Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Publisher as Promoter: Small Book Big Payoffs


In a contest between well-laid plans and Fate, put your money on Fate. Here’s my example of the surprises Fate has up her voluminous sleeve. In 1984, I held a day job in Los Angeles and worked nights teaching courses at National University. Unbeknownst to me, the Department of Defense (DOD) called the university one day and asked them to recommend someone to teach business writing to federal employees. The university gave them my name, and not long after, I was asked to submit a proposal. Thus began a corporate training/publishing career—one I’d never intended to pursue but one that instead, has pursued me for the last quarter of a century.

The Los Angeles area, of course, is at the epicenter of aerospace industries and it wasn’t long before my university students were recommending me to their employers, companies such as Lockheed-Martin, Northrop-Grumman, Allied-Signal, and TRW Aerospace. It was time for me to start my one-woman firm--the Center for Professional Development.

Intent on succeeding in the professional big leagues—my background was high school English teacher, after all--I soon realized that if I could convert my course material into small books, I’d have several advantages. And so, CPD Press was born. The process of turning my curricula into books for my students was a relatively easy one; it has paid off handsomely.

I found an excellent printer, Bookmasters, whose fees are very reasonable (approximately $2 per 64-page book for a run of 1000). My very first book, PowerWriting, set me apart from my competitors. Although essentially a work book for use in class situations, it was also a stand-alone purchase: quiz answers in the back of the book made it an excellent resource for any business person interested in improving his or her writing skills—inside or outside a classroom situation.

Assuming the content of the book is impeccable and the design, impressive, it doesn’t really matter if a books says CPD Press or McGraw-Hill. After all, if a client is considering using my services, seeing my Fortune 100 clients listed on the back cover carries more weight, I believe, than seeing the logo from a major publisher. (I also list the table of contents on the back as further evidence of my experiential “gravitas.”)


Whenever I respond to a request for a proposal, I include the book with my submission, knowing the recipient will immediately realize the extent of my qualifications to teach this program. Also, the book is the curriculum---I don’t have to prepare anew each time I have a teaching assignment.

Another use: When doing keynotes, I like to engage the audience. I often pose a challenging question, relevant to the topic. The first audience member to share an insightful reply is given the book, my admiration, and the audience’s applause. This small gesture is another way of getting my books “out there.”

And, because the small book is so inexpensive to print, I include it in my marketing materials or use it as a business card when networking. (It’s also easy to include in carry-on luggage.)


I’ve found the small-book format is the most advantageous for the work I do. Not only do printers offer a reduced price because of the number of pages, but mailing costs are minimized. Too, if the book does well, the limited number of pages means a sequel is very easy, very possible.

Finally, the small book allows for rapid response to emerging trends. To illustrate, I wound up doing temp work when I first arrived in California. Working as a secretary was interesting and led to numerous other opportunities. But, as a result of that year, I had enough fodder to offer secretarial seminars.

A professional perfect storm was brewing for me in the mid-80’s—TQM was emerging as a dominant force in the business world. That trend, coupled with my secretarial experience, led to a small book titled The Quality Secretary. It caught the fancy of numerous organizations, including Professional Secretaries International (since renamed IAAP). I was invited to speak to an audience of 6000 at their international convention. Of course, the organization had the books available for back-of-the-room sales. And, because the audience was international, it wasn’t long before I was speaking in Singapore, Brazil, and Canada. In fact, I sold the book’s rights to a training organization in Brazil just a few months after the conference.


The explosion of technology has created thousands of subject-matter experts (SME) or, at the very least, bloggers with opinions to share. For many e-writers, the continuous stream of wisdom-bites can be assembled into a seminar or program for delivery to a large audience. That seminar information can then easily be converted to self-published books.

Independent publishers will find these SME’s and bloggers a lucrative source of new titles and enhanced revenues from would-be authors.

Small specialized-knowledge books don’t belong to consultants or corporate trainers alone. Any idea-disseminator can use these small books as business-getters. The stigma of self-published content has been eclipsed by the marketability and profitability such books offer the small presses of our industry.

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Dr. Marlene Caroselli is the author of 60 business books, many of them self-published, including Principled Persuasion, named a Director’s Choice by Doubleday Book Club.She can be reached at ””.
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