A few years ago, Hamish McKenzie, co-founder of Toronto-based pitch consulting firm McKenzie Pitch Partners, realized his business (then essentially a one-man band generating under a million dollars in sales) was at a crossroads. To take it to the next level, he knew he had to be perceived as an expert in his field — and he believed the best way to achieve his goal was to publish a book.
In early 2014, he approached CWG and branding firm Parcel to oversee the book’s ghostwriting, design and production. In January 2015, he was holding a copy of Pitch: What You’re Not Doing Makes All the Difference in his hand.
For McKenzie, Pitch has turned out to be the gift that keeps on giving. It garnered him attention in the Financial Times, Air Canada’s enRoute magazine and Fast Company. His firm’s revenue spiked by 50 per cent, he now has a 10-person team and he’s doing one speaking engagement a month instead of one a year. (He was even recently approached to speak in India.) He’s also doing less proactive business development because now people regularly contact him, and his book continues to win him face time with potential clients around the world. “Business opportunities are hard to come by on a proactive basis these days. A book will get you in the door.”
McKenzie is convinced that none of this would have happened without a book. “A book is the linchpin. It lends me instant credibility. Instead of quoting this study or that statistic, I can give people something tangible to hold in their hand. Even if 80 per cent of them never read it, the sheer fact that it’s on their shelf prompts them to say, ‘Oh yeah, I know this guy.’”
Many professionals who take the self-publishing route understand the value that the old-school credibility of a book can bring, and they usually invest in publishing one when their businesses or careers are at a pivotal point. Maybe they need to re-energize their brand or align it more closely with the direction their business is headed. Maybe they want to highlight some professional expertise that sets them apart from their competitors. Maybe they want to get on the speaking circuit or increase their audience or their fees. Whatever their motivation, a book allows them to take their brand story to a wider audience. It prompts even more people to say, “Oh yeah, I know this guy.”
There’s another important reason why publishing a book is a smart business investment, although it’s often an overlooked one: ghostwriters. A good ghostwriter not only helps authors crystallize their core business principles so their audience can understand who they are; they also draw stories and ideas out of them — lots of both, since it takes a lot to fill a book. Then they turn that material into a memorable narrative that showcases their brand.
Once authors have a carefully crafted narrative in book form, they can repeatedly draw on all that rich content to reinforce their brand message across their other platforms. Content-wise, their book becomes a wellspring. McKenzie is now turning Pitch into a software package that he plans to license to companies.
In recent years, publications such as Forbes have been touting the benefits of self-publishing, not the least of which is the ability to retain control of the process and — if you do it right — end up with a product that still bestows credibility.
Self-publishing a book — at least one with quality writing and design — is not an insignificant investment. (The price can vary significantly depending on the specs.) Including the writing, design, copy editing, proofreading and an initial print run of 3,000 copies, Pitch cost McKenzie Pitch Partners $65,000. Given how much the book has raised his profile, fostered his company’s growth and burnished his brand, McKenzie considers the investment worth every penny.
“If you want to go through the exercise and feel good about yourself and make your mother proud, then cut corners,” he says. “But if you’re writing a book to position yourself as an expert in your industry and take your brand to the next level, then don’t spare any expense.”