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Welcome to Season 2 of The Book Marketing Action Podcast with Becky Robinson, where we give you information that you can immediately implement to increase your influence and market your books more successfully. If you’re considering publishing a book, this month we are providing information that will help you sort through the various options available to you.
About Trena White
Becky: It’s been so fun for me to catch up with some of my friends in the publishing world. And today, I’m so glad to be back with Trena White. I know I’m going to learn a lot from you. Before we dive into the content, can you tell our listeners a little bit about your work in the world and about your company?
Trena: Yeah! I’m the co-founder, with my partner Jesse Finkelstein, of a book publishing company called Page Two. We specialize in publishing nonfiction books by professionals. So books that are about somebody’s area of expertise that reflect the work that they do day in and day out. Some books we’ve published are a book called The Coaching Habit by Michael Bungay Stanier, which is widely recognized as a classic in its category. A book called Exactly What to Say, by a sales trainer named Phil Jones, that has been translated into about 10 or 12 languages now. So books that really capture that author’s work, intellectual property, and want to spread their message really widely.
Becky: Wonderful. I was hoping that you might mention some of your most successful titles, so thank you. And just so that our listeners can place you in the world, can you tell us where you live?
Trena: You bet. Our office is in Vancouver, Canada, so on the west coast of Canada, not that far from Seattle. I personally live in a really small town of 3,000 people on the west coast. It’s called Roberts Creek.
The difference between Page Two & traditional publishers
Becky: Trena, can you tell me a little bit about the difference between Page Two and a traditional publisher?
Trena: Yeah, so we are what you might call a hybrid publisher, and that’s a catch all phrase that encompasses all different kinds of business models. Fundamentally, what makes us different from a traditional publisher is that we’re really built around serving the author. Our authors hire us to produce their books and they retain ownership of their intellectual property. So we don’t license their rights, which a traditional publisher would do. This means that they own everything we create, and they can repurpose the material we create and turn it into online training, keynotes, and all kinds of things. It’s an entrepreneurial model of publishing, where the author is investing in their work and in the product, which is the book, and then when the book sells, they earn the majority of the proceeds of the sales.
If it does sell, there’s an opportunity for them to earn more than they would in a traditional publishing deal. So because the authors are hiring us, it’s a service. It’s kind of a customer-driven experience, where we’re thinking about how to create a really positive and meaningful experience for our clients, and how to serve them and their broader business goals with the book, as well as how to serve the needs of the reader and the market. It’s a very different orientation from what traditional publishers have, where their main focus is the book, and how it’s going to sell through retailers. They’re not really thinking about the author’s business and business goals and where the book fits in within the author’s ecosystem.
Hybrid publishing vs. self-publishing
Becky: Why would someone select a hybrid publisher instead of a traditional publisher?
Trena: I would say hybrid publishing is a good fit for people who want to have a lot of creative control over their book. People who really have a clear understanding of their audiences, a really clear vision of what the book might become, and who wants to be highly engaged in the marketing. There’s a certain personality type that would find that quite appealing and doesn’t really want to take a backseat to the publisher’s decisions. So somebody might choose hybrid publishing because they want to be involved in the process and they want to be a real collaborator in creating the book and thinking about how it’s going to be brought to market.
I would also say that the barrier to entry can be lower in that with hybrid publishing, you don’t need to have a literary agent. You don’t need to necessarily develop the big 50-page book proposal that nonfiction books usually require when you work with a traditional publisher. At least at Page Two, our authors are entrepreneurs and professionals and they don’t necessarily want to go through all of those additional layers of effort to try to get the book deal. They’re ready to get going and so it’s about speed to market as well.
Average time to go to market at Page Two
Becky: Tell me a little bit about an average time to go to market for an author who approaches Page Two.
Trena: Yeah, from the time an author completes their manuscript, to the time the book is in the market for us would be typically 10 to 12 months. This might still sound like a really long time for a lot of the people listening to this, but traditional book publishing can often take up to two years from the time you approach the publisher to the time your book is in the market. There are certain aspects of the publishing process that you can’t really tighten too much without compromising quality.
Qualifications when selecting authors
Becky: So tell me some qualifications you look for in selecting authors to publish, Trena, because you did mention that sometimes the barrier to entry to a hybrid publishing solution is easier than traditional publishing. What are you looking for? How do you vet the authors who come to you to decide whether or not they’re a good fit for Page Two?
Trena: Good question. We do curate our list but not every hybrid publisher does. When we’re evaluating a submission, we’re looking for an author who has that vision, an author who really understands their audience and how they’re going to connect with that audience both through the book and through the marketing of the book later on. Authors who have hit on an idea that is original, and where we can see that there’s a gap in the market that the book can fill. We’re looking for people who are interested in collaboration, and we think can have a happy and productive working relationship with us. And also people who can write well, although we can bring in ghostwriters if we need to. But people who really can produce something that’s high quality.
Questions to ask when selecting a hybrid publisher
Becky: That’s really helpful and I’m wondering, you mentioned that not all hybrid publishers have the same standards for vetting or curating their list. If an author is listening today, or an aspiring author is listening, what are some things that those authors should look for if they’re researching hybrid publishers?
Trena: I would say there are quite a few things to look at.
