Your latest published work can also serve as a larger marketing tool.

September 10, 2019 6 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Getting a book published is pretty easy these days, at least if you’re willing to self-publish. But using a book to grow your business in a practical, tangible way is a strategy a lot of people don’t take time to learn. This article will give you eight important, sequential steps to glean the results you want from your book.

1. Decide if you fancy yourself doing many books in the future. 

If you are solely interested in releasing a book to grow your business, it’s fine to self-publish and just get it out there, but if you plan to write more books in the future, you’ll need and want to spend a lot more time plotting the marketing of your title and yourself before, during and after publication. To create a self-published book and have it fail to sell a lot of copies will hurt your future as an author, but that may not be important if the sole purpose was to use it to grow your business. Publishers will look at sales from your first book to determine if they want to work with you later. 

2. Choose your optimal outcome.

Are you hoping the book will start a new business? Do you want it to increase sales of your goods? Bring you consulting or coaching clients? Paid speaking engagements? What do you want it to do? Beginning with this end in mind will make a big difference in what you do with it next. It’s all possible, but none of it happens by magic. Just having a book in the world with your name on it is not inherently more valuable than having a URL. You still have to attract people to it. 

3. Sketch out your proposed content.

Loosely sketch out what you think the main points of the book will be. Do you want the reader to be able to do something specific, or do you want to share some theories and let people figure out how to apply them to their own situations? The former type is called a “prescriptive” book, like a how-to title; the latter is called a “theoretical” book. For a business book example, Good to Great was a theoretical book.  My recent release, The Ultimate Guide to Platform Building, is more prescriptive book.

4. Take a peek at Amazon.

While Amazon obviously is not the only bookseller in the world, they are effectively the world’s largest online card catalog (for those of you old enough to remember what a card catalog is). Type in the same search words you think your eventual readers would, and look at all the books that are similar to yours. Buy and read a few of them. What will you do/say to make your book better?

5. Write in alignment with your goals and the best content you can create.

If you are planning to attract a publisher and, before that, a literary agent, a word of caution: The entire nonfiction publishing business will demand that you create a nonfiction book proposal. It’s far easier to do that than to write the book and have it fail. Then the proposal is sold to a reputable publisher, then write the book … not before.

6. Start your marketing yesterday.

A book gives you a golden window of opportunity to promote yourself and your company. This window starts to close about 90 days after release, and it may never open at all if you self-publish but don’t know how to build a platform/promotion plan. Set up the right marketing for yourself based on your skills, time, resources, personnel, etc. This may include hiring a publicist or a PR firm (not the same thing!); investing in marketing the book-promo page on your website; starting  a podcast or guesting on others’s; gifting a copy to your best clients and key prospects; starting workshops and giving away/selling the book to those who pay to attend; launching yourself as a paid speaker; excerpting your own book in print or online publications; and lots and lots more.

7. Pay attention to your analytics.

Because I mostly represent business books, I’ve learned that the book is a means to the end, rarely the end in itself. It’s imperative that you align the book and its marketing with your outcome (more clients, more sales, what have you). But you also have to be smart about it. Is the way you are marketing your book bringing in new clients? Is the expenditure on marketing proving a strong ROI? If the value of one new customer is $10K and you’ve spent $9K on preparing and promoting your book, you’re in the black. If your new customer inflow has not increased within 120 days of release (if you got a real publisher) or within six months (self-published), you’re doing something wrong or you skipped a step above. Stop throwing good energy after bad. Get expert advice or slow down your efforts. 

 8. Leverage your newest asset. 

There are dozens of extra ways to promote and leverage your book post-release. Depending on many factors, you might produce or license an audio version, a course, a workbook or a workshop; you might drip pieces of it into publications or promotional packages; you might use the digital version as a freemium opt-in to grow your house mailing list; you might excerpt and physically bind one chapter (with your publisher’s permission) and mail it to high-level thought leaders or prospects; you may offer it for course adoption to local universities and offer to teach a class. There are so many ways to use and repurpose your book for years, and sometimes decades, after it has been published. If you keep your objective in mind, this is an excellent use of your time with modest investment.

A book is a marketing tool in the same way a business card is a marketing tool. If you use it, it is valuable. If you keep it on your desk and never share it, it is not. Done right, it will be as effective as you make it.

Wendy Keller is the author of The Ultimate Guide to Platform Building; she is also a literary agent who has sold 18 New York Times best-selling books and helped close 1,700 rights deals worldwide, and recently appeared on Dr. Bill Lampton’s podcast. To find out more about writing a book proposal ready to be shown to literary agents, visit Book Proposal Workshop.

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