December 20, 2013

Thought Leadership Lessons from a Leadership Expert

What does it take to successfully be positioned as a “thought leader”? Business minds across every industry understand the authority that this elusive title can add to a name; thought leaders are in high demand for speaking engagements, workshops, appearances, etc. Yet attaining the title is no easy feat, and many hopeful men and women are destined to forever remain indistinguishable from the mass of wannabe thought leaders. So what separates the successful from the pack?

Take Linda Fisher Thornton. Linda was named to the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business Behavior list by Trust Across America. As I spoke with Linda about her company, Leading in Context, and her recently released book, 7 Lenses: Learning the Principles and Practices of Ethical Leadership, I realized that Linda possessed the two things a thought leader must have.

Let us begin with the more obvious of the two: Linda has developed a clear message about business ethics, a message that answers a specific need in the business community while remaining applicable on a general level. “I had been developing leaders for over 25 years and teaching leadership for 12 years, and I had a strong sense that our current definitions of leadership did not fully incorporate responsibility,” she says. Exploring this void, Linda attended an ethics symposium at the University of Richmond, where experts from different fields made compelling cases as to what the “greater good” meant to them. “I wanted to find a way to pull all of these perspectives together. I was fascinated with the idea that how we look at things changes how we act on them,” she says. “After doing quite a bit of research and not finding a framework that pulled together leadership and responsibility in a holistic way, I decided to write 7 Lenses because we desperately needed a clear framework for leading ethically in a complex world. I used the lens metaphor to describe seven different ways to look at ethical leadership. Looking at it through all seven of the lenses gives us a kaleidoscopic view that represents the whole.”

As she developed her message to answer this apparent void in leadership, Linda began posting about what she was discovering on her blog, which explores how to unleash the positive power of ethical leadership. People began responding; it was at this time that Trust Across America named her a thought leader, and 800ceoread published her manifesto titled “What Ethical Leaders Believe.” The blog attracted followers from 160 different countries, affirming what Linda already suspected: her work was desperately needed.

With a relevant message identified, Linda moved on to the second necessity of thought leadership: the ability to share this message in a clear, effective manner – so Linda produced a book. Why a book? After all, blogging is a respected forum for the communication of ideas, and it is certainly cheaper. Linda chose to produce a book to advance the field of ethical leadership. She also understood what other thought leaders have come to realize: a book builds a strong, solid foundation on which to grow and communicate a message. She committed the time and resources needed to write this book, and in the process built a platform for her consulting work and the foundation of related services for developing leaders. With 7 Lenses available to relay her message in an authoritative way, Linda has the two most important things to set her apart as a thought leader – a clear message and the ability to share it effectively.

Unfortunately, in today’s world, possessing the first is no longer enough - no matter how powerful and significant that message might be. Professionals are faced with an overwhelming mass of content in every direction they look. By producing a book, Linda has distinguished her incredibly important message from this mass, and set herself apart as a thought leader.

Linda’s book, 7 Lenses: Learning the Principles and Practices of Ethical Leadership, is available on Amazon and 800ceoread, as well as for Nook at Barnes and Noble.

December 2, 2013

Looking To Increase Your Exposure? Celebritize Yourself

When Marsha Friedman started out in PR in 1990, she began to realize that successful CEO’s, professionals, and entrepreneurs had one thing in common; they all had their own book.

Now, with 23 years of public relations under her belt, Marsha readily identifies books as a formula for success across all industries. As founder and CEO of one of the most successful boutique PR firms in the nation, Marsha has been exposed to countless PR and marketing strategies, but one has stood out to her as the most effective marketing tool – a book.

Marsha’s own book, Celebritize Yourself: The Three Step Method to Increasing Your Profile and Exploding Your Business, has itself become a staple in the public relations industry and has led to speaking engagements, events, and more clients. She finds that as a professional, handing a potential client a book rather than a business card makes a huge difference because it establishes her as an expert. “A book gives you a credibility that positions you as an expert in your field,” she says, while a business
card makes you just another professional.

