Think publishing a book’s too expensive? Here are 4 steps to raise $1,000s with sponsorships

Self-publishing a high-quality business book isn’t cheap, with quotes ranging anywhere from $3,000 to $15,000+ depending on the suppliers you use, the number of rounds of editing you need, how many books you get printed and more.

The problem is as a business owner, that level of investment needs to make sense. When making any investment, you want to see a return. And if you’re going to spend up to $15,000 putting your IP into print, the ROI of your business book needs to be higher for that investment to pay off.

But what if you could cover the cost of publishing before you went to print?

While presales and crowdfunding are common paths to raising publishing funds, often finding sponsors for your books is the path of least resistance. Think about it – to cover the cost of your book with presales you would need to sell hundreds of copies, while crowdfunding often relies on a lot of small donations to achieve your funding goal.

By contrast, a single corporate sponsor could order those books, or contribute anywhere from a few hundred dollars to several thousand for the opportunity to reach your audience via your book.

Founder of Time Stylers and author of Me Time Kate Christie had one corporate sponsor cover the entire cost of her first book.

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Andrea Doyle, author of the upcoming book From Conflict to Consensus: Managing Workplace Conflict Well, had 20% of her editing and design costs covered by a sponsor in exchange for a one-page ad in the back of her book. (Unfortunately this sponsorship was unable to go ahead due to internal policies at the organisation.)

And Tamara Simon sold two full-page and four half-page ads in the back of her book The Five Little RTO Pigs, which covered her first print run of 1,000 books.

Beyond the financial benefits, though, other benefits of attracting sponsors for your book include increased credibility as an author, the ability to leverage the partnership to distribute your book to more of your target market, and the ability to work together on future projects.

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While this sounds great in theory, how do you find these sponsors in practice? And, more importantly, how do you entice them to contribute their hard-earned dollars towards your book?

After consulting Google, conducting interviews and attending workshops on the subject, I’ve condensed the process to the following four steps.

Step 1: List your potential sponsors

When brainstorming people and organisations who might like to help fund your book, the best place to start is with people who share your target market but who aren’t direct competitors with your product or service.

In Kate’s case, her first book was about smart time management for busy women, so she focused on brands, products and services that would make their lives easier that would help them manage their time smarter. The organisation she eventually partnered with was  an organisation that provides advice to big companies that saw advertising in her book as an opportunity to get their brand in front of new audiences.

Tamara was in a very tight niche, working specifically with Registered Training Organisations (RTOs), which meant she could focus on highly targeted sponsors: RTO consultants, a membership-based organisation for insurance, insurance companies that work with RTOs and companies that provide training software.

On the other hand, when Book Blueprint first went to print Grammar Factory offered writing workshops and editing services, so our partners could have been other businesses in the publishing space – cover designers, printers and end-to-end self-publishers. Getting broader, we could have also targeted businesses that work with entrepreneurs who are trying to grow their businesses, such as business coaches, coworking spaces and digital marketers.

Beyond sponsors that are serving your target market, something Kate, Andrea and Tamara all highlighted was the importance of finding organisations with shared values – it isn’t worth selling your soul for a few hundred, or even a few thousand, dollars.

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When you’re brainstorming potential sponsors, try to think of at least 10 categories of organisations you could partner with, and then at least five specific people or organisations in each category.

Why so many?

Because, unless you have already built a relationship with these people, you can expect far more ‘nos’ than ‘yeses’. Having 50+ potential sponsors to approach helps take the pressure off individual pitches, and also give you the opportunity to improve your pitch to get a better result.

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Step 2: Craft a compelling offer

How you craft your offer will depend on whether you already have a relationship with your potential sponsors. If you do, then the process will probably be less formal – you can discuss options for sponsoring your book and come to a win-win arrangement over a cup of coffee.

If you don’t have an existing relationship, it’s a good idea to have created sponsorship options up front, including:

  • The levels of investment available
  • What your sponsors will get at each level
  • An outline of the benefits for them

For instance, you might offer three investment options – gold, silver and bronze – where sponsors at each level receive different levels of marketing exposure:

BronzeSilverGold
Full page ad in the back of the bookYYY
Banner & exhibit booth at book launchYYY
Business link & logo on book website/landing pageYYY
Business link & logo on bookmarkYY
Industry exclusivityYY
Banner & exhibit booth at speaking engagementsYY
Promotional material shared at trade showsYY
Be interviewed by the author and have comments included in bookY
Product placement within book contentY
Author keynote speech/workshopY
Investment$XXXX$XXXX$XXXX

Keep in mind that what you offer needs to be enticing to your partners. For instance, a wedding dress designer may regularly get a booth at local wedding expos, and could offer to include partner brochures and business cards in the free goodie bag they hand out. However, offering to share promotional material at an expo or trade show would be less appealing to someone who works largely in the online space and doesn’t have physical marketing material.

Similarly, including your partners’ links and logos in your email marketing may be appealing if you already have 10,000+ people on your email list, but if you only have a few hundred, that will be less of an incentive for them to invest.

At this stage it’s also important to consider the investment your partners will be making. There are a few options here – usually a flat fee, buying a certain number of books, or a combination of the two.

My preference would be asking your sponsors to buy a certain number of books (let’s say 100 books for your bronze tier, 200 for your silver tier and 300 for your gold tier).

Why?

