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Has the Hybrid Publishing Industry Morphed into Vanity Publishing?

Is hybrid publishing the new vanity publishing? The April issue of Entrepreneur magazine featured an article titled “The (Booming, Misunderstood, Game-Changing, Potentially Manipulative) Business of Business Books.” Underneath the title in bold type was the following first paragraph: “Every entrepreneur today seems to have written a book. But here’s what they might not tell you: The book wasn’t really written to be read. And they didn’t always do the writing.”

Since my firm, Wool Street Writers, is in the business of helping business professionals and other thought leaders write and publish non-fiction books, I was naturally interested in what the author of the article had to say.

The article began by offering some interesting statistics, namely that according to the research firm Pro Quest, the number of self- and hybrid-published business books has more than doubled in the past four years, from 9,839 in 2012 to 20,499 in 2016, while the number of traditionally published business books has plummeted, from a high of 66,508 in 2013 to 35,233 last year.

In my view, that’s good news! Self-publishing gives authors more choices and more control, and it allows them to bring their books to market faster. Plus, it is often the only practical way to target a niche market.

Due largely to advances in printing technology and the advent of the Internet, self-publishing (or independent publishing, as some prefer to call it) has gone mainstream. It has largely shed the questionable reputation it had in the days of “vanity publishing.” Today, most decisions about whether to traditionally publish or self-publish are based on economics rather than image.

hybrid publishingBut the Entrepreneur article did highlight some valid concerns about hybrid publishing. Hybrid publishers appear on the surface to be traditional publishers. They review book proposals from authors and produce and distribute the books they accept. But unlike traditional publishers, which aim to make money by selling the author’s book to the public, hybrid publishers make a large percentage of their money by selling the author’s book back to the author. In some cases, the author must commit to purchasing thousands of copies of the book before the publisher will accept the book for publication.

Some hybrid publishers are overly aggressive about selling their services. A few (fortunately, it’s very few) use the gimmick of “collective co-authorship.” For a fee, an individual who wants to become known as an “author” can sign up to write one short chapter of a book. The publisher chooses the title of the book and recruits several other people to be co-authors. When the book is published, the publisher gives each co-author several copies with his or her name featured on the cover. The books produced in this way are seldom worth reading. This deceptive practice hurts the whole industry and can even end up tarnishing the reputation of these “authors.”

In some corners of the hybrid publishing world, acceptance of a book proposal depends more on the financial resources of the author than on the quality of the author’s work. The Entrepreneur magazine article was correct in pointing out this problem. This is vanity publishing under a new name.

I favor true self-publishing over hybrid publishing. One model is for the author to set up his or her own publishing company. This is easy to do, and it gives the author complete control over the writing and publishing process. The author owns the ISBN (International Standard Book Number), so there are no conflicts over rights.

With this model, the author can have a direct financial relationship with the printer. This allows the author to order additional copies of the book from the printer at any time at the printer’s cost.

Hybrid publishers may cover all or part of the initial production costs, but they more than offset these costs by selling copies of the author’s book back to the author at an inflated price. For example, authors who use a hybrid publisher might have to pay around $5 or more for each copy of their book, when the actual cost from the printer might be less than $2. Over time, hybrid publishing can cost the author considerably more than true self-publishing.

The author of the Entrepreneur article also criticized hybrid publishers who make it appear as if their authors write their books on their own. I agree with this criticism, and I don’t see any reason for this type of secrecy. Most people don’t expect busy professionals to have enough time to write their books alone. Furthermore, when an author acknowledges a ghostwriter, it tells the world the book is professionally written. I advise all aspiring authors to get professional help. An unprofessionally produced book is worse than no book at all.

To learn more about self-publishing, feel free to contact us today!