But what does it mean financially to hand over a book in lieu of a business card, especially after the significant costs of producing a quality book? Marsha addresses this concern, saying, “People worry about investing money in books that they may end up giving away rather than selling. They do not realize that if even one of those clients reads the book then ‘signs up,’ that one client could potentially pay for the entire book production expense… and that is just one client.” Marsha makes an astute observation that I frequently notice myself; using the book as a marketing tool brings more return than a professional could make in book sales. “Books are truly marketing gold. Think of the expense as $20 per book sold, versus $100,000 per potential new client,” Marsha says.

In Marsha’s experience, the most common industries in which professionals utilize a book to leverage their credibility are the healthcare, financial services and legal fields. “Particularly in the health field, companies are taking advantage of the importance of having a book or a spokesperson to highlight a problem and offer their product as the solution. I have seen a company’s worth go from $60,000 to $6,000,000 because they understood the value of constructing a spokesperson with a book.

However, savvy professionals harnessing the power of books are not exclusively limited to these industries. Marsha has noticed many people using a book to move into another career. She says, “Building their profile as an expert can transition them into another field by demonstrating what they know, what their background is, and what they can do.”

Marsha understands the power of books as marketing tools… do you?

Marsha's book, Celebritize Yourself, is available on Amazon

October 10, 2013

Leave Your Competition at the Light with a High Speed Business Booster

Marketing and branding expert Laura Ries is bullish on using books as a marketing tool. After all, it’s what she’s been doing for over 15 years.

Laura is the daughter of noted advertising guru Al Ries. In 1981, Al and his partner Jack Trout wrote one of the most influential marketing books ever published, Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind.  “Al’s whole career has been built on that book,” she said in a phone interview from her office in Atlanta.

While Ries was a respected marketing professional and had authored articles in trade publications on the concept of positioning, Laura says it was the book that pushed him to the forefront of advertising circles and gained him credibility throughout the industry and beyond. “That’s what built his brand,” she said.

Ries and Trout combined their talents for four other marketing books: Marketing Warfare, Bottom Up Marketing, Horse Sense and The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing. Following the 1994 publication of the lattermost, the two amicably parted ways. That’s when Al and Laura started Ries and Ries, and co-authored The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding in 1998.

Laura says that and the four books that followed gave their audience the tools to further their own careers or companies while they gained her and her father even greater credibility in marketing circles. “It’s a great advantage to use a book as a marketing tool,” she said. “It helps to become more well-known. It helps our consulting business.”

Ries says having her name on the spine of the books gave her the kind of stature she would never have gotten otherwise. She took that to the next level with her own book, Visual Hammer, published  last year. “I was in the shadows. With Visual Hammer, it was time to put my own name out, to stand on my own. We’re a great team, but it’s also important to have your own identity.”

What’s more, Visual Hammer was self-published. “With the rise of Amazon, it’s less necessary to have a traditional publisher. It’s the same with music, with iTunes. It’s a tremendous opportunity. It’s more fair – the market can decide what’s good.” Ries says the subject matter of Visual Hammer dictated that it be an ebook, but she remains a fan of books in print. “Writing a book talking about visuals, with color visuals, in a traditional book that’s not economically feasible,” she said.

Ries says self-publishing also gives her more control over the final product: She can decide on the cover art, the title, the marketing of the book. “The title of a book is enormously important,” she said. It’s critical it not be too melodramatic, nor too bland. “The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of Public Relations was originally going to be called The Death of Advertising. The head of (trade publication) Advertising Age said, ‘You can’t have that title.’ Then it was going to be The PR Era.” The final version got it just right.

Ries says that control even extends to the length of a book. “In traditional publishing, larger was always better,” she said. “It’s got to be a BOOK.” In self-publishing, an author can make the book any length, which in today’s bullet-point world can make the difference between a book that sits on the shelf and one that actually gets read. “Particularly in business books, if it’s 300 pages, I feel like I’ve got to slog through it,” said Ries.

Regardless of the format, Ries says one thing remains true. “You have to have something to say. You can’t use it (a book) just to market yourself. The key is to figure out what you stand for.”

