7 Things I Learnt with a Traditional Publisher

British entrepreneur Caspar Craven spent two years sailing round the world with his wife and their three children, aged 9, 7 and 2. On his return, with the help of a literary agent, he sold the book of that adventure to Adlard Coles, a nautical specialist imprint owned by Bloomsbury. It has just been released in the USA and UK - Where The Magic Happens. He is now active on the corporate speaking circuit, as a business-adventurer speaker. He has written a guest post about seven things he learnt during the publishing process. 


  Caspar Craven, British entrepreneur, sailor, speaker and author.

Caspar Craven, British entrepreneur, sailor, speaker and author.

It wasn’t my first book. But it was what I call my first “thorough" book. I now fully appreciate what it takes to publish a book.

I’ve done both routes. The first time self-publishing. The second time with Bloomsbury.

When I self-published I wrote the book over several weeks (it was a business book about Crowd Funding). It got onto Amazon and I had great reviews and sold some copies. It gave me the “business card” effect of being an “author”.

The second time round, I went through the whole agent and publisher route. Based on what I learnt this time round, I've taken that first book down. 


7 Things I Learnt Publishing with Bloomsbury

   Where The Magic Happens , by Caspar Craven. 

Where The Magic Happens, by Caspar Craven. 

1. The value of an agent

My agent, Jen, had a thankless task. First she had to challenge me, asking me the right questions to get my book "publisher ready". Then she had to go round publishers trying to get a bite. We didn't get any. She had to come up with Plan B and go again until we did.

The book industry sounds simple. Of course you can work things out yourself. But it takes time to learn the tricks of the trade. An agent shows you the shortcuts.

2. How long it takes

It took over a year from agreeing the publishing deal to launch. Why you ask?

Imagine planes landing at Heathrow. There are lots of them stacked up ahead of you. It’s like that. 

There is a whole production line of books that need the attention of editors, proof setters, more editors and the sales team to sell them into distribution partners.

The shelf we went for was “Life Transformation”

3. What shelf will it sit on? 

When I self-published I wrote the book that I wanted to write and then put it out there. That was  slightly naive. I was thinking about me. Not the audience. 

The second time around I very much had an audience in mind. Part of that is deciding where they will find the book in a book store. Business? Adventure? Life Changing? Entrepreneur? Home Schooling? Parenting? My second book had all of those of those elements. 

You want to write a book that people can easily place in their minds - they want to understand where it fits. The shelf we went for was the “Life Transformation” category. It was summed up by the subtitle of “How a young family changed their lives and sailed around the world."

My new book is in a different league, thanks to the work of professional editors. 

4. Editing- and more editing

When I self-published I think I had two or three people go through and edit my book.

The second time around the edits must have been in the hundreds. The attention to detail, the crafting and shaping felt endless. Many hands were involved in it. 

I looked back at my first book recently. Having looked, I decided to take it offline. My new book is in a different league, thanks to the work of professional editors. 

Whichever route you go down to publish, don’t skimp on this. It does make a difference.

[Related blog post: What Does A Book Editor Actually Do?]

Network like crazy, and share stories on social media.

5. You’ll drive the sales and marketing activity

Even with a publisher behind you, your social following, your email lists and your ability and activity in building relationships will spearhead the sales and marketing work.

We’ve been lucky and got some national press and TV coverage in both the US and UK. That’s really helped drive sales. You’ll need to be very proactive in making this happen.

One thing that I’ve found useful is networking like crazy. I joined the Professional Speaking Association, I’ve signed up for conferences where I’ll find influencers. And in every situation, I’ve found people who know more than me. I've been humble, asked questions as to how I can help other people, and learned as much as I can.

Also helpful is regularly telling stories on social media. Some of the best press leads I’ve had have been from friends who spotted something with potential and passed it my way. They only knew to do that because of the stories I’d been sharing.

The best way to get reviews? Ask for them.

6. Launch events matter less than reviews

Launches are less important than authors expect. The advice I had is that they are great for getting photos for social media (which is important) but that they aren’t really going to drive many sales.

Far more important is gaining reviews and ratings on Amazon and Goodreads. They are critical to driving rankings. The better your rankings, the greater your exposure on these sites. 

I visited the Amazon physical book store in New York. Yes, there really is such a thing. The advice I got from them as to getting my book on their shelves was that it's all about the reviews. You’ll need to hustle. The best way to get them? Ask for them. It’s old fashioned but it's the best way I’ve found so far.

7. Remember to enjoy the process

It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the details of you are doing. I've discovered you need to remember to stop - enjoy what you’ve achieved and enjoy the messages you are sharing with the world.

Bonus tip: be careful at book signings with a fountain pen. I splodged a load of ink on one person's book (I replaced it). Schoolboy error! 

  Caspar Craven and his young family during their round-the-world voyage. 

Caspar Craven and his young family during their round-the-world voyage. 

Where the Magic Happens launched in the US on 27 March and in the UK on 17 May 2018. It tells the story of how my wife and I changed our lives by making a decision to sail around the world with our three young children aged 9, 7 and 2. It’s also a blueprint for anyone else wanting to live their adventure, as it provides easy to follow steps no matter what your dream is or how big or small it may be. 

For more of Caspar's journey as an adventurer and speaker, listen to his interview with Maria Franzoni on the Speaking Business podcast


Caspar Craven is an entrepreneur, business leader and passionate sailor. In 2000 he circumnavigated the world on the BT Global Challenge on Yacht Quadstone as the youngest crew member onboard. He then returned to life as an an e-commerce entrepreneur. In June 2009, Caspar and his wife created a plan to sail around the world with their young children. That mission was successfully completed in 2016,  after 5 years of preparation and then 2 years sailing. He has now released the book of that adventure, while sharing his story on the corporate speaking circuit. He speaks on leadership and team building, giving actionable advice on how to achieve amazing results professionally and personally. 

Find Caspar on the web