Posts Tagged ‘business books’

During the past few years, it has been increasingly obvious that the whole point of writing a book is not to sell books, but to build long-term and profitable reader relationships.

Yes, there are authors who support themselves with six figure advances and huge royalties, but there are also those who buy one lottery ticket and win millions of dollars.

In either case, you can’t count on favorable outcomes. The odds are too much against you.

A much better strategy, with a much higher probability of success, is to consider your book the core of your long-term self (or business) marketing plan. In this scenario, your book becomes the hub of a relationship-building strategy that begins long before your book appears and continues for years afterward.

Building “hooks” in your book

Long-term success requires inserting “hooks” into your book intended to drive readers to your website. This important marketing and profit task deserves your attention as soon as possible. There are two reasons why:

  1. While you’re planning your book, you need to select the type of relationship-building bonus content you’re going to offer readers and how you’re going to promote the bonus in your book.
  2. While writing your book, you need to be setting up, or delegating and supervising, the set-up of the online support structure needed to distribute your book’s bonus contents, i.e., autoresponders, landing pages, etc.

The above are too important, and too complex, to be left to the last minute.

Using your book to drive website traffic

Let’s start with the basic premise; readers who buy your book are your best source of coaching, consulting, and speaking profits.

If someone invests $20, or more, in a copy of your book, they’re raising their hand and indicating that they’re interested in what you have to say. Their purchase is proof they have problems they want to solve, or goals they want to achieve.

More important, by spending their hard-earned money on your book, they’re indicating that they think you’re the one to help them; you’re the obvious expert they trust, and they want to know more!

Your job at this point is to provide opportunities to learn more about you and the services you provide, information that shouldn’t appear too prominently in your book! No one wants to pay $20 to be advertised to- -save the infomercials for late-night television!

Registration and bonus content

Your big challenge, as you plan and write your book, is to come up with a way to subtly drive readers to your website.

Once readers of your book are at your website, you can introduce them to your marketing funnel; you can offer them access to bonus content in exchange for signing-up for your e-mail newsletter. In addition, once they’re at your website, you can describe additional ways you can help them solve their problems and achieve their goals.

As described in my Streetwise Guide to Relationship Marketing on the Internet, there are several categories of bonus content you can share with readers of your book:

  1. Assessments. Assessments are worksheets or interactive forms that help readers self-assess their understanding of your book, or evaluate the areas of their business where change is needed, such as my Making the most of Microsoft Word assessment.
  2. Checklists. Checklists, are similar to assessments in that they can either be downloadable and printed or filled-out online. Checklists help readers monitor their progress as they complete tasks described in your book.
  3. Deeper content. Ideas that are only introduced can be converted into detailed case studies and, often, step-by-step procedurals that will help your readers put your ideas to work.
  4. Excess content. Often, working with your editor, you’ll discover that there is no room for some of your best ideas. Instead of discarding them, use them as downloadable bonus content to thank your readers for buying your book.
  5. Pass-along content. One of the best ways to promote your book to new prospective book buyers (and clients) is to provide readers with information that they can pass along to their friends and co-workers.
  6. Specialized content. As an alternative to going deeper, i.e., great detail, you can adapt the ideas in your book for different vertical markets, such as different occupations or industries. You can also adapt your book’s content into beginner’s guides or offer advice for more advanced readers.
  7. Updated content. New ideas and examples are certain to appear the day after approval of the final proof of your book. Although you can, and should, use your blog to share new content, often you can use it as reader rewards.
  8. Worksheets. The best worksheets are those that help readers overcome inertia and avoid procrastination by immediately starting to implement the lessons described in your book. My sample Book Proposal Planner is an example of an online worksheet.

You can distribute the above bonus content ideas in a variety of formats; Adobe Acrobat PDF’s, password-protected pages, streaming audio or video, or- -if appropriate- -as mailed reports or CDs and DVDs.

How do you limit bonus content to legitimate readers?

Many authors only share their book’s bonus content with readers who register their name and e-mail addresses. Others limit distribution to readers who enter a password that appears in a specific location of their book, i.e., The second word at the top of Page 138.

These limiting strategies can be self-defeating and project an inappropriate image. The goal of writing a book is to build lasting and profitable relationships with readers, not test their persistence.

One of the techniques I used with my Relationship Marketing book, above, was to offer downloadable PDF’s of each of the worksheets in my book, and include the URL for the worksheets on the pages of the book referring, or displaying, each worksheet.

Getting a head start

As you can see, authors who only begin to think about marketing their book after it’s been published are at a significant disadvantage compared to those who address reader relationship building while planning and writing their book. Don’t make the mistake of failing to have a plan for converting readers into clients by driving them to your website as they read your book

Unless you are self-publishing your book, one of the most important steps in your journey to a published book is to attract the attention of the right literary agent. A well-written book proposal stored on your hard drive doesn’t do anyone any good. You need someone to help you with the birthing process of your first book.

Agents and midwives

Choosing a literary agent to represent your first book is similar to choosing a midwife for the birth of your first child. For example:

  • You don’t know where to look.
  • You don’t know what you’re looking for.
  • You want someone with credentials and experience, yet you also want someone with whom you feel instant confidence, rapport, and trust.

