But those aren’t the only goals.
Many authors also want to achieve intangible goals, things like “helping people” and “personal growth.”
They often mention them as an aside, almost as if they’re embarrassed about having these sorts of goals. As if it’s not appropriate for a business person to have emotions.
But when we talk to our authors after their books are out, they’re almost all impacted the most by these “intangible” benefits of their book.
The things they apologized for wanting at the beginning are what make them happiest about after it’s published.
I love these stories.
Even though the business and branding aspects of books drive the economic return on investment and are thus important, I honestly think that the “intangible impacts” are what actually matter most to authors in the long run.
Why do I say that?
Because books help people make their lives better in ways far beyond what’s measured just by money.
That’s why I wrote this piece: to help authors understand what the intangible benefits of a book can be, and to understand that it’s not only acceptable to want them—they’re often the point of writing a book.
A book helps you grow as a person in many ways, though these are not always easy to understand ahead of time:
1. Identity Change & Level Up: Before you write a book, you’re just a regular person like anyone else.
But after you write and publish your book, you have a new identity: you’re an author.
That’s a big deal. Being an author means you’re someone who has valuable ideas that can help people, and it means you took the time to sit down and write them out and get them published, and it means you shared them with the world. It means you’ve stepped into the arena. You’ve made your ideas real, in a format that allows others to assess, analyze and debate them—and that opens you up to a next level of learning and expansion. In essence, it can be confirmation that the work you do matters to other people.
This shift in identity moves you up a level in life. You are now in a different league, and you have a new peer group. Publishing a book means you’re scaling your ideas: you’re bringing them to a bigger audience than you could by yourself, and this invites new dialogue and connection with people who are grappling with the same ideas.
Joey Coleman was a great example of this. Becoming a Wall Street Journal bestselling author gave him a career boost and level up that has transformed his life and business.
2. Confidence & Pride of Accomplishment: Writing a book is hard; as a result, most people don’t do it. Accomplishing this requires courage, and when done, provides an immense amount of confidence and pride.
It means you overcame an obstacle in your life. No matter how easy writing a book is for you, it’s still difficult, and doing it means you did something hard and worthwhile. To write a book, you have to believe your ideas are valid and worthy of sharing, and anything that stands in the way of your sense of self-worth and wisdom will become a challenge to tackle on the way to completing and publishing your book.
Finishing your book allows you to mark this off your bucket list. It’s an accomplishment that is valuable and can never be taken away from you.
Writing your book means you will have done something in your life that matters—not just to you, but to other people. You will have made the world better, and you can be proud of that.
3. Self-Improvement & Skill Development: Writing a book will, by its very nature, force you to get better at many things. You’ll become a better writer, a better editor, and a better storyteller.
You’ll also understand your ideas better. Many people who understand how to do what they do don’t always know how to explain it to other people. Writing a book forces you to be articulate—not only about what you do, but about how you communicate it to people effectively.
4. Therapeutic Effect: A book can also help you grow in a therapeutic way. Books often force authors to confront difficult emotional issues while writing.
Writing a book can bring up complex emotions or things you haven’t thought about for years. It can also force you to confront your fears. Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of being judged, etc. For many of our authors, this is life changing.
Mary Hagerman went through this exact transformation with her book, and it helped her get over many of her fears.
5. Creative Accomplishment: A book, by its very definition, is a creative accomplishment. Writing a book will not only help improve your creativity, but it’s also a signal of creativity and an expression of self.
If you want to be more creative and express yourself more authentically, a book is one of the best ways to do that.
Janet Newman’s book got her all of these things, and more. She now sees herself in a new way, has unlocked her creativity, and has helped her readers improve their health and their lives.
Many authors mention this, saying something like, “I just want my book to help people.”
The only problem is that, when pressed, they often haven’t thought about how their book will help. It’s not that it can’t, they just don’t know specifically how.
Here are some common ways books can serve readers:
1. Solve a Problem/Get Something They Want: This is usually the big one, and can vary across a wide range of benefits, but the point is that every reader is buying your book because they anticipate it’s going to get them something they want—so what is that thing your book will help them get?
2. Gain Knowledge/Wisdom/Information: Sometimes the reader wants to learn something from the book. Sometimes this is tied with solving a problem, but not always. Often, a reader will want to learn for many different reasons.
3. Inspire/Motivate/Empower: This is about how the readers will feel coming out of the book. You want to help them change their mindset or their emotional state.
4. New Perspective: This is not as common as the above, but still frequent. Many readers are looking for an entirely new way to see something.
These four are not mutually exclusive, and some books can do all of them. In fact, if you really want to help people with your book, all four of these are just different ways to answer one core question:
What transformation will the reader get from your book?
This is how authors and books help people—they give them the information, skills, motivation or perspective to change something in their life for the better.
One of my favorite examples of this is Jeb White’s book. Even though it added six figures in direct sales to his business, what he’s most excited about is how disadvantaged kids used it to get into the colleges of their dreams.
Another great example is Robin Farmanfarmaian. She struggled with her health for years, and her book was instrumental in helping patients in the medical field take control of their health.
