Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Review for The Pitching Bible from John Gough

John Gough is widely considered to be the best connected man in TV and media circles worldwide. His networking, knowledge and influence is legendary. If you mention John Gough’s name, one of the first words that are used to describe him is a ‘gentleman’. He is a gentleman in every sense of the word and that is why the great and the good - in an industry known for sharks and charlatans – not only respect him but also hold him in high esteem.

Prior to his successful life in the media, John was a teacher, writer and designer of educational resources for the UK’s major publishing houses and that is why his considered review of The Pitching Bible is very gratifying.

"Often the divide between practise and theory is quite wide. Only a few practitioners who have the gift to empower an individual to improve their performance can communicate the theory effectively through the written word and even more so embody and retain the spirit of how they do it. Paul Boross has done just that.

Paul Boross has been a speaker and mentoring tutor at the Entertainment Master Class since its foundation and has travelled the world with us working with participants from many different cultures. Every time I hear Paul speak my understanding of how I am perceived and how I communicate has deepened. Paul has an exceptional talent that has proven results.

Having read ‘The Pitching Bible’ I am amazed at how effectively the book communicates Paul’s messages about personal performance. It is a true example of how a book can effectively and practically inspire confidence and bring about change in an individual’s thinking. Without doubt if you read the book it will change how you think, how you perform and how you approach your life."

John Gough 
Head of Programme, Entertainment Master Class

Monday, 29 August 2011

Revelation 2011 Survey - corporate politics and hidden agendas

I'm writing on behalf of one of our authors to ask for a few minutes of your time in completing a survey that will form part of research that they're conducting for a new book on the subject of corporate politics, hidden agendas and manipulation in business which is due for release towards the end of this year. It's a thorny subject, and one which I'm sure has touched your career and life in one way or another.

The results will be made available once the survey is completed, and how long that takes depends on the number of responses received, so please share this with all of your friends and colleagues, and also on any other networks or forums that you are a member of.

The survey is completely anonymous, just click on this link to go directly to it:

Please also pass this on to as many of your friends or colleagues as you can, because the more responses we get, the more valuable the results will be.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Choosing a CRM Vendor: Best Practices, Pitfalls, and the Myth of the Turnkey Solution by Andrew Schultz

We're proud to announce the forthcoming launch of a new book by US expert author, Andrew Schultz.

He has captured his years of experience in building CRM solutions for his clients into the book.

Getting Customer Relationship Management right is a goal to which any customer focused company aspires. Yet, rather than enabling companies to achieve this goal, the complexity of choosing the right CRM vendor can become a stumbling block to companies trying to deliver excellence in customer service.

With an increasing choice of established, corporate vendors, niche vendors and open source solutions, your decision to invest in CRM is vital in supporting the business information that underpins your delivery of sales, marketing and service excellence to your customers.

In this book, Andrew Schultz shares his expertise on the following subjects:
  • CRM: The Illusion and the Reality
  • The Fall of the Biggest CRM Vendor in the World
  • The 3 Pillars of CRM
  • Finding a Solution
  • Choosing a Vendor
Having led many CRM implementations as a consultant, and in his current role helping CRM consulting firms and vendors of CRM add-on applications develop solutions relevant to customer needs, Andrew Schultz is a solution architect with deep experience in understanding customer requirements and mapping those requirements to CRM functionality.

In Choosing a CRM Vendor, he shares both his objective advice and the hard earned 'insider secrets' that you will find invaluable in making the right CRM vendor decision.

You can find out more about Andrew at his blog:

Book Review from Jeff Ford, Director of Programmes at Channel FIVE

Jeff Ford, Director of Programmes at Channel FIVE, has sent in this review for Paul Boross' book, The Pitching Bible, which is quickly climbing up the sales charts.

"When I first picked up Paul Boross new book, The Pitching Bible, I thought that it was a rather grand title for a book that surely couldnt teach me anything new. Yet, page after page, I rediscover ideas from a completely new perspective and, for me, that is The Pitching Bibles real value. It helps me to make sense of the experience that Ive gained in pitching, and it brings new meaning and new insight into all the things that I know that I should know, and that I know make a huge difference to the success of any pitch. I highly recommend it."

Jeff Ford

An Author's Role in Book Marketing

We publish business non-fiction, mainly, and that is always a niche market. Very few business books sell in large numbers, because not all readers are 'business people' with a need to develop their careers, presentation skills, leadership skills etc.

Therefore, for most business authors, the way they actually make a living from their book is as a marketing asset for their business. People who run service businesses in particular have a difficult time demonstrating value, and a book is a good way to capture intellectual property. There are many ways that a book adds value to a service business.

So our criteria is more like, "Can this book add value to the author's business?"

