This is part two of Karen Wiberg’s series on using books to build your brand. If you missed it, you can read part one here.
In part one, we talked about how writing a book can benefit your business. When you do choose to use a book as part of your strategy, your business will be judged on the quality of your book. As a result, your book quality should match your brand promise.
Consider: When you shop for clothes, you likely visit different stores for different pieces. You go to the store whose brand, quality, and value you trust to match your needs:
- Walmart – Everyday low prices. (Underwear is underwear, man.)
- Target – Slightly higher prices, but much better design. (Ooh, cute sundress.)
- Macy’s – Good quality, almost always on sale. (Standard business suit, here I come.)
- Nordstrom – Designer goods with service and prices to match. (Dress shoes? Yes, please!)
Just as shoppers need a spectrum of shopping options, there are strategic reasons to target different audiences with different levels of book quality.
book quality criteria
I look at four categories of book quality:
- Content – The freshness of ideas presented, the insight shown, the depth of supporting evidence provided.
- Structure – The clarity and style of organization, the logic and context, how well the reader is led through the book.
- Craft – The strength of the writing itself: correct mechanics, smooth style, engaging voice.
- Format – The professionalism of cover and interior, the alignment with publishing standards, the sophistication of design.
Setting aside unacceptable quality (typos, lack of editing, poor design), let’s look at quality considerations for three businesses and their brands.
brand promise 1: quick and simple
Clara’s business helps small businesses create videos. She makes studio space and equipment accessible and affordable for DIY projects and offers straightforward production services. “Quick and simple” is her motto.
Clara’s book targets less-experienced DIYers. Her book quality strategy:
- Content – Clara is writing a basic how-to book, so her ideas aren’t especially fresh, but that’s OK; beginners need the ABCs.
- Structure – Clarity is critical for beginners and DIYers. Clara makes things simple and straightforward with clear headings and step-by-step processes.
- Craft – Since the content itself won’t be particularly novel, Clara inserts a strong “casual and fun” voice to match her “quick and simple” brand promise.
- Format – For “quick and simple” Clara also wants “short and fast-moving.” This implies a design with larger, more casual fonts, plenty of whitespace, and images to demonstrate her points.
Clara’s easy-to-read, basic-quality how-to book matches her brand promise of “quick and simple.”
brand promise 2: functional, affordable design
Leonard owns, Elements, an architectural glass and metals manufacturing firm that makes functional pieces such as stair railings for commercial and retail projects. Elements’ brand is “style as well as function—at a reasonable price.”
Leonard’s book targets developers, designers, and architects to explain Elements’ design and implementation philosophy and how it saves time and money while providing a superior end product. Leonard’s book quality strategy:
- Content – Leonard’s book explains Elements’ approach in a relatively brief fashion, but demonstrates the approach in action via a series of client case studies. The language is attuned to the professional audiences, and includes a glossary in the back for those less familiar with technical terminology. He also includes diagrams throughout for clarity.
- Structure – Though Leonard’s audience may need more complex information than Clara’s, his book structure remains fairly simple, straightforward, and easy to follow.
- Craft – Since his content is more advanced than Clara’s, Leonard’s style is more sophisticated than hers, though that doesn’t mean difficult to read. His voice is professional and practical, with some marketing flavor that resonates with the developers.
- Format – To match “functional, affordable design,” Leonard uses clean, easy-to-read fonts and incorporates distinct design elements.
All in all, Leonard’s book matches his company’s functional-style-affordable-price brand and is likely to reinforce client decisions about choosing his firm.
brand promise 3: high-end prestige
Vanessa is an executive coach for C-suite professionals at Fortune 1000 companies. She has a high-end, prestige brand.
Her leadership book delves into the subtle yet pervasive mental models that executives tend to trap themselves in. Her book quality strategy:
- Content – Vanessa’s ideas feel fresh and offer significant insight. Her book uses case studies liberally to help executives see themselves reflected.
- Structure – Vanessa knows executives are pressed for time, so while her book contains complex ideas, the structure remains clear and chunked into segments that can be read in short bursts.
- Craft – Vanessa’s writing shows sophistication, but “high-end prestige” doesn’t mean “stuffy.” It means her style and voice connect quickly and directly with readers; it demonstrates she knows and understands their experience.
- Format – To match “high-end prestige,” Vanessa wants her book to be a pleasure to hold and read. She has a sophisticated book design with classic fonts and custom graphic elements, and she’s printing hardback as well as paperback.
Vanessa’s high book quality matches the prestige brand promise she makes consistently in her executive-coaching business.
Each author delivers the quality needed by his or her respective audience. Consider how it would feel if you were to swap the quality of Clara’s and Vanessa’s books. Like a too-big hand-me-down garment, neither book would fit the intended audience.
Before beginning your book, go back to your business strategy: Who is your client, and what is your current brand promise to them? Then, how do you maintain that promise in book form?
Karin is the owner of Clear Sight Books. She helps business leaders who know they need to write a book but struggle to find the time or the words. Whether she ghostwrites, edits, or coaches, her clients develop a clear message and compelling voice so they can engage their audience. Read more at http://clearsightbooks.com/.