The first ever book I designed and typeset was a self-help business book provocatively titled Get Off Your Arse. For its author, business networking entrepreneur Brad Burton, it was his first foray into writing and self-publishing. There was a lot riding on the book’s success and it was a challenge for everyone involved.
The project was about much more than Brad becoming a published author—there was a sound marketing plan behind it. A canny guerrilla marketer, Brad knew a winning formula when he saw one. His huge back-catalogue of anecdotes, rapid-fire style and knack for a catchy phrase would make for a riveting read. Promotion and sales of the book would feed into awareness of his business activities. This would then cycle back round into further book sales, and so on.
Every good book needs a good idea
People who are blunt, single-minded and uncompromising can be fascinating, even if they’re tyrants. I’m not suggesting Brad is a tyrant, of course, but I think he’d happily identify with the rest of the description!
Brad’s target audience included both the self-employed and those considering self-employment. His business networking organisation, 4Networking, and motivational speaking engagements catered for this demographic to a large extent. His aim would be to address the situations and concerns of this audience through the lens of his own experience. By sharing his and his colleagues’ stories he would show the readers of his book paths to improvement.
Brad’s authoritative advice and readers thirsting for that advice would be a powerful combination. What would make it even more powerful would be a workmanlike and sometimes brutally direct tone. Humour and self-effacement would create a balance—the classic good-cop/bad-cop approach.
Making Get Off Your Arse a reality
Brad’s initial drafts for his book were nowhere near being a cohesive and readable manuscript. What he had instead was a collection of raw, stream-of-consciousness musings and anecdotes. Somehow, Brad’s good but disparate material had to be brought together in a logical narrative. This called for the appointment of an editor, and this is where Mark Beaumont-Thomas came into the fray.
Mark had a fine line to tread. He had to help Brad convert his ‘Post-It Note’ ramblings into something solid, whilst not losing the essential ‘Brad-ness’. That was no mean feat, and I can only guess at the amount of toing and froing there must have been. That is not to say this book was ghost-written—Brad was most definitely the driving force and the source of all the material. You could hear his voice clearly throughout the manuscript as you read it.
The clichéd analogy of the jigsaw puzzle really does apply here. Mark’s task was to join all the jigsaw’s pieces to complete the desired finished picture. Whilst knocking the spelling, grammar and punctuation into shape he avoided any attempt to gentrify the prose. The ‘working-class Manc’ was still there, and it would not have worked any other way.
The book design and typesetting
The design challenge with Get Off Your Arse was in striking the right tonal balance. Brad doesn’t do quiet, and he doesn’t do subtle, so the design had to be bold and robust. Brashness on its own, though, wouldn’t work—a clean, professional finish was also needed to lend authority and credibility.
The cover uses a speech-bubble device to get that audacious title right up front in a light-hearted way. The contrasting red-and-yellow colour scheme makes the design pop, but also adds warmth. All this gives the potential reader an inkling of what to expect in the style and content of the book.
The striking cover design also helps Get Off Your Arse jump out amongst other business books. Stylistically, it’s just not what you’d expect to see in the business category, and that works in its favour.
The main aim of the text page design was to make the book as easy to read as possible. Nothing should get in the way of the flow or slow down the pace. Photographs, illustrations, big pull-quotes and longer quoted passages were planned, so these had to be deftly worked in.
The result is a text style that hangs together neatly and flows well. The book is typeset in a clear, strong typeface, at a size and spacing that is pleasant to read for extended periods. Since publication, there are people who report having read all 182 pages in one sitting! The bold pull-quotes stand out nicely in contrast but don’t break up the flow. The overall effect is a perfect match for the content—businesslike, but accessible, unstuffy and irreverent.
Production and sale of the book
In 2009, when Get Off Your Arse was first published, print-on-demand was not what it is now. Brad decided to print a significant run and hold a stock of books for distribution through various channels. An ISBN was obtained and finished artwork, complete with pricing and ISBN barcode on the cover, was presented for print.
Brad already had some sales channels for his book. His organisation’s business networking meetings, and his increasing number of speaking engagements and media appearances provided good marketing opportunities. He also promoted and sold the book online through Amazon and his own website. An e-book version followed soon after, to complete the offering.
Why Get Off Your Arse is a success
Get Off Your Arse achieves what every good motivational business book should. It amuses, enlightens, and promotes a can-do mindset whilst subtly shining a favourable light on the writer’s business endeavours. The book reads easily, and through an entertaining narrative the reader experiences a series of revelations. Each face-palm dawn of realisation is hugely rewarding, prompting the reader to read on for more.
This is all contained in an attractive and accessible package, backing up Brad’s credentials and reflecting his personality. The visual aspects of the book hit the right level both in terms of quality and appropriateness.
Readers, almost universally, love Get Off Your Arse for all the above reasons. The result has been a healthy uptake of the book and a raft of top-marks reviews on Amazon.
The cyclic nature of the promotional system Brad has created has undoubtedly helped further his business interests. In a low-key way, the book promotes what Brad does and acts as an insightful character study. In addition to helping those who read it, it qualifies him in the eyes of potential clients and media interviewers. After the initial investment of time and funds to get the book off the ground, it’s pretty much endless upside.
The book has been a successful marketing tool for Brad and a big win, personally and professionally. Its success has paved the way for another three books so far, with the prospect of more to come. This is a great result and illustrates perfectly the power of a business book solidly executed.