I have an idea for a book

Today I got an email from someone who has an idea for a unique bike-related book. She asked, “Do you have any suggestions about who I should talk to or how I should develop this idea?”

Here’s my reply:


There are two basic ways to go. Well, I suppose, three:

1) Approach a traditional publisher.

Do the market research, flesh out the idea and create a formal proposal. You can find book publishers in Writer’s Market. Look for one that targets your market. Velo Press might be a place a start, but they publish Lennard Zinn’s maintenance books, and you might be competition.

I did this with Mastering Mountain Bike Skills.

• Pros: Publisher handles production and distribution.

• Cons: Most traditional publishers have a hard time creating books with non-standard formats. Very low margin for you. When you buy Mastering Mountain Bike Skills at Barnes and Noble (retail: $23.95), I get about $0.50.

2) Publish it yourself.

There are lot of ways to do this, from print-on-demand to traditional printing and fulfillment. Ebooks are pretty cool, but security is an issue, and some books must be physically held. For a book with a unique format, you’ll need to get it printed in a special, custom run.

I did this with Welcome to Pump Track Nation and Pro BMX Skills. Both are available as ebooks. Welcome to Pump Track Nation is printed on demand by an Amazon company. Pro BMX Skills was printed the old fashioned way; the boxes live in a warehouse and at my house.

• Pros: You have total control over content, format, production and distribution. If you do it right, your margins are way better. If you can access your market, this is totally viable.

• Cons: You have total control over content, format, production and distribution. LOTS of work. I’m telling you!

3) Work with a very small, non-traditional publisher that “gets” your project.

I would have considered this for Pro BMX Skills, but that publisher did not exist. At this point, I am that publisher. I’ve made the investment to learn how this stuff works, and I’m open to working with the right people on the right projects — especially with e-components.

• Pros: The best of having a publisher and being a publisher. You get creative input, plus help.

• Cons: You give up some margin vs. doing it all yourself. Distribution needs to be worked out. (For a non-traditional book, consider non-traditional outlets like a bike company/distributor.)

No matter how you choose to go, be sure to do your homework. Who are the readers? Where are they? How many are there? How do you reach them? A publisher will require you to make the business case for them. If you publish yourself, you’ll need to make the case for yourself. Either way, creating a book is LOTS of work (have I said that?), but it’s rad.

I hope that helps.

— Lee

Know more. Have more fun!

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