Once you’ve determined that, Ries says it’s important to use that book to leverage your career, whether it’s a marketing book, a general business book, a cookbook or a book about health. Using your passion to create a niche for yourself in your chosen field gives you a leg up. “You have to put in the time,” she said. “Whatever the genre, it’s a great way to get clients.”

September 5, 2013

Emotion-spirational Book Inspires Edu-tainment...Huh?

Jeff “Odie” Espenship isn’t shy about acknowledging his failings.

As a commercial pilot, airshow pilot and former fighter pilot, not to mention motivational speaker and author, you might not think Espenship is prone to failings. But there it is, in the first chapter of his book: Espenship tells of how he once skipped one of the steps in the pre-flight safety inspection as he and his brother John tried to beat a storm in his vintage WWII plane. 

While nothing happened as a direct result, he believes his action might have influenced his brother to do the same thing six months later. John and friend and fellow pilot Craig Morrison were killed when the plane

“As the owner of an air show business, I ask ‘Was there something I did that explained his behavior? A shortcut that cost him his life?” asks Espenship.

But from failings come inspiration, and when Espenship took a long, hard look in the mirror, he decided to acknowledge his failings and rebound from them. More than that, he decided to try to help others avoid such pitfalls.

Target Leadership is the title of his book and his website. He believes target leaders emotionally inspire others.

“It’s not preachy,” he says of the book. “It’s just examples, techniques for fixing things.”

Those things can range from stories about flying – his lifelong passion – to berating his daughter for driving while talking on her cellphone. Something he had to admit he himself did.

While the book may have just been published in June of this year, Espenship has been working on it for three years. “I thought it might take a year,” he says with a laugh.

Like so many others, Espenship says he had friends tell him he should write a book. But unlike 98 percent of those who are told that, he buckled down and actually did it.

He says that has helped him build his corporate speaking career.

“If someone calls (for a potential speaking engagement), the fact that I’ve written a book and gotten reviews is a plus,” he says.

He also features the book on his site, both for sales and to showcase his expertise.

In addition to his increased credibility, Espenship says the speaking engagements also build sales. “I’ve had corporations call me and want to buy them when I speak.” he says. “That’s where a lot of sales come from.”

Espenship also builds his audience through social media such as Facebook, Twitter and a blog.

And as the book has been available such a short time, Espenship believes his success will only increase.

“It’s educational, and it’s entertainment,” he says, referring to his motivational presentations. But he could also be referring to his book.

August 22, 2013

Prior Planning Prevents...Well You Know

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”

That aphorism has been around for nearly a century, but Marty Clarke took it to heart. The one-time corporate executive is in demand these days as a communications consultant and speaker, but that’s largely because while he was in between jobs, he gave himself another one: Author.

“The company (he was with) had imploded,” Clarke said while in transit from one business meeting to another. “I found myself with time off, so I used that time to write a book.” The result was Communication Land Mines, 18 Communication Catastrophes and How toAvoid Them, published in 2004.

Now, we’ve all seen television shows where someone steps on a land mine, and we know what happens next. Clarke says in one’s professional life, land mines can be just as dangerous, but with one distinction: You usually don’t know you’ve stepped on one. There it is in print: On page 10 of Communication Land Mines, Clarke says “The damage done by communication land mines is often silent and invisible.”

Whoa. Then how do you know if you’ve stepped on one? And if you have, how can you mitigate the damage and ensure you don’t do it again?

Those are the questions Clarke sought to answer. He takes on such topics as leaving a far-too-lengthy voice mail (“The Endless Message”), not speaking clearly and slowly when leaving a telephone number (“Phone Number at Mach Speed”), going on and on ad nauseam in email (“The Term Paper”). The former English major also takes on some grammatical challenges (who vs. whom, for example), as well as those who send much more information than is needed or even wanted (“The Metric Ton Mailer”).

All told, the book walks people through a series of gaffes which have the potential to annoy or frustrate those on the receiving end, and possibly even derail the career of those committing the faux pas.

“My wife says all my material is born out of rage,” he said with a laugh. “When I was an executive, anytime anyone would leave their phone number too fast I would write it down.” The same went for when he’d have a similarly exasperating exchange with someone face to face or via email.