Although you won’t have as much free cash (you still need to pay for printing and postage for the books they order), this has the added benefit of distribution – rather than simply getting funding to put towards your book, you could potentially have partners who have the exact same target market as you handing out hundreds of your books to your ideal clients. Suddenly your book marketing is happening by itself!

That said, once again this will depend on the sponsors you are approaching. If they are established organisations with large databases, like corporates or membership institutions, this could be an added benefit for them as giving your book as a gift is a way they can offer their clients or members more value. By contrast, if they are small organisations, they likely won’t know what to do with a box of 50 books.

When I was interviewing Tamara, she mentioned that her sponsorship options included five or 15 free books, and even that number left her sponsors wondering what they should do with them. Instead, for them the driving factor was her credibility in the sector – the sponsors felt their shared target market would buy the book because of that credibility, and this would help get their businesses in front of more of their target clients.

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Step 3: Make the pitch

Now that you have your sponsorship options in place, it’s time to make your pitch!

Again, the way you make your pitch will depend on whether you have an existing relationship with your potential sponsor or whether you are reaching out for the first time. If you have an existing connection, you can make a time for a casual coffee to discuss your book, or you can send an informal email asking your potential sponsor if they’d like to learn more about your book and how they can be involved.

If you don’t have an existing relationship, then a little more structure is required. This structure will include:

  • Explaining how you learnt about their business: Were you connected with them by a mutual connection? Have you been reading their blog or enjoying their podcast? Did you attend one of their events?
  • Introducing yourself and your business: What do you do and who do you work with? What’s the title of your book and when will it come out?
  • Explaining the link between your two businesses: Do you have the same target market? Do you share the same values? Do you have complementary products or services?
  • Outlining their sponsorship options: This might mean including a table like the one in Step 2 in the body of your email, outlining some ideas in a paragraph or two, or attaching a professionally designed sponsorships brochure.
  • Outlining the benefits of sponsoring your book: The gold/silver/bronze table gives the features of each sponsorship option. When it comes to the benefits, ask yourself: How long will it take your sponsors to make back their investment? Can this investment be equated to another marketing channel, like buying ad space in a magazine? How will this book put their business in front of more of their target market – can you demonstrate your existing reach, or share how you plan to market the book once it comes out?
  • An invitation to learn more: What’s the next step? How can they learn more about their options if they want to get involved?

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How does all of this this come together in a single email?

You can get started with the following template, which I adapted from Andrea’s pitch email to her sponsor:

Hi [Name],

I hope you’re well.

As you know, I have been building my business [outline what your business does]. In [month] [year] I will be publishing my first book, [book title], which is targeted at [describe target market].

[Describe connection between your business and your sponsor’s business – do you share the same target market? Do they have a product or service that complement’s your book’s main message?]

As a result, I would like to offer you the opportunity to promote [sponsor’s business name] as part of my book’s marketing campaign.

[Outline sponsorship options and investment levels.]

[If appropriate, explain how long it will take for your sponsors to make back their investment.]

[Outline how you will be marketing your book. This may include existing marketing – the size of your email list or database, whether you’ve had any media appearances, and whether you’ve had any speaking engagements – as well as future marketing plans.]

If you would like to discuss this further, I am available to make a time to chat [in person/over the phone/via Skype].

I look forward to hearing from you,

[Your name]

Finally, remember that the people you’re reaching out to are probably very busy with their own businesses to run, so don’t panic if you don’t hear back from them straight away. If you don’t hear anything in seven days, resend your original email with the following message at the beginning:

Hi [Name],

I just wanted to follow up to make sure you got the email below. [If you were connected by a mutual contact, remind them of this connection and who you are here.]

Let me know if you had any questions.

Thanks,

[Your name]

Most people don’t take the time to follow up, which means the potential sponsors you are contacting are far more likely to take notice when you do.

Step 4: Keep them posted

You will probably reach out to your sponsors several months before your book is released, so keep them posted throughout the process.

Your initial communication with them will focus on getting the collateral you need from them – logos, headshots, marketing copy, and designs to include in your book or in its marketing material. However, after this it’s easy to fall into radio silence, leaving them wondering exactly what’s happening. For this I recommend writing a monthly sponsor email with an update on what’s happening with your book. This might include:

  • How the content is progressing: Where are you up to with your draft? Have you received feedback from trial readers? Do you have some reader testimonials you can share with your sponsors?
  • The publishing process: Is your book being edited? Do you have cover design concepts you can share? Can you send them a photo of you posing with a proof copy of your book?
  • Your marketing campaign: As discussed earlier, your book marketing campaign should start long before your book comes out. So keep your sponsors posted on what you’re up to – have you been featured in the media? Did you have another speaking engagement? Have you presold some more books? This will help reassure them that your book will be putting their business in front of their target market.

Then, once your book goes into print, deliver the goods!

Now it’s your turn. Who’s on your list of potential sponsors? What can you offer to entice them to sponsor your book?

Share your thoughts in the comments below!

And a big thank you to Kate Christie, Andrea Doyle and Tamara Simon, who generously let me pick their brains for this article. You can learn more about their books and businesses at:

  • Kate Christie, author of Me Time: The Professional Woman’s Guide to finding 30 guilt-free hours a month and founder of Time Stylers
  • Andrea Doyle, author of From Conflict to Consensus: Managing Workplace Conflict Well and founder of Doyle Solutions
  • Tamara Simon, author of The Five Little RTO Pigs: Helping Registered Training Organisations Build Simple, Profitable and Compliant Businesses and founder of Business Scene Investigation

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