Everything you need to know about custom book publishing

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Everyone has a story to tell and the tangible nature of a custom book has real appeal.

Courtney Nicholls

Our integrated content marketing network provides clients access to some of the best storytellers in the industry. Today, we bring these stories to life across print, video, audio, social, digital, PR and events —and books. Books – which are perhaps what the Hardie Grant Group is best known for – have always been at the heart of our business and despite a real push into content marketing, they continue to be an important focus of the Hardie Grant Media network.

Almost a year ago to the day, we launched a custom book publishing division and I’ve barely had time to take a breath since. There’s been a tremendous response from clients – including established brands, well-known families and accomplished individuals – who all appreciate the value and prestige that a high-quality custom book can bring to their brand or personal portfolio.

Sample photography from Hill of Grace: 150 Years of Henschke Under Southern Skies by Fiona Macdonald (more below).

The tangible nature of a book is a powerful and enduring way to document important milestones and celebrate achievements, which is why we’re seeing demand for our custom book publishing services increase dramatically.

As we approach the division’s first birthday, I’ve had some time to look back and consider some of the most frequently asked questions I’ve received about custom book publishing. I thought it could be interesting to share them more widely. Who knows? They might get you thinking about how a book could benefit your brand or help towards that dream of having your personal work published.

Custom books Q&A

1. What is a custom book?

A custom book is a work published primarily in a print format, which is often heavily branded or niche in nature. Under a custom publishing arrangement, a client’s work is tailored to meet the unique objectives of their brand and to appeal to a targeted reader or audience. Hardie Grant Media is commissioned to undertake book publishing services for a fixed fee, with the client typically owning all stock and copyrights in full.

A custom book can take many forms—the key sentiment that I express when developing a publication model is that there’s no such things as a “one-size-fits-all” approach to publishing a book. The beauty of custom book publishing is that we can reinvent the wheel with each book we publish dependent on the client’s objective or budget. Once we’re clear on these factors, we’ll work together to build a model that is tailored for you. Whether it’s a lavish coffee table book or a simple all-text paperback, we’ll publish a book you love.

2. Can anyone publish a custom book?

One of the things I enjoy most about working as a custom book publisher is the variety of clientele that I get to work with. On any given day I can meet with a number of people all from very different walks of life, with meeting locations often being in stark contrast. The morning might begin in the boardroom of one of the city’s highest skyscrapers and end by being welcomed into someone’s home and discussing a book over a cup of tea and a biscuit.

Like the publication model, there is no one type of client that our Hardie Grant Media custom book team works with. We’re storytellers by nature and recognise that everyone has some sort of story to tell. 

3. Why publish a custom book?

There are a number of reasons why you may choose to publish a book and many ways your tailored book can be used as a tool to add real value to your brand.

Here are some of the most common reasons we’ve found that motivate a custom book project:

To mark an anniversary or important milestone

Everyone loves birthdays – no one more than book publishers. History is important and one of the ties that binds your staff and external stakeholders to your brand. An anniversary or important milestone is your chance to leverage your history, cement your legacy and set out a clear path for driving your company into the future.

A book is also a great way to chronicle your history in one central body of work. One of my favourite anniversary publications that we have published since inception was created for Henschke winemakers. Hill of Grace celebrates 150 years of one of Australia’s first and longest enduring families of wine. 

Direct sales to consumer

Everyone has an idea for a book…” No doubt this is one of the most common, light-hearted observations I’ve heard made within publishing circles. While I can only speculate on the accuracy of that statement, I can attest to the fact that a lot of people have a lot of ideas for books – some of these are more commercially sound than others.

Have you submitted a manuscript proposal to a traditional publisher, which you’re sure is the next New York Times bestseller only to receive a lacklustre response? A custom model might be the perfect fit for you. Hardie Grant Media can provide full publishing services to publish your book and we can also assist with facilitating sale to consumer through our extensive sales and distribution networks both in Australia and internationally.

If you pop into your local book store, you’ll be able to find a number of books published under a custom publishing arrangement. Cranlana The First 100 Years: The house, the garden and the people is my personal favourite, and will be available for sale from September 1.

To develop a brand-building or marketing tool

A custom book can tie in nicely to your brand’s broader positioning and marketing objectives – whether you are an individual expert or global brand. While it may not be the centre of your marketing campaign, a book is a great way to establish you or your brand as an authority in a certain subject matter and can be used as a tool to showcase your expertise. 

A book is also a great tool to assist in building a public profile, because it ties in to other activities such as speaking engagements and conferences. Have you seen the book we produced for Dan Murphy’s? This immersive and interactive multi-format publication was published with the intention to deepen customer relationships and create an emotional connection with the Dan Murphy's brand.

As a gift

A custom book is a great gift for your staff and your key stakeholders. It can assist in building brand loyalty and ensuring that your team feel connected to, engaged with and valued by your brand. Your staff and key stakeholders are your most valuable assets, and a book as a gift is a dignified and unique way to give back to those who contribute so much to your business.

Take a look at the beautiful book we produced for the Dyson Group, which wanted to honour the long, loyal service of its staff. 

4. What are the key considerations a brand should take into account prior to publishing a custom book?

  • Timing and advance planning are essential

    One of the most common questions I get asked is “how long does it take to publish a book?” There’s no hard and fast rule here given the number of variables at play but publishing a book – particularly a detailed history book – can take a significant amount of time. Some projects can be completed in only a few months, while others can span over a number of years given the time needed for research, writing and photography.

    To avoid leaving yourself short of time, identify exactly when you need the book to be available and commence conversations with a publisher as early as possible. 
  • Ideal format and budget

    While we’ll work with you to tailor a publishing solution that meets your brand’s objectives, it’s helpful for us to have a framework to build on. The model will likely evolve, but it’s valuable for clients to present us with their ‘dream’ book format as well as an indicative budget for the project. We can take it from there.
  • What are your objectives?

    Perhaps most importantly, to get our creative juices flowing and to assist us in tailoring a unique publishing solution for your brand, we’d like to know what you’d like to achieve by publishing a custom book. Not only does this assist us with suggesting the most appropriate format and recommending scope of services, but it helps us to identify appropriate suppliers to appoint to the project and identify which complementary services we may be able to provide to help your brand reach its goals.
As you can see, custom book publishing is a great way to share your story, but there are a few fundamentals to consider before you jump in feet first. I hope the above has given you a taste of what could be but please get in touch if you have any further questions courtneynicholls@hardiegrant.com

Courtney Nicholls is publishing manager and heads up Hardie Grant Media’s custom books division.

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