The end result was that when Clarke finally got around to creating the book, he had his topic in mind and a ready-made source of examples. “When I was ready to write, I almost had an outline,” he said.

And after writing the book, Clarke found himself looked upon with a much greater degree of respect. He says writing the book gave him credence and trustworthiness. “The book is the great legitimizer,” he said. “Gravitas is exactly correct.”

Clarke said writing a book can also give you additional insights into a topic. That’s a common theme among authors, including many of those profiled in these blog posts: financial advisor Dan Prisciotta (Defend Your Wealth), marketing expert Laura Ries (Visual Hammer), attorney Ned Minor (Deciding to Sell Your Business). In other words, what you don’t know or may not have considered thoroughly often comes clear as you research and write your book. It may even lead to further efforts.

That was certainly the case for Clarke. He followed up Communication Land Mines with Leadership Land Mines, 8 Management Catastrophes and How to Avoid Them in 2005, and then four years later Sales Machine Land Mines, 6 Sales Revenue Killers and the Blueprint to Avoid Them.

Clarke said the second and third books took longer to write than his first book. For one thing, he didn’t have that handy outline already prepared. For another, he was no longer out of work, so he didn’t have as much time to devote to the books. “By the time I wrote them, I was giving speeches, consulting, and had begun training, so I couldn’t put in as much time.”

There’s your return on investment right there. Clarke used his first book to establish his credibility and expertise while building his brand to the point the public could and would seek out the author and subsequent books. Then those books furthered his reputation. You can see the same in the multiple books by such successful authors as doctors Andrew Weil and Mehmet Oz, fiction writers John Grisham and Kathy Reichs, cookbook authors Ina Garten (the Barefoot Contessa) and Marcel Desaulniers.

Now, because of his Land Mines books, Clarke is able to work at his own pace on the subjects he decides, while gaining the satisfaction of helping others avoid those nasty pitfalls. “It gave me the living I enjoy today,” he said. “Without them I would not be nearly as successful as I am.”

August 8, 2013

You're Never Too Busy for Your Book Project

Ghostwriting and the Traveling Executive

Creating a book can be tricky at the best of times, but what if your job required lots of time and travel? How will you be able to fit in reviewing chapters, coordinating with your ghostwriter, and supplying materials? As always, the secret to success is organization. This means organization of your projects, your priorities, and your personal time.

When you first hire your ghostwriter, let him or her know that you travel frequently and will sometimes be in and out of communication. Provide your known travel plans for the foreseeable future and note when you will be completely off the grid. This will give your ghostwriter a good idea of when and how you can be reached.

Next, try to create a schedule with your writer based on your travels. If you know you'll have some downtime or a long plane ride in a few weeks, that would be a good time for your writer to send you the first couple of chapters. And once your writer gets started on the project, you two can nail down the schedule on the basis of your availability and the ghostwriter's need for feedback. You should be prepared to set aside a good chunk of time at the beginning and end of the ghostwriting process, but be sure to stay involved during the middle portion to ensure a great final product.

Try to set aside some time each week to check in with your writer via phone or e-mail. Give your writer advance notice, saying, "On Thursday afternoon, I will be devoting several hours to the book. You can expect a call/e-mail from me, and I will complete X task." Tasks can be anything from catching up on ghostwriter queries to sending edits. Even if you've hired an autonomous ghostwriter who can handle the bulk of the project without your input, you'll still want to keep in touch.

For many execs, publishing a book is a very time-sensitive matter. You may be creating a corporate anniversary project, an in-demand memoir, or a groundbreaking business book. Your ghostwriter will understand these time constraints. However, you should also be able to take some time out of your schedule for this book. Your involvement, no matter the subject of the book, is key to creating a finished product that you and your readers will enjoy.

Each project is different, so my best advice is simply to be organized and stay in touch with your writer. You two will create a schedule and a system that works well for both of you. Check out some of the other entries on this site for tips on how to communicate with ghostwriters, prepare your materials, and make a realistic timetable for your project.

