I have been discussing business ideas in the last few of articles. As regular readers will know by now, my definition of a business is a system which is established to provide goods or services which satisfy the needs or solve the problems of society. Going by this definition, I have said that the best way to develop business ideas is to look for needs or problems and come up with ways to satisfy them. The more efficiently you are able to solve problems or meet needs, the more successful your business will be. I have made the definition of a business as wide as possible to impress upon you that the only limit to the kinds of businesses you can engage in is your imagination.
In this and the next several articles, I would like to discuss a number of business ideas which readers can think about getting into.
We just had the National Book Week in PNG, which concentrated on encouraging people to read. This is good. But one problem (or business opportunity) I see that most of what people are encouraged to read is material written and published by foreign authors. I believe that we need more Papua New Guinean writers. I also believe that PNG is becoming a more literate nation. The number of readers in the country has been increasing and will continue to do so. Just look at how many people are reading newspapers now compared to the past. That is why I believe that it is now time for people to start writing for a living.
I would like to share my personal experience in writing and publishing as a business. I have met many people who are interested in writing, so this article may be a source of inspiration to them.
Book writing and publishing is an ideal business, for the following reasons:
• We live in the information age where the thirst for knowledge and information is unquenchable. I believe that everyone has at least one book in them, which if they wrote and published, would help other people. I don’t believe people who say that there is no market for books in PNG. From my experience, there is a big market for books in the country. The challenge is to find it and meet its demands.
• Considering that we live in a world without borders or a global village, when you write books, the whole world is your potential market. The challenge is to find the market for your particular kinds of books. There are 6 billion people in the world today. Stretch your mind and imagine if you could sell your book to a million people or just 0.02% of the population. Multiply that by the average price of your book and see how much you could make. There may not be many readers in the country, but there are hundreds of millions of readers in the world. You can sell your books on the world market through the Internet, both in hard copy and electronic book form. The book market is valued in the trillions. You have a better chance of making millions in such a market. That is why successful authors are multi-millionaires. Some of them are so successful that they get paid millions even before they start writing their books!
• Book publishing is a mobile business. If you have a laptop computer, you can literally take your business everywhere you go. I live in Goroka but I have written my books in Port Moresby, Lae, Hagen, Tabubil, and even in the village using a generator as the power source for my laptop. I have written parts of my books at airports lounges while waiting for the plane. There aren’t many other businesses that are as portable.
• And with today’s information technology, you can be in touch with buyers anytime. I get book enquiries and orders through email or my mobile phone anywhere and anytime I am able to get access to the Internet or phone access. You can take your books and sell them everywhere you go. When people get to know that you are in that business, they will always ask you if you have copies with you. You show one person a copy and may end up selling several because others may be interested as well.
• When you get into book publishing, it can be a one-man show, at least until you need to get other people to help out. You can write books and get them edited by other people. You then engage a printing company to print the books, after which you get a distributor to sell your books if they have a good network. Otherwise you can market and sell the books yourself. You can sell single copies or in bulk. Your operational costs can be very minimal.
• Your mark-ups can be substantial. For instance, you may spend K15,000 to print 1,000 copies of a 200-page book. The more books you print, the lower the unit cost. In this case your unit cost is K15/copy. Your freight and marketing costs may add up to K3/copy. So your total cost is K18/copy. When it comes to pricing, you have monopoly power. (There may be other books that are similar to yours, but they aren’t exactly like your book, so your book is literally the only one of its kind on the market). So you can set any price you want. Say you decide to set K45/copy as your retail price. Your profit margin would be 150%. Every time you sell one copy, you make K27. If you print more than 1,000 copies, your unit cost would fall; consequently, your profit margin would be higher. Imagine if you sold 10,000 copies. What if you sold a million copies on the world market?
• When you publish a book, you position yourself to earn what is known as ‘residual’ income. What this means is that your hard work in writing and publishing the book gets rewarded over and over and over. When you work at a paid job, your labour does not have residual value. When you work, you get paid; when you stop working, your salary stops coming in. So the only way to keep money coming in is by going back to work every day. It is different when it comes to book writing. You may expend several months or a year writing a book. So you do all the hard work over that period of time. When it comes to selling your book, there is no time limit. If you run short, you don’t rewrite the book again. You simply instruct your printer to print more copies, and you just keep on selling. The time and effort you put into writing the book has residual value, that is why the money you earn can be labeled as ‘residual’ income. The beauty of it is that copy right laws cover you for the next 70 or so years! So you can write a book over a period of one year and get paid for the next 70 years.
• When you write books, you make money but at the same time you become prominent in the community. Many people will recognize and respect you, and some will even consider you as an expert or authority in the subject you have written your book on. Such recognition will open many other doors into your life. You will definitely meet a lot of people of all walks of life. You may get interviewed on radio or TV. Newspaper journalists may follow you around for stories. You may get invited and paid to speak. You may even create a secondary source of income by converting the main ideas in your book into a seminar or training material. This has been my experience since I started writing in 2006. I have been interviewed twice by Radio Australia; I have spoken on NBC and local radio many times; I have been featured on newspapers; now I am writing for this paper; I have been invited to speak at school graduations; I have met prominent people like our Governor-General and many MPs; and I have been doing seminars for corporate organisations. Seminars is another business of its own, which I will discuss in the next article. People who have known me for long know that I have always been a quiet and obscure person. Writing books has completely transformed my life. It was difficult initially but my persistence is now beginning to pay off. It is now much easier to sell my books than it was when I first started. My readers are always asking when the next book will be published.
There are many other benefits you can realize from writing books as a business. But I believe that I have given you enough in this article to get you thinking seriously about writing your first book. If you are a teacher or ex-teacher, I encourage you to put your experience into a book. The education system is short of teaching materials. You can meet that need by writing a book on the subject you have been teaching. Schools need all kinds of books. If you are an economist, accountant, lawyer, mechanic, technician, food technologist, engineer, journalist, etc, there is a market for your expertise. You may not believe what I am saying but it is true.
You need to transfer your knowledge and experience to the next generation through at least one book, otherwise all the knowledge you possess will become food for the maggots in your grave.