It’s a new year and after the dumpster fire that was 2020, you’re feeling like you can spend some time in your business again. So what would help promote your business, make you stand out from your competitors and build your profile in your industry? A book would! In this article we introduce you to the world of book publishing and what type of publishing options are available.
Why has the popularity of publishing for business grown so rapidly?
Writing a book as a business tool is a growing trend that has been spurred on by two signiﬁcant developments. First is the rapid advances in the publishing industry. The key changes include ebooks, outlets such as Amazon, and lower cost high-quality printing. These technology-related changes give independent publishers the ability to produce and distribute high-quality books.
The second development is the rise of the high-proﬁle entrepreneur. Self-promotion (rather than just promoting a company) has become a powerful tool in business, aided by social media and traditional media that love such stories. People such as Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, Dick Smith, Oprah Winfrey, Mark Zuckerberg and Janine Allis have become household names, and are often as well known as their companies, if not more.
How are books for small business published?
Self-publishing is a very common way for small business authors to publish a book: the author also takes on the role of the publisher, usually with the assistance of an editor or a self-publishing company. The greatest single advantage of self-publishing is that it guarantees your book gets out there. With self-publishing, the responsibility for the book lies completely with the publisher (who is also the author). You have the final say on every decision, and many authors self-publish precisely to have this control.
But there’s no such thing as a free lunch; with all the decision-making power comes all the financial risk of the project. Although this can be managed with good advice, as with any business project it’s never eliminated.
As well as self-publishing there are a couple of other forms of publishing to consider: traditional and partnership publishing.
Traditional publishing is the form of publishing most people are familiar with. In traditional publishing an established publishing company – such as Penguin – finds a book they think they can make profitable. They then negotiate a contract with the author, and if a contract is agreed upon they take on production of the book. The publishing company is responsible for paying the costs and managing the publication of the book, and shares the profits with the author in the form of a royalty payment.
Partnership publishing is an area where inexperienced authors can get caught out. It’s a hybrid model, somewhere between traditional publishing and self-publishing. The ‘partnership’ is formed by the publisher signing up the author to what is much like a traditional publishing contract, but also asking the author to contribute to the costs of the book or to commit to buying a large number of books from the publisher, or both.
Where authors can run into trouble with this model is if they’re unaware of where the risks and rewards lie. With traditional publishing, the author contributes the time and energy to write the book, the publisher contributes the money and skill to publish and distribute the book, and the profits (or losses) are shared: shared risk, and shared reward. With self-publishing, the author contributes everything and keeps all the profits (or losses): all the risk, and all the reward. But a dodgy partnership publishing deal hands most or all of the risk to the author but then shares any rewards with the publisher.
Like anything in business, if the terms of the agreement are reasonable and the risks and returns for the publisher and author are equitable, partnership publishing is fine, and can be very successful. But it is the area of publishing where I most often hear about authors having unsatisfactory publishing experiences.
Whatever type of contract you enter into, as with anything in business you must fully understand the nuances of the deal.