August 1, 2013

A New Book for New Brands in a New Market

Perhaps it’s peculiar that a marketing expert wrote a marketing book without determining ahead of time how it could help him market himself and his company.

But for Zain Raj, the reason for writing the book was not to place himself upon a pedestal. It was to codify a new set of rules and standards he believes holds great implications for marketing.

“It’s a new approach to building brands,” said Raj while in transit from one meeting to another. “The traditional model no longer is relevant. Brands needed to operate in a new market.”

Raj published BrandRituals, How Successful Brands Bond with Customers for Life, in January of 2012. By then he was already recognized as a branding and marketing expert. He was CEO of Hyper Marketing Inc. of Chicago, formed by the mergers of SolutionSet MediaWhiz Partnership (where Raj was President and CEO) and D. L. Ryan Companies, Ltd. He had previously served as President and CEO of two other marketing firms, and had held leadership positions at several others.

But when Raj wrote Brand Rituals, he wasn’t thinking about further polishing his credentials, but about the ways in which marketing had changed since he began his career in Mumbai, India, in 1984.
Raj writes that building a brand is no longer about affecting consumer beliefs but about changing customer behavior. The book presents a four-stage approach to a Brand Ritual:
  1. Achieve an initial transaction by offering new value for your product or service.
  2. Magnify consumer attraction by being digital at the core.
  3. Build connections with relevant innovations and experiences.
  4. Create a bond between your brand and the customer by aligning on core values. Raj says a higher number of bonded customers is not only possible but absolutely necessary if you and your company want to create sustainable brands that defy competitors for decades.
While Raj has not made the book the centerpiece of his own marketing efforts, he’s not neglected it. He has written about it on his blog and refers to it or its principles on Twitter.

“My ROI is on satisfaction: To have people say, ‘I just read the book’ and they got something out of it,” said Raj. “This was to get the ideas out. I thought people could benefit from it.

“I never thought of it as marketing myself, but it gives me one more thing in my marketing tool kit.”

While Raj hasn’t focused on his book – after all, he’s busy running a global marketing conglomerate – his employees have found it useful on many levels. Not only can and do they use the principles he espouses in the book, but it gives them added credibility when meeting with clients or prospective clients.

Oh, yes, and throughout the book Raj uses the term marketeers to refer to people in marketing. His rationale is that the people who marketing professionals – the people who try to understand and analyze customer attitudes and behaviors – should think of themselves as the musketeers, the grenadiers, the bombardiers on the corporate battlefield. The marketeers.

But whether the reader embraces the term marketeer or marketer, the point of the book is to help them determine ways in which customers can create a bond with a brand to truly make them customers for life. If he can do that, then Raj feels he has succeeded.

July 25, 2013

Getting Into the Business of Getting Out of Business

For many writers, crafting the end game is the crucial part of their book. For Ned Minor, the end game is the entire point of his book.

Deciding to Sell Your Business is all about the complexities involved in the owner walking away from a business. Whether it’s a longtime family business or something the individual has built up him or herself, removing the emotions and determining the best course forward can be a daunting task.

“I felt I had a message to business owners that wasn’t being heard,” said Minor. “There are lots of books about the mechanics (of selling a business), but for most owners, it’s the most emotional decision they will make,” he continued. “The book attempts to address those emotional hurdles.

“It’s tough to let go. I do a pretty good job in one or two meetings.”

Minor says the decision to write a book was based on his experience and desire to reach more people. He believed that if he could reach people with the book, he would establish his credibility with them before they even spoke, and bring more potential clients to the table. He says it has worked out that way.

“In 1980 I formed a partnership, and we became known as an exit-planning firm. I’d meet with complete strangers, who often had a relationship with another law firm, and they would tell me things they wouldn’t tell their wife or their priest. I thought, if I have this impact on strangers, why shouldn’t I write a book?

“I decided to write the book to enhance my marketing. A stranger in Chicago or Iowa can read it, and say it answered questions they had been struggling with. They can read it and call or write me, and that continues to happen.”

Minor says the audience for his book is necessarily limited, but anyone in that audience can benefit from the book.

