If you're a public speaker, a lifestyle coach, a consultant—anyone who makes your living by sharing your expertise with your customers—having a book is required.
Read that again, because it's not a slip. Required. As in, "You must have." Do not pass go, do not collect $200. In fact, you'll be lucky to collect more than $200 if you don't have this uber-valuable tool at your disposal. Here's why ...
The Ultimate Business Card
There's a scene in American Psycho where Christian Bale is sitting around a conference table with some of his executive co-workers, and everyone at the table is flicking their business card out for all to see and admire. The examination of these cards goes into the kind of detail (and envy) usually associated with high-priced, high-performance luxury automobiles. "Is that bone?" Bale asks, and you can just hear the envy oozing from him.
There was a time when a business card was key to an appearance of success and professionalism. Having a card that stood out, got noticed, and (most important) got people to call was a top priority. But with the advent of instant, always-on communication, a business card doesn't have quite the oomph it once had. Especially since anyone with a credit card can have thousands of very high-end business cards made and delivered to their door for pennies.
Building a business around reputation and relevance today means establishing yourself as an expert in a given discipline. You no longer want to tell people about your virtues, you want to show them. And to that end, writing a book that encapsulates your expertise and your philosophy is the best way to generate enthusiasm for you and your brand. It's a credibility shortcut.
It's not (just) who you know anymore
Actually, it'll always be "who you know." That's your network, and your network is the Precious. But having a network is only a half step. The question is, how does your network know you?
If you've started a business speaking about lifestyle design, but everyone you know still thinks of you as "that guy who sells insurance," you have a credibility problem. You may be brilliant at reorganizing your life, losing a hundred pounds, or training for a marathon in just two weeks. But that isn't what you're known for. No one will pay the insurance guy to teach them how to eat and exercise better.
You can build a reputation for that, of course. You could start a blog about your experiences, sharing tips on how you accomplished your great feat. You could do a series of YouTube videos, sharing your progress and pontificating upon the benefits of healthy living. You could share your story with everyone who ever knew you as "the fat insurance guy." Eventually you can gain enough traction to leverage your story for making a living. But it's going to be a long haul.
Building a reputation always is. You start small (always) and define yourself by what you do, who you meet, how you communicate. Eventually, you're "known" for something. If all anyone has ever known of you is your work in insurance, that's your defining characteristic to most people. if you are the guy who always gives good advice about diet and exercise, soon enough people will think of you in those terms.
That long-term approach isn't bad, and it isn't wrong. It's necessary, actually. Once you decide on what it is you want to be known for, it's important to start presenting that side of yourself to everyone in your network.
But let's say you're not there yet. Let's say your reputation is pretty well set in insurance land. As you build your speaking or consulting business, you gain new clients slowly, but you have a hard time converting your old network into a client base. You need to establish your expertise in the field as quickly as possible, with the greatest reach possible. You need something you can share with others. Social proof.
Show, don't tell
Chances are, since you're the one who went through your experiences in the first place, you have a lot to say on a given topic. You know every exercise there is for tightening abs or building up your biceps. You know the exact combination of fruits, vegetables, and proteins needed to rev up your metabolism. You have a huge knowledge base.
Putting all that expertise into a book gives you something you can hand to others, as proof of your expertise. A business card might have a title—something like "Health Guru." But that's tell. A book, that outlines your approach and supports it with facts and experience, that provides guidance so that the reader can replicate your success, that's show.
People respond better when they can see results and learn the process for getting them.
Boom. Instant credibility.
Your reputation can grow much faster when you are able to hand over a book that details your expertise, and connects with a reader who is now a customer and a member of your tribe.
"But writing a book is hard"
No argument here. Writing a book is hard. Mostly because we've been trained most of our lives to think of it as a difficult thing to do. Ninth grade English class, alone, was something of a nightmare for many of us. All those essays and term papers and book reports—boring, stressful, and dreadful. Some of us still weep when see red ink.
Chances are, though, you've done much more difficult things in your life. You've had to, in order to develop the discipline and expertise you're trying to sell to the world. All those long nights of reading and studying. All those early mornings of exercise. All those skipped desserts.
Writing a book is just one more discipline. It's one more set of experiences that are difficult when you begin, but pay off when you're finished. Having done this once, you can do it again, and again. Having conquered this one trial, you can master anything.
If it helps, think of it as an investment. You put in the time and energy up front, and then reap the dividends of that investment over time. Once the book is written, it doesn't have to be rewritten, every time you sell or give a copy to someone. It's a nice, packaged bit of yourself that lets you extend your reach exponentially.
All that said, though, there is a universal truth that must be recognized ...
Writing a book isn't for everyone
Given the nature of this blog, that could sound shocking. But the truth is, not everyone is cut out to write a book. Some people just don't have the skill for it. They don't have a way with words, maybe. Or they don't have the patience. Or they're simply just too busy to put in that kind of time—in other words, they have bigger priorities.
So what then? If a book is absolutely required (and it is), how do you meet that requirement?
You start by recognizing that it's your knowledge and expertise that are important, not the fact that you sat down and penned a book all by yourself. The value you present comes from what you know. Getting that knowledge the reader doesn't have to be your burden.
Ghostwriting is a valuable tool for the keynote speaker or consultant or coach who just doesn't have the resources to write a book themselves.
There's a very strange attitude out there, from some people. They see ghostwriting as a cheat. "If I don't write the book myself, isn't it a lie? How can anyone trust what I say, if I'm not the one who wrote it?"
This comes from a faulty definition of what "writing" really is.
Writing is the act of an author conveying ideas to a reader by transcribing those ideas to the page.
Nowhere in that definition does it say that those ideas have to originate with the the author of the work. In fact, if you examine the history of literature close enough, you'll find that most writing is actually the transcription of someone else's ideas. We generally call this "research," and we think of it as a legitimate means of expressing thoughts and expertise.
When you work with a ghostwriter, you are the source of that writer's work. You are providing your expertise and experience, working with the writer to organize that information into a narrative, and then approving the final work as being "from you." Because it is. From you.
In fact, large portions of the book could actually be written by you, directly. Almost everyone has a "start" in a drawer or computer folder somewhere. It was the grand beginning of a work, but it fizzled out as the realities of time and enthusiasm sunk in. In those cases, having a ghostwriter or co-author can help you finish your book, with direct input from you.
Your ideas are worth it
You've worked hard to gain the knowledge and experience you possess. And you have a burning desire to share your hard work for the benefit of the world. That's fantastic. And your ideas are worthy of sharing.
In addition, you owe it to your future readers. If you have something that can change their lives for the better, how can you withhold it? This is the time to get it on the page, and get it in front of people who need it. Don't hesitate—make lives better starting right now! Get your book moving, and add it to the arsenal or resources you use to change lives and build a better world. Start today.