Do you have the passion? Yes! Once again you must have strong passion to write a book and see it through all the stages to get it into the hands of your market. The knowledge you want to provide in a book is valueless unless you prepare it and package it to appeal to your audience. And without marketing, it will not accomplish what you envision.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
Before you ever write the first page of your book, you need to ask yourself why you want to write a book.
1. You want to make more money: If this is your primary reason, then you need to thoroughly investigate the costs involved. And I don’t mean just the cost of the printing. You must include your time involved in all aspects and the marketing required to keep your product in front of your audience. You also must consider whether your product will need updating or will eventually become obsolete.
2. You truly want to help people: This is certainly a worthy reason and most certainly should be part of why you write a book. You also must consider that in order to help your peers, you must get the information into their hands. How will you do that?
3. There is a need: I wrote Price Your Work With Confidence because I continually had to consult with people about pricing and I was repeating the same information over and over.
4. There is a want: People don’t always invest in what they truly need. Hobbyists will pay $5,000 for an embroidery machine, whereas a workroom owner will not pay even $500 for an industrial sewing machine. Do you really believe the need will become a want?
5. You want the notoriety: More than once I have heard that if you want to be considered an authority on something, write a book. There is an automatic acceptance that you do know what you are talking about if you are a published author. If you want to get your name known, this is definitely a way to do it, but it might not be the easiest.
A NEW BUSINESS
If your main job is running a workroom or retail sales, then writing a book aimed beyond your business does not fit into your job description. It’s a new business, and it starts as a part-time business on the side. You certainly can write a book after hours and get it done in a reasonable time, but what you have to do afterwards will likely take more time than you anticipated.
Seek advice as to whether your writing skills are adequate. There are books available to help you to write better, but it’s probably worth it to hire a ghostwriter if you need help. That is unless you intend to do a lot more writing. In that case it may be worth your time investment to learn how to write effectively. If you are doing the writing, plan to go over it many times to perfect it before it goes any further.
To take your book beyond the manuscript stage, you must find a good, dependable copyeditor and editor. Depending upon your topic, you may need a special person for the copy editing, e.g. someone who fabricates will more easily understand fabrication how-to writing. When I finished the manuscript of my book, Price Your Work With Confidence, I had my accountant go over it to be sure I had the correct accounting information and that it was explained as it should be.
In general, a copyeditor will check your spelling and be sure your grammar is correct. The editor will rearrange your wording for clarity and will check for consistent formatting. Be prepared to have your work go back and forth to these people many, many times as you make corrections and they review them. The editor may also have good ideas on what your title should be. The book title is very important!
Consider whether or not you want to self-publish or go through a publisher. There are many rules in formatting a book of which the novice is unaware—rules such as “Chapters always start on the right-hand page” and “Odd page numbers are always on the right.” You have to decide if such rules are important. If so, there are books that can give you this information.
If you self-publish, you get to keep all the profits but you also will have to work for this benefit. You will have to continually put money into marketing and advertising. If you are writing an industry-specific book, a large publisher not in the industry is unlikely to be interested in your book in the first place. Even if your book appeals to the masses, publishers will only promote it for a short time after the first printing and no longer. So it still would be up to you to keep it in front of your market.
You also can go through industry publishers who are more likely to continue to market your book and give you a better return on sales.
Assuming you are self-publishing, you must make many decisions.
1. Type of cover: Hard back, paper back, perfect bound (pages are glued together as in most paperbacks), lay-flat binding (it appears to be a paperback, but if you open the book, it will lay flat and stay open), spiral bound, loose leaf etc.
2. Size of book: This has a major effect on the cost of the book.
3. Type of paper for the pages: This will also affect the cost of a book.
4. Cover design:
• Color—how many? (I spent a lot of time looking at the spines of books on bookshelves to decide what would stand out.)
• Overall design—you’ll need to find a good graphic artist to do this.
• Will your photo be on it? It should be, if you want to become known.
• Testimony from industry experts? I sent unedited manuscripts to industry friends who agreed to give me a review—good or bad. I asked for their permission to use their quotes on my book cover.
• Print-on-demand—this means you do not have to order enough books to fill your garage to start out with. The first order for my book had to be a minimum of 500 books. You will not need thousands for an industry-specific book. After the first order, I can order as little as 150 and I get them, whatever the size order, in a week. That does not include shipping time as I pick them up from the printer.
• Four-color photos—if you must use color photos, it will cost. Everything I’ve heard is that the cheapest color printing is done in China. There are resources in the United States to get that done for you.
How you choose to present your information has a great deal to do with whether people will pay your price for your product. Sometimes, the perceived value of the product will overcome lackluster packaging.