That’s quite a list!

As in so many other areas of publishing, there’s an “old way” and a “new way.”

The “old way” of locating a literary agent

Until recently, the starting point for most authors was to buy one of the guides to literary agents that were published each year. These guides contained listings of agents, contact information, and areas of specialization.

After reviewing the hundreds, if not thousands, of agency profiles, authors would prepare and send query letters to agents chosen from the profiles.

The problem, of course, that immediately comes to mind, is “How do you choose the agents you’re going to contact?” You can’t really afford to send query letters- -let alone, complete proposals- -to every agent, and “cold-calling” on the telephone is not recommended unless agents specifically invite telephone calls. So, what is the criteria you’re going to use in making your decision?

On the surface, you could choose literary agencies based on their size, (“small is good” versus “a large agency with clout.”) Or, you could choose agents based on their location, (“I want a New York City agency!), or books previously represented, (fiction versus non-fiction, areas of specialization, or best-sellers you may recognize).

Even if you make the right selection, the “guide” approach puts a premium on your direct-response letter-writing skills, and your ability to craft a letter that engages the agent’s attention and convinces to read further in the first sentence. Basically, your experiences and your potential have to be boiled down to a 10 or 30 word “hook” intended to get their permission to send them your book proposal.

Another problem is the volume of query letters sent to agents listed in the yearly guides. It’s not only hard to boil a book down to 3 or 4 paragraphs, it’s even harder to make your query letter stand out from the 10, 25, or 100 letters that might be arriving the same week as yours.

Plus, who is reading your query letters? Is it an agency principal, or is it a newly-hired intern who is hired to select a couple of query letters each day from the pile that grows a little deeper each day?

It can be done; the old way does work, and numerous first-time nonfiction authors do it every day. But, thankfully, there is a better way, a new way.

Improving on the “old way”

I’ve never been a fan of the “shotgun approach” to attracting a literary agent. It doesn’t offer potential authors enough control or likelihood of success. The competition is too great, it puts a premium on skills that might not play to your strengths, and- -basically- -the odds are stacked against you.

A refinement of the “old way” approach that slightly improves your chances of success involves attending writing conferences, where you are likely to get “face time” with potential agents. While chatting with presenters and attendees between sessions and during networking events, you might find yourself talking to an agent or publisher who might be the perfect “midwife” for your book.

A variation to this is to seek out events where there are “pitchfests” where authors get a chance to present and defend their proposal to several agents as part of the program.

The down side of pitchfests is that they’re usually time-limited, you need nerves of steel, they place you in direct competition with others, and you have to deal with conference, lodging, and travel costs- -which can quickly mount up.

Branding: the “new way” authors attract agents

The “new way” of locating a literary agent reverses the whole process: instead of authors seeking agents, it’s based on agents using the Internet to seek authors!

The Internet- -blogs, search engines, and social media make it feasible for authors to attract agents the same way authors attract readers!

The first time I became aware of the power of the Internet to facilitate getting published was when I interviewed David Meerman Scott, the author of The New Rules of Marketing & PR. In his book and interview, David described how his book’s success was driven by blogging about it and allowing readers to download chapters for free.

Since then, for Published & Profitable, I’ve interviewed numerous other first-time authors,  such as Gar Reynolds, author of Presentation Zen and others whose first books emerged from out of nowhere as highly-successful business books because of the author’s blogging activities.

During my interview with Gar Reynolds, for example, it turned out he wasn’t necessarily going to write a book, his immediate goal was to develop and share his presentation philosophy with others through his blog.

His passion-driven blog created his market and- -in doing so- -not only validated the need for a book, but attracted agents and publishers who were looking for fresh book ideas!

The key words, of course, are “agents looking for books”

And, in a nutshell, that’s what the new way is all about, and that’s the power of blogs like this which has already served as the launch pad for several successful books, as continues to do for new authors. You can visit Rajesh Setty’s Blogtastic Project for an insider’s look at the “new way” in action.

So, there’s a new way to attract a literary agent in the Web 2.0 world. Instead of going hat-in-hand to agents, doing exactly what tens of thousands of other authors are doing, you can attract agents to you by creating a blog with a title that creates a brand, and posting helpful, relevant, and useful at frequent interviews.

Do your job right, and be ready for the day you receive an e-mail or blog post comment from an agent, or publisher, who is looking for a fresh perspective on your topic and is impressed by your blog.

Resources, old and new

Here are several books describing “old way” approaches to attracting a literary agent through query letters:

The best of the “new way” resources remains the second edition of David Meerman Scott’s New Rules of Marketing & PR and his follow-up, World Wide Rave.

Conclusion

There’s finally a new and better way to attract a literary agent- -and I find it pretty exciting. No longer is agent acquisition a “blind numbers game” based on spending your time crafting 3 or 4-paragraph query letters sent to randomly-chosen recipients and waiting for an expression of interest. Instead, you can focus on developing and sharing your ideas, knowing that properly-managed content is its own reward, helping you attract literary agents who are searching for you!