Your Business Reasons for Publishing

Edgar Allen Poe made fifteen dollars—total—for "The Raven." And he never made more than one hundred dollars on anything else he wrote. He had virtually no understanding of copyright laws.

"The tool, the instrument that is most vital to [a musician's] success is an email service provider . . .[it] is much more cost effective than a guitar." ( Greg Rollett from Gen-Y Rock Stars via The Musician's Guide to World Domination)

What do these two little anecdotes have in common? Both are reminders that successfulrtistry of any kind requires some business acumen. Publishing (as opposed to writing) is a business matter. It's hard to fully appreciate this fact. Internet searches on "business plans for musicians," "business plans for artists," or "business plans for songwriters" magically produce dozens of pages of useful articles. But type in "business plans for authors" and the number of quality articles greatly diminishes. Those that do appear, sadly, devolve into the "how to get noticed by a publisher/write an attention-grabbing proposal" variety. Deborah Riley-Magnus does the best job of anyone I've found so far in lucidly outlining what the author's career path should look like. Still, nearly nothing I read gets to the heart of business reasons for why you want to publish. A business reason does not necessarily mean that what you publish must make a profit; it means you must understand and embrace the business consequences of what you publish. You may deliberately make a bad business decision if you desire—just so long as you know you're doing it. Of course, it's better if your long game is indeed profitable. A business reason is not, "I want to impact the world," or, "It's been a lifelong dream to be published." Here are some legitimate business reasons for publishing what you've written.

  • "I want to legitimize my authority as expert in my field." (By the way, nothing accomplishes this phenomenon quite like authoring a book.)
  • "I need to expand the reach of my brand/ministry/company by educating my customers and prospective customers."
  • "I want to provide a value-add to my clients."
  • "I need a unique vehicle for housing the DVD I'm selling."
  • "I want to launch a writing career."
  • "My time is being consumed with advising people. If I could get my advice into the hands of my customers, I could save time for other more profitable or important endeavors."
  • "I want to hone my craft and get feedback as I develop."
  • "I want to increase the number of my speaking engagements and what I can charge for them."
  • "This book will make me money."
  • "I want to defer the lion's share of the business decisions and economic realities of publishing to someone else—a publisher/investor."

Start here. Become brutally, even egotistically, honest about what you want in publishing. Why? Because publishing your book is first and foremost your business. If you can grasp this idea, you increase your chances of using the publishing process and its ambassadors for your purposes rather than the other way around. What other business reasons for publishing can you think of?

David P. Leach is the director of publishing for Brown Books, blogs at WordsThatFit.net, and thinks the book business's biggest challenge/opportunity is and should be literacy.