George Morrisey’s Tips for Budding Authors

George Morrisey, a management consultant, professional speaker, and the author or co-author of 19 books, posted the following tips to the October 2nd edition of SpeakerNet News. I have re-printed them here with his permission.


My books have been far and away my most important marketing tool over my 38 years in the speaking business. However, the role of books in the marketplace today is radically different from when I started. With that in mind, let me offer some tips for you to consider as you approach the place of books in your speaking career.

  • Unless you write a best-selling sex book, the likelihood of your being able to generate significant revenue from books is very low. My best year of royalties was about $35,000.
  • Your main reason for having a published book is to position yourself as an expert in your field.
  • However, what is different today is that a book can become a foundation for a spin-off of 15–20 other products/services that can produce significant revenue. These include such things as consulting, facilitation, workbooks, assessment instruments, webcasts, recorded presentations that can be downloaded, subscriptions to a variety of ongoing services, ebooks, and online training, just to mention a few. You are limited only by your own imagination.
  • Lengthy books of several hundred pages are history. Most best-selling business books today are under 100 pages in length that include lots of pictorial and graphic illustrations.
  • Content is still vitally important but it does not need to be beaten to death. Whether we like it or not, there are very few books today that are read cover to cover.
  • Remember, however, that YOU get better as you grow in your speaking profession but the books and other publications you have already published do NOT get better. Whatever you publish needs to be something you will still be proud of 10 years later.
  • Determine if you want to self-publish or work with a commercial publisher. My preference is to go with a commercial publisher for the primary book unless you are willing and able to invest a lot of time, energy and money in promoting it. Self-published books will rarely, if ever, be found in bookstores. Spin-off products are perfect for self-publication and should be looked on as items that can be easily updated or created anew and brought to market quickly.
  • For commercial publishing, my preference is going with a medium-size publisher rather than with one of the giants. Medium-size publishers are likely to provide more personalized treatment and key decision makers are more accessible. You will probably get little or no advance from them but a greater willingness to establish a specific promotional budget. With large publishers, your book is one of several hundred to several thousand titles they will offer in a year. Unless you are a celebrity or a REAL best-selling author, they are likely to offer it to the market and, if it doesn’t take off in the first few weeks, they will catalog it and forget it. Less than half of all commercially-published books recover their initial costs, much less make a profit for the publisher.
  • Regardless of what the publisher may suggest, every clause in their “standard” contract is negotiable. A few things to keep in mind:
    1. You should reserve the right to publication, without the publisher’s permission, in any media that they do not provide.
    2. Insist on being a part of the final decision regarding title, cover, and jacket copy.
    3. Be certain you have the right to purchase the books at bulk prices and that you may sell the books yourself.
  • Set a goal for yourself for when you will schedule time for writing, and stick to it.

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