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SOI Rick2


The world of publishing is one of those industries that has been at the painful end of change. Like other entertainment industries everything about books has changed.  The way we consume books, the way we buy them, the sheer volume of books that are published today.

My guest on Spheres of Influence yesterday was Rick Smith. He is based in the UK but spends a lot of time in South Africa.  He spent 25 years in sales and marketing but in 2012 he quit his high flying executive career to pursue life as a writer.  He wrote several books and blogs but as with anyone who has done something similar was faced with the question of how to monetize all this writing.

That led him to self-publishing.  Of course self-publishing is pretty easy but how do you sell it, how do you actually make it work for you?  As Rick says, anyone has the capability of writing a book.  If you can string a sentence together and format you can publish. Before the advent of Amazon you had to look for a publishing deal but these were like hens teeth. Very few manuscripts were published and the industry was dominated by the “Big 6” publishers.

Today those big 6 are still very powerful but they focus on the big name authors like JK Rowling, Malcolm Gladwell who sell millions of copies. The pool of authors in that world is even smaller today as a result.

Amazon fixed that.  The influence has shifted from publisher to distributor.  That’s was Amazon is. Or, it’s at least a platform for distribution. Today Amazon dominates as a self-publishing platform but there are others. Of course Amazon is not just interested in books, they are working very hard to influence our behaviour in so many other areas as well.

How successful your book is a question of your marketing skills.  Rick refers to the “dark arts” of how to optimise your promotional copy for search, using key words and the like. In fact when it comes to making a success of writing books the easy part is writing the book. The real work is in marketing.

To take it back to the beginning though, every writer must know why they are writing the book. 3 years ago there was a growing industry in “vanity publishing”.  Basically this is publishing a book just so you could say you published a book.  You could pay any one of a number of companies to format and publish your book.  You’d get a couple hundred copies to rattle around in your boot but nothing was done in marketing and distribution.  But you could say you published.  That still exists today but for those who want to make a proper go of it there are options. Do you want to make your living from the books you sell? Or is your book a value add to your business, something to showcase your expertise?

Find a partner that understands how it works and can help.  Someone like Rick Smith. He has published 14 of his own books and has published 30 others in partnership.

If you are an expert and you want to stand out in a sea of “experts” then a book is critical.  In fact it’ll be difficult to move your business forward properly without a book.

In summary, ANYONE can publish a book. However only those that work hard at marketing will make a success of it.  Outside of Amazon itself work must be done to build a fan base.  Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and other social platforms.  This is where you build interest and buzz around your book which can lead to exposure and sales.

Get hold of Rick though his Facebook page.  Simply search “Rick Smith Books”.

If you have ideas for futures segments of Spheres of Influence, I’d love to hear from you. Email me at