Why go through all the hassle of finding a commercial publisher for your breakthrough book on strategic thinking when it’s so easy to self-publish? After all, you’ve done all the hard work just writing it haven’t you? Why would you give it to a publisher who will pay you a measly 10% royalty when you can have complete control and all the revenue by merely entrusting your manuscript to one of the many self-publishing services available? Surely a no-brainer.
The number of self-publishing businesses has risen dramatically in the past few years, mainly due to affordable POD – that’s ‘print on demand’, the ability to print single copies of a book, to order – technology. Self-publishing involves uploading a manuscript onto the website of a business such as Lulu, choosing a cover and interior designs from a selection of templates, or using your own, then through POD technology printing as few or as many copies as you require. As the author you’ll pay the self-publishing company to upload your book and then they will probably take a slice of revenue from any further copies sold.
Working through a self-publishing company can be a good, cost-effective solution to getting into print. But the self-publishing process stops there. At print. You’ve got as many copies of your book as you ordered and unless you have set it all up in advance you have no distribution, no marketing, no links with wholesalers to supply customer orders. In short, no sales. Setting up the infrastructure that ensures your customers can be supplied with your book involves a great deal of work, and that’s before you begin the marketing effort. But an established publisher will naturally have all this set up.
A commercial publisher will also market your book. Sure, they will be marketing it to the book trade, to the media and to foreign language publishers and to their own lists of customers, and they will rely on you to promote it in your own networks, but the chances are that most of the sales will come from their promotion rather than yours. There isn’t much chance of you knowing how to do all that global trade marketing, even if you had the time and energy.
Something else that tells against self-publishing is production quality. When you entrust your manuscript to a self-publishing service you may well find that your options in terms of controlling the way the book looks are limited. Not all self-publishing services are the same but the more cost effective the service the more likely it is that the website you use will chuck a terrible book back at you. A huge amount of work goes into turning a manuscript into a bookstore quality product. Commercial publishers employ copy editors, proof-readers, typesetters, text designers, cover designers, indexers and, of course, printers. Needless to say you won’t get all that for the £1000 you transfer to your anonymous self-publisher.
And you need to think about whether your brand is big enough in your network to overcome the resistance many people still have to self-published books. After all, you’ve paid to have it published (well, printed anyway) and anyone could do that provided they are willing to spend a few hundred pounds. How do people know it’s any good? They will trust a commercially published product far more than a self-published one because an editor has read it and decided it is good enough for her to invest a considerable amount of money in.
So think about it carefully. In summary:
Self-publishing gives you complete control over the packaging, pricing, design, marketing and distribution of your book. It allows you to keep the lion’s share of the income. You can produce it to your own schedule, as quickly as you like. You don’t have the depressing task of trying to find a publisher who will take the commercial risk on your book.
On the other hand you are probably not an expert at book packaging, pricing, design, marketing and distribution, so you are less likely to make a great fist of it than an experienced publisher. You are almost certainly going to end up with an inferior physical product compared with competing titles produced to book shop standards. And if you’re planning to use your book to promote your brand a self-published product won’t have the same cachet as a book that’s been published by Penguin.
In short, if you’re a well-known expert on rail travel in and around Nuneaton in the nineteenth century and you are already on first name terms with everyone in the world who is likely to buy your book self-publishing your book is the obvious route to take. Otherwise, think carefully about the options.
This week’s prestigious Chartered Management Institute Management Book of the Year award has underlined, once again, the value of ideas to business. The winner, Frugal Innovation: How to do more with less by Navi Radjou and Jaideep Prabhu, demonstrates how businesses can grow quickly on limited resources. Management makes things happen. Anyone who doubts this should consider Stuart Crainer and Des Dearlove’s short article in Harvard Business Review. Crainer, co-founder of Thinkers50, the world’s most prestigious management guru ranking, points out that the ‘best business books are acted upon, they change the way leaders lead and how managers manage. This is not an idle ambition. The most impressive and successful leaders tend to be voracious readers. They want to know about the latest research and ideas. This is especially true in emerging markets. CEOs like Zhang Ruimin at Haier have used business books as an education in business best practice. There is nothing so practical as a great idea.’
