Writing & Publishing Leads to Unseen Opportunities
“Given the huge commitment of time and energy, a budding author should reflect on why he or she wants to write the book. Is it to increase their credibility, create other marketing opportunities like speaking engagements, make tons of money by getting on the Best Seller list, or to accomplish a life-long dream? The author should honestly evaluate whether the time they will spend on writing the book is warranted in view of their reason for wanting to do so. They should also consider the possibility that a book will open up opportunities that they don’t yet know about. For example, when I was writing this book, I did not appreciate or anticipate the number of speaking opportunities it would generate. I now find this to be one of the most rewarding results of the book and the type of marketing opportunity I most enjoy.”
Books Are Marketing Tools: A monthly look at how businesses use books
This month: Legal Marketing - Attorney Writes Book to Educate Women & to Promote her Career and the Cause of Womens’ RightsMarilyn Barrett is a Los Angeles attorney and partner with the law firm of Alschuler Grossman Stein & Kahan LLP. Her practice focuses on taxation and general business law, emphasizing business formation, partnership and limited liability company agreements, mergers and acquisitions, and court litigation. She is very active in community affairs, serving on the boards of organizations such as the Los Angeles Free Clinic and the Commission on Assaults Against Women, and has provided pro bono legal services to more than 20 charitable groups.
Her concern for women's issues led Barrett to write The Ten Biggest Legal Mistakes Women Can Avoid (Capitol Books 2000). The book recognizes that women from all walks of life make bad legal choices - and through a common-sense approach and straight talk, attempts to help them avoid such problems.
"My primary motivation for writing the book was to provide information to women and give them the tools they need to protect themselves against financial ruin," says Barrett. "I have represented too many women who didn't take care of their legal matters, trusted that other people would treat them fairly, and lost a lot of money because of it. They were often surprised that they could be held personally liable for some debt simply because they signed a loan document or joint tax return when, in their own mind, their husband was responsible for the debt. The women often felt a great deal of shame for not being more careful. They were terrified that they would not be able to make financial ends meet; and, in some cases, they became very depressed, several to the brink of suicide."
"A secondary purpose for writing this book was marketing. I have worked extremely hard to gain a comprehensive body of knowledge in both law and business. I have translated this knowledge into what I am proud to consider a successful and distinguished career in a profession, tax and corporate law, where I am able to help people, often in crisis, take control of both their personal and professional lives. I wished the book, which is hopefully tangible evidence of both my knowledge and my mission, would extend my reach and provide a means to share valuable guidance with women who cannot access it otherwise. Media interviews with print and broadcast outlets are so helpful in making more women aware of my book. And, in turn, both the book itself and the validation it has evoked from the media have resulted in numerous speaking engagements that allow me to take my message to still more people. I am enjoying the process. It has elevated my credibility as a professional and an author while highlighting the importance of my message."
Barrett says that all of her objectives in writing the book are being met. She has heard from many women about how much the book has helped them and empowered them to take charge of their lives. A recent review in the Law Library Journal described the book as a "must read for the proactive woman who is not legally savvy" and that it "serves as a motivator for any woman who believes she is not in control of her destiny or her financial affairs."
"That kind of feedback alone has made writing the book worthwhile," she says. "My goal now is to make sure that more and more women know about the book and, most important, read it."
Barrett says the book has been instrumental in having a number of prestigious organizations invite her to speak at events around the country. For example, she had the opportunity to address 1,000 women at the California Governor's Conference in October of 2001, sitting on a panel with several financial advisors. "While the other panelists talked about financial investments, I emphasized how to prevent the loss of assets by taking care of legal matters. It is important not only to acquire financial security, but also to keep it. The positive exposure from these kinds of events has enhanced my reputation as both an author and attorney, has increased the readership of my book, and has been a valuable tool in building my professional practice."
The book is not the first such marketing or promotional method Barrett has engaged in during her legal career. She has published a number of articles, primarily on tax law issues, generally appearing in legal journals targeted to lawyers. She has been very active in bar associations and chaired the Taxation Sections of both the California State Bar and the Los Angeles County Bar Association. All of these activities helped establish her credentials in the legal community and produced referrals from other attorneys - but the book has given her the opportunity to market and promote herself outside of the legal community for the first time. "Most of the groups I address include a number of women who own their own businesses or hold prominent positions in their respective fields. Women-owned businesses are growing at a rate 11/2 times faster than average and are playing a greater and ever-increasing role in our economic society. The book has enabled me to meet a far greater number of women who own businesses or hold prominent positions in corporate, government, education, media, etc., an audience to which I would have enjoyed only limited access through my professional affiliations in the field of law."
Thanks to a tireless schedule of television appearances, radio interviews, and speaking engagements, Barrett feels she has reached a nationwide audience with her book's message. "I have talked to women in large cities like Los Angeles and Washington DC and in small farm communities in Kansas. What I have found is that, regardless of geography and socioeconomic status, most women have the same dreams, the same fears, and are concerned about the same legal matters. They sign joint tax returns with their husbands, cosign loan documents, buy property, and build up assets so to have something to leave to their children. They need and want the same information and the same encouragement to take care of themselves. My public appearances have also helped me feel much more comfortable in front of an audience. When the book first came out, I was doing so many interviews I didn't have time to get nervous."
Barrett says that writing a book has been an exciting and fulfilling experience, but that is also a huge commitment. She soon found out that the amount of promotional effort that publishers devote to a book varies considerably, and that most authors find themselves having to take on far more responsibility in marketing their book than they anticipated. "After you have spent many, many hours in actually writing the book, you are by no means done. In many ways, you are just beginning. To prevent your book from being buried in the pile of the 50,000-plus books published each year, you must devote a considerable amount of time and energy to its promotion," she says.
"Given the huge commitment of time and energy, a budding author should reflect on why he or she wants to write the book. Is it to increase their credibility, create other marketing opportunities like speaking engagements, make tons of money by getting on the Best Seller list, or to accomplish a life-long dream? The author should honestly evaluate whether the time they will spend on writing the book is warranted in view of their reason for wanting to do so. They should also consider the possibility that a book will open up opportunities that they don't yet know about. For example, when I was writing this book, I did not appreciate or anticipate the number of speaking opportunities it would generate. I now find this to be one of the most rewarding results of the book and the type of marketing opportunity I most enjoy."
"The author should also think about how much time, energy and money he or she is willing to spend on promotion. If the author's primary goal is to enhance his or her credibility on a subject, this may be achieved by publishing the book without engaging in more concerted promotional efforts. I wanted to accomplish more than that with my book and have spent a lot of time, effort and more money that I ever thought I would spend on promotion. In return, the book has opened up a whole new world to me: new communities, new skills, and new opportunities."
Marilyn Barrett is a great example of how attorneys and other professionals can turn their expertise into a promotional tool that increases their credibility, their networking reach, and as it did for her, open new doors, such as a speaking career. If one writes and publishes well, and puts the energy into a marketing plan, numerous opportunities can and will arise. "Promoting the book has given me the opportunity to meet new people and make new friends that I otherwise would not have met. The experience has simply enriched my life."
Would she do it again? Apparently so... "While writing a book is a huge commitment, I have found it so rewarding that I am already working on my next!"
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Marilyn Barrett received her B.S. in Accounting with highest distinction from the University of Kansas in 1973 and her J.D. from UCLA in 1977 where she was an Associate Editor of the UCLA Law Review. She is a Certified Public Accountant, and a Contributing Editor on Federal Taxation for the CEB California Business Law Report.