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What do you write your early empire-building books or speeches about?

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If you want a long and fruitful life sharing great information you love, you have to start somewhere to build the empire that will let you do that.

You need a core book or seminar, workshop, or breakout session to be seen by the most people in a format where they will buy related products immediately. (Nobody will pay you anything just because you have a good book outline on your desk or you have a dandy workshop hiding between you ears.) My usual progression was to start with a seminar, then do the book, and break that book into related seminars, related books, reports, and single tapes. The printed items and tapes that I sold back-of-the-room were either the same book as the program or related topics where folks needed to understand the process better. If they liked the seminar, they bought the book(s). If they liked the book, they went to the seminars. No magic.

Later on, when I started publishing in niche fields, I found the experts (or they found me!) and together we published the core book. Then they spoke at association or group conventions, where we sold the books as well. My role was as the publisher, editor, and marketer. We did that for six years in the dental field, quite profitably. I sold that company but you can see many of the same products at www.sops.com. We now produce products for the K-12 education field for superintendents and principals. (The products are at www.gordonburgett.com/order4.htm.) In the niche fields I tested the market before we published the books, and only then did we create the first book, then spread out to related items. I’m running a 12-part blog at this site right now about the pre-testing process. We also have a book, Niche Publishing: Publish Profitably Every Time that explains the whole niche marketing concept.) The advantage of empire building is that when one buys one product, you can give them promotional material for related items. That cuts the promotional expenses about in half.

When I was new to this concept (I think Franklin had just left for France as the ambassador) I mostly wrote articles. Most of those were one- or two-shot sales, and I’d then sell a few reprints. But three of them particularly interested me, and others asked if I could give a seminar about them, and from there I went on to write the core book and sell reports, audio cassette programs then, some CD programs, and more. The first book (long O.P.) was How to Sell 75% of Your Freelance Writing, and that turned out to be the longest running seminar (30 years) and my best-selling book, which came out in five editions, the last published by Writer’s Digest. From that program I developed three more seminars, one called Writing Travel Articles That Sell, which is a book still useful and in print. There were four steps in that book, and later I created another seminar with an hour each for each of these steps, and then reports and audio CDs about each element. I’m not bragging but sharing how one idea leads to another, and sometimes the core begins as a seminar and then becomes a book, as I explained above, or a book becomes a speaking program.

Here’s another example of using seminars to define your empire core, then writing the book that gives it a solid base (as mentioned above). I offered extended ed seminars for about 25 years. Six of my books came directly from what I learned from my audiences. I found a topic I enjoyed, did as much research as possible, and gave the [four-hour] seminar. At the end of each program, after the last straggler left, I made a list of every question I was asked that day or evening, and at the end of a year I knew precisely what others wanted and needed to know, so I wrote that book. I also sold those books back-of-the-room at the presentations as well as commercially nationwide while I continued to give the program. Modified and shortened, I then gave the same basic information to corporations and associations. The booking was easy because I had written the book!

I posted Blog Bundle #5 a few days back that addresses this very subject, but from the point of trying to define whether you will be a book author, the publisher, or both. Take a look at it if this interests you. Niche books are the area where it is easiest and most profitable to expand into similar products. If the buyers like and benefit from one product, they usually buy much more.

Finally, the kind of topics that work best for an empire are those where you focus on one market (a niche), find the greatest need or frustration that practitioners suffer from, find a solution that is affordable and easily doable, write and speak about that solution, and you build both your book and speaking program around that. Ask people in the field what needs they have, then get lots of examples of folks doing what you suggest to use in your book and talk. (You needn’t use the person’s name, but provide a bit of detail about them so the reader/listener knows it’s true.) Once you write the book (if it’s well accepted) and offer the talks, you are an “expert,” which makes future booking a lot easier. But you have to stay current in the field so you can update your process and examples.

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

P.S. I have a newsletter about empire building, free (with three good reports, also free) to subscribers. Glad to have you with us. You might also check back this Friday when I will post #6 of the 12 blogs about pre-testing your niche book.

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Are you a niche writer, a niche publisher, or both? (Blog Bundle # 5)

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We’re talking about pre-testing your niche book so you don’t have to write and produce it only to have it bomb—expensively!

In this blog we must ask probably the most important question, to you: will you write this book, publish it only, or do both?

Let’s explore those choices, plus choosing another author (or authors) if you will be the publisher.

You as the author only. That means plenty of research, lots of talking and working with folks in the niche field you are writing about, lots of checking other books similar to yours (as well as books in general that the niche buys), determining the format in which your book will be published (which is directly related to the contents needed and their organization), and double-checking to make certain that all questions related to the topic slant have been asked (by you) and answered in the text.

