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DIY Publishing for Your Business Book: Don’t Do It!

DIY Publishing for Your Business Book: Don’t Do It!

One of my favorite things about being an entrepreneur is that every day is different. I’m constantly learning how to do new things and tackling all sorts of interesting problems I had never seen before becoming my own boss. A lot of it is out of necessity—after all, if I don’t take responsibility for my business, who will?

The DIY mentality is essential for success as a business owner, but it’s also important to know when something is best left to a professional. Publishing your business book is one of those things, despite what you may have heard about “how easy it is to self-publish a book these days.”

Self-Publishing Is Not the Quick Fix It Seems to Be

When I meet new people and tell them what I do for a living, they often say something like, “I thought people were just self-publishing now. Isn’t that a thing?” They’re not wrong. Self-publishing is a thing, and many choose that route. I’m not down on self-publishing; it is the right solution for certain people. However, it is not the right solution for everyone, and I strongly recommend against it for business owners.

One reason business owners are often enticed by the idea of self-publishing is that they think it will be quicker than working with a publisher. They don’t want to take time to research publishing companies and figure out who can best meet their needs. They don’t want to wait for someone to review their manuscript. They don’t want to go through a long editing process. They just want to write it and get it up on Amazon without anyone else getting involved and delaying the process.

I understand that train of thought. Waiting on other people can be a drag, especially if you’re motivated and on a schedule.

The problem is, self-publishing comes with a steep learning curve. First, your book needs to be edited, and then it needs to be designed in such a way that it will be readable. This means you need to create one layout for print and an entirely different layout for e-readers. Then, you need to familiarize yourself with Amazon or whatever publishing platform you want to use, because each platform has its own terms and its own process. You’ll need to create a cover for your book. You’ll need to decide whether or not you want your book to have an International Standard Book Number (ISBN), and if you do, you need to go through the process of ISBN registration. The list goes on.

Each of those tasks takes time (more than you might realize), and as a business owner, I’m betting you are too busy running your business to mess with any of it.

The Money Saved Might Not Be Worth It

Another reason self-publishing seems attractive is because on the surface, it seems cheaper. Maybe you’re thinking that you’ll be able to do all the work yourself. Or maybe you’ll hire a freelance editor just to proofread your manuscript. Or maybe you have a graphic designer friend who’s willing to do your book cover at a steep discount. Spending a few hundred dollars with a couple contractors probably seems better than paying a publishing company a big lump sum up front.

Again, this makes sense to me. I’ve seen some of the publishing packages offered by some companies out there—they can be insanely expensive. Some of them require you to pay up front for marketing campaigns and book fair placements that you won’t need. Some of them have minimum book purchases built into their contracts, meaning that after you’ve paid the up-front fee, you’re still required to buy a certain number of copies of your own book once it’s published. It’s smart to be skeptical of any service that seems exorbitantly expensive.

The problem is, in an effort to save money, you may find yourself spending way more time than you intended to on the project—time that is better spent running your business. Or the quality of the book suffers, and you end up with a bunch of negative reviews and returned books.

There are plenty of solutions in between self-publishing and shelling out thousands of dollars for an all-inclusive package. Boutique publishing companies like Maven that specialize in working with business owners can work with you to create an individualized plan so that you’re only paying for services you truly need.

For example, we are working with the owner of an interior design business right now, and because of his design experience, he wanted to do the layout of his book himself. For him, it was a cost-cutting measure and a chance to do a fun design project; the downside for him is that it’s taking much more time than he thought it would (it almost always does). However, in the end, the trade of money for time has been worth it for him.

What definitely would not have been worth the time-money tradeoff would have been for him to try and do everything himself. Before he contacted us at Maven, he had been researching self-publishing and quickly realized what an undertaking it would be. He reached out to us soon after to see what his options were. We helped him work out a good balance—he’ll end up with a book he’s extremely proud of without breaking his budget.

Do Your Research—Don’t DIY

I know how tempting it is to do things yourself. You might love the challenge of “learning by doing” and “flying by the seat of your pants.” We all do. That’s a big part of why we became entrepreneurs.

Your business book is not a good project to use as a “learning experience.” A book is such a powerful marketing tool for your business; don’t squander the opportunity with a poor-quality end product, or bog yourself down with a project that just ends up being a distraction from your primary purpose as a business owner. If you’re gong to put the effort into writing a business book, make sure it’s a book that will enhance your business and help set you apart from your competition for the right reasons.

Take the time to research some publishing companies. When you find the one that’s right for you, leave the heavy lifting to the professionals.

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by Jessica Dawson // Editor-in-Chief of Founder Nonfiction, a boutique publishing house of non-fiction, making published authors of entrepreneurs, business people, and professionals.

Opinions expressed by contributors are their own.