I recognized him as soon as I entered the café he had chosen.
He was a nationally known politician. And he had destroyed his career in a highly public and deeply embarrassing manner.
Time had passed; he had learned his lessons, and his rehabilitation process had begun. Part of that process was writing a book, which was why we were meeting.
His first question to me was simple yet brilliant.
“What’s a book for?” he asked, as we settled in to our discussion.
Here’s what I told him.
Not that many years ago, a book was an item of trade: hard dollars traded for information or entertainment.
Today, however, the traditional publishing industry is in free fall. Fewer people are spending money on books. Information and entertainment are available in overwhelming quantities, all of which are delivered in less expensive, less taxing formats than books.
Walk the aisle of any commercial flight. Most people are on their devices—watching a movie, e-mailing, playing games. A few are reading on a Kindle-type device. Only a few are reading physical books.
So if a book is not a revenue stream in and of itself, then what is it?
“It’s a branding tool,” I told him. “It’s a way of telling the world, ‘This is who I am, this is what I do, these are the problems I can solve, and this is what I know.’”
Publishing isn’t about getting people to buy the book anymore. It’s about putting your book into the hands of a specific market niche—people whose problems you solve—so they can find you and pay you a fee to solve those problems.
If you’ve got all the personal branding you need, you don’t need a book. But if not everyone in your niche market has sufficient awareness of who you are and what you do to hire you, then maybe we should talk.