In other words, all the things book authors must do to write full, complete books that are eagerly bought by nichefolk. Then you have to write the book! Which means schedules, drafts, editing, and so on.

If you are the author but not the publisher, you will receive a (different) royalty for the ultimate bound and digital copies of your book. If you plan to sell the book as well (perhaps back-of-the-room at seminars, classes, or speeches), you should receive a special discount on the copies you buy. (Sometimes you can get an advance against royalties in the form of books that you can sell.)

Royalties as the author only? From 10-15% of the retail or list price of the books sold, paid two or three times a year. Plus a good discount (probably 30-40%, but sometimes up to 60%, minus the royalties plus shipping) for any books you sell directly.

You as the publisher only. You may be adroit at publishing but as dumb as a wall about the niche. In which case it might be prudent to find an expert about the topic slant that your book will address, make them the author, and both of you collaborate to create a top book that sells well. (In lieu of a recognized expert, find a very knowledgeable person in the field, make them the author, and if the book is indeed top quality they will then be acknowledged as an expert.)

This is precisely what I did in the dental and K-12 school administration fields. In both cases they approached me with publishing questions. I saw the immediate value in their book themes, I verified that they were indeed well versed and respected in their fields, and I suggested that we collaborate on that and related books—after I did an initial pre-test to make sure that it was profitable, accessible terrain for them and me.

My job as the publisher was to plan the initial writing and selling strategy, pick the best title and table of contents, help design the book’s format and cover, conduct the pre-test, encourage the writing, have the drafts edited, get the book printed, and launch the selling campaign. The author does the book preparation (writing the contents) and the publisher handles production and promotion.

An aside: I also seek an author who speaks well and often, and will help with book sales through (or at) the presentations. It’s a very profitable win-win arrangement since they get the speaking fee (several hundred to several thousand dollars) and we have an eager buying audience.

Your income as publisher: payment for all books sold after expenses are paid. The expenses for niche books usually include a pre-test, printing, cover and art costs, flyer prep and printing, mailing and fulfillment if using direct mailing, other promotional costs, any discounts to other sellers, and royalty to the author. Your minimum goal is 25% of your income as profit. Often you will exceed 50%.

You as the author and publisher:
Bingo, you now have to do it all! But you also get to keep all of the profits (though the tax collectors won’t let you pay yourself a royalty or for time spent as labor). The best thing is that you are in complete control of the production and the scheduling. The worst thing is doing all of the production and meeting your own deadlines!

Many niche publishers begin small and do it all. They experiment until they find the core topic from which they can build an empire. Then they hire out some of the production and promotion components until they strike the best balance between their knowledge, production skills, and desire.

So that’s where you are now in this niche publishing process, seeing which role(s) fit you, your time, and your funds best. Since you need to know what your book is about and who will write it before you pre-test, this must be answered before you can go much farther. (You need to know one thing more: the price range of your book and what selling ratio you must achieve before the venture is launched. We will discuss those in the next blog, #6, of 12.)

Some final words about the author versus publisher question.

The book is what this is all about. It’s the engine that pulls all the rest of the cars. So it must be professionally written, well designed, and have a fetching front and back cover. The last two are the publisher’s responsibility. The first is the author’s. Between the two, the book can look spiffy and be visually enticing but unless it compellingly solves the potential buyers’ problems or somehow makes their life better, easier, faster, or improved upon, ultimately not enough people will buy it and the enterprise will fail for both the writer and publisher.

The moral: get a writer who knows the topic, writes well, and understands why those in the target niche will not only ask to buy the book, they will urge their friends to buy it too.

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

(The next in this series will be out next Friday, and another publishing-related blog this coming Tuesday too. If you’d like three free reports, please sign up (also free) for my monthly newsletter. Finally, I have the entire niche publishing process outlined, step-by-step in Niche Publishing: Publish Profitably Every Time. Not much gamble either–it’s been a huge seller for us!)

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Do you start your empire from a book or from speaking?

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One or the other, usually. A book or a seminar, workshop, or breakout session are by far the best in-depth ways for others to see and hear what you know. Then, if the reader or listener wants more information, or inspiration, they are also excellent ways to tell them about how they can get what Nido Qubein calls “more good stuff” from you about you expertise: your e-mail address, phone, social network links, website, blog, annotated order form… And you get their name, info, and e-mail address.

