Writing Your First Book Is the First Big Step to Build Your Personal Brand
Get oriented to the task before putting pen to paper through self-assessment, audience targeting and relentless testing. Just like any other product.
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If you want to be a better leader, get paid more or grow your business, then you need to build your personal brand. Almost nothing builds a personal brand like writing a book. Consider this fictional dialogue that happens all too often in real life:
Event organizer: "We need to find a great speaker for our event."
Intern: "I've got just the guy. He's really great. I've already hired him."
Event organizer: "You went and hired him without my permission?!"
Intern: "Well, he's written a book."
Event organizer: "Ah, all good then."
A book is the new business card.
No, it's a business card on steroids, and so much more. When you have a book people don't bother asking pesky questions, they don't test you; it's assumed you know what you're talking about.
Related: How Every Entrepreneur Has Seemingly "Written" A Book
The book doesn't even have to be all that good. I know an expert who speaks at several events, and those events always talk about him being the author of a book, but the book is full of typos and self-published, and it doesn't look that great. Nobody cares. He's got a book, so he must know what he's doing. Note: I recommend writing only great books, but I share this example to show just how low the bar is.
But it doesn't write itself.
There are many ways to write a book. Here's one way to get started. Answer these questions:
1. Whom do you want to influence?
2. What do you want them to do?
3. What kind of content do they pay attention to?
4. What's your "unfair advantage" when it comes to this audience? For example, my answers to the first three questions might be; 1) chief marketing officers in China, 2) hire my marketing agency, and 3) top-tier western business magazines. My unfair advantage is that I've already written a book about CMOs so I have a lot of knowledge about that role. Also: I live in China, my agency has an office here, and I've written hundreds of articles for several top-tier business publications.
5. When it comes to whatever action it is you want your audience to take (see #2 above), why does your audience already take this action, how, and with whom? Going back to my own scenario, why do CMOs hire other marketing agencies?
Just for the sake of the example, let's say the answer is that those agencies have offices in China and the CMOs have built up trust with those agencies through repeated positive exposure to their executives.
Concepts must be tested.
At this point, I have everything I need to start creating ideas for books I might write. The easiest thing to do would be to go out and interview 30 CMOs in China and use their answers as the foundation for a book about CMOs in China, or about marketing in China.
This is more or less what I did (sans the China focus) with my first book, Chief Marketing Officers at Work. By creating a China version to complement my existing book, I would not only gain exposure to China CMOs during the writing of the book, but the project would also introduce me to a wider audience of China CMOs and other marketers after it was published.
There are many more ideas I could be able to come up with. Perhaps I could write a book about how Chinese companies can adapt to Western marketing when entering Western markets, or it could be a book about the future of social media within China. With a little brainstorming I could come up with 20 ideas.
Related: The New Rules of Brainstorming
But this is where most people make a big mistake: They choose one of those ideas and start working on it. Instead, test out a few of your favorite ideas. Test them by publishing blog posts that focus on the basic ideas.
These could be short enough to be LinkedIn or Facebook posts. If you get more response from some than others, focus on those that get attention and write full blog posts. Publish them on LinkedIn, Medium, or your own blog. The point is to get your ideas out there and test them to see what is interesting to people and to get feedback.
One of the key principles of success in the marketing world is test, test, test. And it's better to do that before you build the end product, or in this case, write your book. Once you go through the process of testing your content you'll have much better ideas about exactly what book you should write.
The book writing can commence.
But this article isn't about how to do that -- only how to prepare to start one. However, to briefly cover what should come next, create a rough outline or a mind map for the book and start writing blog posts to fill in the details. Use feedback from your audience to refine those blog posts and rewrite them, add to them, and polish them until each one can serve as the foundation for part of the book.
Don't worry about sharing the rough draft of your book publicly--people will still buy the book, even if a lot of the information is available for free on your blog. In fact, this will lead to much greater sales for your book.
Want more tips on what to write and how to write it? These are some of the books I've found most helpful in my writing journey:
- Everybody Writes by Ann Handley
- Real Artists Don't Starve by Jeff Goins
- On Writing by Stephen King
- Perennial Seller by Ryan Holiday
- On Writing Well by William Zinsser
Related: Best-Selling Author Veronica Roth Tells What Writing Books Is Really Like
The most important advice I can give is to say "Don't wait! Start today!" I have interviewed dozens of writers and other content creators, and they all say the key to success is to start now, even if it's messy, and then work on getting better over time. Take a few minutes to answer the questions above and then begin brainstorming. You'll be well on your way toward publishing your first book to build your personal brand.