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A guide to writing and promoting a niche business book (2023 Update)

A Guide To Writing And Promoting A Niche Business Book (2023 Update)

How to write and promote a niche business book

I'm the author of a niche business book on technology procurement. 

It's taken me two years to write and publish it, and for the third year running, I'm promoting it to expand my audience. 

My experience would be helpful for many future authors currently deliberating to start writing their own books.  

5 steps and 24 months between an idea and a newly published book 

Kogan Page published my book on technology procurement on April 3, 2020. 

want to encourage everyone who thinks of writing and publishing their own content. It's 100% doable. 

The publishing cycle takes 18-24 months between an idea and a final manuscript. 

Spare hundreds, if not thousands, of hours to discover, develop, and edit the content. Then, add a few hundred hours for proofreading and marketing. Bingo!

This is what I did to become an author. 

Step 1: Screen potential publishers

Very simple. I surfed the web for examples of procurement books (my niche topic) and noted their publishers.

Step 2: Research the Author section and draft a book offer

Each publishing house has a website with an Author section. 

There you can find a template of the book offer - a 3-5-pager with the generic description of a book, target audience, special features, winning the competition, table of content, etc.

March 2023 update: 

I may suggest three publishers specializing in procurement
  • Kogan Page,
  • J Ross Publishing, 
  • Springer.
They all respond to book proposals and don't hesitate to work with no-name authors. On the contrary, once you published your first book, your next attempts will be assessed in view of previous sales, making it harder to justify new prints. I tried a few times with new ideas and failed.      

One of them also responded to my colleague, so she's currently working on publishing her book. 

You don't need to have a ready book to approach a publisher. It only takes a few days to draft a book offer if you have a solid idea and a structure in mind.

Step 3: Send out the book offers.

I sent my offers to 15-20 publishers and received 2 indications of interest. 

I kept developing the content while my offers were further reviewed and approved, and I received a formal contract. 

If you're prepared to publish at your own cost, you will get way more publishing options to choose from.

Step 4: Sign a contract and start writing.

I'd advise reading the author's guidelines of your future publisher before developing the content. It would save you plenty of time editing your files to match the guidelines.

After a few months of slavery work (day job and night/weekend creativity), you would have the first edition of your book. 

Then your editor reads it and returns a zillion of comments. 

Then proofreading and production editing, and fine-tuning. 

Step 5: Start marketing your book.

The launch date is at least 6 months from your final content approval and the start of production. 

During this time, it is advisable to start marketing your book through different social channels, groups, communities, etc. (I only started a month before launch and felt it was quite late.)

    Spoiler: Don't expect to prosper from the sales of your book

    You won't be likely to prosper from the sales of a business book. 

    Studies say an average business book sells 3000 copies over its lifetime, of which you'd get a few bucks a copy. 

    I'm yet to (dis)approve this, but the sales estimate is over-optimistic - I will share some numbers below.

    March 2023 update: 

    Three years after the publishing date, we're still talking total sales in the hundreds. However, it shouldn't be a surprise for a niche-topic author whose global audience can be counted in thousands.

    Three years of promoting my first book

    As much as I was busy writing, I am still looking for my book's audience and catching their attention with unobtrusive promotion.

    Perhaps, now is a good time to share more practical marketing advice for new or to-be authors. 

    In the last 36 months, I exploited at least 16 methods to promote my book. Stay tuned for details, statistics, and useful reflections. 

