“Here’s a copy of my book.” Even in an age of Periscope and Twitter, publishing a book is one of the milestones that shows you’ve “arrived” as a subject-matter expert. Why is book-publishing so important for someone developing thought leadership? Three big reasons:

• Having enough knowledge about your field to fill out a book says a great deal about your status as a cut above the ordinary.
• Upon meeting someone for the first time, handing the other person a copy of your book works much better than a business card (I do that a LOT with my books).
• The process of writing the book forces you to think through your topic in greater depth, to do research you otherwise might not, and to think of your ideas from your clients’ viewpoint.

Publishing a book is both easier today than it’s ever been, and harder. I’ve done five, starting in 2002 and most recently, Your Firm’s Expertise Edge, in 2015. I’ve experienced the highs and lows of book publishing. Here are my thoughts on how business professionals can publish a book.

How can I find a publisher for my book?

My response to this frequent question is another question: “Why would you want to?”

Here’s a reality check. Commercial publishers have embraced with a vengeance the idea that “Average is Over.” They want stars, and they’ll lavish those stars with book tours, appearances on Ellen and Oprah (if they can get it), and cash advances. The rest get a rejection e-mail, if that, from an unpaid intern. So whom do the commercial houses publish? Three kinds of authors, none of which is (probably) you.

1. Published authors who have already shown an ability to sell books – think “Tipping Point” Malcolm Gladwell. They’ll take a few chances on a new author, but they need to make a profit. The best way to show you can help them do that… is to have already done it. Yes, life’s unfair.

2. A new author who has become famous some other way – such as Girls producer Lena Dunham – and can be counted on to sell books, even if they have to assign a ghostwriter to record, transcribe and rewrite the author’s words.

3. Someone who already has a platform, or following – think video game analyst/critic Anita Sarkeesian with her huge YouTube audience of fans (and detractors). Or, someone who already has shown success in getting speaking engagements.

Not you? Didn’t think so. You might go two other routes:

Academic publishing – if you’re a full professor at an institution and can assign your book as required reading in your classes, you have a better chance of getting interest from the institution’s publisher.

Association publishing – where there may also be a built-in buyer base, particularly if your book becomes a text for the association’s certification process (two of my books were published by the Society for Marketing Professional Services, of which I’m a member).

I’m not trying to discourage you (well, yes, that’s exactly what I’m doing) from seeking a commercial, academic or association publisher. But there are so many amazing alternatives, now, in self-publishing. So I ask again, if you are still searching for someone else to publish your book, Why would you want to?

The new self-publishing: Kinko’s on steroids, plus Amazon

The new self-publishing model is really an elaborate photocopy-based system. No more printing presses; it’s literally called Print-on-Demand, or POD.

Here are the steps:

1. The author formats the text according to the publisher’s standards and converts it to a PDF. The front and back cover likewise.

2. The author then goes through an online interface to upload the manuscript and cover, selects some options such as the price to be charged, and then hits “Publish.”

3. When a copy of the book is ordered online, the system prints out the pages and a cover, glues one side of the assembled pages, slaps on the cover, and ships it. In most cases, the author can get copies at a substantial discount – I get author copies of my most recent book for about US$2.50, plus shipping.

It’s really that easy, once you have the manuscript together. What makes it harder is that it’s so easy – everyone can do it, so everyone does. There’s such a huge flood of new books being published each day – maybe, every minute – that you need to put as much effort into marketing your book as you do in writing it.

How to make it happen, for you

Here’s what you need to do to make your book happen:

Develop a clear idea of your purpose in writing – to sell a product, to enlighten others, to entertain, or to act as a way to say “hello” in a business context and really mean it.

Develop a title for your book and then commission a graphic artist to design a cover. Print out the cover, blow it up to two or three times the original, and then pin that printout to the wall over your desk. That will make the book seem so much more real to you – and help you visualize what it will be like to have it done.

Start pulling together your manuscript – blog posts, articles, speeches, papers, e-books and the like. Put a particular focus on gathering the details on projects you can use as case studies. Develop a habit of jotting down notes on what you can include in your book. Carry a paper notebook, or keep your ideas in Evernote so that they’re always available, whichever device you have to hand.

Develop an outline for the book and start putting information into a folder you have for each chapter – whether that folder is a physical or virtual one. You’ll see where the gaps are, and you can then start to generate content to fill the areas where you need more.

Seek professional help: As your book comes together, you may need a range of skills, such as:

  • Ghostwriter: helps you get content together based on interviews with you.
  • Copy editor: takes your rough draft and make it flow smoothly.
  • Proofreader: quality control on your text, checking for grammar and spelling glitches (essential, you simply cannot proofread your own writing).
  • Interior book designer: ensures that the headlines are consistent, that the layout works, and that the PDF conforms to the instructions set out on the website of your publisher.
  • Cover book designer: people really do judge a book by its cover, and having a well-designed cover reflects well on you.

    Creating a book can be a great career move. I’ve found in life that the things I regret are those that I didn’t do, rather than the things I did. Publishing my first book in 2002 was a big first step to building my understanding of my own work. Haven’t looked back since.