MANAGE YOUR CAREER
To self-publish or not to self-publish. Our checklist will guide you, thumbs-up or thumbs-down.
By Eilene Zimmerman
Feb. 11, 2014
AARP’s Work Reimagined
“It’s the new business card,” says Hope Katz Gibbs, founder and president of The Inkandescent Group in Arlington, Virginia, which is publishing a series of “Inkandescent Rulebooks”:http://www.pr-rules.com offering marketing and advertising best practices for small businesses. “When a book is well done, it is the best way to show, rather than tell, others what you know,” she says.
But the competition is daunting. About 11,000 business books are written every year, and that number doesn’t even scratch the surface when you add in self-published e-books, many written by business owners and executives who want to share their expertise to boost their careers, their business or their brand.
True, writing a book, self-published or put out by a commercial house, usually lends its author credibility. If you’re at midlife, the time could be right. All of Inkandescent’s authors are over 45, says Gibbs, who’s 49. “They’ve been there, done that, and that gives them the experience and confidence to know what to do—and not to do—to succeed in business.”
Nothing comes close to a book in establishing its author as a thought-leader–impressing clients, establishing a platform and helping to get speaking and consulting engagements, says David Newman, 50, owner of the consultancy Do It! Marketing in Philadelphia and author of a book by the same name. “There’s a halo effect. People see the book, think you’re smarter, better and higher value and expect to pay higher fees to you or your company, all because you wrote a book.”
It’s not all blue skies of course. Writing and publishing a book takes time and money too. Here’s why to write—or not to write—a book to boost your career or business.
5 Reasons To Publish
1. To define your mission, message, values and insights. David Newman says writing a book forces the author to think though the mission of his or her business and its processes, and their own values and goals. “It helps to strengthen and reinforce what you think and the way you operate as a professional,” he says.
2. To create a compelling calling card. “It’s marketing,” Gibbs says. “Especially if you’re in the Boomer generation or late Gen X. You have the experience and expertise to share. The book is packaging that.”
3. To enhance marketing and build credibility. Andrew Schorr, founder of Patient Power, an organization based in Seattle that interviews cancer experts and makes information from those interviews available online, co-wrote The Web-Savvy Patient: An Insider’s Guide to Navigating the Internet When Facing a Medical Crisis. Using Amazon’s self-publishing platform CreateSpace, Schorr, 63, established his legitimacy and promoted Patient Power through the book. He wound up scoring an interview with Barbara Walters on The View and Jane Brody, the health columnist at the New York Times, mentioned his book in her column.
Apps for Autism helped establish speech pathologist Lois Jean Brady, 50, as an expert in the growing world of technology and autism. All four of her books generated media attention, speaking engagements and opportunities to present at conferences. “I never would have gotten that without the books,” she says.
4. To jumpstart opportunities and higher-level engagement with people in your industry. David Newman says his book was a turning point for his career. “I was invited to participate in events, to present at webinars and tele-seminars, at business summits, and with higher-level people, those with a lot of visibility in my field. The book has changed the perception of me to more of an expert.”
5. To give global reach. Self-publishing Kindle e-books allowed Liisa Kyle, 52, to grow and promote her life coaching business and reach a global clientele. Kyle has published four e-books, including Overcoming Perfectionism.
5 Reasons Not To
1. You don’t have truly valuable knowledge to share. Writing a book can help your business, but only if you have insights the marketplace wants, says David Newman. “The book needs to be very targeted and focused toward your industry and your specific group of prospects and buyers,” he says. Just writing a book for the sake of writing a book won’t get you far. Gibbs says people need to understand your value proposition. “Whether that’s how to hire well, how to invest for the future, medical tips for an urgent care center—you have to have valuable information to give.”
2. You don’t have the time or energy to market the book. Authors who self–publish sometimes complain they wrote a book “and nothing happened,” says Brittany Turner, a spokesperson for Amazon. With millions of books on Amazon’s site, getting noticed can be difficult. “Most of the marketing is in the hands of the authors,” she says, “and our most successful authors are part of the community of readers and writers. They start email lists, get information from their readers and connect with fans on social media.”
Promotion is Liisa Kyle’s biggest challenge. “It’s a lot of work and it’s constant,” she says. Speech pathologist Lois Jean Brady shares that sentiment. Marketing her books, she says, is the biggest downside to publishing them. “You have to establish yourself on social media, forge partnerships with bloggers, build up connections and look for media opportunities,” she says. “It will take a lot more time than you expect.”
3. Your self-published book looks self-published. Would-be authors should be prepared to invest the time (and money) to have their book designed well, edited and proofread, says Gibbs, cautioning, “Don’t rush through this. Do it well or don’t do it. Otherwise you risk shooting yourself in the foot, and proving that you aren’t good and expert at what you do. Poor design jumps out at people.”
4. You’ve been out of work for a long time and want to jump-start your search. Experts advise against using a book to re-invigorate a job hunt. Even if it does represent credibility, a book takes a good deal of time to write and can involve a financial investment too. “It would be much better to capture thoughts in blog format. It’s immediate and much more accessible than book publishing,” Newman says. Writing a blog that showcases your industry expertise and sharing it on LinkedIn can help you make connections that could ultimately lead to a job.
5. You want to make a living as an author. Forget it, says Brady. Although her writing has helped establish her as an expert, the books don’t provide much of an income. “You’re not going to become rich or derive an income from being an author. It’s a tool to promote your business and establish yourself as a subject matter expert,” she says. “So don’t mortgage the house to write the book– you can’t retire on it.”