Archive for January, 2012

Dr. Cauvier on How to Write a Winning How-to Book by Bob Barclay

Sunday, January 29th, 2012

Dr. Denis Cauvier – International Best Selling author of 8 books began his presentation to The Ottawa Independent Writers Association with a short review of the modern book market. With the rise in easily-available technology, it has never been easier to publish a book, but on the downside this proliferation makes selling the work for profit a daunting challenge. The focus of Dr Cauvier’s presentation was non-fiction, but it turned out that a great deal of what he would say applied equally to the production and marketing of fiction.

There are three essential reasons for writing and publishing a book:
Financial – to earn a living on sales of your work
Legacy – the message you want to communicate; your personal written record
Education – bringing information to people
Whichever of these paths an aspiring writer chooses, the key issue is to build credibility for your personal brand. Researching titles and topics in order to find the correct niche for the work is an essential component. A triangle using these three points is helpful in defining the ‘sweet spot’. The effective intersection of these three values is the mark of a highly successful book:

The ‘sweet spot’ lies somewhere within the triangle

The author must have total clarity on the Why before proceeding.

Identify your market; who will pay for the book, and who will buy it? In the realm of how-to books it is sometimes the case that the buyer is not the end-user. Dr Cauvier used the example of his book The ABCs of Making Money for Teens as an example of a textbook that was purchased by adults for a youth readership.

A synopsis will help to achieve clarity.
– Take an honest look at the competition to determine in what way your work is unique, or needs to be made unique
– Write your synopsis with the above in mind
– Produce a working title

Tell the World
– Share your idea as widely as possible – both title and synopsis – but protect it from theft by registering the contents
– Telling potential purchasers that the work is on the way gives them an inducement to buy, but it also gives the author a stimulus. The best way to avoid ‘writers’ block’, or procrastination as it should be termed, is by telling everybody it’s on the way citing a specific release date.

As mentioned in the Introduction, with modern technology publishing a book is comparatively easy. Sales of school e-textbooks, for example, rose from 3% of the market in 2010 to 6% in 2011, indicating popular access to a readily available technology. There are three general categories of publishing:
– Trade – the upsides of having a work accepted by a publisher are that most aspects of quality, marketing and distribution are taken care of, and the resultant work provides the author with great credibility. The downsides are loss of control of the product, the comparatively parsimonious return (perhaps 10 to 15% – of net of discounts prices, if you are lucky), and the time it takes from acceptance of the work to actual publishing
– Hybrid – in this category the publisher accepts the work, but leaves much of the control in the authors’ hands. The upside of being published, yet still controlling your product, is countered by the need to publicize and sell the work yourself
– Self-Publishing – it is only recently that self-publishing has become a respectable component of the industry; the slur of ‘vanity book’ is now dated. With the great rise in print-on-demand and e-book formats, self-publishing is very straightforward. The upside is the complete control that it offers, including cover design, text layout, etc. (Some self-publishers will contractor-out design work, and this is a wise move although costly.) The potential downside is clearly that sales and marketing are entirely in the authors’ hands

How to Write a Book in Five Days
Yes, it can be done! Dr. Cauvier has done it several times and argued that this process can best be done on a beach in some tropical location, and with the freezing rain soaking the Nation’s Capital just outside the window, audience agreement was unanimous. It is assumed that the knowledge you wish to express is already there, so writers of large fictional tomes might pause here. Here are the five days:
– Day 1 – write the story boards, create the table of contents, define the overall look and feel of the book (including visuals, layouts and texts in as much detail as possible)
– Days 2 and 3 – dictate the book. There are several apps, such as Dragon Dictation, for portable devices and smart phones to convert words into text. Refer often to your story boards and don’t worry about the pauses, ums and ers.
– Day 4 – take all the text material from the dictation and organize into a logical flow.
– Day 5 – Clean-up the sentence structure, check for details and hand over manuscript for professional editing and production
In case anyone in the audience was skeptical about this approach and time frame, this reporter did exactly this for a textbook on musical instrument-making, but sadly not in a tropical paradise.

Sales and Marketing
It’s not widely understood that writing a book consumes perhaps 30% of the time and energy, while the remaining 70% needs to be spent in making it sell. Some useful recommendations are:
– Write a marketing plan, revisit the title and cover, and pay especial attention to the appearance of the finished product especially the front and back cover
– Create a website and build a database. With bookstores and on-line sellers such as Amazon there is no way to keep a track of who is buying the book
– Go to local bookstores and local media outlets. It can be a waste of time to try the larger chain bookstores; normally they won’t want to deal with self-publishers
– Libraries and educational institutes are excellent resources because they share information amongst themselves, providing ready-made publicity
– Bulk sales are often tied to a product. For example, Kevin Kolman grilling book was rejected repeatedly by publishers. Kolman got creative and now sells bulk orders to barbecue manufacture Broil King.
– Promotions – use social media, hire a publicist (if you don’t have the expertise, buy it) and get well-known thought leaders to write reviews. Also, it is quite possible with modern printing methods to customize book covers for specific markets

As this reporter was taking his notes during the presentation he realized that, had he one tenth the energy, skill and commitment of Denis Cauvier, he might just be able to flog a few more of his books. In conclusion, an excellent presentation with a great deal of food for thought. For more information on Dr. Cauvier please go to