A Quick-Start Guide to Publishing Books

“Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.” – Groucho Marx

Longtime ETR reader Tim C., of Raleigh, NC, e-mailed to say that ETR is sorely in need of a new type of product.

Tim writes, “While your newsletter presents timely, unique, and bankable information, I have yet to find the product I’m looking for. Don’t get me wrong. From copywriting to Internet marketing, ETR’s info is top-rate and invaluable for a wide spectrum of entrepreneurs. Yet, for all the products and services that ETR promotes, you’ve neglected one particular product sold by one particular group of entrepreneurs: Books!”

It turns out that Tim has spent years writing his own self-help book. (It’s about how to use the principles of yoga to become more successful.) He points out that tens of thousands of authors try to break into the book world every year. As a writer himself, Tim is interested in making more from book sales than “the measly 10 percent that traditional publishers offer authors.”

“What I’m seeking,” he says, “is a turnkey book-selling system… the same kind of turnkey system that ETR offers for many other products. What I’ll gladly pay for is a single package of info that tells me how to cash in on my self-help book with the same high level of insider expertise that ETR offers for other products and services.”

Tim wants to learn how to:

  • Print the book
  • Find a distributor or fulfillment service for the book
  • Make an e-book
  • Design a website to sell the book
  • Create Internet buzz for the book
  • Create an e-mail list of prospective book buyers
  • Get great results in search engine searches
  • Create a book blog as a marketing tool
  • Create a subscription newsletter

“To become a best-seller, my book needs the ‘ETR Touch,'” says Tim. He wants to know if I can help.

Tim’s enthusiasm is wonderful. It’s clear that the energy he gets from yoga is spilling over into his writing. That’s a very good thing. And his conviction, his confidence that his system of yoga can help others succeed, is an essential component of success.

So he has two things working in his favor. But he has some obstacles to overcome.

First and most important, publishing a single book is not usually a good business strategy – even if it is a good, marketable book as Tim believes his to be. For every Harry Potter you read about, thousands of books are published every year that never make a penny. In fact, out of 100,000 books published during one recent period of time, more than 95,000 sold fewer than 100 copies.

Imagine that. The average book published in America sells fewer than 100 copies.

For anyone in Tim’s position, I have some good news and some bad news.

The good news is that I can help you become a best-selling author fairly quickly. The bad news is that you will have to decide if you want personal satisfaction or profit.

If the answer is personal satisfaction, you need to consider the costs. It is possible that the book will cost you $20,000 to $50,000 to produce and market on your own. You will probably be lucky to get back what you invested. Patrick Coffey, ETR’s Internet Marketing Director, says you’d probably lose about 80 percent of your money if you tried to sell a book the way Tim wants to do it.

By the way, I would be wary of anyone who promises you anything different. The reason the smart people at ETR have NOT created a program like the one Tim asked for is because they (and I) don’t view it as a viable business option.

If you’re a larger business with an extensive back-end product line, marketing a book can be worthwhile. I’ve seen it done. In fact, one of my colleagues is doing a good job of it now. But he is making his profits by selling it to his “house” list, which is currently at 85,000 readers. If you don’t have a house list to sell your book to, you would be spending money every time you tried to market it. That’s where the loss projections (up to 80 percent) come in.

ETR doesn’t use that approach. In today’s world – in the Internet age – it makes more sense to start a business by giving away valuable information for free so you can build a house list. If you have lots of valuable information and, more important, a unique perspective on how to make money and succeed… then you can build a house list of loyal readers who will be happy to buy books from you at $30… or courses at $300… or workshops at $3,000.

Do you see what I’m getting at?

ETR teaches its readers and customers to self-publish – to create their own information products and sell directly to the consumer. We also recommend increasing the amount you can charge for the same basic information by packaging it in several interesting ways. If you enroll in any of ETR’s information-publishing programs, you will learn specific details about how to take a $15 to $25 book and turn it into audio CDs, instruction manuals, and DVD programs. And you could charge anywhere from $300 to $3,000 for that repackaged information.

But you can learn a lot of this just by re-reading some of the articles we’ve published on the subject in ETR.

In ETR #1808, Patrick Coffey explained how to collect e-mail addresses for qualified prospects. In your case, these would be prospective book buyers. And in ETR #2208, Patrick explained how he built a 100,000+ e-mail list for his e-newsletter without even having a website.

In ETR #1417, Ilise Benun wrote about creating online and offline buzz for your product.

In ETR #2184, Wendy Montes de Oca, ETR’s Vice President of Marketing & Business Development, had even more good information about creating buzz. She described how to do a five-part synchronized marketing blitz.

In ETR# 2142, David Cross, senior Internet consultant for Agora Inc., described the three basics you need to start a subscription-based e-mail newsletter. This article is perfect for you if you are starting from scratch.

A quick search of the ETR archives will yield many more articles on related topics.

If you’re thinking of writing a self-help book, follow Tim’s lead. He’s targeting a niche that is “hot.” (According to him, yoga is “the fastest growing health and exercise trend in America.”) He’s also chosen a topic in which he has expertise. And he’s given the subject a unique twist (using yoga principles to help others succeed). That is exactly what we at ETR recommend all the time. If you’ve got the same three elements going for your info product, you’re on the right track.

But don’t let your enthusiasm for your hobby cloud your business judgment. As Charlie Byrne, ETR’s Editorial Director, points out, “Your friends and family may tell you ‘That’s a GREAT idea.’ But you don’t really know if the marketplace wants it. Getting strangers to pay cash is where the rubber meets the road.”

There are many ways to achieve your self-publishing goal. Here is just one path you can take:

  • Formulate a USP (unique selling proposition) for your book idea. What information will be in it that’s different from all the rest in your target niche? How will it benefit readers in a special way?
  • Write a free 12-page Special Report that explains your USP and tells readers what they need to do to solve a specific problem. Keep in mind that what you tell them here is the WHAT, not the HOW. The HOW you save for the book.
  • Write a single-page promotion for that Special Report.
  • Build a simple website – or “landing page” – with a signup box. That way, people who are interested can enter their names and e-mail addresses in order to get the report. This is a good way to build an e-mail list of strong prospects for your eventual book.
  • To drive traffic to your website, start testing Google AdWords. Try different ideas for the ads and see which ones get the best response. This will let the marketplace tell you what your book should focus on.
  • If you’re NOT getting much response from the marketplace, you may have overestimated the interest in your idea. Consider whether you want to continue with it or try something else.
  • If you ARE seeing a lot of interest, proceed. Start a monthly e-newsletter or blog to keep in touch with the folks who signed up for your Special Report.
  • Write your book.
  • Sell it to all the people on your e-mail list who’ve already told you they want something just like it. (And to everyone else too.)

Notice that writing the book is practically the last thing you do. Determining if there is genuine demand for your product should always come first.

Like I said, that’s one possible way to successfully sell a book. ETR’s information-publishing and Internet-marketing programs provide many more ways to help you get a book – or any product – off the ground. The right way for you depends on your idea and the resources that are available to you.

One final recommendation: Invest $29 in my book, Ready, Fire, Aim, when it comes out in January. It will tell you what to expect at every stage of your new business – the problems to look out for and how to overcome them.

Good luck… and let us know how you do!

[Ed. Note: Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]