For the last 25 years, Echoing Green has unleashed next generation talent to solve the world’s biggest problems through their social entrepreneurship Fellowship program. Echoing Green recently developed a new program, Work on Purpose, which helps young people create a life and career that is both right for them and good for the world. Lara Galinsky, who is senior vice president of Echoing Green, knew that publishing a book would be a powerful way to launch this program, and wanted to do it in a way that would afford them as much flexibility as possible. So Lara chose to self-publish their book, Work on Purpose. She and her colleagues quickly learned the power and pitfalls of self-publishing. And so we asked Lara to share her experiences for those of you considering going down the same path.
If something could go wrong, it did. The first draft of Work on Purpose— the book I co-wrote about Echoing Green’s world-changing Fellows and the ways they have created meaningful careers with social impact—was scrapped; the first cover design hit the trash just as quickly; the book was stopped at customs days before our launch party, and; don’t even get me started about the months it took to create the highly designed eBooks.
But we persevered, with a small staff and a tiny budget, for the sake of flexibility.
Self-publishing Work on Purpose meant we didn’t have the prerequisites of a publisher. YET, we had complete freedom to make choices that aligned with our mission, such as donating books to worthy partners without the funds to purchase them, and our vision. Having held a number of focus groups and done a great deal of market research on just what young people needed to help them create careers in social change, we were looking for a process that allowed us complete freedom in creating the book.
As a result, we learned more about the world of publishing—which our beloved board member, publishing wiz Dan Weiss (of Sweet Valley High fame), calls “the business of details,”—than we ever expected. Honestly, I don’t know that we could have done it all without Dan’s guidance. We also involved our entire Echoing Green staff in the book’s development, getting great feedback throughout the entire process and allowing our staff to internalize its methodologies and frameworks that help Millennials create careers with social impact.
When it came to marketing and distribution, we knew we were missing out on a publisher’s media savvy, paid connections with distributors, and access to book buyers’ lists. This was certainly quite a challenge. To make up for it, we developed a robust partnership-based strategy that enriches our understanding of the field, provides us with on-the-ground marketing and accomplishes our social mission at the same time. We work with like-minded partners including nonprofit organizations, social entrepreneurship leaders, and universities to share our networks and our knowledge. Some co-create content us; others do cross-promotional marketing with us; still others receive services from us such as workshops, and more.
The result of all of our hard work is that we now have the perfect tool to help us roll out our new Work on Purpose program—a diligently developed book with a beautiful design, which is flexibly priced* for our partners’ varying budgets. In other words, exactly what we wanted.
*For all of you self-publishers, we wanted to highlight the brilliant strategy of flexible pricing. This sort of nimbleness is what makes self-publishing so exciting and potentially successfully. Take note!