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Matt McGovern's "Know How" (December 2004)

"Know How" is for the well-rounded entrepreneur and small business owner looking for useful computing, marketing, writing, and Web-related articles and tips—plus the occasional topical observation of the world around us.

"Be the Expert: Self-publish Your Own Book or e-Book"
"Did you exercise your voting muscle?"


"Be the Expert: Self-publish Your Own Book or e-Book"
by Matt McGovern

Are you an expert in a certain field or industry? Do you serve a particular niche that is otherwise underserved? Or do you have a particularly good "how-to" process just waiting to be revealed?

If so, a book or e-book—whether authored by you or ghost-written and then self-published—could be your ultimate calling card. While the advent of print-on-demand services, easy-to-use e-book software, and the overall high quality of digital printing these days has made it easier than ever for authors—good or bad—to bring their message to market, I am still of the opinion that publishing your own book or e-book can establish instant credibility and open up business building opportunities.


  • Stay on-topic. If your book or e-book is going to support your business, the subject matter should be specific to your expertise. For example, a professional coach might write about leadership or professional development, or work-life balance. A writer might write about honing his or her craft, or prepare a guide to self-publishing.

  • Keep it simple. As an expert in your field, you undoubtedly have a lot to say on a subject—but fight the urge to say it all. You want to stick to one subject area and present your information or process in a step-by-step, easy-to-follow format. Best-selling e-books tend to be less than 50 pages long. They are focused and clear, without a lot of "fluff." After all, who wants to download hundreds of pages and then either read them on-screen or have to print them out. Printed books can be longer, but again the length of your book should fit the subject matter. And if you have a complex topic, consider parceling it out in smaller bites . . . perhaps as a series of books or e-books.

  • Create a budget. Book publishing can get expensive. Much depends on the length of your book, the design, the quality of the writing, and how many copies you intend to publish. Will you need help organizing the project, writing or ghost-writing? Will you need help editing (often the difference between a bad book and a good book)? Will you need help designing and coordinating the publishing process (or in the case of an e-book the production of the digital product)? How much can or should you do yourself? The bottom line is do as much as you can, but not to the point that the work suffers. Another set of eyes and another viewpoint are often the difference between success and failure. If you expect to outsource most of the work related to the book, except for the initial draft, expect to spend between $3,500 to $10,000 or more depending on editing, writing assistance, length of book, sophistication of design, and (if applicable) number printed.

  • Consider your book/e-book as a passive income stream. Someone who may never pay "full price" for your services might pay $15 to $25 for a book or e-book. Having such a product offering represents a low "price-point" by which people can try you out. Chances are, if your book/e-book is well-done, you will get return customers seeking you out for your presumably higher priced services. But don't count on book sales alone to recoup the cost of your book/e-book project. Book sales plus additional business are what you are after!

  • How will you sell your book? So you've written a book. Now what? Do you have existing pipelines—speaking gigs, seminars, business alliances—through which you can sell it or do you have to develop all those avenues? What about the "nuts and bolts" of selling your book? How will someone order it, WHERE will someone order it? How will you fulfill orders? Can people buy it online (a must)? How will you make your e-book available for download? Do you have a Web site, shopping cart, etc., etc., etc.?

  • When in doubt, get some help. Writing a book/e-book is only half the battle. It's what you do with the book in the production stages, and then in the marketing/selling phase that makes the most difference to your ultimate success. Consider working with a project manager type who can coordinate not only your writing chores, but also orchestrate editing, design, publishing, and marketing.

Ultimately, the cost of writing, publishing, marketing and selling your book/e-book needs to be weighed vs. the benefit to you and your business of having a book—namely increased exposure, higher client conversion rate, credibility, etc.

For those who take the plunge, however, writing and publishing your own book or e-book can be a very rewarding experience.

Feedback? Send your comments to


"Did You Exercise Your Voting Muscle?"
by Matt McGovern

Whether or not you are pleased with the results of the 2004 election, the season of high intensity politicking has mercifully come and gone . . . for now. This election day, tens of millions of Americans exercised their voting muscle—more than 120 million by some estimates or 60-percent of eligible voters—and that's encouraging. Kudos to you if you can count yourself a member of this group! Still other tens of millions of Americans did not vote—many of them between the ages of 18 and 30, the same people who one day will become the future leaders for our country, and that's most disappointing.

It's clear that many Americans take their right to vote for granted, or simply don't care. They have become complacent, reciting the all-too-familiar, "My one vote won't make a difference." But tell that to Al Gore who, had 537 voters in Florida not turned out and voted for George W. Bush in 2000, would most likely have been this year's incumbent.

Luckily, not all of the sons and daughters of previous American generations took the right to vote for granted. Many fought and some even died to secure our ability to hold "free" elections.

Starting in Revolutionary times, through the Civil War and the scandals and corruption of the mid- to late-19th century, through World Wars, and into present day, Americans have waged an ongoing battle to ensure that our system of voting and elections endures. They fought so women could vote; they fought so that all Americans, regardless of race, gender, or political leaning could vote. They won . . . and we and the entire world are their beneficiaries.

When we take time out of our otherwise busy lives to stop by our local polling places, we not only exercise our right (our duty) to vote, we also honor the sacrifices of these past generations.

I just don't buy the refrain, "I'm too busy to vote." No one is too busy to vote—not with absentee ballots and the relative speed and efficiency of modern voting. It took my wife and me all of 25 minutes to vote: 10 minutes to the polling place, five minutes to vote, and 10 minutes back. That's not too much of a time commitment, not too much to ask to ensure that our system thrives and our way of life continues.

The desire to vote, however, is not a wholly American trait—it's a universal desire. For example, in countries like Iraq, Afghanistan and other such troubled spots, many Arabic sons and daughters (along with some of our own) are right now fighting and dying for the ability to elect leaders and to control the destiny of their respective countries. It's the ultimate expression of free will on a national scale.

On one level voting seems such a tiny "thing," a relatively small and insignificant event—the stroke of a pen, the touch of a stylus to a computer screen, the punching of a chad—but when combined with hundreds, thousands, and millions of other such singular acts, voting can be much more powerful than the spray of bullets.

By voting we can literally change the course of history, and virtually everyone—young or old, sick or healthy—can take up "arms" and vote. Only the desperate, disillusioned and disenfranchised resort to violence and intimidation. It's a simple fact. There are many more of us "voters" around than there are those who use fear and guns to gain or maintain power.

So here's hoping you got your "exercise" on election day by exercising your right to vote, a simple act that honors the hard work of those who came before us, as well as hard work yet to come.

Remember, the world we create today is the world our children and their children will inherit. Voting is one way for us to rest easy that our voices have been heard and will continue to be heard.

Feedback? Send your comments to


About Matt McGovern
Matt McGovern combines a rare blend of creative and technical know how with more than 20 years of hands-on management and consulting experience. Through 700acres Small Business Services (, Matt provides writing, editorial, book design, project management, Web development, and marketing consultation services--primarily for small businesses and solo professionals. He has authored and edited numerous Web sites, books, e-books, and newsletters; and has also published articles and short stories, including his first novel, CURRENTS—Every Life Leaves an Imprint (read more about it at


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