Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Write a book for fun and profit

Meeting report

SDForum Marketing SIG March meeting - 3/9/09

By: Mark Helfen

You may have thought that writing a book was a difficult task, taking months or years to complete, with little chance of ever getting it published and even less chance of making the effort pay off.

But at the SDForum March meeting, Mitchell Levy painted an entirely different picture.

According to Levy, CEO of Happy About Publishing, the correct thought process is that writing a book will help you gain credibility and drive customers to your service, consulting business, or company. A book you can write in as little in a few weeks to a few months.

If you have a reasonably good idea and marketing plan, Happy About will be happy to publish it for you.

“A book is the number one tool for a person or company to drive business,” said Levy.

The difference in thinking starts with Happy About’s business strategy. According to Levy, most publishers have a “venture capital” model – they fund a number of attempts with the objective that at least a few are “home runs” – very profitable books.

But Levy isn’t looking for home runs. He’s satisfied if “every book is a single.” A book can turn a profit if it sells between 200 and 300 copies. While the author can make money from the book, Levy prefers that they think of it as a form of business development.

Levy claims that being a published author gets the same credibility as getting a PhD, but faster and with much less work.

Getting Started

So if you think you want to be a published author, what is Levy looking for? If you send him an email (see below) he will respond with an outline of the marketing plan he needs. But he summarized with three main points.

1. You have credible expertise in the topic you want to write about. Someone reading a short biography would believe that you have enough knowledge to write your book.

2. You can write a good book. It doesn’t have to be a great book, just a good book. Or, as Levy phrased it, at least good enough so “it doesn’t suck.”

3. You have a marketing plan that will sell at least 200-300 copies.

The first part of your marketing plan is to purchase the first 100 of those copies, a requirement. Happy About is not a subsidy or vanity publisher, where the author pays for and buys all of the books - they invest their own money in the project. But authors do have some financial skin in the game – about $1000 for those 100 copies. Authors pay about half the list price, which is usually around $20.

If you don’t have 100 clients, prospects, or business partners to who you could either give away the book at no charge and gain resulting business, or who would pay for the book, you might not be a prospect for Happy About’s publishing program. But Levy’s entire premise is that the credibility you gain will pay this amount back many times over.

The rest get sold, either by you, directly by Happy About at their web site, or on Amazon. You promote this channel by a combination of public speaking, blogging, or being active on social media sites like Linkedin or Facebook. If you want to sell off your own web site, Happy About has the tools to allow you to do this. Their strategy is to do “print on demand,” so there is no inventory to carry.

You might make money from books sales – Levy claims that 80 to 90 percent of what he publishes turns a profit. But your principle objective should be the credibility you gain as a published author, and how a book can fit into your overall marketing plan. Writing your book will typically take 50 to 150 hours, or about 1 hour a page from start to finish.

So… pick a topic you are passionate about, fill out Happy About’s proposal and marketing plan, and start writing. I hope to see you interviewed on national TV in the near future…..

Happy About’s web site is here. Take a look at their range of titles for an idea of what they publish.

Levy’s email address is: mitchell.levy@happyabout.info, where you can request a copy of “Happy About Author Questions” to get your proposal started. ---

Mark Helfen is a Marketing Consultant and Freelance Writer. He can be reached at mhelfen@wordpixel.com

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