The Two Big Advantages Booklets Have Over Books

Yesterday I attended a business meeting.  The room was filled with people from a variety of businesses, but there was one person who caught my attention.  He was an elderly gentleman with white hair.  When he stood he was a little stooped over, and although he spoke clearly there were awkward pauses between some of his words – as if he had suffered a stroke some years ago.

He was only given a moment to introduce himself to the rest of us, and he took more time than he should have.  He was an author, and he was there to promote his book.  I never caught his name nor the title of his book.  What I did catch was that a little over ten years ago this man retired from a very long, exhausting professional career which had nothing to do with writing.  He was searching for something else to do with his life and was inspired to write a book.

It took this man ten years to complete his book.  TEN YEARS!  And trust me, this is someone who does not have time on his side.  I turned to the gentleman sitting to my right and said, “I could have saved him about nine and three quarters of those years!”

Most authors probably don’t take ten years to write a book.  It’s probably more like two to five years, depending on the subject matter and how much research is involved.  Even so, that is a long time to wait to see a profit from your work.  And you may never see a profit after all is said and done.

Booklets give you two big advantages.  The first is that they take far less time to write and publish than a book does.  And the second is that they give you a way to test your market before writing a full manuscript (should you be so inclined) and therefore saving you possibly thousands of dollars.

The poor gentleman at the meeting yesterday had it backwards.  He wrote the book and now he’s trying to figure out how to promote it.  Had he written a booklet, he would have more money in his pocket for promotions and he could have tested his market to see whether a full length book might be profitable.

I must give this gentleman credit, however, because he did finish his book.  He had a box of printed copies with him.  Ten years is a very long time to work on any project, especially when you have no idea whether you’ll reap any reward for it, and he didn’t quit.  He saw it through to completion.

Don’t write a book.  Please don’t.  Not until you have a solid understanding of your market.  Then, if a book is your heart’s desire, go for it.  In the meantime, write a booklet.  You can have printed copies in your hand in about a month’s time depending on how quickly you write your manuscript.  And then you can test your market with your booklet and see how receptive they are to your subject and your content.  You’ll also be able to test your marketing skills before investing the time and money it takes to self publish and promote a book.

Sometimes, the riches are in time and money saved.

Here’s to your riches!


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4 responses to “The Two Big Advantages Booklets Have Over Books

  1. This is mediocre advice for those who write with the sole purpose of making money, but if you factor in the actual artistry of writing books, this is completely ridiculous. “Don’t write a book. Please don’t”? That’s one of the most ignorant things I’ve heard anyone say regarding writing. One should write in whatever form she/he feels necessary. The idea of whether or not a book will sell versus a booklet should most definitely not be a factor in deciding what to write.

    The market is full of people pandering to what’s popular. It irritates me when people perpetuate it with trite advice on how to transform something worthwhile into a useless commodity.

  2. Patrick,

    I appreciate your comment but I think you missed my point.

    First, while I agree there is artistry involved in writing fiction books, I would argue that with non-fiction it is less art and more research which takes some serious work. In both cases, however, isn’t the end goal to earn a profit from your work?

    While I do occasionally speak to fiction writers here, this blog is mainly written to non-fiction writers. Therefore I admit to not factoring in much in the way of artistry. Guilty as charged.

    If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know I often speak of a booklet as a product. That is what it is. Books are products too. Ask any author who has taken the time to write one and is involved in the marketing process and they’ll confirm this. Once the writing is finished, does it really matter whether it is a work of art if it doesn’t sell? I realize that’s a personal question, but based on my experience I believe most writers want to profit from their work.

    Second, you didn’t finish the quote. I said, “Don’t write a book. Please Don’t. NOT UNTIL YOU HAVE A SOLID UNDERSTANDING OF YOUR MARKET. THEN, IF A BOOK IS YOUR HEART’S DESIRE, GO FOR IT!” I was not saying you should never write a book. I was saying you should know your market well before you write your book. A very good way to get to know your market and to test your subject matter with that market is with a booklet.

    I spend alot of time and money continually educating myself in the marketing process. I’m lucky I guess, because marketing fascinates me and I don’t fear it the way some people do. It is something I enjoy and immerse myself in on a daily basis for hours at a time. So, when I talk about marketing a booklet or using a booklet to test your market for your full length book, I’m speaking from my experience and knowledge.

    You can’t really know how well a product will sell until you test it in the market place. Doesn’t it make sense to test with a less expensive product in case changes need to be made? I’ve made several revisions to one of my booklets, many of which came through the testing process. It gave me a better product to offer, and it was far less expensive to reproduce the newly revised booklets rather than having to revise books. This is especially important if you’re writing information that changes and needs to be updated periodically.

    Third, you said, “One should write in whatever form she/he feels necessary.” I agree. This blog, however, is about writing booklets.

    Fourth, you said, “The ideas of whether or not a book will sell versus a booklet should most definitely not be a factor in deciding what to write.” No matter what you write, it will be tested in the marketplace. There’s no getting around it. A booklet is simply a cheaper way to test. There really is no way to know whether a book or booklet will sell until it’s on the market. If you write a booklet and it doesn’t do well, you have the chance to inexpensively correct the problems and test it again. If, however, it’s a real winner, chances are good your full length book will be too.

    Finally, you said, “The market is full of people pandering to what’s popular. It irritates me when people perpetuate it with trite advice on how to transform something worthwhile into a useless commodity.” Useless commodity? Booklets? Really? When was the last time you had an offer from a corporation wanting to buy 600,000 copies of anything you have written? Or even 500 copies? I have. This is what’s possible with booklets. To be fair, books can also be sold in large quantities, but again, booklets are less expensive to the buyer, so you’ve got a better chance at a sale, especially in this economy, if your booklet is properly matched.

    A booklet is every bit as worthwhile as a book as long as it provides useful information. In fact, the main selling point for three of my titles is that they are not a book. They are a quick start guide for those that want fast information without having to read through an entire book.

    Booklets are a very relevant media. There are many different ways to create them and market them, and they can lead to a very satisfying career as an author. What you do beyond the booklet is up to you.

  3. It seems I was a bit rude earlier, and for that I apologize. However, I think that we have entirely different attitudes about the world of books, incompatible attitudes. Nonfiction, I will agree with you, but from a fictional standpoint, I’m afraid my criticism still stands.

  4. Apology accepted, Patrick. And I respect your opinion.

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