Anyone that has followed me over the past 15 years knows that I am a firm believer in the power of writing a book for business development purposes. In my view, it is a big audacious business card—period! If written as a business development tool—it lets prospective clients inside your world and how you think. It is a strong credibility builder since “you wrote the book on the subject.” Over the past 15 years, I have written 6 books, which have led to millions of dollars in revenue. But NOT in book sales. Yes, I have been an Amazon bestseller, and that revenue is incidental compared to the substantive consulting and coaching revenue. It is truly a business development tool.
I would recommend that you start by figuring out what area of your practice you want to promote and/or own in your geographic area.
Here is what this book should not be: a scholarly book on your practice area, a how-to for your competitors, or a vanity project about you and your firm.
Here is a conversation I had with fellow author John Hinson, Marketing Manager at Spotlight Branding, to pull it all together. Between the two of us, we have nearly two dozen books under our belt.
1. As you know, I’m an advocate of using books as a business development strategy; what is your position?
Hinson: Having a book as a business development tool is arguably the biggest credibility piece you can have in your office. There’s something about how we’ve been conditioned over the years to see a book and at least appreciate a lot of perceived hard work that went into writing it, even if we don’t actually pick it up and read it.
A book also demonstrates authority. There’s a reason the cliche “he/she wrote the book on ____” exists. If you’re one of several business attorneys in town with a book on business law, you’re more likely to be seen as the expert on business law, even if you’ve only been practicing for a few years compared to the others.
2. How would you advise a lawyer to pick a topic to write about?
Hinson: This might be the hardest part of the entire process, whether you have 22 different things you want to write about or you can’t think of anything at all. The key, however, is straightforward: Write what you know and are passionate about. For example, if you’re an estate planning attorney and you’re particularly passionate about special needs trusts, your book can center on special needs and how to properly protect those loved ones.
You can also take a shortcut. If you’ve had a solid marketing strategy in place for a couple of years, you can convert your blog articles into an anthology and simply write in a few transitions to make everything flow together.
3. As you and I know, taking the next steps after you have committed to a book as an element of your strategy—the blank page gets pretty intimidating. What would you recommend the first few steps they should take to get started?
Hinson: Between the book I curated for Spotlight Branding and my own personal projects, I have published 16 books in seven years. I don’t say that to brag, but to tell you that it isn’t as difficult as you may think. Here is my method for getting started.
1) Pick the topic as we discussed. 2) Build your outline: craft the rough outline of your book so that you have something to guide your thoughts as you write. 3) Flesh out the outline: Once you have your framework, start filling the space in between. You can do this in multiple steps, too. Either write it all out at once or get your main points/thoughts out and then go back and fill in any gaps.
4. How do you approach proofing and editing?
Hinson: Once I have my rough draft, I usually go through a three-step editing/proofing process.
1) I read through my document once to make sure everything flows together like I want. 2) I read through it again as I go back through and format the book to adhere to the publisher’s standards. 3) I read it aloud once I get the proof copy from the publisher to make sure everything looks and sounds like I want it to.
5. What do you think the biggest obstacle is to write a business development book?
Hinson: Outside of picking a title, your ability to say you have a finished product is the hardest part. Most lawyers are perfectionists, and after reading over your book multiple times, you may be tempted to do wholesale rewrites or scrap the project entirely. DON’T! People – even your attorney peers – aren’t going to judge your work as harshly as you do.
Trust in your own intellect and ability, get it “good enough,” and move on to publishing.
Black: That is so true, John! You hit at the heart of the inability to use this productive method of business development. I would point out that print on demand makes it so easy to update a book and makes your recommendation so doable… get it GOOD ENOUGH. And remember who you are speaking to, your potential clients. Write it in the language they understand. It’s not for Law Review.
6. In the early days of my book strategy, I paid to print thousands of copies, stored them in my office, and shipped them when we received orders. I would NEVER recommend anyone use that method today! On-demand printing makes it so easy to self-publish. What has your experience been navigating the process of self-publishing?
Hinson: I personally use Lulu for publishing my books. Paula, I know you and several others have had great success using Amazon’s on-demand self-publishing platform. With both these services, you can simply list your book for sale online, print as many copies for yourself as you’d like, and that’s it!
If you’re not technologically savvy, the actual publishing process might be a little difficult, but just take your time, do a little Googling for any steps you don’t understand, and you should be fine.
7. I agree with you, John; it is simple. But to be honest, I have a graphic designer that does the layout and uploads the book on Amazon. It’s a reasonable expense to incur that allows me time to create a book’s marketing strategy. Speaking of marketing—How do you recommend using the book to develop business—marketing?
Hinson: Once you have your finished book, it should become a big lead magnet on your website. Have your webmaster put the book cover on your home page and build a form where people can request a copy. You can choose to give it away for free (physical or digital copies) or make it available for purchase – but whatever you do, make sure it’s prominently displayed on your website and in your office.
Black: I agree with you, John, and I would add that you give them to your clients and referral sources. Use them to get speaking gigs and give them away at your events. I would remind you that the cost associated with the book should be put into your marketing budget. Contrary to common thinking, a book like this is not passive income—it is a BIG AUDACIOUS business card!