Case Study: Ruth Ross Drives Engagement With Hybrid Publishing

Case Study: Ruth Ross Drives Engagement With Hybrid Publishing

coming alive ruth rossThe key to Ruth Ross’s success as an author is her relationship to her publishing partner, Authority Publishing. She left a cozy corporate career to tell her own story in a unique and fascinating way, and she proves that you don’t have to know anything about writing or publishing to get started–and succeed–as an independent author.

I realize I had diagnosed my own disengagement in the workplace,” she said, after spending 30 years as a human resources executive. “When people heard my story, they would tell me theirs, and I soon realized there was a bunch of people feeling the same way I felt.”

That was the inspiration for her first and only book Coming Alive: The Journey to Reengage Your Life and Career.

The book is available in the Kindle and ePub digital formats and in hardback and paperback. It is being sold through Amazon and Smashwords. However, Ross said most of her sales are through Amazon, though she does receive royalty checks from Smashwords.

Ross’s Author Credibility Is Her Calling Card

There is a credibility issue about having a tangible book. I call it an expensive calling card.

Her primary goal in publishing her own book was to see it in print. E-books just made sense in light of her status as author-speaker in the digital age, but because she speaks at conferences and to audiences on the topic she writes about, a print book was a necessity.

There really is a credibility issue about having a tangible book,” she said. “I call it an expensive calling card.”

Not only does having a book in print add credibility to a niche authority like Ross, but it also adds authenticity to her message. So the first step for her was to research publishers, and she started with traditional publishers.

I received an offer from a traditional publisher, a well-known name. The editor and I had a real connection,” she said. “She was very honest and explained the process to me, talking about how long the process would be and how much control I’d lose. And, being an unknown, the expectation from the publisher would be that I’d essentially buy my way onto the best seller list. That did not sit well with me.”

That’s when she decided to seek out a different kind of publisher, what she calls a “hybrid publishing company.”

How Ross Parlayed Hybrid Publishing Into An Author Platform

ruth ross authorShe paid her publisher $6,000 to handle all of the details of the actual publishing–everything from cover design to printing, which also included uploading her e-books to Amazon’s and Smashword’s platforms. Ross herself focused on writing the book. Authority Publishing provided the editor, the cover artist, and everything else.

However, unlike what she’d get with a traditional publisher, Authority Publishing gave Ross the final say in book cover design and other production issues. They served as her expert consultant.

I could not have published this book without the support, advice, and guidance I got from Authority Publishing,” she said. “I submitted the final manuscript and just over 60 days later I had the actual book in my hands. That’s pretty amazing.”

When Ross has a speaking engagement or another opportunity where she can sell books, she calls her publisher and orders books at a discounted price (her author’s price), and then sells them at retail or a fair price above what she paid. She still gets royalties when her book sells through Amazon, Smashwords, or one of the retailers to whom Smashwords distributes her e-book. Either way, she profits.

Her initial order was for 200 books. She’s since gone back and ordered many more. “I find that I order about 150 to 200 at a time,” she said.

While selling books is nice, Ross didn’t publish “Coming Alive: The Journey to Reengage Your Life and Career” to make money. It was simply to support her speaking engagements.

I’m always honored when people want to buy my book,” she said. “I might speak to 30 people or 400. On average, about 15% to 20% of the audience will buy my book.”

Ross’s book sells for $15.99 in the paperback version, $24.99 as a hardback, and $5.99 as an e-book. She arrived at those prices after checking out her competition on Amazon and physical book stores. She uses Square to collect payments on her smartphone. At the end of each event, she’ll get a text notification letting her know how much money has been deposited into her bank account. It even calculates local taxes for her.

She also often sees her e-book sales go up after events.

I spoke to an alumni association,” Ross said, “and the organizer wasn’t really into the book thing, so I didn’t take my books. When I went online at the end of the week, I saw a spike in (e-book) sales.”

Both Amazon and Smashwords have analytics that detail the number of books sold, and they calculate author royalties based on that and the price of the books. Ross sells her books to her audiences at the end of her slide deck with a book promotion slide. It proves to be very effective.

Marketing Mistakes: Don’t Start on Launch Day, Ross Says

ruth ross author talkRoss fully admits she made mistakes along the way.

I was so focused on getting it done that I spent very little time thinking about pre-launch marketing,” she said. “I lost a lot of momentum and played catch up after the book was launched. You’ve got to get momentum going before your book launches. I missed a lot of opportunities.”

When the book did hit the bookshelves, however, Ross’s marketing initiative went into overdrive. She immediately started networking and managed to meet amazing contacts.

Three months after publishing, I was invited to be a part of the prestigious Author Talks at Google,” she said. “Thousands of authors have begged to be included, but I met someone who sent my book off to the person who organizes it and he was impressed with it.” That put Ross alongside celebrities like Bob Woodward, Salman Rushdie, Gloria Steinem, and Barack Obama.

Ross also hired a public relations firm to promote her book. They got her featured in major publications and local talk shows, including a story in Costco Connection Magazine. They also redesigned her website and sent her book to reviewers.

A big part of Ross’s marketing involves social media. She works with a social media consultant who does a lot of her posting on Facebook, although she reserves most of her Twitter and LinkedIn posting for herself. The consultant also handles a lot of Ross’s technical back-end tasks like newsletter platform management.

It’s really important to me that everything I write is in my voice,” she said. So she writes her own articles and allows her consultant to publish them at pre-planned venues. “When I started, I didn’t know I could write. I was a businessperson. I now publish articles on Huffington Post and other places. People see me as a writer.”

Ross had to find her motivation for writing. Her inspiration was derived from her father and late husband.

My dad was 90 and had dementia,” Ross said. “He was pretty lucid and wanted to know what every chapter was about. At the end, he looked at me and said, ‘Even if you don’t sell one copy, it’s still a great accomplishment. Those words have stuck with me.”

Ross’s story proves that anyone from any background can make great accomplishments through independent publishing.

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Order a copy of Ruth Ross’s book

Coming Alive: The Journey to Reengage Your Life and Career

at Amazon and at Smashwords

coming alive ruth ross

Allen Taylor
Allen Taylor
Allen Taylor is a freelance writer, content strategist, and award-winning journalist. He is the author of "E-book Publishing: Create Your Own Brand of Digital Books," available in the Kindle, ePub, iBooks, and PDF formats.

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