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Author Whisperer: How a Book Launch Helped Manuscripts’ Brian Bies Unlock the Secret of Modern Authorship

Author Whisperer: How a Book Launch Helped Manuscripts’ Brian Bies Unlock the Secret of Modern Authorship
Photo Courtesy: MANUSCRIPTS

By: Factfullguys

“Launching your book should be a bigger deal,” says Brian Bies, the head of publishing for Manuscripts.

“The New York Times found that 1% of people who start a book will ever, ever finish it… heck, almost 65% of people who start college will graduate, and we throw this gigantic graduation celebration for them. Something 60 times harder to do like your book should get a party at least as big and probably bigger.”

Bies talks fondly about his experience as a first-time author, noting that a published author and family friend insisted he not take for granted that moment and milestone of publishing his book.

“She really encouraged me to remember that a book is a huge, huge deal. And to leverage that moment and experience to create momentum for the book.”

For Bies, his 2017 book launch event was the catalyst for his unique career in the book publishing industry.

“We threw a big event for my book launch – several events actually – and I was blown away at the support and all the opportunities that came my way from it. It just became obvious to me that not enough authors are leveraging the launch of their books this way. And that was really the spark that led us to building Manuscripts.”

Bies partnered with Georgetown professor Eric Koester to develop Manuscripts, the leading author-owned writing and publishing community in the world. Having helped more than 2,000 authors write and publish books since 2017, Bies realized their unique approach was what separated their authors from the thousands of others out there. They were certified as a B-corporation in 2022 and are committed to ensuring every author in the community retains all the rights and royalties in their books.

“We really believe that authors should have more moments to celebrate their book,” Bies says. “Launches aren’t just the day you publish, but when you announce the book is available, when you announce your audio book, and more.”

Bies, Koester, and the Manuscripts team are unusual in the industry with their emphasis on audience activation prior to publishing. They find that their authors engage as much as 200x more with their audiences than most traditional authors do.

“Our methodology has been recognized as one of the most innovative approaches in books and publishing,” shared Bies. “And it’s all based on the True Fan theory, an insight from Kevin Kelly that a relatively small number of true fans can create a disproportionate outcome on the success of a project and the economics of the author. For us, most people in traditional publishing talk about needing a million followers on social media or 50,000 people on an email list to have a successful book launch. We’re finding that building an initial, engaged fan community of just 200 people can put you in the elite air of authors. It’s really been a disruptive lesson.”

Kevin Kelly, the former Wired Magazine editor, posited in the early days of the internet that its most disruptive power would be in the creative economy. “With just 1,000 true fans each contributing $100 per year to musicians, artists, and authors they love, that creator would earn $100,000, which is a good living for most people.”

For Bies and Manuscripts CEO Eric Koester, that meant thinking about how today’s authors could create their own true fans. “We realized there was already a mechanism in place for authors to create fans,” Koester shared. “Most big-name authors from Adam Grant and Brene Brown to Tim Ferris and Gabby Bernstein announce their book and let people preorder it. If you’re willing to buy a book before it’s available, you’re probably a fan. When we studied the industry, we found that very few emerging authors followed this approach of investing in a true presale and prelaunch marketing campaign. We realized a book announcement was the most obvious way to create true fans, and we’ve been blown away by the results.”

Manuscripts has been twice named by Inc. Magazine to its prestigious Inc 5000 list, clocking in each time as the #5 fastest-growing education company in the world.

“The reason the two-hundred fans modern author model works,” shared Bies, “is that it has all these powerful effects for an author. First, they wind up creating word of mouth for their books. Fans actually tell 3-5 people to read a book they pre-buy, whereas a typical reader tells zero people. Second, it makes the book better because you have this community of people giving feedback on it. And third, this ensures that the author owns 100% of the book by using the presales to fund cover designers, editors, and marketers. It’s remarkable.”

Koester agrees. “Any creative today should be thinking about their audience differently. Fans make a huge impact in the success of your podcast, your event, or your book. With my last book Super Mentors it’s sold 20,000 copies without any real marketing. But my fan strategy involved getting 800 people involved in the book before it was done. All those people got a ticket to the launch event and really catapulted the book from there.”

“We focused on creating a community around the author’s book launch,” Bies says. “Every author should get to experience something special around theirs too.”


Published By: Aize Perez

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