A full book or hearing you speak for many minutes puts a lot of you plunk in front of your new followers. If you have anything to say, and say it well, most will become buyers, and many will send lots of other buyers your way. They will know where you are coming from, if you’re legitimate and honest, if what you say will help or guide them, and if you know even more and how they can get that. They will have a sense (or knowledge) of your price range, and how they can apply the information you are sharing. They may even like you, heavens forfend.

Isn’t that what you want, to become their expert? The person they will seek when they need to know more? Once linked to your empire, as they grow and their needs expand, they will bloom with you as their ally and mentor. And they will likely tell friends to do the same.

Which is why the initial dissemination means, the core book or program, has to be sharp, current, friendly, and applicable. That usually means lots of step-by-step info and true, easy-to-imagine stories. Include successful (even true) examples, reliable resources, and helpful follow-up paths. What you say or write must be clear, articulate, and interesting. Humor is welcome—humor with a purpose.

Your core book or presentation gets their buy-in. The empire comes from the ways and means by which you expand, deepen, and continue to validate your expertise. It’s the follow-up books (or reports, booklets, classes, courses, and consulting) and the ways you speak about related topics. It’s the newsletter and blogs that expand your followers’ information and confirmation. It’s the dance between telling all, giving away what you know, and packaging your wisdom and guiding and teaching through it, for a fair price, enough to reflect its value.

I just shared a blog about pre-testing your niche book called “Nothing is more important than your book’s topic and title” (#4 Blog Bundle). There is a direct correlation between your core empire product and its title and topic.

Let me talk more about where that foundation book or presentation for your empire usually comes from in about a week from now, about August 30. (I’ll also add another segment, #5 of 12, on August 26 about how to pre-test your niche book. This is titled “Which should you do, write or publish your niche book?”)

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

P.S. If this topic is helpful, my free monthly newsletter dwells a lot on empire-building. Join in! (Three free reports about the subject just for subscribing.)

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Nothing is more important than your book’s topic and title (#4 Blog Bundle)

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Book topic:

Two of the three most important elements in your niche book pre-test are the book’s topic and title. (Price is the third.)

The book’s topic directly reflects its market and the particular practitioners in its universe who will buy it. If your general topic is for baseball players, your book may be for catchers. Or if for dentists, you may focus on endodontists or orthodontists—or dentists in general.

How can you tell what that specific group will buy to know their specialization better? You may start with what you (or the author) already knows best, then match that to the buyers. Or you might go to catchers and ask them what kind of book they need most. Or, if dentists, you might also read their association newsletter, talk to frustrated veterans or newcomers, or check the cutting-edge workshops offered.

Then ask that practitioner what information format they most eagerly buy (paperback, binder, hard cover book, e-books) and what price range they might pay.

Finally, research and plan a book around that topic, but test it before you write it!

While you are doing this preliminary research, go a step farther so you know what you must gather if the test is positive. What do the books the practitioners buy actually look like; how much do they cost? Do they include photos of the catchers or dentists? How many? Of whom? What’s the gender ratio? Average age? Do the books contain specific insider terminology?

Let’s create a fictitious book to show what I mean. How about Standard Marketing Procedures for All Chiropractors?

Chiropractors are professionals with services and knowledge to sell. If they have their own practice or are partnering with others, they need to have a steady flow of paying clients. If so, all good things happen. If not, they have spent lots of hours and dollars prepping for pecuniary and vocational disaster.

Some of their patients are attracted by their chiropractic skills. Some come from positive word-of-mouth of satisfied patients. Some just seem to appear, usually in pain. But some also are the result of good marketing, usually by internal, referral, or external means.

The chiropractors aren’t taught much if anything about marketing at college—and, if they are typical, they know almost nothing more about designing and implementing a successful marketing plan.

So they must educate themselves (or pay rather dearly to get educated by specialists in chiropractic marketing) about how to create a marketing concept, system, and means that don’t take too much time from their primary task of helping paying patients.

That’s where my sample book comes in. Standard Marketing Procedures for All Chiropractors is the solution to help them solve their patient-flow dilemma.

The key part of what I need in my test is an informational flyer. On that flyer I must have the book’s title, its cost, its format, and a table of contents. Benefits the buyers will receive also help.

Let’s say that I envision 55 marketing SOPs (standard operating procedures), in an 8.5” x 11” three-ring binder book about 140 pages long, with all of the SOPs also provided on an accompanying CD, to be downloaded at will and modified to match the doctor’s specific need, style, and desire. And I think $149 will be an affordable price.

I can either self-publish it or I can publish this book through another firm.

