The power of a paperback (and why you shouldn’t just write an eBook)

The power of a paperback (and why you shouldn’t just write an eBook)

With growing numbers of qualified professionals offering their services to first-time authors, the power of publishing for entrepreneurs is becoming more widely recognised. After all, publishing a book establishes you as an instant expert, which then leads to a range of opportunities that come with expert status – media appearances, keynote gigs, charging higher rates and, of course, bringing in new business.

But, when they start to evaluate the time, money and effort that goes into producing a physical paperback, many entrepreneurs think, ‘Couldn’t I get the same results with an eBook?’

The short answer is ‘no’. For the long answer, read on for the top three reasons why publishing a paperback is more powerful than writing an eBook.

1. Very few entrepreneurs get published

There are a number of subconscious cues that tell us whether someone is credible or not.

These cues start with their physical presentation, body language and how they interacted with you, all of which tell you whether they are a friend or foe. And, in a world of no competition, simply getting this right would be enough to win customers. The issue is that today there is more competition than ever before – according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in June 2014 there were approximately 2.1 million active businesses in Australia and 99.8% of them were SMEs. In the UK and US there is a similar pattern, with over 99% and almost 98% of the active businesses in the UK and US being SMEs, respectively.

In other words, you need to do more than simply be a nice person to stand out.

And the measuring stick is always moving.

Fifteen years ago, your proof of credibility was having a website. At a time when not many small business owners had their own websites, this was seen as a sign of expert status and a business that had a website was a cut above a business that didn’t have one. Over the next decade, the focus shifted slightly, from simply having a website to having a good website.

Today, there are countless free WordPress themes and online tutorials that teach anyone how to create a business-grade website, which means that your website, while important, is no longer enough to make you stand out.

But while almost every entrepreneur has a website, very few publish books. And as soon as you add ‘author’ to your title and have a book to go with it, you enter a league of your own as far as your credibility is concerned.

2. ‘eBooks’ have gotten a bad reputation

But couldn’t you achieve the same level of authority by writing an eBook?

Unfortunately you can’t.

Today, everyone has some offer they’re trying to market on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. And, more often than not, this is a free eBook that you can only access by subscribing to their email list.

While still a viable strategy for generating leads, the problem with this is that everyone is doing it. Additionally, a lot of these free eBooks aren’t very good – while some might be valuable 50-150 page resources with a cornucopia of valuable advice and research to back it up, many are 5-10 page PDFs that don’t give a lot of insight or value.

As a result, your ideal clients are becoming more and more wary about submitting their email addresses for ‘free’ eBooks. First, they don’t believe that these eBooks will offer them a lot of value. Second, they know that ‘free’ is code for ‘this person wants to sell me something’.

By contrast, a paperback book is physical. This means, the person considering buying it can see that there are 200 pages of valuable information in front of them, rather than it being a five-page brochure that will result in them getting spammed for the next six months. Because they will often choose to invest between $20 and $30 in your book, they are also more likely to read it and, not only get real value, but recognise your expert status.

This gives them the opportunity to discover what makes you different to everyone else. This gives them the opportunity to find out what works and what doesn’t. This gives them the opportunity to realise the value you can provide. Then, when you give them the opportunity to develop an ongoing relationship, they’re more likely to take it.

3. Gifting books triggers the law of reciprocity

The final reason why a paperback is more effective than an eBook is because they can be treated as gifts. Unlike handing someone your business card and telling them to check out the free offer on your website, you can physically hand someone your book.

This leaves a far greater impression, because it triggers the law of reciprocity.

Most of us know that humans are social animals. In fact, the parts of our brain responsible for thought, language, regulating behaviour and emotions, and empathy (also known as the neocortex) is far better developed than those of other mammals of similar sizes. While the reasons for this evolution are not completely understood, it’s likely that survival played a key part.

Just think – if you returned from a day of hunting with no spoils, you’d need someone else in the tribe to share their food with you. And generally they did, not because they were overly generous, but because if they experienced an unsuccessful hunt in the future, they would expect you to return the favour.

While survival is less of an issue today, we still respond to this urge to reciprocate. If you buy me a drink, the next is my shout. If we have you around for a barbeque, the next time will be at your place. If you hand someone your book, on some level they will be looking for a way to repay you.

And the more tangible your book is, the more impact it has.

Think about it – if someone hands you a business card, you’ll generally take a quick look at the design and details as your fingertips register the quality of the paper. If someone gives you a brochure or booklet instead, suddenly they stand out from everyone else at the event who just has a card. With something larger (read: more tangible), they seem more established and more credible. It’s almost like the weight of their reputation is in direct proportion to the weight of the booklet.

If they hand over a book instead, they move into another league entirely.

So what does this mean for you?

If you’ve been relying on an eBook to grow you list, build trust with potential clients, demonstrate your credibility and lead to new business opportunities, I’m not arguing that you should delete it. An eBook is better than nothing.

However, a paperback that you can hand over to an influencer at a networking event, gift to a potential client or mail to a journalist who writes about your area is far more powerful. Yes, the upfront investment is higher but, if you continue to leverage it, it will pay dividends for years to come.

If you’re ready to start writing a book to boost your business, check out these free articles and resources:

C T Mitchell - May 5, 2017

Great article Jacqui. As an author I like to mix it up. A printed book adds an extra layer to your branding.

It give you credibility through seeing your book actually on the coffee table. It’d difficult and expensive keeping your Kindle turned on showcasing your eBook.

I’ve also ruined a number of iPad by covering the screen with pink highlighter. Yes I know there is an app to highlight digital products but it’s so much nicer to run a few different colours over a page you are reading.

Then there’s the smell of paper especially if the book is old. You can kind of feel the history in your hands and the tales in your nostrils.

Paper printed books definitely has a place but don’t say it too loud in the forest.

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