The past few years have held a lot of doom and gloom for aspiring authors, with The Author's Guild citing in its 2018 Author Income Survey a median income of $6,080, down 42% from 8 years earlier.
To put that in perspective, the median household income in the US at the same point in time was USD $61,372 according to the US Census Bureau. In other words, an author cannot live on books alone.
So, does this mean that you shouldn’t bother to write a book?
No. It means it’s time to change your perspective.
If you are writing a book for your business, you shouldn’t think of it as a profit vehicle or a way to generate passive income (that’s not to say your book can’t do this – it just means it shouldn’t be its primary purpose). Instead, the purpose of your book is leverage.
Your book is like a business card, brochure, or website – an asset you share with prospective clients, partners, investors and the media that will lead to the next conversation, sale, opportunity, or deal. Just as you wouldn’t expect to sell your business cards or website for a profit, selling books for profit isn't the smart strategy for the entrepreneur-turned-author. Instead of focusing on how to sell your $25 book, focus on how you can leverage that $25 book to land a $10,000, $50,000, or $100,000+ opportunity.
How do you leverage your book for your business? Read on for my top-5 tips.
1. Use your book as a marketing tool
The moment you create something new, you have something new to market. It also gives others a reason to spread the word about you.
So, rather than simply marketing your book, think about how you can use it as a tool to market the rest of your business. Let’s take the example of a book launch. Your book launch doesn’t have to be a huge event (unless you want it to be), but can be a collection of friends, colleagues, clients and influencers in your industry. Creating an event that gives these people the opportunity to enjoy some canapés, bubbles, and short talks from industry leaders gives them something to talk about. You can then turn this word-of-mouth into free marketing by inviting them to Tweet, post on Facebook and LinkedIn, and tell their friends and colleagues about the event, your book, and your business.
2. Link your book back to your business
If you’ve chosen the right book idea, it should already be relevant to your business. (After all, it doesn’t make much sense for a construction worker to write a new mothers’ guide to breast feeding… unless they are considering making dramatic changes to their business…) But, have you given your readers opportunities to learn more about your business throughout your book?
The obvious place to do this is in the "About the author" profile at the back of your book. But what if your readers don’t read it? You could be missing out on an opportunity to engage with them online and develop an ongoing relationship. Instead, think about other areas of your book where you could provide some bonus content online. Some ideas include:
If you offer these bonuses in exchange for your readers’ email addresses, this gives you the opportunity to regularly send them free content to develop your relationship. And every time you give them another slice of value, you move closer to the Zero Moment of Truth that will turn them into paying clients.
3. Use your book to pre-sell your prospects
How much time do you waste on enquiries and quote requests that lead nowhere?
How much of your effort and expertise goes into these enquiries through free samples of your work, evaluations, and consultations?
How many chargeable hours is this costing you?
Instead, imagine if you could qualify potential customers before they even walk in your door, so that those you do speak to are ready to work with you, even before they’ve heard your pitch.
Your book is the tool that will pre-sell these prospects. Rather than working to convince them of your value and holding their hand every step of the way, you simply give your prospects a copy of your book to read.
This way you answer their pre-sale questions, they learn about you and the way you work, they’re honoured and excited to have been given a free book by you … and when they come back, their credit cards are ready, all for the $5–$10 cost of printing that book.
4. Expand your reach with endorsements
The immediate value of getting endorsements for your book is clear – your target readers are busy, skeptical, and can’t be bothered weighing the pros and cons of your book versus the book of someone else in your field. By getting endorsed by influencers who are recognized and respected in your industry, you reduce your buyers’ risk and uncertainty, which means they're more likely to turn from browsers to buyers.
When it comes to leveraging your book, however, endorsements are a great way to get in front of more people. After all, if someone has taken the time to read your book and write some kind words about it, this demonstrates that they respect you and your thoughts. When people respect and like you, they are more likely to want to help you succeed, and there’s no better time to ask for some help than immediately after they’ve written a glowing endorsement of your book and the content is at the front of their minds.
Beyond the initial endorsement, some of the ways you can leverage these influencers include:
5. Give your book away (to the right people)
Yes, you read correctly – give your book away! It might sound crazy – what kind of businessperson gives away their product? But remember, your book isn’t your final product – it’s a vehicle that will drive more clients and opportunities to your business.
So how can you give your book away strategically?
First, give your book to your target market. Your book is designed to bring more revenue into your business, so your first priority should always be your ideal clients. This means being clear on who they are and where they hang out, so you can get free copies of your books into their hands. Then, because you’ve linked your book back to your business, they will have plenty of opportunities to contact you to work together.
Second, look at industry influencers. Who communicates with the same market as you without being a competitor? These might include businesses that offer complementary services, media outlets with your audience, or educators. You can give these influencers free copies of your book to write about on their blogs or as giveaways for their audience, both of which help you get in front of more of your ideal clients.
Finally, think about partners. What is a product or service you’d like to offer, but for which you'd need someone else to help deliver it? Or who has a large network of your target clients and can help you market your business? Many small business owners struggle with these types of partnerships, particularly when it comes to partnering with organizations that are larger or more established than them. They don’t know what they can bring to the table. Once you have a book, you have much more to offer – credibility, expertise, content, and the "wow factor" of being a published author. By sending your book to potential partners up front, you set yourself apart from the beginning as someone who has these qualities, rather than just being another upstart trying to access their skills or network.
To sum up
Self-publishing a book is an expensive process, and when entrepreneurs first realize how many books they’ll need to sell to make a profit (often several thousand), it can be enough to put them off the entire process.
The key is shifting your focus – your book is not an income stream, it is a business card. Its job isn’t to generate revenue – its job is to lead to revenue-generating opportunities. This means thinking of your book as a tool you can leverage, rather than a product you can sell.
After all, if it leads to just one $10,000 client, keynote gig or partnership, you're well on your way to making your money back.