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Your Own Products

Developing your own products is more important in terms of building your reputation and credibility than it is in terms of making money. The problem is that, considering the time and money it takes and the volumes you can sell alone, products aren’t terribly profitable. We can dramatically improve your odds of making money, but we cannot rewrite the rules of economics.

Again, the rule is: The more risk you take, the bigger the percentage you get. Good strategy teaches you to minimize your risks. When you publish your own books, you don’t get 100 percent of the profit because you have to pay for the design, proofing, printing, shipping, and so on. And 90 percent of the books published by MAJOR publishers never make a profit. In small runs, you can never cover the cost of developing a book (software, design, editing, proofing, etc.). Audios are easier and more profitable if you know what you are doing. Let us discuss the products one at a time.


As a licensed trainer, you can work through us to get dramatically better prices on design, proofing, and printing.

The real savings here are in printing, which is the most expensive element in publishing and which we get at a fraction of what most people pay because we do a lot of printing. However, our savings only apply if we do a “commercial run,” which means a minimum of about 5,000 copies. (In the United States, we can put people in touch with our original “short run” [500 to 4,000 copies] printers, who are reliable.) We get our printing done in China (through Hong Kong), but we have learned through painful experience (including one printing of The Ancient Chinese Revealed that we had to trash) that there are good printers and bad printers, and you really have to know what you are doing, especially when it comes to paper issues.

However, in commercial quantities, this means that at best, printing a 192-page 6" x 9" book, like our “standard” book, is going to cost from $5,000 for a paperback to $11,000 for a hardcover with a jacket. It will cost more for a bigger book or if paper prices go up. Now, that sounds like a lot, but it makes books profitable because you are paying only $1 for a paperback and $2.20 for a hardcover, so you can make about ten times (or even more with paperbacks) what you pay.

On-demand and short-run printing are done only in paperback. The cost per copy is around $8-$12 and $4-$6, respectively, depending on the quality, and you STILL have all the up-front software, design, and proofing costs, which are distributed over very few books, to say nothing of your time and effort. The final product will NOT be salable in retail bookstores, for reasons I will explain, but as you can see, you make more money with your 55 percent on Clearbridge products than you will on on-demand or short-run printing. Of course, you can always raise your prices, and, depending on your market and how persuasively you speak, that can work, but only to a point. The general rule of economics is that the more you charge, the less you sell. 

If your book can be published under the Clearbridge name, which means it fits into our product line, then you have a much better chance of getting distribution to retail bookstores, not only in North America but around the world. Since there are about 500,000 new books published every year in the United States, and a normal bookstore carries only 50,000, 95 percent of the books published every year have no chance. Fortunately, our books are distributed by NBN, the largest distributor in the United States. Our books are known as consistent though not spectacular sellers, and, because our books win awards every year, we are fortunate to have a nice retail presence. We also have distribution through most of the world through other distributors.

The downside of working through Clearbridge for retail book distribution is that you have to commit to your book very far in advance, and it has to be retail quality. The lead time is an issue. You have to commit to the distributor catalog ten months in advance of the book release, so for a September release, you have to commit to the fall catalog in December of the previous year. (It costs several hundred dollars for the ad, by the way.) You have to have the cover art, size, price, and everything else about ordering, such as case packs, figured out seven months in advance because that is when catalogs are finalized.

Quality is also an issue. Most first releases are in hardcover. In some book categories (youth and some business books), paperback is acceptable, but the quality has to be good. On-demand and short-run don’t cut it, but the point is moot anyway because the costs make it impossible to make a profit through distribution. You sell through retail book distribution at about 70 percent discount, so for a $20 book you get $6. If you are printing for $6 and selling for $6, you break even, but not really because there are other costs besides printing. The standard in the business is a minimum of an 8-to-1 one retail-to-printing cost ratio to have any chance of a profit.

Of course, if you have retail distribution, you have a better chance of selling commercial quantities, so the whole equation works out, IF your book sells at all. That is a BIG IF.

Sales are never certain. You have to design a book to sell from day one. You have to know your market and how big it is and, most importantly, how it fits into retail preconceptions. It probably isn’t evident from just looking at our line, but our AOW titles are actually designed around the way books are bought in the major chains and displayed in bookstores. In a bookstore, there is a salesperson section, management section, small business section, martial arts section, career section, youth nonfiction section, and so on. Strangely enough, there is an AOW title for salespeople, managers, small business people, and so on. One thing you MUST avoid is coming out with a book that doesn’t clearly belong in one section or another and clearly go to a specific category of book buyer in the chains. The industry doesn’t deal with gray areas well at all. If there is any confusion about where a book goes or who buys it, it doesn’t go anywhere and no one buys it.

Audio Products

Compared with books, audios are a snap. All you have to do is record one of your presentations, edit it with Audacity, a free software product, burn it on a CD with your computer, print the label with an inexpensive Epson printer (don’t use adhesive labels, please), and put it in a CD jewel case.  You can also sell the MP3 on your web site as a download and skip the whole burning, labeling, and shipping thing, though you still need packages for back-of-the-room sales.

Of course, audio quality is an issue, and editing takes some time and a little skill, but of all the products, audio is the simplest.

Best yet, when you get a lot of hours of training on audio, you can sell the collection for several hundred bucks. Not bad.

Video Products

Just like audio, only more expensive and more difficult in every respect. Recording bad video is a million times easier than doing good video. If it isn’t being filmed by a professional crew, you won’t get anything useful. Editing, especially cutting in slides, is much more difficult.

Other Products

Just in the process of conducting training, you will be creating products. Courseware is a product. Workbooks are products. Our goal is to work out a revenue system that will make it easy for you to get paid for developing courses that are used by other trainers. Right now, since our existing courseware is essentially free because you and other trainers don’t pay any fees when you give a seminar, this is a problem. However, we have some models that we are working on that will make it profitable for you to share the courses you develop and get rewarded for it.


Copyright 2005-2008, Science of Strategy Institute / Clearbridge Publishing, Gary Gagliardi
The leading publishers of award-winning books based on Sun Tzu’s The Art of War