How we sold 130,000 books in one day…
For many years, this was a “trade secret,” but now the story can be told.
Simple — we gave them away — for FREE — as a supplement to a leading engineering magazine. And did it ever pay off!
The original plan was a twelve part series in Engineering Design News (EDN) in 1994. The editor would not run it until we had six articles ready to go. Fair enough. So I wrote one article a month – after all, we still had an active engineering consulting practice to run.
Upon submitting the first six articles, the editor suggested bundling them all together as a book supplement to the magazine. At first, I balked. The initial strategy was a year long exposure (one article a month). Drip marketing…
But the more I thought about it, the more I liked it. So I agreed, and even offered to help procure advertisers. EDN jumped at that offer — we were in a niche market, and we knew the key advertisers.
We contacted those we thought would be most interested, and ever so gently twisted their arms. Those who did sign up later thanked us. Original copies still sit on bookshelves.
The supplement immediately went into reprints. In 2001, EDN asked us to update the material, and then they did subsequent reprints. I added two chapters and updated the a time-sensitive chapter on regulations. The rest stayed pretty much the same.
In 2005, EDN decided not to continue with the reprints. So they returned the copyright, and we then offered printed books for sale on our website and for handouts in our classes.
Several thousand copies later, we added a PDF version for download. Although not free, both versions continue to be popular.
When the original book hit, the phone rang off the hook. Overnight, it propelled us from a small local consulting firm to one of national prominence in our field.
The book ruffled a few feathers – a few complained it was not technical enough. But I was not writing for the academics or experts. Rather, I was writing for the design engineer who had just encountered his or her first electromagnetic interference problem — and a likely candidate for our services.
Overall, our first book* was a great (if somewhat accidental) success. We were paid a nominal amount for writing it, but not nearly enough to pay for the time. In retrospect – I would have done it for free, given the exposure it gave us and the business it brought in.
Some additional information. I’ve been mixing “I and we” for a reason. While I wrote the bulk of this book, my late business partner (Bill Kimmel) edited and added his comments.
At the same time, he was writing a book on medical devices, which I edited and added my comments. Later, we collaborated on a third book. So both names appear on all three books as co-authors.
Writing a book is a big challenge. An even bigger challenge is getting it into the hands of prospective clients.
Realizing our primary business was consulting — not writing — we elected to give away our first book. It was a huge marketing successes!
P.S. In addition to the books, we wrote over 200 technical articles (for free,) and published a free client newsletter for over 20 years. It has all been a lot of work, but also a lot of fun. And it greatly enhanced the visibility and credibility of our consulting firm.
Don’t be afraid to share your expertise – for FREE. The pay off is there!
* Read the first chapter of the “EDN Magazine Designer’s Guide to EMC” here.
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