A book is the best way for an entrepreneur to prove they are the expert in their space.
When you literally “wrote the book” on a topic, it’s pretty easy to differentiate yourself against your competition.
This simple fact—combined with the emergence of high-quality marketplaces for hiring ghostwriters—has lead to an insane surge of nonfiction business books written by entrepreneurs-turned-thought-leaders.
A lot of people think this is a bad thing. Personally, I love it.
As someone who routinely spends hours clicking through Wikipedia links—I once skipped sleeping to study the Wars of the Roses—having expert-level, niche information available in a format as convenient as a book is amazing. And when the information really is expert-level, the author benefits too. Everyone wants to work with the expert.
However, for every entrepreneur that effectively uses a book, there are just as many who sabotage their brand by making simple mistakes in the writing, publishing, and marketing of their book.
In this article, we’re going to flesh out the 3 most common mistakes these authors make. That way, when you write your book, you can do so without hurting your brand.
1. Don’t Put Your Face on Your Book Cover
I don’t want this to sound harsh, but unless you are Elon Musk or Steve Jobs, your face is not famous enough to go on a book cover.
The point of a book cover is to entice the reader, to give them a sense of what your book is about and excite them. A picture of a random person they don’t know will not inspire them to read your book.
In fact, it will do the opposite. Putting your face on your book makes your book look like a business card or a personal website—completely self-promotional.
That doesn’t mean you can’t have humans on your book cover. It just has to be done in a way that expresses your book’s core sentiment. The cover of Charlie Hoehn’s Play It Away is a great example of this:
It’s a book about the power of play for adults, written from the perspective of a workaholic. Who better to put on the book’s cover than two professional adults—ties and all—playing catch?
However, if the book cover was just a picture of Charlie’s face, the way so many entrepreneurs use their headshots as cover images, it would have no resonance and would seem like a complete vanity project.
2. Remember, You Aren’t Writing A Memoir
Memoirs are one of the most beloved genres of books. There is perhaps no better form than the memoir for making us feel as if we’ve lived someone else’s life, and that is an incredibly powerful feeling.
It is not, however, the purpose of your business book.
Your goal is to prove you are the expert on a topic by teaching your reader something about it—something no one else could teach them.
Anecdotes from your own life are obviously useful in doing this, but walking someone through your life’s story—no matter how fascinating it might be to you—will simply distract from what you are trying to teach.
Something to keep in mind: Most of the best-selling business memoirs—Shoe Dog by Phil Knight, Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, Creativity Inc. by Ed Catmull, Losing My Virginity by Richard Branson, etc.—were all written after they were recognized as experts in their field.
3. Don’t Focus on Book Sales
This is counter-intuitive for a lot of entrepreneurs. Why write a book if you don’t plan on selling many copies?
For an entrepreneur, book sales are a pretty bad way to make money.
The fact is, if you’re an entrepreneur, that means you sell something other than books. Unless you sell an incredibly low margin product, one customer for your business is worth much more than one reader buying your book.
So while fiction writers might need to focus on giveaway lists and various promotional services that get their books out to as many readers as possible, you need to focus on getting your books in the hands of your ideal customer.
Any time you give a speech to a group of people in your target market, make sure you have copies of your book to give away for free.
When you’re booking PR around your book, make sure to do it in publications your customers read—not just publications with the most readers.
Any time someone visits your office, there should be a copy of your book positioned so that they can’t miss it. When they ask, “Is that your book?” you say “Yes” and give them a free copy.
As an entrepreneur, it will be much easier for you to turn your book into millions in revenue for your business than it ever will be to make millions from book sales.