Among the first dream jobs I remember having in my childhood were classics like artist, scientist, architect, and marine biologist (which somehow inevitably ends up in the top five on the dream-job list of every 10-year-old girl in America). But of all my future dream jobs, the one that's stuck with me is writer.
So naturally, when Influence & Co. CEO John Hall stepped into one of our marketing meetings in January 2016 with an idea for a book to write, I jumped at the opportunity to play as big a role in its creation as I could.
And because I'd basically spent my entire childhood mentally preparing for such a writing opportunity, I instinctively knew what to do: I grabbed my finest Moleskine notebook, a felt-tip pen, and a laptop, and I tucked myself away in a beautiful house with lots of windows overlooking the ocean so I could see the waves crashing on the beach in an inspirational way that would move me to write, edit, and otherwise help my team develop this book.
At least, that's how it began in my head.
In reality, the Influence & Co. marketing team's process for creating, publishing, and now promoting John's business and leadership book, "Top of Mind," looks more like our process for content creation than any romantic ideas you (OK, I) might have about writing books.
Why Write a Book?
Before you begin writing anything — a book, an article, even (especially) a Facebook status — you should have an idea of why you're doing it.
John didn't walk into that marketing meeting nearly a year and a half ago with an idea, a working title, and a direction for his book for the sole purpose of seeing my eyes light up at the chance to help write it. Like every other part of our content marketing strategy, this book serves a purpose — multiple purposes, in fact.
Your individual reasons and goals for writing a book are as uniquely yours as your finished book. But that doesn't mean there aren't some serious universal benefits to writing a book and doing it well:
- It cements your expertise. Who do you trust more as the expert on a topic: the woman who wrote an article on your favorite online publication or the woman who literally wrote the book on it? Writing a book gives an impressive boost to your credibility as a thought leader.
- It's a natural extension of your other content efforts. When you're already consistently creating content, writing a book is a natural extension of your efforts. It ties your ideas together in one place.
- It opens the door to opportunity. Books give you the chance to share your best, most formative stories, ideas, strategies, and tactics — and deliver unprecedented value to your audience. That value can help you knock down trust barriers, build better relationships, secure speaking engagements, and create opportunity for yourself and your company.
These overarching benefits were major motivating factors for the Influence & Co. team, but the book-writing process as a whole served another important purpose: testing a potential future service offering.
Because book writing is such a natural extension of thought leadership content creation, it made sense for us to consider offering it to clients who were ready to take that next step in building industry influence. But without testing it on one of our own thought leaders first, we really didn't have a system for helping them.
So we tested it, and "Top of Mind" was published by McGraw-Hill and officially released this month. Our test, for all intents and purposes, was a success. But what exactly made it work so well for us?
Content Marketing: The Secret Ingredient to a Successful Book Process
In addition to being a cool and fun way to confuse your family and friends about what it is you do for work every day, content marketing can also make the entire book process — from ideation to publication to promotion — a much simpler one. Here's how content prepared us to write a book:
1. A portfolio of published content is the perfect fuel for brainstorming and outlining a compelling book.
If you sit at your laptop and stare at a blinking cursor in Microsoft Word, simply figuring out where to start your book is going to feel overwhelming. But if you've been regularly writing and publishing content to online publications — and you have a system for tracking content performance — you have a solid jumping-off point to begin your brainstorm.
Obviously, you can't run through your highlight reel, pull all your best work, and string each article together into a book. But you can use some of your favorite, highest-performing pieces and ideas to supplement chapter outlines and guide you and your team.
2. You're already familiar with your unique content creation process.
Experience in content marketing means you're probably familiar with what it takes to turn an idea into a piece of published content that drives results — and you know where your strengths and preferences fit into that process. Essentially, you understand the value of a good editorial workflow, and you've spent the time developing one that works for you personally.
If you're a great idea person but lack the technical expertise to actually craft and edit those ideas, you know right from the beginning that surrounding yourself with partners to fill in those gaps will make the process easier, more enjoyable, and more effective.
3. Consistent content helps you build an engaged audience, a network of advocates, and industry authority — all of which make your book launch more successful.
I know what you're thinking: Yes, it's true that you can build all of this by authoring a book. But you'll be at a significant advantage if you can begin your journey with some kind of audience, network, and authority of your own.
I can't tell you how exciting it is for all of us to see friends, family, and Influence & Co. clients and partners send in pictures of themselves (and their sweet pups) with their copies of "Top of Mind" just because they were so jazzed about its release that they preordered it right away.
A network of advocates like this is incredibly valuable for spreading the word about your book, driving sales, connecting you to PR opportunities, and more. And if you've spent time building and nurturing that audience with engaging content, they'll be ready to help you when the time comes.
Whether you're someone with an incredible story to tell, a thought leader who's ready to take her next step, or even a young adult with a childhood dream of becoming a writer to fulfill, creating a book can be a rewarding experience — and it doesn't have to be an overly complicated, intimidating one.
"Top of Mind" is just one example, and every experience will be different. But with a portfolio of published content to guide you and an experienced content marketing team to support you, writing a book can be accomplished faster and easier than you think.