You’ve almost finished your draft and you start shopping around for publishing quotes.
One editor quotes $1,200 and another quotes $5,000. One designer will charge $500, while another charges $2,000. And then you approach an end-to-end publishing company who will charge $12,000 for the lot – editing, design, eBook, printing and distribution.
Regardless of where your suppliers sit, self-publishing a high-quality business book isn’t cheap, with quotes ranging anywhere from $3,000 to $15,000+.
And yes, you know that the book is an investment. You know that the purpose of your book isn’t to make a profit by selling books for $25 a piece. If you’re like most of my clients, you’re writing a book to:
In other words, the purpose of your book is to create business opportunities.
But up to $15,000 to get published is a huge financial hit – especially if you’re in your first few years of business.
Where most entrepreneurs go wrong
If you’re like most entrepreneurs, you find a way to make it happen:
But what if you could cover the costs of publishing before you went to print? And, at the same time, what if you could supercharge your marketing, helping hundreds of your books get into the hands of your ideal clients?
In this proven, step-by-step guide, I’ll show you how to do just that by leveraging your most powerful business asset – partnerships.
The best thing is that this method works:
To create this guide I’ve used my experience of working with over 100 entrepreneurs, I’ve done a tonne of research online and I’ve interviewed entrepreneurs who successfully funded their own books through partnerships.
As a result, this guide is long, clocking in at almost 7,000 words. If you don’t have the time to read if right now, you can download a free PDF version to read at your leisure.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get started!
The power of partnerships
Many of us imagine entrepreneurs as solitary creatures – the insanely successful ones speak from a stage under the worship of adoring fans, while those who are just getting started work from home on a laptop while wearing pyjamas.
And the rest of us? Whether you’re a solopreneur or have a team, and whether you work from home or from an office, shop or factory, it can still be isolating.
After all, the business is your baby.
You are the one who comes up with the new ideas.
You are the one cold calling potential clients.
You are the one managing staff and freelancers.
And you are the one who has to find a solution when something goes wrong.
It's no wonder that so many of us try to ‘go it alone’ when writing a book!
Yet there are a range of benefits in teaming up with other entrepreneurs and organisations that share your values and have access to resources you can’t reach on your own.
Just some of the benefits of partnerships include:
And, of course, you can access thousands of dollars to offset your publishing investment.
Beyond the financial benefits, though, other benefits of book funding partnerships include:
And the best thing is that you don’t need to be a world-famous expert or to have a huge email list to find partners for your book!
Let’s look at the entrepreneurs I interviewed for this guide – Kate Christie, Carolyn Dean, Andrea Doyle, Geoff Green and Tamara Simon.
Have you heard of them? Probably not.
That’s exactly why I wanted to speak to them.
Sure, it would be easy for a CEO of one of the big four accounting firms to find corporate sponsors for his book – he’s the head of a brand that thousands are scrambling to be associated with.
What I want to demonstrate in this guide is that it’s possible for you to find funding for your book.
How do I know this? Because even though the entrepreneurs I interviewed didn’t have tens of thousands of people on their email lists or a global reach, each of them raised from $1,000 to $20,000+ for their books.
So how do you actually do it?
Let’s move on to the two common ways partners can fund your book.
The 2 ways partners can fund your book
While the ways you can fund your book will be as varied as the partners you approach, most strategies fall into two groups – bulk presales and sponsorships.
Strategy 1: Sell your book before it exists
Preselling books is a strategy that has been used by traditional publishing houses and self-publishers for years to help build buzz about a book and ensure it has a successful launch.
As a self-publisher, an added benefit is that it helps cover your publishing costs – once you take off the cost of printing and posting the copies you sell, the rest can be used for expenses like editing, design, marketing and more.
To work out how many books you need to sell to cover your costs, use this formula:
Publishing costs/(Book RRP – per-unit print cost – per-unit postage cost) = required presales
For instance, if I was spending $10,000 to publish my book, was selling it for $25 and knew it would cost $5 to print each copy and another $5 to post each copy, I would need to presell 667 copies. (Technically I’d need to sell 666.67, but I don’t think anyone would buy two thirds of a book, so let’s round up.)
$10,000 /($25 – $5 – $5) = 667
Is this doable? Yes, but to do it you’ll need to run a very strong marketing campaign involving a large list of potential buyers (either your own list or one that someone else is willing to share with you).
I had neither of these elements. My marketing campaign involved asking people in my network to spread the word to their networks (about 45 of them got back to me and fewer than 10 actually shared the landing page on social media. Note to self: provide juicy incentives next time). I also shared the landing page on my own social profiles, told my email list about it (then I had a grand total of 101 subscribers) and ran a Facebook ads campaign.
