08/15/2012 03:32 pm ET Updated Oct 15, 2012

What the Publishing Industry Doesn't Want You to Know

Outside of 50 Shades of Grey, self-publishing a book is seldom lucrative -- but for entrepreneurs, executives and authors alike, it can also be an exercise that's well worth taking. Not only do self-published works establish subject matter expertise, provide a platform for growing visibility via media and speaking engagements, and offer a vehicle through which to rise above increasingly impenetrable volumes of marketing-, PR- and social media-generated noise. They also act as a signature calling card for you and your business; heighten trust and engagement; serve as demonstrations of your talents and services; provide a low-risk way to test potential markets; act as a unique promotional leave-behind; let you cost-effectively garner fan feedback; create added revenue streams; and, most importantly, offer an immediate way to set an individual, brand or company apart.

An inside secret: Many authors actually refer to them as "business cards" -- because that's exactly how they can function. Many savvy content creators likewise use them to create direct customer relationships, build a community following and create a stable income-generating platform through which to launch future products, services, and startups. But the truly wise? They'll leverage such opportunities to create heightened visibility, open doors (including securing otherwise unattainable networking, speaking and consulting opportunities) and negotiate better deals. Successful authors not only enjoy heightened awareness and a boost in perceived value. They may further find it's far easier to bargain with prospective publishing partners, should they wish to expand into new areas or volumes. Establish audience demand, build ongoing revenue channels and cultivate one-to-one customer relationships, and you not only mitigate risk for all parties involved. If you can prove out demand for your works, and are already bringing money in the door, you'll also be able to negotiate better deals. Leverage gained can allow you to comfortably refuse onerous terms, retain greater equity in creations and enjoy the freedom to step away from failing partnerships without fear.

Better still, thanks to the rise of technology, online and social media tools, suddenly, anyone can advertise and promote their works affordably -- meaning, for the most part, that you can tell coaches and consultants to take a hike. However, for those who do choose to go the DIY route, it also bears remembering: Even in the best of cases, from a promotional standpoint, due to the sheer volume of products, services and announcements competing for attention, you're still screaming into a wind tunnel. Happily though, with a little ingenuity and a good hook, you too can effectively market your works to the masses, potentially scoring high-profile placements and media mentions. Interested in getting started? Having successfully launched new publishing label READ.ME, and launched two back-to-back bestsellers (The Crowdfunding Bible and Modern Parent's Guide) featured in dozens of leading press outlets, we counsel keeping in mind the following hints, tips and advice.

Image is everything: People are visual creatures, and tend to accept what they see at first glance: From book covers to websites, social media profiles and business logos, everything needs to look top-notch, as it directly impacts perceived value. So if you have to cut costs anywhere, don't let it be on presentation -- if a picture says a thousand words, they should all be positive. Happily, professional-looking covers needn't cost a fortune, crowdsourcing design sites can aid with affordable graphics and you can easily use off-the-shelf blogging solutions and plug-and-play visual templates to create high-quality websites.

Source advance quotes to build credibility: Ask recognized experts in your field, including thought leaders, well-known executives and other authors to read your manuscript and offer some endorsements ("Joe Smith's work is a must-read!") before even announcing the volume. These lend credibility to the work, heighten its value in the eyes of media and casual observers, and can help you build buzz for a book before anyone even bothers to read a page. Individuals whose quotes are featured like the recognition boost and press it brings, so aim high when making outreach -- you never know who'll be game to put in a good word, and may be later willing to mention it via social media, blog post of other potential profile-raising method.

Make a list of media and influencer targets: Identify key influencers who cover your book's featured topic or similar works, regardless of whether they're influential bloggers, journalists or simply noted community members. Then reach out to those you feel will be most receptive with a genuine, personal note. (Hint: Contact info can easily be found on their website, or gleaned from their respective company's standard email format.) Don't be afraid to ask for a shout out or mention -- and don't hesitate to return the favor if asked. Be aware, however: Success rates for pitches can hover as low as 10 percent -- as explained in this PR and marketing tip sheet, play with an eye towards long-term success, and don't be afraid to go the extra mile to secure placements.

Be arresting and unique when pitching: Any time you pitch media or influencers, come from an original angle, and tie your ideas to a topical hook. Similarly, when positioning your book, take a unique, original and/or opinionated slant. The more you can bring something new to the table in terms of insight or perspective, and dovetail opinions with popular trending topics, the better -- you'll get much further promoting a book on a subject the media's eye is already focused on than trying to convince already overworked reporters' there's a story somewhere else that requires additional digging and footwork.

Create evergreen works: Increase your book's chances of connecting with the public by avoiding tying it to time-sensitive topics or products which quickly become outdated. Look for subjects of long-term interest that will periodically resurge in public awareness, so you can ride that wave of interest over an extended period of time -- if not, you run the risk of losing relevancy. Note: This may require reworking the messaging and title slightly to reflect the spirit of the times, or future-proof it so it sounds relevant at any later date.

Two words -- first or best: From a positioning standpoint, you should always strive to be the authoritative source of information on a subject -- all messaging from marketing copy on your website to the book itself and supporting interviews should also reflect and reinforce this. Given the pace of modern, people tend to go off first impressions, so keep big picture ideas simple for today's time- and attention-starved audiences.

Have specific goals in mind: Few books are breakout successes, so don't self-publish expecting to get rich quick, unless you've already built a loyal fan community that's ready to receive your works. Instead, view the opportunity as a platform to raise awareness for favorite topics, demonstrate your skills and get your message and opinion across. Publish a book, and you're suddenly a subject matter expert, and enjoy the heightened visibility, value and reach such efforts bring. So figure out what you're after: Is it a chance to give something back to the community? A launchpad to a new career? A way to distinguish yourself from competitors? Position all promotional activities around these goals, measure results often, and tweak campaigns as needed -- no good marketing campaign remains static, and should continually evolve to reflect an author and audience's changing needs and objectives.