By John Hall published September 18, 2017

How to Use Your Content Marketing Strategy to Write a Book

content-marketing-strategy-to-write-a-book

Joe Pulizzi said it best when he wrote, “a book is perhaps the ultimate piece of content marketing that can position you or your company as a leading expert in your industry.”

Writing and publishing a book can provide substantial value to your company. By authoring and publishing a book, your company can engage your audience on another level, generate opportunity in the form of new business and press, and cement itself as an industry leader.

Just publishing a book, though, doesn’t guarantee that you achieve any of these results. It doesn’t even guarantee that your book will be read by the audience you want to read it. For your company to achieve these kinds of results – the kind of results that should sound familiar to any fellow content marketer – your book needs to be guided by a strategy. Ideally, that strategy is the same one you use to direct your other content initiatives.

Ideally, your book strategy is the same as your #contentmarketing strategy, says @johnhall. Click To Tweet

My team and I worked together for years to create and consistently publish original content bylined by me as a thought leader to a variety of publications. Since we had used content to build meaningful connections with our audience and drive our company this far, we thought about what kind of impact a book guided by that same strategy could make on our content marketing goals. That’s when the idea to write Top of Mind was born.

Natural and valuable extension of content marketing strategy

Writing a book seemed like a natural extension of our work, and I suspect that’s true for other companies using content marketing to engage their audiences and ready to take that work to the next level. (Think about it: The brand that “wrote the book on” a subject is a more trusted expert than one that published an article on the topic – even a solid one.)

The brand that “wrote the book on” a subject is a more trusted expert, says @johnhall. Click To Tweet

I use “the next level” language for a reason: You’re building on your existing content marketing program that helped you earn trust, offer value, and boost your brand with your audience. You’re just taking the next step. Here’s a quick look at what those previous steps did that can make your book process simpler:

  • Developed a solid foundation: A robust content marketing strategy that’s driven results is the foundation for a book. You have an established set of goals and have created a body of published work that relies on your expertise that your audience finds valuable. A book is your company’s chance to dive deeper and strengthen that connection.
  • Created a trusted network and influence in your space: Unless you’re publishing content to a private blog that acts more like your secret diary than a tool for your marketing, your company’s content is getting into the hands of people who find it valuable. When you actively distribute content that delivers value to your audience, your brand builds a network of advocates and influencers whom you can tap when it’s time to write, publish, and promote your company’s book.
  • Tested the process: You have experience in – and a proven process for – content creation. You know your own strengths and weaknesses, and your team has shown it has the know-how to produce high-quality, engaging work that benefits your company.

Leap from content creator to author

Though you have that foundation, that isn’t to say that you can directly apply your content marketing strategy and processes for your standard blog posts or white papers to the creation of an original full-length book. Yes, your strategy and experiences in content marketing are helpful, but writing a book comes with its own set of challenges.

Consider the longest piece of content you’ve ever written; for many, that’s a white paper, research report, or something similar. I bet it clocks in between 2,500 and 4,000 words, and I’m sure ideating, writing, and editing that content took a lot of time. A book, on the other hand, can easily land in the 50,000-word ballpark and beyond, and you could be looking at anywhere from a six-month timeline for shorter books to a year or more for longer ones.

Not only does a project of that scale take time, but it can soak up a lot of your energy and focus. It demands long-term thinking, strategy, and dedication to your end goal that more agile short-form content simply doesn’t require as strongly.

Writing a book demands dedication to an end goal stronger than writing short-form content, says @johnhall. Click To Tweet

Still, if your marketing team is writing a book for your company, the strategy that guides your company content can (and should) guide your book, too. Whatever your content foundation, network, or processes look like, use those pieces to create a jumping-off point for writing a book that works within that content marketing strategy to resonate with your audience, boost your authority, and drive results for your company. Here’s how to use your strategy to get started on a book:

Let previous content define the scope of your book

The goals behind your book are likely the same that drive your day-to-day content marketing strategy: increased opportunity, brand awareness, thought leadership, audience engagement, and more. Just as those goals give your published content a sense of direction, they also should shape your book and focus its scope.

