Declarations of Independence: Business Authors Did it Their Way
A majority of business books are written by practitioners—people steeped in the topic they write about. Since lots of business book authors use the books they write to support their own business endeavors, they may be more inclined to self-publish. Still, deciding to self-publish, even with a business backing you up, is a brave decision.
Two first-time authors who declared their independence are Kirt Manecke, who wrote Smile: Sell More with Amazing Customer Service, and Iain Martin, author of Looking Down on Leaders: A Bird’s Eye View of Business and Bosses. Kirt started a specialty retail business in Michigan and developed an innovative employee training program which became the basis for his book. Iain, a Scot who resides in Zurich, Switzerland, founded a global executive coaching firm. He wrote his book because “the coaches in our team kept nagging me, until it was easier to write the book than find even more excuses not to.”
Smile Turns to IndieFab Gold
Kirt Manecke was inspired to write Smile when he saw the impact of his training program on his employees. “I watched as confidence, and customer satisfaction and sales, soared,” he says. He noticed that many businesses he visited or called didn’t have good customer service, so he wrote the book “to provide businesses with a quick, easy way to train their staff and increase sales.”
One big challenge: how to make Smile stand out from the many customer service books already on the market. “The differentiator for my book is that it is a sixty-minute crash course,” says Kirt. “There are many great customer service books on the market, however, many are very long, and only the most dedicated employee will read them. Smile has a unique advantage. It’s a quick and easy read. You can read it in sixty minutes or less. This means employees will actually read it, and they can start today. I also made my book very pragmatic. You can read it and apply the information on that particular page that same day, or that very minute.”
Kirt decided to self-publish because “I wanted to produce the highest quality book, and also have the opportunity to be profitable, which self-publishing allows.” When Kirt submitted his book to the 2013 IndieFab Awards, it won gold, the top award in the business category. The book won several other awards as well. To support sales, Kirt gives talks, does book signings, and uses social media. “Word of mouth and direct sales are critical,” he says.
His new self-published book, Smile & Succeed for Teens, is a departure from the business genre. It came about because moms and teachers approached Kirt and told him Smile “teaches the critical people skills young people are not learning.” The new book, says Kirt, is “customized for teens with the addition of numerous fun and educational illustrations and informative captions, as well as sections on interviewing and getting a job, overcoming stress, and volunteering.” Kirt is also planning an “advanced” version of Smile that will include additional sales techniques, personality profiles, and more.
‘I Wanted To Say It My Way’
Iain Martin faced the challenge of a category—business leadership—that had plenty of competition as well. He says he differentiated Looking Down on Leaders (which got a five-star Clarion review) with “a catchy title, a book written in conversational style, and a cover that was amusing but relevant. The title is counterintuitive and kind of arrogant, so it gets attention right away. But the subtitle soon explains that this is really a bird’s-eye view of leadership.”
Why did Iain decided to self-publish? “Impatience and hubris! I wanted my book to be in my hands as soon as possible. I didn’t want to have to beg publishers to take it on … and I didn’t want rejection letters either. And I wanted to say it my way—not the way some publisher thought I should.” In addition to promoting the book via talks and social media, Iain plans to engage an international PR firm.
Looking Down on Leaders is brimming with true stories. “This book is about my own experiences,” Iain says, “so it naturally evolved as a series of short conversations that others can personally relate to. There is no continuous story line, so you can just open it anywhere, read a chapter at random and close it again. This suits the attention span of most busy executives.”
Iain also made a conscious decision to make the book humorous. “Humor plays a role in leadership—it defuses the tension and shows that the boss is just human,” he says. “Fun, as a leadership tool, is sadly neglected. The more I wrote, the more fun I had, and the stories became more and more eccentric. They are all true, though—I just added a touch of verbal cosmetics to make them more readable.” Iain also created a fictional character, “MacMentor,” as a way “to sum up the serious leadership learning points without killing the light-hearted mood.”
Iain believes his approach to leadership applies to a global audience. “Real leadership everywhere has to be values-based,” he says. “The principles of business management are the same everywhere. Everyone I have ever met, in many countries, wants their leader to have an exciting vision. Everybody needs to hear this vision in a way that inspires and engages them.”
Clearly Kirt and Iain are two independent authors who are having it their way.
Barry Silverstein is a business writer, author, and marketing consultant. You can follow him on Twitter @bdsilv.