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.
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?
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.
Your book will be a marketing asset for you in different ways:
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.
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….”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
9. Start planning your next book!
Here’s why writing a book may be the best use of your time, right now, before any other major project: