Many business owners now recognise what a powerful tool a book can be to help them build credibility for their brand and raise the profile and visibility of their business.
A book gives you a terrific platform from which to share your purpose and your vision. In the main, people who have written books about their expertise gain huge respect from others as not very many people ever get around to doing it!
So how should you go about writing and publishing a book that will help you grow your small business?
Seth Godin in his book, Purple Cow talks about the need for businesses to stand out and do something remarkable. A book, just by its very nature helps you get that sort of remarkability that most businesses now need to thrive.
For a low cost people can find solutions to issues they are facing that you can solve in your book. You become the ‘go-to’ person in that area simply because you have a book.
Books are still widely seen as a source of credible information. A book makes a terrific marketing tool too as all that lovely content in your book is hugely valuable. Today, Amazon is one of the most effective search engines there is as people look for tried-and-tested content. Google Books also logs all books with their content, so adding to the ‘findability’ of your words of wisdom.
However, for your book to be a success, there are some key steps you to follow;
1. Create a clear publishing strategy
As with everything you do to invest in your business, it will always pay to make a clear business case for a book. Some questions to ask yourself might be:
- Will we as a business gain anything from publishing a book?
- Will our readers gain anything from reading a book written by us?
- Can we create the energy, the time/space/resource to get the book written and published?
And if the answer to all of these three questions is ‘yes’ then you have a good reason to go on and explore more deeply. Here are some more open questions that you might find useful.
- What do we want to achieve by writing and publishing this book?
- How will this book change our business? How can it best enhance our current business plan?
- How will we get the book to the right people?
- What is the best publishing route to take?
- What budget do we need to set for the project in order to produce a professional result?
- How will we realistically achieve a return on our investment in this book?
I suggest that you work your way through these questions together with any others that come up in the process so that you can create a clear publishing strategy for your business.
If possible, it’s a good idea to do this with a book expert, one with a good understanding of business as well as the publishing industry. It’s also a good idea to incorporate a thorough assessment of who the book is for.
2. Have a clear understanding of who the book is for
Spend some time carefully defining your target audience for the book before you start to write it. A book for an audience of business leaders will need to have a different approach and tone to a book for a consumer market.
As a business owner, the reader may often be your customer, or prospective customer – so this work may well have been done already as a marketing exercise. Consult with anyone who you’ve had marketing discussions with and come up with a profile for your reader/customer. What age and gender are they, what do they like and dislike, where do they hang out both on- and offline?
Get clear, before you begin, who it is you want to influence and who will get the most benefit from the book so that you can deliver to their expectations.
It’s important to do this exercise before you start writing and as part of your overall strategic exercise – as it will inform what you put in the book and also the publishing route you choose to take.
3. Decide on the best publishing route to take
Many people self-publish these days and Amazon’s Kindle and CreateSpace make it appear easy. However, effective professional publishing involves high standards of design, editing and book manufacturing.
Most self-publishers, by definition, are not professional publishers and therefore do not have the knowledge, skills or expertise required to compete with traditionally published books. Many authors end up disappointed having self-published, spent much more money than they had anticipated and still not ended up with a book that did what they wanted it to do.
On the other hand, it can be difficult to find a home for your book with a traditional publisher. Very few books are published by unknown authors in this way, although that is not to say you shouldn’t give it a go if it’s the right strategy for you.
Let’s clarify what we mean by ‘traditional’, ‘independent’ and ‘self-‘ publishing
Your book idea is accepted by a publishing house and you sign a contract with them that gives them all publishing rights to your book. Effectively you pass ownership over to that publishing house for the time the book is likely to be commercially viable.
You will be paid royalties on all sales of the edition of the book as published and printed by them and also a share of the royalties on any sales of rights to other publishers (usually overseas).
- A professional team is provided to work on your book
- No cash investment from you (unless there is a ‘buy-back’ agreement in your contract)
- Potential market reach
- Sales of foreign rights
- You lose ownership to a huge extent. Your contract means you part with the rights.
- You have to buy copies of the book for your own personal purposes.
- Publishers often play safe – they have to see things from a commercial point of view
All production work is done by you or with chosen professionals: writing, editing, designing the cover, typesetting, proofreading, printing and creating ebook versions of your book. You apply for a list of ISBNs, and send to the ISBN Agency your ‘imprint’ or ‘copyright’ page of your first book. You register the book with Book Data and supply cover images etc.
- You can do whatever you want in the writing of it – as long as you don’t steal other people’s work it is entirely up to you what you put in your book. You can be as radical or different as you like!
- You retain ownership and rights, so if offers come along in the future there is nothing to hold you back – no one else owns it but you
- You can find your own print options which may save you money in the end.
- There is a lot to learn and a lot to do. You need to find the right people to support you and you need to be a really good project manager if you’re going to do it yourself.
- You may lack market knowledge.
- Real self-publishing is a lot of hard work. You could be spending that time on your business.
- It can be expensive.
- It can be difficult to get the book widely distributed to the trade.
Independent publishing (or self-publishing with help)
Essentially this route combines the pros of traditional publishing and self-publishing. You retain your independence and ownership of the books while working with professionals to get the job done effectively and the book distributed to the book trade.
Of course, you will need to consider your financial resources carefully as a successful and professionally produced book requires a considerable investment. It is worth remembering however, that using professionals to help you with the task of getting it right will usually pay you back many times over.
About the author
This guide has been written for ByteStart by Sue Richardson is founder of Sue Richardson Associates Ltd, an independent publishing house working with non-fiction authors to publish professional, high-quality books.
More on ByteStart
You can find lots more help on marketing your business, in these other ByteStart guides;
- 13 ways to get your business noticed – Self-marketing for start-ups
- Marketing your small business through YouTube – The 4 essential steps to success
- 5 common branding mistakes to avoid making with your small business
- The 5 unbreakable rules of free publicity
- 21 killer ideas to get free publicity for your small business
- 7 clever copywriting secrets for business owners
And if you are just starting out, make sure you read these;
- 10 advantages running your business as a limited company has over being a sole trader
- How to choose the best online accounting software for your business
- 7 ways to make sure your business gets paid on time, every time
- What’s my business worth? How to value a small business
- The start-up survival guide – 6 practical tips to help you get through the early years
- Being successful online – A Digital marketing guide for small business owners