By: Penny Carnathan
Writing a how-to business book or CEO memoir has become a recognized tool for business professionals marketing and branding themselves and their companies. It helps them establish their expertise while sharing useful information appreciated by readers. Plus, it can introduce them to a vast new audience of potential customers.
It's a phenomenon public relations professional Marsha Friedman first noticed years ago.
"Everything else being equal, I saw that it was much easier to get clients invited on TV and radio talk shows if they'd written a book," says Friedman, CEO of EMSI Public Relations, (www.emsincorporated.com), in Tampa, Fla.
"After exploring the reasons, I realized just about anyone with the right message can use a book to boost their visibility," she says. "Professionals can do it; people interested in securing public speaking engagements; philanthropists; homemakers who turn their books themselves into a business."
So Friedman wrote her own book, "Celebritize Yourself," explaining her three-step process for developing and using a book to get publicity.
Today, more than 11,000 business books alone are published each year - and that doesn't include self-published e-books, according to the authors of "The 100 Best Business Books of All Time."
"Whether you're using your book to generate media, speaking opportunities or new customers, it is the most powerful marketing tool in your arsenal," says Adam Witty, CEO of Advantage Media Group, an international publisher.
"When you consider that the average book sells less than 2,000 copies, getting rich off of book sales becomes a far away fantasy. But if you use your book to get a feature in your industry trade journal, what is that worth? If your typical customer is worth $5,000, and you use your book to attract and generate new leads into your business, how much more valuable does your book become?"
You don't have to be a great writer to produce a great book. But, as New York Times best-selling author Michael Levin, CEO of Business Ghost, Inc., explains, you do need to make sure the end product is clean and professional.
"You wouldn't walk into a sales call with a stain on your shirt, and it's the same with a book," he says. "The last thing you want to do is publish a book full of typos that gives people the impression you're sloppy."
If you don't have the time or skill to tackle a book on your own, you can hire someone to put your ideas into words.
Levin offers these tips for selecting a ghostwriter:
• Make sure ghostwriting is their primary business. Many writers list ghostwriting as one of the services they provide, but if you dig deep, you may find that they have never written a book or have only written a few. Don't let them learn how on your dime!
• Read the blurbs on the ghostwriter's website. Are they from famous people, top business leaders, celebrities, and the like? Or is there a run-of-the-mill feeling to the testimonials? Or worse, are there no testimonials at all?
• Contact at least three prior book clients of the ghostwriter. If the ghostwriter can't give you three names of satisfied customers, game over.
The next step is publishing. While e-books are an inexpensive self-publishing option, Friedman says printed copies are best for marketing.
"As an author, you simply need to determine which publishing model best helps you reach your goals," says Witty of Advantage Media Group.
He offers these thoughts to consider:
• Ownership of rights and intellectual property: If you plan to re-purpose the content of your book into articles, blog posts or other products like home study kits, ensure your contract gives you that freedom. Typically, traditional publishing contracts don't; self publishing or working with co-publishers (where the publisher and author or investor share expenses) oftentimes do.
• Speed-to-market: How quickly do you want your book to be published? With self publishing, it is really a matter of how fast you work! The traditional publishing process can take the better part of two years. Co-publishing options often turn a book around in three to six months.
Friedman concedes that the idea of writing and publishing a book can be daunting, but it's worth the effort for its marketing value, she says.
And there are even greater rewards.
"Having written and published my own, I can tell you it was one of my proudest accomplishments and worth every bit of my time and hard work," she says. "The greatest feeling - one I never anticipated - was hearing from readers who said that my book had made a difference in their lives.
About Penny Carnathan
Penny Carnathan is the Creative Director/Lead Writer at EMSI Public Relations. She is a journalist with more than 30 years experience; a former national award-winning editor, reporter and columnist at The Tampa Tribune in Tampa, Fla., and currently a bimonthly columnist for the Tampa Bay Times in St. Petersburg, Fla. You can find her on Twitter, @DigginPenny.