Bootstrapping your book

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There are basically three ways to start a business. You can use your own private fortune, you can pitch to investors for funding, or you can bootstrap: start at the beginning, plough the early profits back into the business, own and earn every scrap of the company. None of them is intrinsically ‘better’ than another, each has its pros and cons, they’re just right for different people in different situations.

And writing an expert book is uncannily similar. You can spend a month writing in a beach hut while someone else runs your business, you can pay a professional ghost-writer to do it for you, or you can bootstrap your book: make it an integral part of your business, make it pay its way from day 1.

Rather than being a side project, demanding that you carve out time away from your business to work on it (or not – because writing like this is HARD when there’s no editor or agent tapping a metaphorical foot beside you), a bootstrapped book is the culmination of a series of business-centric multi-channel content outputs. Which is a horrid phrase; let’s use ‘stuff’.

What’s your bootstrapping route?

What form the stuff will take depends on you, your business and your market. Here’re two possible routes:

bootstrapping infographic            bootstrapping infographic 2

(NB there’s no requirement that the sequence ends in a book, of course, or even involves a book at all, but books are my bag and still one of the best ways we have of getting across complex ideas and getting into someone’s head. And of course there may be fewer or – more likely – more than 5 steps involved.)

Benefits of bootstrapping

Over each iteration the message gets clearer, richer, more fully articulated. And crucially each iteration serves the purposes of the business in its own right. Bootstrapping may not be the easiest or fastest way to write a book. But ultimately it might just be the most rewarding, for you and for your readers. This is part of what I talk about when I talk about the future of publishing: multi-channel, iterative, collaborative, engaged, purposeful, agile.

What happens when you bootstrap your book?

  • you get crystal clear on your market and your message
  • you create content from day 1 that you can use to develop both your market and your message and to build your brand
  • you bake your book into your business, so that the content you’re creating directly supports your revenue-generating activities and vice versa.

The bootstrapping mindset

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to bootstrapping a book, just as there’s no one way to bootstrap a business. But there are ways of doing things that tend to work better than others. In no particular order:

  • taking a lean approach, starting small, getting feedback early (and, crucially, responding to it), pivoting and prioritizing responsively depending on what works
  • using the plethora of free or low-cost cloud-based tools out there to create to keep your costs down and your speed and flexibility up: some of my favourites are Trello, Canva, LeadPages, CapsuleCRM, YouTube, SoundCloud, MailChimp, SproutSocial, Fiverr and Upwork (as well as all the big social media platforms, obv)
  • partnering intelligently, whether that’s choosing JV partners or channels to promote and share your message, co-present your workshops, or provide you with an interview or case study
  • playing to your strengths: where’s the sweet spot where your expertise, skills and experience meet the opportunities that are emerging in your target market? Find the niche you can own and stay on top of it
  • staying curious – so much of writing and business comes down to mindset, spotting opportunities, connections, patterns, all of which you’ll miss if you’re locked into one idea or world view.


future of the bookAlison Jones (@bookstothesky) is a publishing partner for businesses and organizations writing world-changing books. She provides executive coaching, consultancy and training services to publishers and regularly speaks and blogs on the publishing industry. 

This post was originally published here.

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