“There’s a narrow pool of readers: existing business owners who want to sell. I just did a seminar for 225 people with Wells Fargo. That’s a chance to be heard. Someone may (get) the book, put it on their desk, and three years later say, ‘Let’s meet.’”

Minor says he wrote the book in such a way it would not need to be revised. It includes stories and details about actual transactions he has handled.

“If they say they want to sell within three years, then every decision comes down to that,” he said. “I’m pretty successful (helping them) find the financial end game.”

One of the insights in the book is how ofttimes the new owner will ask the seller to remain with the company for a finite amount of time to smooth the transition. “In all probability the buyer will want you around for a transition period,” Minor said. That time period can last anywhere from a month to a year. Sometimes there is an agreement for a longer period of time, but Minor says such instances are often modified.

“Most don’t stick around for more than a year. They often agree to terminate early.”

Whatever the circumstance, Minor believes he has covered it or at least alluded to it in his book. Then it’s up to the reader to work with him to make the sale happen.

June 27, 2013

Avoid That Fail: The Top 5 Things to do to Make Sure Your Book Fails

Guest Blog by Peter Winick

I figured there are plenty of “experts” out there both online and off that will tell you everything you need to do to ensure that your book is a huge success, so I thought I would share with you the 5 things I’ve learned that will make sure your book is a failure.

This might be helpful because with all of the information readily available somehow the average business book still sells less than 2,000 units so something is clearly not working in the current marketplace.

1) Don’t define what success looks like.

Whether it’s hitting the best-seller list, getting exposure for yourself or your brand, engaging people that will follow you in the future, driving sales of a specific offering, don’t think of those things upfront — they are difficult decisions and it will all just “work itself out” once the book is released. You’ll know what success looks like when you get there.

2) Don’t ask for help from anyone.

Let’s face it — your friends and family are busy and your clients have full schedules so it doesn’t make much sense to bother anyone and ask them to help you get the word or message out. After all, most of us are too shy, it’s somewhat awkward and if we can avoid asking for help we certainly should. Most books become incredibly successful by a combination of luck, fate and serendipity.

3) Spend as much time as possible on the cover.

You can never have too many versions of the cover to pick from. 30? 40?  I’d say at least 100. Ask everyone around you for months on end to give you their input (but don’t waste time asking an expert — your friends and colleagues certainly know best). It clearly makes perfect sense given that you’ve spent a year or more of your life writing the book…it’s all about the cover.

4) The publisher knows best.

Never argue with the publisher, after all, they publish hundreds of books a year and your book is obviously the one they care the most about. They know your content better than you and the 23 year old “Assistant to the Assistant of the Junior Director of Marketing” that they will assign to market your book clearly knows what she’s doing. She’s been there for almost three months and can follow their “marketing” template fairly well, plus she read a lot books in college. You’re in good hands.

5) The web and social media are a fad.

As an author you just need to know how to write a good book. The web, LinkedIn and Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are all for kids and they probably won’t be around that much longer. Book buyers obviously go to the book store to buy books, they aren’t wasting their time online so neither should you.

Visit Peter's website at

June 20, 2013

First In Wins. The Time is NOW!

The best time to write a book? NOW!

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

The immortal opening line of Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities could apply to today in terms of writing a book. In so many ways, with the rise of the internet and self-publishing, this is the best time to be an author.

Sure, I may be prejudiced in this regard, but I believe this really is the best time to write a book.

Why? Start with the fact that it’s never been easier to write a book. Computers and word processors offer an ease of use previously undreamed of, complete with spell-check, grammar-check, plot-check, and many other options.

Not only that, but the internet has opened up new avenues for authors seeking easy access to information about their field of interest and gain expertise in the subject.

Author, blogger and media whiz Guy Kawasaki says things have changed so much today, anyone with a good idea and skills can write a compelling book.

“Say you’re a science fiction  writer,” he said. “You can position yourself as an expert in science.”

How? First, you have easy access to research. Whether it’s black holes or advanced chemistry or biological or geological processes, you can find article after article that explains how things work and add to your knowledge.

