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Book Smarts-Using an Often Overlooked Marketing Tool

In an increasingly digital age, purveyors of news and communication are turning to the Internet and wireless domains with the fervor of the early radio age. People are deluged with terabytes of information transmitted through the ether and millions of miles of wires. It’s surprising that in this digital age of saturated electronic stimulation, one of the oldest communication vehicles—the book—continues to add significant value to the reputation of a brand. In an information marketplace that seems to be shouting at everyone around the clock, it is the soft, measured tones of books that ironically stand out amidst the noise.

The value of a good read

Among the tools available in the 21st century marketing mix, books may not seem to have significant return on investment, but they have one attribute that no other marketing vehicle can claim: no one throws out a book. While a flyer, brochure or white paper may get lost in the shuffle, the vision and author of a book live on. When someone gets rid of a book, it usually ends up in someone else’s hands. The immortality and pass-along value alone are enough to distinguish a book from other more disposable PR tools like press releases or webcasts.

Books have additional value beyond longevity. A book validates the thought leadership of an organization or CEO. The permanence of a book provides greater staying power for communicating the organization’s philosophy than traditional marketing materials. In this space, leaders can more effectively transmit their brand promise in a form that transforms intellectual capital to convertible business currency and doesn’t seem so self-serving.

There is an indispensable value to being the source and literally writing the book on a topic. Writing a book provides ownership of the thinking and that type of credibility far exceeds the staying power of other marketing vehicles. Further, the media love to interview authors and conference groups seek them as speakers.

Lowered hurdles make books the fast track to publicity

The main obstacles that keep most business leaders from producing a book are time and cost. A common misperception of what it takes to create a book is based on old-time movie caricatures of an author in shirtsleeves pounding away at a mechanical typewriter, surrounded by crumpled-up pages. As such, we’re conditioned to believe that books take a superhuman effort and carry the burden of relinquishing a year or so of your life.

The reality, however, is that several midsize publishing companies have taken a lot of the costs and time out of producing a book. These companies offer a vast menu of services, from editing and distribution to ghostwriting. They turn a daunting challenge into a manageable reality that may not reach Barnes and Noble or the New York Times bestseller list—but will vastly enrich a PR campaign.

There is no reason for PR-conscious business leaders not to try their hand at producing a book—a surefire way to create a tangible vehicle to announce ownership of progressive business methods and thinking. It gives a corporate vision wheels—through its inherent credibility— and, more often than not, provides a long-term engine for the success of other PR tools.

How books are built:

  • Concept Development

Developing your idea to best serve your target audience is not always routine. You can expect that each principle involved in the decision-making process will offer an opinion as to the direction the book should go.

With that in mind, scheduling a series of strategic meetings to focus on the concept of the book should be your first step. This will help determine structure, elements, an assignment list, as well as create new questions to be answered in future meetings. Upon completion of the concept development, you and your team can determine the process of how you would like to have the book written.

Writing the book has almost become the easy part of any book project. With options of writing coaches, ghostwriters, manuscript development professionals and editors, putting together a well-written book that meets your exact specifications has become far less difficult than you may think.

For those who have already completed manuscripts, other services to assist in perfecting the story include content editing, line editing, proofreading and text design. Take advantage of the wide variety of professional services available, as they will bring a well-written manuscript to the next level.

  • Timeline

To create a flawless book-building experience, several key factors must be sustained throughout the process. Maintaining consistent communication with your book-building team, staying highly organized and expediting the delivery of the materials that are to be included in the book are essential. The more involved you are, the faster the book can be completed.

With this in mind, a book project can be completed in about four to six months. It will, of course, take longer should you need a manuscript written or want to include elaborate design features. It can feel like a long road at times, but it’s an amazing process to be a part of.

  • Manuscript Development

Whether you’re starting from scratch or have a manuscript completed, the process of correctly developing the story is imperative to the finished product. Further developing the manuscript can help define the target mission and produce a more organized and reader-friendly version of the book. The idea is to streamline the story in a way that is focused yet compelling. Further developing your manuscript doesn’t change what you have to say, only how you say it.

  • Photo/Illustration Edit

More and more books are including images to further communicate the main ideas of the writing. These images could be two or four color photos, line drawings, charts, or graphs used for cover art or interior page graphics. Whatever their format, most need to be slightly modified for use in a book.

The process of photo and illustration editing will typically change the size and color distribution for reprinting and individual portions of the image through graphics software. Each image can be manipulated to meet the author’s need. The process has become a significant part of the design process and is essential to achieving the perfect balance of your book.

  • Design

Book design has grown to new heights in publishing. To create just the right look is a constant challenge that incorporates new ideas with traditional formulas of success. The process can often include several artists who contribute to the overall look with cover art design, page layout, text design, packaging and other key elements.

The best part about this phase is that the ideas are limitless. By working closely with a team of artists, you are able to share your ideas and watch them grow into the book in your imagination. If design isn’t your thing, these same artists can provide you with their own ideas for your approval. Remember, the importance of great design is paramount when you consider that people really do judge a book by its cover.

  • Manufacturing (printing, binding, etc.)

Now that the manuscript is finished and the design is completed, you’re off to press. Sending your book to press is a great feeling that stirs up both nerves and relief. The book is now out of your hands and can feel like leaving your kids with a babysitter for the first time. Not to worry—you still have time to change a few things.

As part of the manufacturing process, you can request prepublication galley copies that allow you to see a near finished version before going to press. The galleys are a dress rehearsal of sorts, offering you the opportunity to review the book in its bound form and make minor changes if need be. Once completed, your book is back on the presses for the actual print run. After the books are finished, they are packaged and delivered, ready for sale or distribution.

  • Distribution/Fulfillment

With thousands of books ready to go, it doesn’t take an army to get them where you need them. Distribution and fulfillment services are available to expedite your books to one or a thousand locations. You provide the list and the rest is taken care of. With swift accuracy, you can be sure that your books are delivered and received.

With thousands of books ready to go, it doesn’t take an army to get them where you need them. Distribution and fulfillment services are available to expedite your books to one or a thousand locations. You provide the list and the rest is taken care of. With swift accuracy, you can be sure that your books are delivered and received.

Additional services can also be put in place to deliver your book in customized packaging. From printed wraps to custom cardboard sleeves, your book can reach an international audience with the look and impression you want and your message deserves.

A privately published book can communicate an idea, preserve the past and share your vision for the future. A book instills pride; it generates a greater trust from your audience and honors its subjects. A book stands on its own as a powerful marketing tool both economical and unique. Most of all, a book conveys emotion, instantly connecting you with your target audience and keeping you connected for many years to come.

© 2006 PRSA. All rights reserved. Used with permission.