

Today with pandemic restrictions you can still sell all formats of your book via online retailers or your own website after Zoom/MS Teams etc. meetings, webinars or as part of your online courses.

Sales opportunities

Particularly if you’re a musician, actor or other celebrity, your biography or autobiography will sell very nicely alongside your DVDs and other merchandise. A book also makes a good addition to your product range, if you’re selling “back of room” either literally or virtually because it gives you something to “bundle” with your other merchandise and therefore make an attractive package with an overall discount. Most people find it hard to resist a bargain.

Depending on which publishing route you choose, your mark-up on the direct sales of your book will vary, but even if your profit margin is relatively low, book sales will still enhance the overall marketing success of whatever you do, add to your reputation as an expert in your field, and get your messages and ideas out there where you want them to be.

If readers can find all or most of your information on Google, don’t write a book about it

This is a somewhat hard lesson older authors (like me!) have to take on board, but here it goes: if you want your book to sell make sure it offers readers a lot more than they could find just by searching for the information on Google.

I had the painful experience recently of looking into the production of an “A to Z” book of jargon terms for two particular audiences, clearly defined. All seemed clear and cracking until that “Oh No” moment hit me: why should people buy this book containing several hundred entries when all they need to do to find out what any of those terms mean, is to key them into Google?

Similarly I tested an eBook about wedding speeches with advice that covered everyone who possibly could be included in anyone’s wedding party. Great idea, right? Wrong. Sales were poor, and after a bit I understood why: people due to give a wedding speech aren’t interested in what other speakers will be talking about at the wedding. They are only interested in their own speech.

Fortunately I didn’t have to spend anything to find this out. I just produced a PDF document myself and offered it for sale via a sales portals (E-Junkie.com). Bear this in mind when you’re thinking about that book you want to write; sales portals offer a useful test-marketing opportunity.

Approach your topic in a way that Google can’t

An example of how to refine your topic came up in a discussion I had with a client when I was helping her with developmental structuring of her book, which was a small encyclopaedia of different processes that help in a variety of health requirements. I raised the point that when looking at each process individually, readers could find them easily on Google or other search engines.

What Google could not provide was a means of comparing each of the processes with and against each other, and rating them against a set of criteria made up of each reader’s personal needs. That was a light bulb moment for my client and as I write this she is busily typing away.

Make something easier

If your book offers a process, tips, shortcuts and other ways in which readers can achieve something they need to achieve more easily/quickly/cost-effectively, it will do well. Especially (but not necessarily) if you are a known expert in your topic, you may be surprised at how much valuable knowledge and experience you have ready to share with others less accomplished than you are. You may have created shortcuts and new methods without really noticing them. Yet to a beginner in that area, these could be worth their weight in gold, saving them a great deal of time, effort and even money.

Give readers pleasure

Nonfiction books with a feel-good factor will nearly always do well, because people like to feel good about themselves while they’re absorbing the information you share with them. Whether you write about delicious food and wine, beautiful-but-simple embroidery and needlework, DIY car repairs, social networking, aromatherapy or whatever, you book needs to exude a positive, smiling atmosphere. Negative stuff does not normally sell.

Inspire and change lives

Many people are dissatisfied with their lives and are attracted to nonfiction books which tell them how to revolutionise things, from their love lives to their relationships at work to cleaning and de-cluttering their homes. If you have specialised knowledge that you know transforms life for people around you, and/or if you have developed a life-changing process for yourself, unless it’s about something incredibly obscure people will want to read about it. Even in our increasingly cynical age where you can rent gurus by the hour, readers always want more help to try to realise their dreams. If you believe you can help them, genuinely, then write your book.

Before you read on, don’t forget to entertain

There is no rule that says even a serious textbook has to be written in a dull and boring way. It’s a fact of life that no matter how interesting or informative the subject matter, if it is written in a turgid and lumpy style readers will find it hard going. If they scan the book in the bookstore or online before buying it, that turgid and lumpy style may well be enough to make them pick someone else’s book even if you are the world’s number one acknowledged expert in the subject.

Right from your book’s inception, you need to think in terms of letting readers enjoy the experience of reading it. Think in terms of sharing your information with a friend over a drink or a cup of coffee. Be informal and conversational. Use humour if you want to. Make sure those thoughts set the tone for your book, right from the beginning.

Humour and light-heartedness sell books

Face it: it’s true. However this does not mean you need to become a stand-up comedian. It means, simply, that you need to produce a book that’s written by you, to your readers, in a way that you would share your knowledge and expertise to a friend over that drink or cup of coffee at your kitchen table. If you normally make people laugh and learn at the same time, write that into your book plan.

Why does your book need to look professionally published?

This may seem a bit of a no-brainer, and there are still people around who don’t notice whether a book has been produced and published professionally to at least the high standard that a traditional publisher would turn out. Increasingly though, readers are becoming more savvy and although they may not notice the specifics of how a book is produced as I’ve outlined above, they may just look at the book and think it feels of inferior quality.

If your book is simply to be a cheap stocking-filler for the Holiday Season or a low-cost book about, say, a sport, then this really doesn’t matter. But for many of us who produce books in line with our main professions or other passions and interests, our book or books have to be “on brand” and reflect what we, as professionals, stand for. Just as it is in the case of other business or professional media like our website or even our business cards, our books have to look as good as we do. That’s not conceit; that’s good marketing/branding sense.

Assisted (and hybrid) publishing: a deductible expense?

Yes, it will cost you to have your book produced by an assisted self-publishing service but don’t forget that you may well be able to offset some or all of the cost against your tax liability. To find out more, contact your accountant or bookkeeper, or your country’s tax authority, e.g. the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in the USA or Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) in the UK. In most developed countries there are special rules for authors, particularly when you set yourself up as a writing business.

Many nonfiction authors, however, write a book or a series of books as collateral to enhance their main business or other activity. Either way it’s something you may well want to explore and factor into your budgeting. You will have to pay tax on the royalties your book earns, however.

What about traditional publishing?

Some book coaches, like me, have no financial incentive to push clients towards either assisted self-publishing or the traditional variety. This way we can advise clients who have a really good business or self-help idea for a book to try submitting proposals for it to one of the major publishing houses. Some of these publishing houses now have hybrid sections where authors pay something towards the cost of production and get a larger share of the royalties.

In the main, these publishing houses will still want to maintain control over the book’s cover design and the timing of its release, etc. This means you may be restricted on how much of your business branding can be incorporated into the book, and/or timing its release to coincide with a business re-brand, launch or other landmark (traditional publishers take a long time to get books out.)

However what you would gain from publishing this way is the “kudos” of being an acknowledged author with a traditional publisher. You would also gain from their ability to distribute your book into a wider selection of retail options including bricks-and-mortar bookshops, probably world-wide.

Assisted publishing companies

As with anything else, there are excellent ones, mediocre ones and terrible scammers who charge you fortunes for a bad product. This is where a good author coach, especially one who has a lot of experiencing as a published author themselves, can not only guide you through the process but also save you a lot of money and heartache.

For more about this please click here.

Good luck!

Adapted from Suzan’s forthcoming title, “How To Write A Brilliant Nonfiction Book,” to be published later in 2020 by BetterBooksMedia.

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