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Grow Your Publishing Business Through Joint Venture Associations

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PUBLISHED JAN/FEB 2020

by Bruce Brown, Author-Publisher —


Bruce Brown

What is a joint venture or referral arrangement within book publishing, and how do they work?

If you are an author, have a book publishing business, sell books, or do freelance editing, content writing, proofreading, ghostwriting, book coaching, or another related business, setting up a joint venture association (also referred to as mutual referral arrangements) could help grow your business. It can be done simply and easily if you are willing to do a little work.

Let me start with a brief story.

A few years ago, I wanted to expand my business but didn’t have a lot of money to spare. I remembered that one of my publishing mentors once mentioned how he had success reaching out to others in his industry who did not deliver the same services, and they set up a casual arrangement. When someone they contacted had finished editing a book, they would introduce the author to my mentor, who designed author websites. If they hired him, my mentor would send the person who introduced them a 15% referral fee. And, when appropriate, my mentor would do the same in reverse.

After that success, my mentor started reaching out to other book publishing professionals, such as book writing coaches, book cover designers, book printers, and book bloggers. Not everyone wanted to work with my mentor, but you only need a small percentage agreeing to work with you in this joint venture fashion to have a dramatic increase in business and profits. This sort of arrangement is a win-win-win.

Plan on reaching out to prospective partners using a short upbeat email or other message suggesting that since you both deliver different services to authors, perhaps you could send each other clients on a referral basis paying each other a fee (or making a charitable donation, giving their clients a discount, etc.).

How do you get started? There are a number of ways. Let us explore a few of them here.

  • Determine who you’re looking for. You want to find comparable services that are different from yours but delivered by companies or individuals who may be open to your arrangement. For example, a book cover designer could work with author website designers, book editors, or proofreaders.
  • Use social media platforms to reach out to people. If you are not on LinkedIn or are not sure what the best practices are, you might review the article I wrote in the Jan/Feb 2019 issue of this magazine. Having a properly created profile will make it easier for you to have success when you reach out to potential JV partners. Facebook has a number of book publishing and author-related groups that have loads of members who would make excellent JV partners for you. My article in the previous issue of this magazine will help you to get started in that arena as well.
  • Use the IBPA Members Directory. Find IBPA members’ contact information and reach out regarding the mutual benefit of a positive JV partnership.
  • Look into other associations. There are hundreds of writing, editing, proofreading, and other associations where you can often contact members to suggest a joint venture partnership. These can be found with an internet search, or, if you want professional help, ask a local library branch’s reference librarian to help you find these groups and even ask for their unique input to help you find additional potential partners.
  • Create agreements. You can have an informational “handshake” agreement or a formal agreement in writing with your joint venture partner(s) that should be no longer than a page or two. Keep it simple so as not to frighten off potential partners. The majority of joint venture referral partners are happy with an online handshake, but if you do want to make things more formal, you can find a free template available here.

Starting the new year with a brand-new method of gaining business with no cost up front might be better than toasting with a bottle of champagne. Happy joint venturing.


Bruce Brown is an IBPA member and has four published books. He has both self-published (one selling over 85,000 copies by mail) and been published by Doubleday in New York. Visit his LinkedIn profile here. For a limited time, he is offering readers of this article a free phone consultation. His three free reports to help writers write, get publicized, and market their book can be found at yourpublishedbook.com. He welcomes your joint venture questions.

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