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Write A Book – Great Marketing Idea?
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Note: This post was part of the “Marketing That Works” Ideas Contest, showcasing 20 of the most innovative marketing ideas from the blogosphere’s up and coming marketers. We’ve since picked a winner – check out this post for the details! :)

Having a book on your topic of expertise, with you as the author, is a solid gold credential.

Even before anyone reads the book, they know that you are a leader in your field. Even if all they see is a picture of it on your website, you already have distinction, by virtue of being an author. Wouldn’t you prefer to buy products or services from the person who wrote the book on your topic? So would your prospects.

So why haven’t you written one?

Well, you may have heard that it’s hard. Or expensive. Or both.

But actually…

Since When Is Writing A Book An “Innovative Marketing Idea”?

You probably already know that having a book, with your name on it, that describes your “secret sauce,” would be an outstanding addition to your marketing arsenal. For one thing, it would establish you as an expert: “author” = “authority.”

When you are an expert, you stand out from your competition. You are the “go-to person” for your topic. Your prospect is likely to trust you simply because you are a recognized expert, even if they haven’t interacted with you before.

For another, your book can be a benign “Trojan horse.” You inscribe a copy, and hand it to your prospect. You’ve just given a gift of acknowledged value. Then your prospect takes it home, and it sits on their desk or bookshelf, or in their bathroom, continually reminding them of who you are and what you have to offer. (That never happens with expensive brochures!) One day, they will grab the book, find your phone number or email, and contact you. Because they are ready for what you have to offer

The ebook version of your book can get the attention of your prospect for many minutes–even hours. It’s perceived as something of value.

You know this. Most marketers do.

So why am I claiming that it’s innovative?

Because It Can Be Quick And Cheap To Produce One!

Most people believe that writing and producing a book is a tall mountain to climb. Many have even tried, and fizzled out over time.

And when they think about producing their book, they just know they’ll have to invest thousands of dollars–and then figure out where to store the books, and how to fulfill orders.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

How Would I Use A Book In My Marketing?

Your book will be a marketing asset for you in different ways:

  • All your bios and website will now say, “Jane Marketer, author of…,” establishing your authority in your niche
  • Use hard copy books as gifts–to prospects; to joint venture partners; to anyone whose attention you are seeking
  • Use your book, or the ebook version, as a high-perceived-value bonus for sales offers
  • Take the structure of your book and turn it into a high-ticket live program. Then record the program and sell it as a product
  • Excerpt sections from your book for you use on your blogs or as guest posts
  • And of course, sell the book and the ebook

How Quickly Can You Write A 120-Page Book?

Isn’t that like asking, “How long is a piece of string?” Doesn’t it depend on how much you know? On how much research you have to do? On how long it takes you to put together a readable sentence? And on dozens of other factors? Sure–if you go about it the wrong way.

If you go about it the right way, anyone can produce a good book in 30 days or less.

30 Days? You’re Joking, Right?

Nope. Not joking.

You just have to know the secret. Stay with me, and I’ll reveal it–and explain how you can use it.

Let’s say you want to build a house. You’ve got a nice lot. So you head off to Home Depot, and start shopping. “Let’s see, we’ll need some two-by-fours. Oh yeah, some nails, too. And drywall! Oh, look–bathroom fixtures! Let’s get some….”

Huh?

Of course, you’d never do this. Anyone who did would wind up with a big pile of stuff on their lot, that could never be converted into a house.

What you and every reasonable person would do is pay a visit to an architect. The architect would use her professional experience and knowhow to ask you lots of questions. After many hours of back-and-forth, and lots of looking at houses, saying what you want and don’t want, you’ll wind up with a set of plans.

The builder you choose will then take those plans, analyze them–and only then create a shopping list for their favorite lumberyard.

Clearly, before you start on your house, you’ve got to create a plan.

And that’s the book-writing secret: Structure before content.

A Man, A Plan, A Canal–Panama

That famous palindrome–a sentence that reads the same forwards and backwards–summarizes one of the most breathtakingly huge engineering projects ever undertaken. It’s worth looking up and reading its history. It illustrates what can be achieved with the right plan; and the many failures that led up to the success are testimony to the destructive power of insufficient or incorrect planning.