If the test pans out, self-publishing is by far the most profitable route—the best choice. But it takes time, involves learning new skills, and requires a lump sum up front to create the initial direct mailing flyer, and later to print a run of books and put them in the buyers’ hands. (Done right, you should have your test results back in about 30 days.)

Why not let another publisher do it? If you can find one that will, your income will at most be 10% of your book’s list price, you will lose control of the title and structure, the publisher will market your book (usually fitfully), and it’s much harder to create much of an empire if you don’t own the core product.

So let’s move on, assuming you will self-publish. To do that, we need a fail-safe book title.

Book Title:

Nothing on the flyer is more important than the book’s title, so let’s talk about it for a moment. (I say much more about every step of this process, of course, in my book Niche Publishing: Publish Profitably Every Time!)

If the title doesn’t “grab” the buyer and state quickly and clearly what the book is about, the test is usually doomed.

The title should be direct, benefit-laden, and obvious why the reader needs the book. Put the niche buyer’s title first or last in it so they know that it was specifically written for them. Thus, Standard Marketing Procedures for All Chiropractors.

What does that title say in one reading? That it’s a book for chiropractors about marketing. Many will be aware of SOPs (standard operating procedures) and will assume, correctly, that the book talks about that.

If that is still vague or it provokes questions that need answering, add a subtitle. It’s not needed here, but let me share another, current example.

My firm recently published a book called Finding Middle Ground in K-12 Education, a title right on the button though it’s still incomplete in telling who would want it or why. So we added Balancing Best Practices and the Law. Bingo, those most likely to buy it (top school administrators, superintendents, principals, and education lawyers) get it: those involved with school law and are interested in creating or following best practices.

Work hard on your title. List 10-20, play with them, ask others what they’d expect to get if they bought a book called … It’s said (correctly) that a cover sells a book, and if you sell through bookstores that is absolutely true. But not in direct mailing, although a professional-looking cover is important. In direct marketing, particularly to niche buyers, the title is far more important. It’s what the reader looks for first. If it works, makes sense, and ignites a spark, they will eagerly read the rest of the flyer… But if the title isn’t sharp and clear, if it doesn’t at least imply what the book’s contents are about, the reader stops dead, sets the flyer down, and tosses it out a few minutes later.

Nothing sells a book quicker than its title, particularly by mail. In one glance the title must explain what the book is about and why a person would want to buy it. The title is the headline that gets its readers to want to read more. It seizes their attention in a second to buy hours and hours of profitable reading. Or it gets your book ignored.

Set those 10-20 possible titles aside. Then design the book’s contents and the benefits it will bring. Then when you see what you are actually sharing with readers, select your final title.

Some Title Restraints:

Remember, the title must sell the book without using deception

Some titles do that better than others. The best titles are usually short, catchy, accurate, and appropriate.

Short means just what it says: few words. Six or less are the easiest to remember. More than six usually requires the title to be run as a double-decker or, horrors, a triple-decker: lines atop each other on the flyer and cover. The problem is reader resistance if the title is long and dense. Yet many a good title has been long. Few are dense.

“Catchy” is just that. It catches your eye or ear. It twists a cliche or plays on a common phrase. A word or sound piques your interest. Still, many a good title isn’t catchy. Gone With the Wind is; The Holy Bible isn’t.

Accurate gets to integrity. You don’t want to sell a book through a title that misleads buyers into thinking the text is about something altogether different. And appropriate refers to tone. A formal academic book shouldn’t be titled in vulgar slang. The language tone and theme of the book should be expressed in the words used in the title. The Compleat (sic) Practical Joker and Gray’s Anatomy are appropriately titled.

You might consider using some of the 14 words said to be the most persuasive in the English language, if accurate and appropriate to your book. Those are: new, how to, save, discover, safety, health, free, you, guarantee, love, easy, money, proven, and results. These words demonstrate a point made by Winston Churchill that, when given choices, seek old words rather than new, short words rather than long. Comfortable words known to the reader. Use polysyllabic jawbreakers at peril, unless that is what your book is about!

Finally, you cannot copyright a title, although in certain (rare) instances part or all of a title can be protected as a trademark. Others’ titles are usable by you, as your title can be purloined by them. Best to plow new ground, though, to avoid any confusion that another’s title might create.

Why do you need a title now, even if you might, on the long shot, change it later to bring it closer to the book’s contents? Because you want to test the book before you invest any more time or money—and you can’t test a book without some title!

In Blog Budle #6, we will finish defining the “big three” in niche publishing’s pre-testing: the book’s price. In the next blog (#5), however, we must first see if you will be the book’s author, publisher, or both.

