abstract image of arrows representing business development and why to give your book awayIn a recent discussion about writing books and using them as marketing tools, one participant asked, “Why should I give away my intellectual property?” After all, he argued, writing and publishing a book requires a significant investment of time, energy, and money—not to mention the hard-won professional experience behind it all.

Indeed. On the whole, I’m a fan of writers getting paid for their work. I am not a fan of news sites that ask writers to write for “exposure” rather than dollars (lookin’ at you, HuffPo) or literary magazines that charge submission fees. In general, money should flow to the writer.

However, for most of my clients, I am a fan of giving books away, because in their case we’re not talking about writers making a living from their writing; we’re talking about business professionals growing their business.

Some common objections tend to arise when someone says, “Give your book away.” It goes against the grain for most people. But there are many reasons to do it.

Reason 1: Opportunity for bigger sales

A common objection to giving books away is “I’ll lose money!” When you give away books, it’s true, you incur printing costs and you lose the marginal revenue associated with each book. How much? In round figures you might spend $5 per book for printing and postage and lose $5 per book in revenue, so call it $10 per book. If you give away a hundred books, it costs you roughly $1,000.

What’s the tradeoff for that $1,000? An opportunity to obtain new clients for much higher-priced services. A book demonstrates your expertise. It gives you credibility and offers assurance to anyone considering hiring you. Calculate the revenue from a few more speaking engagements (maybe a few thousand dollars) or consulting contracts (perhaps several thousand dollars). Your potential upside is bound to outweigh the cost of giving books away.

Reason 2: Attracting the right clients

Another common objection to giving books away is “Potential clients won’t need me!” If potential clients read your book—free or purchased—they might not need you. So what? There are plenty of clients in the world. You don’t need ALL of them.

Plus, the fact that people can use your book themselves means it offers fantastic value! You want people to use your ideas. The more people use your ideas, the more visible your ideas become and the more likely word will spread that you are the go-to person for that idea.

Some people like to DIY. Other people can’t DIY (or will try to DIY and realize they can’t); they will need you. In essence, your book acts as a filter. If someone reads your book before engaging you, it is a strong signal they will be a good fit.

Reason 3: For the warm fuzzies (and referrals)

Giving a gift creates warmth and goodwill. And your willingness to give your book to someone shows a degree of confidence in your work that recipients can find very compelling. Even recipients who don’t become clients may recommend you to other potential clients.

A final caution on FREE

Once you get comfortable with giving away a piece of your hard-earned expertise, it’s possible to start undervaluing your book. (“Oh this old thing? It’s nothing. I got it on sale.”)

Be modest but not haphazard. Don’t act as though your book is so inconsequential you hand it out like zucchini in July (you know—anonymously leaving a bag on your neighbor’s porch because you are overrun with it—and BTW if you have some zucchini, I would like it please because ours got eaten by squash vine borers).

You have worked hard on your book—invested time, energy, and money to create something valuable. When you give your book away, give it with generosity and significance. Give it with intention.

OK, you’re convinced. You’re fully willing to give your book away—if only you had one. Need some help with that little sticking point? Give me a call at 919-609-2817!