Publishing a book is an apt way to convey thought leadership, but how do entrepreneurs and business professionals choose between the many different publishing options that exist?
White papers, webinars and articles are great ways for entrepreneurs and business professionals to convey thought leadership. Books add to this mix the opportunity to take a deep dive in a topic making use of ample room to build an argument that other channels will not allow for.
Books also bring with them a certain unique cachet. To be able to leave a meeting handing over a book to your potential business partner or prospect appeals to the imagination more than a promise to send in the pdf of a recent webinar you presented. Also, books that are published by anyone other than yourself offer valuable validation (more about that later).
Four models of publishing
Entrepreneurs and business professionals who are considering publishing would do well to weigh the pros and cons of different options carefully before they shoot the gun. Hereunder follows a look at the different options they have available.
A self-publisher bypasses all the gatekeepers of a traditional publishing house. There are basically two models of self-publishing. Authors can have a printer produce a substantial run of books, store the books themselves, and fulfill all the orders. They can also decide to outsource (part) of the logistics and use, for example, Amazon’s fulfillment services. Another option authors have is to use a print-on-demand service that – as the words says – prints books as orders come in.
IngramSpark is one the biggest players in the North-American market for on-demand printing. Also, Amazon and Barnes and Noble offer all the services a self-publisher would need to offer books up to their respective channels.
In between traditional publishing and self-publishing is hybrid publishing. Hybrid publishers offer editorial (and at times promotional) services that are very similar to the ones of large publishers. A book published by a hybrid publisher will oftentimes look and feel like a much more attractive and professional product than a book that is self-published. The hybrid publishers do, however, miss the name recognition that large publishing houses have.
Over the years, the American market of hybrid publishers has grown considerably – locally (Austin) based Greenleaf Book Group is one of them.
Small independent publishers are often called “vanity publishers.” They offer the credibility of a large imprint but do not have the promotional resources to support authors the way large publishing houses do. Vanity publishers work just like regular larger publishing houses, but have considerably less resources to help authors market their books.
Harriman House is one example of a vanity publisher.
The large traditional publishers are the ones everybody thinks of first when business publishing is mentioned. They employ top-tier editors who will help authors package their content and write better copy, they have plenty of marketing resources (but these are not used necessarily for all authors), and – last but not least – their logo on the cover adds considerable validation.
I have listed the options in descending order of what an author can expect to make from a book. The large publishers might give an author an advance, but at the end of the day, the take of the author will be very limited – as in a few dollars for every book that is sold.
If you are self-publishing, you will have to come up with the capital investment for the lay-out, cover, and printing yourself, but your (potential!) proceeds will be considerably higher than what a large publisher will allow for. The hybrid publishers are in between, and the vanity publishers follow the business model of the large publishers.
Making the choice that is right for you
This article is about what choices should be made to build thought leadership through publishing, it is not about what makes for profitable book sales. And even if it were, that equation would still be more complex than just comparing royalty rates since a book that puts little in the pocket of an author can still land that author commercial opportunities in the mid- to long term that exceed whatever a self-published book with a high yield in terms of revenue per book might allow for.
So with all of that said, should entrepreneurs and business professionals seek to build thought leadership through self-publishing?
If you are an established expert in your field, you can afford to self-publish or make use of a hybrid publisher if you want editorial support. You no longer need the marketing support and validation offered by a traditional publishing house.
If you are at the beginning of your thought leadership journey, and you still need to convince the market that you are “for real,” it is recommended to use an established publisher, either one of the large publishers or a vanity publisher. Being in the low author notoriety / self-publishing quadrant is at any rate not a place of strength for any emergent business author.
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