Niche Publisher Makes Triple Play
by Donn LeVie, Jr.
How would you like to be able to create three nonfiction book projects from one idea? I just did, and I’m working on all of them right now (as well as promoting two other books).
Since the scenario may work for other publishers too, I’m providing a fairly detailed account of the projects and the factors that have led to success in creating the books and should lead to success in the marketplace for them.
It all began when I decided to ask some of the world’s greatest classical guitarists to provide more than 40 essays for a book to be called Instrumental Influences: Reflections on the Classical Guitar by the World’s Greatest Classical Guitar Performers.
I was a relatively unknown author, but I had a well-thought-out, detailed 10-page book proposal, and I sent it to more than 50 artists, hoping to get one essay for each of the 20 chapter topics. The response was better than I had dared expect—more than 30 of the artists wanted to participate, and some provided more than one essay.
In my proposal, I made it clear that this project was not about classical guitar technique, because I knew that the market is flooded with such books. Instead, I explained, I wanted essays that spoke to the “instrumental influences” in the lives of the artists.
When I had all the contributions, I added introductory and transitional content and provided English translations of contributions I received in other languages.
I was able to claim some firsts for this book project. Never before have so many artists come together to lend their voices through original essays to one project. Instrumental Influences is the first book of its kind for classical guitar and the first book of its kind for classical music.
As an author/publisher/classical guitarist, I have to be an unabashed promoter and marketer. To gain traction and visibility for the November 1, 2010, launch of Instrumental Influences, I created and am promoting the month of November as Classical Guitar Music Appreciation Month (thanks to John Kremer’s National Special Events Registry). Classical guitar societies and classical guitar departments at universities around the country will be encouraged to hold events that month to promote the music of classical guitar.
Participating artists told me that my book proposal had sold them on contributing essays because it emphasized how the book would help them expand their current revenue streams from teaching, composing, and performing concerts. Thinking about their enthusiasm and feedback, I realized that I could do a related book about book proposals.
After all, the elements of the proposal for Instrumental Influences reflected many of the foundations of the “Author 2.0” platform-building approaches. So I created Anatomy of a Winning Book Proposal: How to Capitalize on the Emerging Author 2.0 Publishing and Platform Building Model for Increasing Revenue Streams for people interested in publishing contributed-essay projects.
I wanted to show how to take advantage of my publishing/distribution/revenue stream model so everyone involved in projects like mine would benefit—including the contributors. This book, too, will be released on November 1.
An idea for a third book hit me immediately when one of the contributors to Instrumental Influences had to back out of the project. In an email to me, she said, “I would be happy to offer my voice for any other book projects on classical guitar.”
Big lightbulb-over-my-head moment: I realized that I could use the model I had devised for Instrumental Influences, but invite only the top women classical guitarists from around the world to provide essays about the challenges, rewards, opportunities, and issues facing women today in classical guitar.
I contacted about a dozen women guitarists to get preliminary feedback, and they were excited about participating. Many said, in one way or another, “Boy, do I have some stories for this project!”
My working title was Venus Rising, but I suspected this would be cliché overdose, and a quick check of book titles at Amazon.com confirmed it. I opted to go with the Greek name for the Roman goddess Venus (Hesperus) and use “ascent” rather than “rising.”
The Ascent of Hesperus: The Rapid Rise of Women in Classical Guitar is scheduled for release in spring 2011, with a painting entitled “Hesperus, the Evening Star” as background on the cover. Perfect, I thought when I found it.
Project Strong Points
Here are some recommendations for bringing related projects like these to fruition:
Sell prospective participants on how their contributions to your book will boost revenue streams in the field from which they derive their primary income. Many of the artist-essayists who contributed to Instrumental Influences had written music-related books and understood the sad economic realities of traditional publishing, so it made sense to show them how the book would help build or strengthen their professional platforms.
Tell potential contributors about your relevant background and credentials. I included information about my background in both publishing and music, mentioning my previously published books and my classical guitar studies, among other things.
Create a fully formatted template in Microsoft Word. Then offer it to contributors, but give them the option of sending material in whatever form is easiest for them. You can always import their essays into your template.
Let contributors provide essays in their native languages, and create translations for those not in English.
Be creative about payment and other terms. You don’t have to offer contributors more than a few free copies of the final book. Many of the artists participating in the Instrumental Influences project were content to proceed without payment because they liked the idea of being ambassadors for classical guitar and the prospects of additional income as described above.
But I decided to offer more. In addition to a few free copies of the book, I allowed each contributor to purchase copies at discounts that varied with quantity.
These artists will be selling the book through their own Web sites, at concerts, and at seminars, workshops, festivals, and master classes.
I also let them retain rights to their essays so they can reuse them in other publishing projects after Instrumental Influences is available. That was a huge plus, the artists told me. (I required that they wait to use them until after the book was published because I didn’t want to be issuing a book of reprints.)
Finally, I gave each artist an 11″× 17″ poster showing the book cover, front and back.
Set up an account with a POD vendor. I’m not a fan of the conventional publishing and distribution model, and I decided to use Lightning Source as my primary POD vendor. In the proposal I sent to potential contributors, I spelled out the distribution system it uses, which helped artists who were not familiar with POD or the distribution model understand the viability of the project.
Communicate about milestones at regular intervals. The artists who contributed to Instrumental Influences are extremely busy, traveling around the world for concerts, teaching, seminars, and more, so they needed constant reminders of deadlines. I sent regular emailed updates to everyone.
Meeting the 1,000-Monkey Challenge
People warned me that it would be easier to silence a thousand monkeys than to get 30 essayists to pull in the same direction, but I found it quite easy to work with artists from all over the globe. Just three artists asked for a short extension of the essay deadline, and only one complained about the “deal” she was getting for her contribution—but she provided it anyway (guess the deal wasn’t that bad).
Best of all, I ended up with three related books that should help enhance the authors’ primary revenue streams, further knowledge in a particular field, produce profits for my company, and provide a model for niche publishers in other areas.
Donn LeVie, Jr., who runs Kings Crown Publishing in Austin, TX, is the author and publisher of It’s All About HYMN: Essays on Reclaiming Sacred and Traditional Music for Worship and Applications of Sonic Branding: Using Music CDs to Sell More Products and Services, an e-book. He also writes under a pseudonym for the business and career strategies markets. To reach him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.