Books, Brochures and Business Cards

Soleil says, "The Fifth Estate, huh?"

Welcome to the Fifth Estate is dedicated to Soleil Maya Livingston, pictured above.

After you publish a book, you don’t need a brochure. You walk in with the book, and give it to them. If your book does really well, you don’t even need to hand them a business card. They already know who you are. Instant name recognition and credibility are two primary benefits of writing a great book. Unfortunately, these by-products of disseminating (hopefully) noteworthy ideas have become the primary purpose behind many marketing voices’ books.

Back before publishers sold their souls to Mephistopheles (and marketers), books used to get published because they were unique, offering completely new views, or different ideas and approaches to older topics. That was the whole reason to publish; to bring new ideas to the table.

As a teenage boy and a college student, there was great joy reading new fiction or nonfiction with fantastic ideas. Today, it is disturbing to see the rewards of publishing are surpassing the original reasons to embark on the endeavor.

The benefits for authors included the accolades, new book contracts, and yes, credibility and perhaps business. To this day, these are the primary benefits for authors. Writing books doesn’t pay enough to cover the mortgage.

Marketers have awoken to the image value that writing a book brings. And publishers love the fact that marketers pimp their books so well! Unfortunately, most publishers are no longer printing original business thought anymore. Instead, they are publishing 200 page brochures and business cards.

Perhaps what is worse is the way many of today’s authors go out and shamelessly pimp their book like it is the second coming of that carpenter guy. Instead of showing how their ideas can help people or the industry as a whole, they turn their books into self promotion vehicles.

There is one fellow author who literally uses any casual mention on social profiles to name drop the title of his book. It is one of the most shameless behaviors of book pimpery yet (right after the above baby photo). But it’s not surprising.

That’s a travesty. Seriously. It’s a damn shame that within the marketing and social media industry publishing a book is a coveted trophy for buzz.

The saturation point may be coming, too. People are growing weary of receiving the shameless arm wrenches and the self posturing. God forbid if you contest any ideas in said books. The egos involved can’t handle people feeling differently.

Business books need to be better than a platform; they need to spark their readers and make them better at their jobs. Unfortunately, it seems most authors or publishers don’t view it that way. Perhaps Seth Godin’s book title was right, “All Marketers Are Liars.” Will they say that about all marketing authors, too?

Special thanks to Rich Becker for suggesting this topic.

24 Replies to “Books, Brochures and Business Cards”

  1. Amen, Geoff.  Book publishers have a choice to make. As the economics of the industry starts to crumble, and Amazon continues to impose their dominance, publishers can lead specific tribes, finding great authors for people with shared interests…and help those authors build vibrant communities. That’s where the opportunity lies, not picking more and more lifeless books that are average to market to average readers. 

    1. There is a reason why many book publishers are getting squeezed.  The value they offer is increasingly less apparent.  It will be interesting to see what happens to this sector, and its partners like Barnes & Noble.

  2. At some point, the market will decide – in all likelihood, it already has. My mother used to ask me why I kept making ebooks and audio or video collections to sell instead of “a real book”.

    My thing was it wasn’t enough to have something new to say even. Saying something uniquely that can help people (even if it isn’t new) is why to publish, not just because the book can become your calling card. These days isn’t that why people bother buying physical books?

    1. I wish that were so. I think people publish for the wrong reasons.  I wonder how many book buyers feel ripped off for it, too.

      1. People definitely publish for the wrong reasons. I was reading Danny’s post today about when the sheep tell the shepherd to flock off, and I really believe that’s going to be a trend. The quiet buy-all fans will see the self promotion with no value-add in books the way they’re seeing it in blogs. And it’s so fast now, to inform people that a book rocks or sucks… If we’re lucky, it’s a matter of time.

        1. I have always wanted to be an author since I was a teenager. I wanted to write novels. I have learned a ton publishing two business books, and frankly, I am seriously considering using this experience to rewrite one of my old novels and publish it independently.

  3. BTW, did I mention my book? LOL.

    I wonder when we’ll see sites like Amazon starting to clamp down on self-promo books.