According to the copyright law, anytime you put your own words to paper or in e-mail, you are automatically covered with a copyright. However, it is much safer if your authorship is ever contested to pay to have the copyright registered in the copyright office. Copyright applies to CDs and software as well. You will have to fill out a form, pay the current fee (copyright.gov) to the copyright office, and send them two published copies of your book, which go to the Library of Congress. Now isn’t that impressive?
An ISBN number is something to consider. You have to pay for it. The ISBN number is like a social security number for a book. If you have the ISBN number, you can find a copy of any book if it’s still in print. However, if your book is industry-specific and will never be offered in the mainstream, then you may not want to go with that investment. I would encourage you to investigate it.
Who is your market? Retailers? Workrooms? Consumers? Colleges? This is a very important question. Each area will have different reasons to consider investing in your information. Before you write the book, you must know whom you want to read it. My pricing book is specifically written to window coverings workrooms and retailers. It would be a whole different book if I had wanted to market it to any other industry entrepreneur. While the accounting formulas cross any line, the specific issues of our industry do not.
You also need to plan how you will reach your market. Will you sell direct—in person or Web site? Will you sell through distributors? How will you advertise? What will all these venues cost? How much of your time is going to be required for all this plus the time to fill orders and ship them out? Can you afford this time and continue the business you already are in?
THE BOOK CONTENTS
1. Determine the size, i.e. how much information do you want to cover? I have seen books that could have been broken down into more than one book, e.g. perhaps a series of books. I have also seen books that should have had more information in them. It’s a fine line. However, if you can publish two shorter books, that have complete and highly valuable information in them, there are greater benefits.
• You can get a book into the market sooner and thus get your name out there sooner and also reap profits sooner.
• If your two (or more) books are good size, valuable books, then you can likely make more money selling two. A consumer is more likely to pay more total for two books than the same amount for one book. For example, suppose you did one big book that you sell for $70. That price might make the consumer more hesitant to buy. However, if you offer the same information in two books at $35, the consumer may buy them both at one time without hesitation. Of course, you do have to calculate the costs involved to produce two books instead of one.
• Your credibility as an authority becomes greater with each book you publish.
2. Research. Be sure all your information is correct.
3. Good organization. Be sure that what you say flows well from one topic to another.
4. Make it easy to read. Have short chapters. Break up your subject into topic headings. Lists and enumerations help to make things orderly. Look at how this column is written. If your book is wider than the normal paperback, use columns because they are easier and faster to read than text spanning the whole page.
5. Use real stories, quotes or jokes to get your point across.
This is the nemesis we all hate. How do you price a book that took weeks or even years to create?
1. Market size—if your book is industry-specific, then you have a very tiny market potential, as compared to The Da Vinci Code or a Patricia Cornwell book. That means you will sell far fewer books and need to make much more profit on each book to make the venture worthwhile.
2. Uniqueness—if there are no other books available covering your information, then your book’s value climbs a few more notches.
3. Retail or wholesale—if you are planning to retail and wholesale your book then your wholesale price must give you a good profit margin.
4. Value—assuming your information is very valuable, is it more valuable than a similar book to the masses? If your book is providing all the custom knowledge and techniques for making Roman shades that the usual how-to book in Barnes & Nobel does not have, then isn’t it more valuable?
5. What will the market bare? When I published Order in the Workroom in 1994, I was told that people would not pay more than $19.95 for anything. I felt it was more valuable than that and charged $24.95. I was not disappointed in the sales. If you sell fewer at a higher price, you are likely to make more money. I’m sure there is a breaking point today, but it is really up to you to offer extremely valuable information and to sell its value.
If you are going to all the trouble to write a book, you deserve a good profit. This industry has evolved more in the last 10 years than it did in the previous 20. Window coverings specialists need to know more information than ever before. It would likely take a very large encyclopedia to cover all the knowledge needed today. Knowledge and equipment are keys for workrooms to succeed and survive in this century. The pool of people with sewing ability is dwindling at an accelerated rate. For workrooms to survive, they must keep on top of the latest information to be able to make do and succeed with limited resources.
If you have the passion and valuable information to write a book, go for it! Whether you do or you don’t, support those who are doing the writing and buy their books. Now, go get yourself a cup of hot chocolate and start jotting down notes to write a book in the coming year.
Kitty Stein, CWP, WCAA past board member, is a 29-year veteran of the drapery workroom industry. She has owned both retail and wholesale drapery workrooms as one person and as a company of nine, and she is the founder and past owner of Workroom Concepts, a consulting firm offering educational resources to the industry. Her experience includes professional speaking and writing for two industry trade magazines. She currently owns Kitty Stein & Co., which supplies industry vendors with the industry-specific products she has authored including Order in the Workroom, The Price List, Workroom Specifications, and Price Your Work with Confidence, available through D&WC.