What Return Can You Expect from Writing a Business Book?

To share her experience, we talked to local accountant and published author, Della Hudson, about her business books and how yours will benefit your income long term.Before you invest time and money in writing a business book, you might ask what return you can expect on your investment. Unless you become extremely well known and sell hundreds of thousands of books, the book itself won’t necessarily reap huge profits for you. In case that’s stopping you from writing your business book, we want to help you to justify the costs and effort, because there are so many ways a book will positively affect your business.

To share her experience, we talked to local accountant and published author, Della Hudson, about her business books and how yours will benefit your income long term.

As Della says, a business book is a marketing tool to promote your core products and services; it’s especially effective for expertise-based businesses, like coaching, consulting, therapy and holistic services. Writing a book will establish your authority as an expert and help you raise awareness by building your reputation. Yet as with any business investment, it’s important to do your research and understand the costs involved before you start - so we’ve given some broad examples of potential self-publishing costs to get you started. (Note: these are not the costs for SilverWood’s comprehensive self-publishing service packages; those can be viewed here.)

There’s also one myth to dispel: to gain tangible third-party support for your expertise, you may be tempted to seek a publishing advance for your business book, because it may seem like a more credible option than self-publishing. However, authors need to understand the fine print of signing up to a traditional publishing deal; it usually means the publisher owns all the rights to your content. That makes it complicated if you want to turn the book into an online course for sale as a separate product or charge fees for resources taken from the book. Self-publishing means you retain complete control over your business book, allowing you to re-use the content in multiple other formats.

What does it cost to self-publish a business book?

If you choose to write your book and publish it completely by yourself, the costs can be minimal and you can publish fairly quickly using a platform such as Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. However, there are known pitfalls of D.I.Y. self-publishing; there are often errors in the text and the formatting can look cheap if not done professionally. Be aware: the quality will reflect on your brand.

Assisted self-publishing with a reputable company will ensure you get the book finished and help you achieve a higher quality book - comparable with traditional publishing - although it’s much faster because traditional publishing can take 12-24 months. As Della says, "I was amazed that it still took six months to self-publish my book with professional help, because of all the steps in the publishing process. Authors really need to understand what they’re paying for." Some authors have worked with less principled self-publishing services, where they’ve been caught out later in the process by unexpected fees or, worse, left with an unfinished or low quality product. So it’s important to ask all the questions of your chosen service providers, looking at the total costs across three main categories:

Costs for writing your manuscript - you may wish to pay for a workshop or course to help with planning your book, mentoring to get the writing underway or book coaching to bring it from concept into a real manuscript. If you can’t face writing it yourself, you can hire a ghostwriter to write the whole thing, briefing them verbally on the content. Ghostwriters charge per thousand words or per project. Finishing the writing is a known hurdle for first-time authors and is separate from the editing stage in publishing your book. For help with the writing, costs can start from £99 for an online course or workshop, and up to £6,000 for writing retreats or 12 months of one-to-one book coaching.

Publishing costs - you will need to pay for a professional cover design, professional editing and a proofread plus the costs of formatting your book both for paperback printing and the ebook. Most ebook files are distributed as either a mobi for Amazon's Kindle reader and ePub for most other e-reading devices and platforms. It is possible to find independent suppliers for each of these stages and there is a breakdown of potential costs below. However, if one supplier handles every stage of the publishing, you’ll achieve a higher-quality finished product and the publishing journey will be more coherent. In our experience at SilverWood Books, we get to know the author, understand the content and it makes every stage of the process faster. Another thing to bear in mind: a professional self-publishing house would usually allow you to pay in instalments, enabling you to spread the costs over the 3-6 months while they’re working on your book - helping it fit with your cash flow.

Professional cover design£150 for a simple ebook cover up to about £800 for a bespoke cover prepared for print
Professional edit (80,000 words)£800 up to £2500
Proofread (priced by word count or proofreader’s hourly rates)£250 up to £1000
Formatting and typesetting£200 for basic text with a low page count up to around £1500 for more sophisticated and complex page design and layout
Distribution setup£300+ or a percentage per book

Book marketing costs - to ensure your book is successful, you will need to promote it regularly. Your budget for book marketing will directly affect the number of sales and how visible you are as an author. The absolute minimum is to organise a book launch, pay for a website for £250-£1200 and set up an author page on free social media channels, such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, and Medium, the writers’ platform. Della says, "My publisher offered marketing support for my first book and it was helpful to run through it all with her because I had never launched a book. However, I did treat it as part of my business marketing budget and activities. Fortunately, I had built up a good reputation among accountants over the years of running my own accounting practice - which was a huge help with the first book, The Numbers Business."

In total, you could spend anything from £3,000 up to £12,000 on creating, publishing and marketing your business book. Of course, the more you invest, it will make a difference in either the quality or the reach of your book. So, let’s look at how to justify the costs.

How to make money from your book

As we said earlier, book royalties alone will not reap great profits by the time distributors have taken their commission from the price of your book. To help you make money from your book, you’ll need to factor in the opportunities for returns from:
  • Your network: you may want to give free copies of your book to influencers and business contacts who will then help you spread the word about the book.
  • Speaking engagements: where you could charge fees for your time. Often as an author, you’ll be given the chance to promote your book. However, the number of book sales won’t necessarily cover your expenses for an event, so do talk that through with the organiser.
  • Other writing opportunities: once established as an expert in your field and as a writer, you may find opportunities to write in professional publications or online for partner organisations. Della has secured paid opportunities writing financial business guides and tax manual information, which came up since publishing her first book.
  • Brand awareness: more people will recognise your company name because of the book. It gets people talking about you and interested in finding out more.
  • Awards: you can enter your book into awards and raise your profile with the help of their marketing. Della says, "My first book won in its category at the Business Book Awards and I believe that’s the value that professional self-publishing can add; only two of those who made the short-list were wholly self-published."
  • Increased credibility and authority in your subject: helping you close more sales with prospective clients because the book has begun to build trust.
  • New products: as Della has done, you can turn your business book into an interactive online course or design a series of workshops to share the content with groups of paying clients.
  • Growing your business: with the right marketing, you can expect to see an increase in new customers who first find your book and then sign up for your core business services. Or you can write books to support your core services for clients, providing them as part of your training material for home study, as does our author Mark Dando.

Della concludes, "There are three streams to my business now - accounting, business coaching and supporting other accounting practice owners. Writing a book is the best form of promotion you can do; my two books have enabled me to establish my expertise as a business coach for those two types of clients which I love working with and they helped me to launch the online courses. More people find me and I’m able to command a higher price for my services, because my expertise is already proven."

Della’s books The Numbers Business and Growing By Numbers are available from Amazon.

Want to find out more about the publication process?

To talk to one of our friendly and expert publishing assistants, book a free Discovery Call here.

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“If you’re thinking of self-publishing, I hope you don't go at it alone. With a team like SilverWood behind you, you have the support you need to publish the best work you believe in.”

J A Higgins