  4. BTW, did I mention my book? LOL.

    I wonder when we’ll see sites like Amazon starting to clamp down on self-promo books.

    1. There may come a time.  I bet Amazon sees itself as an agnostic tool set.  The market is not reponsible for what is sold, similar to Craigslist.  I am not sure I agree, but…

  5. A marketing group I know is using its recently published book as a lead generator. I read the book, there is nothing new in it, in fact if you took out the many graphics and fancy layout, you wouldn’t have much more than a medium length white paper. However, it is generating leads, they are doing very well. Book instead of brochure.

    Btw, I think if you added a puppy to your picture above you have the perfect brochure, although Soliel is adorable all alone, is there a book in that picture?

    1. I think so, it might be her chew toy.

      Amazing how form surpasses matter with the book thing.  Hope you are well, Andrea!

  6. Waitaminute. I’ve had a book-type thing in the works for the better part of a year now, and as exciting as I think it would be to accomplish such a project, I’ve been hung up on this whole “providing meaningful value to the reader” thing. Now you’re telling me I could just stir some social media/marketing/personal-improvement buzzwords into a semi-autobiographical pitch vehicle and be on my way to mega Klout perks? Damn. So much time wasted…


    1. Yes, it will make you a god on Empire Avenue, too.  Let me know when the mansion is ready for visitors.

      1. Awesome! Empire Avenue sounds like a sweet address. Is that digital gentrification? How many Numberwang mayorships should I have before I start trading Follower Default Swaps on the virtual market?

        This is exciting! 

  7.  Geoff, I hope this is satirical. Most books have “wow” in the title and suck. They are just product. There are about 10 well-written nonfiction titles per year. I read the above like a joke and hope that it was. Love, Richard

    1. I’m serious, and I disagree on the well written titles a year. Sorry, guess we’re not eye to eye on this one.

  8. In publishing, the exact shift happened, very overtly at this one distinct point: instead of a listening file (in which I kept pitches, ideas, and manuscripts from hopeful writers) I was asked to focus exclusively on my dictation file (in which I kept market surveys and tracked hot topics to determine what I ought to deliver to the market). I went from a managing editor who listened, discovered and let the market deliver ideas to a managing editor who told the market what it needed to know. I’ve stated that factually, without judgment. I went from fresh manuscripts, usually less than half a dozen, to constant re-editions of proven manuscripts. There are pros and cons to both sides. But what I missed the most was that discovery and learning from someone else, that outside POV.

    1. Thank you for this insight, Julie.  It validates some of my thinking on the “biz.”

  9. Sidebar: I’m intrigued by the rise of Indie publishers on iBooks, where authors get voted up, featured, and even eventually converted to paid. Lots of fresh voices in there.

  10. I am an avid business/marketing book reader but I’ve recently come to a point when I find them all the same. Almost every new book offers the same platitudes as the existing ones, with the only difference being each individual author’s writing style. The problem is even worse with follow up books. Even famous authors like Seth Godin, who has probably the firmest grasp of where the publishing industry is going wasted the chance of giving us something new and compelling in the debut book of his new publishing venture The Domino Project. The book in question: Poke The Box, is basically a shorter, rehashed version of Linchpin destined to market TDP and Seth himself instead of offering new ideas. If I read one more book that talks about the lizard brain, or uses Apple or Zappos as examples of good businesses my head is going to explode. I am now switching to reading biographies and investigative reporting of current events instead of marketing books and I find that I’m learning more by reading about people who actually accomplished something and about events that actually happened.

  11. Lot of good points here pal. In some ways the whole argument of self-pimping and downright whoring can be tied to competition from a low-cost self-publishing platform like lulu. In the space we all occupy now everyone wants a slice of the cheese and figures if they can pump out 1 NYT best seller from 200 folks with the same idea so be it. Kind of like Harlequin 2.0 where social media whores replace the ones that used to grace the smutty covers. 

    With Borders folding it should be interesting to see how much this squeeze take place. 

    Like the analogy of using the book as your BC or brochure.

    1. Thanks, Jeff.  In hindsight, I realize how hard it has been to market in the face of this type of ethos, which is very widespread. I must say, I’ve wanted to quit several times.

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