Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Observations on Bicycle Book Publisher and a Career Consultant

Back in the 1980s. Maybe even in the late 70s a book came out calledWhat Color is your Parachute? I think it is now in it's 30th edition or something. I ran across my old copy of the book, and was reminded of the story about its publication. 

The interesting thing about this book is not that it was rejected many times before
Photo by Jay Phagan
being picked up for publication. We all know those stories. Wouldn't you have loved to be the editor that rejected Fodor's travel guides saying something like "Travel guides never sell." 

No, the interesting thing about this story is who finally published the book - a little company called Ten Speed Press. It was based in San Francisco and it published books about bicycles. That was it's whole catalog. That was its "brand." 

Of course, they took on the project for some reason I can't remember now, and the rest is history to use a tired yet accurate cliche. It became the best selling book of all time on Job search and made both them and the author many, many boatloads of money. 

But if you think about it, both the company and the author did everything "wrong." The company was well known as a bicycle book publisher. Their books typically sold in catalogs or to bike shops. They didn't have a distribution system for traditional bookstores. Besides, as a small publisher, they should have stayed in their "niche" and not defocus the brand.

Likewise, Bolles should have "known" that a company publishing books about "bicycles" couldn't do his book justice. 

Today, Bolles is a well known consultant on job search and his book is still in print 30+ years later. And 10-Speed press was acquired by Crown Publishing a division of Random house and publishes books about everything from cooking to sports and yes has some books about bicycles. 

The lesson is that it is okay to step outside your niche. Your niche is not your brand. The quality of your writing or publishing is your brand. Indeed, in order to grow, I dare say you must do something different. 

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