Then, Kawasaki says creating an online presence that showcases your expertise and gains you an audience is easy. You can create a website, reach out to others through social media such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, develop your voice on a blog.

From there you can post relevant pieces and links to other posts and articles, and invite comments from others. “Curate great leads that position you as an expert,” said Kawasaki.

People will gradually begin following the posts, and eventually come to see you as not only an expert, but as someone they feel indebted to for helping them advance their interests.

Kawasaki says this last part is something that is often overlooked.

“I call it the NPR model,” Kawasaki said, referring to National Public Radio. “It’s okay for them to run a telethon and ask for money. I’m indebted to them because of the great education I get from their stories.

“If Terry Gross (host of the popular NPR program Fresh Air) wrote a book, I’d buy it.”

It’s also easier than ever to publish a book. Think back to before Gutenberg invented the printing press. You could write on a scroll or vellum, that is, if you were very, very careful (no erasers) and had outstanding handwriting. And if you could afford the cost. And if you knew how to write. And even if all those applied, there wasn’t much of an audience. Not a lot of incentive.

Move up a few hundred years, and while the population was much more literate, there were still obstacles in the way of writing an actual book. Even in the late 20th century, you were still at the mercy of a publishing industry that was motivated totally by profit. Unless someone was convinced your book had the potential to make the company money, you were out of luck.

And even if you were able to convince a company to publish your book, your troubles were far from over. Headaches could include everything from company-imposed deadlines to printing delays. You – the author – would typically have little say over book and cover design. And as for marketing efforts, you were still at the mercy of the publisher.

Compare that to today. With all the self-publishing tools that are available, it’s possible to go from finished manuscript to publication in as little as 48 hours. E-books and print-on-demand make it possible for an author to hit the best-seller lists far quicker than ever before.

The internet also has given writers easy access to editors, a key consideration for anyone writing a book, but especially for someone looking to self-publish (and especially, especially a first-time writer looking to self-publish). You also have at your fingertips a myriad of designers. There are more print and selling options available than ever before.

So back to that opening quote. It’s the best of times, but is it also the worst of times for someone looking to write a book? If they don’t have something compelling to say, if they don’t seek out professional assistance from editors and designers, if they don’t take advantage of the marketing and public relations tools available, then, well, yes.

But that’s why we’re here: To help guide you and provide the assistance you need to write that interesting, engaging, and, ultimately, successful book.

June 6, 2013

You’re a writer. So can you write a book?

You’re a writer. So can you write a book?

You can, as long as you develop and maintain your motivation. As an example, look at the bloggers who have become successful authors.

Pamela Slim writes a blog called Escape From Cubicle Nation. It tells readers how to start their own businesses and leave their cubicles behind.

She told Mashable that she considers a book a challenge and an opportunity, a way to drive more business to your blog and business.

“As much as blogging feels important, it is brief and fleeting. You can crank out a killer post that gets tons of attention, but then it fades away,” she told Mashable.

“A book … forces you to string together a whole bunch of different ideas into a cohesive story. On the business side, there is no denying that having a published book opens doors. It is much easier to get traditional press coverage, and speaking gigs. People often assume that you are a ‘real writer’ when you have a book, even if you have been writing for years on a blog.”

She’s certainly not alone. In the same piece on Mashable, Walker Lamond, who writes a blog on things to tell his unborn son to help him grow into a responsible adult, says going from blogging to writing is worth the effort. “It is still the simplest and most lucrative way to monetize your work,” he said.

Then there’s Julie Powell. The onetime government bureaucrat took on the challenge of cooking every single recipe in Julia Child’s landmark book Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

Along the way, she began blogging about the experience, resulting in numerous articles about her and her blog. Then came the book, which sold beyond anyone’s expectations, including hers. It was followed by the movie Julie and Julia, starring Amy Adams and Meryl Streep.

But it’s not always an easy step. For every 100 ideas, perhaps one actually gets written. That’s why you need the determination, the stick-to-it-ivness to turn the idea of the day into a series of ideas that will stand the test of time.

Those who have managed to do so, like the above examples, have had the motivation to follow through on the commitment, even though writing a book doesn’t offer the immediacy or the immediate feedback of a blog.