How many books did I sell?
Clearly I’m not an expert in this area.
Fortunately I was lucky enough to speak to two authors who were much more successful.
Geoff Green, author of The Smart Business Exit: Getting Rewarded for Your Blood, Sweat and Tears presold 350 books at $32.95 each, adding up to over $11,500 and covering his initial print run of 1,000 books.
Meanwhile Carolyn Dean, author of Fully Booked: Dental Marketing Secrets for a Full Appointment Book, presold 750 copies of her $29.95 book.
Strategy 2: Sell advertising in your book
Advertising/sponsorship is when you give other businesses access to your market in exchange for a financial contribution towards your publishing costs. This might include advertising in the back of your book, sharing their products with your email list, mentioning them from stage when you’re running an event or giving a keynote, or including their logo in your marketing.
How much can you expect to get? Depending on how appealing your offer is, it can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand – founder of Time Stylers and author of Me Time Kate Christie had one corporate sponsor cover the entire cost of her first book!
Andrea Doyle, author of the upcoming book From Conflict to Consensus: Managing Workplace Conflict Well, had a sponsor offer to cover 20% of her editing and design costs in exchange for a one-page ad in the back of her book. (Unfortunately this agreement fell through 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.
How to create successful book funding partnerships
According to Rosabeth Moss Kanter, the author of MOVE: Putting America’s Infrastructure Back in the Lead, there are three fundamental aspects of successful partnerships:
- 1They must deliver benefits for both partners. This is key, and you’ll see a big part of the partnership process is not only deciding what you want from the relationship, but what you can offer your partner.
- 2They involve collaboration, rather than just being an exchange. A collaborative partnership is one where both partners create new value together, rather than each partner getting something back for what they put in. Collaborative partnerships tend to lead to greater returns in the long term, rather than just an immediate payoff.
- 3They rely on personal connections. Most of the entrepreneurs I interviewed already had relationships with their prospective partners when they pitched them, rather than sending cold emails.
While this sounds great in theory, how can you create a collaborative partnership based on your personal connection with your partner that delivers benefits for both you and your partner?
It comes down to five steps:
- 1Find potential partners
- 2Frontload the work
- 3Involve your partners in your book
- 4Pitch for funds
- 5Keep them in the loop
Step 1: Find potential partners
Unsurprisingly, the first step of the process is finding potential partners to approach!
This involves asking two questions: who shares your market and who shares your values?
It’s only by addressing both of these criteria that you’ll find a partner who is able to deliver a real business benefit (meaning, sending more clients to your business) and who you want to work with in the long term (which paves the way for future opportunities to help each other).
1. Who shares your market?
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.
Keep in mind that the more niched your business is, the easier it will be to find potential partners. First, it means you can easily zone in on the organisations targeting the same niche (this is easier to do for ‘entrepreneurs who want to write a book’ versus ‘entrepreneurs’, or ‘RTOs’ versus ‘small businesses’). Second, it means your offer will be much more appealing for your potential partners, as it will directly target the clients they are also trying to reach.
2. Who shares your values?
While the business side of the partnership needs to make sense, the personal side is just as important.
Partnerships that involve shared values, a strong rapport and clear communication are more likely to transcend personal and professional storms than those that are seen as purely a transaction.
The importance of finding organisations with shared values was something all of my interviewees discussed – it isn’t worth selling your soul for a few hundred, or even a few thousand, dollars.
Exercise: Brainstorm potential partners
- 1List 10 different categories of partners (usually different types of businesses that serve your target market).
- 2For each category, list 5 specific businesses that share your values.
- 3Start researching them to find one that’s a match for your business!
Why do you need so many partners?
Unless you have already built a relationship with these businesses, you can expect far more ‘nos’ than ‘yeses’ when you approach them. Having 50+ potential partners to approach helps take the pressure off individual pitches, and also gives you the opportunity to improve your pitch to get a better result.
Step 1: Find potential partners
Regardless of their funding strategy, one of the common threads that came up in my interviews was the amount of work that came before pitching a partner.
‘Frontloading’ is a concept I learned from Ramit Sethi of I Will Teach You to Be Rich and Growth Lab. It’s a concept he discusses when finding your dream job, earning more money and starting an online business. It means putting in the majority of your effort at the beginning of the process so that when it comes time for the job interview, asking for a raise or selling your product, your chances of success are much higher.
This concept is key when it comes to funding your self-published book, and one of the things you’re about to learn is that most of the work involved in getting funding happens long before you make your pitch. (As a result, this step is the longest one in the process.)
The end result is, by the time you pitch someone about getting involved, often they are already sold.
