Publishing on a Diet – SlimBooks

I don’t know how many times I’ve thought (and said), “Most business books are 30-50% too long.

It’s not that there isn’t value in the content. It’s just that the reader has a lot of work to do in order to distill it. Can’t we buy 100-proof books instead?

This appears to be the approach of SlimBooks. So, when Sarah Evans announced that her new book, [Re]Frame, was available through SlimBooks, I had to check it out. Not only because I think highly of Sarah, but also because of the SlimBooks format.

I like what I’m seeing.

The era of quick and simple electronic publishing is well underway; traditional publishing is being thoroughly disrupted. With ventures like Seth Godin‘s Domino Project and Tim SandersNet Minds, we’ll continue to see innovative new way to introduce voices into the marketplace. SlimBooks looks like a great addition to the mix – it seems to me like a perfect format for at least two types of books:

  1. Nugget collections
  2. Distilled, focused content (without all the fluff)

Sarah’s book falls into the first category. It is a series of brief thoughts, drawn from her life and business experience. It’s the kind of book designed for a quick pep talk each morning, helping you “re-frame” how you look at challenges and opportunities. It’s folksy, practical, personal, and to the point. And, importantly, it’s Sarah – not some unrecognizable version of Sarah fitting into a pre-baked business book format.

Worth $4.95? Sure. [Re]Frame will probably provide greater value to those earlier on in their career arc, but I already found myself musing a new blog post based on the idea contained in the chapter, Be An Owner (a “chapter” in this book being, typically, 1.5 pages!)

As someone for whom distillation of content and ideas seems to be a DNA-level blessing/curse, the potential for the second type of book fascinates me. Maybe I’m just old fashioned, but I think traditional books don’t refine the gold very well, and leave us with far too much ore. I suspect that there are many potential authors out there, who have valuable ideas but for whom the traditional publishing format (both writing and business) is a mismatch. It will be interesting to see new voices liberated through the availability of a platform that approaches content in a different manner.

Will we see a spate of new “diet” books? I hope so – as long as the content is nutritious and the extra calories are left out!

___________

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About Steve Woodruff
Steve Woodruff is a blogger, a Connection Agent, and a consultant in the pharma/healthcare industry. He specializes in helping people and companies make mutually beneficial connections.

16 Responses to Publishing on a Diet – SlimBooks

  1. Tom Martin says:

    Interesting Steve — Love Sarah but 1.5 page chapters?

    Is it really a book or just a collection of blog posts in a more convenient, portable form?

    I love the new democratization that epublishing is bringing to life but I sometimes fear that we begin to dilute the meaning of things.

    For me Books are more grounded, deeper analytical or informational deliverables on a key subject matter. I expect that the ideas will be more well grounded and more thoroughly presented to me than say in a blog post.

    Can you really introduce an idea and then thoroughly vet it in a page and a half?

    Maybe in this case you can given the focus but for more complex ideas, marketing for instance, I worry that by making it possible for anyone who “could” be an author to be one, we forget that not everyone “should” be an author because frankly they just don’t have the chops for it — and I’m not for a minute placing Sarah in that frame of reference because she is one who both could and should write long-form.

    Thoughts?

    • Tom – with apologies to Bill Clinton, I think perhaps this comes down to what the meaning of “book” is. Sarah’s volume is in no way intended to be a Book as you have so defined – it is, in a sense, more of a devotional volume for personal and professional growth. But I don’t view all books as detailed, analytical treatises, nor do I believe that all topics need that treatment in every instance. Semantics matter, of course, but I’m not sure where the line can/should be drawn between an official “book” and a collection of written content that doesn’t qualify for that title…Are children’s books not books? Are books of quotations not books? What about Seth Godin’s shorter works? It’s an interesting topic for discussion…

      • Tom Martin says:

        Steve i feel like I”m reading Dr Sues ;-)

        Yest context matters… and yes all of those books are books, so maybe my concern is more in the arena of professional or business books. The ones consultants often write to position themselves as an expert on a chosen topic and that business people often buy in search of knowledge and guidance.

