A Case Study of Self-Publishing

The real estate agent had an idea for a series of books dealing with three subjects: 1. Buying and renting homes, 2. Buying, fixing up and selling homes, and 3. How to sell a home for sale by owner. Like most people who consider self-publishing he had the knowledge but …

PROBLEM:

He did not know how to organize his ideas or coordinate the creation of his books. He had never written a book before and the process was daunting. The other problem was the cost. Every company he contacted tried to force-fit his books into certain sizes, using whatever binding methods they were familiar with, which always increased costs. He needed to find a company that he could easily work with, one that was versatile enough to work with outlines and verbal thoughts but was not tied to a certain binding methods or finished size.

What he was looking for was a company that would create the book WITH him, not just for him, taking it a step at a time and making changes along the way so that in the end, the size and binding methods would dictate themselves.

SOLUTION:

The real estate agent found the solution not in a book binder or a printer, but in a creative agency that did NOT bind or offset print but did electronically print. The creative team could produce what was needed from the ground up, electronically print copies on-demand, and outsource offset printing if need and binding. An agreement was reached where the creative agency would always tell him the names and contact information for the binding and / or offset printing, and that the real estate agent would make the decision to handle the binding and printing himself if he saw fit.

The creative company worked with hand-written outlines to create the books, one page at a time, one chapter at a time, one book at a time, starting first with a general outline and filling in the blanks as they went. The cover art was created by manipulating the real estate agents logo, the spot art within the book was also created by manipulating art the real estate agent owned.

The books were initially written in Word because it was the most versatile software and the files could easily be transferred into any software they needed for the final book art. The pages, chapters and even entire books were forwarded from the creative agency to the real estate agent and back again, each making comments in red until the changes were complete. In the meantime, multiple phone calls and emails saved travel time for both the real estate agent and the creative team. Once a week they would meet simply to brainstorm. Some ideas from the brainstorming sessions included:

– Notes pages after each chapter. Since the books were meant to be a form of study guide and used not simply read, the study notes pages made perfect sense.

– The final books would include every form the reader needed, from a house inspection checklist to tenant agreement forms.

– Any other information, including duplicate forms, would be located online for the reader to print. The forms were created as PDF files. Since the real estate agent did not have a website at that time, the creative team simply produced a page on their website and loaded the PDF files onto that page.

– The final books would also include a pen, imprinted with the real estate agents name and phone number.

– The books would be rind-bound so the reader could open it all the way and it would not close, and the pen would be inserted into the ring and mailed to buyers.

– Final book sizes would be 5-1 / 2 "x 8-1 / 2" so people could easily fit the book into a glove compartment or purse.

– The real estate agent would take a few copies to other organizations he believed would sponsor the book to help cover his costs, and in return their name and contact information would be printed on the cover.

RESULTS:

– Because the books were ring bound, which can be done at any local print shop very inexpensively, the real estate agent had the creative team electronically print a dozen copies and bind them. He took these copies to banks, mortgage brokers and others who had the same target markets but were not competitors and offered them the opportunity to sponsor the books. Since the books were being electronically printed by the creative team and bound as needed, he could accept sponsorship for a specific number of books for each sponsor and change the sponsor for that book whenever he needed. Sponsors were easily located, and that helped pay for the cost of the book creation and printing and gave the real estate agent a profit before be even sold any books.

– The agent rented booths at trade shows and began selling the books. The books did not sell as well as he had hoped, but because of the sponsorships they were profitable. And something happened that he did not expect – HE WAS PERCEIVED AS THE EXPERT! People in his industry were suddenly asking him to be the keynote speaker at conferences, seminars and trade shows. He was not only paid to speak, but brought copies of his books with him and discovered that he also need to bring order forms because all copies sold out following his presentations. This also led to being asked to be a contributing editor for several industry publications, which only fueled the flames further. It became a snowball effect.

– He added the order forms for online purchases to his new website, which was produced by the same creative team. Because the creative team was familiar with the content of all the books it took only a few days to create and post the new site, and at a very low cost.

– The real estate agent since then has created a fourth book in the series for older children and is currently considering a fifth book.