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

P.S. If interested, I have a free monthly newsletter that also sends you three instant, free reports about empire-building and niche marketing. Glad to have you aboard!

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How to Sell 75% of Your Freelance Writing

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Article writers, and others eager to be in print, seem to be forgetting the always-reliable ways to get their writing published.

Maybe they are blinded by the new electronic do-dads, social media, apps, and so on. They are rather spectacular new tools, as is the new ancillary book publishing process to put your book in print in days for only a few bucks. But so were typewriters in Mark Twain’s day, as were computers and their magic printers when your Dad was a kid—or you were.

But what seems to be getting overlooked is that to get on somebody else’s pages, like on one of those 20,000+ magazines now published in the U.S. or in the newspapers in almost every city or village, you have to get the gatekeeper’s nod. That is, you must either convince the editor that you have something to write, or you must write it so they can see the idea and the words in final form.

I wrote about the process in the book How to Sell 75% of Your Freelance Writing. In the slimmest of summaries, it says that to sell to magazines you send a query letter to the editor that explains what you want to write about, why the readers would read it, and a bit about who you are (as a writer). The letter must show by its writing that if the editor says yes, you can write to that magazine’s level about what you promise in the query. (If bought as a first rights purchase, once it’s in print you can resell that article to any other editor interested. You send a copy of the actual article, with a cover letter, to sell second/reprint rights.)

Some editors don’t want to be queried, so to them you send the potential article (written as it might appear in print). If they buy it, again you can resell the text, often, as reprints. They are mostly newspaper editors or those who buy simultaneous submissions.

If photos or other artwork should also be considered, mention them in the query or cover letter, and if the editor gives a nod, send them with the manuscript. The new technology can be a big help here too. You can also post a half dozen of your best digital photos on a (free) webpage, and direct the editor to that link to see samples of the artwork or photos you can provide.

The key point is that you still have to gently convince the editor that what you have to say is worth occupying the non-ad space on their page(s), and that query letters or (much less often) the article with a cover letter–and perhaps sample jpgs—are the time-tested way to do that.

Digital mail to the rescue: many editors gladly accept e-mail queries. The rest still want snail mail. SASE’s (self-addressed stamped envelopes) for replies have been replaced by an e-mail reply address.

The query and cover letters are still the best ways to unlock the editors’ hearts, in the newest electric media or the stodgiest old-fashioned magazine. “Wow!” still works. That’s what an eager editor says when a one-page letter honestly promises magic on their pages—and tells you to write and send it ASAP, with payment mentioned or implied.

There are books about querying: check Google. We have a $5 digital report with 25 query examples, and my Travel Writer’s Guide ($10 or $15) that explains the “75%” process. You can also send your articles to ezinearticles.com or articlesbase.com where they can appear, free, in e-zines.

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

P.S. Check my free monthly newsletter for more info about writing and publishing.

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How do you define (or find) a profitable niche for your book? (Blog Bundle #3)

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A niche is a unit that shares specific traits or behaviors in common. Here, we are talking about creating a book for a group of buyers that have a common interest—and conducting a pre-test before we do all the writing and investing, to see if it will be profitable in advance.

Chiropractors and K-12 school administrators are niches. So let’s use them as examples in this Blog Bundle. But if you’d like to see 100 other niche topics, see this report (that I also send free as one of three reports to those who subscribe—also free—to my monthly newsletter).

First you have to find a group that has a unique unity or sense of existence. That way you can create one item (here a book) that all (or most) will identify with. The group can’t be too small: 2,000 might work; I like 64,000+. (You can see how many there are by going to “Google.com” and either just entering their vocational category [like bank presidents] or enter that group name + mailing list.)

This is what I call the TCE process: Target, Customize, and Expand. (Chapters of details about TCE are in my book Niche Publishing: Publish Profitably Every Time.)

Target” means you must find them, count them, find out if they are accessible (like a direct mail list), and see if they have the interest and money to afford your book.

Why would these special people buy your words? Because the book will meet a need that they very much want met, or solve a pressing problem, or a resolve a frustration they share. But if you can’t send a flyer to them (that’s mostly how you sell niche books, and how we will conduct the pre-test), you can go no farther. And even if they would love to read your book and you can reach them, if they are flat broke and will be forever, they simply aren’t buying clients for your product—unless, of course, you are a raging philanthropist.

Customize” means that your niche will relate to your book much more if you speak their jargon, start with the knowledge they already share, and provide your book in the same format they usually buy—like chiropractors who far prefer three-ring binders for how-to processes they will share with their staff.