    16 practical ways to promote a new business book 

    1. Of course, my publisher supported me tremendously! Their global sales, marketing, and distribution efforts are the lifeline for a niche-topic author. The specialist sales, marketing, and distribution campaign would ensure 80-90% or more of your audience coverage. Furthermore, a capable and proactive marketing manager will handhold you in the process.
    2. I reached out to my personal network - a natural step everyone would start with. Your friends, relatives, and business contacts will kick-start the sales campaign and spread the word. There's no better audience to push your book to the masses.   
    • I also considered my professional network here, i.e.,  my CIPS colleagues. Your exposure to the global expert network, e.g., chartered professionals, alumni, and global company employees, will be advantageous for your book.
  1. I exploited LinkedIn contacts and groups. Another natural step for me, as I had over 3000 contacts. LinkedIn still brings over 70% of my blog readers. Most importantly, LinkedIn brought me the lead to the highest batch sale by far (25 books!) 
  2. Only broadcasted on Facebook only a few times. I'm keeping it away from the business, as I used to work for the government and became exposed to some obsessive private judgment. For most of you, Facebook should be another powerful promo channel. I would suggest thematic groups that provide the curated audience - this does work!
  3. I created this blog. It gives me good exposure to my potential readers, and I'm going to keep it up. Of course, I'm promoting my book in most of the posts. Importantly, it helps develop my writing skills - this is vital, as long as you're not going to quit writing after your first book. The more you write, the better you understand that you should've blogged for at least a year before starting to write a book. 
    • P.S. It is draining you to maintain a readable blog. You'd have to run (i.e., creating new well-researched quality content, not occasional social writing) at a speed of 100 mph to barely move on Google ranks. Otherwise, you'd fall down in limbo, where millions of deadweight bloggers find their single-page views per month.
  4. I signed up for the Amazon Associates program and inserted my book's banners into my blog page. These ads fit the blog naturally and shouldn't annoy the audience. Frankly speaking, it rather gives me some self-credibility than new sales. (Eventually, this line of activity wasn't successful and only brought me a few sales. The same applies to the training courses I advertise here - barely any leads to Udemy. No idea why I cannot sell my own products on the personal blog.)
  5. I wrote dozens of guest posts for other guys' procurement blogs. Hopefully, I made myself visible as a capable content creator and advertised my book in those posts.  
  6. I started networking by speaking at various events. There are hundreds of webinars, podcasts, round tables, etc., where you can establish yourself as a niche expert and grow into an opinion maker. Such activities would help you to pump up your contacts with the target audience. This is especially useful for points 3 and 4 to grow your LinkedIn network and establish yourself as an expert in thematic groups.   
  7. I reached out to some influencers I knew or had as 2nd level contacts on LinkedIn. The outcome was mixed - from complete ignorance or failed promises to overwhelming support. Influencers' power is not easy to exploit, but once you're lucky, it works like a quantum jump - you get very far very quickly. The effect also disappears rapidly, so you need to keep up the momentum by constantly looking for new leads.   
  8. I created an Amazon author page and linked my blog to it. It is compulsory to support your personal visibility on Amazon. You would also get some intel on sales - not a straightforward one, but rather a scent of it.
    • P.S. Interestingly, my original blog posts from p.5 above sometimes get ranked lower than their mirrors on Amazon Author. 
  9. I established another author page on Goodreads. No idea if it gives me anything other than an opportunity to show my face around. 
  10. I gave away my book to some friends and colleagues to get initial Amazon reviews. You need first reviews to instill some trust into deliberating potential readers.
  11. I created a training course based on the content of my book and managed to sell the first one only 16 months after the publishing date. Only then I started monetizing nearly three years of writing and promo efforts. (Occasional sales still happen - very few, but yummy.)
  12. I started a Twitter account. A few months after, the result was underwhelming - 0.5% conversion of impressions into engagements. However, tweets helped to attract backlinks to my blog from some content aggregators. 
  13. RSS links, content aggregators, Pinterest. Each of those attracts a few visitors to my blog. Take stories "How I attracted 1 million visitors from Pinterest" as seriously as the chances of your hometown team becoming world champions.
  14. Udemy training courses. Another piece of enormous effort with a questionable outcome. Anyway, I won't blame myself for not trying enough at the end of the day.
  15. My Udemy course "Procurement Lab"

    My Udemy course "Value-based Procurement."

    My Udemy course "Foundations of Contracts and Outsourcing"

    My Udemy course "Adaptive Sourcing: Agile Procurement in Practice"

    How much will you earn from your first book 

    Sales numbers for a niche business book

    I cannot disclose my book's exact sales numbers, but those are not impressive at all. You can hardly expect your book on a niche business topic to become a bestseller. 

    The estimate I mentioned earlier - 3000 copies - is super-optimistic. So far, I would say the sale of 20 pieces per month is a great result.

    Another reality test is here. Won't necessarily agree with all numbers, but the ballpark earning a figure of $2,10 per book looks realistic, while 750 hours spent on writing is on the lower end. 

    My estimates of the workload for a new book will be as follows:
    • the research itself would take 100-200 hours,
    • writing would take up to 500-800 hours (I would agree to the writing time estimate of 200 words/hour)
    • proofreading and editing would take 50-100 hours,
    • marketing would take anything from 200 hours to indefinite.  
    I would say 1200-1500 hours is a more realistic estimate. From the earning perspective, you would never get close to McDonald's minimum wage.

    I used to get excited with sudden splashes of the Amazon rating of my book. In fact, it could get your book to the top of a sub-category just after one or two sales—another proof of underwhelming sales figures in niche categories.

    Print vs. ebook sales: A doubt on self-publishing your book

    The surprising part for me is that print versions still dominate the market big time! 

    Ebook and Kindle sales of my book would be no more than 10% of the total volume. No increase after three years!

    My personal conclusion is supported by these numbers: 2019 print sales in the US - $22.6B vs. $2.04B worth of ebooks.   

    This observation poses a doubt for me on self-publishing platforms, where you end up with an ebook and no external marketing support. Your potential sales are peanuts anyway, and you only get 10% of that on electronic media. 

    Here I will refer to one of the earlier cited sources: "Research suggests that the "average" self-published, digital-only book sells about 250 copies in its lifetime." So you can figure out yourself what you'd get in terms of earnings. (This estimate has been beaten!)

    Looking ahead to the 2nd edition.

    I'm still working hard to promote my book by any means possible. 

    I want to see the 2nd edition of it. Therefore, I cherish each sold copy and cannot express enough gratitude to those who bought this book and found it a worthwhile read.  

    To keep receiving new insights and research, please subscribe here. 

    More information on this and other exciting topics can be found in "The Technology Procurement Handbook." It represents 23 years of experience, billions of dollars worth of successful sourcing projects, and 1000s of hours spent on research, analysis, and content creation for the most demanding professional readers.
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    This post first appeared on The Good Spending, please read the originial post: here

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    A guide to writing and promoting a niche business book (2023 Update)