Your book is not the Panama Canal, but it is, in a way, an engineering project. The worst thing you can do if you want to write a good book quickly is just to dive in and start writing.

The Longest Journey Starts With A Single MISstep

We know about long journeys, and how no matter how long they are, they begin with a single step. But think about it:  Won’t your journey be a lot longer than it has to be if you begin with a step in the wrong direction?

That’s what most aspiring authors do. They jump in and start writing. They alternate writing and researching.

And it never ends.

To understand what the right first step is on your way to producing a good book, you might ask: What’s a good book? My answer to that question: A book that keeps its promise to the reader.

What’s Your Book’s Promise?

It’s in the title: “How To…” or “My Secret Method For…” or “7 Essential Strategies For….” Each of these titles makes a promise: Read this book, and you will know how to, or what the secret method is, and so on. If your book keeps its promise, readers will declare it to be a good book. If it doesn’t, they will hate you for wasting their time, and letting them down.

So, to produce a good book, you have to make an appropriate promise, and keep it.

What’s An Appropriate Promise?

That depends on your reader, and on what their pain is. Who is your reader? The more clearly you can define your ideal reader, the better your book can be. If you know exactly who your reader is (check out Anita Campbell’s chapter in Danny Iny’s “Engagement From Scratch”), you can find out what her greatest pain is. And you can create a book with a title and subtitle that promise to address that very pain.

Let’s say you’re addressing a 27-year-old part-time Internet marketer, who has a job as an accountant (which he doesn’t like). He has a wife and a 2-year-old, and his job is just barely covering the basic necessities. His hope is that he can build an Internet marketing business that will replace his salary–and more. What is his pain?

How about this: “Get Rich Slowly: How To Replace Your Salary And Create A Business Without Limits–One Step At A Time!” Does this address a salient pain of your reader? I think it does. Deliver an actionable answer, and your reader will love you and want more of what you have.

You Produced A Good Book! Now What?

The process of producing your book (which I’ve only hinted at so far) has organized all your knowledge beyond what you could have on your own. So now, you have not only produced a book–you’ve produced a body of information that can become:

  • Courses
  • Articles
  • Recordings
  • Presentation
  • Ebooks
  • and more!

These are all products with leverage; you can sell A LOT of them with little more effort than it takes to sell a few of them. Writing your book according to my plan can this open up a flood of new income for you!

But how did you get there?

The Simple Secret Revealed–Again

It’s “structure before content.” Remember? That means you do everything it takes to produce a table of contents whose chapters will combine to meet the book’s promise.

It’s helpful to have your chapter names be questions, at least while you are writing. Questions open up your creativity. Once your table of contents is complete–that is, it leads from the question that is plaguing your reader through to a satisfying answer to that question–you need to go down one more level, to subchapters. Most non-fiction books have 12 to 20 chapters, with 8 to 15 subchapters in each chapter.

Each chapter is like the book: It has a question it promises to answer; then when the reader reaches its end, she should feel that the question has been adequately answered.

So your book’s plan is a 3-level outline: At the top, the title and subtitle; level 2 is the table of contents; and level 3 are the subchapters.

You don’t go to the lumberyard until the architect’s plans are complete, and you don’t start to write until your 3-level outline is complete.

Now You Write

Open almost any non-fiction book, and you’ll see that most subchapters are 300-600 words long–between just under a page and a couple of pages. Experiments have shown that most people, given a topic or a question, such as the name of the subchapter, can write that much in 5-10 minutes.

This means you can now write your book by subchapter, in 5-10-minute chunks of time. And you can write the subchapters in any order, because the outline has taken care of the order for you.

Let’s say your outline winds up with 12 chapters, averaging 10 subchapters each. If it takes you 10 minutes to write a subchapter, that’s 1200 minutes–20 hours of total writing. An hour a day for a month, if you take weekends off.

Everyone Needs Editing

Nothing detracts from your book more than bad grammar, poor spelling, or bad structure. Pay for decent editing. Best to find them through referrals; it’s hard to pick an editor from a website.

You Can’t Tell A Book By Its Cover–But That’s What We do

Be prepared to invest $150-$200 in a good cover design. Even if it’s an ebook. And get a good picture of yourself for the back. Cover designers will sometimes also design your book layout for a little more. Find them on Elance.com, at 99Designs.com. And amazingly, you can get astonishingly good designs for $5 at Fiverr.com. 

