Published Podcast Ep. 9 | Understanding Publishing Options with Author Chip R. Bell

Today's episode shifts into the publishing industry as a whole. There are an overwhelming number of options out there for authors looking to publish a book— self-publishing, finding an agent and getting a traditional deal, or working with someone like Greenleaf who falls in the middle in a hybrid publishing model. 

We'll be speaking with Chip Bell today, a renowned keynote speaker who has written a number of books, including several bestsellers. Chip has worked with all models—traditional, self publishing and hybrid publishing. There is no right or wrong way to publish, but we'll aim to help authors find the right fit for them.

1:50 What would you say are the advantages/disadvantages to a traditional publishing deal? 

  • In terms of advantages, traditional publishers fund the book and have a lot of specialists in-house to produce a quality product. They also generally have fairly large distribution capabilities. 
  • As for disadvantages, you lose some control as the author over your work (i.e. may not have influence in the cover design process). 
  • Some new authors tend to think that the sales and marketing arms of big publishing houses will be a huge advantage. However, in my experience, they play a supportive role in the marketing/publicity, but they look to the author to carry that part. 

5:50 Who would typically be the best fit for a traditional deal in your opinion? 

  • I think it's the best fit for an author who doesn't want to or is unable to make the financial investment in the book's creation. 
  • Some authors don't enjoy being involved in the production of the book, so delegating that work to a traditional publisher might fit their work ethic and preferences. 

7:45 Is there any type of author that you think wouldn't be a good fit for the traditional model? 

  • Those who have a fairly sophisticated sales/marketing capacity. Do I really want to give up control when I have the sales and marketing muscle to make the book go? 
  • Another question to ask is if the author has the platform for bulk sales. If you look at the performance of the books through the retail world, it's gotten far more competitive. 
  • Timing is another factor that plays into people's decisions. The traditional side can be rather slow. Sometimes authors will say that they can't wait 18 months, for example, because the content will be out of date. 

13:10 Let's switch to self-publishing. What would you say are the advantages/disadvantages of self-publishing? 

  • The primary advantage of self-publishing is control. You own and manage all the moving pieces. 
  • The disadvantage is the need to delegate or outsource pieces of the book (cover design, editing, etc.). But the downside is a lack of synergy. Your editor isn't speaking to the designer, who's not speaking to the sales/marketing team. You have to be the one who brings those elements together, as the author. 
  • While self-publishing is the fastest model and can be a relief to those who just want to get the book out as quickly as possible, that book is now a piece of their brand. It's a reflection of you and it can be hard to remove later on if you decide it's not the best reflection of your brand. 
  • Books that are highly niche can be the perfect type of book for an online distribution model, rather than trying to find a way into retail outlets. 

19:30 Hybrid publishing is a blend between traditional and self-publishing. Each hybrid publisher is different, depending on how they blend those elements together. At Greenleaf, we try to bring distribution muscle and production quality from the traditional side with creative control, higher royalties, and speed to market benefits of self-publishing. What drew you to the hybrid model? 

  • For me it started by asking publishers if they would do a square, colorful business book. Most of them said that it wouldn't fit their model, but Greenleaf was willing to explore that. 
  • The team that I worked with was also full of highly creative people who love what they do. I felt like they couldn't wait to get to work on my book, and that was an important feature to me. 
  • The other element is that you have a very transparent model that is clearly author-centric. I felt like they were here to create a book that would make me thrilled with how it turned out and is successful, however the author might define success. 
  • I was able to have the control of self-publishing but was surrounded by experts. So I didn't feel like I was alone, like self-publishing can be, because I was surrounded by people with experience. I found the allegiance to the art of the book the most fascinating. 

23:50 Can you talk about how hybrid publishing has worked for you as a speaker? 

  • I wanted someone who could help support my keynotes. One of the things I do when I do a keynote is pitch the book as a value-add for the audience. I can give them signed copies. I have control over the discount I offer them. It fits the way that I work. 
  • The book drives keynotes. The keynotes drive book sales. 
  • I write about innovative service, so I wanted something that innovative (a 6" square, colorful book) that could be a model of exactly what I was talking about when I'm standing on a platform. Not every publisher can do that. 

28:20 What kind of research did you do when deciding on publishers? 

  • I recommend asking to speak directly to authors who have done books with that publisher to get an understanding of their experience. 
  • Asking the publisher to talk through how they do what they do is also important.
  • Talk to people who are knowledgeable about the publishing industry and who you trust to tell the truth. 
  • On the sales side, it's also important to understand how your book will be sold. Making a book available to retailers is not the same as having a sales force that actively pitches the book. 
  • Authors also need to have a clear vision of what they want their book to be and what they want it to do for them in their professional lives. Having priorities in order in the beginning (who your audience is, what do you want to convey, how do you want to convey it?) will help you understand which option is best for you. 

34:00 What is your favorite part of publishing a book? 

  • The writing of the book is exhilarating. I love all aspects of it—sales and marketing, publicity, opening the printed book for the first time—but the one that tops it all for me is the creative process when you first write the book. 

Chip R. Bell is a renowned keynote speaker on innovative service and customer loyalty. Dr. Bell has served as consultant or speaker to such organizations as Marriott, Lockheed-Martin, Cadillac, GE, IBM, Ritz-Carlton Hotels, Caterpillar, Verizon, USAA, True Value, State Farm, Harley-Davidson, and Victoria’s Secret.

He is the author of many national best sellers including Sprinkles: Creating Awesome Experiences through Innovative ServiceThe 9½ Principles of Innovative ServiceWired & Dangerous with John Patterson; Take Their Breath Away with John Patterson; Managers as Mentors with Marshall Goldsmith; Magnetic Service with Bilijack Bell, and Managing Knock Your Socks Off Servicewith Ron Zemke.

His newest book is Kaleidoscope: Delivering Innovative Service That Sparkles, released on Valentine’s Day 2017. 

He has appeared live on CNBC, CNN, Fox Business, Bloomberg TV, NPR, ABC and his work has been featured in Fortune, Businessweek, Forbes, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Inc. Magazine, Entrepreneur, Money Magazine, Huffington Post, CEO Magazine, and Fast Company.

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