The Realities of Independent Publishing #3

By   Hannah Bickerton 4 min read

whitefox: helping brands, thought leaders and writers create beautiful bespoke books

In this series of blog posts we summarise a decade’s worth of wisdom from our experience on the front line of independent publishing, sharing the top trade secrets we believe every aspiring author should know.

The publishing industry presents so many wonderful options for writers today. That being said, it can be an overwhelming industry to navigate. For those looking to publish independently, there is so much practical information about the writing process, the steps to publication and how to go about it all. But what we don’t see as much of are the honest realities of independent publishing, the choices you should or shouldn’t be making, and the implications of those choices.

Over the last ten years whitefox has worked closely with over 600 independent authors, assisting them in producing their books and taking them to market. During that period we have worked on fiction, memoir, arts, culture, history, cookery, business, children’s books, and everything in between. We understand the intricacies of the process and what factors can dictate whether a book rockets or fizzles out.

#3 If you have an existing platform, you have a head start

One of the first questions we ask our new authors is: ‘What would success look like for you?’ And you might be surprised to learn how few say, ‘To sell as many copies as possible’ or ‘To become an international bestseller.’ That’s not to say they don’t want their book to be a raving success – of course they do, especially when investing upfront in the project. However, the majority are looking more widely at the other doors that having a book can open. For anyone with a company, service, product, initiative or online platform such as a blog or podcast, a book can play a far more significant role in the bigger strategy because it serves as a valuable extension of your brand. Whether you’re in the early stages of setting something up, or are more established and looking for the next exciting thing to launch, a book can be pivotal.

Firstly, a well-produced book can boost credibility and cement your status as a worthy expert in your field. We’re emphasising the term well-produced here because a badly produced book can do the exact opposite. You can’t fool your audience, and if you aren’t creating something of genuine quality and value that is sensibly structured, professionally edited and highly readable, it will show on the pages.

However, when perfectly executed you will not only be impressing those in your existing network but also getting noticed from further afield. This was the case for sommelier and TV presenter Raul Diaz, who came to whitefox to produce his cookbook, Wines & Recipes. It was a beautiful hardback to sell alongside his business, the Wine Training School, but the launch of Raul’s book also allowed him to secure coverage across the very best of food-and-drink print media, both in national newspapers and specialist magazines, including a double-page spread in the Sunday Telegraph. The trick here was that Raul had a clear set of goals for his book from the outset and invested in the right areas. He prioritised high production values, which resulted in a strong visual book that stood out in its genre and spoke perfectly to his end reader. He then combined this with a focused publicity campaign, proudly dangling the book in front of his target audience, ensuring that it (and, more importantly, he) got the attention that was deserved.

‘For me, the book was always going to be a tool. [I wanted to use it] as a tool for events, as a tool to engage with customers, as a tool for clients, and—now I’m doing consultancy work again—many of my clients are very interested in the book, interested in some sort of agreement, which is exactly what I wanted. Being a bestseller is not really relevant in my case.’ – Raul Diaz, author of Wines & Recipes

Secondly, a book is an affordable product that works in complement across multiple businesses and sectors, from professional services and consultancies to hospitality, arts and culture. It can assist you in building up your profile or spreading your key themes and messages. And when a book is performing a role within a business, like with any employee, it has to do its job. It needs to represent the brand, connect with the target audience and be aligned to the commercial goals of the business. For holistic lifestyle coach Heidi Hauer, who worked with whitefox to publish her first book, The Queendom Within, this part was the greatest appeal. Just like in her business, everything about the book was on her own terms. She was given the freedom to share her ideas, when and how she wanted to, without needing to fit her story into an available slot on a publisher’s list. Every choice was Heidi’s to make—from concept to marketing. The result is a book that fits perfectly within her recently launched consultancy business, as well as her other ventures such as The Heidi Hauer Podcast. The Queendom Within made such an impact on Heidi’s business that she is currently working with whitefox on her second project.

The greatest advantage of publishing a book alongside an existing venture is that, in theory, you already have audience buy-in, or will do as you continue to grow. The simple truth is that, when it comes to independent publishing, if you already have a platform to use as a launchpad for your book, you have a significant head start. But that doesn’t guarantee success. You still have to have an excellent product, a relevant product, to be clear in your goals and invest in the right areas.

Hannah Bickerton
Hannah Bickerton
Hannah has worked in marketing for nine years, specialising in strategy development for start-ups and EdTech companies. Having recently jumped across industries to join the Whitefox team, Hannah isn’t a complete stranger to the publishing world with previous employment at Macmillan and TES Global. She is now dedicated to ensuring that anyone who has something interesting to say knows all about whitefox.