It all starts with attention.
Need to sell more products or services? Start with getting people's attention, then you can show them how your product or service benefits them, leading them to make a purchase. Want to attract the best talent to your company? You have to get their attention, and show them why they want to join your company. Want to raise money? Got to get attention from VC's angels, and PE funds to pitch them.
Want media coverage? Media coverage itself is about attention, but the paradox is you can't get any without getting the media's attention first. Want to speak at conferences or create authority for your product or company? How will anyone know they should listen if you haven't gotten their attention about what it is you have to say yet?
You see where I am going here? There are many, many ways to get attention, but in my experience, writing and publishing a book is not only one of the best ways to get attention – it's one of the most under-utilized by entrepreneurs.
A book gives you authority, credibility and expertise
A lot of people like to say that "a book is the new business card." I disagree, because everyone has a business card. You can go to Office Depot and get business cards, but you can't go to Office Depot and author a book.
What I like to say is that "a book is the new college degree." It used to be, about 40 years ago, only about 10 percent of people had college degrees. If you had one, it was a major signal of credibility and authority. It meant something. But now that everyone goes to college, it doesn't signal as much credibility.
So what is a signal of credibility and authority now – one that's reliable and rare? Writing and publishing a book.
A book shows you can commit to something and follow through. It shows you gets things done, things that are hard and prestigious and require a lot of skills.
A book puts you in a place that most people are unwilling to go: being judged. It usually requires a lot of work. It requires you to actually know something, and it requires that you show that knowledge to the world. Most people are not willing to take that risk, set themselves up to be judged, and show the world what they know or don't know.
A book raises your visibility and gets you media coverage
When a media outlet wants a comment on something, who do they go to? The expert, right? And how do they know someone is an expert? Because they wrote the book. Experts write books. Commentators write blog posts.
Once you have a book, media coverage is 10 times easier to get. It's not just the media either. “Has a new book” is a standard, and often required, box to tick for the gatekeepers who control access to areas you most want to enter – lecture halls, television studios, boardrooms, media pages, special events, people’s minds. Charlie Rose doesn't say “My next guest has just posted a cat video.”
A book helps people find you
Google is the top ranked internet search engine, followed by YouTube. Do you know who is in third place? Amazon. And even more relevant to entrepreneurs, Amazon is the number one search engine when looking for products and services, with 44 percent of searches for products and services starting there.
This goes beyond just attention. An ad can get attention, but no one goes searching for ads to make a decision about buying a product or a service. When people look for buying information, they turn to experts or authorities. And where's the first place they think about to find information from an expert? Same as the media. They look at the person who literally "wrote the book" on the topic.
Having a great book brings people to you, lets people know exactly who you are, and shows them how you can help them. It's the best marketing tool you could ever use to not just build your brand, but actually attract clients.
Books turn attention into money
Attention is great, but most entrepreneurs don't just want attention and nothing else. The reason entrepreneurs want attention is because they can turn it into money. Remember what I said earlier, that a book is a multi-purpose marketing tool that creates attention that you can turn into almost anything else you want? I'm going to make this concept even more simple: book = attention = money.
A very profitable way to monetize a book is by using it to promote a physical product. Go search on Amazon under books for "lose weight" or "eat paleo." You'll see thousands of books, and a lot of them are essentially buyer's guides for physical products, like supplements, food companies or one-off products.
Think about it. Would you respond to an ad about supplements? Probably not. But what about a book that teaches you what supplements to take, when and why? If you trust the book, you'll trust the supplement recommendations.
A book can recruit employees to work for your company as well. This is overlooked, but for entrepreneurs and C-level executives alike, there is almost no better way to get great people to work with you than by laying your vision for your company out in a book.
The best example of this is Zappos. Not only did Tony Shieh write his own book, but he also wrote a different book about Zappos culture – that they give away on their site as a way to get people to come work for them. To this day, the book is still the main lead generation for recruiting at Zappos.
Important: Do not focus on book sales
I'm going to tell you something counterintuitive. Entrepreneurs should not focus on making money directly from book sales. Why? Because this is a fact of the book publishing business – it's nearly impossible to sell a lot of copies of a book, at least enough to make it worth your time as a business owner.
Last year, there were more than 300,000 new books published in America. BookScan, the company that measures all book sales, says that only about 200 books per year sell 100,000 copies. The number of books that reached 1 million sold last year is even fewer, probably close to 10, and almost all of those were novels. And virtually no book does more than that. The list of books that have sold 10 million copies in history is so small there's a Wikipedia page about them.
There is only one group of people who must focus on how many copies they sell: professional writers. And they can worry about sales numbers because that's the only way they make money! They don't have anything else to sell but their book. But this is not true for an entrepreneur.
Focusing on direct sales creates bad decisions for entrepreneurs, because they try to write a broad book in an attempt to speak to a large audience, instead of focusing on a niche that would get the best results for their business. If you look at your book as a marketing tool for driving attention to something that does make money, then everything changes.
Copyright © 2015 Entrepreneur Media, Inc. All rights reserved.
This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com. Minor edits have been done by Entrepreneur.com.ph.