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About Vickie Sullivan

Vickie Sullivan is internationally recognized as the top market strategist for thought leaders, professional speakers and B2B professional service firms. Specializing in brand and message strategies in crowded markets, she has helped thousands of talented people outsmart their competition since 1987.

Written by: Vickie Sullivan  |  May 01, 2011

3 Strategies That Turn Your Book Into A Revenue Machine

Originally published for RainToday.com

Thanks to the explosion of electronic books and self-publishing, getting a book to market is easier than ever before. Between Internet content distribution and social media, opportunities to promote a book are ubiquitous.

These trends beg the question, however: if this book stuff is so easy, why do so many thought leaders spend months writing and thousands of dollars on production and promotion and don’t ever get that money back? What happened to the return on investment?

My theory is that too many professional service leaders publish and promote, then pray for results later. They are so grateful for whatever opportunities and attention they get — however few and fleeting — and they set the results bar far too low.

New books are flooding the market, so merely having a book doesn’t guarantee a decent return on investment. The new challenge is making that book produce results that are worth writing home about.

To make sure your next book boosts your bottom line, let’s combine clarity with a strategy for generating revenue. Here are three strategies to employ before you start publishing that will set up your next book for better results.

1. Dominate Your Space

Books can stake out your territory, telling buyers, “Here’s my value, and here’s what you can accomplish with my expertise.” Books are meant to focus on a relevant topic within a larger context and promote either an idealized future or sound the alarm on a relevant challenge. Thought leaders write these books for two reasons: to attract their ideal client and to generate leads by creating urgency. These books turn your expertise into a bigger cause.

Poster child: Jim Collins, author of From Good to Great. Collins did not attempt to dominate the entire performance space. He focused on a relevant journey within the performance space: how well-performing companies go from good to great. He narrowed his focus so he could dominate that passage. Books are a great way to identify not only your corner of the world, but also what buyers can do with you.

Where the revenue is: incoming leads with better opportunities.

You missed the mark if you get free speaking engagements that don’t leverage into clients or five-figure book sales. This is a sign that you didn’t adequately differentiate your content. The market perceives your book as “talented author, but one of many.”

Your writing strategy: narrow your focus, redefine your context, and show the way forward.

Your promotion strategy: be a futurist. Promote the idealized future and how your new context fits current and future trends. For example, Jim Collins redefined what it took to be great, going against conventional wisdom.

2. Spotlight Your Thinking

This strategy is the polar opposite of strategy #1. Instead of focusing on one idea or challenge, you mix and match a wide variety of topics, weaving examples and stories in an intriguing way. The key message here: you need to apply my unique thinking to your unique situation — I can help you find solutions you can’t find for yourself. The focus is broad and leads with an intriguing premise. Books like these put a spotlight on your approach and how you work with clients. Buyers are intrigued by how you find the hidden gems in their specific situation.

My favorite example: Daniel Pink, author of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. Pink took a page from Malcolm Gladwell’s writing strategy. Both authors start broad and lead with a compelling question that we want the answer to. Then they use a wide range of stories to make an insightful point. Readers don’t expect original research from either of them; they want their color commentary and observations.

Where the revenue is: high-end speaking engagements, prominent writing opportunities, retainer work, and executive development deals.

You missed the mark if you get radio silence from the market or very few paid speaking engagements. This is a sign that buyers don’t care about your rhetorical question or it could be that your answers don’t go deep enough.

Your writing strategy: start with a central intriguing question, dissect a wide range of situations, then use strong labels in your observations. Make sure your way of thinking is consistent enough so buyers know what to expect from you.

Your promotion strategy: promote killer questions and the hidden gems in your thinking. Make sure you include insight with every metaphor.

3. Appeal to Your Base

For experts with an established community of followers, a book can be an easy way to turn mild interest into solid leads. This strategy works for those who not only want to keep current market traction but also monetize all the brand-building they’ve done.

Instead of appealing to new markets, these books focus on organizing a framework the author has implemented time and time again. Sales experts focus on implementation, while high-end motivational speakers provide a collection of stories that inspire. These books are not made to be media-friendly. They are written for the current audience and distribution channels. Any media or publicity is a happy accident. These books are a great way to get ancillary revenue and maintain momentum.

Test examples of this type of book are celebrity books. Some are better than others. Publishers are banking on the popularity of the author, not the content of the book. You’ll also notice how the book coincides with a new project also coming out. A lot of popular sales and leadership experts use this strategy, too.

Where the revenue is: sales from related projects and access to better opportunities. Direct book sales from current distribution channels.

You’ve missed the mark if sales are lacking from your current communities. Either your communities are not that strong or the overall message is off.

Your writing strategy: brain dump your current thinking, then add stories, examples, and humor.

Your promotion strategy: focus on direct sales to your community and bulk sales from corporate clients. Use the book for industry media and exposure to the association market.

Conclusion

We invest a lot in writing a book. There’s a lost opportunity cost for the months we spend writing, as well as hard costs associated with self-publishing and promotion. We deserve a return on our investment that is more than kudos, applause, and 15 minutes of fame. Choose which of these strategies work best for you, and your next book can bring in what we really are in business for: cool clients, promising opportunities, and, of course, a bigger bottom line.


About Vickie Sullivan

Vickie Sullivan is internationally recognized as the top market strategist for thought leaders, professional speakers and B2B professional service firms. Specializing in brand and message strategies in crowded markets, she has helped thousands of talented people outsmart their competition since 1987.