And, something that is frequently overlooked, there’s nothing so rewarding as being the originator of a great idea. The world’s most sought-after cross-cultural management expert, Fons Trompenaars, has claimed that since publishing influential books like Riding the Whirlwind, The Global M&A Tango and 100+ Management Models his speaking engagements and fees have doubled, his profile tripled and his clients quadrupled. ‘I highly recommend you to get your ideas on paper, particularly if they are unique,’ he says. Trompenaars is quite right to say that if you’ve got interesting ideas you need to record them, but you also need to distribute them, and there is simply no better way to do it than in a book. Why? Because people don’t throw books away. Getting a publisher to commit to your book idea isn’t easy (unless you’re already a well-known author), but self-publishing gives you a product that has far less impact. As, Barry Gibbons, former global CEO of Burger King and author of six books in including If You Want to Make God Really Laugh Show Him Your Business Plan, says, ‘A published book (accent on ‘published’) can bring a string of powerful indirect benefits. It can boost a CV. It can take the place of a business card, with 1000 times the impact. It can open up lucrative speaking or consulting opportunities. It can enhance an author’s reputation in a defined target market.’ Gibbons is a prolific and entertaining speaker who addresses huge conferences from Las Vegas to Bangkok, and there’s no doubt that his books have helped him get to where he is. In fact if you want to be on the speaking circuit and you haven’t got a book published you have a huge hurdle to overcome. Brendan Barns, formerly CEO of Speakers for Business and founder of London Business Forum, insists that having a business book published can give instant credibility to an author, especially if it’s in partnership with a major publisher. ‘This can,’ he says ‘open the door to a lucrative speaking career, especially if the author has some charisma.’
A published book can also have some more subtle effects on the authors profile. Ken Langdon is the author of 20 practical business books (and ghost-writer of several more) and he points out that it massively enhances your search engine profile. A Google search on many business managers wouldn’t throw up much apart from a LinkedIn page which is, of course, their own writing. Google an author, however, and you get their Amazon page along with the publisher’s potted history of the author. (The author may also have written this but it doesn’t look like that.) If you want to see the effect for yourself just type ‘Ken Langdon’ into Google.
Over the years Infinite Ideas has published dozens of books with businesses and the research we’ve done shows that a printed book is a unique promotional tool. We found that out of ten thousand consultants in the UK 72% of respondents claimed that as a result of being published recognition of their brand increased; nearly 60% claimed that they picked up more speaking events after being published and 65% stated that being published gained them more clients. That’s quite compelling, and it supports some of our own anecdotal evidence. One Infinite Ideas author gained a six figure consulting contract as a result of his book being bought at an airport bookshop; another ended up as a speaker at the World Economic Forum at Davos two years in succession.
Many authors think that writing their book is hard work but soon find that writing is the easy part! There’s no point putting all those evening and weekend shifts in on your book if you then fail to work it to increase sales and brand awareness, and that requires a degree of diligence and innovation. Your publisher will (or should) work hard to secure presence in bookshops and generate media coverage but can do very little to access the constituency that has already bought into your brand – your clients, audiences and followers. So here are some tips for maximizing the impact of your book.
- Send a signed complimentary copy with a personal, handwritten letter to all your clients and prospects. Explain why you have written the book and how you think it will help them specifically. Individualize each letter as far as you can. Writing it by hand rather than typing strengthens the impression that you have taken the time to think about the person who is reading it and their business or professional needs. Nobody gets excited by a generic template.
- Send a copy to each of your media contacts with a note pointing out aspects of the book that you think are newsworthy. In a recent survey 32% of people said they bought a book because they were influenced by reviews in newspapers, magazines and online, so you can’t afford to ignore it. Once again, your publisher should be working the media but you will need to fill in the gaps. So find out what they are doing and work with their PR to generate maximum exposure. Journalists get hundreds of approaches a week so yours needs to stand out and there’s no better way of doing that than by personal contact. If you don’t have any media contacts ask friends and colleagues for theirs and use their names (with their permission) in the subject box of your emails.
- If you’re not already on the speaking circuit now’s the time to start. Speaking engagements are a priceless channel for selling your book. Ideally you should build a free copy for each delegate into the fee you get for the event. If that’s not possible take some books to sell (and make sure you have a facility for taking payment). At the very least you should have some fliers available that give your audience details of your latest book, preferably with a discount. If you have impressed your audience many will want a souvenir of the event and what could firm up your relationship with these potential new clients better than a signed copy of your book.
