Business Books as Business Cards: Open Book with Senior Publicity Manager Erin MacDonald-Birnbaum

The All Things Book Marketing podcast is a popular biweekly show featuring book marketing and publicity tips from the top voices in the publishing industry. Be sure to subscribe so you never miss a new episode! Our Open Book series was established in 2022 and features interviews with Smith Publicity team members.

In this Open Book episode, Senior Publicity Manager Erin MacDonald-Birnbaum discusses how industry experts and thought leaders can leverage their books to grow their audiences and find new leads for their businesses. Let’s dive in…

What types of business books are there?

Business books account for about 70-80% of the book industry, and there are many different types of business books that fall under that umbrella. They can be about leadership, entrepreneurship, investments, strategy – the list goes on. At Smith Publicity, we’ve worked with a wide variety of business books.

Where did the term “book as a business card” originate, and what does it mean?

Fun fact: Smith Publicity founder Dan Smith has been credited with coining the term “book as a business card.” What it means, essentially, is that one’s book can be used as a tool to promote and expand one’s business. Not all authors who come to Smith Publicity have the sole goal of selling lots of book copies or becoming known as an author. Many already have impressive businesses and professional backgrounds of their own and have written a book to offer their expertise and knowledge, while adding credibility to their business. A business book serves as a tangible thing that someone can share with their network, their colleagues, the media… the world. It serves as an offshoot of the person who wrote it.

How does Smith Publicity use a book as a business card in a publicity campaign?

When we’re running a publicity campaign for a business book, it’s twofold: we want to promote the book, of course, and celebrate this major accomplishment, but we also want to keep a focus on the author’s background, credentials, and thought leadership.

Our strategy is often to take “nuggets” from the book and using them as angles for expert commentary, podcast interviews, etc. We tend to keep the focus on using the essence of the messages from the book to build the author’s platform, as that will result in the most success for not only the author’s book, but for their business and brand as well.

What is the balance between promoting the book and promoting the expert?

It’s a fine line, and a lot of that balance depends on what the author’s goals are. Most of the business authors that come to Smith Publicity are excited that they have a book coming out, but more than just the book, they are excited about how the book may elevate their brand and grow their business. In that case, though the book is always part of the equation, the real focus is on obtaining media placements that position the author as the expert they are and get their name and business into the media through expert commentary, and interviews on places like podcasts and television.

This is where, as a seasoned publicity team, we are able to take the messaging of the book and wrap it around what’s happening in the news and in the business world. For instance, we may have a client who has written a book on A.I. Obviously, that is a huge topic right now, and we will capitalize on that by offering that expert up for interviews and expert commentary opportunities.

That’s where the duality is: being able to pull out those key topics of the book and tying into what’s going on in the world today, and how we can bring value to that through the author’s voice.

What type of media coverage proves most beneficial to business book authors?

There are a few things we consider: What is available to our authors? Where are they going to get the most value? Where is the needle going to move for them? For a lot of our business authors, the answer to that is podcasts. The reason podcasts are such great media exposure for most business authors is that many are experts in very dense topics. A nice, longer-format podcast is a great way for the author to really dive deeper into the topic, showcasing their knowledge and expertise. We have seen time and time again that podcasts move the needle.

Another great type of media coverage for business authors are expert commentary opportunities, because thought leadership is such an important part of the way we promote business authors. It has also proved to be extremely useful for business authors, as it’s a great relationship-builder with the media: often, a media contact will keep an expert’s name and contact information on file for future opportunities.

How can a business author maximize their media coverage?

In almost every case, business authors are not only authors – they own their own business or work in a very high-level position. This leaves them little time for constant content creation, which highlights the importance of repurposing the excellent media coverage that they receive. Here are a few of the top ways we encourage repurposing content:

  1. Excerpts: Business books are often written in such a way that excerpts are very easy to pull and use as content. They can be used as a “teaser” for the book and topic, they can be used as the basis of a pitch, and they can also be used as the content itself (i.e. sending an excerpt to an outlet to run).
  2. Byline Articles: Many times business authors receive requests to write byline articles on various topics. Again, they are often very busy people and may not have time to write dozens of articles. Therefore, what we often advise and assist with is taking one article and tweaking it for another type of outlet. For instance, there might be an article written for a business publication that we’re able to work with the author to tweak for an industry publication.
  3. Expert Commentary: As we’ve discussed quite a bit, expert commentary is going to be huge for business authors. One way we can maximize this type of coverage is by having some FAQs on the author’s topic of expertise/niche ready with a few bullet point responses from the author. That way, we’re ready to go at a moment’s notice, as expert commentary requests are often looking for a quick turnaround.

Can business books be used to complement a rising speaking career?

Business book podcast. Author speaking about their book. Absolutely! When an author/expert gets invited to speak, there is often a speaking fee associated with that. One of our suggestions to business authors might be to accept a lower fee (or even waive the fee altogether) in favor of asking the event organizer to purchase a book for each audience member instead.

This obviously boosts book sales while getting the expert’s name quite literally into the hands of a large group of targeted, interested people. This is one of the most direct examples of “using a book as a business card” as you’re literally networking and leaving an impression using your book as a tool.

As you can see, there are many benefits to using a business book as a business card, and Smith Publicity is with you every step of the way to maximize your success.