Penelope Trunk's Publishing Advice Is Wrong

Career Adviser Penelope Trunk has advice for would-be authors … don’t bother.

Her advice appears on the Personal Branding Blog, so it stands to reason that she’s not talking to regular fiction or non-fiction writers (at least I hope not), but rather those looking to improve their brand by writing a book.

Penelope writes:

Book writing is the distraction of the new millennium. Hugh Macleod (author of the new book Evil Plans) thinks people are obsessed with writing books because of their misguided idea that a writer’s life is nice. Money adviser (and author) Ramit Sethi points out that the world of book authors is a financial wasteland and you’re better off investing your meager salary than writing a book.

However, she is quoting material from 2005 and 2006. And in the sentence above that, she quotes from a statistic from 2002, which states that 81 percent of adults think they should write a book.

One of the posts she references is from Seth Godin’s 2005 post where he said,

4. Books cost money and require the user to read them for the idea to spread.
Obvious, sure, but real problems. Real problems because the cost of a book introduces friction to your idea. It makes the idea spread much much more slowly than an online meme because in order for it to spread, someone has to buy it. Add to that the growing (and sad) fact that people hate to read. Too often, people have told me, with pride, that they read three chapters of my book. Just three.

Is this the same Seth Godin who is now heading up Amazon’s imprint?

The point is, the publishing world has changed…

and IS changing. Writing can be profitable. Self-published authors are proving it every day as we’ve been featuring on our news feed. With print on demand and e-books, the entry to publishing has never been lower.

Penelope’s advice isn’t completely wrong. She gives great career advice, she has the number one career advice site, so she obviously knows what she’s talking about. You shouldn’t count on a book to do the job of branding for you. You need to prove yourself and perform. She is right on the money here. And if you don’t build your business, or brand, and nobody knows who you are, then a book probably is a useless pursuit.

But if you’re doing everything else right, then why not? The barriers to publication are gone. Writers have more power than ever to get their work seen.

What are your thoughts? Leave a comment, meanwhile, I’ll be reading Penelope Trunk’s book, Brazen Careerist.

2 responses to Penelope Trunk's Publishing Advice Is Wrong

  1. Barry Deutsch

    Penelope is correct and wrong. Writing a book if you are niche speaker, consultant, or coach is probably the most valuable thing you could imagine. If you’re just looking to get your name on a book cover, but have no unique compelling content to offer a particular niche that is original and thought-provoking, then it’s probably a waste of time.

    As experts in the hiring process improvement area, my partner and I wrote a book titled “You’re NOT the Person I Hired” about 5 years ago that has lead to a speaking business worth approximately $500K per year, an on-line products/training business that is in the multi-million dollar range, and a very lucrative executive search practice.

    Writing a book (regardless of the publisher), establishes your credibility. The cost of writing a good book in a particular niche is around 300-400 hours of work and probably $2-$5k investment in graphic design, independent proof-reading, and initial publishing fees.

    The benefit is incredible personal branding, credibility, and a bottomless well of great content you can dig from for the next decade. It will lead to speaking engagements, on-line products. You can structure numerous businesses and product lines off that one book project.

    Imagine this: Over the last 5 years, our book is now in the hands of over 10,000 CEO and company Presidents of businesses ranging in size from $10 million to over $100 million — and those 10,000 executives have seen either my partner or I present a summary of the book in a live presentation.

    I am amazed that more niche consultants, coaches, speakers, and experts don’t write a book. You can even hire a ghost writer if you don’t want to personally put the words down on paper. How easy can it get?

    Barry Deutsch
    IMPACT Hiring Solutions

  2. David Wright

    Barry – Thank you for weighing in. I agree completely and I’m glad to see that publishing has worked so well for your company and thank you for supplying the impressive stats to back it up.

    I’ve heard similar stories from other executives and Sean and I have even worked with some, who have leveraged their position successfully using books.

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