Almost every time I tell people I’m working on another book, they tell me their latest book idea. An often-cited statistic from a survey by the Jenkins Group claims that 81% of people feel they have a book “inside them.” And about 75% or 80% of those folks would write some type of non-fiction book. That’s a lot of people with something to say.
As the author of twelve non-fiction books and the publisher of eleven, I can certainly relate to the need to “get my words out there.” But beyond the joy of self-expression, are there good business or financial reasons to write a book?
The answer is a qualified yes. Whether or not writing a book is a good idea for you depends on a number of factors. Here are a few reasons writing a book may be a good idea.
1. A book gives you a level of credibility like almost nothing else. For example, I can quite legitimately say that I am an advocate and expert on adopting and caring for dogs and cats from animal shelters because I have written books on the subject (Happy Hound and Happy Tabby). I also can say I’m an expert on various computer subjects for the same reason (Web Business Success and the upcoming Logical Tips books). And realistically I am an expert, because if you do it right, the act of writing a book requires that you learn way more than the average person about a given topic.
2. Many business owners say that having authored a book helps them get clients and increase their fees. A study by Rain Today showed that 56% of authors reported a “strong” or “very strong” influence on their ability to generate more leads for their services. In an increasingly competitive and noisy world, being a book author is an excellent way to differentiate yourself.
3. A book acts as a great (albeit somewhat expensive) business card. I’ve handed out copies of our book Web Business Success to many of our consulting clients. Without exception they are thrilled to receive it. Plus, the fact I wrote it implies I probably know what I’m talking about.
4. It may seem obvious, but books are another offering you can add to your product round up. The business doesn’t really matter. If you own a dry cleaning store, for example, some of your customers might be interested in your book on how to remove stains.
5. A book expands your possibilities for marketing and public relations. Because a book brands you as an expert, you are more likely to be quoted. I have been quoted in articles and appeared on radio shows as an expert on adopting pets, for example. If you like public speaking, having your own book makes it easier to book speaking gigs. Realistically, the National Association of Widget Producers would dearly love to have you speak at their annual conference if you have written the definitive work on Widgets.
Of course, writing a book isn’t a great idea for everyone in every situation. Here are a few reasons you should reconsider writing a book:
1. It’s hard. I’d be the first to tell you that writing is book isn’t easy. To put it mildly sometimes the words don’t exactly flow. Long, weird nights of writing my first computer book rank up there as some of the worst experiences of my life. On virtually every book, I’ve struggled with organization, outlines, ideas, and editing. It’s not a slam dunk.
2. Writing a book takes time. If you are already completely overwhelmed running a business or just living your life, adding a book into the equation is not going to help. If you can’t set aside time to write a book, don’t torture yourself; give up the project until you have the time to devote to it.
3. The publishing industry is complicated and you need to educate yourself to avoid losing a lot of time or money. It doesn’t matter if you go the traditional publishing route with proposals and an agent or take the self publishing route and produce a book yourself. Either way, pitfalls abound. It takes time to learn what you need to know to avoid mistakes.
4. Assuming your book is good, it might make you money, but anyone promising that a book will make you a millionaire overnight is lying. Most authors who make a lot of money use the book as a starting point to form a larger “platform.” Generally, they think up a new concept like Ken Blanchard did for the “One Minute Manager.” Then they take that idea and run with it. In Blanchard’s case, he came out with more One Minute books, audios, speaking tours, and on and on.
In the end, writing a book should be something you really want to do. It also helps to love books. Many people who write books also read a lot. I definitely fall into that category. If you have no idea where your local library is and you don’t have books falling off your nightstand, maybe your first step to writing a book should be reading a book.