Are you and your business really ready to publish a book? The decision to write a book can be very exciting, but as a businessperson, you know that you never want to create a product without doing a little research and planning first. Maybe you’ve been thinking about taking this step for many years, or maybe something recently inspired you to add a book to your business and marketing strategy. But when it comes to successfully using a book to grow your business or as a source of income, it’s important not to put the cart too far before the horse. Here are three signs to help you avoid wasting time and resources as you decide whether you are ready to publish a book.
#1 Your Platform is Robust Enough to Support Book Sales
In book publishing lingo, a “platform” is anything about you or your book that will help you get attention and sell copies. Most would-be authors have at least a few “planks” already established, but it takes more than that to move books. Major book publishers want authors with huge national platforms. This means you if you have:
- a substantial mailing list
- highly visible connections who will help promote the book
- great social media outreach
- a regular media appearance or speaking schedule
If you only have a few hundred email addresses or Twitter followers, a book deal is not in your immediate future. That’s not to say a book is completely out of reach: Small publishers accordingly have smaller expectations in terms of platform. Self-publishing may also be an option for those of you who have solid platforms that are regional or not quite big enough to attract a publisher’s attention. Many entrepreneurs think of a book as a way to launch a new business, but this strategy rarely works unless there is a previously existing business and audience to tap and convert, or unless the author has built a huge following as a thought leader in her chosen industry or area of expertise.
Instead of rushing forward when you may not be ready to publish a book, take the time to build up your platform with planks that are relevant to the subject of your future book project. For example, I recently consulted with a client who is building a career as a coach for the brokenhearted. She was already working on a book proposal for a guide, but she had only a few hundred names on her mailing list and was still creating her website. I encouraged her to put the book aside for now and focus on a) finishing her website b) creating an opt-in gift related to her business and book topic c) build her mailing list through social media activity, guest posting on other experts’ blogs, and speaking engagements.
Millions of books are published every year. There’s plenty of time for you to publish yours, but if you don’t beef up your platform first your book will just disappear amidst the noise.
#2 You Have a Well-developed System or Process to Share
Sure, your signature system may not translate perfectly into a book, and sometimes authors will challenge themselves to stretch what they are already teaching for a new audience, but if you aren’t yet clear on what you have to offer a reader then that’s where you need to start. When I collaborated on The Way of the SEAL with expert author Mark Divine, he wasn’t teaching the eight principles of the book to business leaders in that format regularly. However, he was teaching some version of all of them to the attendees of his physical fitness-oriented SEALFIT and Unbeatable Mind programs, many of whom were business owners, CEOs, and leaders in other arenas. We simply adapted and built on his existing systems, tools, and concepts to create a book more tailored to the business/leadership audience.
Before you even consider writing a book, ask yourself these questions:
- What services do you offer your clients?
- What is it, specifically, that you want to help your readers do or do better?
- Do you have a wealth of stories from others who have successfully used your services or systems?
- Can you show significant results achieved in your own life via the systems or concepts you teach?
- Are you clear on who precisely your target market is?
An effective prescriptive nonfiction book doesn’t try to be all things to all people. It is not a compilation of all the wisdom acquired throughout your life or your years in business. What it is, is a promise between you and the reader — it promises some results or benefits that you will help the reader achieve. Until you know exactly what that is, and exactly who you’re seeking to help, you aren’t ready for a book. (Incidentally, there are many professionals who can help you with this step. It’s often a part of my ghostwriting process to work with an expert on identifying the best idea for her and her business right now. I also help clients who intend to write their own books through this step with my Idea to Outline program.)
Of equal importance (maybe even a little more), you need to be able to demonstrate that your systems and concepts have worked for a lot of other people with whom the reader can relate, and/or that you’ve put them to use in your life and achieved impressive results that the reader will want to emulate.
#3 Everyone Keeps Asking You for a Book
If you have been getting out there and speaking in front of live audiences regularly or doing large online teleseminars (and doing a great job), you probably have had people come up to you with some version of, “Where can I get your book?” If this question has become a frequent refrain in your business life, it’s a sure sign that you’re on the road to publishing a book. When multiple people ask you over and over where and when they can buy your book, it’s an indication that:
- you’re teaching a clear system with replicable results
- your voice is engaging and you know how to inspire people
- you’ve earned the trust of your audience
- people see you as an expert in your subject matter
- and most importantly, your audience wants more from you!
Let me be clear: This sign must be accompanied by signs 1 and 2. A handful of people out of the 200 on your mailing list, no matter how much enthusiasm they exhibit, will not support a book launch. It also doesn’t count if the people asking you about your book are relatives, friends, or other loved ones.
Many years ago, a writer friend of mine with a significantly developed platform and multiple bestsellers under her belt encouraged me to write a book as well. I appreciated the support and love her for her confidence in me, but at the time I had very few credentials, no following of any kind, and little experience in the subject matter of the book idea she and I discussed. I would have written a great book that no one but her and my parents would have bought. I was definitely not ready to publish a book!
If you still aren’t sure whether or not it’s the right time for you to pursue a book project or if you are ready to publish a book, let me help you. Schedule your free Publishing Strategy Session and we’ll review your unique situation and book idea. Or, if you have a quick question, please post it in the Comments below and I’ll do my best to answer!
Founder of The Writer’s Ally, Ally E. Machate is a bestselling book collaborator, award-winning editor, and expert publishing consultant who loves using her insider knowledge and experience with the publishing industry to lead serious authors toward success. She and her team live to help make great books happen, whether that means showing a writer how to improve a manuscript, get an agent, or self-publish; or coaching an author on growing her platform to sell more books. Since 1999, she has supported hundreds of authors on their publishing journey and takes pride in serving as their books’ best ally.
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