The Write Way to Grow

Entrepreneurs discover that self-published books add to the bottom line

to what degree their books advanced their businesses. According to the survey’s findings, those who sold at least 20,000 copies experienced a stronger effect on their business, compared with those who sold 10,000 copies or less. A whopping 96% of respondents reported a positive impact, and say the time and effort spent writing, publishing, and marketing a book was well worth the investment.

“Publish a book — it’s a good idea,” recommends Mike Schultz, principal of the Wellesley Hills Group, publisher of RainToday.com. The challenge, Schultz says, is finding a big-name publisher willing to pay for your idea. Publishers, who look at a book’s sales potential, will ask: What’s your reach? Do you have an established audience? “[Approaching] publishers can be a good vetting process to find out what book will be successful,” says Schultz.

Adding a book to an entrepreneur’s arsenal of services not only leads to new revenue streams, known as indirect revenue, but can add instant credibility to the business. Small-business owners become respected experts in their fields after publishing. Some even cash in on speaking tours, freelance writing opportunities, and requests for consulting services.

Vickie Clark’s path to the literary world began with helping others in mind. Clark is the co-owner of Stone Mountain, Georgia-based Kids R Travelin,’ a transportation service for children (www.kidsrtravelin.net). The service is located about 20 miles outside of Atlanta. After Clark and her husband and business partner, Carl, won the Making It Real Business Grant Competition (see “Mrs., Mom, And CEO,” Motivation, April 2002), a barrage of phone calls to the Clark household followed. Admirers from New York to Texas were motivated by their story and wanted to start a similar business to transport children home from school, to field trips, or to Grandma’s house.

“Our book came by demand,” says Clark, a 34-year-old mother of three, who started Kids R Travelin’ in 1995. “It’s a business manual that gives all my secrets, and it’s sold only on our Website.” Priced at $297, How to Start a Business in Transporting Children delivers step-by-step details and includes the Clarks’ award-winning business plan and a workbook. To date, they’ve made almost $30,000 with 100 copies of the e-book sold.

“This wasn’t necessarily a way of promoting my business,” Clark says of writing the book. “I did it to help others.” To her knowledge, 50 transportation services have been started with guidance from her manual. The book has increased the company’s profits only slightly but, she says, parents are impressed by it. It validates the company brand, distinguishes it in a heavily saturated marketplace, and casts the Clarks as experts in a niche industry.

Before business owners put fingers to keyboard, they must answer one important question: To self-publish or not to self-publish? Many new writers wrestle with the decision. Rain Today.com’s study weighs heavily on the side of commercial publishing. Surveyed business owners who published with a top-level publishing firm, such as McGraw-Hill or John Wiley, sold 11,000 more books than those who went with a smaller publishing house.

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