As well as self publishing my novels, I have also had two non fiction books published in the more traditional way (The Financial Wellbeing Book, about the relationship between money and happiness, and The Eternal Business, about the Employee Ownership Trust).
I’ve had therefore plenty of experience of the three main ways to publish a book.
In this piece, I’d like to offer some information for others who might be thinking of writing a book. Note – this piece is based on my experiences, I’m not a publishing expert (although I have run the article past several publishers).
Why Write A Book
Firstly, let’s be clear. You do not publish a book, fiction or non fiction, in order to make money. The average fully published novel (as opposed to self published) sells some 250 copies in its first year, 3000 in its lifetime*. The average earnings for a professional author of fiction is £12,500. The average self published novel sells some 250 copies in its lifetime.
I write fiction because I need to, not for money or fame.
Which, I hear you cry, is just as well!
Business books, on the other hand, might be seen as a posh business card. It is a great way to promote yourself as an expert in your topic. Don’t, however, expect to sell many copies to people outside your existing network.
A business book with a properly thought through concept, published by a known publisher, might sell a few thousand copies (but most don’t). A self published business book would be much less. Simon Sinek, like J K Rowling in fiction, is the exception, and a very long way from the norm.
I’ll focus in this article on business books. You’ve got an idea, you feel passionate, and you want to write a book. We’ll gloss over the writing of the book (that is a huge topic in itself!), and move straight on to getting it out there to be read.
Getting A Publisher
Simplifying somewhat, there are three ways of publishing your book. The first is to get a publisher. You’ll know the big names – Penguin Random House, Harper Collins.
Whereas with fiction you need to go through a literary agent, with a business book you approach the publisher directly. Go to sites for the well known names you’ll find most of them have a submission form for you to complete.
For example, Harriman House published my book The Eternal Business. Here is their proposals page https://www.harriman-house.com/proposals. They did a brilliant job with the design (I reckon, anyway!).
These forms are pretty lengthy. I suspect they might even be intended to deter the casual enquirer. However, completing them is a great exercise in refining your pitch, and will give you content you can use in marketing later.
If you can’t complete the Harriman House proposal in a clear way, you probably haven’t thought through your book fully enough.
I went through the process of submitting to publishers with The Eternal Business. I sent proposals to several companies, and got to shortlist with two (Harriman House and Penguin Random House). I did not pay for the book to be published (but I did have a very advanced marketing plan).
And speaking of marketing, let’s get rid of another myth – getting a publisher does not mean your book is suddenly going to sell. They will try and get your book into shops, but sitting on a shelf with one of the 11,000 other business books that are published each year doesn’t not mean you’ll sell anything. Although a good publisher will help, assume that you need to do your own marketing – you have one book to sell, they have thousands!
Author Funded Independent Publishing
Route number three is to do it yourself (we skipped route two, but we’ll be coming back to it). At its most basic, this means fully self publishing. This has become hugely popular over recent years, thanks to digital printing.
A decade ago, ‘vanity’ publishing (as it was then called) meant a one off print run of a few thousand copies. Many is the self published author with boxes of unsold books in their garage.
Now, however, Print On Demand (POD) means that when someone buys a copy of one of my novels on Amazon, a single copy can be printed and posted directly to them.
If do you go this route (you may have no other option, if a publisher does not take up your book), I strongly recommend you use a specialist company to help you produce a professional looking book. In this way you move from pure self publishing to what Sue Richardson of SRA Books calls ‘author funded independent publishing’ – route two.
What A Publishing Company Can Do For You
Route three, full self publishing is popular for fiction (I use Silverwood Books to self publish my fiction, which costs me £3k plus VAT for a Gold service – I told you that you don’t publish fiction to make money!!).
For a business book which is going to represent you to potential clients, I would suggest that you don’t want anything less than a professional job, which means routes one or two. This means you’ll need some or all of:
- copy editing;
- cover and book design;
- registration with British Library and Copyright Agencies;
- ISBN registration;
- and more.
Typically, the cost is perhaps c£6k – £10k to do a professional job for a business book.
The lower end of that scale will be a company who simply helps you to get the physical book produced. At the top price end you might get a company who will help market the book. The Financial Wellbeing Book, for example, was published by LID, and it cost my business £10k. It looks fab, and they got it onto the shelves of WH Smiths and Foyles.
LID, Silverwood and SRA don’t just take any book, however, which is why this route two slots between being published and self publishing. They can help with marketing, and as a result The Financial Wellbeing Book has sold over 5000 copies. It reached number 3 in the WH Smiths business book chart. They also sold the rights to be translated into Dutch, Indonesian and Thai. It is even being used as a standard text in a university in Belgium! There is no way I could have done this on my own.
Writing and publishing a book is an achievement to be proud of, however the biggest tip I can offer is to treat it as any other business project – is this the best use of your time?
I write fiction because I love the process, it’s something I need to do. I write business books, however, because I have ideas I want to share BUT also because I want to attract potential clients to my Eternal Business Consultancy. It simply takes too much time to write a good business book for it to be for any other reason!
*Rather than state the source for each statistic, I’ll just say that all the numbers in this article are from web sites of national press, authors or literary agents I found on Google searches. Feel free to check with your own search!
You can contact me about business matters on firstname.lastname@example.org.