Writing and Publishing News for September 20th through September 23rd

Here’s what I’ve tagged for September 20th through September 23rd:

Marketing Sherpa Wants You to Know about Ghostwriters

Today is the last day to get a free copy of Marketing Sherpa’s 80-page report (regular price US$127) How to Get Your Business Book Published. If it’s still November 27, 2007 as you read this, go download your copy of the report right now and don’t wait to finish reading this post. If it’s too late and you want to know whether to pony up the $127, read on.

The report starts with an examination of what writing a business book is good for your career and covers everything from agents, publishers, contracts, and marketing to—yes—working with a ghostwriter. It concludes with four sample book proposals from successfully published books.

Examples like this are always worth having, because every author, even those who self-publish, should have a proposal. These are recent examples, so they give you a good idea of what you need to know and do to make your book succeed in today’s saturated publishing world. The report also provides contact information for business book agents (rarer and harder to find than agents for fiction) and publishers.

Marketing Sherpa’s recommendations and warnings are consistent with those in RainToday’s 2006 Business Book Publishing Reports (well worth reading, if you haven’t seen them yet). There’s plenty of fresh, original material here, though, and it’s presented in a very accessible way. Two of my favorite sections are those on agent turn-offs and myths about publishing.

And what does Marketing Sherpa think about hiring a ghostwriter? The best way to sum it up is probably “When it is good, it is very very good, but when it is bad, it is horrid.” And naturally I’m in full accord with their conclusion:

As in most things, you get what you pay for when it comes to hiring ghost writers. Professional, experienced writers charge more than, say, a graduate student majoring in writing—spend the money to go with the professional. You’ll save time and money in the long run—the better the work, the less rewriting and editing you’ll do. Expect to spend at least $5,000 (it could be much more) for a 250-page book.

While it may seem that the ghost does all the work while you get all the credit, that’s not the case. You’ll need to work closely with the ghost writer from the beginning to be certain that everything you want to say will be included. You will probably want to at least provide the writer with an outline, and will certainly want to spend some time giving the writer background on the subject. Then, once the copy is written, you need to make sure everything is exactly the way you want. You must copyedit, fact-check, and revise—or have the ghost revise—until the book is perfect. Remember, it’s your name on the book.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Don’t Write for the Royalties

Inspired by RainToday.com’s Business Book Publishing reports.

It should come as no surprise that the more books an author sells, the better the effect on her business, but consultants who are considering writing their first book may not realize how little book sales actually contribute to a business author’s income.

RainToday.com interviewed 200 business book authors to find out whether writing a book was worth the time, effort, and expense involved. The introduction to The Business Impact of Writing a Book describes becoming an author in decidedly unromantic terms:

What conventional wisdom fails to tell you is that the act of writing a book is an enormous investment in blood, sweat, and all too often, tears. Writing and publishing a book is a time-intensive, laborious process that begins well before the actual writing of the book, and continues through the long editing, publishing, and book marketing process. Aspiring authors may have to deal with finding agents, marketers, publishers, negotiating contracts, and, ultimately, the marketing and publicity of the book—all while keeping up with their everyday business activities. (p. 6)

Nevertheless, 96% of the consultants who participated in the study, only a few of whom had written best-sellers, agreed that publishing a book had a positive impact on their business. But it wasn’t fat royalty checks they referred to when asked what publishing had done for them. In order of popularity, the benefits of publishing they cited were:

  1. Improve my brand
  2. Generate more speaking engagements
  3. Generate more clients
  4. Generate more leads
  5. Charge higher fees
  6. Generate more desirable client base
  7. Close more deals

Marketing, Marketing, Marketing

A book is a marketing tool for an author. More book sales result in more awareness of and credibility for the author. You have to market the book before the book can market you. The correlation between the number of books sold and the author’s business success was so high that the researchers concluded that marketing the book was the most important part of the entire process.

Part of the reason the author needs to focus on marketing is that publishers have less money and fewer personnel to devote to marketing books than they used to. As a result, even authors who sign with major publishers need to do most of their own marketing. Authors who self-publish need to do all of their own marketing. In general, those authors who put more into marketing got more out of it, and those who hired professionals to help them sold significantly more books than those who did not.

Indirect Revenue

Among the authors surveyed, direct revenue from publishing topped out at about $100,000—still quite a tidy sum and considerably more than most business book authors will ever earn in royalties. Indirect revenues were double the direct revenues in the 25th percentile, triple in the 50th percentile, and quintuple in the 75th percentile (p. 42).

According to Chip Bell, author of Managing Knock Your Socks Off Service, “If you work at it, you can probably make about ten times as much revenue from sources generated through your book than from the royalties themselves” (p. 43). Given that most traditionally published authors make about $1 per book in royalties, it’s easy to see why a book’s greatest value may be as a glorified business card or brochure.

Even authors who sell fewer than a thousand copies of their first book are still in a good position to raise their rates. But the more books you sell, the more you can charge for speaking and consulting. If your book actually makes it onto the best-seller list, you become a hot commodity. (And, conversely, if you’re already a celebrity, your book has a much better chance of becoming a best-seller.)

Most business books sell about 5,000 copies, which means about $5,000 in royalties. In most cases, it will cost the author far more than $5,000 to write, publish, and market the book, even if her only investment is time. To ensure your book is profitable, you need to take a look at the other ways it can increase your income.

How many new clients would you need at your current rates to make your book pay off? How much would you have to be able to raise your rates? How many speaking engagements would it take to balance out the costs involved? What can you up sell most easily? Can you convert the book into a series of spin-off products and capitalize on what you’ve already invested?

Publishing a book is by no means a get-rich-quick scheme. Becoming an author is hard work, even for those who like to write—or those who hire a ghostwriter. But it pays off in many ways over time.

© Sallie Goetsch 2006

RainToday Publishes Author Survey Results

Remember the RainToday survey about business books I linked to a few months ago? The results are out, and you can read the summary and order The Business Impact Of Writing A Book on RainToday’s website. I haven’t read the full report, so I can’t tell you whether the 71-page download is worth $149.

As for the results: 34% of those surveyed said that becoming an author had a very strong influence on their ability to get business, with another 22% saying their books had a strong influence on lead generation. Only 5% said that becoming an author had no influence.

The more copies of the book an author sold, the stronger the influence reported, which is only logical. Things really start happening when you sell 10,000 copies.

Another interesting point is the difference in number of books sold between authors who did and did not use agents and publicists. Agented authors and those with publicists sold roughly twice as many copies of their first book as those who marketed the book on their own. That statistic should be a nice boost to the business of agents and publicists.

I noticed that many of the authors surveyed are now endorsing the report—and that most of them are business book authors of whom I’ve heard. Of course, there wouldn’t be much point putting the endorsements or names of the unsuccessful authors on the site.

What has your book done for your business? RainToday.com wants to know.

RainToday.com is looking for business book authors to participate in a study on “The Effects of Publishing Business Books on Professional Services Practices.”

If you’ve already published a business book, head on over to the RainToday.com survey and share your experience. Participants are automatically entered to win a copy of RainToday.com’s $445 special report How Clients Buy: The Benchmark Report On Professional Services Marketing And Selling From The Client Perspective.

If you’re still considering publishing a book, you might want to wait for the final report, which promises to answer questions about how much authors invest in their books, whether the sales of your book affect its usefulness to your practice, large vs. small publishing houses, and how much difference PR and book marketing firms make.

Or you might just want to conduct some research of your own by asking the business book authors you already know.