When you think about promoting your brand, your mind leaps to speaking at industry conferences, sitting on relevant topic panels, contributing to online forums, and networking at events. But more and more professionals are also considering writing a book to boost their careers. And it makes sense: The market is ripe with literary opportunities, and the U.S. leads the way in self-published books each year, with 391,000 published in 2012.

What's more, writing a book is a great way to establish yourself as a credible industry expert. You can create a brand platform for yourself, increase your market value, differentiate yourself from competitors, and discover new ways to grow your authority in your field. But before you can add the title "published author" to your resume, you need to invest some time and energy in planning, crafting, and publishing your unique message--and understanding how the publishing world really works.

The Path to Becoming a Credible Published Author

The good thing about writing a book is that anyone can do it; there's no licensing or training required. However, there's more to writing and publishing a book than just powering up your computer. You have to plan and research to make your book--and, subsequently, your career--a success. Here are eight steps to create an effective writing and publishing process:

1. Write what you know. Reflect on the topics you know best and are most passionate about. They will inspire you and make the entire writing process more fulfilling and enjoyable. As an expert in your field, it's your experiences, insights, successes, authenticity, and--yes --failures that will set your message apart from all the others to convey authority and impact.

2. Find your niche. Look around to see what relevant books are being published on your topic of choice; you may notice holes that you could fill within your target niche.Don't be discouraged if your desired topic has already been written about. You can find a unique slant or approach that will differentiate you and your ideas.

3. Write for your audience. Understanding what your audience wants and needs is incredibly important. Most of today's readers are on the go, so they want to read content that gets straight to the point, solves real-world problems, and helps them learn new things quickly. Keep your topics focused, and format your book to appeal to your target audience.

4. Brand yourself and your ideas. Consider creating a brand platform--with the book as the anchor and you as the authority--that drives home your message and leaves the door open for building upon it in the future. For example, a strong title will not only help you sell books, but it could also potentially galvanize an entire movement (e.g., "The 4-Hour Workweek"). I've always chosen very catchy titles for my books that still convey what the book is about, including "Taking the Crowd to the Cloud: Social Media for the Music Industry," "The Art of Digital Music," and "The Magic & Moxie of Apple: An Insider's View."

5. Create a memorable presentation. Not surprisingly, the title and the back cover of a book are often the two most powerful things to consider before releasing your masterpiece to the world. They catch prospective readers' attention and make them want to dive deeper.

I was very aware of this when designing the books, so the titles and subtitles are both catchy. In the case of "The Art of Digital Music," the back cover was also carefully orchestrated--testimonials from credible third parties who will be recognized as relevant authorities or influencers in your field are very helpful in establishing an effective and immediate presentation and connection.

6. Decide on your publishing path. Traditional commercial publishing might mean multiple inquiries and months of waiting, but that route is still considered more credible for some. However, given the promotional requirements put upon the author once a book is released, more authors are self-publishing with the help of distributors like BookBaby and Smashwords.

7. Work with the best. Writing and promoting a book requires a lot of talent and fortitude, so work with a well-rounded team to get the best results. Ghostwriters and editors can ensure that your message and voice are polished and solid, and distributors and promoters can help you build and reach the perfect audience.

8. Promote, promote, promote. Promoting your book and spreading your message is vital to both your literary success and your potential opportunities. If you put as much energy into marketing and promoting your book as you do toward writing and publishing it, you will discover many new ways to expand your authority and reach. Be aware that the author is always responsible for promoting the book, whether she's distributing it herself or working with a commercial publisher.

Creating a campaign before the book is released is critical to having a successful launch. From promoting the book's title and release date in your email footer weeks or months before it comes out to ensuring it's available in all relevant outlets, the process can be taxing but rewarding. By encouraging colleagues and affiliates to promote it to their audiences and considering releasing it in multiple formats, you can connect with an even wider audience.

A book can be a powerful tool for advancing your career and establishing yourself as a brand and as an industry leader. For your endeavors to be successful, you must put careful thought and energy into the planning, writing, publishing, and promotional processes. In the end, your efforts could boost your reputation and unlock innumerable opportunities for the future.