Publishing

Generally, you don’t want a publisher (see my free report, The Pro’s and Con’s of Self-Publishing). You can publish for free at Lulu.com (good site, but slow customer support). Or get cheap printing for 500 or more copies at InstantPublisher.com (example: 110-page book, color cover–$1.10 each for 500, or $.85 each for 1000). Or good support and marketing from BookLocker.com.

By The Numbers

So let’s break this down. What goes into a book launch?

1. Who is your reader? What keeps them up at night? (Read Jon Morrow’s piece about this)

2. Create your title and subtitle. Don’t be afraid to crowd-source it.

3. Create your table of contents. (Use clustering)

4. Create subchapters for each chapter.

5. Write all the subchapters.

6. Get it edited.

7. Get a cover and layout designed.

8. Publish.

9. Start planning your next book!

Bottom Line

Here’s why writing a book may be the best use of your time, right now, before any other major project:

  • You get authority–a quality that no other marketing idea or activity can give you. You become the expert–“the man/woman who wrote the book on” your topic!
  • You get something much more powerful than a brochure, at lower production cost
  • You get a treasure trove of material for additional high-leverage products, all organize in a way that demonstrates integrity with the thrust of your business!
  • With a published book to your credit, all kinds of doors will open to you–public speaking; sales events; promotional opportunities; and more. You deserve the recognition and the marketing empowerment it will bring you.
  • Do it.
Dr. Joel Orr used to be a mathematician and programmer. He has written 11 books, and has coached hundreds of authors. Check him out at http://JoelTrainsAuthors.com.

41 Comments

  1. Barb Sawyers says:

    Some great advice, though I disagree heartily that you can write a wonderful book in 30 days. Before you begin, you need to decide whether you’re prepared for the hard work and time commitment. To add to the tips, I would recommend writing a first draft of many chapters or sections as a blog post. That way, you’re accomplishing more and gaining valuable feedback. In fact, if you look at your past posts or other content, you’ll probably see the seed of your book idea there. That’s how it worked for me, with Write Like You Talk–Only Better.

    • Hi Barb! I love your ideas and can see them working well, and at the same time I still want to share my real life stories as support for Joel :)

      I once wrote a book in 2 weeks, (an in-depth 75 page manual on virus removal – written with no more than 4 hours of sleep a night), it sold okay in it’s niche, but it certainly lent me credibility at the time as Joel said. – Two more weeks could’ve easily reached more than 120 pages.

      Now, I won’t say “everyone can just pick up and write a book in two weeks”. I had years of creative, blogging, and essay writing background. I also had years of desktop publishing, design, and layout.

      As well, I wrote another book (Idealutions & Thoughtsperity – a 377 page opus of fresh-perspectives and life-changing ideas from the world’s leading edge geniuses.) – that took 3 months and I had some agents (Deepak Chopra’s, actually) interested in picking it up, but I ended up going a different direction. ~380 beautifully laid out and edited pages in 3 months = approx. 120 pages in 30 days.

      All I’m saying is for some people its *more achievable* than others. Some can jump right in, some will need preparatory steps. I could be way off, but I imagine Steven King could drop 120 pages in 15 days, if he wanted.

      • Joel Orr says:

        Jason, you are prolific! And for a guy who writes so much, you manage to say meaningful, helpful, and encouraging things in just about every post and comment I’ve read! My hat’s off to you!

        • I certainly feel that way (have my whole life :D), and it’s nice to be seen for what I am, Joel. :) You’ve given me a meaningful, helpful, encouraging thing yourself!

          An interesting side note:
          Most people are busy chanting “quality over quantity” (even Steve Jobs has some quotes about it :D) or vice-versa.

          I always aim for a beautiful blend of both – I stand for sexy success.

          For me, ‘success’ generally means grand-scale and ‘sexy’ means quality (how many of us find low quality cars, women, companies… ‘sexy’?)

