The Pros and Cons of self publishing

February 24, 2016
 Tennis Matters Blue

A year or so ago I started to think seriously about self publishing.  Since then I have had a chance to compare a text book published traditionally with three self published monographs and others in various stages of planning

First, let it be said, I publish primarily as a way of getting my ideas out there.  That has been the case since I wrote by first business book with the knock you down title Problem Solving through Creative  Analysis in 1973.  PSTCA was published by Gower Press. I think I chose Gower because a young colleague from Manchester Business School had joined them as I was completing a first draft. The book outlined work I had done on  ‘structures that destructure’, i.e. techniques for stimulating creativity.

Later I worked with with various publishers with whom I have shared a mostly amicable relationship. These include the collaboration with my current publisher Routledge, now part of the global Taylor and Francis group, who commissioned  my most recently published text Dilemmas of Leadership 3rd edition.

Money matters, but not like you might think

There is plenty of advice around about making a lot of money out of publishing. I am not able to offer such advice.  I doubt I have ever made more that 10% of my annual income directly from writing. On the other hand, a later version of PSTCA (mentioned above) was read by someone who became a dear friend and who brought me in to his company as an external trainer and  thus kept me in a slightly better class of  car for several years. His friendship was far more than an added bonus.

Intrinsic motivation
Anyway, I am a firm believer in the principle of intrinsic motivation.  You work best if you are primarily in love with what you are doing, rather than for the money it promises. Big earners only notice money if they feel a competitor is judged better because he or she earns more. It is an ego before bank balance thing.

On to the Pros and Cons

If you have are offered a contract from an established  publisher, cherish it.  The big plus is that the final product will benefit from a range of professional inputs from copy editors, proof readers, marketing, pricing and PR experts. Rare is the author with all these skills.

There are two major downsides to weigh against the benefits of the pampering with an experienced publisher behind you.  Traditional publishing is increasingly vulnerable to market forces reducing profits from ‘dead tree’ products. Your contract will reflect that.  The other issue is time to market.  Things are speeding up, but there is a long way to go before even the most successful of traditional publishers will be able to set up their own route-to- market to compete with with the lean mean electronic self-publishing route.

Self publishing is in contrast rapid, and has lower entry barriers (business school speak, but self evident), and thus  more open to anyone to give it a try.  The self-publishing author is able to produce print and e versions relatively easily. I use Amazon’s Create Space services which is a safe choice for the inexperienced author.

Frontloading and deep diving

A lot of tacit knowledge about being an author acquired through writing  twenty non-fiction texts, still left me wirth a lot of gaps in the skill set needed for self publishing.  One particular experience was the commitment to the discipline of writing regularly. Another was accepting that a great deal of redrafting is necessary.  Finally, pre-planning (‘frontloading’ ) before diving in to writing, is just as important.

I have already hinted at the down side of self-publishing.  You risk the vulnerability of the lone author.  You have to decide how to compensate for the other non-writing skills.

Search widely, invest wisely

I am now moving on to assessing the best investment for buying in some of those skills. A good example is designing a cover (which you need, incidentally, even for e books). Shop around, as they say about consumer decision making.

I kept reading about the advantages of going it alone  For me, this is not the best mind-set.  You should never go it alone, you need all the help you can get. The bigger question is which services should you pay for, and when. I decided to make my mistakes on a small scale, preparing to invest more when I am further up that learning curve.

My first self published books

My first self published books in  the period 2014-2016  followed the principle of getting ideas out to a wider audience.  I wanted to explore the nature of creativity and leadership in a new format.My first effort, The Manchester Method (e book only) was by way of a trial. I made my mistakes on a small scale.  The ‘final’ e-version still has the look of a book completed before the author discovered how to use advanced design options.

I followed this up with Tennis Matters  which I found easier to produce, having edged further up the design mountain.  I also found delight in making multiple revisions of the ‘final’ version, discovering that the self -imposed deadline was worth breaking at the cost of a few extra days to market.  That’s another advantage of self -publishing.

Other discoveries

Making a decent looking index is tricky but not impossible. I used Microsoft Word. I also found  that at my level of (in)experience, mini books were best for making minor changes.

Just this week, I received copies of Mourinho Matters. This had been the third self-published book since I started the project approximately eighteen months ago.  It is my most ambitious in length (just over 200 pages) and I am still going up that lengthy learning curve in producing print and e books.

