As some of you may know, the professionals of my firm, Mercer Capital, write books. Our most prolific author is our CEO, Chris Mercer, who has penned four of the five we have so far published. I am very happy to report that these books have been very important to us in generating new business and in building our brand.
So, I was interested to read about "The Business Impact of Writing a Book" a new publication by RainToday.com ($149 for downloadable version). Over 200 authors, notably all professional service providers, were surveyed and some of the findings were interesting.
It was reported that 84% of the authors report either very strong or strong improvement in their ability to differentiate their services as a result of publishing their books. 53% of authors also reported that they were able to charge higher fees for their services as a result of publishing their book. In addition, the authors claimed that average direct revenue received from publishing their books (money from the book sales) was $210,728; however, the average indirect revenue received (from related services such as consulting, speaking, et al) was $1,194,082.
Pretty heady stuff, huh?
Lest you get too excited, David Maister weighs in with his opinions about the marketing benefits of professionals authoring books and he's less than enthusiastic. David says:
In today’s world, it makes no sense to take nine months, on average, to get your material together and the same amount of time again (amazingly) to get it through the process of publication. Then begins the complicated business of marketing the book and by that time, the thoughts contained in the book are largely historic. By the time you’re in print, the odds are high that someone else has already put similar thoughts into play online.
... Books are so 20th century!
David believes that you get more bang for your buck on-line through websites and blogs and RSS technology.
Mr. Maister – I appreciate your thoughtful post but disagree to an extent. Printed books can be quite beneficial if they are highly targeted. My firm, Mercer Capital, has had great success with self-published, highly niched books. We know who the targeted readers are and what their issues are. A book is still much more impressive (and cost-effective) than a 4-color glossy brochure or a collection of articles – although articles are important credibility builders and should be part of the marketing mix.
Books, however, are not the be-all-and-end-all. Smart professionals leverage content in various ways – whether turning articles into books or turning blog posts into books or turning printed books into e-books or podcasts.
The CEO of my firm and our primary author, Chris Mercer, has a blog (www.merceronvalue.com) which he is using to draft his next book on the subject of buy-sell agreements. We will self-publish that book which is, in my humble opinion, the only way to go unless your name is Tom Peters, et al. We have published with a major publisher and it was a nightmare. After we send the book as our gift to potential referral sources, we’ll sell it directly and via Amazon and recoup our printing/marketing investment several times over. And, if past experience holds true, we’ll gain new business from the book we sent as a gift. Then, after we exhaust our inventory of printed books, we’ll present it as an e-book with updated content.
So, please don’t give up on the idea of authoring a book as outdated. I thought audio cassettes were yesterday’s news until I found out that Simply Audiobooks began offering cassette tapes as well as [CDs] in their Fall 2005 campaign because, according to their research, they were still in demand. I believe books with targeted content are still in high demand as well and can be leveraged to be a very effective marketing tool.
Here's a bit of guidance from a lady (me) who has been there and seen book publication work for her professional service firm:
- Professionally produced printed books are beneficial for marketing your services and building your reputation. People still tend to think if you've gone to all the trouble of writing a book, you must know something.
- Authoring books is labor intensive and the whole process can take too long to complete if you let it -- so don't let it. How? See #3.
- Niche your content according to the needs of your clients. This guarantees that the book gets read by the people you want to read it.
- Focus on shorter books. If the word "tome" can in any way describe your idea for a book, stop now! You're wasting your time and energies.
- Printed books are not a panacea. You have to produce a professional product (inside & out) and then you have to get to work marketing the book. Speaking of marketing, be prepared to give away a lot of books. Shorter books cost less on a per piece basis than a glossy four-color brochure. Remember, NO ONE THROWS AWAY A BOOK. Almost everyone throws away a brochure.
- Self-publish, self-publish, self-publish. This means that you'll have to handle all the details such as finding an editor, book design, and finding and working with a printer but these are not as difficult to accomplish as you might imagine. Keep in mind that when you self-publish, you control the marketing and receive much more than the standard author's cut of 12%-15% -- and that is priceless. See Dan Poynter's site for all you need to know about how to self-publish.
- Amazon is your friend. It's easy to get your book on Amazon.
- If you have a blog, use it to develop content for your book. You can test out ideas, gain valuable feedback, and speak directly to your market about their issue.
- Make sure the end product looks like a book. A booklet held together with staples is NOT a book and these rules do not apply to booklets.
- Leverage, leverage, leverage. See my comments to David Maister's post again for some ideas on leveraging your content. The Internet provides numerous ways you can use to push existing content to your audience.
Sell your book before you write and publish it. Announce your book and take pre-orders. This outside pressure forces you to finish the book and it is a helpful gauge for determining the quantity of books to print. It's also helpful from a marketing viewpoint because you can begin to reap the benefits of authoring the book (articles, speaking engagements, perception of you as an authority on the topic) before the book is complete.