May 21, 2013

We Wrote the Book On It!

Analytics Company Uses Book to Legitimize its Role

Sarah Allen-Short sees the value of writing a book.

In fact, the public relations director for the Ann Arbor-based customer experience analytics company Foresee can attest to the impact of a book firsthand.

Her company’s CEO, Larry Freed, was already  recognized and respected throughout the industry. But when he authored the book Managing Forward: How to Move from Measuring the Past to Managing
the Future, he became even more noted as a thought leader.

“We saw a need to put our world-view out there,” said Allen-Short. “It gives us credibility with a higher-level reader.”

Not to mention greater visibility in the marketplace. Freed has appeared on or been profiled in CNN, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, Investor's Business Weekly, Internet Retailer, Multichannel Merchant, DM News, Computerworld, Federal Computer Week and Government Executive, among numerous others.

Allen-Short is quick to point out that having written a book is not the sole reason for Freed’s celebrity. But it has given him increased credibility in the marketplace.

“It’s a tool of legitimacy,” she said.

Beyond that, it offered Freed and Foresee a way to stand out from the crowd. “It’s one of the things we use to differentiate ourselves,” said Allen-Short.

And those inside the company weren’t the only ones who believed in the project. “Clients said there was a need for it,” she noted.

Allen-Short says a book has to stand on its own. “No one will read a book that’s a commercial,” she said.

But in the case of a company like Foresee, which has developed a means of measuring customer satisfaction as a return on investment, a book explaining the process and its value has, well, value.

Of course, the book is not the only way in which Freed and company tell the world about Foresee. “We have a lot of ways to distribute information,” says Allen-Short, pointing to blogs, marketing brochures, websites, etc.

But a book – now, that delivers something else entirely. Trustworthiness. Expertise. Gravitas.

“It’s just another level of credibility. It’s not a marketing piece, but it is a marketing too,” she said.

The company provides the book to those attending conferences, to customers, company CEOs – people that the company and its staff believe will benefit from the material.

The company’s first book was published independently. Its second will be published by Wiley, the company that produces the “Dummy” series, among others. But in a unique twist, the first chapters will be published ahead of the book as a special preview copy through the Jenkins Group.

May 9, 2013

Cookbook Fosters Growth at Culinary Shop

When should you write a book? Is it enough that people tell you that you should?

Not usually. But if enough people say it, and you have something to say, then maybe they’re right.

That was the case for Jim Milligan. The owner of Fustini’s Oils and Vinegars started his business in 2008 after retiring from 3M. Within just a short time, not only was the business taking off, his customers were suggesting that Milligan craft a cookbook.

Perhaps suggesting isn’t quite a strong enough word.

“From the minute we opened – in the beginning – customers said. ‘You should write a cookbook.’ So we finally did it,” said Milligan.

It wasn’t that easy. Milligan said the store had been so busy that he couldn’t spare the time the first three years the store was in business.

But Milligan finally decided it was time. So in 2011 he grabbed the bull by the horns, and working with local chefs, created In the Kitchen with Fustini’s.

It was an immediate hit. It was followed last year by How Fustini’s Do Fustini’s.

Milligan says the books have had a positive impact on his business.

“They’ve been very successful,” he said. “We’ve been able to bundle them (with vinegars and oils), it’s a great gift for the holidays.”

The first book featured recipes from area chefs whose restaurants were among those to use Fustini’s products. The second included recipes from staff and customers who submitted their favorites for inclusion.

Milligan says the books are a perfect complement to the store’s products.

“What we sell is a consumable. If you don’t give your customer new ways to use the product you won’t get re-buys,” he said.

“If they don’t know what to do with lavender-infused olive oil,

Ultimately, the bottom line is the bottom line. 

“For us it’s a really positive marketing tool,” said Milligan.

So much so that Milligan and company are in the midst of their third cookbook, with plans to continue at the pace of one each year.

The cookbooks are the perfect marketing piece for a business that relies on customers creating new ways to use the products that Milligan stocks in his store.

So if someone says “You oughta write a book,” maybe you should listen to them.