I recently spoke with two clients about their experiences of self-publishing non-fiction books: Christine Cowley, owner of Life Gems Personal Histories and author of Butchers, Bakers and Building the Lakers: Voices of Collingwood and The Gift: Sharing Your Life Lessons with the People You Love Most; and Garth Rustand, founder of Investors-Aid Co-operative of Canada and author of Investors-Aid Guide to Protecting Investment Returns and the companion Investor Protection Workbook.
In wide-ranging conversations about the value of books to building their professional credibility and their businesses, the advantages and pitfalls of acting as their own publishers, and the place for print books in an increasingly digital world, Christine and Garth substantiated some of my own views about these topics. They also — as all good non-fiction authors do — gave me much food for thought.
Why a book?
As previously mentioned in this blog, I believe that books can be a powerful part of an individual business owner’s or organization’s content marketing strategy. While neither Christine nor Garth used the term “content marketing” when talking about their books, both saw and continue to see books as evidence of expertise that no other form of content demonstrates so convincingly.
“I saw Butchers as my calling card,” says Christine about the book she started researching in 2006 and published in 2008 — a gorgeous, heavily illustrated, hard cover volume about the history of Collingwood, Ontario. Already in the business of writing and publishing personal and corporate histories in book form, she saw her own book as an opportunity to demonstrate what one could really do with such a project.
And did it ever pay off. Not only did she recoup her full investment in the book and in fact earn some decent revenue from it; she also credits the volume for clinching “every family or corporate history contract I’ve gotten since.”
“Writing a book establishes something about you. It’s sort of like finishing a degree. A book shows you’re not a dilettante or a fly-by-nighter.”
In the investment industry, far removed from publishing as a core competency, Garth also recognized that authoring a book would benefit his professional aspirations. A former senior investment advisor with a major firm, Garth was pursuing various avenues for forming an independent and truly objective advisory business when he decided to write a book that revealed why the conventional investment industry does not serve investors’ interests.
“The Investors-Aid Guide gave me instant credibility,” he says about the 215-page soft cover he produced in 2008 and distributed to participants of his investment seminars and to members of the investment consumer organization he founded. “In the investment industry, trust is a big thing. Anyone can get up and talk, give a course, go on the radio. But writing a book establishes something about you. It’s sort of like finishing a degree. A book shows you’re not a dilettante or a fly-by-nighter.”
Why self-publish a book?
All right, so there’s professional value in writing and publishing a book. But why self-publish? Both of these authors had writing talent and promotional platforms that might have attracted a conventional publisher, yet neither seriously entertained that route. Why not?
Part 2 of the series will pick up from here.