Photos courtesy of YouTube and


Projecting Your ROI When Writing a Book

Writing a book can be a great investmentRecently, I corresponded with the CEO of a rapidly growing company that offers high-tech, state-of-the-art services to other businesses. To help him understand whether writing a book would be a good investment, I asked him if any of the following statements described his situation:

  • Your potential clients have difficulty understanding what you offer and how it will benefit them
  • Explaining your services consumes a lot of your sales reps’ valuable time
  • Each new sale you close can bring in substantial additional revenues
  • Relating stories (case studies) about how others have profitably used your services helps to close sales
  • You and your company would benefit if you received more invitations to speak at conferences, etc.


“If most of the above apply,” I explained, “writing a book would probably be a very profitable investment for your business. It would serve as a valuable tool for selling your services in a professional, persuasive, understandable, and time-efficient manner, and it would allow you to support your promotional claims with actual success stories. As an author, you will automatically be viewed as an authority in your field. More speaking invitations will come to you, and clients will come to you predisposed to buy.”

He replied to my email, “Yep, we’re 5 for 5.”

Valuable Byproducts When Writing a Book

This CEO and I have an appointment to talk about his book project and my ghostwriting and publishing services when I come to New York City in April. If he does decide to move ahead, he will be delighted to see how the book-writing process can produce other benefits, in addition to the ones mentioned above.

For example, he has been struggling for some time to come up with a brief, easily understood description of the services he offers. Because writing a book forces one to see things with fresh eyes, we should be able to develop this one- or two-sentence description as a byproduct of the process. And if he wishes, we should be able to produce one or more white papers and possibly even a magazine article or two while writing the book, all of which could be very helpful marketing tools.

It sounds like this company could reap a very high ROI from writing a book. Before I work with any client, that’s what I like to see!

Writing a Book has big rewards

For additional information on the subject of writing a book, you might like to download these two free white papers:

7 Reasons Why You Should Write a Book

7 Common Roadblocks to Writing a Book, and How to Overcome Them


A Key to Writing a Successful Book

The Titanic before the tragedy

A scene from the award-winning movie Titanic

On the way to see the movie Titanic several years ago, I mentally prepared myself for a heavy experience. Everyone knows how the story ends. How were the screen writers going to keep this movie from being depressing?

If you’ve seen the movie, you know the answer. Titanic opened and closed with the return of a survivor to the scene of the sinking. The entire story of the ship’s final voyage was told as a flashback. The movie was not depressing at all. In fact, it won 11 Academy Awards, including best picture.

In books, as in movies, conceptualization is key to good storytelling. Writing engaging prose is only part of the challenge. If the book’s structure isn’t right, the best writing in the world will fall flat. That’s why I devote considerable effort at the beginning of every book project conceptualizing the book’s approach.

For example, when retired U. S. Air Force officer Lee Ellis, the author of Leading with Honor, first approached me to be his ghostwriter, he had written a great deal about his experiences as a POW in Vietnam. He also had fleshed out ten or so leadership principles he wanted to highlight in his book. The challenge was how to integrate the story with the principles.

Establishing the Structure

Lee Ellis, author of Leading with Honor

Captain Lee Ellis prior to takeoff

Lee had lived the story, so it was difficult for him to step back and conceptualize how best to present it. One initial idea was to tell the story of his captivity chronologically, with the leadership principles at the end of the book. But that would make the leadership principles seem like an afterthought.

The same thing would happen if we put a single leadership principle at the end of each chapter, with no connection between that chapter’s story and the principle. His story was so compelling that it would overwhelm the leadership teaching. It would like saying, “Oh, and by the way, here’s another leadership principle.”

After much discussion, Lee agreed to my idea for restructuring his book. In the first two chapters, we told the story of his shoot down and capture chronologically. The leadership principles in these two chapters were about knowing yourself and guarding your character, respectively.

The rest of the chapters were structured topically. For example, in a chapter on communication, the story told how POWs communicated using various codes, such as by sending Morse code messages with broom strokes while sweeping floors. That chapter’s leadership principle was about the importance of clear communications in organizations.

Another chapter described some ingenious escape attempts. That segment of the story segued into a discussion of the principle of creativity.

The Result

This structure allowed us to balance an engaging story with related leadership principles. It worked so well that the book won several awards.

