By Joe Gillespie

Before moving to the world of inbound marketing, I worked in newspapers for more than two decades. So, I’m quite pleased to be able to shout this out to the world: Print is not dead!

OK, newspapers may be on life support, but on the marketing front, print still matters. The permanence of something printed remains appealing; you don’t need to be plugged in or worry about how many bars your phone is getting to read a book or magazine.

Enter an inbound marketing strategy that combines print with providing thought leadership and valuable information to prospects: writing a book. I’m not suggesting a digital book or a downloadable PDF e-book, but a real book, with a cover, paper pages, binding, and the ability to dog-ear where you left off—something you can put on a bookshelf or your desk.

Although many people have the personal dream of writing a book, the process for businesses is a different animal. I’m not recommending you write one from scratch—the undertaking is too large, and it’s too easy to write a couple thousand words, get caught up in other responsibilities, realize how much you have left to go to finish the book, and never return.

Besides inevitably feeling discouraged by your lack of progress, you waste time that could be spent on other marketing strategies. For example, if a 100-page book is about 25,000 words, and you estimate two hours for every thousand words written, that’s 60 hours of work, minimum. The ROI just isn’t there, and you may be setting yourself up to fail …

However, through your inbound marketing efforts, you may already have thousands of words at your disposal. The blog articles, e-books, white papers, pillar pages, and even infographics you’ve published can be collected, repurposed, and enhanced into a physical book.

Think of it as a pillar page on steroids, but instead of a purely digital piece of content, you’re creating something that you can hand out to prospects, leads, clients, trade show attendees, and job candidates. You can even sell your creation, but remember,  the main purpose of the book is as a marketing tool rather than a revenue generator.

Publishing a book still requires some time investment, but not as much as writing something from scratch. And when it’s completed, holding an actual book you helped create is an amazing feeling. In this first article of a two-part series (writing about writing a book inspired me to write a blog approaching book length!), I offer strategies for getting the copywriting in place so you can begin crafting your marketing masterpiece.

Pick a Topic

Your first step on this journey is to pick a topic and a title (you can always amend the title later) for your book. If you have a specific idea or focus in mind—something that’s been addressed in your existing content—you’re already halfway there. Also, look at your competitors’ content to see what they are and—more importantly—aren’t doing. If you see an opportunity to publish about a subject in your industry that hasn’t been tackled in print before, consider that as a topic.

Identify Your Assets

After deciding on a topic, sift through your content and determine what is usable for the book. This step is similar to building out clusters for a pillar page. Blog articles are easy to adapt—one post can easily be one chapter for the book. With longer-form content, you might not need to bring over an entire e-book but rather can pick and choose sections for key chapter contributions. Infographics are fair game and will give your book a visual element it might otherwise be lacking.  

Think Legally

Before proceeding, check whether you truly own the content and can legally repackage it into a book. If something was written in-house, you’re probably fine. However, if a freelancer was hired to write a blog article, look at the contract and see if you own the content or if the writer still has a claim to it (in which case, you might be better off just not using it). Also, if you’ve cited outside sources, be sure those citations (such as web addresses) still exist and that you carry them over to the book—and maybe beef them up into formal footnotes or endnotes, too.

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Rewrite and Rework

All of the content you’ve identified for your book still needs to be organized and likely reworked. Many of your blog articles existed independently before the book project and may not work exactly in that form—even if you are publishing an essay or a best-of-blog collection. Some things you’ll want to address include:

  • Chapters: A strong outline for this kind of book is mandatory, lest your narrative meanders back and forth between subtopics.
  • Duplicate references and thoughts: Don’t repeat the same bit of advice multiple times; you don’t want to be redundant.
  • Explicit marketing messages: You can still tout your business and your products in earnest, just not throughout the book. Save your marketing for the conclusion, and don’t go overboard.
  • Links: You can’t click on a link in a book, so take out hyperlinks, and limit web addresses (outside of footnotes/endnotes) to ones that are easily readable and can be typed out on their own with minimal effort.
  • Chapter conclusions: Blog article conclusions end the story, but this won’t work for book chapters. Revamp conclusions to drive the narrative forward into the next chapter.

Besides all these revisions, you will need to write introductory chapter(s), a new conclusion wrapping everything up, and some copy to fill in the gaps that your existing copy doesn’t cover. Plus, you may want to add sections and thought leadership that you haven’t covered with other content. All this writing will take some time, so stay focused on supplementing the existing content in a way that builds a full-length, fully developed story.

In the second installment, I’ll offer marketing strategies for the design, publication, and promotion of your book. Until then, start thinking about how you can turn your content into a literary classic.

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Joe Gillespie

About the author

Joe Gillespie is a Senior Brand Journalist for SmartBug Media. He graduated from Marquette University with a B.A. in journalism and is a two-decade veteran of the newspaper industry. As a Senior Brand Journalist, Joe writes and edits inbound marketing content for SmartBug's clients. Read more articles by Joe Gillespie.

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