When I started out–perhaps like you–I sent book proposals to several trade publishers. In return, I collected an equal number of polite rejections.
What I needed was a fresh approach, one that would not only boost my income but would convincingly differentiate me and pave the way for my next book.
The solution I came up was a premiuim book. Premium books are not intended for sale in bookstores or online. Instead, corporations use them as lead generators to build their mailing list and identify potential buyers. They can also use them as leave-behinds following sales presentations or distribution at conventions and trade shows.
What are premium books?
Premium books are often shorter (number of pages) and smaller (physical size) than trade or self-published books. Unlike digital marketing, (i.e. blog posts, email newsletters, and podcasts), premium books are tangible—they can be held in the hand, and saved for future reference in your prospect or client’s bookcase.
Premium books live or die based on their content. They can enjoy long life when they share helpful, relevant content about buying or using a product or service. But they are definitely not for advertising purposes. They are likely to be discarded if they openly promote specific products or services.
How authors benefit from premium books
Authors as well as their clients benefit from premium books. Premium books eliminate the uncertainty publishers feel when unsolicited book proposals fill their physical or digital mailboxes.
- Builds and proves your ability
A premium book is proof that you know how to plan and write a book. It’s one thing to claim, “I’m a good writer.” But it’s quite another to provide convincing proof that you know how to research, plan, and write a book.
- Immediate payment
There’s a world of difference between the certainty and on-time payment for a premium book than waiting for checks from book sales or royalties to arrive. This is true for both self-published authors and books published for bricks-and-mortar or online distribution. Trade publishers typically pay an advance, which often is paid as chapters are written and submitted. Royalty payments usually arrive 60 to 90 days after books are sold. Self-published authors start their journey to publication by paying for editing, design, and printing costs, reimbursed (hopefully) by profits based on per-copy sales.
- Fewer words to write
Premium books typically contain between 70 and 125 pages. The smaller size and reduced number of pages greatly reduces the number of words you need to write—especially if you plan on including several illustrations or graphics. My first premium book featured a headline and a single paragraph on each page, plus a graphic. Premium books are written for busy people who often don’t have time to read longer books. Fewer words, of course, require more careful writing, but prepares you for writing longer books in the future.
- Opens door to future projects
Executives searching for new employees or outside consultants often base their decisions on familarity. Individuals they have successfully worked with in the past enjoy a better than average chance of being hired for future projects. Writing premium books can lead to future assignments, such as preparing lead-generating ads, updating your book in the future, or converting your premium book into a series.
Tips for Successful Premium Books
Here are some tips for selling, planning, and profiting from your first premium book.
- Stress the benefits premium books offer
When discussing your idea for a premium book with a potential client, avoid stressing the book’s contents. Instead, emphasize the marketing benefits of your program. In fact, sell your premium book as the core of a flexible marketing program. Explain how the client can use the premium book as a tool to attract new prospects, build their email mailing list, or use as a customer retention tool. When appropriate, show the public relations value of your premium book.
- Prepare a detailed proposal
Leave nothing to chance. Your proposal should outline marketing goals and both your responsibilities and the client’s responsibilities. It should describe who does what, your premium book’s schedule, and your policy regarding revisions.
- Request a purchase order
Many firms require a signed purchase order specifying project costs and when payments are due. Often there’s a payment due at project start, progress payments as chapters are completed and approved, plus a final payment.
- Negotiate for printed copies
Your compensation should include printed copies of your premium book that you can share with serious prospects. One of the reasons you’re writing a premiium book is to be able to share copies with your prospective clients. Clients can run low, or out of, premium books. That’s why it’s important to ask for 100, or more, copies of your book from the first printing for you to use for demonstration purposes.
- Focus on writing, not the design
Avoid get involved in design, production, and printing tasks. Unless you have an in-house art department, or are familiar with working with commercial printers, avoid post-writing responsibilities like contacting printers, asking for proposals, and proofing. These can be major time-traps.
- Emphasize the importance of a title on the book’s spine
The spine of your premium book plays an important role in your premium book’s success. The title on the spine of a premium book adds to its credibility and contributes to a long life. The title on the spine makes it easy to locate your book when placed on your prospect’s bookshelf.
- Promote the launch of your premium book
Prepare your own marketing plans for your premium book. Although your client may have access to public relations and promotion resources, as an author, however, you’re probably familiar with publishing techniques like expert testimonials, podcasts, and social media that can complement your client’s efforts.
- Show clients how to make the most of their Premium Book
Don’t leave the success of your premium book up to the client. Provide them with ideas and information about making the most of your book. Show them how other firms have used their premium books as lead generators as well as using social marketing to promote their book. Emphasize the importance of using reader testimonials and quotes from experts in your field to promote your premium book.
- Test the marketing appeal of your title and topic
Focus on the title and front cover. Before committing to a title or cover design, test its appeal to your prospects, clients, and customers. For example, the Internet offers numerous low-cost and free survey tools to assess your market’s interest in your book. You can also use search engines to identify the keywords that your market uses to define its products and services.
- Sell a series, not an individual title
It’s never to early to suggest a follow-up title. You can suggest a yearly update, or a new way of organizing the contents of the premium book. For example, you can update a “52 Ways” book, which features a weekly format, with a “12 Ways” format that emphasizes a monthly organization. You can also follow your first premium book with client case studies or you can target different client categories.
Premium books open the door to numerous profit opportunities. You might explore the pros and cons of placing less emphasis on the creative aspects of fine writing in exchange for building your reputation on your ability to help new clients use premium books to increase their sales and profits.
A premium book helped me differentiate myself from my competition and lead to a publisher calling me and asking me: “Have you ever considered writing a trade book?” I’m still benefiting from the premium book that launched my new career!
If you like this blog post, you’ll love our Author Toolkit for self-publishing. It includes checklists, templates, worksheets and more. Check it out!