Agile Publishers

Agile can sometimes be equated with faster time to market and success. For those that have authored books, you know that the publishing cycle can not only be brutal, but time consuming as well. I believe the reason eBooks are on the rise is because of some very Agile practices. My suggestion would be for publishers, as they (hopefully) evolve, would move more into services. What do I mean by that? HELP THE SELF-PUBLISHED AUTHOR get his book out the door quicker. Sounds like a new consulting market to me… :)

Top 10 Reasons Publishers Should Adopt Agile

  1. Revenue – The iterative nature of Agile development means features are delivered incrementally, enabling some benefits to be realized early as the product continues to develop. Get that money early. For ePub folks, that means publishing online, piecemeal. That’s what I did.
  2. Speed to Market – Research suggests about 80% of all market leaders were originally first to market. As well as the higher revenue from incremental delivery, Agile development philosophy supports the notion of early and regular releases. Keep the interest going. Build up a brand, build up exposure. Get the word out and grow.
  3. Quality – A key principle of Agile development is that testing is integrated throughout the development lifecycle, enabling regular inspection of the working product as it develops. Sometimes it’s only possible to detect issues or potential problems when you can really see a feature working. It’s not always as obvious from a paper specification. For the book I wrote, I did it in an iterative fashion. Pushed the book out, made adjustments, inspected, adapted, made more changes.
  4. Visibility – Agile development principles encourage active user involvement throughout the product’s development and a very cooperative collaborative approach. Get feedback from people. Get feedback from publishers, editors, copywriters, your community. Active engagement with your audience and market could provide valuable insight. Plus, who wouldn’t want to read a book that they have helped create (crowd sourcing anyone)?
  5. Risk Management – Small incremental releases made visible to the product owner and product team through its development help to identify any issues early in the project, or at least as they arise, making it much easier to respond to change. Don’t put all of your 9-12 months of writing to risk or chance! We move projects away from huge builds and huge roll-outs… why are we still doing it with paperback books?
  6. Flexibility – Change happens. Simple enough. As I went forth into writing my book, I found that there were extra things I needed to add here and there. There were even full chapters that I wanted to add late into the game. Well, since I was working in an iterative fashion, I simply added them in. No harm done!
  7. Cost Control – For authors, cost can be seen as time. Writing a good book is expensive. Hell, if you have enough written, why not just push it out with a lot of polish? If you’ve reached your (say, 6 month time frame), polish what you have, push it out on a blog. Keep iterating on it until you have a full book. Then publish that.
  8. Business Engagement – The active involvement of a user representative and/or product owner, the high visibility of the product and progress, and the flexibility to change when change is needed, create much better business engagement and customer satisfaction. You need a good editor. Period. Get one. Keep them in the loop. But leverage them when you need help on certain pieces of your work. The more input they have, the better your product will be.
  9. Right Product – The ability for the book to emerge and evolve, and the ability to embrace change (with the appropriate trade-offs), the author is much more likely to write the right book, tailor it to your audience, and make sure it is done well.
  10. Fun – Book writing shouldn’t be a drag. If you’re not having fun. Don’t do it. Agile methods allow you to pace yourself, get the right amount of feedback, decrease your risk, and open up the world of possibility for change. When I was fielding publishers for my book, I got a lot of denials. I also got a lot of “We’d love for you to write for us, please make your book 200-300 pages.” Eh? Yep, that wasn’t exactly what I was going for. I used Agile and began #winning at publishing. You can too.

Feel free to email me or post any questions on this post about how I published my book.

[HT:AOP]

3 Responses to “Agile Publishers”

  1. David J Bland
    July 26, 2011 at 1:02 pm #

    In Running Lean: http://www.runningleanhq.com/ the author speaks to how writing a book involved significant customer development to help achieve product/market fit.

    “Once I understood the solution, I started writing. Here again, instead of writing the whole book in isolation, I contacted my potential prospects from the teaser page (some of who were growing impatient) and told them I’d be writing and releasing
    the book iteratively: Rather than waiting six months to get the book, if they preordered the book, they would get 2 chapters of the book every 2 weeks in a PDF format….

    …while I’ve always been prepared to self-publish this book, I’ve been contacted by two major publishers that are currently reviewing the manuscript. I asked them if my model for writing and selling the book so far would be a deal-breaker. On the
    contrary, they wished more authors wrote their books this way.”

    -David

    • peter
      July 26, 2011 at 1:04 pm #

      Wow. That’s encouraging. I got rejected (a lot) because a 50-100 page book doesn’t sell to (large) publishers…
      Smaller scale books… where do they fit in?

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