Mourinho Matters

In hindsight

In hindsight, I just thought of another advantage. I selected topics I wanted to write about, and which were close to my interest and skills core. And I had a large number of researched and tagged research items available (including the thousand Leaders We Deserve posts) to draw on.

Sports management: Coaching the coaches

July 20, 2015

Tudor RickardsSport is big business. Do you know how to apply the latest business ideas into your sports management courses?

For over thirty years I have been working with colleagues at Manchester Business School introducing experiential learning ideas into business courses. More recently, we found out that our work with business managers could be transferred into sports management courses.

Why sports management and business management are similar

The discovery was unexpected, but afterwards was rather obvious. It came about when we realized that professional managers and athletes have similar developmental needs.

The Manchester Method approach

The approach was recently described on the MBS website

The Manchester Method is a practical, situation-based way of studying business that runs through all of our programmes.

It pushes you to your limits to bring out your best, focusing on group work, practice-based learning and self-reflection. You use and build on your own experiences to improve your leadership skills and manage complex projects.

Living cases

On important feature of the approach is the use of living cases. The term indicates that the topic under study is not bounded by the text provided.

Web-based work is increasingly important. Students, often working in teams, search for the most recent information of the current situation in each project. The work is evaluated from two perspectives, one its critical understanding, and one for evidence of appreciation of the practical aspects of the case.

In longer projects, a business client brings his or her ‘living case’ into the Business School. In shorter projects the business client is role-played by a tutor. These cases are chosen from the recent posts on leadership to be found in leaders we deserve. These have the added attraction of being updated regularly, giving emphasis to different leadership dilemmas.

A suitable course textbook is Dilemmas of Leadership which encourages students to examine the living cases for the tough decisions business leaders are taking. In its most recent edition, it comes with web based Tutor’s guide, power points and chapter by chapter revision quiz.

Sports based applications

Although the cases are selected for their business relevance, some have been sports-related. The role of the coach in team sports such as football and rowing has been studied, as well as the nature of charismatic leadership of managers and of on-field leaders. Another shared issue is that of Corporate Social Responsibility

For more information

I would be pleased to share experiences with sports management professionals interested in exploring the methods outlined in this post. You can contact me by email by submitting a comment below.

The Manchester Method: A Leaders We Deserve Monograph

May 21, 2015

by Conor Glean

In April 2015, Leaders We Deserve announced the publication of a series of monographs selected from materials published in over a thousand posts over the period 2006-2015 Manchester Method

The Manchester Method is an experiential means of supporting business education which was developed within The Manchester Business School, primarily within its MBA programmes.

It was chosen as the topic of the first monograph in the series, and published by Book Tango in April 2015.

To purchase The Manchester Method you can use various devices such as

Your Kindle/e-reader

The kindle app (downloadable from Apple App Store, Google Play, Microsoft Windows Store)

Or you can use this link


To purchase directly from Google, search for “The Manchester Method” in Google play, or use this link


To purchase in PDF, MOBI or EPUB form, use this link


[Prices may vary and those quoted were available at May 18th 2015]

The dilemmas of talent management. The case of Kevin Pietersen

May 13, 2015

KPIn the space of a week, Kevin Pietersen, cricket’s most talented and controversial figure, scored a record number of runs and learned that he would not be selected for the England test team

Great individual talent sometimes requires great talent management. Kevin Pietersen’s international cricket career is a prime example.

The English cricket establishment has since his arrival on the scene struggled with the challenge of harnessing the exceptional talent of Kevin Pietersen and dealing with assorted off-field controversies.

Read the rest of this entry »

From the Theatre of Dreams to Brazil on a Magic Red Carpet

October 10, 2010

Brazil Miami Sept 2010 016

Originally uploaded by t.rickards

As the Manchester Business School brochure put it

“Brazil was chosen by Manchester Business School as the base for its South American operations. Sao Paulo, where the majority of South American workshops will be held, is the largest financial centre in Brazil, and is the 10th richest city in the world.”

It was fitting that for the very first MBS workshop in Sao Paulo in September 2010, the topic was Global Events and Leadership. This is the front-end of the Global MBA from MBS. The tutors arrived with a Case Study on Manchester United Football Club, and its so-called Theatre of Dreams. They even arrived on a plane with the evocative name of The Magic Red Carpet.

Election fever?

It is an exaggeration to say that Sao Paulo was gripped with election fever when we arrived [September 10th, 2010]. Paulistas have a lot of other things besides politics to occupy them. But as everywhere else around the world, a relatively small number of student activists can make a lot of noise. And in Brazil you can add 100% to the decibels per student. The national election had its own regional flavour. I particularly liked the marginal candidates, a few with distinct chance of getting elected as a result of TV exposure and the voting system.

