1991 was a pivotal year in my life. My professional organizing business was 8 years old.
The sales cycle was getting longer and longer for workshop and consulting work. I had formed these crazy habits called eating and paying the rent and was not eager to break either of them.
That's when I spotted an offer for a free copy of a booklet called "117 Ideas For Better Business Presentations." I do business presentations, and the price was right. I sent for it. My first reaction was, "gee, I could knock something like this out about organizing tips.'" Then I threw it in a drawer.
Six months later I was in my office, bored, baffled and beaten down by the slow economy. I had no money. I mean no money!
I remembered that little booklet. I had no idea how I was going to do it, but something hit me, and I knew I had to produce a booklet on organizing tips.
I started dumping all those ideas I ever had about getting organized onto a file on my computer. These were all pearls that came out of my mouth when with clients or doing a speaking engagement or a seminar. I could do a booklet on business organizing tips -- a 16-page tips booklet, fitting into a number 10 business envelope. The booklet was '110 Ideas for Organizing Your Business Life.'
My first run was 250 copies. That was the most expensive per-unit run I made, but I needed samples to distribute to start making money. It took a few months to pay the printer only $500.
The only way I could think of selling the booklets was by sending a copy to magazines, asking them to use excerpts and put an invitation at the bottom for readers to send $5 plus a self-addressed stamped envelope. I had no money to advertise. Then the orders started dribbling in, envelopes with $5 checks in them or five one-dollar bills. The day the first one arrived seemed like manna from heaven:$5! The fact it took 6 months from first writing the booklet until the first $5 arrived didn't matter at that moment.
I cast seeds all over the place, hoping some would sprout. I found directories of publications at the library and started building my list.
Finally, February of 1992 'the big one' hit. A 12-page biweekly newsletter with 1.6 million readers ran nine lines of copy ABOUT my booklet. They didn't even use excerpts!! That sold 5000 copies of my booklet. I distinctly remember the day I went to my P.O. box and found a little yellow slip in my box. It said, 'see clerk'.
There was a TUB of envelopes that had arrived that day, about 250 envelopes as I recall, each with $5 in them.
Round about June, I stopped to assess what had happened. Was I making any money? By then, I sold about 15,000 copies of the booklet one copy at a time for $5. My financial records showed I tediously generated not a ton of money.
Some lessons along the way were expensive ones. My bank charged $.12 for each item deposited. My first bank statement had a service charge of $191.
Some wonderful things happened selling those 15,000 copies.
* A public seminar company hired me to record an audio program based on the booklet. I can sell that tape to my clients as well and it led to a 20-minute interview on a major airline's in-flight audio programming during November and December one year.
* A manufacturer's rep decided to send my booklets to his customers that year instead of an imprinted calendar. 5,000 imprinted copies, including my contact information with theirs.
* A company hired me to write a booklet that was more specific to their product line.
* Paid speaking engagements came from people who bought the booklet.
Things were picking up. One day in June I was bored. I opened one of those advertising card decks that come in the mail. "Here's a company that ought to see my booklet. And another , and another. ' Each got a booklet.
Less than a week later, a woman called, asking the cost of 5000 customized copies for an upcoming trade show, and could I match a certain price.
I slightly underbid her price, she was thrilled and the sale was a done-deal. I thought, 'oh, this will be easy to sell large quantities now'. Wrong. It was another three-four months until the next large-quantity sale. But, the trade show they were attending was an organization I had contacted about getting my booklet into their catalog. They rejected it because I wasn't in their industry. So, my buyer had bought 5000 copies of my booklet, with my company information in it, to distribute at that trade show. I loved it!
One day, a guy I know from a major consumer mail- order catalog company said, 'Why don't you license us reprint rights to your booklet? We can buy print cheaper than you. Charge us a few cents a unit and we will do production. 18 months later, the sale happened: a non-exclusive agreement for them to print 250,000 copies. We exchanged a five-page contract for a five-digit check.
They provided the booklet free with any purchase in one issue of their catalog and made a 13% increase in sales in that issue. They were happy. I was happy.
In spring 1993, I designed a class on writing and marketing booklets and wrote an 80-page manual. The class was small and mostly people I knew. They paid me money, and I had a chance to test-run the class. I then had another new product: a manual, a blueprint of how I had then sold more than 50,000 copies of my booklet without spending a penny on advertising.
August 1994, I discovered Compuserve. My sole purpose for getting online was to market my business. The third day online, I saw a forum message from a guy from Italy who had a marketing company there. His client base was small businesses and companies who served small businesses. I sent him my booklet. He liked it and we struck a deal. He translated, produced and marketed it, and paid me royalties on all sales. That January he wired several thousand dollars to my checking account from Italy. It was the first sale of 105,000 copies to a magazine that bundled a copy of my booklet with one issue of their publication.
To that point, I sold more than 500,000 copies of my booklet, in three languages, without spending a penny on advertising. One slow week, I posted a message on some Compuserve forums about the story of the Italian booklet as an example of an online success story. Even though blatant selling is not allowed, creating mutually beneficial relationships is. I had received money from someone I had never spoken to and had only communicated with online, by fax, earth mail and EFT. The booklet has been licensed into the Dutch language, 13 years after the booklet was originally written.
I discovered licensing opportunities for my booklet content in other formats. Two different companies who produce laminated guides (one hinged, the other spiral bound) licensed my content.
Tips Products International was created as a business of its own, providing products and services to people wanting to write, produce, and market their own booklet, or have much of it done for them. We write tips booklets for clients based on their raw print materials. Three home study packages have been developed:
? How To Write and Market Booklets for Ca$h
? How to Promote Your Business With Booklets
? How to Make Huge Profits Licensing Your Booklet.
Resellers around the world distribute my courses and services I've been invited to speak nationally and internationally, in person and by Teleclass, about how to write and market booklets, how to promote a business with booklets, how to leverage a single booklet manuscript into an entire product line, and electronic publishing.
I never could have written a business plan for how this unfolded.
Clients are surpassing my own sales results of personally selling almost a million copies, without spending a penny on advertising. We have all learned plenty since the original organizing booklet was written in 1991.
Paulette Ensign has never taken a business course. She taught string instruments in public elementary schools for eleven years, became a Professional Organizing Consultant, and went on to create a business based on the niche of booklets. Visit her web site at http://www.tipsbooklets.com