We look at what the author's business is, what they're doing to market that, where a book would support them, how many they are likely to sell and so on. We turn away books that are badly written, and we do look at what else is in the market. We also look at the author's credibility in their field of expertise.

Our selection process is similar to that of a traditional publisher, but we look at the author's business as a whole, not just their book.

Size of network is not that relevant, actually. We did some research into social media and found that marketing 'experts' advocate the use of things like Twitter, but in reality their use of such tools is misleading at best:

In terms of a personal network, real people you know, they are probably not the potential target market, so they're not that valuable either. Where they are useful is in building and communicating the author's credibility, but that involves a bit of engagement on their part, which they aren't always willing to give.

We have one author who spends a significant amount of time networking, but a lot of the people he knows just want something for nothing, and when push comes to shove, they shy away from doing anything tangible to help promote the book. However, the biggest jump in his book sales has come about when he delivers a lecture to a special interest group. One of the things that we help him with is publicising what he's doing, which he had never done before, and recognising the value in it. When he delivers a 'free' talk, the deal is that the organisation publicises it and his book and sends an email to all their members with a discount code. That's just one example, of course. The main benefit for him is that the book builds his credibility which gains him more work. We turned his book content into a lecture, and when he delivered it a media festival, he was invited to seven other festivals to deliver the same lecture.

The author is vital in marketing the book, because the book is a mechanism for getting the author's ideas to the reader. Therefore the reader isn't interested in the book itself, they're interested in connecting with the author's expertise, or creativity, or sense of humour or whatever the book is about, and the author's personal credibility is therefore key.

This is why the big publishers see ebooks as a threat, because once we free ourselves of the pleasure of holding a chunk of paper, what we really want is to connect with the author's mind, and the delivery mechanism will evolve to support the way that people live and work.

The size of a network does not necessarily denote credibility. I would say that our decision process involves something like this:

Is the author credible in their chosen subject?

Is their book well written? Is it accessible? Does it convey the right expertise to the right people?

Is the author committed to developing their business, and is there the right business environment for the book to make an impact on their business success?

Is the author looking for a partner relationship that allows us to add value, or do they see the publisher as the dogsbody who puts their work on the shelf?

Ultimately, the success of the book must be a partnership that engages the reader, the publisher, the author and the author's business.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Book Review from Neil Mullarkey

We've just been sent another review for Paul Boross' book The Pitching Bible, this time from well known improvisational comedian and actor Neil Mullarkey. Neil does a lot of corporate work too, using improv comedy skills to help teams become more creative and effective.

"I’ve known for a long time that Paul Boross has many years’ experience in pitching, but even I’m astonished at just how much he has managed to pack into The Pitching Bible. It’s fun, it’s entertaining, and in my line of work, that means that you will learn a great deal without even realising it. Yet the structure of the book really does drive those valuable lessons home, and by the time I reached the end of the book, I felt that I hadn’t just been reading; I’d been learning, and that’s the most important lesson of all. One thing is for sure, you will greatly ImprovYourPitch with The Pitching Bible."

Neil Mullarkey, Director at ImprovYourBiz and Co-founder of The Comedy Store Players

Monday, 22 August 2011

Cutting Out the Middle Man

Fanseyeview reports that Amazon and authors are cutting out the middle man, in this case the publisher.

Well, in every market we see a long term trend of price wars at the retail end squeezing margins across the whole supply chain. As an ecosystem, the publishing world produces a few gems and a lot of noise, for example the ever-increasing pile of self help books from minor celebrities.

For a few years, the print end of the supply chain has reduced costs, through digital technology, then a move to Asia and China, where we can get a 250 page book printed in relatively small quantities for £0.78 (about $1).

While it's easy to focus on the greedy retailers such as Amazon and their cut-price-to-win-market-share-at-publisher's-expense strategy, we shouldn't overlook the role of distributors who are still looking for 50% of cover price to hold stock for a publisher.

The evolution of any market in this state is "disintermediation", or the cutting out of the middle man.

However, it is easy for people to see the publisher as the middle man, and say that with self publishing, who needs a publisher?


Self publishing means that the author becomes the publisher. And then, instead of writing, or talking to readers, or holding signing events, the author spends his or her spare time managing orders, maintaining ISBN records, designing book covers, formatting manuscripts, setting up pages on Amazon, setting up distribution arrangements, locating niche retailers and all the other things that we do as a publisher.

So disintermediation can't take out the publisher. Remember, this is the publishing industry. You can't take bakers out of the bakery, all you can do is get the baking process closer to the customer.

