We live in an era of personal brand building. For most people, company loyalty, gold-watch retirements, and company pensions are relics of a quickly fading past, and it’s up to us to take responsibility for our own professional development. So what can you do to ensure that you are visible and respected in your industry? Consider writing a book, say Jack and Patti Phillips.
“Distinguishing yourself as a published author is a great way to build your credibility and differentiate yourself from the horde,” says Jack, chairman of ROI Institute and organizer along with his wife, Patti, of the Second Annual Business Writers Conference, both authors or editors of more than 100 books. “In fact, I’d go so far as to say that for high-profile professionals, having a book is the price of admission these days.” (NOTE: See attached tipsheet on why you need a book.)
The conference—which will take place April 19-21, 2017, in Birmingham, Alabama—is expected to attract 100 executives, service professionals, and entrepreneurs from an array of industries seeking to network and learn best practices from some of the most accomplished experts in business book publishing.
“Many people would love to write a business book but just don’t know how,” notes Patti, who is president and CEO of ROI Institute. “They have a mental block that makes it feel undoable, but the truth is, writing a book is not rocket science. I find that once we help people get past their fear and debunk some misconceptions, they get really excited about the idea.”
So what are the main misconceptions? Jack and Patti identify a handful that they hear regularly from prospective business book authors:
MISCONCEPTION 1: “It costs too much money.”
Yes, you will most likely need to lay out a certain amount of cash, though that amount will vary depending on how much of the work you are able to do yourself. But Jack and Patti (who do, after all, have “ROI” in the name of their company!) say a well-thought-out, well-written book is an investment that pays off in huge ways.
“Writing a book is the best marketing money you will ever spend,” notes Jack. “It’s the silver bullet approach rather than the shotgun blast approach. Rather than doing a million little things, you do one big strong thing.”
MISCONCEPTION 2: “I’m not a great writer.”
Whether or not you’re a good writer is the wrong question to ask yourself. The right question is, Do I have strong, viable ideas that will be meaningful to my target audience?
“The quality of your ideas is everything,” says Patti. “The good news is that there are great ghostwriters and editors out there who can help you organize them, frame them in a meaningful way, and compile them into a compelling book.”
MISCONCEPTION 3: “I don’t have time.”
Yes, you do, says Jack. People who write business books tend to have incredibly full calendars. They write their books in short, manageable chunks of time. They schedule in time to work on their books (alone or with a ghostwriter) the same way they schedule any other kind of appointment.
“I find that when a writer gets serious and focused, he or she can write a book in a matter of months,” says Jack. “Of course, you can take more time if you need it. I suggest that people get super-organized and set fairly tight deadlines, though. When we allow too much time, we tend to fall prey to procrastination.”
MISCONCEPTION 4: “The book market in my industry is way too crowded.”
What that really means is you have a lot of competition for your professional services. All the more reason you need a book as well. Just make it a good one so it will attract the right clients.
“A book goes a long way toward helping you differentiate yourself,” says Patti. “Believe me, there is something you do better than everyone else in your field. That should be the focus of your book. If you aren’t sure what it is, figure it out before you start writing.”
MISCONCEPTION 5: “I’ll never be able to find a publisher!”
Finding a publisher—not just any publisher, but the right one for you—is simply a matter of going through the right processes. Like any other aspect of creating a book, it requires doing your research, shoring up your platform, networking with people in the field, etc. And of course, there’s always the self-publishing route, which has definitely shed the stigma it once had.
MISCONCEPTION 6: “What would I even do with a book once it’s published?”
If you’re worried about distribution, don’t be. Amazon and other online retailers have made it easy to sell books. And whether you go with a publishing house or self-publish, you’ll be expected to do a lot of the legwork yourself, so be prepared to really talk up your book.
“Marketing a book is not as hard as most people imagine,” says Jack. “And while you won’t get rich from book sales, the process of marketing the book can, itself, be lucrative as you can end up generating plenty of business. Again, take time to network with people who’ve been there and done that and harvested the best practices, which they can share with you.”
MISCONCEPTION 7: “All that sounds great in theory…but I don’t even know where to start!”
You’re far from alone. Most people feel so overwhelmed by the process of writing a book that they never try. But there are many professionals who can shepherd you through the process. Events like the Business Writers Conference are good venues for meeting them and also talking to other professionals like you.
“I cannot stress strongly enough the value of being around other people who are also writing books,” says Patti. “Meeting people, networking, and asking questions will drastically increase your knowledge and, ultimately, your confidence. Once you start thinking, Okay, I can write a book, you’re more than halfway there.”
To sum it all up, here are six good reasons to write a business book:
1. It really gets you focused on what makes you unique. Sometimes people truly aren’t clear on their differentiator until they try to put it on paper. The process of writing forces you to hone your marketing message.
2. It gives you instant credibility with potential clients and customers. “Barry Kerrigan of Desktop Miracles calls a book ‘the $5 business card,’ and I think that’s the perfect description,” says Jack. “A book gives people the confidence they need to hire you.”
3. It cements your reputation as a thought leader in your field. People automatically believe that you are an expert who really knows your stuff. (You must be. You wrote a book about it! Right?)
4. It’s a good platform for publicity and speaking events. Nothing creates expert status faster than a book. “The existence of a book means that editors are more likely to want to quote you, and conference attendees are more likely to want to hear you speak,” notes Patti.
5. It allows you to explain your message and your services in detail and forces you to gel your own ideas. Obviously, you can say a lot more in a book than you can in a website, blog post, ad, or any other form of marketing. (There’s nothing wrong with any of these, but they need a back-up source, and your book is it.)
6. It gives you a way to protect and showcase your intellectual capital. Once you’ve written it down and published it, people recognize that it’s yours.
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Jack J. Phillips, PhD, and Patti P. Phillips, PhD, are organizers of the Second Annual Business Writers Conference.
Jack is the chairman of ROI Institute, the leading provider of services for measurement, evaluation, metrics, and analytics. A world-renowned expert on measurement and evaluation, Phillips provides consulting services for more than half of the Fortune 100 companies and workshops for major conference providers worldwide. He has authored or edited more than 100 books.
Patti is president & CEO of ROI Institute. Her clients include Fortune 500 companies, federal and state government agencies, and non-governmental organizations. She serves as faculty for the UN System Staff College in Turin, Italy. Patti is author, coauthor, or editor of over 75 books and dozens of articles on the topic of measurement, evaluation, and ROI.
The Business Writers Conference is an immersion experience that provides you with access to the experts, resources, and inspiration to learn how the book-writing process works, and how to develop books and articles efficiently. Attendees will have access to keynote presentations, breakout sessions, and hands-on workshops.
The 2017 conference will be held Wednesday, April 19, through Friday, April 21, at the Renaissance Birmingham Ross Bridge Golf Resort & Spa in Birmingham, Alabama.