Six Tips For Would-Be CEO Authors

Think you’ve got a book in you? Here are some guidelines for those who are thinking about writing a book from CEOs-turned-authors who have already been published.

Determine your goals: Simply gaining more visibility or advancing your company may be enough. “Writing a book is a great way to get your point of view in the public domain,” says Rob Bernshteyn, CEO of Coupa Software, who just wrote Value as a Service. “Prospects and customers can learn what you stand for—and what they can expect from your company.”

Have something to say: The flip side is: make sure others will want to read it. “A new book has to be different and compelling,” advises Ray Rothrock, CEO of RedSeal, a cybersecurity consulting firm, and author of the forthcoming Digital Resilience. “You’ve also got to have enough depth to be book length.”

Hone in on key audiences: Few CEOs will write best-sellers, but their books can reach target audiences. “Focus on writing the book for positioning or to promote brand awareness,” says David Mattson, CEO and president of Sandler Training and author of Why Salespeople Fail.

“Some CEOs swear they’ll write the book themselves. But few CEOs believe they have the time or THE skills.”

Be realistic about publication: It would be easy for Apple CEO Tim Cook to find a publisher and earn millions. But many would-be CEO authors will need to consider self-publishing. “Distribution is also easy,” says Ian Gotts, CEO of Elements, a tech firm, and author of Why Killer Products Don’t Sell. “Give it away.”

Reckon with your platform: The book-publishing industry has dramatically shrunk its publicity apparatus and often depends on authors having their own marketing machines. Doing a lot of public speaking can significantly boost book sales. The platform also works in reverse. “We use our book as a recruiting tool for speaking opportunities,” says Scott Moorehead, CEO of Round Room, the nation’s largest Verizon retailer, and co-author of Build a Culture of Good: Unleash Results by Letting Your Employees Bring Their Soul to Work.

Consider getting help: Some CEOs swear they’ll write the book themselves. “Take an entire month of nothing else,” advises Bonnie Hagemann, CEO of Executive Development Associates and author of Leading with Vision: The Leader’s Blueprint for Creating a Compelling Vision and Engaging the Workforce. But few CEOs believe they have the time or the skills. And there’s an entire cottage industry devoted to helping them do it right.

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Dale Buss
Dale Buss is a long-time contributor to Chief Executive, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal and other top-flight business publications. He lives in Michigan.

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