The Spoils of a Bestselling Author

ready for your close-up?The best reason to write any book is passion—passion for writing and passion for the subject of your book.  I have found the best books come from authors who possess that kind of a fire-in-the-belly excitement for their work. These authors are less concerned with their royalty income and far more concerned with writing a book that fills a need that is currently unmet in the marketplace.  When motivated authors focus on the right things, a funny thing often happens: the book that was ignited by passion and written with conviction takes off. The book sells in the tens of thousands of copies. I have seen it happen literally hundreds of times over 26 years.

In addition to the potentially significant royalty income (which the passionate author views as gravy), there are several other great things that can happen to a successful author. For example, you become recognized as an expert on that particular business topic. What does that do? Consider the following:

* It raises your national profile: any book that sells really well almost always sells well nationally and even internationally (more international sales for books with global themes and less international sales for those books that are U.S. centric, such as personal finance).  Suddenly your name is recognized by tens of thousands of people who never heard of you before your book became a hit.  This would help you to do new things, such as start a blog so that you keep the message of your book alive with new postings that will be read by book buyers and non book buyers alike (although you must have some patience with a Website and a blog, as it could take months or even longer to reach a mass audience). But certainly a bestselling book could help get your blog off the ground far faster than most anything else.     

Media opportunities suddenly open up: If your topic is the right one at the right time, you might be invited on to business shows on CNBC, CNN, or Bloomberg. You might also become a “point person” so that newspaper columnists and writers call you for a quote on a topic that is related to the subject of your book. And the higher profile your book, the more likely your book will be reviewed in prominent places. But all of these things depend on having a compelling, pertinent topic that resonates with a large audience and lends itself to this level of media treatment.

* You—and your company—will be regarded as a thought leader in a specific field: many authors write books for this particular reason, especially authors who work for a large company trying to position themselves as thought leaders in a particular field. And this is nothing new. For example, a dozen years ago I worked with an author team that wanted to position a newly formed division of their firm, Price Waterhouse, as thought leaders in change management. The two books they published to help achieve that goal were entitled Better Change and The Paradox Principles. Both books helped that division get its message out more successfully than anything else they could have done. They sent copies of the book to thousands of clients and potential clients of the firm.  The same kind of thought leadership could be achieved by consultants hoping to raise their profile and position their small practice as a thought leader in a particular field.  

* It paves the way for your next book: success breeds success. If the first book you write sells, say 75,000 copies, you will find your publisher very receptive to your next idea (assuming it is a viable one). Better yet, the people who buy your book at places like Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Borders, etc. will be far more likely to order more copies of your second book. That is huge, as distribution is a vital ingredient in making a book successful. Conversely, the publishing industry can be unforgiving. If your first book tanks, those same people will have a far different attitude toward your second book. “You are only as good as your last book” is an oft used phrase in publishing (meaning your previous book, not your final book), so it is important that you choose a great topic for your debut as an author.              

There are more good things that can happen as a direct result of a successful book, but those are the broad strokes.

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