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Jon Kennard


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How to damage your training business by publishing a book


Publishing that book might not be the great idea you first thought it was. Sue Richardson explains. 

Many people involved in the training business have probably, at some time, considered the possibility of writing a book, even if they haven’t done it yet. Obviously trainers have valuable knowledge and expertise to share with others and recognise that a book will provide them with a wider platform. A trainer who is a published author, no matter what their area of expertise will have an edge over others – gaining greater visibility, respect from others and credibility. A book is a fantastic brand builder for any business and in the crowded training space anyone who has written one is likely to stand out.

However, there are a number of ways that a book can do exactly the opposite of what is required. If a good book makes a great impression on its readers a bad one can seriously damage the reputation of its author, and if the book is being written and published in order to showcase the expertise of the business this can backfire if it is not done to a high professional standard.

Despite the apparent ease of Amazon’s Kindle and CreateSpace offering to self-publishers, it is important to understand that producing an effective book is not a simple task. For years publishers have honed their craft, which involves high standards of professional design, editing and book manufacturing. Most self-publishers, by definition, are not professional publishers and therefore do not have the knowledge, skills or expertise required to compete with traditionally published books. I have lost count of how many disappointed authors have approached me to say they had self-published, spent much more money than they had anticipated and still not ended up with a book that did what they wanted it to do.

You need to pull a professional team together and have it headed by a skilled publishing project manager. While this does not come cheap, there are many reasons why using people who understand the publishing world will repay you over and over.

I once ran a workshop where I asked delegates to bring with them books they loved and books they disliked as examples so we could look at what worked and what didn’t. One participant, a textile artist, brought along a rather grubby looking pile of paper in a plastic bag. On inspection we found a book that had been self-published by a feltmaker and sold on her website for £20. Not only was the cheap plastic binding coming apart (hence the plastic bag), the inkjet printer she had printed the ‘book’ on was clearly running out of ink as the illustrations and even some of the text had great white lines running through it rendering it partially unreadable.

The textile artist told the group that she had been intending to attend a week-long training course with the feltmaker and had bought the book to check her out before booking. She had naturally decided this trainer was not the one for her as she had made such a poor impression. If the standards set by the book were anything to go by, why would her training be any more professional?

While a book can boost your reputation and therefore your business enormously, if you don’t do it correctly it will cause massive damage to both. Consult a professional before proceeding. Another important way that authors occasionally get publishing wrong is simply by not having a clear enough publishing strategy. As with everything you do to invest in your training business it will always pay to make a clear business case for a book. Some questions to ask yourself might be:

  • What do we want to achieve by writing and publishing this book? Are we looking to build credibility, raise our profile, create an additional income stream or perhaps encourage platform speaking opportunities?
  • How will this book change our business? How can it best enhance our current business plan?
  • Who is the target audience? Who do I want to reach and influence?
  • How will we get the book to the right people? What will be our sales and marketing plan for the book?
  • What is the best publishing route to take? Should we approach a traditional publisher, find an independent publisher to work with or do we have adequate resources and expertise in our business to self-publish?
  • What budget do we need to set for the project in order to produce a professional result?
  • How will we realistically achieve a return on our investment in this book?

I suggest that you work your way through these questions together with any others that come up in the process so that you can create a clear publishing strategy for your business. If possible, it’s a good idea to do this with a book expert, one with a good understanding of business as well as the publishing industry.

Sue Richardson is founder of Sue Richardson Associates Ltd, an independent publishing house working with non-fiction authors to publish professional, high-quality books. Find her on Twitter @sooziesooFacebook and LinkedIn:

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Jon Kennard

Freelance writer

Read more from Jon Kennard

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