In the case of publishing, you can't get the reader any closer to the author, otherwise the author would never sell any volume of books. Having read a few news stories, blogs and other commentaries on the subject, it seems that most people overlook the fact that the author's work is not the book, the book is a physical product that the publisher creates to convey the author's work into the reader's hands.

Projects like Unbound are not a revolution in publishing, and they don't replace a publisher. Unbound is a publisher, they just have a different business model, as outlined in my previous post.

Print costs are rock bottom. Cover prices and sell prices are rock bottom. Who do we cut out? The people who actually turn the manuscript into a saleable book? Or the people who take a cut just for moving the book from one place to another?

Why is Amazon moving into publishing? Because they know that it's the retailers and distributors who are the middle men.

Monday, 15 August 2011

They're At It Again

According to The Guardian:

"A class-action lawsuit has been filed in the US alleging that Apple and five major publishers "colluded ... to illegally fix prices" of ebooks."

Here we go again. The big publishers, in this case HarperCollins, Hachette Book Group, Macmillan, Penguin and Simon & Schuster are accused of conspiring with Apple to set prices and force Amazon out of its 'cut prices to win market share and expect the publisher to take the hit' business model.

The complaint centres on the agency model – used by Apple for iTunes and by most major publishers for ebook sales – in which the publisher, rather than the retailer, sets the retail price of ebooks.

It's interesting, because what they say about the agency model makes it sound as if the publishers are calling the shots. Not so.

Here's the way it works. Normally, we set the cover price and the retail discount level, and retailers can sell the book for whatever they want. Makes no difference to us if they make any money on it, we still charge them the same wholesale price.

But with agency pricing, we set the end user price, and the retailer, in this case Apple, takes their margin out of that. Essentially, their retail margins are protected by the fact that they tell us how much profit they want and we then have to price the book to allow us, and the author, to make some money too.

So agency pricing is not in the publisher's interests at all. Nor the authors. Guess who it benefits? Oh yes, Apple.

We have an iPad. Most of the time, iTunes doesn't work, and iTunes is the only way to get anything onto the iPad. The latest problem was a continuous loop of having to verify an email address that prevented logging into the iTunes Store. It seems that Apple's attitude is that their products are perfect, therefore everyone wants one, and all content producers want to work with them.

We don't like Amazon's cut price policy any more than anyone else does, except of course readers, who are always on the lookout for a bargain. But we protect ourselves against a financial loss by setting our retail discounts accordingly. In the past, we mistakenly joined Amazon's Advantage program. Guess who it's an advantage for? Amazon. On two books, we made a loss thanks to their non-negotiable 60% discount.

So now we treat Amazon like any other retailer, and everything works well. Customers still buy books, we get our wholesale prices, the author gets their royalties, and Amazon have to make a living like everyone else - by not abusing their suppliers.

Of course, in an agency pricing world, if we were to start talking to Apple and agreeing to fix prices, which would only happen if we were a really big publisher, then that wouldn't be fair at all. It would mean that Apple wasn't treating its supplier relationships fairly and equally. Could you imagine such a thing?

The lawsuit alleges that "the five publishers "feared" Amazon's move to price ebooks at $9.99 – a figure considerably below physical book prices. The pricing "threatened to disrupt the publishers' long-established brick-and-mortar model faster than [they] were willing to accept", and to set low consumer expectations for ebook prices."

Oh, shame. Don't we all feel sorry for them?

Friday, 5 August 2011

Good Enough To Be a Beach Read

We're very pleased to have received this review for Paul Boross' book, The Pitching Bible, from David Lyle, CEO of National Geographic's TV channels:

“I enjoyed the book very much and I think it is a top to bottom checklist and practice guide for an essential part of television that is too often overlooked. Too often producers agonize about the development of an idea and fantasize about the production, But without an effective pitch they are whistling in the dark.

Very nicely thought through and researched. I haven’t finished (stuff came up) but will do so in the next day, sitting in the sun.  That’s how good it is, good enough to be a beach read.”

A beach read? Now that really is high praise for a business book...

Thursday, 4 August 2011

The Art of Pitching

New Business magazine have published Paul Boross' article about his observations on pitching within the TV series The Apprentice.

The latest series of the Apprentice came to the end of its television journey here in the UK with the inevitable media focus on entrepreneurial business skills and, in particular, the art of pitching.

Almost every episode of the popular, business-based cross between a reality program and a game show features the contestants having to make a pitch.

They pitch for business, pitch for orders, pitch ideas and they pitch to keep their jobs in the boardroom showdown at the end of each week's task. What's interesting is that, every week, Lord Sugar says that he's not looking for a sales person, yet every week the task involves selling something; either low key, selling products to individuals, or high stakes pitching to the buyers of major retailers.

What does this mean? Is buying and selling all there is to running a business?

