Why write a book?
Wait, I know this one!
- A book grows your authority, making you the top-of-mind expert in your industry
- A book spreads your message to the world, helping more people change their lives than you could ever reach 1:1
- A book grows your business, attracting new clients and opening new doors
- A book makes you money, whether you’re selling it, giving it away, or both
- A book creates a foundation for your future and a legacy for you to leave behind
As business authors, we’re all individuals. Our reasons for writing books will be individual, too. But we all have those reasons, and we draw on them for inspiration and motivation throughout our writing and publishing journeys.
But hang on a second. There’s another kind of why we haven’t considered yet.
You may know why you want to write a book in general. But that’s not the why I want to ask today.
Today, I want to ask this why: why would you write a book instead of doing something else.
By choosing to write a book, you’re choosing not to do a number of other things that could also lead to business growth. As John Green likes to put it, tradeoffs are inevitable. Writing a book uses time and effort and focus and money that you won’t be able to use on something else.
What could you do instead of writing a book?
- You could start a podcast! Podcasting is huge these days, and some of the biggest names in entrepreneurship today (Pat Flynn, Lewis Howes, Tim Ferriss, the list goes on) built major pieces of their empires through podcasting.
- You could launch a YouTube channel! YouTube is the second-biggest search engine on the internet, and video is a great way to build trust with your audience.
- You could become a professional speaker! Speaking is a natural path for many business owners, and both keynoting and selling from stage can add income to your bottom line.
- You could double down on social media! Whether you go old school and focus on Facebook, ride the cutting edge on TikTok, or find your favorite somewhere in between, there’s an audience waiting for you on every platform.
- You could focus on face-to-face network-building at conferences, events, and retreats! There are dozens of events for entrepreneurs every week of the year, from local meetups and lunch-and-learns to massive multi-day conferences with billionaires and bestsellers speaking on multiple stages. Your net worth is in your network, so the more people you connect with the better off your business will be.
- You could build and market an online course! Skillshare and CreativeLive get millions of buyers every year, and a course makes your messages, processes and systems accessible to people who might not be ready for a 1:1 offering.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Trust me, friend, as a business owner today you are anything but starved for options.
That’s the good news.
The bad news is that you really do have to pick one. Or at least one at a time! Trust me, if you try to take on two or more projects on this scale at the same time, you’ll fail at both of them. He who chases two rabbits catches none.
But since studies have basically proven that being good at multitasking is a myth, that bad news isn’t really that bad! All it means it that once you make your decision, you’ll be set up for success by focusing just on that one project.
So why would you choose to write a book instead of any of those other options?
Here are a few reasons I’ve found for why a book might be a better choice than anything on the list above.
Writing a book commands the most authority of pretty much anything a business owner can do. As I wrote in another recent post, the correlation between being an author and being an authority is one of those cliches that’s funny because it’s true. Why do books give you so much more authority than YouTube videos or keynote speeches?
- Longevity. Books have been around for literally thousands of years. Podcasts and online video are less than two decades old.
- Permanence. Your book will still be around ten, twenty, fifty years from now. A podcast only lasts a few weeks after you stop recording it.
- Credibility. There’s something about authorship that makes your expertise more believable and your message easier for people to embrace.
- Uniqueness. Everyone’s on social media. Not everyone writes a book.
A podcast or YouTube channel or successful speaking career can give you authority, but the amount of effort needed to build up any of those options to the level that simply writing a book does (more or less automatically) is…well, it’s way more.
Which brings me to the second reason:
Now, I’ll be the first one to tell you that writing a great book won’t be a piece of cake or a walk in the park. It’s a challenge on par with training for an ultramarathon or preparing a professional violin recital. But here’s the thing: when you stack writing a book up against these other options, you’ll actually find it’s one of the least difficult projects on the list. Here’s what I mean:
- One-time vs. ongoing effort. Podcasts and video channels and social media accounts demand new content CONSTANTLY. That’s how they’re designed. If you go a day or a week or a month without new content, your audience will disappear. Speaking, similarly, not only takes years to master but requires constant practice to stay sharp (not to mention continual gigs to keep making money). A book only needs to be written once.
- Technical expertise. Yes, there is some learning that goes into writing a book (and more that goes into publishingsaid book if you do that yourself), but no one ever had to learn how to make paper and ink or assemble a computer and code a word processing program before starting to write their book. Podcasting and video recording have a HUGE learning curve for non-technical people — not only learning how to record good-quality content, but how to handle everything on the back end of editing, mixing, uploading, and on and on.
- Equipment. Similarly, for a book all you need is a pen or a writing program on your computer. You don’t need mikes, special software, recording gadgets, lights, a wardrobe, or anything extra.
- Flexibility. This isn’t ease for you so much as it’s ease for your audience! They can read a book on their own schedule and not feel like they’re missing out or falling behind if they put it down for a few hours or even days. Videos, podcasts, and social media create so much false urgency to watch that 30min vid or listen to that 60min interview RIGHT NOW, that audiences can feel pressure and FOMO that doesn’t really exist.
When you look at it like that, a book doesn’t seem nearly as hard, does it?
