Since I wrote my book The Million-Dollar, One-Person Business, many entrepreneurs have asked me if publishing their own book will help them take their business to the next level. Some hope it will attract new business or speaking opportunities. Others want it to become the basis for a new product, such as a course.
I usually tell them it depends.
A book can be very helpful in growing a business, but not always. Before you dive in, it’s important to give it serious thought. Writing and polishing book requires more time and effort than most people think, whether you work with a commercial publisher or self-publish. As an entrepreneur, you’ve got to balance that against other demands on your time—like running your business.
Here are five questions to consider if you would like to write a book to grow your business.
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1. Why are you writing it? The most successful authors are generally self-motivated. Even if your spouse, friends, employees, investors or mentors have been begging you to write something, they’re not the ones who will be tapping away at 5 am to make it happen. You will. Make sure you are truly ready to do the work before you begin. Even if you bring in a ghostwriter, you still will need to make time to collaborate, probably every week. Which brings us to another important question…
2. How much time do you have to devote to it? Generally speaking, it takes at least six months to write a book and typically at least a year, whether you write a book yourself or bring in a professional writer to help you. Most entrepreneurs, in my experience, don’t work on a book full time. They have to fit it in between work, family and their other activities. That can be challenging, especially in an economy like the current one.
If you have any other big projects going on, like a product launch, or are in the middle of major life changes, like getting married or having a baby, it’s best to wait until you can make the book your number one focus for the year. A book is going to take up a lot of “head space” – usually more than people think – and it’s hard to juggle it with other big undertakings.
3. Are you familiar with what other authors are writing about your subject matter—and can you move the conversation forward?
Most of us want other people to read our books. It will be much easier to attract readers with a book that covers new ground on a relevant subject than with one that’s an overview of what’s been said before. You’ll know you’re ready to write your book when you can explain what makes it different in a sentence or two. It can take some time to figure that out, and your book will be more successful if you allow for that.
4. Is the book you envision about your readers?
Being an author is a little like being a party guest. Readers will enjoy the experience more if you’re focused on them. The more you can strike a balance between expressing yourself and entertaining and informing your readers, the more successful your book will be. Think of it as a conversation, not a monologue, which few writers can pull off successfully.
5. Are you willing to promote it?
It’s a lot more fun to write a book that gets people talking, writing to you, blogging about it, and inviting you onto podcasts than one that no one but your nearest and dearest have read.
Making this happen requires some effort, usually by building your social media presence, developing an email list or through other means, like hiring a publicist. The earlier you start, the better, as this can take time.
Sometimes, authors delay doing this, because they fear it will involve brash self-promotion. There’s actually no need to take the “me, me, me” approach. Simply by sharing information that’s helpful and relevant to your audience, such as great articles or videos you’ve come across, can go a long way toward building a following, especially if you commit to doing it once a day.
You’ll be surprised at how a small and incremental effort can pay off. But like every other aspect of writing a book, you’ve got to be willing to actually do it. If you are disciplined, you’ll have a good shot at bringing it over the finish line. And, if you’re lucky, you may find that your book takes on a life of its own, bringing you into contact with more opportunities and like-minded people than you ever knew were out there.