I was recently asked the question “David, do you think this book is going to sell?” The author was essentially asking if I thought her investment in creating an eBook edition of a long-ago published hardcover print book would earn out. It’s a tough question to answer for a service provider because “no” means no business, but “yes” means I’m setting expectations. I said “no.”
I went on to say that I thought we were asking the wrong question. We should be asking whether or not the book will help us get more business. Asked another way, is this a new business for our organization (i.e. we’re now a publisher, which should have a P&L) or is it a marketing expense?
I’m not making the argument that a book shouldn’t have a P&L. But in the case of a business publishing project, or a book that demonstrates professional expertise, the P&L needs to be viewed in the context of other potential marketing investments. I've had clients get teaching gigs, consulting assignments, speaking engagements; all because they had a book.
The question should be, “how do we leverage the book as a marketing tool”
I recently gave a talk to a group of business professionals about publishing and how to use a book to improve their presence on search engines. Let’s face it, a lot of us are prevented from reaching the coveted top 10 search results by websites with more juice: directories like Yelp, retailers like Amazon and of course social networks like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. My message to the attendees was rather than try to out rank them, why not use them more effectively?
I shared three overarching recommendations that anyone with a book can apply to their Internet marketing efforts:
- Identify a set number of keywords, phrases or topics you want to emphasize. These should be words people are searching for or the title of your book. Be careful about using buzzwords or wonky terms you invented.
- Prepare these in various lengths (including spaces): 65 characters, 160 characters, 300 characters.
- Document them and keep track of how you use them. The key here is consistency. For example, do not invent a new bio for each social network you join. The same goes for your profile pictures.
To illustrate the importance of this exercise let’s look at a few examples of what I found in my research.
- Google loves LinkedIn. Right below your name you have what LinkedIn calls the professional headline. This is critical real estate and shows up as the description of your profile on Google. Add important keywords here so Google will advertise your book, or service.
- Not far behind are LinkedIn Company Pages. Here Google pulls the first 160 or so characters from the company description on your company page. Add keywords consistent with your search engine optimization (SEO) goals.
- Your Amazon AuthorCentral profile comes up when people search for your name. The description won’t match your bio—Amazon specifies this wording on your behalf—but the way they do it ensures your name will achieve a high ranking. All the more reason to have an AuthorCentral profile if you are a contributor to a book or eBook.
- Your book’s Amazon product page generally appears in the first 10 results if a search term matches your book’s title. Amazon’s ecommerce engine will automatically grab part of the title and insert it in the URL.
- Slideshare was often in top results. Google seems to like the description from the member’s profile, the presentation description and the actual words in the uploaded presentation.
One thing surprised me. I did not notice a lot of search results from Facebook and Scribd. Either Google doesn’t index these websites like they do others or people are not using them the same way they do a LinkedIn or Slideshare.
The key insight is that a book can be a marketing tool. The trick to getting a return on this marketing investment is to reference it in as many high profile websites as possible. What has been your experience?