Congruence with the other options
Authority and ease are some great reasons to choose writing a book. But it’s this third reason that really makes the book your top pick: having a book makes every other option on the list better.
Your book is a rising tide that will lift whatever boats you may have already in the water.
- If you have a podcast or YouTube channel, a book gives them a credibility boost
- If you don’t yet but you really like those forms of media, a book can get you guest spots on other people’s podcasts and channels
- A book is the #1 growth tool for professional speakers
- A book will help you expand your reach and grow your audience on your social media platform(s) of choice
- A book can drive traffic to a course
- A book is fantastic for networking
This is huge if you’ve already started any of these projects. If they’re still growing, a book can give them a shot of adrenaline. If they’re a major part of your business, a book will not only capitalize on that reach but make those activities that much more powerful. And if you haven’t done any of those things yet but you know you want do some of them eventually, a book will help you start any or all of them more effectively.
This isn’t really a two-way street, though. Starting a podcast or a vlog, beginning a speaking career, or doing a lot of networking won’t really help you write a better or more successful book. At best, they’ll provide minor help in promoting the book, at worst they’ll keep you from writing the book at all — and no matter what, they’ll distract you and divide your focus during the writing process. These activities really need to be well-established and self-sustaining parts of your business before they flip from liability to asset for starting a book project.
So if you’re weighing a book against a podcast or a YouTube channel or going all in on TikTok…by these reasons, a book will be a better choice in the long run.
Okay, great! Everyone should start writing books now and forget about these other activities, right?
There’s one piece of the equation we haven’t looked at yet. And unlike what we’ve looked at so far, this piece isn’t an argument or a justification. It’s a person. In fact, it’s the most important person in your book process.
What person is that?
The one in the mirror.
See, writing a book instead of diving into YouTube content or Instagram or Skillshare is the right choice…if it’s the right choice for YOU. But there are three potential circumstances when it straight up WON’T be the right choice for you.
One is when you’re just starting out as a business owner and/or still figuring out how to build your audience. In that scenario, you’re not ready to write a book yet — but devoting a year or two to consistent content creation might be a fantastic project to help you get your business off the ground and out of survival mode. A book is only going to be successful when there’s a ready audience for it. So if you don’t have that audience yet, focus on building it first. A podcast, a YouTube channel, or an active social media platform can all be great ways to do that.
Another is when you just don’t like to write. Trust me, no matter how sexy it sounds on that self-publishing guru’s sales page, “write a book even if you hate writing” is terrible advice that leads to crappy books and lost money. Don’t fall for it. If you flat out can’t stand writing, don’t write a book. Do something else, something that brings you more joy and fulfillment and fun. You might refer back to M. Shannon Hernandez’s Content Personality Quiz here — if “written” isn’t your primary content personality, you can still write a book, but if you’re clearly WAY more of a visual or audio or video or in-person business owner, writing a book may not be a helpful project for you. At best, it will be a struggle to complete, and at worst you might not care about its quality enough to make it profitable. So if you don’t enjoy writing even a little, a book might not be the best choice.
Finally, the third scenario is when you just really, really want to do the other thing. I had a conversation with a prospective author earlier this year who was really, really excited about starting her podcast this spring. She also wanted to write a book, but before she even got on the phone with me she knew the podcast was going to come first. And you know what? That didn’t bother me at all. I’d much rather work with a decisive, clear author who knows what she wants, but do it a year from now, than try to persuade her to put off the thing she really wants to do in order to work with me now. Don’t forget, writing a book is YOUR decision. If doing it right now, or doing it instead of starting your YouTube channel, doesn’t feel right or doesn’t line up with your top priorities, then don’t do it yet! Don’t let anyone force you into doing something you don’t want to do. Not even me.
Look, my goal isn’t to be one of those overhyped guru marketers who say EVERYONE MUST WRITE A BOOK RIGHT NOW OR ELSE THEY’LL MISS THE BOAT SO HURRY UP AND BUY MY PROGRAM ALREADY. A book is an unparalleled tool in the right place at the right time…and a complete waste in the wrong place and the wrong time. I don’t want you to write a book because I say you should. I want you to write it because it’s right for you.
The point here is that there are two main factors in that decision: what will be best for your business, and what you most want to do. And like the declaration of independence, this has to be a unanimous decision.
I’ve given you several reasons why a book is likely a great choice for your business compared to many other choices, but even those reasons aren’t universal — there will be some times when a book ISN’T the best thing for your biz, or the best thing for it right this second. And I’ve noted that even if a book might be great for your biz, it won’t be good for you unless you really want to do it. So when you face this decision, keep both these factors in mind, and make your decision using both.
If you’d like some help evaluating those factors and figuring out your next move, I’d love to invite you to a free Six-Figure Book Strategy Session with me! We’ll talk about your priorities, your goals for a book, and any other activities that might be drawing your eye. We’ll figure out whether a book is right for you right now, in a few months, or first thing next year — and determine exactly what you need to do between now and then to get 100% ready to write. If that sounds like a plan to you, click right here to book that free session. I look forward to speaking with you!
Check out my book Don’t Write A Crappy Book!, a comprehensive guide to writing and publishing mistakes business authors don’t know they’re making — and how to avoid them!