How do you do it? It’s important to focus on two areas: building your credibility and profile, and building a relationship with your potential partners.
1. Build your credibility and profile
When you’re brainstorming potential partners, it’s easy to get excited when you think about all of the books you might sell and all of the money you might make … five sponsors at $1,000 each is $5,000! 1,000 books at $25 each is $25,000!
Before you get too carried away, remember what I said earlier about strong partnerships delivering benefits for both parties. Yes, it may be a financial windfall for you, but what can you offer them?
A key frontloading strategy is becoming someone your partners want to partner with, rather than one of dozens of pitches they receive from small business owners.
How can you do this?
By building your credibility and your profile.
Your credibility is how trustworthy or believable you are as an expert in your field, and it naturally grows as you build your business. Some credibility markers include:
To get started:
- 1List the facts for each of these points. How long have you been in business? How many clients have you worked with? Are any of them big brands? Etc.
- 2Gather evidence to demonstrate these points. As an author/soon-to-be author, do you have a book cover graphic and blurb you can send out? Do you have endorsements from influencers? Do you have client testimonials and case studies? (If you don’t have these yet, start asking!)
- 3Look at ways you can further build your credibility. You’re already looking at connecting with influential partners, so how else can you become more credible? Do you know anyone who can introduce you to a well-known brand? Can you start submitting articles to publications in your industry? Can you subscribe to SourceBottle or HARO to be the first to hear about journalists looking for experts like you? Even if you’re new to business, you can start actively working to build your credibility before your book comes out.
Credibility markers demonstrate whether or not you are truly the expert you claim to be. Your profile is how many people know about it, or your audience.
One of the benefits of partnering with larger organisations is that they can expose your business to a larger network. However, it’s also important to think about what’s in it for them. If you can get their business in front of thousands of new people, then that’s a big reason for them to invest in you.
How big is your profile? Consider:
Once you know how many people you are currently reaching, the next step is to reach more people.
My favourite method is publishing articles on other blogs and websites that reach my audience, like Business Insider, GrowthLab, Flying Solo, Key Person of Influence, Location180 and more. Every post puts my thoughts in front of new people and links back to my website. This leads to more traffic, more opt-ins and a larger email list!
To get started with guest posting:
- 1Research blogs and websites that:
- 1Target your audience
- 2Have a bigger audience than your own blog (you can check their traffic at SimilarWeb)
- 3Accept guest posts (an easy way to do this is to Google ‘site:partnerwebsite.com guest post’)
- 2Review their existing content. What have they covered recently? Which posts have gotten the most comments and shares?
- 3Brainstorm some article ideas that will offer something new to their audience and provide value.
- 4Pitch the publication. Many will have guest post guidelines, which I recommend you follow. If they don’t, check out this guest posting guide by Ramit Sethi.
If you’re not a writer, or you’re still working on your book and the thought of writing even more makes your stomach turn, another approach is pitching for podcast interviews. Just as with the guest posting process, you want to:
- 1Research podcasts that target your audience and regularly do interviews.
- 2Review past episodes to see what they find interesting.
- 3Brainstorm some topics you could cover in an interview that are different to their existing content (or offer a new angle) and provide value.
- 4Pitch them (you can use a similar email to the guest posting one).
You can also look at growing your audience through advertising – Facebook Ads, AdWords, LinkedIn Ads, Twitter Ads, and so on. I’m not going to go into this here because I haven’t had much luck in this area, so head to Google if this is something that interests you. (If you know of any great resources, feel free to share them in the comments!)
2. Build the relationship with your partners
The second, more important, area of frontloading is building a relationship with your partners.
Ideally, pitching someone to help you promote or fund your book shouldn’t be the first point of contact. Instead, partnerships should be a long-term approach where you should already be providing some value to your potential partners before you ask for anything from them.
Geoff Green involved a number of colleagues in his book who gave feedback and wrote testimonials and endorsements. Some included Alan Kohler, the founder of Eureka Report and Business Spectator; Tom McKaskill, serial entrepreneur and the author of Ultimate Exits; John Warrillow, the author of Built to Sell; Daniel Priestley, the author of Become a Key Person of Influence; and Andrew Griffiths, Australia’s #1 Small Business and Entrepreneurial Author.
The common thread in all of these relationships was that he had been working with these colleagues long before his book came out. He met Andrew and Daniel through the Key Person of Influence coaching program, and had known John, Tom and Alan for years (though he mentioned that approaching Alan to do the foreword was a bit daunting!).
So how can you build the relationship with an influencer?
The first step is making them aware that you exist. The method will vary depending on who you’re approaching, but some ideas include:
Once your potential partner knows who you are, the next step is adding value. This might include:
Ultimately, your partners are another market you want to attract. Just like your ideal clients, you need to understand their challenges and what they want to achieve – it’s only then that you’ll be able to add value.
