I know you’ve heard some version of these two pieces of advice before…not from me…but from anyone who has written a book:
“Everyone needs to write a book.”
And then the corollary usually comes after that:
“The only way to sell a book is through a ‘free shipping and handling book offer and funnel’ for maximum sales and profit.”
The words “everyone” and “only” are underlined for a reason…because whenever I hear these words from self-appointed gurus, my skepticism meter registers at very high level.
Should everyone write regularly—whether to themselves or to an audience?
But there is never a requirement to write a book.
And is there only one way to sell (or publish) a book?
Absolutely not…it depends on why you are writing the book in the first place…and creating an elaborate sales funnel as a first step doesn’t make sense…to me anyway.
It could be a valid second or third step…but answering the question “why should I write a book?” is always the first step.
So…if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?
Or…when it comes to writing books:
“If you write a book and no one reads it, does it still make an impact (and is it still worth writing)?”
But it comes back to why you want to write a book in the first place…it could be to make money, to build a list, to make an impact or to leave an eternal footprint…or any other reason you can think of to take on the endeavor.
All are valid. None are exclusive.
However, a book not read is a terrible thing to waste.
While there’s nothing wrong using a book purely (and solely) as a vehicle to sell more things up the food chain, I still believe (stubbornly) that getting buyers of your book to read it should still be the top priority.
Remember…I have been labeled the “Director of Sales Prevention” by friends and colleagues in the marketing world…but I wear that title as a badge of honor if it means having people read what I write without the requirement of buying something.
That doesn’t mean I am a non-profit enterprise either.
I can confidently say that my two books…and this blog…and the hundreds of podcasts, speeches, presentations I’ve given (“writing with my voice”), even without an elaborate sales funnel accompanying everything I do, has earned me millions of dollars…without ever getting paid directly for writing (except for an advance on my second book).
Do I leave money on the table? Sure I do. But that is not the only measure of success with writing.
I “got rich slowly” …and in my opinion, the rewards were greater because I built my audience slowly as well, with people who wanted to read and listen to what I have to say.
And people who I can truly call “family.”
I’m perfectly fine with anyone who is not interested in this way of doing things or finds my content not relevant.
Feel free to unsubscribe from my online family anytime…although I hope it’s not because of this blog post. 🙂
During the hot seats for the current Breakthrough Advertising Bootcamp, someone asked a question that got me going on this idea of “everyone doesn’t need to write a book.”
But I made sure to emphasize that everyone needs to write.
The question went something like this:
“I have a compelling story to tell but I’m not a writer. How can I get it out into the world?”
First of all we ALL have compelling stories…but as I said above, there is no guarantee that just because you write it, anyone will read it (assuming you want an audience).
More on that in a minute.
His question went on to suggest that he’s been through a hero’s journey, with lots of pain, coming out the other end bigger and better, with scars (i.e., lessons) from those battles.
And he wanted to know whether to lead with the pain or the pleasure of his story…and that became the discussion which is a topic in itself for a future blog.
My suggestions, and the suggestions of those on the call, included “talking his story” first (and then transcribing it)…or using a building blocks approach like Gene Schwartz used (write down everything you want to say without form, editing, proper grammar—an intellectual brain dump).
Regardless of how he gets his story written, it will eventually need to be something worth reading…which felt intimidating to him.
We alleviated his fears by emphasizing that all he should do initially is write…not edit…and get something done rather than make it perfect.
The first draft does not need to be a masterpiece or a bestseller.
I remember sitting in a creative meeting one day in the early 1990’s talking about a book called The Book of Inside Information (which we called “BII”).
Those of you who are new to my online family might not know that I helped build and grow a wonderful direct marketing company and publisher called Boardroom Inc. for almost 35 years.
Our flagship newsletter, Bottom Line/Personal, was the largest circulation consumer newsletter in America at one time reaching over 1 million paid subscribers at its height.
We also created many large books that were “greatest hits” from our newsletters and none sold more copies than The Book of Inside Information.
Over its lifespan, “BII” sold over 3 million 500+ page hardcover books, all through direct mail.
All were sold at $30 to $40, and they were never discounted in retail or on Amazon (except when someone wanted to sell a copy that didn’t sell very well at their garage sale). 🙂
We were sitting in this creative meeting after another huge successful mailing, ready to re-launch a new edition of the book, and someone suggested that we create a headline (or a large burst on the outer envelope) for the promotion, that said something like:
“Over 3 million copies sold!”
However, while that might work for a mass market book, I didn’t think it was congruent to this particular book.
After all, if the information is so “inside” (i.e., secrets), and 3 million other people have the information at their disposal already, how ‘inside’ can it really be?
I came up with an alternative headline, a bit tongue and cheek, and one that we did not use (but we had a good laugh):
“Over 3 million copies sold…but only about a dozen have actually been READ!”
There are so many reasons to write a book and they are different for every author or every company writing or publishing one.
And in our world of direct response marketing and entrepreneurship, making a lot of money can be the main reason to write and publish a book.
Some yearn for a New York Times bestseller (which also might have nothing to do with making money, only spending it—I know people who spent millions to get their book to #1 and others who spent millions to get their book to #101). 🙂
Some just want a vehicle to express themselves fully.
Many want to create a lasting legacy.
Others want to use the book as a lead magnet or list builder.
And there is a large group who just want a more impressive “business card.”
In the case of “BII”, we worked under the premise that even if you sell more books than anyone in a category, you still might want to hide that fact from public view.
That’s one you probably never heard before.
But whatever the reason, it’s your reason…and knowing what it is before you embark on such a project is critical.
There were many times during the writing of my book Overdeliver when I wondered whether it would be “worth it” …and the one thing that kept me going was knowing that some people would read it and apply its principles.
A simple goal.
And to encourage that result, I created an irresistible resource page.
No need to leave anything to chance.
Always use ethical bribes regardless of how confident you are with your content. 🙂
There was no guarantee it was going to work …but knowing that trees are falling everywhere (and constantly)–with no one paying attention–made it a worthwhile challenge and endeavor.
P.S. Not too long ago, after publishing my first book, The Advertising Solution, I was approached by Entrepreneur Magazine to be part of an article with 7 other entrepreneurs on using writing to advance our careers (including my good friends JJ Virgin, Mike Koenigs and Cameron Herold…and one of my mentors, Dan Sullivan).
I was honored to participate and I want to share the piece with you today.
As you will read here, all 8 of us had different reasons to write a book, all valid, and all part of a bigger (and personal) mission for each of us.
You can click on the screenshot to read it.
P.P.S. Have you written a book or want to write a book?
I’m interested in your reasons for writing one…or for not writing one.
I’d love to get some additional perspectives on what I shared today.
And since my second book, Overdeliver, had an unfortunate “launch date” (which you can read about here), I have since learned that any book can have a perpetual launch strategy (i.e., being opportunistic with your book whenever an opportunity arises assuming the content is evergreen).
I’d love to read your perspectives on that as well.
P.P.P.S. I’d also love it if you would take a look at the two resource pages I created for each of my books to give me any feedback for improvements (since I am still “launching” both). 🙂
And of course, if you haven’t bought my books yet, feel free to purchase them and enjoy all of the amazing “ethical bribes” on these pages:
I make nothing on the sales of my books and I already have you as part of my online family…so my only reason to send you to buy my books is to entice you to actually read them. 🙂