When writing a book, make sure your ghostwriter understands the importance of conceptualization. Much more is involved in writing a book than writing.


What It Takes to Write a Book

Is 2017 Your Year to Write a Book?

Michael J Dowling shows you what it takes to write a book.  Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone in La La Land

On New Year’s Eve, my wife and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the movie La La Land. But why am I talking about a movie in a blog about business book writing and publishing? Because a  major theme of La La Land is having the courage to step out of your comfort zone and pursue your creative vision with passion. That’s exactly what it takes to write a book.

It’s also what it takes to achieve extraordinary success. For example, consider the traits that high achievers like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, and Mark Zuckerberg have in common. Certainly, one of the qualities is their ability to envision possibilities beyond their known abilities and pursue them with single-minded dedication. They are not afraid to step out of their comfort zones and take risks.

These are the types of highly successful people who write books. I can testify to this from my personal experience as a ghostwriter.

Bill Rossiter utilized our ghostwriting services to write a book

Bill Rossiter

This past year, I was privileged to provide ghostwriting and publishing assistance to Bill Rossiter, the CEO of the highly successful marketing firm Interrupt. In his well-received new book, Diverge: Break Away from Business as Usual, Bill maintains that if you’re going to be extraordinarily successful, you must think differently from your competitors.

Bill advises readers to set aside time each week for thinking creatively without distractions about vision. He personally does this by making an appointment with himself, which he actually puts on his calendar.

When Bill settles on a particular vision, he pursues it with passion and perseverance. He doesn’t sit around and hope it happens; he makes it happen. His favorite quote is, “Never grow a wishbone where your backbone should be.”

Lots of people say they want to write a book, but they never get around to it.

“I’m too busy,” is a common excuse. But the truth is that virtually all books are written by busy people, because successful people are always busy. With the aid of a ghostwriter (please excuse the self-serving plug), you can get it done with surprisingly little disruption from your normal schedule. And once it’s written, it could save you lots of time that you would normally spend explaining what you do and why people should do business with you.

What about you? Have you got a book inside you? Do you have what it takes to write it? Is 2017 going to be your year?


How To Write a Financially Successful Book


What they do in Leadville in the winter.


Katrina and Walker

My daughter, Katrina, and her husband, Walker, live in Leadville, Colorado. At an elevation of 10,578 feet, it’s the highest city in the United States (about 5,000 feet higher than Denver), and it once was second only to Denver in size. That was in the 1860s, when gold was discovered there. I guess that’s why they named it Leadville.

Today, Leadville has a population of 2,700, and as you can see from the photo above, they have to be pretty creative to keep occupied through the long winters. I check the Leadville temperature quite often on my Android. Right now, as I write this from my home in Charleston, SC. (temperature 64 degrees), I notice that it’s 16 degrees in Leadville, which The Weather Channel says feels like 2 degrees.

I’m telling you this fascinating information to set up the following question: Is is possible to write a financially successful book if your market is restricted to Leadville? 

You may be thinking, why bother? But the answer is yes. If you go about it the right way, you could write a book that would sell hundreds of copies strictly  to people who physically live in or around the city of Leadville. All you would have to do is come up with a topic that appeals to that niche market. I can even suggest a few possible titles:

  • How to Find the Gold in Your Backyard Before Somebody Else Does
  • How to Sell Lead Online at a Huge Profit
  • How to Improve Your TV Reception in a Snowstorm
  • 1,000 Ideas for Getting through February


Those are just books you could sell to natives. If you want to catch some of the thousands of tourists who patronize Leadville restaurants and bars on their way to Breckenridge or Aspen or wherever, you might try some titles like Is There Lead in the Leadville Water? or Are Leadvillians Dangerous Villians?

You get the picture. The key to writing books that sell is to identify your niche market and write on a topic that appeals to those readers. Too many people think their book has to interest everyone. It doesn’t. It should interest more than your mother, of course, but it doesn’t have to be a national bestseller to be financially successful.

