London, England (CNN) -- Getting your name into print is a great way to show off your professional know how and, some say, to make yourself stand out from the workplace competition.
Dan Schawbel, author of personal-branding book "Me 2.0," told CNN the downturn means it's no longer enough to be good at your job -- you now have to be an expert.
"In my opinion the economy has forced everyone to be an expert in their field, so if you're not an expert, you're in trouble," he said. "The easiest and fastest way to be positioned as an expert in your field is to publish a book."
Schawbel said writing a book on your area of professional interest instantly establishes your credibility to potential customers and employers.
"You can self proclaim you're an expert in your field all day long but the book is almost your calling card. I get calls all the time saying, 'I read your book, can you help me with consulting, or would you like to speak with my organization?'"
Everyone has the potential to be an expert in their own niche, whether it's finance, marketing or consultancy, but not everyone has the time or persistence to write a book. Even if you manage to commit your knowledge to paper, as an unknown author of a special-interest book, finding someone to publish your work is no easy feat.
That's why some are choosing to bypass traditional publishing houses and instead pay to produce their book themselves using print-on-demand and self-publishing services.
Keith Ogorek, of self-publishing firm Author Solutions, told CNN that more people are using self-publishing as a way of promoting their personal brand. "We've found that a number of people have begun to use books as a way to establish their credibility," he said.
"As the economy is turning and more and more people are having to get creative in ways to distinguish themselves in the job market, many of them are using books as a way to distinguish themselves among the other people who might be out there."
Distinguishing yourself from the competition is the whole point. The consultant who tells a prospective client they can be looked up on Amazon is likely to make more of an impression than the consultant who simply hands over a business card, said Ogorek.
"If you look at two resumes and they look the same, but one person wrote a book on the topic your interviewing for, you're going to show more interest in that person," said Schawbel.
But it's not enough to write and publish a book -- it's vital you promote it, or no one will hear about it.
Jason Fried wrote the book "Getting Real: The smarter, faster, easier way to build a successful web application," to promote his Web application company 37 Signals.
The book was first released as a self-published e-book, and then as a paperback through self-publishing firm Lulu.
Fried said the book has sold more than 50,000 copies and succeeded in raising the company's profile, but he added that was only possible because his company had spent years building an audience and could publicize the book through its popular blog.
"The trick for someone who doesn't have a brand yet, or an audience, is getting the word out initially about the book," Fried told CNN.
"You just have to put yourself out there, do some speaking engagements here and there, write some blog posts, maybe try and get a guest article in some magazine and just slowly build traffic."
The success of "Getting Real" has allowed 37 Signals to produce a second book with a traditional publisher. Fried said "Getting Real" made more than half a million dollars.
But many authors looking to build their personal brand will be lucky to make any money. In fact, if they choose to self publish they could find themselves out of pocket.
Ogorek said producing a book with his company will typically cost $1,000. Authors get some complementary copies of the book, with further copies printed on demand at a cost to the author of around $7 to $8 for a paperback edition.
Without building an audience and promoting their book, authors may not recoup their costs. On the other hand, some will see the expense as a worthwhile investment in their careers.
"Whether you work for a company, or you are an entrepreneur, or a consultant, regardless of your current position and situation, publishing a book will help position you as an expert," Schawbel told CNN.
"I feel that everyone's going to have to get published at some level. Whether it's a blog, an e-book or a published book, you've got to have something now, and a book has the most credibility."