The interaction or relationship between niche publishers and their niche book writers varies, in part because they are often the same person!
But where they aren’t, what the publisher seeks from the author mostly depends upon the kind of empire-building that each is pursuing. Some publishers simply publish the author’s book(s); they aren’t pursuing other sales in that niche field. In those cases, it’s usually the author who is expanding their sales by speaking, seminaring, writing articles, and consulting.
We are on the other end of the spectrum. We are the focus of expansion in the niche field, so we are extremely selective in the writers we bring aboard. Of course we expect that each book will be cutting-edge, needed, well written and resourced, and jargon-free. We seek authors who are well known and held in high regard in their field, are eager to speak at conferences and conventions, are able to do so well, and will handle the related back-of-the-room book sales. We make most of our money from the books. They earn all of the money from speaking in which the book plays a key role in their getting booked. And we both sell the books on a mutually agreed basis.
Since they program their own speeches, we will coach them on that and the speaking process (if coaching is needed). That’s possible because I have given over 2,000 paid speaking presentations. They keep 100% of what they earn from speaking (and pay any fees if they use agencies). When we get asked if our writers speak, we send the request directly to the person they are interested in scheduling. We also supply them with their own personal selling stock (at a 40% discount; they pay shipping). And we handle the rare all-attendees-get-a-book sales. This provides a steady income flow both for the authors and for us, keeps the authors’ names current and them visible, and makes the sale of subsequent related books (that we publish) much faster and easier.
They have access to the e-list we create from the niche buyers’ and speaking attendees’ names and street and/or e-mail addresses, which we use to promote books and they use to help with their speaking promotions.
It’s to both of our benefit if the authors write more books and create offshoot or follow-up products that we can publish. Most of our books are sold as bound paperbacks. A few were cloth. For dentists, we also used a three-ring binder format that included a CD. Now, all our books are also available in e-book formats. Originally those e-books were paperback-faithful .pdf downloads sold from our Web site (or the authors’). Today the K-12 books are also sold at CreateSpace, Kindle, Nook, Lightning Source, and Smashwords. (Digital sales account for about 10% of our niche income.)
Here are some of our guidelines when we consider a new author to add to our list:
1. We are seeking a leader/writer/speaker in our niche who is eager (and able) to write a book right now.
2. We ask that that person to identify the ten biggest problems that practitioners in that niche would pay $100 a book, on the spot, to have that problem solved. If we find an area of mutual interest, we check to see what else is available to solve that problem. If there isn’t a book or much competition, we conduct a modest pre-test to see if a book would be well received. We ask the author to provide a table of contents, several titles, and several paragraphs about the benefits the book would bring or the promises the book can honestly make. With that, we expect that our pre-test will confirm that enough buyers would pay a pre-determined amount (we seek at least $50,000 profit) for a book with a specific title, table of contents, and price. If the pre-test is successful, we ask the author to write the how-to, step-by-step book that matches what we have tested.
3. At the same time we focus on some of those other nine key problems to see if this author, or others (usually who he/she recommends), might be able to write a book about the solution to those problems, all books that we could pre-test and, if wanted, also publish.
Why would an author eagerly become a willing and valuable ally with us to help us expand in the niche field?
1. They receive a 10% royalty on gross receipts.
2. They keep all speaking income related to the book.
3. We extend a discount of about 40% on books the author buys from us to sell directly at workshops and any other way.
4. We pay a 50% commission on any sales of their digital products that the author generates, and a 40% commission on these sales if the books have to be mailed. (We do this mostly through an affiliate program.)
5. We gladly help the author build their own empire. That is often done by creating spin-off books, guides, workbooks, booklets, classes, seminars, workshops, consulting, and more. We publish all of the printed items for the author.
This is our thinking right now as a niche publisher. Our main function, initially, is to quantify a book’s appeal and potential sales. The author then creates the book that will produce those sales. After that, they build outward from each book they publish, limiting their focus to the niche we are serving.
We also mimic and use many of the best techniques and outlets favored by conventional publishers to earn an additional 10-20%, mostly selling through intermediaries like wholesalers and retailers.
In summary, we get most of the gold that the book reaps, and the authors get all of the gold they earn from the venues made possible by having the book available, promoted to the niche, and produced and sold professionally.
[The two previous blogs at this site discussed niche publishing, and the next two will discuss 25 steps taken to conduct a niche book pre-test and reasons why you may not want to niche publish.]