Fundamentally, what defines a business is profit. I don't mean that profit defines how good your business is, I mean that profit is what distinguishes a business from a public sector organisation, charity or foundation. Yes, these organisations need to raise capital to cover their operating expenses, but they are not driven or measured by the delivery of raw, financial value over and above that.

Fundamentally, every business has to buy raw materials, add value and then sell some kind of finished product. It might buy graduates, add training and then sell accountancy services. It might buy equipment, add support expertise and sell an IT service. Or it might buy electronic components, add design expertise and sell computers. All of these examples point to one principle; that business is indeed about buying and selling.

While Lord Sugar may have the contestants buying and selling waste materials, biscuits, fruit or illuminated teapots, what he is actually doing is stripping business down to its raw essentials.

Where does pitching fit into this? Every week, we hear one or more contestants saying, "I want the opportunity to do the pitch", or, "I delivered the pitch", or, even "I pitched it to him", referring to the point where a contestant asked a builder if she could have another copper hot water tank. The contestants vie for attention, trying to win the team leader's favour so that they can do the pitch. Is pitching really that important to the success of the task or business? Or is it just an opportunity to "shine"? And how closely does the fiction of a TV game show fit reality?

One thing that we never see in The Apprentice is Lord Sugar pitching. Is this another sign that a pitch is no more than a ‘beauty parade'?

Let's first look at what a pitch is. It is a sales cycle compressed into a very short space of time, perhaps as much as twenty minutes, or as little as three.

Whilst sales is an interactive process, with a good sales person listening much more than speaking, one of the difficulties in a pitch is the buyer's expectation that the sales person does all the talking, while they listen and make their minds up. If the sales person doesn't get it ‘right', no deal.

So a pitch isn't made ‘off the cuff', it's the culmination of a great deal of hard work, understanding the needs of the client or target market. One of the biggest problems that the contestants in The Apprentice face, week after week, is clearly identifying their target market. All too often, they start with an idea, or a name, instead of a target customer.

Advertising is an even more condensed form of pitching. In an advert, you're broadcasting, "This is the product, are you the right person to buy it?" It's a product led pitch, and it relies on getting in front of as many people as possible, preferably within the target market.

And so we end up with two types of pitch; client led and product led. And Lord Sugar's bias is very towards the client led pitch. Every time he talks about his own business career, he talks about customers; major retailers and consumers. Yes, he sees himself as operating in a particular market, but what he really seems to focus on is what the buyer needs. Yes, he had to pitch products, but he didn't pitch blindly. I would bet that every pitch he delivered was calculated and targeted to meet that buyer's needs.

Does Lord Sugar still pitch? In a way, yes. At the start of each week's task, he pitches to the contestants. You might think that they can't really say, "no thanks", but he is still aiming to get their buy in, to clearly communicate what he is looking for. Every week, he is very specific and gives a big clue about the success of the task. And every week, the contestants overlook that clue and get wrapped up in their own excitement, politics and desire to be in the limelight.

What clues are you missing from your clients because you're too focused on what you want to say? What needs are you failing to meet because you're too wrapped up in your own? Pitching is just a small part of the sales cycle, or it encapsulates the whole process, depending on how you look at it.

How important is the skill, really?

That all depends on how much you want to win.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Publishers Still Control the Book Market

Once again, The Bookseller provides us with an interesting snippet of news about the progression of the publishing industry.

"Despite the collapse of two of the world's largest high street book chains the book publisher Penguin lost only £36m in sales in the first half of 2011, while profits narrowed marginally. Digital sales made up 14% of its overall business, resulting in total sales of £64m at a growth rate of 128%"

Despite the collapse? That would be like saying that despite the collapse of Marks & Spencer, sales of woolly jumpers were down only 5%, or despite the collapse of Tesco, people have surprisingly not starved.

I think that what this demonstrates is that the major publishers have the upper hand with the book stores. Clearly, the majority of Penguin's profits were generated as a result of its own marketing, not because readers go into book stores and have a browse around. When a reader wants a particular book and they find that Borders has disappeared, they just go somewhere else. Let's face it, people haven't stopped decorating just because Focus has gone. Our local focus now has a sign on it directing customers to the nearest B&Q.

I think that this demonstrates that the major book stores are just a shop window for the major publishers. Mind you, that's what I've been saying for the past ten years.

The only reason that book retailers like Waterstones buy books from self and independent publishers is to prevent the likes of Amazon from owning that share of the market; a market that is fast growing. Let's not kid ourselves that they actually support authors who choose not to publish with the dinosaurs.

What Penguin have demonstrated is that the retailers can fight amongst themselves; it really makes no difference to the book market.