From billboards to social media ads to TV spots, as a business owner, we're always on the prowl for opportunities to get more eyeballs on our company. One battle-tested, surefire way to catapult your brand awareness to the stratosphere is by publishing a book.
From Tim Ferriss to Gary Vaynerchuk, the list of wildly successful entrepreneurs who got their start from a book is lengthy. In today's economy, information and authority are king, so having an asset as trusted as a book to back up your name and build credibility will inevitably help you increase company sales in the long run.
Make no mistake though, publishing a non-fiction book is no easy task. When it comes to your book hitting store shelves, here's what most entrepreneurs get wrong, and what to do instead.
What Most Entrepreneurs Get Wrong
One prominent mistake entrepreneurs make with book publishing is approaching agents before already having an established platform (a.k.a. audience), a powerful network or authority in their space. In order to minimize risk when it comes to book sales, publishers look for individuals with respectable influence in the field the book falls into.
I spoke with Mark Gottlieb of Trident Media Group -- one of the industry's leading literary agents as ranked by Publishers Marketplace -- who's represented NY Times Bestselling authors, optioned numerous books to become TV shows, films and more about publishing non-fiction.
He told me how important it is to have a solid writing foundation before deciding to go for a book deal. "Entrepreneurs who set out to write a book need to make certain they have a strong platform," said Gottlieb. "Whether that's a huge social media following, a massive newsletter subscriber base, tons of website visits, ties with powerful organizations, and so on."
Luckily, as an entrepreneur you're already an expert in your respective field or have powerful connections you've made over the years (well, hopefully). For instance, if you've owned a coffee shop in Oakland for 12 years and want to publish a book on coffee roasting, you'll have a much better chance at landing a deal than the hobbyist coffee snob who's also an accountant.
1. Begin publishing online content.
To start your journey of becoming a thought leader, you can write blogs that answer the common questions of your industry. As you reach out and get published on small or mid-sized blogs, it will be much easier to work your way up the ladder to more premium publications. Once you get on top-notch blogs, your authority and prestige as an expert will boom -- increasing the chances of you successfully landing a book deal.
2. Strong query letter & pitch.
Having a rock-solid, airtight query letter is absolutely essential to landing a book deal or literary agent. In your pitch, conduct in-depth research to make sure your book idea is original and highly marketable. What other titles have sold well in your category? Ask yourself, if you saw your future book while browsing around Barnes & Noble, would you stop to buy it?
3. Network with movers and shakers in your industry.
Along with my column for Inc.com, one of the main reasons my current agent decided to represent my non-fiction project was because of the network I've built over the years being involved in the marketing industry. By having high-profile influencers as my friends who I know would provide me with a book blurb or at least a shout-out on social media, I was able to bypass having tens of thousands of followers myself.
If you don't have a huge following online or elsewhere, be sure to begin networking with movers and shakers in your space. This can be done a number of ways:
- Thoughtfully comment on their social media content. Over time, they'll begin to recognize your face. Twitter is perfect for these touch points.
- Attend industry events, such as meetups and conferences.
- Reach out to industry podcasts to see if you could be a guest on their show. Be sure your subject matter will provide value to the podcast's audience. This could be a great opportunity to sit down and get to know that individual on an intimate level.
4. Speak at all the industry events you can.
Gottlieb also told me publishers and agents love entrepreneurs who regularly give speaking engagements at industry events. Why? Well, these are terrific venues to sell books to like-minded people who could benefit from your material. If you don't already have speaking gigs lined up, start the outreach process ASAP.
5. Know it's a numbers game.
Even J.K. Rowling was rejected by a dozen of industry-leading publishers. After you've written one or two sample chapters, finished your book proposal and are finally ready to begin querying agents, know that rejection is inevitable. I sent my book to forty-three agents -- forty-one rejected me. It's all part of the process.