My colleague, Melissa G Wilson, and I were chatting the other day about publishing trends. We had just had a very positive meeting with a prospective new client and we were reflecting on how often we tell authors – especially those who write predominantly for a business audience – that a book is like having a really nice business card. They can give it out to current and potential clients, or attendees at conferences or keynote addresses as part of the price of admission.
But when we stopped to think about it, we realized that equating a book to a business card is really undervaluing the power of that book.
Let’s be honest here. What do most of us do with business cards nowadays?
We go through the almost obligatory card exchange when we meet someone for the first time at a meeting or a networking event. We may comment on how much we like the grain or weight of the card stock. We may ooh and aah over a logo or the typeface. But then what do we usually do with all those cards. If you are like most people, you then pack it away in your portfolio, coat pocket, wallet or briefcase with the intent of following up, or at least adding it to your Rolodex, if such things even exist anymore.
However, in truth, how many of us actually do anything with a business card except perhaps lose it within minutes of getting back to our office or going home? The answer I’m sure is very few.
A Book Goes Far Beyond the New Business Card
A book, on the other hand, is for life. It can serve multiple functions, not the least of which is establishing you – the author – as a recognized expert and thought leader in your field. A book influences. It has the power to change minds and perceptions, to educate and help the reader develop new skills. A book innovates and inspires and opens the reader to new levels of experience and even new worlds.
Now, what does a business card give you? It’s rudimentary at best – a name, a job title, a company, and contact information. That’s it. A business card doesn’t share anything about the person on the card. It can’t tell you what inspires that person, or what excites and motivates them. There’s often very little there to differentiate them from anyone else.
Give a person a book you’ve written and you’re inviting them on a journey. You’re opening up lines of communication. You’re connecting.
As publishing professionals, we have to stop referring to books as elevated forms of business cards. There’s no comparison. The business card is dead. Long live the power of the book.
Jon Malysiak is the founder and president of JFM Editorial, a literary services agency based in Chicago. Follow him on Twitter: @JonMalysiak
Note: Jon also works with us at Networlding and has been a wonderful partner on many great book projects.