    • Joel Orr says:

      I love your disagreement with my premise, Barb! It gives me a chance to point out some things that I perhaps didn’t express well in the post:
      1. You point out the need for commitment: Double-amen to that! It’s in your hands.
      2. Getting feedback on your book topic and the ideas it is to contain is very important, and your blog is a great way to do that. But you should, as early in the process as possible, be determined to hone your structure–your table of contents, down to subchapters–before investing time in generating content. (Of course, an anthology of somewhat-related pieces of content can work, too, but it won’t be as focused as a book that addresses a single question–a major pain-point for your audience.)
      3. I didn’t promise a “wonderful” book in 30 days, but rather a “good” book–where “good book” is defined as “a book that makes a promise and keeps it.”
      4. I haven’t read “Write Like You Talk–Only Better,” but it is now on my list! :-)
      5. My approach is AN approach; I do not claim it is THE approach. I know my approach works, as my many clients can testify. But I am curious and eager to learn of other ways of doing things!

      Thanks for your thoughtful and positive comment!

  2. Ruth - The Freelance Writing Blog says:

    I’m bookmarking the page since I do expect that one day I will write a ‘proper’ book (beyond the scope of a free, downloadable giveaway to encourage opt-in). However, I must admit that it makes me feel overwhelmed. Within the context of a full time and growing business, it’s hard to figure out how to really do the book thing justice without hiring a veritable staff to support the process.

    • Joel Orr says:

      Thanks for the bookmark, Ruth! I want to encourage you to undertake that book project, at the right time for you; the quality of your thought on FreelanceWritingBlog.com shows you have a great deal of wisdom to offer, and that you know how to package it. My approach to book-writing will let you package your progress into small steps that fit into a hectic work schedule.

      Again, don’t research before or as you write! Structure first; when that’s done, write. Anything you don’t know? Just mark it “to come.” When you’re all done, look up the “to come”s. That way, they won’t sidetrack you in the middle of the project.

      I’m looking forward to seeing your book!

  3. Josh Sarz says:

    Awesome advice. Make me want to finish my book. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    • Joel Orr says:

      Please do finish your book, Josh! On Sagoyism.com, you break things down into really simple chunks, that carry the reader along effortlessly–and inevitably–towards your conclusions. I’d like to see a book like that!

  4. Fantastic post, and demystifies what really is a simple process :)

  5. Great article!

    If you have a wordpress blog putting together an ebook can be ridiculously simple if you upload the Anthologize plugin. A free plugin that helps you package blog posts into an eBook and then create a .pdf you can upload to your website.

    I used this for my first ebook and the results were awesome considering the tool is free and the whole process took about 15 minutes.

    It’s a great way to start your book creation process…

    Thanks,

    Ryan H.

    • Joel Orr says:

      Ryan, I just took at look at Anthologize.org. It seems like a really great tool. Anyone thinking of using it should take into account that it is in “alpha” and may have troubling imperfections, but if one is considering assembling a book/ebook from blog posts, this seems like a very useful tool.

  6. hypnodude says:

    Very interesting article even if I guess I should need at least a a month just to decide about the structure and especially the subchapters, but after having this done first surely is possible to write a book in a month or a little more. As you say once the structure is done the rest comes out quickly, especially if the goal is to give sound information without wasting half of the book to show the reader how cool the author is. If I can give a suggestion I would add to this article an image detailing The Numbers so that it would be easier, and it would take very little space to keep, to remember the most relevant points of your article. Which will come handy when I’ll be ready to publish a book.

    Again, a very good and interesting article Joel.

  7. Katie Parvin says:

    Thanks so much for writing this. For the past 6 months or so, I have desperately wanted to write a book and had no idea where to start… now I know where to start! Thanks so much!

  8. This is a great layout. I’ve been working on my “GET FAMOUS” E-book ( powerful mom blogger’s resource) for about two months.
    It’s a labor but anything worth doing takes some time and effort. The release will be timed with an upcoming featured appearance on Yahoo Finance. Even though it is taking time to write I know it will be worth it because many bloggers have been asking for help and I have answered their questions via my book and it’s rewarding to know you can share some advice that will truly benefit your readers.
    @Katie Parvin So exciting that you are going to start writing your book! We all climb a mountain the same way -one step at a time. Good for you for taking the first step.

  9. Joel Orr says:

    Congratulations on the Yahoo Finance appearance, Lisa! And on finishing your e-book! I too believe that the work is worth it, as you said. And having done it once, you can also do it again–and again.

