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Book Publishing for Small Businesses

More and more, we’re seeing small business owners publishing books about their practice, and we’re interested to find out why. We did a little bit of research and turns out we’re not the only ones to have noticed (The Quiet Revolution in Business Book Publishing, How Writing a Book Might Help Your Small Business). Our resident knitting pro, Sincerely Louise is currently working hard on her third book. After self-publishing her first two books Faux Taxidermy Knits and The Knitter’s Annual, of which the latter was republished as The Knitter’s Activity Book earlier this year, she’s now focusing on a learn to knit book with publisher Pavilion. The books have been (and still are) a great success in boosting her work and brand, and we’ve no doubt the third will continue the good work. When we recently found out that fellow tenant, Third Angel was publishing their own book too, we knew it was something we wanted to explore further. 

Third Angel is a Sheffield-based theatre company with a home here at Harland Works. Established in 1995, the performance library they’ve built from their original, devised pieces is highly impressive. They’ve revisited the texts of three past shows, Where From Here (2000), Presumption (2006), and What I Heard About the World (2010), and made the decision to publish these together as There’s a Room: Three Performance Texts by Third Angel with performing arts publisher Oberon Books. In the run up to their book launch as part of the Off The Shelf Festival of Words programme, I sat down for a coffee with Co-Artistic Director, Alexander Kelly, to find out the motive(s) behind publishing a book and extract some top tips for anyone thinking about making the leap. 

The conversation started in a predictable way - “why did you decide to publish a book?” -
but without realising, I’d already made a personal assumption that this was mostly around building profile and income generation, so when Alexander explained that the main purpose was to make the work accessible to other artists for them to adapt and perform, I was pleasantly surprised. Many devising companies will publish books on their processes used during the development stages of creating work but publishing performance texts separates them from other theatre companies of a similar generation and style. Building on reputation, opportunities and income generation is of course still welcomed, especially with their 25th anniversary just around the corner. Publishing a book for these reasons makes complete sense, but perhaps knowing this will help you to think about the other benefits of making your practice more accessible to a wider audience. In the article The Quiet Revolution in Business Book Publishing, the quote “the book is not so much a product as an enhanced business card” stood out for me.

When asked whether Alexander would recommend book publishing to other small businesses, the simple and immediate answer was “yes”. He explained that most of the work they do is presented to a physical audience, and publishing a book allows you to “reach an audience when you’re not there”. They’ve published articles before and these have, on multiple occasions, become conversation starters with their audience, allowing them to engage with the work. We think this rings true across multiple industries - publishing a book could be the key to unlocking a wider audience and help to start conversations with the right people. 

With the ambition to ready other business owners for what’s in store when publishing a book, I asked Alexander to list off the challenges, lessons learnt, and top tips from their experience:

  • It’s time consuming - do not underestimate the amount of time that goes into publishing a book. Perhaps allocate your time to it in a less busy period of the year as it absolutely deserves your undivided attention. Third Angel were tackling this on top of their already very busy programme of activity and they’ve learnt a lesson from that!

  • Be flexible to change - your vision for the appearance and content of the book will most likely change. The book you hold in your hand at the end will be different to the book during the process of making, and that’s OK. 

  • Remember that your book is not the only book your publisher is working on - talk to each other about your schedules so both sides know when the other is busy on different projects.

  • This first book doesn’t have to be the only thing you publish - you don’t have to include everything in this one volume!

  • Don’t underestimate the amount of proofing and redrafting - Alexander couldn’t say what the final draft number was but you can expect to revisit it at least 7 times. 

  • Look at how much content you already have for the book and how much new content will need to be generated - Third Angel already had the performance texts, which just needed refining, and similarly, Sincerely Louise has developed her knitting patterns over time, but in all cases new writing will be needed and this can be both difficult and time-consuming. 

We also found some top tips online:
13 best ways to prepare for publishing your first book
14 more tips for publishing your first business book

Here at Harland Works, our exploration and encouragement is far from over. We’re looking into running a session that will provide individuals and businesses thinking about publishing a book an opportunity to hear from a publishing expert about the process, investment and outcomes, and of course to ask questions. We’d love to hear from anyone interested in coming along to this, so please get in touch. Also, if you’ve ever self-published, or worked with a publisher we’d love to hear your thoughts.

With special thanks to Alexander Kelly of Third Angel & Louise Walker of Sincerely Louise for sharing their experiences with us.

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“The great thing about Third Angel is that you never know what you are going to get… heavenly work” The Guardian

There’s a Room: Three Performance Texts by Third Angel will be launched on Monday 14 October at Hallam University’s Performance Lab as part of the Off The Shelf Programme

As well as being in conversation with theatre critic Lyn Gardner, Third Angel is bringing you an evening of interactive mini-performances, readings, a discount on the new book and a drink on arrival! Find out more and get your tickets here.

The new book will be available to buy from Third Angel’s online shop: http://thirdangel.co.uk/shop
You can also find out more about Third Angel’s work on their website, and keep an eye on their tour dates here.

The Knitter’s Activity Book is available to buy from all the big sellers. Here’s a link to it on Sincerely Louise’s Etsy page - and while you’re there, check out all the other knit-based treats too (did someone say Christmas!?). 

Find out more about Sincerely Louise on her website and follow her on all socials for announcements about the new book.