The Small Book Means Business
by Marlene Caroselli
In a contest between well-laid plans and Fate, put your money on Fate. Here’s my example of the surprises Fate has up her voluminous sleeve. In 1984, I held a day job in Los Angeles and worked nights teaching courses at National University. Unbeknownst to me, the Department of Defense (DOD) called the university one day and asked them to recommend someone to teach business writing to federal employees. The university gave them my name, and not long after, I was asked to submit a proposal. Thus began a corporate training/publishing career—one I’d never intended to pursue but one that has pursued me for the last quarter of a century.
The Los Angeles area, of course, is at the epicenter of aerospace industries, and it wasn’t long before my university students were recommending me to their employers, companies such as Lockheed-Martin, Northrop-Grumman, Allied-Signal, and TRW Aerospace. It was time for me to start my one-woman firm—the Center for Professional Development.
Intent on succeeding in the professional big leagues—my background was high school English teacher, after all–I soon realized that if I could convert my course material into small books, I’d have several advantages.
Whenever I responded to a request for a proposal, I could include the book with my submission, knowing it would immediately show the recipient the extent of my qualifications.
The book would be the curriculum—I wouldn’t have to prepare anew each time I had a teaching assignment.
When doing keynotes, I like to engage the audience. I often pose a challenging question, relevant to the topic. The book could be a reward—along with my admiration, and the audience’s applause—for the first audience member to give an insightful reply.
Because a small book is inexpensive to print, I could include a copy with my marketing materials or use it as a business card when networking. (It would also be easy to include in carry-on luggage.)
And so CPD Press was born. The process of turning my curricula into books for my students was a relatively easy one; it has paid off handsomely.
In the Independent, I found the name of an excellent printer, Bookmasters, whose fees are approximately $2 per 64-page book for a run of 1,000. My very first book, PowerWriting, set me apart from my competitors. Although essentially a workbook for use in class situations, it was also a stand-alone purchase; quiz answers in the back of the book made it an excellent resource for any business people interested in improving their writing skills—inside or outside a classroom situation.
Assuming the content of the book is impeccable and the design impressive, my experience indicates that it doesn’t matter whether a book says CPD Press or McGraw-Hill. After all, if a client is considering using my services, the list of my Fortune 100 clients on the back cover carries more weight, I believe, than the logo from a major publisher. (I also list the table of contents on the back as further evidence of my experiential gravitas.)
Small Is Spry
I’ve found the small-book format is the most advantageous for the work I do. Not only do printers offer a reduced price because of the number of pages, but mailing costs are minimized. Also, if the book does well, the limited number of pages means a sequel is very easy, very possible.
Finally, the small book allows for rapid response to emerging trends. To illustrate, I wound up doing temp work when I first arrived in California. Working as a secretary was interesting and led to numerous other opportunities. But, as a result of that year, I had enough fodder to offer secretarial seminars.
A professional perfect storm was brewing for me in the mid-’80s as TQM was emerging as a dominant force in the business world. That trend, coupled with my secretarial experience, led to a small book titled The Quality Secretary. It caught the fancy of numerous organizations, including Professional Secretaries International (since renamed IAAP).
I was invited to speak to an audience of 6,000 at its international convention. Of course, the organization had the books available for back-of-the-room sales. And, because the audience was international, it wasn’t long before I was speaking in Singapore, Brazil, and Canada. In fact, I sold the rights in the book to a training organization in Brazil just a few months after the conference.
The explosion of technology has created thousands of subject-matter experts (SME) or, at the very least, bloggers with opinions to share. For many e-writers, the continuous stream of wisdom-bites can be assembled into a seminar or program for delivery to a large audience. That seminar information can then easily be converted to timely self-published books.
And for independent publishers, these SMEs and bloggers can be a lucrative source of new titles and enhanced revenues.
In other words, small books presenting specialized knowledge don’t belong to consultants or corporate trainers alone. Any idea disseminator can use them as revenue builders.
Marlene Caroselli is the author of 60 business books, many of them self-published, including Principled Persuasion, named a Director’s Choice by Doubleday Book Club. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.