Expand” says that once you have sold your book and the nichefolk recognize that you are an expert with information they want a lot more of, you expand the ways you contact them and the means by which you share with them so they can buy more. This is really empire building, and it says that if they want to buy your book, they probably also want to hear you speak, take your courses, get some on-the-site consultation, and much more. It’s how you triple, then triple again, the income you deserve.

To get it all rolling, though, you should pre-test that first book. That makes your new niche venture far less risky, less expensive, faster, and far more profitable. And it’s infinitely easier to test!

Here are the kind of questions you will ask to qualify a niche market:

* What do you (or your author) know that will (help) solve a critical problem or meet a gnarly need for a specific group of people?

* What niche market has enough members who will also pay well and quickly to get (and apply) your insights and solutions?

* Are they accessible through an affordable mailing list?

* Do they also have an association, gatherings, or some kind of common union?

* Can you get sufficient facts, quotes, and examples to write a creditable book for them that they want to buy and that hasn’t been written before?

I mentioned earlier that in this series I will focus on chiropractors and K-12 school administrators, fields that meet every niche qualification, simply to get you some models you might identify with.

But don’t panic if you really want to sell your book to midwives, banjo players, Chicago Cubs fans, horse whispering devotees, plumbers, or computer designers. I’ve overseen, or at least reviewed at close hand, the results of a couple dozen niche book tests. The most surprising thing is that the test I describe here seems to work just about as well with any niche group. That is, its structure and tools seem to be almost universally applicable. What always differs, of course, is the book topic and the reaction of the potential buyers. But the testing tools differ hardly at all, though you won’t be damaged by making your flyer more attractive than ours!

One of our model books, this one fictional, is Standard Marketing Procedures for All Chiropractors. I’ll even invent an alter ego (Dr. Ted) to give a pinch of credence later to the flyer, postcard, and test note. In fact, I tested (and quickly published) a remarkably similar book some years back in a parallel field that, in part, helped my firm earn almost $2 million from the extension of that book.

Chiropractors came to mind when a consulting client recently proposed writing about this very subject before he realized he’d have to actually compose a book if the test market said yes—and he fled!

The other example actually became What Every Superintendent and Principal Needs to Know, and it has three top educator authors from Illinois. We applied almost the same tools to each (obviously the fliers differed in their books’ contents and theme), and both tested positive.

At this step, then, find a niche field whose members will be clearly benefitted by reading your words. Put it through the TCE test, and study closely what else exists like the book you propose—and why yours is better and will be eagerly embraced.

Finally, be certain you like being with these nichefolk since you will be dancing together for some years to come!

Let’s talk more about your book’s subject and title in next week’s blog, #4.

For now, it may be comforting to know that the tools we will develop in this series work on almost any example—even yours!

I’ll see you soon. In the meantime, zero in on your niche…

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

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Where do good book ideas start?

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An early question that I ask friends or clients when discussing their book is “Where did the idea came from?” Then, “How did you capture it, and how did it grow?”

If those sound like odd, intrusive questions, my curiosity had first been piqued when I wrote a long article many years back about how four established authors found their respective book topics and how they built a book from that original germ or thought.

Most ideas, it seems, grow out of the writer’s own experience or curiosity about things they see up close—or do. How to can beets, how does the flight attendant handle a loud loony, what’s a successful strategy for getting elders (or their kids) to eat, how often does one really need professional tooth cleaning? (Or a thousand other things much more exciting!)

Others hear something on TV or the radio or in conversation. Still others are intrigued by a snippet (or full article) they read in the newspaper, a magazine, or in some mailer. Sometimes ideas or topics bloom seedless: they just pop into your mind, without precedent. Or someone suggests a great subject or plot, and you spin it off from there. (“That’s interesting, but what about…?”)

Without fail, though, book writers then write the idea down. Some in the wee notebook it’s said that all writers always carry (don’t ask), others on a nearby piece of paper (like a receipt or an ashcan scrap). Still others keep it in mind until fear of forgetting forces them to preserve the gem in written words.

What happens between an idea on paper and a book?

For me, since I write nonfiction, I would first write an article about it, or a series of articles—now it might be a blog. Since the articles usually required some research and interviewing, I then knew where to find more material if a book beckoned. Two things would prompt a book being written: (1) I couldn’t stop thinking about the topic (often because I’d continue to see or hear more news or facts about it in the media) and/or (2) the obvious interest on the part of others in response to the article.