A book gives a unique opportunity to go deeper and expand on the concepts that earned your audience’s trust in the first place. Look at your previous content to see which articles, videos, infographics, white papers, etc., have received the best responses and generated the most substantial returns. This gives you an idea of which topics your audience members enjoy and want more of, and it lets you home in on those key areas to outline the book’s overall theme and specific chapters.

Look at your previous #content to see which topics your audience members want more of, says @johnhall. Click To Tweet

Leverage your team’s expertise

My book was a labor of love – not just for me, but also for my marketing team and the freelance writer we worked with. Each person on the team outlined the ideas, polished the writing, sharpened the content’s presentation, and helped ensure that the edited book’s content was set up to meet the goals we set. No one person could possibly have managed it all on his own. A team of experts is necessary.

Start by examining your content creation process and adapt it to a longer project like a book. Obviously, the time frame is different, but many of the general responsibilities and tasks are similar. Identify your teammates’ capacity to handle a long-term initiative and leverage their expertise to execute it.

Examine your content creation process and adapt it to the book-writing process, advises @johnhall. Click To Tweet

Tell your peers what you’re doing

By the time you use your content marketing experience to take the next step and write a book for your company, you (hopefully) have built a strong, engaged audience and a roster of valuable industry contacts and influencers. Let them know what you’re up to.

Tell them what you’re working on, share the content when you can, and invite them to give input. They might shed light on a new way of looking at something or push back on some of your ideas, both of which will force you to improve your content. After they’ve helped you write it, they may be willing to help you promote it or even endorse it.

Don’t be afraid to ask for important introductions, either. Your brand advocates, partners, and industry peers all have their own contacts – and if you land an introduction, they can connect you with agencies, publishers, and other influencers who will help your published book succeed.

The benefits of writing a book extend far beyond its initial publication. A positive reception could lead to increased industry authority, speaking engagements, fuel for future content projects, and new opportunities for your company. As a marketer with an effective content marketing strategy, you’ve already established that your brand’s ideas have merit. It’s now time to take those concepts further by turning them into a book.

Make sure your content marketing strategy implementation always improves – whether you write a book or learn from CMI’s daily newsletter. (It’s easier to start reading the newsletter.) Subscribe today. 

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Author: John Hall

John Hall is the CEO and co-founder of Influence & Co., which helps companies’ position key individuals as industry influencers and thought leaders. Influence & Co. focuses on creating high-quality content that helps clients reach their target audiences online. Clients range from startups and fast-growing companies on the Inc. 500 to Fortune 500 companies. Follow him on Twitter @johnhall.

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  • bobbly

    Sensible, practical advice on how to write a book to promote a brand, company, product, or service. I am the author of 94 published books, most with traditional publishing houses, and I can tell you from long experience that this post is spot on and very valuable.

    • John Hall

      Thank you for the kind words. I appreciate the comment. 94 books is pretty impressive. I’m only have 93 left to match you 🙂

      • bobbly

        I am going to buy yours unless you want to send me a free autographed copy in exchange for one of the same from me. 🙂

        • John Hall

          ha. I don’t think it’s fair since you have 94. I’d get the better deal. Let me know which one is the best and I’ll purchase it off amazon. I always try to purchase books to support the author 🙂

  • http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/author/roger-c-parker/ Roger C. Parker

    Great article, John. Coincidentally, I just finished rereading your Top of Mind. Your emphasis on team work and values sets your book apart. It’s a breath of fresh air in what is often a sea of metrics.

    As the author of over 40 books, I especially appreciated your emphasis on a team approach, in your book and when you wrote:….. “My book was a labor of love – not just for me, but also for my marketing team and the freelance writer we worked with. Each person on the team outlined the ideas, polished the writing, sharpened the content’s presentation, and helped ensure that the edited book’s content was set up to meet the goals we set. No one person could possibly have managed it all on his own. A team of experts is necessary.”

    Looking forward to more books from you and your team!
    Roger