Years ago, a software guru-turned-entrepreneur Peter Armstrong coined an aphorism that likely had hidebound traditionalists scratching their heads.
“A book is a startup” — Peter Armstrong, the author of LeanPub
That was the year Armstrong launched Leanpub, a sleek, Silicon Valley-inflected self-publishing platform that felt as different from the storied New York presses as a rotary dial from an iPhone.
Armstrong wasn’t done yet.
He went on to turn the ideas behind Leanpub into a book, Lean Publishing.
Still, does it ever make sense for an entrepreneur who isn’t in the publishing world to write a book?
Actually, it does.
Even though you probably feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day as an entrepreneur to write a book, much less carve out time to chase down publishing deals, the good news is that you don’t have to do that to produce an impactful work — and turn it into a major business asset.
Why you should write a book
Here are five reasons every entrepreneur should give writing a book a shot.
1. It forces you to refine your business ideas in a compelling package
No matter how you end up publishing your book, getting your words out there will yield you dividends (more about that in a bit). But you don’t need to wait for your book launch to start reaping the benefits.
Let’s leave the publishing part aside for now: even the writing process will make you a better entrepreneur.
When you plan out your book’s structure, you’ll be forced to wrestle with your ideas and refine them under the pressure of your own scrutiny. And when you finally put pen to paper — or rather, fingertips to keyboard — you’ll learn to articulate your ideas in clear, compelling prose.
A book isn’t a pitch meeting or networking event; you won’t be able to rely on your charisma or your knack for reading body language.
Instead, you’ll have to assert yourself using words alone. And as you scale your business, you’ll find yourself relying more and more on that ability to inform, persuade, and project your personality from a distance.
2. It positions you as an expert in your field
Sure, just writing a manuscript won’t automatically make you an expert, the kind of authority who gets mobbed by journalists or asked to testify before Senate committees.
But even if Washington, D.C. and the New York Times don’t come calling, a book will go a long way toward proving your credibility.
You really need to know what you’re talking about in order to turn out 200-plus pages of well-organized prose on a single topic. That’s why grad students are awarded PhDs for doing exactly that! Your book may not come from half a decade’s worth of doctoral-level research, but it will channel all the domain expertise and practical know-how you’ve poured into your business.
Translating all that knowledge into clear, readable prose will prove that your work is grounded in real, substantive ideas, not just wishful thinking. Most importantly, it will help you prove yourself to your potential customers.
As an entrepreneur, you have no asset more valuable than your reputation — or, to put it differently, your brand.
A successful business needs a credible founder at its helm: an expert whose bona fides set both investors and customers at ease. Written with care, a book can prove your expertise — and become a powerful weapon in your branding arsenal.
3. It gives you more avenues to promote your company
Authors don’t necessarily get more press attention than business people, but they do get attention from different outlets. That means that, as an author-preneurial double threat, you’ll snag mentions across a broader swath of the media landscape.
With a finished book on your hands, you’ll even be able to expand your outreach strategy to venues that wouldn’t normally give you the time of day, from book review blogs with highly engaged followings to local literary events that will let you make connections in person.
Simply put: having a book in addition to a business means more eyes on you and on your work.
With all this extra attention, you can make an impression on audiences who would otherwise never know your name. And now that they’ve heard of you, they might realize that your company offers exactly what they need.
4. It lets you utilize the world’s largest retailer
We all know that Amazon is fiendishly popular.
As of 2019, there were 103 million Amazon Prime users in the United States alone. Even more tellingly, 89% of shoppers surveyed were more likely to buy on Amazon than on any other online retailer.
Still, the eCommerce giant’s staggering dominance can seem like nothing more than background noise if you don’t make products that can be packed and shipped in a cardboard box. If your business doesn’t trade in the sort of tangibles that can be sold through Amazon fulfillment, you’ll just have to leave the whole platform alone.
Not so fast.
No matter what your business does, you can absolutely leverage Amazon’s huge (and hugely loyal) customer base.
Think of your book as a Trojan horse that can get your business in front of Amazon users’ eyes — even if what you do can’t be packed into a box.
5. It serves as an amazing lead magnet
As you’ve hopefully seen by now, there are plenty of reasons for an entrepreneur to block off some time and plug away at a manuscript. But you know what isn’t a good reason to write a book? The hope that it’ll help you get rich quick and bankroll your business.
We’re not saying it won’t happen. But the truth is, you might be better off in the long run if you give your book away for free.
Books make amazing lead magnets. After all, nothing says “value” like hundreds of pages of quality content, offered free of charge. Give yours away in exchange for contact information, and you’ll be able to grow a mailing list full of leads who trust in your expertise.
Now all you have to do is entice them further down the marketing funnel. Keep at it, and you’ll have a customer base that believes in your company vision and repays it with their loyalty.
Start writing a book today
Whether you want to leverage Amazon’s customer base, broaden your media strategy, or learn to express yourself with clarity and grace, there are plenty of reasons to write a book.
Why not get started right away? All you’ll need to begin: write a single sentence.
Lucia Tang is a writer with Reedsy, a marketplace that connects self-publishing authors with the world’s best publishing professionals. Lucia covers various topics on the Reedsy blog and most recently put together a directory of the best independent publishers of 2020. In her spare time, she enjoys drinking cold brew and planning her historical fantasy novel.