THE BLOG
03/14/2013 01:58 pm ET Updated May 14, 2013

Write a Book to Turbocharge Your Business

Eighty-one percent of Americans say they want to write and publish a book. That's 200 million people who feel they have a story that would interest and/or help others. Could all these people be right? I don't know about 200 million, but I do know that for thousands of entrepreneurs and business owners the answer is definitely "yes." I know from personal experience -- writing a book can put your business on the map, big time.

When I started my business 20 years ago, I named it Steps to Success because I provided workshops that trained people how to achieve success. Prior to setting up shop, I had been the manager of training and organizational development for a large corporation. It was a logical step for me to become an external consultant working for a variety of clients, rather than working as an internal consultant for one client. I would provide a full range of human resource consulting and training services -- the same services I'd provided to my previous employer.

I never intended to be an author. I stumbled into writing a book the same way I've stumbled into many other good things in my career. You know the old saying -- "life is what happens while we're busy making plans." Very often those unexpected things turn out to be the best!

As I was starting my business, I discovered I still had some lingering resentments about my previous employer and needed a way to get those negative feelings out of my system in order to move on with the next chapter of my life. I knew that writing was cathartic, so I decided to write out my resentment as a mental health exercise. Wasn't sure what I'd do with my writing once it was done -- perhaps I'd publish it in a business journal or something. But that didn't matter so much as just getting that old baggage out of my head.

So I sat down to write a simple parable about a peacock who worked in the "land of Penguins." I wrote and wrote... then wrote some more. My mental health exercise quickly became more than just a short story -- it turned into a book.

A friend of mine suggested I contact another friend who was a literary agent, so I did. But despite the fact that she was one of the best agents in the business, my peacock story was rejected by all the big New York publishing houses.

But by now I was committed. I believed in my story, and after searching high and low, I finally found a publisher who did too -- a small boutique publishing house named Berrett-Koehler. They understood what I was trying to do with the story. They got it.

And the rest, as they say, is history. Today: my peacock book is published in 23 languages worldwide, with over 360,000 copies sold. A video producer adapted the story into an animated training video that became one of their top ten bestsellers. Bottom line: What had started out as a mental health exercise turned into a big money-maker!

But most important, the peacock book transformed my business. Steps to Success became Peacock Productions. Inquiries about workshops and speaking gigs poured in. I traveled to Europe, Canada, Colombia, Mexico, and Asia to give keynotes and teach workshops. People all over the world related to my story.

Today, A Peacock in the Land of Penguins is now in its third edition -- soon to be fourth. Royalties from book and video sales continue year after year (I love passive income!) and Web sales of training materials provide another income stream as well. I didn't realize it when I wrote it... but looking back, I can see that writing a book was the smartest business decision I ever made.

These days, I advise other consultants, speakers, and workshop leaders: "Write a book. It gives you instant credibility; it makes you an expert, even if you don't have a Ph.D." If you're an attorney, consider writing a book to help educate your customers about common legal issues. If you're a orthodontist, you could write a children's book for your young patients and their parents. If you're an accountant, you could write about all kinds of financial issues. If your business provides a personal service, you could even write a short book about "The Ten Top Things You Need to Know Before Hiring a (fill in the blank)." If you're a veterinarian, you could write something like "The Ten Most Important Things You Need to Know for Keep Your Pet Healthy." Whatever kind of business you're in, you can find an important topic that will educate your current customers, entice new customers to choose you over your competitors, build your brand, establish yourself as an expert in your field -- a leader in the marketplace.

You may or may not make money on the book itself. I made money on mine, but it would have been worthwhile even if I had made none. The book put my business on the map and the big money came from speaking gigs, consulting projects, and workshops. Your book is a powerful tool to leverage your business. Even if it costs you money to publish, you'll more than recoup your investment with increased business income.

Don't know how to write well, or don't have time? No problem. That's what ghostwriters are for. Many of the best-known CEO authors -- and even many well-published business gurus -- have ghostwriters do the heavy lifting. I've ghost written for business owners and CEOs myself -- and there's no shame in hiring a ghost if writing isn't your forte. If you've got good ideas and content in your head, you can hire a good scribe to capture that content on paper.

Not all of those 81% of Americans who want to write a book have a story worth telling, but if you're a business owner, you do. Write it and they will come.

BJ Gallagher is a successful author and ghostwriter. Her business books include: A Peacock in the Land of Penguins: A Fable About Creativity and Courage, YES Lives in the Land of NO: A Tale of Triumph Over Negativity, and Being Buddha at Work: 108 Ancient Truths on Change, Stress, Money, and Success. Visit www.peacockproductions.com for more information.