Step 3: Involve your partners in your book
You’ve built a relationship with your partners and your book is in production. Now it’s time to get them involved.
If you’ve been in regular communication with your partners, they should already know that you’re working on a book (if they don’t, let them know ASAP!). One way to help warm them up to the idea of sponsoring or bulk presales is by involving them in the book itself.
How can you get them involved? Some ideas include:
Having your partners involved throughout the writing process will make the transition towards asking for funds much more natural. In fact, they may even ask you how they can get involved!
Step 4: Pitch for funds
How you make your pitch will depend on whether you already have a relationship with your potential partners.
If you’ve followed the advice in this guide, then you should have a relationship, which means your pitch can be relatively informal – you can discuss options for sponsoring your book and come to a win-win arrangement over a coffee or Skype.
Once again, the key is knowing your partners – what are they trying to achieve, and how will sponsoring or pre-ordering your book help them achieve that goal?
Carolyn Dean timed her book launch to coincide with the largest dental marketing expo in Australia, which is run every two years. The first reason for this was for maximum exposure to her market, and the second was because she knew at least one of her partners would need gifts for the expo.
The result? One of her partners ordered 500 copies they could use as gifts.
Meanwhile, Andrea Doyle reached out to a former employer for sponsorship, knowing that a training program they offered would be a perfect match for the readers of her book. The way she positioned it was that a single sale would make back her partner’s investment.
But what if you aren’t sure what your partners would like, or they don’t know what they want, or (heaven forbid) you’re making a cold pitch? Then it’s a good idea to have created some investment options for them to choose from.
1. Create your investment options
When creating your investment options, you need to consider:
Full page ad in the back of the book
Banner & exhibit booth at book launch
Business link & logo on book website/landing page
Business link & logo on bookmark
Banner & exhibit booth at speaking engagements
Promotional material shared at trade shows
Be interviewed by the author and have comments included in book
Product placement within book content
Author keynote speech/workshop
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 that 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).
Although you won’t have as much free cash (remember, you need to pay for printing and posting the books they order), this has the added benefit of distribution – rather than simply getting funding to put towards your book, you could 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!
Keep in mind that these tiers are a starting point. Their only role is to open a conversation, so be willing to negotiate with your partners to find a win-win arrangement.
2. Make the pitch
Now that you have your investment options in place, it’s time to make your pitch!
If you have already spoken to your partners and they have verbally agreed to sponsor your book or make a large order, then this step might just involve writing an email to confirm the details.
If this is your initial approach about funding, but there is an existing relationship and they are aware you are writing a book, you can get started with the following template:
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 partnerr’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 [partner’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 partners 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,
If you don’t have an existing relationship with your potential partner, then you can use a similar template to the one above, but you will need to give a bit more background before you launch into your offer, including:
3. Follow up!
Finally, remember that your partners 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:
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 have any questions.
Most people don’t take the time to follow up, which means the potential partners you are contacting are likely to take notice when you do.
Step 5: Keep them in the loop
You will probably reach out to your partners months before your book is released, so keep them posted throughout the process.
For sponsors, your initial communication with them will focus on getting the collateral you need from them – this will include logos, headshots, marketing copy, and designs to include in your book or in its marketing material. For those ordering in bulk, it will involve invoicing them for the books.
However, after this it’s easy to fall into radio silence, leaving them wondering exactly what’s happening.
Instead, consider writing a monthly partner email with an update on what’s happening with your book. This might include:
Keep it personal!
Remember that one of the three elements of successful partnerships is having a personal connection, so keep things personal. This means your monthly partner email is not a bulk email to all of your partners, but you individually write to each of them.
For extra points, keep note of any interesting tid bits, projects they have in progress, events they have coming up or goals they are working towards during your conversations – in your monthly email, you can start by asking for an update on these.
This will add a personal touch and open up a potential conversation, unlike a one-way update on how you and your book are doing.
I’d like to say a big thank you to Kate Christie, Carolyn Dean, Andrea Doyle, Geoff Green and Tamara Simon, who generously let me pick their brains for this article. You can learn more about their books and businesses at:
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Wow! This article is so amazing. I was googling for this information and your article came up close to the top of the page. Gave it a look and was hooked.
So, I have read the article straight through and it was like getting a free course in Partnership Funding. I am just getting started with my book and I am going to be reading this again and again. In fact, I know this sounds over the top but as soon as I write this going to read it again.
Thank you so much for writing it and huge thanks for sharing it. Going to share it on LinkedIn now – don’t have a huge following but I know there are other people who will get much from this.