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.
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.