What does it take to release a book nowadays?
A couple of days ago, we had an interesting call with Steve Rothschild, Beverly Schwartz and Sasha Chanoff. The topic for the call? What is the best way to go about publishing and marketing a book these days? Given that this is a question that many social entrepreneurs are grappling with, we thought we would share a few key points.
Here is a bit of context first:
Steve Rothschild is an Ashoka Fellow elected in 2002. He is the founder and board chair of Twin Cities RISE! and recently developed the Human Capital Performance Bond (HUCAP), a new financial instrument to fund nonprofits. Earlier this year, Steve released his first book – “The Non Non-Profit: For-Profit Thinking for Non-Profit Success.”
Beverly Schwartz is Ashoka’s VP of Global Marketing. She recently launched her and Ashoka’s first book: Rippling presenting some of today’s most effective approaches to spreading and sustaining social change by creating an Everyone a Changemaker™ world. .
Sasha Chanoff is also an Ashoka Fellow, elected just a few months ago for his work with RefugePoint – finding lasting solutions for the world’s most vulnerable refugees. He is currently writing his first book to share a story that was pivotal in his life an in the development of his organization. - a story of life and death and of moral dilemmas. Sasha was interested in learning from the experiences of other social entrepreneurs as he prepares up to release his book.
The key take-aways from the conversation were:
1) Publishers don’t want to read a manuscript, they want to read a marketing proposal. This includes a short writing sample (a couple of chapters) and answers to such questions as: Why is this book important? What are your credential to write it? What’s your marketing plan? How big is your audience? Who is your competition?
2) In your marketing plan, make sure to highlight the networks you are affiliated with and how their members can become customers and marketers. Focus on numbers.
3) Building up your social media networks is key and a great feedback loop.
4) Get strong book endorsements from recognized leaders in your field.
5) Cater to the salesforce, not the editors. This may seem obvious but publishers are market oriented. If they feel your story won’t sell, they’re unlikely to take you on as a client. This sometimes means broadening the scope of your book – seeing how the principles in your story can broadly apply beyond the niche market you may have initially focused on - whether it be poverty alleviation in the U.S. or refugee protection in the Congo.
6) Experiment with other formats: add any extra twist to make it more than “just” a book . For example, create video versions of different chapters to bring them to life in a different way. As the book market shifts, anything that takes your book and puts it into the realm of another format or outlet makes it very attractive in your marketing plan.
7) Recognize that the publishing industry is changing.Consider hiring a publicity agent. With competitors like Amazon driving prices of books down and popularizing self-publishing practices, even established publishers are beginning to struggle to make ends meet. This sometimes means that they are cutting back on marketing and publicity – without cutting back on fees. This seems to vary in function of the topic of your book and the resulting market potential they foresee.
8) Alternatively, have you thought about self-publishing? Though it may seem like more work, you would get a greater share of the revenues, which could allow you to invest more heavily in marketing.
For an interesting analysis of the evolution of the publishing industry, listen to last week’s On The Media podcast- Publishing: Adapt or Die.
(Picture courtesy of www.renaissanceconnection.org)