Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 129 / MAY 1991 / PAGE 82

Making book on new markets. (desktop publishing) (column)
by Daniel Janal

For $10,000 you can hire a fancy designer, print a couple of thousand brochures, stuff them into envelopes, buy a whole lot of stamps, and send the brochures to everyone you hope will buy your services.

Or you could write a book, build credibility, and establish yourself as an expert. This is the wonderful, true story of how you can be a published author. All it takes is a great idea, discipline, marketing savvy, salesmanship-and a PC.

I had always wanted to write a book, ever since the second grade. I went to a top journalism school, worked at a great American newspaper chain for eight years, won awards, and rose through the editorial ranks. Then I went into public relations and handled big-name computer accounts for four years. When I started my own agency five years ago, I learned tactics that I realized would help people run their companies better. So I decided to write a book called How to Publicize High- Tech Products and Services.

I wrote 80 percent of the book between Christmas and New Year's 1989 while everyone else was partying. I showed the book to friends, who suggested changes and additions. I sent the manuscript to a big-time editor. He liked it but told me he could not publish it because the topic was narrow. "You'll sell 10,000 copies," he said. "But you'll sell them. We can't."

Ironically, an industry guru also said I'd sell 10,000 copies. I decided to publish it under the 10K Press imprint (10,000 copies, 10K-get it?), figuring the name sounded computerish and also active (like a I OK race). Also, because people don't value vanity press" publications, I didn't use my name in the publishing imprint.

I tried to design the book with my desktop publishing software. However, there are so many design issues-margins, leading, borders, cover art, marrying text and graphics-that the best design I did looked amateurish. I decided to spend real money and get the job done correctly. I asked friends to recommend designers.

Each designer works and charges differently. One designer quoted me two prices: one if he entered all the codes on his computer and a second, lower price if I did the coding on my computer based on his design. Prices ranged from $25 to $75 an hour. I settled on a designer who offered a fixed price for designing the cover, text, and brochure-about $3,000 plus expenses.

If you're planning to self-publish a book, look for a designer who has experience creating books. There's a world of difference between designing a book and designing a brochure. An experienced designer will save you time, money, and credibility.

After the book was designed, I called for printing bids. Through referrals, I found a company that prints only books. I gave that bid to a friend in the business, and he matched it. I was able to get 3,000 copies for about $5,000.

Next came the marketing. I put the book, still in its wordperfect format, into a three-ring binder and rented a booth at a trade show for people in the high-tech industry-the very people I thought my book would help.

At that show, an important thing happened. I created new markets. My book targets small companies that do their own publicity because they can't or won't hire a public relations agency. But when a PR agency representative walked bY, I told him it would be a great training tool for newly-hired employees. He agreed. One woman wanted to use the book as an incentive to get people to sign up for her seminars. Another woman who operates a convention hall wanted to give books to exhibitors. A major magazine bought 200 copies to turn their advertisers into better marketers. The Software Publishers Association bought 150 copies to give to new members. This wasn't just a book; it was a premium incentive as well. I received enough orders to pay almost all my expenses.

To make selling easier, I arranged to take VISA and Mastercard orders. Since banks don't like giving cards to home-based companies or mail-order firms, I had to convince the banker I was more than just your average home office worker. I sent him a two-page backgrounder and copies of articles about my business that had appeared in USA Today, Success, and several other periodicals. I also told him I sold the book at conventions and seminars. When he asked about mail order, I repeated my assertion. I never lied. He didn't pursue the question, and I didn't volunteer information.

If you want to turn yourself into an expert, then write and publish a book. Just keep in mind these essential steps:

Write a book that appeals to a lot of people.

Find an experienced and economical designer.

Shop around for a printer.

Find companies that might buy multiple copies.

Create new markets.

Sell. Sell. Sell.

The beauty of this marketing strategy is that even if you don't sell the book, you can give it to prospects. They'll think you're smart because you wrote a book. And if they hire you for a project, you just might earn back your publishing costs.