To write a successful book, know your target market and write with those readers in mind. To learn how to make lots of money writing a book, read my white paper, “Seven Profitable Reasons for Writing a Book.” It’s available free on my website, and it’s targeted to readers in my niche market.


The other view of Leadville



7 Reasons Why You Should Write a Book

Writing a book can be one of the best ways to increase your organizational success and advance your professional career.

Below are 7 reasons why you should consider becoming an author. Which ones resonate with you?

Reason #1: To promote your ideas

What do the world’s most dynamic movements—both good and bad—have in common? Quick reflection will reveal that a great Rachel Carson is the author of the book Silent Springmany were facilitated by a single book. From Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which helped lay the groundwork for the abolition of slavery, to Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf, which fueled the evil of Nazism, to Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, which raised the environmentalism movement to a whole new level, we witness the power of the written word to change hearts and minds.

You can harness this power to present your ideas to your target audience. A well-written book that clearly and convincingly communicates your views will powerfully influence readers to take the actions you desire.

You see, writing a book is not only the best way, it is the indisputably essential way, to establish your credibility in your field of expertise. Using authorship as a marketing strategy brings you an ongoing flow of clients who are deliberately and purposefully seeking you.

Elsom Eldridge and Mark Eldridge, co-authors of How to Position Yourself as the Obvious Expert

Reason #2: To sell your services

Savvy professionals know that providing worthwhile content is often a much more effective method of selling than advertising. A book will allow you to present your message to your target audience in a helpful, convincing, engaging, and non-threatening manner, which will sell you and your services 24/7/365. By including case studies, stories, and testimonials, you can further boost your credibility and promote your success, while facilitating practical understanding for your readers.

After reading your informative book, prospects will come to you predisposed to buy. As some of my clients can testify, placing a single book in the right hands can generate hundreds of thousands of dollars in new business. Yet, the printing cost of a modest-size softcover book is typically less than $2 per copy.

Reason #3: To advance your career

Lots of people say they want to write a book, but few actually do it. When you become an author, you join a rather exclusive club. People will take notice, and your career will take off. You will be viewed as a thought leader and expert in your field.

Having your name on a book can be an immense boost for your business. The added prestige of being an information product developer lends you the kind of credibility that allows you to increase your hourly rates and project fees.

 Steven Van Yoder, author of Get Slightly Famous: Become a Celebrity in Your Field and Attract More Business with Less Effort

Reason #4: To enhance your professional brand

Writing a book naturally causes you to clarify your vision, your core competencies, your target audience, your priorities, and your message. At the conclusion of the process, you will have a more focused brand and a powerful tool for promoting it to your target audience.  The result will be increased success.   man speaking about his book

Reason #5: To multiply your speaking invitations

The recognition and respect you will gain from your book will make you a sought-after speaker.  If you charge fees, you’ll be able to increase them. Telling your story to groups of people can dramatically accelerate your success.

 Reason #6. To gain exposure in the media

Your book will open doors to media opportunities. Largely because of his book, one of my ghostwriting clients has become a go-to person for CNN, Fox News, ABC News, and other national media outlets.

I tell virtually every self-employed professional, as well as many small business owners, to define their niche specialty, write a book about it, and get it published.

Robert W. Bly, author and copywriter

Reason #7: To get rich and famous

Author of successful book with money

Actually, I’m just kidding about this reason. Your book may indeed bring you fame and fortune, but I don’t suggest using these as motivations for writing it. It’s more realistic to expect that your book will make you “slightly famous” within your field of expertise, and that the proceeds from the sales of your book will help offset (or maybe more than offset) the costs of producing it. When deciding whether to write and publish a book, I recommend basing your ROI projections on reasons 1 – 6 above.

Check out these tips to improve writing skills.

What’s the Best Beginning Book for Improving Writing Skills?

Whenever I’m asked that question, I usually recommend The Elements of Style by Strunk and White as a gppd starting place. It’s short (fewer than 100 pages) and packed with useful information about how you can become a better writer. What’s more, it’s fun to read.

