On Topic: Books as business cards

Michael Chevy Castranova
Published: December 2 2012 | 7:00 am - Updated: 1 April 2014 | 2:51 am in

Longtime PR guru Marsha Friedman, head of EMSI Public Relations in Florida, contends the best way to promote your business or yourself is to write a book.

Her assertion — which I received via a press release, not an entire book — is that “yesterday’s business cards are today’s books.” Being an author establishes you as an expert in your field.

Now, Friedman knows the world’s cup overflows with books no one beyond the author’s mother or ex-spouse — searching for snide references, a libel lawyer on speed dial — would stay up nights to read.

So she cautions that “a poorly conceived, poorly designed, poorly written or poorly promoted book is worse than no book at all.”

But here’s where I get caught up in this book-as-business card/resume concept. Call me an old-fashioned, Underwood-admiring, Mark Twain-loving purist, but I’ve always thought books should be conceived from the inside out.

That is, you write the book because you have something you have to say.

(On the other hand, Sam Clemens toiled at more than one book project over his long career because he was convinced the public would dish out money for them. Exhibit A: “Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer Among the Indians.” Yes, really.)

Maybe I’m wrong about this. But. either way, writing ain’t easy.

As sports columnist Red Smith once reportedly described writing, “All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.”

Back when I was in Michigan, a publisher with the parent company said if I wrote enough columns similar to what I’d been running in the business newspaper where I was editor, he’d consider collecting them in a book.

A real book, the kind with words and everything.

As he was sober when he made this declaration, I took him at this word. So every evening for about a year, I’d rework material that had appeared in the business paper, contacted publishers of magazines for older features I wanted to repurpose and — one drop of blood at a time — wrote new stuff.

The book came out a few weeks before Christmas 2002. I did radio interviews and bookstore signings. A reviewer in my hometown newspaper deemed the book amusing but found some of the sentences too long (a charge I could live with).

A snug box of those shiny paperbacks still sits in my garage.

But the moral of the story? A few weeks ago I tested a search engine — to see if was better than my usual choice — by putting in my name.

Bubbling to the top came citations for some ancient stuff I’d done two states back, then links to LinkedIn and Facebook, then Facebook in French, for some reason.

As I was about sign off, I saw at the bottom of the screen a listing for my book. I clicked on it, and found myself at a remainder book site.

And there was an image of the cover, with my smiling younger self.

The price? $2.05.

There, ladies, gentlemen and budding authors, can be the price for fame.

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