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As an agency owner, one of the best ways you can increase your brand and take your company to the next level is to position yourself as an expert in the market. You can do this in all sorts of ways - by becoming a guest on TV or radio shows, by speaking at conferences around the world, by producing articles or podcasts for top-ranking websites, or by writing and publishing a book.
Being an author automatically gives you an additional level of respect. It takes a huge amount of work to produce a book, but having your name on the cover tells potential clients and contacts that you are someone who knows what they’re talking about. Being an author can open doors for you - speaking opportunities, branded collaborations … the list goes on.
A book is also a great way to add an additional income stream to your skillset. You can sell your book online, through bookstores, and at events - and keep some of the profits.
Convinced? Here’s how to get started writing your book:
What Should You Write About?
If you’re establishing yourself as an expert in a particular niche, obviously your book should focus on that niche. Many agency owners write books focused around their agency’s topic of interest. For example, Paul Roetzer - CEO of inbound agency PR20/20 - wrote The Agency Marketing Blueprint (Wiley 2012), and The Marketing Performance Blueprint (Wiley 2014) mixing his love of science with the art of successful marketing.
Think about the audience you want to attract. Are you writing for other creative CEOs, like Ed Catmull (founder of Pixar Animation Studios)? Catmull wrote Creativity, Inc. - a brilliant book about building a creative culture at your company, for other business owners who wanted to infuse their teams with a bit of that Disney magic. Are you writing for graduates entering your industry? Are you writing for business owners - your potential clients? Or are you writing for a general interest audience?
Read a few different books by agency owners and other creative experts. Jot down ideas that come to you as you read. Have you had a particularly popular blog post or talk in recent years? Could you expand that concept into a book? Think about where your passions and specialties lie. What topics are you most excited about?
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Write about your rise from to fame and glory, such as Sophie Amoruso’s #Girlboss.
- Offer a unique spin on an old topic, such as Brian Tracy’s Eat That Frog.
- Curate a series of essays, case studies or interviews with different authors or experts, such as Chris Guillebeau’s The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, & Create a New Future.
- Offer career advice to upcoming graduates, such as Aliza Licht’s Leave Your Mark.
- Create a guide for businesses or professionals based on the skills you’ve developed in your career, such as veteran marketing writer Ann Handley’s Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content.
Need more ideas? Check out our list of 25 Books Agency Leaders Should be Reading.
Create Your Book Proposal
Once you have a solid idea, the first thing you should do is write a book proposal, whether you’re publishing your book independently or you’re seeking a publisher.
A proposal is the standard format publishers use to decide which non-fiction books to acquire. It’s also an excellent exercise to conduct before you write your book as it gives you a solid plan to work from and forces you to figure out where your book sits in the market.
What should your book proposal contain?
- A summary of your book. I write this as if it’s the back cover blurb that will sell my book to readers. What’s the hook for your book? What are you going to cover and what are you doing that’s different?
- Target market: Who is going to be the reader of your book? Talk about media surveys of your demographic, major web sites catering to your reader base, and other indicators there’s a strong market for your book out there.
- A competitive analysis: Look at approx. 5 different books on the market in the same niche / covering the same subject matter. Assess what each book is doing right, as well as any shortfalls, and note how your book will compare to each of these and how.
- A table of contents for your book, showing the different chapters and subheadings
- Your author bio and platform/marketing plan: This is almost more important than the content of your book. Publishers want to see that you have an audience ready to buy the book. Demonstrate your - list your industry contacts, any speaking engagements you’ve had, publications you’ve been featured in, people you’ve contacted to write a forward, etc.
- Sample chapters: Usually at least 2-3.
Legendary literary agent and literary consultant Jane Friedman offers a great guide for creating book proposals that is a must-read.
Traditional vs Indie Publishing
It used to be the only real way to get a book out into the world was to find a publisher willing to print it. Now, indie publishing (also known as self-publishing) is becoming a legitimate choice for authors wanting to get their book directly to their audience.
Landing a traditional publishing deal has some significant advantages. You’ll be paid an advance when you sign your contract, so you’ve got some funds coming in immediately. Publishers have the market for print books absolutely cornered - they will get your book into stores and libraries across the world.
However, there are disadvantages, too. Publishers take a long time to make decisions and get things to print. You will wait months from the time you send out your proposals, to hear back from editors if they think your book is a good fit or not. And if you do get a book deal, it will be 1-2 years before your precious book actually hits the shelves. In the meantime, the market, your business, and your readers may have changed dramatically.
Alternatively, if you can’t be bothered waiting for all that to happen, you could try indie publishing (also called self-publishing). As you might be able to tell, I’m an indie-publishing advocate, having self-published 27 novels, novellas, how-to guides and short stories myself, and taught several other authors how to do the same.
Indie publishing enables you to control your book’s price, keywords, categories, and distribution. You can price how you like, and use promotional platforms like Bookbub to improve your readership. You can publish as much as you like, whenever you like, and capitalise on trends and gaps in the market. You can print your books on-demand and bring a stack along to conferences.
Once you’ve decided which way you’re going to go, you’ll need to get started. If you’re looking for that traditional book deal, you’ll need to research a list of publishers who accept similar books and pitch them with your proposal. If you’re going indie, you’ll need to write your book, source cover art, find an editor and proofreader you trust, and start writing.
Promoting Your New Book
You’ve done it! You’ve published a shiny new book! Now what do you do with it, and how do you use it to promote yourself and your company?
Here are a few ideas:
- First of all, add your book to your profile on your website and all your social media pages. Let all your followers celebrate your achievement!
- Set up your Amazon Author Central page, and add your bio and social media accounts.
- Bring along a copy or two to any networking groups you’re a part of.
- Add an image of your book cover (and website link) to the back of your business cards and in your email signature.
- Organise a book launch at your agency office. Book some great food and entertainment, and invite all your clients and business associates.
- Send a copy to the reviewer at the local newspaper / radio station - they’re always looking for local writers to talk to.
- Use a platform like NetGalley.com to send copies out to reviewers, or mail some copies off to revierers yourself (If you’re working with a publisher, they’re probably taking care of this for you).
- Bring a stack of books next time you give a presentation - you can sell them from a table at the back of the room.
Writing a book is definitely no easy feat, but it can be the catalyst that pushes your agency - and your career - into the stratosphere. Are you game to give it a try?