A Few of the Most Useful Tips

The Elements of Style is a classic primer for aspiring writers. Here are a few of its helpful principles for incorporating into your own style:

Use the active voice.

The active voice is usually more direct and vigorous than the passive. This is evident from the following two pairs of sentences, in which the passive voice is shown first:

  • There were a number of dead leaves lying on the ground.
  • Dead leaves covered the ground.
  • The meeting was called to order by John.
  • John called the meeting to order.


Put statements in positive form.

Make definite assertions to help you improve writing skills. Avoid tame, colorless, hesitating, noncommittal language. For example, notice the difference in impact between the sentences below:

  • He was not very often on time.
  • He usually came late.


As a rule, it is better to express negatives in positive form.

  •          Not honest                              dishonest
  •          Did not remember                      forgot
  •          Did not pay any attention to       ignored


Use definite, specific, concrete language.

The greatest writers – Homer, Dante, Shakespeare – are effective largely because they deal in particulars and report the details that matter. Their words call up pictures. To illustrate, which of the following sentences is more forceful?

  • A period of unfavorable weather set in.
  • It rained every day for a week.


Omit needless words.

Vigorous writing is concise when looking to improve writing skills. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, and a paragraph no unnecessary sentences. When a sentence is made stronger, it usually becomes shorter. Thus, brevity is a by-product of vigor.

  • In spite of the fact that he was overweight, he was fast.
  • Though he was overweight, he was fast.
  • He is a man who knows how to succeed. 
  • He knows how to succeed.


The proper place in the sentence for the word or group of words that the writer desires to make most prominent is usually the end.

  • This steel is principally used for making razors, because of its hardness.
  • Because of its hardness, this steel is principally used for making razors.

Your homework assignment:

I hope the above excerpts from The Elements of Style have whet your appetite for improving your writing skills. Your homework assignment, if you choose to accept it, is to buy your own copy of The Elements of Style and reread it often!

If you want to know more about the book writing and publishing process, contact me at 912-230-5051, or email me at I’ll be glad to discuss your book project with you. The initial consultation is FREE!

Bad writing skills can hurt your business.

When Is Bad Writing Good?

In this post, I’ll tell you about an incident where bad writing was actually a good thing, at least for me. My story also has a useful point for you, too.

When is Bad Writing Good?

In most cases, bad writing can be a horrible thing to do. However, there are exceptions to this rule. About two weeks ago, the following e-mail arrived in my inbox:


The courier company was not able to deliver your parcel by your address.\

Cause: Error in shipping address.

You may pickup the parcel at our post office personaly.

Please attention!

The shipping label is attached to this e-mail. Print this label to get this package at our post office.

Please do not reply to this e-mail, it is an unmonitored mailbox!

Thank you,

DHL Global Forwarding Services.

Well, I know better than to open attachments from unknown sources that feature bad writing. But in addition to that, this e-mail looked especially suspicious. It was poorly written and contained three grammatical errors. The bad writing errors are noted in bold italics below.


The courier company was not able to deliver your parcel by your address.\

Cause: Error in shipping address.

You may pickup the parcel at our post office personaly.

Please attention!

The shipping label is attached to this e-mail. Print this label to get this package at our post office.

Please do not reply to this e-mail, it is an unmonitored mailbox!

Thank you,

DHL Global Forwarding Services

Obviously, DHL wouldn’t make those mistakes. “Pickup” should be two words, “personally” is misspelled, and the last sentence contains a comma splice (aka a “run-on sentence”).

A while back, I called DHL customer service. Sure enough, the recording said the e-mail is a hoax and the attachment contains a virus.

This is one of those rare instances where bad writing is good. It kept me from getting a virus!

One moral of this story is to beware of suspicious e-mails, this one in particular. But there’s a more important lesson to be learned from this story.

Your business communications are making an impression – good or bad – on readers, just like that e-mail made an impression on me.

People will probably never say anything to you. But you can be sure they’re judging you based on your writing style and grammatical correctness. It’s never a good time to post bad writing material for others to read.

If the quality of your writing is poor, what do you suppose people will assume about the quality of your products?