- Social media is (are) vital. Start promoting your book a few months prior to publication on Facebook and Twitter and encourage as many people as possible to become fans and share your book in their networks. These are more fun social networks and designed to give instant gratification. To stay relevant create a hashtag that is unique to your brand and use it every time you post a tweet or an update. This should develop momentum and you will be able to monitor whether people are responding to your contributions. You should also explore Tumblr and Pinterest which are particularly good at being visually stimulating and easily shared. Make sure the pictures you associate with your brand and your book are relevant to the content, otherwise you may end up with the wrong types of followers, those who are not likely to benefit from reading your content. It’s good to link your posts to what is currently trending, but always link back to why that is relevant to your book.
If your book is designed to promote your business you must engage fully with LinkedIn, which is an essential networking tool. Join groups on LinkedIn that relate to your business. It is an excellent space to share newsworthy items that can help with careers, and members are likely to respond if you write a blog post and share it (always with a link to your book at the end). Promote thoughtful content that gets people to engage with the ideas in your book and engages them in discussion. Reach out to people who you think could endorse your book, such as leaders in your particular field, or an author of a competing title. You don’t get any medals for wanting to do all of this alone.
There’s much more that you can do of course, and I’ll be returning to this subject with more techniques to market your work. Meanwhile we have written two books which are available free on www.infideas.com
We love to talk to authors about their books. If you want to have an informal chat, feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to see how we can help you out.
Last week celebrated cross-cultural management guru Fons Trompenaars rose in the influential Thinkers50 global ranking of business thinkers. Trompenaars climbed to 33rd place partly due to his recent book, written with Charles Hampden-Turner, Nine Visions of Capitalism but mainly, according to Stuart Crainer who created Thinkers50 with Des Dearlove in 2001, due to a significant increase in citations of his work during the last two years.
The Thinkers50 ranking, often described as the Oscars of management thinking, is a celebration of the very best new management thinking as well as those ideas which stand the test of time. Crainer says he is looking for “ideas with a potential impact that extends beyond the business world to address issues ranging from reducing poverty to building a sustainable model of capitalism.”
Trompenaars’ success shows the value to consultants of publishing paradigm-shifting content in an accessible, peer-reviewed context. Self-publishing seems not to have the credibility of commercially published works. Barry Gibbons, former Global CEO of Burger King and author of ten acclaimed business books says: “A published book (accent on ‘published’) can bring a string of powerful indirect benefits. It can boost a CV. It can take the place of a business card, with 1000 times the impact. It can open up lucrative speaking or consulting opportunities. It can enhance an author’s reputation in a defined target market.”
Trompenaars’ ideas on cross-cultural development have been published widely in reviews such as Harvard Business Review and Intercultural Management Quarterly but he has also had a major impact with books like 100+ Management Models: How To Understand And Apply The World’s Most Powerful Business Tools, Servant Leadership across cultures and The global M&A tango: How To Reconcile Cultural Differences In Mergers, Acquisitions And Strategic Partnerships. Most of Trompenaars’ books are jointly published by Infinite Ideas in the UK and McGraw-Hill in the US.
Trompenaars and his team have developed a unique resource in the cross-cultural and other databases they have developed over thirty years. He adopts a measurement and data-driven approach to benchmark, inform, advise and diagnose client problems and provide practical solutions. He maintains that organizations need stability and growth, long-term and short-term decisions, tradition and innovation, planning and laissez-faire. The challenge is to integrate these opposites, not to select one at the expense of the other. You have to inspire as well as listen, to make decisions yourself but also delegate and you need to centralize your organization around local responsibilities. Trompenaars’ work is unique in that his focus has been to use his research on culture to find reconciliation of differences rather than simply identifying them.
John Naisbitt, author of Megatrends, described Nine Visions of Capitalism as “an important and brilliant book. With deep insights on China, it helps us understand a world undergoing extraordinary change.” Trompenaars recently sold his business, Trompenaars Hampden-Turner, to KPMG for an undisclosed sum. It is impossible to calculate the effect of these deep insights in the books and articles on the sale price but it’s fair to say that Trompenaars’ global Thinkers50 ranking which itself depends so heavily on publishing gave it a significant push in the right direction.