The reading level for this article is All Levels


If successful, a book written by an entrepreneur will not only add revenue, but also open up many new possibilities for the business. A book enhances the professional reputation; it may lead to many other contacts and opportunities, for sales, for speaking engagements, for seminars or countless other kinds of business openings.

In addition a book will create the opportunity to create a website around the title and thus appeal to an audience that might not visit the company’s own site. Likewise a linked electronic newsletter may draw in new enquiries. The book could provide material directly for articles to be placed in other online or paper publications. It would be the subject of press releases and reviews, adding to the authority of the business.

You may not think of yourself as an ‘expert’, but relative to your audience, you most likely are.

Imagine a company selling villa holidays in a particular place. Chances are that the people running it are very knowledgeable about the destination. They write a guide to support the company’s offer and help the clients enjoy their vacation. Make it a book and sell it separately to the villa booking. It gets a life of its own, but also offers business leads, confirms the business as an expert in the product they are offering. ‘The (name of the tourist business) Guide to (the destination)’ would immediately set the company apart, as well as offering immediate publicity.

You have seen the multinationals do it. For example the Shell Guides (e.g., ‘The Shell Guide to the Gardens of England and Wales’ published by Andre Deutsch). True, they are published by mainstream publishers, but they follow in the tradition of the Michelin Guides that were self-published from the early 20th century to establish the tyre company’s credentials. As an entrepreneur, you are not too likely to find a publisher to take your book, even if you subsidise the cost. However, via the self-publishing route, you can get one out yourself within weeks of completing the text.

What is Self-Publishing?

In self-publishing, the author: is also the publisher; finances the publication, but may make a greater return if the title is popular (regular published authors get 10% royalties, self-publishers earn 30-60% of cover price, or up to 100% with e-books); is seeking credibility and contacts for his business; wishes to get to the market with certainty and speed; probably assumes responsibility for marketing; retains legal rights to the work.

Self-publishers do not have to perform every task themselves. They do, however, have to see that every task gets done. What they can’t do themselves, they have to simply outsource—all or part of the work. Self-publishing can be done in many different ways depending on the individual’s abilities and time constraints.

Print (or publish) on demand (POD) is means that a copy is not created until after an order is received, or in some cases that short print runs are produced to satisfy immediate demand (low inventories, technical set-up less expensive and faster, no remainders). There are three main differences between POD and true self-publishing: (i) the ISBN is in the POD publisher’s not the author’s name, (ii) the company pays royalties instead of the author taking all the income, (iii) the POD publisher takes some of the risk.


An e-book is an electronic version of a book that can be read online or downloaded paid-for or free. Many formats can be used e.g., HTML of PDF. They can be published in parallel with a print book or on their own.

E-books can be published via the author’s website or there are many e-book outlets, including all the places you might seek links for your website; otherwise try the new e-bookshops. Most of the POD publishers offer an e-book service.

Learn More – from Books

Many of the websites listed below offer free guides if you sign-up, but they are obviously geared to their own offers. Here are some standard published book titles on the business of self-publishing:

  • The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing: Everything You Need to Know to Write, Publish and Sell Your Own Book by Tom & Marilyn Ross
  • The Self-Publishing Manual: How to Write, Print and Sell Your Own Book
  • The Shortest Distance Between You and a Published Book by Susan Page
  • Smart Self-Publishing by Linda & Jim Salisbury
  • The Economical Guide to Self-Publishing by Linda Foster Radke
  • A Simple Guide to Self-Publishing by Mark Ortman
  • Aiming at Amazon: The NEW Business of Self Publishing, or A Successful Self Publisher’s System for Profiting from Nonfiction Books with Print on Demand and Book Marketing on is a bit of a cumbersome title but this book by Aaron Shepard will help you with this form of distribution.

Self-publishing POD offers

Most of the companies on the list below offer packages to include design, print and (limited) distribution, with ‘supplements’ such as copy-editing, e-books, marketing & promotion.

  1. – cottage-industry looking
  2. – as impressive as US equivalents, but more expensive
  3. – selling their services, but offer lots of helpful material
  4. – slick, looks good value
  5. – big: 400 books/month
  6. – subsidiaries in Ireland (for EU) & UK
  7. – low-end for self-help self publishing
  8. – also have an affiliate program, top service ($999) incl. UK
  9. – slick, subsidiary of Random House Ventures
  10. – an Amazon company
  11. – do e-books also
  12. – they have a 30-day service
  13. – new in 2005, run by a novelist
  14. – describe themselves as in joint-venture publishing

With all the above, check they offer ISBN numbering (though bear in mind it will probably be in their name, not yours) and if they lodge copies with copyright libraries (e.g., Library of Congress or British Library)

Do-it-yourself Self-Publishing

Of course you can do it all on your own, but if you have a business to run, why would you want to enter a new business sector? However, you might just want to. Here’s a (UK) essay by Paul Friday to see what’s involved with the production: If you like discussion groups, you could try—there’s a couple of thousand members and you could pick up good tips here.

If you go the e-book route, there is e-book creation software, but the easiest method I know is to use the latest version of Open Office (Writer), you can save your text to a PDF document. The problem here is that download times can be slow.

An alternative is to go to a specialist digital book printer. The advantage over a POD publisher is that the author keeps complete control, even though there’s more work to be done. By this route the author can create an imprint or work with an umbrella organisation such as a trade or professional body.

The difference between POD and digital printing is not always clear. For instance, a UK company, Writers World (see the POD offers above), describes itself as a book production company and as doing POD; they also incidentally claim to get you bookshop sales via book distribution companies in the UK and US.

There are digital printers all over the world, but the ones that seem best set up for self-publishers are in the US—one that has plants on both sides of the Atlantic is for others take a trip to Dan Poyner’s website ( and look under ‘Suppliers’, then ‘Printing, Book’ for a list of US digital printers (they are more geared up to serve the self-publisher than printers in other countries).

With either POD or Digital Printing…

Whichever route is chosen, it’s important to check not only the contract fine print, but also the production quality (order a sample product before you commit) and test the distribution capability if it’s offered.

If it is important to get bookshop sales, then a traditional publisher may be the best, albeit slow, route. There are many stories though, of self-published books being bought after publication by traditional publishers. Why? They will have seen the sales record and the level of market interest without having had to invest themselves.

So, Is All the Effort Worth It?

Yes, is the short answer. The book does not have to be long, but it has to be useful. The return will be indirect because the cost of promoting the book may well be as much as the cost of producing it. To evaluate its success you’ll need to look at the intangible benefits and the secondary sales. Intangible benefits will include being able to give out copies to reinforce your reputation when negotiating an important sale; reference to your company when the book is cited; providing you with them reason to introduce yourself or your business where a direct approach would be rebuffed. Secondary sales will be those that come from a reader being influenced to buy your products or services after reading the book; referral sales through word of mouth; add-on sales resulting from a reader learning more about the application of the things that you sell. Whatever you do, make sure to evaluate the return on investment and do not expect it to come without effort to promote the book for its own intrinsic value.

This Marketing article was written by William Keyser on 10/4/2006

William Keyser, veteran entrepreneur, is Managing Director of WorkSavvy! Business Startup.