Other book writers had different intermediary means of keeping their book ideas alive and growing. Some talked about it in letters (now probably e-mails) to family or friends. Some were in writing groups and they bounced the idea off of their colleagues. Some were journalists and they either wrote directly about the topic or it became part of another feature or piece. Sometimes the idea emerged from the writer’s sphere of expertise, so the book became a valuable product to sell. One author was curious about whether an earlier news piece was true and how it was resolved, so he talked to a school buddy cop who linked him to a detective involved in the investigation…

Fortunately, writers are writers. The bookfolk mostly converted that first spark into a note that got print life when it continued to smolder. It sort of nagged itself into a book.

So if something particularly catches your fancy, make a note of it. It might be a book shouting for an author!

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

P.S. You are invited to sign up for my free, monthly newsletter. And if you are thinking of publishing that book free and fast, look at How to Get Your Book Published Free in Minutes and Marketed Worldwide in Days.

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The goals and assumptions of pre-test niche publishing? (Blog Bundle #2)

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In this 12-part Blog Bundle we are showing you how to prepare and conduct a pre-test of a niche book. Yet to do that we must make some assumptions.
First, though, let’s set out some tentative goals we might want to attain from the book that we are going to test.

Goals:

* Through this book you want to position yourself as an expert about something in a niche field that niche members want to know and will pay to learn.

* You will earn $100,000 income from this book; and you will position yourself so that $50,000 of that should be profit.

* Your costs will be $750 or less to pre-test the book (which is 1/133, or .75%, of your desired income).

* You will have your pre-test results (of two tests) back in about a month.

* Optional, you will build an information and product empire from the expertise established in your book.

To achieve these goals we must make some assumptions before the pre-test is designed and conducted.

Assumption (1) is that before you test a book you already have a niche field chosen and know the topic your book will address. (In blogs#3-6, one each on the coming Fridays, I will elaborate on the basics: #3, finding a niche market that pays; #4, subject and book title; #5 whether you will be the author or publisher, and #6, your book price and test measurements.)

Because the pre-test is directly mailed to those in your niche field, and the testing tools include a flyer that explains the contents of the book, the benefits, and other specific details, you must know to whom the book will be directed and what it will be about.

If you will be the publisher but not the author, you will also need to find and contract an author with knowledge of the niche and topic, preferably one who also has advanced speaking and teaching skills (for expansion into empire-building in the same and related fields).

Assumption (2) You will focus your book on meeting a critical need or resolving a serious frustration (or something similar in gravity and immediacy) for your niche, providing unique, applicable solutions or resolutions on the book’s pages. Also, check thorough;y to see if there are current or recent books addressing your book’s topic. (If so, why would they buy yours?)

Assumption (3) You want to test your book first, directly yet as inexpensively as possible, rather than risk considerably more time, energy, and cost to produce an untested book (that nobody might buy),

Assumption (4) You’d like to get your test results for your first test in 15 days or less, then do a quick verification follow-up test, so that within 30 days you know what you need to know to proceed almost risk-free,

Assumption (5) You will want to avoid having to sell your book through bookstores or distributors (who will discount away most of your profits). Most (perhaps 80%) of your books will be sold by mail, in response to your direct mail. Most of the rest will be sold through associations, back of the room at workshops and presentations, to classes, at conferences or conventions, and through social networking.

If we’re batting five out of five on the assumptions, let’s get going.

The fastest and surest way to make money in publishing is to put a much-wanted book directly in your niche buyers’ hands. Yet even in this digital, Web age, selling to niche markets still requires the use of direct mail marketing, and that can be very expensive and, mostly because of the cost, quite risky.

But almost all of that risk disappears once you know the test results because you know if your buying audience is attracted to your book’s topic and title, if it generally agrees with your suggested table of contents, in what format the nichefolk will buy your book (trade paperback, cloth, binder [perhaps with CDs], or digital), and if the book’s cost (that you also tested) is in a comfortable (or acceptable) pay range. You will be able to calculate the likely buying ratio of your larger niche universe, and you will be able to plan a sensible book and flyer printing program for your initial direct mail campaign.

(Why not do this test and the subsequent selling campaign by e-mail? With spam rampant and even the least popular people receiving 50-100+ e-mails a day, the response is far too unreliable. You will market digitally, but after the pre-test, when you have defined and qualified a topic and book to sell.)

To keep the testing costs down and to virtually eliminate risk if you decide to print, here we will conduct a small, controlled direct mail market test first, to see how a random but representative group of, say, 500 of your nichefolk respond to the book’s title, cover, promise(s), cost, and to you as the author and/or the publisher. In other words, let’s think about spending less than $750 (sometimes much less) before the book exists to see if there are buyers willing to pay what you want to sell before you invest the time, energy, and money to produce that top-flight book.

