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10 Mistakes Business Leaders Make on Their First Book

Books can make, break or elevate a brand


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Books can make, break or elevate a brand  ̶  and are an overlooked tool for positioning, marketing and public relations within a company. A book is the ultimate business card and a creative way to expand a brand’s voice.

Since you already want to publish a book  ̶  every business leader does   ̶   here are ten common mistakes owners make and how to avoid them.

Mistake No. 1: Do it for the money

Yes, a successful book should be cashflow positive. However, there are other ways to measure ROI. Some clients measure their book’s effectiveness by the doors that open or the clients they land. It’s quite possible to sell ten books and earn $100,000 in new business as a result, which is a great return.

Do you have a cause that you’re passionate about or that your company is connected to? Proceeds from your book can fund a nonprofit of your choice. This fact can be touted on the back cover, inside the book and in all your marketing and media outreach. (For many authors, this charitable component takes the awkwardness out of selling the book.)

Mistake No. 2: Fall in love with the title

No matter how much you love the working title of your book, if there are 12 other identical titles available on Amazon   ̶   or one by Malcolm Gladwell   ̶  it’s time for another brainstorming session.

Do the painful work of brainstorming a title and subtitle early in the process. This will help you center the writing around a theme or word. That said, be open about changing the title and subtitle as the book evolves.

Mistake No. 3: Design the cover

Your book is a product, not just an art piece. Unless your business creates bestselling book covers, hire a professional and utilize focus-group testing for your target audience. Cover design is an art form, so don’t be a control freak.

Mistake No. 4: Don’t plan the book like a business

The most helpful books are equal parts visceral expression and strategic planning. Purposely decide how you want the book to position you and help build your brand.

Begin the project by creating the marketing pitch for the book. People buy books to find answers and solve problems. What questions is your ideal reader asking? What problems do they face? Then, answer these questions in the book.

Planning the book with your customer in mind (like a business) will help establish a clear vision for the book and create value for your readers.

Mistake No. 5: Don’t let your humanity show

In every book, chapter one should establish both trust and like between the reader and the author.   

In addition to showing glimpses of your accomplishments, to build credibility, you must not take yourself too seriously. Admit a huge blunder or a weakness that the reader can relate to. In other words, be human.

Mistake No. 6: Don’t get endorsements

It’s much easier than you think to connect with the influencers you admire and receive a valuable endorsement blurb for your book. For first-time authors, endorsements are key to building credibility.

An endorsement is a win-win proposition, if your book is solid. The endorsers get their name and credentials out to a new audience, and your brand is elevated in the process.

Mistake No. 7: Don’t test the content

Coming up with book ideas is fun, and we carry them around with a warm fuzzy feeling. But when the time comes, it can be scary to test a book idea in a blog, social media post or shop an article sharing the idea to an industry publication.

What if people hate your premise? Or worse, what if no one cares? However, this is where books go from good to great. Use social media to test your insights and craft more memorable statements. And as with the development of any product: build a prototype, test it and improve the result.

Mistake No. 8: Don’t tell stories

No matter how riveting your worldview and ideas are, stories are the life blood of a good book. Human beings are wired to perk up when hearing or reading a story.

I recommend at least one story in every chapter. These can be from your life, business or stories from history. And remember, if stories involve colleagues, get written permission to use their names, and/or modify the details and names to protect the innocent.

Mistake No. 9: Don’t get help

If you’ve never published anything, you’d be amazed at the team effort required to complete the project. Developing a remarkable book is a sizable endeavor, but the process can also be much easier than you’d think.

Many wise leaders and communicators don’t consider themselves good writers, and for some, that might be true, but this is where editors and ghostwriters come in.

Mistake No. 10: Don’t start

Your book might launch your business to places you never imagined. But if you don’t start, you’ll never finish, and you’ll never know how many people your book could have helped.

Mike Loomis helps people launch their dream projects and books. Since starting and selling two businesses, he’s a strategic partner to bestselling authors, non-profits, publishers, startups and aspiring messengers. He and his wife live in Winter Park with their pet moose. 

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