- One of the first would be budget, because there are hybrid publishing options out there that are anywhere from $8,000 and up. For us, our projects typically start at around $30,000. I know of other companies who charge six figures to work with them. So I would start by thinking about what your budget is, and what does the company charge for their work?
- I would also look very closely at who is actually doing the work. What I mean is how much experience does the team have working on books specifically? Because there are a lot of companies out there who don’t necessarily specialize in books, their team may have a lot of editorial experience, but more in corporate communications, for instance. So look very carefully at the experience level of the team. Look to see if they’re publishing the kind of books that you’re writing. Is it an area that they seem to have some expertise or knowledge?
- There are a lot of other details about things you’d want to look for in terms of the contracts. Do you retain ownership of your rights, for instance? I would say you absolutely want to if you’re working with a hybrid publisher, that should be one of the big benefits of it.
Becky: That helps. Thank you so much.
What sets Page Two apart
Becky: I’m curious, Trena, about what sets Page Two apart? What do you view as the biggest value that you and your team bring to authors?
Trena: It’s the level of experience of our team. Many of the people who work at Page Two have worked for major traditional publishers, like Penguin Random House, for instance. The whole idea of our company is that we bring the best practices from the best of traditional publishing into a model where the author has a lot more creative control and input. I would say it’s not the experience, it’s the fact that we have a very creative team that works in a very cohesive way on a project with our authors. So that the designer is collaborating with the editor and the marketing team. We’re all working together to figure out how to position the book and set it up for success, with the author as kind of the center of this group on the project.
Becky: I have an extra question I’d love to throw in. Trena, you mentioned earlier that one of the things that you’re looking for in authors is them being entrepreneurial, and excited to invest in marketing their titles. I also heard you say that you have a marketing team at Page Two. So what might an author expect if they partner with Page Two? Or what might they expect if they partner with a different hybrid publisher? And what should they look for? As it relates to that aspect of the process?
Trena: Yeah, that’s a good question. For us, our authors tend to have established platforms. So that would mean they might be professional speakers, or they have very active, large email lists. It can mean many different things and so part of the work that our marketing team does is help the author understand how to leverage their existing platform to support the book launch. We also have a publicist who does media outreach for our books. We do run digital advertising, like Amazon ads and Facebook ads, for instance. But there’s just a recognition that the author is going to be utterly critical to the marketing of the book and that’s the case, no matter how an author publishes a book. The author already is recognized as an expert in their topic, who has an audience, that they can reach with the book. That’s a very fundamental part of the work that we do is helping them understand how to build the book into their business.
Vetting a hybrid publisher
Becky: So in terms of vetting a hybrid publisher, what questions should an author ask to be able to get to the heart of what they can expect related to marketing?
Trena: First of all, what marketing will you do? I would be very cautious about any marketing that seems very cookie cutter. For instance, you’ll often see that a company will create a press release and send it out to X number of media outlets, but that’s done in a very templated way that doesn’t necessarily have any impact. So I would really dig into the details of what the campaign will actually look like. Who will I be working with? Do you actually have a person who’s going to be your marketing contact? Or is it that you’ll be getting generic emails, for instance, to guide you along the way? I think those are some of the key questions to help authors evaluate that.
Becky: I have loved this conversation, Trena, and I expect that our listeners have gotten a lot of value as it relates to sorting through the differences between hybrid publishing and traditional publishing. So thank you so much for investing a few minutes with me this afternoon. Every week on The Book Marketing Action Podcast, we like to give some action steps. Trena, I know you have two next steps for listeners today to implement. So could you share those?
- Research if hybrid publishing is right for you. I would say the first one is that it’s worthwhile taking the time to research whether hybrid publishing is a fit for you because I would be the first to say it’s really not for everybody. There are many cases in which traditional publishing is the better way to go for an author, or self-publishing.
- Talk to other authors. I would also say as a follow up to that, and part of the research that a person might do, would be to speak with other authors. If you know anyone who has published a book, just talk to them about how they did it. What was their experience? What were the pros and cons of it? Because you’ll be able to start to see the pitfalls of self, hybrid, and traditional publishing and get a sense of whether one option might be right for you.
- Learn more about Page Two here.
- Connect with Trena White on LinkedIn.
- Follow Page Two on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
- Learn more and pre-order Bonnie Marcus’s new book, Not Done Yet!: How Women Over 50 Regain Their Confidence & Claim Workplace Power, published through Page Two.
- What Is a Hybrid Publisher? Blog post by Jane Friedman, Trena’s all-time fave publishing commentator, who is neutral about traditional publishing, self-publishing, hybrid.
- What’s the Future of Hybrid Publishing? A Q&A with Trena’s co-founder.
- The Million Dollar Book. A case study on Page Two’s blog about Exactly What to Say by Phil Jones.
- How to publish a book on Amazon (and sell over 100,000 copies the SMART way) by Michael Bungay Stanier. Another great case study.
If you found value in today’s episode, we hope you’ll take a moment to share it with someone else who might benefit from it. If you have any questions or topics you’d like us to cover, please email Becky Robinson here.
I am the founder/CEO of the Weaving Influence team, the author of Reach: Creating the Biggest Possible Audience for Your Message, Book, or Cause, and the host of the Book Marketing Action Podcast. I’m a wife and mom of three kids, and I enjoy running, reading, writing, coffee, and dark chocolate.