Since I’m relying on my own experience with this process (which I’ve done successfully five times), here are some of our guidelines you might consider:

• We don’t even conduct a test unless we can reasonably expect a return of at least $50,000.

• Our tests are precisely like those described in this series. (You will see some of the tools we used.)

• We expect to earn $100,000 from the book. If not, we might release two related products at once, testing the most popular or most needed item and selling the other through the same direct mail flyer.

• We use the first, tested book as the core of an empire-building spread-out that involves taking the same basic theme (or related or derivative themes) and selling that information by other books, booklets, reports, newsletters, articles, speeches, workshops, breakout sessions, audio CDs, consulting or teaching, and other like means. We expect to earn $200,000 to $500,000 minimum from each empire built from the starter book.

(Because empire-building isn’t the focus on this Blog Bundle, if it interests you, please check my website and/or receive several free reports about empire and niche building that are downloaded with a free subscription to my free monthly newsletter .

So much for assumptions and goals. Let’s talk about the nuts-and-bolts steps and tools of the pre-test. In the next blog, #3, let’s begin by defining a niche market that pays!

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

P.S. As mentioned, every Friday until Oct. 14 I will blog about niche publishing (specifically, about pre-testing). All of the blog titles will include the words “Blog Bundle” and the respective number, so you can find them in the search box or in the list to the right of recent blogs. If you want a full, detailed explanation of the whole concept, see the write-up of Niche Publishing: Publishing Profitably Every Time. (Also, join my free monthly newsletter where I expand more on empire building (with niche publishing at its core.)

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Why should you write?

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I have a happy-go-lucky friend, a senior, a lifetime salesman, and a Barbershopper, who asked me a simple question: “Why do you bother to write?” Since that’s how I’ve supported myself, wives, kids, and a grateful part of my town for at least 50 years, part of the answer is obvious. But there’s much more to it. (I have also slightly rephrased his question, above, which is what writers do, to better frame their answer!)

Usually I write to share part of some core message, or to convey facts or opinions, or to serve up a spaghetti of ideas that, to me, have a purpose. Others might do the same orally or through art or by other ways, but on paper (or monitor) word placement is my means. “Wordsmithing” is the right word. I pound the words into some shape, sometimes predetermined, sometimes completely unexpected, with a mind of their own. I like the feel and sound of both the pounding and the result. I like to make verbal horseshoes. As much, I like their ring.

It surprises me that most of the populace is quite content to stop authoring after scribbling out a short shopping list or crafting a third of an annual Christmas letter. Others word play in short emails, tweets, or instant messages. Still others must write for work, but happily abandon it at dusk.

I wonder how many sometime-writers suspect that inside them hides a Stephen King, Jorge Amado, or Erma Bombeck? If so, they seem to quickly surrender the suspicion when they discover that a book takes focus, discipline, and polish–and once it sees light, it will be commented upon by others.

I’m plunk in the middle of that group that thinks, however slowly, through their hands. The words I put on paper reflect what I know, need to know, and want to explore. I seek the precise words that convey the message, tone, and spirit that I want to share. I can spend 10 minutes on a 100-word essay or three hours crafting three paragraphs and still suspect that some other blend of words might work better. But sometimes the result sings with joy or clarity or wholeness. The words do precisely what I want them to do, and in the doing I learn what I know and how to get there again and again.

Is good writing an art or a craft? Craft always, art on the best days. In playing with ways to convey clearly what you wish to share, you come to master the craft by doing it. From a million choices, words are plucked, spread out, juggled, weighed, sounded, seen. The best combinations are squeezed out. The craft of expression becomes the art of creation. You paint with words, sing with them, cook with them, swear at them, until the chord is rung. The journey is enchanting and maddening, it’s rowing silently with a thousand oars on a magic sea.

So I guess you should write so you can expressively invent and reinvent yourself again and again. There is a positive purpose to the playing. You learn to make two-dimensional words shout in thundering magnificence or whisper in muted eloquence as fully as the best artists paint in oil or the most gifted violinists pull from their strings.

That’s why I write. Sometimes I fall in love with my words and I can’t stop smiling inside. But mostly I write lists and jokes and articles and query letters and notes to tape on the front door to please leave the box even though I won’t be there to get it. I even babble rather unconvincingly about why you should write, though I’m really just talking to myself or to some imaginary eavesdropper.

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

P.S. I do write a newsletter, free and monthly. Sign up if interested. I’m also posting a blog every Friday until mid-October about how to pre-test a niche marketed book, to triple your publishing income and remove almost all of the printing risk.

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