Thinking about writing a business book? As the author or co-author of four books, I have some insight into what publishers look for when considering a new title.
1. Authority on the subject. Publishers want to know that you can deliver on the promise of providing helpful information, expert analysis and insight.
2. Influential in the market place. Publishers have one agenda: sell enough books to make a profit. In my experience, publishers need to sell a minimum of 10,000 – 15,000 copies in order to turn a profit. That means they need to find authors who can not only deliver on the subject matter, but who also have a large enough network to get the required number of books sold.
Books written by authoritative authors who can cast a wide net in terms of reach is a publisher’s wet dream. But there’s also something very significant in it for the authors themselves – books are a key source for brand promotion. Let me cite several examples:
1. Realty Blogging – Richard Nacht and I co-authored this book in 2006. It introduced the concept of blogging to the real estate industry and taught principles for effective business blogging from a marketing perspective. At the same time, Richard and I were building a company called Blogging Systems that produced a blog technology for use by the industry. While the book stood on its own merits in terms of the information provided and, as a result, inspired many within the industry to give blogging a try, it also didn’t hurt Blogging Systems’ prospect for success.
2. Inbound Marketing – The book, published in 2009, was written by the co-founders of Hubspot, the company that coined the term “inbound marketing” and literally put it on the map. It taught the self-same principles and strategies used by Hubspot to become a successful marketing technology company.
3. Conquer the Chaos – Published in 2010, Conquer the Chaos was authored by the founders of Infusionsoft, a company that provides an automated marketing system for use by small business. Two selling points of the book are:
- Fix the follow-up breakdowns that hamper business growth
- Liberate yourself from busywork through automation
That’s exactly what Infusionsoft’s technology provides, a way to automate marketing with an effective follow-up system. In that respect, the purpose of the book is synonymous with that of the brand itself.
4. Me 2.0: Four Steps to Building Your Future – This book, first published in 2009 and revised in 2010, was authored by Dan Schawbel, a personal branding expert. Personal branding is a business in which Dan is considered a “guru.”
5. Brand Advocates – A recent addition to this book-as-brand-promotion strategy is Brand Advocates, written by Rob Fuggetta, founder and CEO of Zuberance, which is, you guessed it, a brand advocacy technology company.
Please don’t misconstrue my intent. I am not trying to “out” the publishing industry for printing books that, on face value, may appear to be little more than marketing shills for brands (and I can see how some might interpret it that way). Nor do I fault the authors for writing books that cover topics associated with the types of businesses they run. After all, who can speak more authoritatively than the people who have invested their careers and, in some cases, personal fortunes in building those companies.
Quite the contrary, I’m suggesting that, so long as the book is not overtly promotional, does not confuse editorial with advertorial, and contains information helpful to the reader, it’s a win/win. It provides publishers with titles that stand a good chance of being successful, and places the spotlight on the authors and, by extension, their companies as well.
One of the reasons I continue to write books is that I want to be seen as a subject matter expert on the topics of social media and social commerce, in hopes that it will lead to more speaking engagements and consulting opportunities.
I can assure you, most of us will never get rich writing business books. While I want my books to provide value on their own, in some respects they are a means to an end. As a friend of mine put it, “A book is your price of entry.”
What I am suggesting is this: if you need to build your brand, are an authority on a certain topic, and have an established network, you should consider writing a book. It’s difficult to get in front of a major publisher, so you must have a compelling proposal that not only outlines the concept behind the book, but the marketing strategies you plan to deploy, as well. And, the larger your network (or customer base), the greater your chance for success.