I connected Melissa with a former employee of mine, Zach Obront, and the three of us decided to collaborate on this project, to test it and see what would happen. Here’s the basic step-by-step process we came up with:
- Form a book outline: Zach did a few phone calls with Melissa, helped her clarify her book idea and figure out exactly what she wanted to say in her book. From these conversations, he wrote an outline for the book.
- Interview her for the content: Zach then scheduled four two-hour calls with Melissa, where he “interviewed” her, using the outline as a guide. He asked her questions until he got all of what she wanted to say, in her words, onto an audio recording.
- Transcribe the recordings: He used Speechpad to transcribe the recordings into a text.
- “Translate” the transcription to a book manuscript: If you have ever seen a raw audio transcription, you know they are basically unreadable. So we took the transcription and had an editor “translate” it from spoken word to readable book prose. They basically took Melissa’s spoken words and ideas, and made them flow as written sentences and paragraphs.
- Did some content/copy edits: Melissa took some time to go over the content and make sure it reflected her thoughts and vision for the book. There was some back and forth getting the edits and voice right, since this was the first time doing this and we were still figuring out the process. And of course, we made sure it had no spelling or grammar errors.
- Designed a cover: Because Melissa has an amazing aesthetic, the cover had to look great. This was not a job for 99 Designs. We worked with a world class cover designer (Erin Tyler) to get Melissa a cool cover that looked great and she was proud of.
- Did the rest of the professional publishing minutiae: There are a million little things that make the difference between a professional book and a clearly self-published amateur book; internal layout, marketing, blurbs, copyright page, etc. We made sure all of this was perfect.
- Published the book: Her book, Pop-Up Paradigm, is now up for sale.
- Ownership: Also, we did the deal such that Melissa owns all the royalties and all the rights to her book. She paid for a service, so unlike with regular publishers, she gets all the credit and all the upside. It’s her book, her credit, her money.
Start to finish, the whole process took about 5 months (that was because it was the first time we did it; now it takes about 3-4 months to go from idea to publishing date, and sometimes less).
As we were working through this process, I told a few people I know about this idea, and all of them loved the idea, said I should do this as a company, and they wanted the same service.
Yeah, yeah, everyone loves every start-up idea until it comes time to pay right?
Except two of them bought packages. Like…with real money…during the call.
A few weeks later, I went on a podcast to talk about a whole different subject. During that podcast, I talked about this idea for 20 minutes, sort of by accident. Off of that single episode, we sold four more packages, which meant six packages sold before we even confirmed to ourselves that we would offer this as a service to customers.
When you are selling a product before you even formally offer it to customers, you’re onto something. That is pretty much the definition of product-market fit.
Zach and I decided to call the company “Book In A Box” and officially started offering the services to customers in August 2014. In the three months since, we have done more than 200k in revenue. I had a different publishing services company, and some other side projects I was working on, and I have shelved all of that. Now we focus on Book In A Box full time.
If you’re interested at all in the changing world of publishing, the whole thing is worth a read. I’m always fascinated by new and innovative solutions to old and ever-present problems.