I am seeking best practices on the use of a book as part of launching a consulting practice.
One option in the business plan that has been identified is the writing of a small book -- about 30K words -- and either self or boutique publishing it.
I am interested in best practices for how a vanity book can be leveraged to support a new consulting start-up.
Having launched a consulting practice before (successfully), I don't think writing a vanity book will be particularly helpful. Consulting is an extremely easy business to get into. You can even work with recruiters to get some of your consultants off the ground and into clients, since recruiters are always willing to talk to people. You can go directly to clients and offer your services, and very often they are desperately searching for someone to fill a particular role (I assume you are consulting using a tangible skill?).
All said and done, while I think writing a vanity book is a cool marketing idea for some kinds of businesses, your marketing problems aren't sever enough to require such an outlandish investment of time and energy. There are much more productive things you can do to get into/in front of clients.
I'd say keep it simple and also make use of the ideas Tim provided. 37 Signals provides a great example: they identified actual problems people had and then wrote simple ebooks with the solutions, all of which I imagine leverage their products in some way.
You should seek to do the same: identify common problems in your area of expertise, and then provide solutions using examples of how you or your firm have helped others implement them in the past. Solutions offered in the book should be synergistic with the services you offer personally.
The book itself should be short and sweet, and easy to consume. The cover blurb should be clear and provide immediate insight into the value that it can provide and to whom it is targeted. Depending on the field, case studies (involving you or your firm, naturally) would be a plus, I'd imagine.
As far as promoting it, I would treat it much the same as a business card; every time you hand out your card, you should also try and hand out the book. Not only will it help you stand out, but it'll also provide you with some leverage to take the initiative and reach out to them. I don't think there'd be any harm in giving them a call or email to ask what they thought in regards to the book, hopefully providing an opening for further discussion.
You may also benefit from following marketing tips for more traditional books as well:
Your book would be part of your 'shock and awe' package. Book, DVD , cd, whitepapers , other short publications you have written, and testimonials. As you meet with prospectives you leave that with them.
I've got mine written, currently getting edited and I'll publish with lulu or createspace probably.
37 signals Rework is 23k words and with pictures is pretty hefty. So you would have something pretty substantial.
The book will help with your personal brand, you may want to read 'crush it' for some more personal branding ideas
http://smartbear.com/best-kept-secrets-of-peer-code-review/ http://47hats.com/2009/07/whats-in-the-book-bob/ http://47hats.com/2009/01/yes-you-really-should-read-this-free-book/ And of course are the 37 signals books
But in the end the time has to be worth it. If the book has no value then it is a waste of time (to read and to write).
Are there better ways you can spend your time than on writing and publishing a book? Will that time be better spent/more effective doing other stuff/promotion/marketing?