As the founder of a publishing company focused specifically on serving entrepreneurs, I see the same problem over and over:
When a business owner decides they want to write a book (or do anything else, for that matter), their goal is to be the best. And, because the traditional publishing industry has one core metric—sales—that inevitably becomes their focus as well.
But the smartest entrepreneurs we work with have a different goal, summed up in this simple formula:
Book = Attention = Business Growth
I don’t mean attention in the narcissistic “everyone look at me” sense. What I mean is that attention is the key to achieving all your other goals. Whether you are wanting to sell more of your product, hire more great people, raise more money, or get speaking gigs, attention is the path to unlocking these opportunities.
There are many, many ways to get attention, but in my experience publishing over 500 non-fiction books for business leaders, writing and publishing a book is not only one of the best ways to get attention, it’s one of the most under-utilized by entrepreneurs.
Writing and publishing a book is not only one of the best ways to get attention, it’s one of the most under-utilized by entrepreneurs.
How does a book get you attention?
When many authors think about their goals, they immediately jump to traditional publishing metrics: sales, reviews, or even revenue.
For some authors, these metrics might be valuable, but for entrepreneurs, they are the wrong focus.
Instead, entrepreneurs should see a book as a multi-purpose marketing tool with a unique capacity to generate attention. In order to accomplish this, you may need to sell copies (and will certainly need to impress readers); but fundamentally, writing a book is a tool to drive attention to serve your other goals, not an end in itself.
We learned this when we published our very first book, written by an expert in pop-up retail named Melissa Gonzalez. We were thinking like a traditional publisher, focused almost entirely on sales. Melissa had other plans.
She’d written it for a small, niche audience, so she knew it wouldn’t sell very many copies. Instead, she wanted to focus on creating the best possible book for a very small demographic and, in doing so, grow her business.
It worked. Within three months of the book’s release, she’d been signed for multiple keynotes and panels as the world’s expert on pop-ups and had been profiled in The New York Times, Forbes, Fortune, Fox Business, and Bloomberg. Even more strikingly, she’d doubled the inbound leads to her business, and even signed a seven-figure consulting contract directly because a reader was so impressed that he reached out to her.
Melissa understood what we were just figuring out: as an entrepreneur, publishing can do so much more for your business than just sell copies.
How writing a book leads to business growth
Looking at Melissa’s story and the stories of hundreds of other entrepreneurs we’ve worked with since, there are four main ways that books lead to business growth:
1. Writing a book conveys authority, credibility, and expertise
A lot of people like to say that “a book is the new business card.” I disagree, because everyone has a business card. You can go to Office Depot and get business cards, but you can’t go to Office Depot and author a book.
What I like to say is that “a book is the new college degree.” About forty years ago, only about 10 percent of people had college degrees. If you had one, it was a major signal of credibility and authority. It meant something. But now that everyone goes to college, it’s less meaningful.
So what is a signal of credibility and authority now, one that’s reliable and rare?
Writing and publishing.
Publishing sets you up to be judged. It’s really easy to skirt by and get a college degree. You can’t really fake your way into writing a good book. Either you know what you’re talking about, or you don’t.
Yes, being judged is risky, but that’s why you get so much credit for a good book.
At my publishing company, this is why we won’t just work with anyone who throws money at us. If you don’t know what you’re talking about, you can’t just vomit out nonsense, call it a book, and get all the benefits. You have to write a good story to gain credibility and authority, and a good one is defined by how interesting and valuable other people find it.
2. Writing a book raises visibility and earns media coverage
When a media outlet wants a comment on something, who do they go to? The expert, right? And how do they know someone is an expert?
Because they wrote the book. The experts are the ones who wrote the books. Commentators write blog posts.
Once you’re publishing, media coverage is 10 times easier to get.
In some cases, authors are lucky enough to have the media come directly to them, but even when it doesn’t, proactive pitches are far more likely to land when you have the credibility of having authored a book on the topic.
And it’s not just the media. Having a new book is standard (and often required) to get past the gatekeepers who control access to the areas you most want to enter: lecture halls, television studios, boardrooms, media pages, special events, and ultimately people’s minds. Charlie Rose doesn’t say, “My next guest has just posted a cat video.”
How many people in your field have you seen get a lot of attention simply because they published? Even if you knew more than them, they got the attention that you didn’t, only because of the book.
3. Writing a book helps people find you
The number one search engine is Google. Number two is YouTube. Do you know what number three is?
Amazon. Even more relevant to entrepreneurs, it’s the number one search engine when looking for products and services (with 44 percent of searches for products and services starting there).
This goes beyond just attention. An ad can get attention, but no one goes searching for ads to make a decision about buying a product or a service.
When people look for buying information, they turn to experts or authorities. Where’s the first thing they think about to find information from an expert? Like the media, they look at the person who literally “wrote the book” on the topic.
A good story brings people to you, lets people know exactly who you are, and shows them how you can help them. It’s the best marketing tool you could ever use to not just build your brand, but actually attract clients.
4. Writing a book helps people talk about you
There is no better marketing than word of mouth. When someone you trust tells you to use something, you listen and you use it.
Anything that helps other people talk about you and your business is an incredible marketing tool, and a book enables word of mouth better than almost anything else.
This is because it puts your story into people’s mouths in your own words, so when they talk about you, they’re literally just saying what you want them to say. A good book causes people to repeat your terms, phrases, and ideas to other people.
We use this idea to help our authors position and frame their writing. We say, “Imagine someone at a cocktail party who read your book, talking to someone else in your potential audience. What would they say? Imagine what you want them to say to the other person.”
Once you understand that, once you can picture that conversation naturally happening between two people, you can construct the positioning and narrative of your story.
If you can write a book that is valuable to a people and solves a specific problem (ideally the same problem as your business), they will want to talk about it with someone else who has that problem.
Why? Because that makes them look better. That’s how word of mouth works.
Is it worthwhile?
As an entrepreneur, attention is the pathway toward better clients, employees, and investors.
Whether you use your book as a lead magnet, use it to build your credibility or authority in your industry, or simply give it away to help close sales, entrepreneurs are one of the few groups with the ability to turn the attention a book generates a substantial return on investment.
As WSJ bestselling author James Altucher says:
“Publishing a book is not just putting your thoughts on a blog post. It’s an event. It shows your best-curated thoughts and it shows customers, clients, investors, friends, and lovers what the most important things on your mind are right now.”
For many entrepreneurs, however, the time investment seems impossible. As business owners, we have hundreds of competing priorities, and making time to write a book seems like too much of a sacrifice.
Add to that the fact that most entrepreneurs are more talented “doers” than writers, and it seems obvious why many business leaders never write.
Fortunately, publishing doesn’t have to be as time-consuming or difficult as many believe. As business owners, you understand the power of leveraging your team to grow your business. Why shouldn’t you leverage a team to create your book?
There are plenty of ways to do this. At our company, we surround experts with a team of publishing professionals that are skilled at extracting ideas and turning them into a manuscript in 25 to 30 hours of time, all spent speaking on the phone. Other business owners use their existing teams, hire a ghostwriter, or partner with a co-author who enjoys the writing process and wants to leverage their ideas.
The point is this: If you believe a book—and the authority, media, attention, and word of mouth that comes with it—can contribute to your business growth, you owe it to yourself and your business to find a way to make it happen.
And you will. You’re an entrepreneur, after all.