As a book editor, I get this question a lot. The background is usually:
I’m establishing my following, developing my voice, and building my expertise in a specific subject. I feel that a book will be a great way to become better known, to express my unique position, and to drive clients to my business.
The answer boils down to audience. Who will buy your book? Provided you have an audience who will preorder/purchase, read, review, and recommend your book, you’re golden.
If you don’t have a built-in audience, it’s difficult to use a book to build your platform, especially if your niche is oversaturated.
Let’s assume that “writing” in this case means “publishing.” You could write a book for yourself and not publish it, and that process could help you establish your message and try it out with a segment of your audience.
A book generally takes two years to create, from conception to publication. In my experience, the writers who thoughtfully build a relationship with their audience over time, well before their book comes out, are most successful in the short and long term (see also the myth of the “overnight success”). Writers who have a built-in audience tailor their content, and can go direct to consumer rather than through a publisher, for potentially more return.
Here’s a great example. Craig Mod is an American writer and photographer living in Japan. For the past few years he’s been walking the ancient pilgrimage routes of Japan. He inspired me to hike the Kumano Kodo in 2019, and wow was I ever glad of that timing when ::waves around::
Anyway, Craig self-published Kissa by Kissa, a photographic journal of some of these travels. Kissa by Kissa has high production values, and was printed in Japan. Read: it was expensive for consumers (USD $95), especially with exchange rates and import fees. But I bought it, and so did many others.
The first printing sold out in 24 hours. The second edition sold out. The third edition is now available.
That’s a huge return, but was the result of Craig slowly building his audience on social media, in his newsletter, and through his website; by publishing in Wired and elsewhere; and by establishing a membership program that supports his walks and other projects. He brought readers along on the publishing journey, too, so we were curious about the intricacies of Japanese binding and just had to feel the outcome. I mean…#iykyk
Publishing rewards a long game. Recalibrate your idea of success: not an instant bestseller, but an evergreen hit. Rather than driving clients to your business, a book can encapsulate and reward the commitment of your existing clients. Where does your audience hang out, and how can you best reach them? Spoiler: it might not be with a book, at least not initially. We’re all hungry for content, in varied forms.
Photo by Craig Mod https://shop.specialprojects.jp/products/kissa-by-kissa-3rd-ed