The first project I wanted to spend time on was a new edition of Every Book Is a Startup.
A Little History
The history on this project starts back in 2011. I wrote a post here on my blog. The essay was the first in a series of posts about how the new ideas of the world of Lean Startup could improve our odds of success in the world of book publishing.
Joe Wikert at O’Reilly Media approached me a few months later about writing about book for them. He was running their Tool of Change practice that was looking at how technology was changing book publishing.
At first, I really wasn’t interested in writing a book. I remembered quite clearly the year I spent writing The 100 Best Business Books of All Time, and if it was going to take that much work, I wasn’t sure it going to be worth it.
I wrote back to Joe and said that the project would need to be interesting. Joe wrote back, ” What did you have in mind?” and that response began a wonderful collaboration. We experimented with releasing the book in a serial fashion. We experimented with a low price that slowly increased as more material was added.
In total, we sold about 650 copies. We never released the book beyond the O’Reilly website. And that was fine. The project was an experiment.
I feel like a lot has happened in the last eight years. Self-publishing is a substantial practice in the broader world of book publishing. The power of the industry is concentrating itself in a smaller group of players with Amazon’s growth and the the merger of Penguin and Random House as just two examples. That always creates opportunities.
The practices introduced with Agile and Lean Startup principles are both maturing and continuing to expand into domains outstide technology. The opportunity is to better apply these concepts to the world of book publishing.
The short answer is everything.
I have completely rewritten and reorganized Every Book Is a Startup around three questions.
- How do we know if we found the right problem?
- How do we reliably find new customers with the same problem?
- How do we build a business that supports the book?
If you have writen a book proposal, those three questions should look familiar. Publishers want to know the idea, your platform, and the competition in your category. In traditional publishing, an agent and editor determine if you have the right mixture to make the book work.
In Every Book Is a Startup, we treat each one of those points as a question to examine. The core of the work is to test our assumptions and determine through experimentation that there is a market for the book before we invest time, effort, and money.
In that vein, that is exactly what I am doing with Version 2.0.
- The book has been released as a minimum viable product at Leanpub.com. I am updating and adding new material every week. As a customer, you will get an email with each major new release.
- You can choose your price for the book within a range. I am going to use that information to help decide the retail price to charge when the book is complete.
- We are also running other experiments, which I will tell you about as time goes on. Don’t want to influence the results 🙂
I’ll be sharing more here as the project progresses.
If you are an author trying to navigate the world of book publishing today, I know this framwork will help.
I hope you will check out Every Book Is a Startup.