I recently spoke with a client -- the CEO of a mid-cap company -- who asked me if I thought writing a book would be a viable way to build his company and personal CEO brand. My enthusiastic response was "In your case, absolutely."

Over the years I've worked with dozens of CEOs on writing e-books, book proposals, and traditionally published books and many have reaped huge benefits from publishing. The quality of their content, design, and the degree to which they promote the book, have all factored in, but some of the results include:

  • Increase in flow of potential customers
  • New closed business  
  • Media interview requests
  • Invitations to speak
  • Shortened sales cycles 
  • Partnerships and strategic alliances
  • Recognition as thought leaders 

Why do you want to write a book?  

When someone tells me they want to write a book to make money off the book sales themselves, I have the unfortunate job of telling them that probably won't happen. Most books sell less than 500 copies.

What a good book can do is help generate income from the business it brings in the door, due to exposure and credibility. Other more compelling reasons for a CEO to write a book include:   

  • Do you have content expertise, a philosophy or system you want to share?
  • Would writing a book help you to establish your thought leadership?
  • Are you so full of knowledge about a specific subject that you will burst if you don't get it out?
  • Would writing a book create a flow of potential new clients and/or enhance the credibility of your business? 

If the answer to any of the above is a resounding "yes," then writing a book may be just what the branding doctor ordered. 

What type of book should you write? And do you want to self or traditionally publish?

Today, a "book" can be anything from a short downloadable 30-page pamphlet, to a full-blown 70,000-word trade book available at your local bookstore.    

The type of "book" a CEO, business owner, or C-suite executive writes depends on what their ultimate goal is. If you're looking for a short, sweet downloadable to give away on your website, a 3,000-word e-book with graphics might do the trick. 

On the other hand, if you want to establish yourself as a serious expert and thought leader, a more in-depth book with case studies, research, etc., may be more what you are looking for. 

If it's the later, the issue become whether to self-publish or traditionally publish. There are serious pros and cons to both, and which way to go has become a big topic of conversation. Here's my bottom line.

  • If you are more interested in creative control and getting something out fast and are willing to spend the time and money to do the work -- self publish. The biggest upside? You get to keep all the profits yourself.
  • If you're writing a book for greater positioning as a thought leader, looking for added credibility and cache, and don't want to manage all the additional work such as editing, cover design, etc., then traditionally publish or use a hybrid company that offers to publish for a fee. The biggest upside? Someone else handles almost everything but the writing.

What's the best way to get a book written?

If you've got a way with words, write the book yourself and have someone else edit it. Not a natural Shakespeare? Hire a ghost writer, talk the book to someone and work off the dictation, and record your webinars, presentations, and speeches for source material. 

I have worked with dozens of executives who were not gifted writers but were great talkers, and we were able to generate books. Keep in mind, however, that the way you talk does not usually translate into good writing. Editing is always needed to make your ideas come to life on paper.

What happens after I write the book?

This is where the work really begins. Regardless of whether your book is self or traditionally published, it will be up to you as the author to be its primary promoter including arranging for social media campaigns, podcast and blog tours, book reviews on Amazon, speaking engagements, etc.

Book promotion is an area fraught with mine traps and requires careful planning to avoid wasted time, money, and effort.   As I tell my clients "there is a pre-book promotion, and post book promotion phase." Skipping this step inevitably limits the possibilities of a book that otherwise, could be a great brand builder.    

If all this is making you rethink how much work writing a book is -- good. Writing a book -- even a short one -- is a powerful way to build your CEO and business brand, but only if it's done to the highest standards of writing, promotion, and design quality. Because as it turns out, you can judge a book by its cover.