If your written communications, including e-mails, contain errors and demonstrate a lack of attention to detail, what do you think people will assume about your intelligence and your professionalism?  Don’t underestimate the importance of good writing and staying away from bad writing!

Contact Me for More Information about Eliminating Bad Writing Skills

Bad writing skills can hurt your business reputation. Don’t let this happen to you. Contact me at 912-230-5051 or email me at I will show you options you can choose to improve your writing skills.

P.S. A little while ago, I received another e-mail from the same sender! I’m not making this up. I paused from writing this newsletter to check my inbox and found this:

Dear customer!

The courier service was not able to deliver your parcel at your address.

Cause: Mistake in address

You may pickup the parcel at our post office personally.

The delivery advice is attached to this e-mail.

Print this label to get this package at our post office.

Please do not reply to this e-mail, it is an unmonitored mailbox!

Thank you,

DHL Delivery Services

As you can see, the sender is learning from his mistakes. He no longer misspells “personally”!

Good writing skills can make a huge difference for your business.

Does Good Writing Promote Business Success?

Do good writing skills promote business success? Helen Cunningham and Brenda Greene, authors of The Business Style Handbook, wanted to know the answer to that question. So they surveyed the communications directors at Sprint, Nike, Prudential, AT&T, Wal-Mart, and 45 other Fortune 500 companies.

Approximately 29% of respondents said that writing skills are very important for success, 22% said they are somewhat important, and 47% said their importance varies with the position.

When asked to grade the writing skills of their employees, the respondents said 36% had good skills and 62% had only fair skills.

But when asked to evaluate the writing skills of their senior executives, they rated 13% as excellent, 71% as good, and only 16% as fair.

According to the authors, these results indicate that

“good writing matters, and it makes a difference in career advancement.”

Grammar mistakes can make your readers feel frustrated.

What’s Your Pet Grammar Peeve?

Are there some misuses of the English grammar that really irritate you? It happens to a lot of people. Many people can even subconsciously commit grammar mistakes without even knowing they are doing so. For example, do you care if an e-mail says “effect” when it should say “affect,” or if a website’s copy reads “complimentary” when the right word is “complementary”?

Common Examples of Pet Grammar Peeves

Al Kennedy of Newnan, Georgia, sent me a copy of an article that appeared in his hometown paper. (Yes, Newnan does have a newspaper!) The article praised a worker in the Department of Family Services “for literally keeping children from falling through the cracks.”

Al wrote, “I could picture this woman grabbing children by their heels to keep them from disappearing through the cracks in the floor. One on my pet peeves is when people use the word ‘literally’ when they’re really speaking or writing figuratively.”

That started me thinking about the subject of pet grammar peeves. As someone who writes for a living, I admit to having lots of them.

Last week, while grocery shopping at Publix, I was delighted to see that the signs at the express checkout lanes read “10 or fewer items.” In contrast, shopping at Wal-Mart for me is always a painful experience. I can’t help thinking that somebody in the Wal-Mart corporate headquarters made a conscious decision to dumb down the signage to appeal to the masses. Why else would the the express checkout signs in all of their stores read “20 or less items”?

Al and I aren’t the only ones who have pet grammar peeves. My wife sometimes make grammar mistakes.

My wife, Sarah, has quite a few. That’s probably because she grew up in Darien, CT, where people say tomaaahto instead of tomato.

My granddaughter makes grammar mistakes.

Whenever our granddaughter, Madison, says, “Me and my girlfriend did such and such,” Sarah never fails to snap back, “My girlfriend and I! My girlfriend and I!”

Even Eben makes grammar mistakes.

Our 6′ 4″ son, Eben, knows just how to get his mother’s goat. When Sarah asks him how he’s doing, he answers, “I’m doing good.”

When you write a book, you’d better get the grammar right. A mistake-filled book will do you more harm than good.

What is your pet grammar peeve? Write and tell me about it. Perhaps I’ll share it with our readers. Just make sure your e-mail doesn’t contain any grammatical errors!


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