Sunday, July 6, 2008

A New Vision of the Book Business

About five years ago I became obsessed with starting a business I called Sail Mackinaw. The Straits of Mackinaw is a popular tourist area about fifteen miles from my boyhood home. I love to sail and this seemed like the perfect way to blend business and pleasure.

The idea was to offer 1-2 hour cruises on a 40' catamaran to the 2 million area visitors who come every summer to see the Mackinaw Bridge, Mackinac Island, the Grand Hotel, Round Island Lighthouse, and other sites on the Great Lakes. Every detail was thought through. I researched tourism statistics and demographics, as well as average temperatures, wind speeds, and precipitation. I studied comparable business models and interviewed the owners of Nauti-Cat in Traverse City, MI and Trilogy on Maui (both of which I highly recommend). Dock space was secured at the most popular Mackinaw Island ferry line, as was retail space to sell tickets. I had a boat picked out. Captains and crew were interviewed. The business plan included a thorough analysis of projected revenue, expenses, and cash flow. A marketing plan included a Web site, brochures, posters, cross promotion with other area businesses.

In a period of two years I developed a five-star business plan, as well as new passion for business development. For years I had been trained, and trained others, in book marketing. The approach was formulaic and sterile and often ineffective. After immersing myself in the world of small business, I saw similarities between a good business plan and a good book proposal. I started to see that every book is a business unto itself. Every author is a business partner. Every marketing plan should have one purpose--to sell books. It may sound basic, but anyone who's worked with a corporate publisher knows this is revolutionary thinking.

Sail Mackinaw was my ticket to freedom. While I never raised all the money I needed to get started, I discovered a new passion for book publishing and the last few years have been the most successful and rewarding of my career.

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