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How Publishers Can Use Collaborations to Grow Their Business

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PUBLISHED JULY/AUGUST 2021

by Tieshena Davis, Publishing Executive, Publish Your Gift —


Tieshena Davis

How collaborations can enhance your material value, expand your access to your target audience, multiply your revenue, and allow you to work smarter versus harder.

Collaborations help you accomplish what would either be impossible or much more difficult for you to do alone. When the partnership is truly complementary, the other company’s offerings enhance your material value, expand your access to your target audience, multiply your revenue, and allow you to work smarter versus harder.

Increasing your visibility and gaining new leads is always the goal, especially for new publishing companies. Collaborations are one way you can do that by reducing the amount of work you’d need for direct marketing. One partner, for instance, might have 20 client leads for you, opposed to you trying to attract 20 people in a cold market.

With direct marketing, the client doesn’t know you; that know-like-trust factor isn’t there. When you have a partner, however, you’re attached to their credibility, so you’re already vetted for.

That’s how I started Publish Your Gift in 2014. Before servicing the 11 people who were ready to get started, I wanted to learn the jargon (metadata, frontlist title, backlist title, etc.), differences between standard and supplemental copyrights, distribution, etc. In addition to books, courses, and conferences, I also started joining memberships. IBPA was one of the first organizations that I joined, and, from this membership, I learned about other associations that were worth joining. This is how I was able to more quickly gain education and other resources. Building alliances has been my approach since then.


Types of Collaborations

Strategic partners help you gain an edge in the market. They can be short-term, long-term, or a one-off. Dr. Drai, who teaches health care practitioners how to leverage their knowledge through branding, marketing, and product development, is one of my strategic partners. I give a lecture during his coaching program, teaching the audience about the benefits of becoming an author and what that process looks like. Once they’re finished with the coaching program, they come to me for their first product: their book.

That’s a strategic partnership with an individual. These collaborations can also be made with organizations, however. My partnership with the Maryland Small Business Division Center (SBDC) is an example of that, though it can also be considered a paid partnership. I did a free webinar with them last year, and they were impressed. After my second webinar, they paid me to join their business webinar series. This puts me in front of hundreds of new leads every month. I’m also keynoting their annual women’s conference, so that’s even more opportunity and leverage.

Revenue sharing, or rev share, is another collaboration that I lean toward. Nicole Roberts Jones, who trains entrepreneurs and corporate executives in expanding their income and impact, is one of my rev share partners. Books are a great way to both increase your income and impact, so it’s a perfect collaboration. When she refers her clients to my company, she gets a percentage of the revenue.

White labels are another popular form. Someone approached me a few months ago saying she wanted to start a publishing division but wanted my company to actually do the work. With a premium, I agreed. That’s basically what happens with manufacturing products for your company. The company might make the T-shirt, but they allow you to put your own label on the merchandise and sell it under your brand.

Sometimes the partnership can be a mash-up, such as my collaboration with Trelani Michelle. In addition to contracting with my company as a ghostwriter, she also manages her own writing company. Because we serve the same audience of busy, successful professionals, it makes sense to work together. She might have a webinar series where I offer a workshop in exchange for her pushing clients my way once they’re finished with her. Or it might be a rev share situation.

Worry less about what to call the partnership and more on how much it could benefit your bottom line. Do you share the same audience? Do their offerings complement yours? I ask myself these same questions when seeking new partnerships. Where are the doctors, lawyers, coaches, consultants, and other successful professionals?

Whose coaching programs, academies, webinars, and conferences are they registering for? If I can build five more partnerships with these companies and individuals, then I’ll double my sales. It has to make sense/cents.


Collaborations Promote Sustainability

I have a sustainable business because of the relationships I’ve built. Publish Your Gift continues to grow because I continue to build partnerships. The publishing industry was hit hard last year. A lot of publishers and bookstores had to close their doors, many of whom had a traditional business model. Your business model has a lot to do with that, but your mindset has an even bigger effect.

If a traditional publisher told me they wanted to grow their business and needed access to more writers who meet their criteria and were in line with the company mission, I wouldn’t advise them to do more ads. I would ask them: “Who supports your mission?” Ask yourself that, too. What’s your mission, and who’s already supporting that mission?

If your goal is to get more Black authors, find organizations that have access to Black writers and have that conversation with them. “This is what I’m trying to do, and here’s what I can offer. If you do some type of virtual event, I’ll speak one day. I just need your support in making sure they know that I’m the number one choice.”

Let’s say there are 30 people in the coaching program.Well, you can now predict your revenue and workload in advance. If you bet on 10 out of 30 becoming your client, for instance, then those 10 clients might bring in $50,000 in the third quarter. Let’s say your goal is double that, though. Well, now you can ask yourself how you’re going to get that other $50,000. This way, you’re more strategic and focused on your marketing and sales to hit your goal and, ultimately, grow your business and make it sustainable.

For your publishing company to be successful and sustainable, you have to become a master observer, become more flexible, and learn to really think outside of the box. Growing up, I’d pay attention to different people in my family and neighborhood, how they made their money, and what kind of lifestyle it afforded them. I fell in love with mob movies, seeing people who were technically each other’s competition collaborate for a piece of the pie rather than none. Collaborations are key. Just one of these partnerships per year equals more revenue.

You make more money while also saving time and effort. It’s a win-win. Instead of spending countless hours trying to find leads on social media, your partnership places you in front of dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of your ideal clients. This allows you to predict your revenue, which is particularly important in this current climate with so many uncertainties. Collaborations are a faster way to do business and are the best way to build and grow your publishing company.


Tieshena Davis is publishing executive of Publish Your Gift author of Surviving Shocking Situations and Think Like a Bookpreneur, and an IBPA board member. She is a graduate of Yale University’s Leadership Strategies in Book Publishing Executive Program, and her expert advice has been featured in Forbes, The Huffington Post, Black Enterprise, Publishers Weekly, Rolling Out, and more.

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