  10. Hooker says:

    There is one problem with ebooks, and that is they are so easy to publish. They are being mass produced by so many people that it devalues the very premise. I have written 3 ebooks thus far, one of which is doing very well, but I don’t think they hold as much respect as they once did.

    Regardless, they’re fun to write and can lead to many other opportunities if you get them into the right hands.

    • Joel Orr says:

      Ebooks are a big part of the developments that have erased the barriers to getting published. And the zero-marginal-cost production blows the market wide open. Of course there are many ebooks that are not worth the paper they are (not) written on, but that just makes your excellent ones stand out all the more! :-)

      I’m not sure ebooks were ever objects of respect. But they are wonderful packages of knowledge that can be inexpensively and quickly created. As you point out, Hooker, they can be fun to write, and can lead to lots of opportunities. I wish you success with yours!

  11. Ari Herzog says:

    Doesn’t there come a point when all the world needs is NOT another book that’s been written and rewritten and slanted and reslanted a gazillion times?

    • Joel Orr says:

      Interesting question, Ari. When you say, “what the world needs…” I wonder what you mean. Communication’s purpose can only be seen in its outcome, says NLP. If the particular rewriting or reslanting of a well-worn message message came to me in the form of a “report” you sent me in exchange for my email address, and it hit me just when I needed it, and helped me–I’d call that success. But if you write something genuinely original, and also genuinely uninteresting to your audience, I’d say that wasn’t a good use of your time.

      I’d love for you to clarify what you meant. Perhaps I misunderstood your point.

      • Ari Herzog says:

        Walk into a bookstore, Joel. Go to any section. Scan the shelves around niche subjects. Gloss past the cover designs and peruse the written content. Is anything truly original?

        Yet, you suggest anyone write a book in 30 days. Why?

        • Joel Orr says:

          I’m still missing your point, Ari. Writing a book, and especially for marketing purposes, is not about adding original content to the world. Aristotle (in “Poetics”) pointed out that there are only so many plots, fewer than 100. Yet there are many, many stories.

          The marketing purpose for me to write a book is to establish my expertise in my niche, in the eyes of my market. The book form carries a cultural weight that is respected. When I write a book about, say, writing a book–which I have–I am saying that I have something to say on the subject. I am staking my claim to a measure of expertise.

          Is what I said totally original? Well, it’s all in my original words, but the methods I teach have been taught by others. My emphasis is the result of my experience.

          When you read my book, you get a sense of who I am, what I think about my subject, and how I might interact with you should you choose to engage further with me.

          That’s what you can gain by writing a book, should you choose to. And it is fast and inexpensive, compared to other ways of spending your marketing bucks.

  12. Writing a book is a good idea and I agree to the fact people react with more interest when they read in detail about the product they are interested in. Its important to satisfy the curiosity of our potential customers.

  13. Joel Orr says:

    Absolutely, David! And a book may be just the right format for your prospects to receive your information.

  14. Gwyneth Anne says:

    Excellent article, and generous content, Joel! You really have a knack for inspiring and making things seem as easy as they can really be.

  15. mike says:

    Amazing what happens when a person can say that they’ve written a book and how much it elevates their status regardless of what it was about, and with self published book any one can be an expert… I don’t think books about who reads them anymore as much as it is that it was just written..

    • Joel Orr says:

      Bingo, Mike! It’s not cynical to note that having a book with you as the author does a lot for you even if it is not widely read. And when people DO read it, it’s that much more effective in establishing you as expert!

  16. Kitty Kilian says:

    Great post, making it seem really simple. Wrong title, should have been: HOW should any marketeer write a book…

  17. Joel Orr says:

    Nope. I’ve simply discovered that a book can be written–and I mean a good book–much more quickly than you might suspect, if you just follow a simple method. See my website for plenty of free info on the subject, if my post didn’t work for you.

  18. Tanya says:

    “author” = “authority.” <– Ha, that's great!

    I love your simple formula here, and while 30 days might seem like too short a time to write a book, I know that with myself it takes me no time at all to write nonfiction (now fiction's another story). I've had it in the back of my mind to write a book – maybe I'll get to that project sooner, now that I have your cool outlining method here. Thanks, Joel!

  19. Rock On, @CashMachineGal! (and 3 Lessons Learned…) | Firepole Marketing Blog says:

    [...] Tune up your calls to action, or write an entire book. [...]

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