Not every pitch from a publisher for a major piece of content marketing begins with, “When are you going to write a book, you fool?”
Mine did. Here’s what I would do differently the next time I write a book.
This is hardly the way I imagined the process of writing a book to begin. It was the weirdest kind of reverse pitch, from a publisher who works exclusively with creative firm principals.
The publisher’s challenge was a call to take content marketing to a new level, with timeless content for smart readers, published in book form. Resisting the allure of publishing about trending themes is a long tail approach, but he assured me, “[When you publish] the whole world looks at you differently.”
With that, the gauntlet was thrown, the challenge made, and the publisher finished his pitch to me with this comment: “You’ll be a fool until it’s published.” It was an unusual way to begin a relationship with a publisher and to begin the journey of writing my first book.
Personal opinions of my character aside— five years later—there are several things I would not do when I publish my next book.
I Would Not Wait to Build an Audience
While “Begin at the beginning” is excellent advice, when it comes to content creation and publishing a book, it’s the worst advice ever.
Had I been more familiar with Stephen Covey at that point, I would have understood his principle, “Begin with the end in mind.” My take on this is, “The heart may inspire you to start a journey, but you must begin with the end in mind.”
The end I would have started with was my market and audience: If I wrote a book, who would read it?
- I should have immediately focused on building as large an email list as possible, relentlessly curating an audience who mattered and understanding what they wanted to learn. Instead, my focus was on writing new content for my blog, the book, and running my agency.
- I would not count on “If you write it, they will read it.” The day you publish your book isn’t the day you should begin to build your audience — you should be engaged with them for a minimum of 12 months before your book launches.
- Social media, marketing, and book launches can be money-wasting endeavors if you don’t have an audience in place the day your content launches.
I Would Not Wait to Engage Readers and Reviewers
Professional book marketing firms can help you do this, but it only works if their expertise aligns with your content, a lesson I learned at great expense. Nobody knows your content or your audience as well as you do.
Here are the relational things I would do differently when I do it again:
- I would not wait until the book was in the design phase to seek endorsers. Quality endorsements come from busy people (although Seth Godin shared with me that endorsements are not as useful as authors and publishers believe them to be). Nonetheless, people do read them, and often buy based on an endorsement.
- I would not wait to ask for reviews after the book is printed and for sale. I would have had a launch team in place to read and share reviews within the first couple of weeks.
- I would cultivate relationships with influencers who publish “must-read” lists and politely ask them to consider my book.
I Would Not Count on Someone Else to Promote My Book or Content
Seth Godin rightly claims, “If you don’t promote it, no one will.”
I essentially self-published my first book with RockBench Publishing Corp., an established well-respected niche publisher. In this case, I paid for design, editing, printing, and promotion… the publisher distributes the book through Amazon.com.
- I would not count on anyone else to be responsible for promoting the book or finding opportunities for follow-on writing and guest blogging.
- I would not wait to build a network of influencers who could share the book with a wider audience.
- I would not count on advice or promotion that may have worked for other people.
- I would not ignore or be unaware of book award programs and their potential for return on minimum investment (and bragging rights if your book is selected!)
While the book has not been a commercial success in the same way the publishing industry measures success, it is an influential work that sells consistently and opens doors for client engagements and speaking opportunities.
While I haven’t asked If the publisher still considers me a “fool,” it is gratifying to know he references me and my book “Raise Your Voice: A Cause Manifesto,” in his new book “The Business of Expertise: How Entrepreneurial Experts Convert Insight to Impact + Wealth.”
In retrospect, I would not allow myself to let the perceived expectations of others be the measure of my success, or the arbitrary rules of outdated publishing models to determine the marketing path I follow. I would define what success looks like at the beginning, manage my expectations, and plan accordingly to achieve it.