I bought a copy of John T. Reed’s book called How to Write, Publish & Sell Your Own How-To Book. It is an interesting read, so I wanted to review it. Basically John Reed thinks selling through bookstores and through Amazon is a huge waste of money because so much of the profit ends up in other’s pockets. He makes some good points and he gives lots of examples of how he makes significantly more money by not selling in bookstores.
The style of the book is interesting. It often reads more like a rant than what you’d expect in a book. At the same time, he backs up what he says with data and experience so it isn’t like he is just pulling ideas of out the air. He really likes subheadings. Pretty much every paragraph contains its own subheading. At first this seemed a bit odd, but it does make the book easy to scan and find just the portions that you want to read.
John Reed encourages you to write a book and sell it before you even print a single copy.
His recommendations are great for people wanting to bootstrap a product and to keep from investing a lot money before you know what demand will be. Once you know about how many to expect to sell, he suggests getting a printer to make your books. He sells his books for $29 to $39 and they cost him $2 to $3 to print. With this type of markup he can afford to sell many fewer books while still making a reasonable amount of profit.
Websites are promoted as the ultimate way to market your books and John suggests that you will probably get your first order within a few hours of putting your book up for sale. This statement leads me to believe that he doesn’t have a very good grasp on how search engine placement works. It probably works that way for him with an established site that is ranked well and well indexed, but the average person isn’t going to be able to create a site with the free hosting that comes with their cable modem and quickly start getting traffic much less actual sales. His position that Amazon is going to be replaced by a bunch of people selling their books directly from their own website overlooks the value that Amazon brings to customers and their print on demand functionality through Create Space.
If you have an established website, John’s claims of quickly getting sales may be true. Particularly if you are writing about a topic where many people are searching, but there are few books available.
John Reed’s Website
John claims that he doesn’t know why his website does well. After looking it over, I do. John writes several books and newsletters about real estate. On his site, he reviews a number of real estate “gurus”. Most of the time he points out stupid stuff they say or things they have lied about. His website is probably one of the most comprehensive lists of people who will sell you products to help you buy real estate. He has a huge list of “guru rankings” where he gives each person a good, bad, or neutral rating and then typically a few paragraphs explaining why. In addition some of the guru’s have their own page.
For example, John does not like Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad Poor Dad book. His webpage explaining why is nearly 30,000 words long. Just to put that in perspective, entire novels are usually 50,000 to 120,000 words long. If you do a search for Robert Kiyosak, John Reed’s page shows up on the first set of Google’s search results.
Assuming that John’s other pages blasting real-estate authors are ranking similarly, it is no wonder he can sell a lot of books quickly. Whenever someone does a search for his competition, they find John’s page and learn about his books and why they are better.
This is a brilliant strategy, but not something you can duplicate in a few months. Creating a website that is designed to show up for search terms that your potential customers type into a search engine is good business. John has been at it long enough that many of his articles on other people are quite authoritative in the search results which I’m sure sends him a tremendous amount of traffic.
How to Write, Publish, & Sell Your Own How-To Book does contain a lot of very practical advice. Most of it centers around “keep your expenses low”. It is a little light on actual advice about writing, but I suppose anyone who buys the book is probably going to be stumped with the publishing and selling side of things more than crafting prose. John does spend time explaining that you should write the way you talk–something he does well in his book. Although, if that is how he talks, he seems like someone who is generally angry about something or other. Maybe I should qualify what I mean by “light on actual advice about writing.” John does have a chapter called “How to Write” and it does contain good suggestions. That is just not where the book is focused. The other 29 chapters deal primarily with other aspects of making money selling books.
A few things mentioned in the book that I found interesting:
- John types directly into Indesign and formats as he goes.
- He follows what he calls “Soup Nazi Marketing”. Basically he tells you how to place the order and what to expect after you place the order and if you want to do anything else, he doesn’t want to sell to you. He found individual customer service wasted too much of his time and he was better off just not selling to those customers.
- It looks like John’s books are all printed on 8.5 by 11 inch paper with two columns. This makes them taller and wider than most books but they fit perfectly in a priority mail envelope.
Overall the book is a good read. It covers a lot of practical ways to get a book from your head into customer’s hands while maximizing your profit. It is particularly useful if you have an established website or some other type of market that you want to monetize with a physical book.