ONE OF THEmost daunting, but effective, ways to market your practice is to write a book on a subject that will have value to potential clients. Literally, you will become the person who “wrote the book.” Most lawyers write daily, yet they consider a book to be something that’s out of reach. Perhaps I was just a naïve 26-year-old when I ignored the admonitions of colleagues that I was biting off more than I could chew when I wrote my first book in 1994, on a subject that was new to me. But I can personally attest that you can successfully write a book on a subject even if you aren’t a seasoned practitioner in that area. In fact, the process of researching and writing a book becomes one of the best ways to master a subject area.I’ve also chaired the ABA Law Practice Division’s (LP) book program and learned how the publishing process works from the planning and production side. This demonstrated to me that, while writing a book takes a lot of discipline, many more lawyers have the ability to pull it off than ever make the attempt.A book I co-authored that has been published annually by LexisNexis for the last 15 years, the J-1 Visa Guidebook, is my best example of the power a book has to transform a practice. Back then, I was still a new immigration lawyer in Nashville, Tenn., home to the country’s largest concentration of hospital system headquarters. Physician immigration had a lot of potential as a practice area niche, but I had no health care clients and no credentials to persuade anyone to give me a try. But I did notice there was no book on J-1 visas, the main category used by doctors to enter the U.S. My friend Bill Stock and I got a shot at co-authoring a handbook on the subject. That title helped launch my practice in physician immigration, and my firm now has one of the largest doctor practices in the U.S. And Bill? He was also a junior lawyer when we wrote the book but is slotted to soon take over as president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.There is, of course, the possibility for royalties, though it’s a rare book on a legal subject that generates large royalties for its author. Royalties should be viewed as a bonus on top of the marketing benefits a book can deliver. A book can help establish your credibility with reporters, potential and existing clients and fellow lawyers. And it can be a great source of content for your firm’s website.Coming up with the right book idea is critical. Ideally, you’ll find a subject that people care about and has not been covered previously in book form. But even if a book exists, another book still might be worth writing if you can add to the subject or the marketplace has enough room for more than one title. And even if a subject applies only to a small audience, if the clients you’re seeking would be interested in it, the effort may well bear fruit.Each of my four books has been accepted for publication by a major publisher without having to submit a completed manuscript, and that seems to be common in the legal field. However, publishers often have a detailed proposal form that seeks specific information about your book idea. Be prepared to submit:
- An introduction of the book’s concept.
- A description of the intended market (other lawyers, potential clients, etc.).
- A list of competing books, and a clarification of how your book will add to the subject.
- A highly detailed table of contents and/or summary of each proposed chapter, as well as the estimated length of the book.
- Your intentions to update the book, and how regularly (hint: many publishers want successful titles updated frequently since new editions sell better).
- Your curriculum vitae.
- An estimated timetable to complete the manuscript.