        I would say that Sarah’s is a Book by definition — SlimBook — and the entire epublishing industry is playing off the traditional context of “book” in that they’re value play is the democratization of book publishing.

        That said, I just hope the industry keeps some kind of walls up lest they devalue the entire industry or term ebook, slimbook, etc., from a consumer point of view.

    • Hi Tom. Thanks so much for the feedback. Your points are important and so very valid. It’s funny because I’m working on a guest post for @MuckRack and I made sure to include that this content is all original, not repurposed blog content. That said, I kept my blog style writing in mind for each “chapter.” I intend the book to be read in snippets so people have an opportunity to digest the information and work on building new habits or reframing. I think it’s important that people like you hold writers accountable to doing their best work, regardless of the length. Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment.

      Best,
      Sarah

  2. Kevin Kruse says:

    Steve, great post on a topic I’m passionate about. I’d actually pay MORE for someone to distill the big book down to its essence. Also, so few people buy books, and fewer people read the books they buy, that I think brevity is critical if we really want to get our message out there.

    I still remember when I wrote my first book over a dozen years ago. The editor as Jossey-Bass told me it had to be 400 pages. “Readers really need that much detail?” I asked, naively. “No, because I want to charge over $20 for it. It needs to feel heavy in buyers hands before they’ll pay that much.” Not making it up. Old wisdom is big books justify big prices.

    Distilled wisdom for the price of a latte is the way to go.

    • Kevin,

      That was my experience as well. Honestly, I don’t think I’m smart enough, nor have enough content in my brain to produce a 400+ page book. In fact, I can rarely read a book that long unless it’s The Lord of the Rings.

      You sound like a perfect candidate for SlimBooks. Let me know if you want an intro to the founders.

      Best,
      Sarah

    • Kevin, love the “latte” phrase! I believe in getting to the point immediately, whether it’s a book, a Powerpoint presentation, or a marketing message. When it comes to words, more is less – less clarity, and less retention. Anyone can pile up words into pages – it takes real talent to distill ideas to the fewest (and most vivid) possible phrases.

    • Kevin Madsen says:

      Kevin – agree with Steve, love the “latte” analogy, and I love that you said you’d pay more for distilled wisdom. That’s how we feel as well. It shouldn’t be: “A 50 page book for $4.95? But I can get a 250 page book for $12.95!” If the ratio of valuable content/fluff is measurably higher in the short book, that should be flipped, and the short book should be worth more. Glad you see things the same way.

      Glad we’ve got awesome authors like Sarah leading the charge on this.

      Kevin
      SlimBooks.

  3. Steve,

    Thank you so much for your review. It’s a scary thing to put yourself “out there.” That’s what [RE]FRAME feels like to me. I appreciate you being open to exploring the idea of “slim book” through SlimBooks.

    There’s no reason anyone should ever hear the words, “Your book is great. We just need it to weigh more.” That’s essentially what I heard from other publishers (who wanted me to write about PR and social media). Sometimes what you have to say doesn’t meet a page requirement and, even more, doesn’t need one. My writing style is informal and fits the “short and sweet” category quite nicely. I will not string together an endless list of adjectives for the sake of page length.

    I view this book as a resource, or addendum…the distilled down information. No fluff. I even gave up additional space on each page purely for visual content. It was the “pinterestification” of the book and something I believe helps the learning process for readers who are visually driven.

    This format isn’t right for all types of books that would be silly. Some books require additional analysis, examples, but this isn’t one of them.

    I love that this thread is building a conversation around the traditional publishing model, which I believe needs to get up to speed. I look forward to reading others’ opinions. Feel free to reach out to me directly with any questions at prsarahevans@gmail.com.

    Thanks again! -Sarah

  4. This all reminds me of a blog post from 3 years ago with a different angle, Progressive Publishing: http://brandimpact.wordpress.com/2009/08/05/progressive-publishing/ I still think it’s a valid model for the future.

  5. Pingback: Book Review: Fierce Loyalty « Connection Agent

  6. Pingback: What is SlimBooks? « Deb's Answers

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