Scale Your Impact
Making a new impact on people is one of the primary drivers, but connected to that is scaling the impact you’re already having.
What does it mean to scale your impact?
It’s pretty much the same as scaling a company, e.g., making it bigger. Think about your life now: you may be helping a lot of people, but chances are you know all those people, or they’re in some way connected to you or your direct community.
What would happen if you could help people you don’t even know? Or people you’ll never meet?
That’s the power of a book. Books can exponentially leverage your reach and impact on people, because it allows them to find you and get help from you without you having to spend any time with them.
A great example is Nic Kusmich. Nic owns one of the best Facebook ad agencies in the world. He’s directly helped hundreds of businesses grow and scale. But his services and seminars are expensive. One of the reasons he wrote a book was to help people who couldn’t afford him. And one day, that paid off, when a 17 year old waiter used his book to start his own business.
Shannon Miles did something similar. Her book’s had a huge impact on her brand and business, but she’s most excited about how someone who never worked with her personally used her book to have the courage to try remote work, which enabled her to work from home and be with her kids.
Both of them are helping people they’ve never met, in places they’ve never gone. That is what a book can help you do at scale.
Books are great ways to improve all sorts of different kinds of relationships.
1. Make Business Relationships Easier: Books make business relationships much easier on several different levels. First off, books establish you as an authority and a credentialed expert. This means when someone meets you, the relationship begins with you at a high level in their eyes. You don’t have to prove yourself or spend a lot of time explaining or selling yourself.
Second, books attract people to you. Once you write a book, you’ve put out to the world what you do and who you can help—those people will often use your book as the path to come find you.
A great example of this is how Jesse Cole’s book helped him exponentially increase the number and quality of his business relationships, in ways he could never have imagined ahead of time.
2. Improve Team/Company Relationships: A book can help you unify your current team and attract new people into your company or organization. It does this by establishing what you believe in, what purpose and mission your company serves, and why it matters to the world. The best way to find like-minded people is to talk about what you’re doing and why, and ask them to come join you.
Mark Organ’s book is a great example of this. His book literally spells out the beliefs of his company and employees and they use it to attract all kinds of top talent.
3. Improve Family Relationships: Books can connect families. This one often takes authors by surprise, but it’s an impact they value very highly.
The big way this happens is that a book provides clarity to the people in your life; they finally understand what you do and why it’s important.
For many of our authors, their kids and family don’t actually understand what they do. It’s not their fault, we just live in a world where most knowledge workers have very complicated, difficult jobs that are hard to understand from the outside. A book connects what you do with their reality; it shows them the impact that you have in the world and why your work matters.
Sam Marella’s book is a great example of this. He made a lot of money from his book, but he cares the most about how it helped his daughter see him differently.
An even more amazing example of this is Doug Brackmann’s book. Even though it created a 4x increase in his revenue, he is most proud of how it literally helped save lives and reconnected him with his father.
Leave a Legacy
How do you leave a legacy?
By doing things that make other people’s lives better.
There are many ways to make other people’s lives better—and a book is one of the best ways to do it.
This is because—as we’ve discussed many times already—a book is written to help other people. If you write it with your audience in mind, and you understand the transformation they seek, then it’s inevitable that your book will help people.
Yes, you can help lots of people in your regular life, but a book scales your impact and helps you reach more people in a more profound way.
Think about it: if you can help 100’s of people in your business, you can help 1000’s through your book.
It’s also a way to ensure that your mission and your legacy survive long after you are gone. If you’re only helping people in your immediate sphere of influence, there’s nothing wrong with that, but that help stops when you die. A legacy left in a book can carry on after you are gone, for generations.
For example, we’re all influenced by the legacy of Socrates or Thomas Aquinas or Malcolm X, all because they put their knowledge into a book.
A lot of people do important work, but not a lot of people write books about it. Writing a book means that other people will look up to you and respect you and admire you. You will have made the world better, and you can be proud of that—and that is a legacy.
Lorenzo Gomez’s book is a great example of this. Of course it’s created all kinds of business success for him, but he is most excited about how it led to him tutoring inner-city Hispanic kids, who came from the same poor neighborhoods that he did. He knows his legacy will spread far beyond himself.
Myra Evans-Manyweather is also leaving a legacy of helping women to start their own businesses.
When the Intangible Becomes Tangible
As you can see, there are many intangible impacts of a book—on yourself, your reader, your family, and your community.
But did you notice a pattern in the author case studies? Most of the intangible goals that the authors achieved ended up leading to some very real and very tangible impacts.
Right above, I showed you the example of Lorenzo Gomez. “Helping people” may have been an abstract idea for Lorenzo at the outset, but tutoring inner-city Hispanic kids certainly isn’t intangible. Nor is attracting new talent to their company for Mark Organ, nor for Sam Marella connecting with his daughter.
A reason that these “intangible” goals are important and should be embraced is that they often result in very real, tangible outcomes.
No, not all of them can be measured on a balance sheet or in a bank account, but that’s not the only thing that matters.
What also matters is the real impact on real people your book can have.
It is possible. You’ve seen a dozen or more examples in this article, and those authors started in a place no different than where you are now.