Our partners in Brazil are the Fundacao Getulio Vargas (FGV), one of the leading and largest distance learning institutions of Latin America. Their well-equipped campus and staff provided great help in the inevitable start-up challenges facing any new venture. FGV classrooms are equipped with state of the art communications technology. But it was comforting to note that there is still scope for ‘chalk and talk’ alongside wireless and web-access facilities.

Brazil Miami Sept 2010 002

Originally uploaded by t.rickards

My personal view is that students who sign up for a new programme are likely to be particularly willing to try out new ideas and be entrepreneurial. That was certainly the case in Sao Paulo (and as a matter of fact also in Miami, our next global post of call). There were business people who had founded and were already running successful businesses of international reach. There were also senior executives from private and public organizations. While the temptation to revert to Portuguese for project-work was understandable, the presentations confirmed that the levels of English were more than those required.

The Global Events and Leadership (GEL) module starts the new Global MBA with a two-day workshop. Teams work on different cases each dealing with an issue of global interest. The MBS tutors provide an experience of the Manchester Method. The process essentially is one which holds to the principle that some learning can only be obtained through experience. This means that explaining the method without that experience is very difficult. So I won’t try to give a complete account of it. Let’s just say that the approach falls under the wider umbrella of experiential learning. Students become personally involved in a case so as to revise their own deeper understanding and beliefs.

The project teams all successfully passed this first assessed part of their MBA. As part of the course, information was collected on the team dynamics, leadership and performance of each team. A data-base is being set up to examine similarities and differences of teams from the eight centres around the world offering the MBS MBA programmes.

A Magical experience

For the tutors. the journey ended on the magical red carpet bound for Miami and then back to Manchester. It could hardly have been a more fitting mode of transport.

Using Creativity to Explore a Business Issue

September 1, 2009

Benign structures [metaphor]

Creative problem-solving techniques can be powerful ways of exploring any complex business issue. An example is given applying a process of mapping, perspective seeking, and idea activation, used within project scenario work

The Manchester Business School MBA includes project work on creative leadership. In assessed workshops, participants apply a creative problem-solving system as a means of generating a scenario for a real or simulated business client.

The Scenario

MBA teams are presented with a real and contemporary business issue. Leaders we deserve posts have been used for this purpose. The structure to support the team is known as the MPIA system, an acronym for its stages of mapping, perspective seeking, and Idea-activation.

MPIA is a version of the Parnes-Osborn creative problem-solving approach which has been developed at Manchester Business School where the principles behind the approach have been studied

In this application, the group has to apply the MPIA system to explore the project. The presentation is made to a client and a faculty member who grade the effort independently. Through this, the team experiences some of the ambiguities of a realistic project, one of the features of the s-called Manchester Method

Basic MPIA Structure

Here is the basic MPIA structure:

Start-up: Check team members understand the MPIA system, and the roles they are to play; set time-limits for the stages of work on the project; check that all group members understand and agree to the structures to be followed.

Mapping: Share information available using a structure such as a mind-map for sharing information.

Perspectives: Use ‘How to …statements’ suggested by the map produced in Stage 1. Avoid complex How Tos (split them into ones with a simple central objective). Include wishful ‘How Tos’ (‘Wouldn’t it be wonderful..).

Idea Exploring: Using the rules of brainstorming, generate as many ideas as possible postponing evaluation in any way. Include apparently impossible but desirable ideas as these may become a trigger to an original and feasible idea.

Activation of Ideas: Link short-listed ideas to practical action steps. Pay particular attention to the presumed needs of the client.

Team Dynamics and interventions

The difference between the most successful teams and others is often a result of better attention to team dynamics.
A creative climate is supported by ‘idea-leadership’ (ensuring ideas are individual contributions are respected and not ignored). The process leader is also servant to the psychological needs of the group.

When things go wrong, teams are advised to call for a brief ‘time-out’ after which the team will find it easier to make progress. Creative teams are characterised by various actions supportive of a positive psychological climate such as the Yes And reaction to an idea’s perceived weaknesses.

To go more deeply

The process illustrates distributed leadership, with different team members taking responsibilities for leading in process issues. You can find out more about the educational principles behind this as an example of The Manchester Method of experiential learning

Reg Revans. Lest I forget

November 22, 2008


Some years ago, when giants stalked the land, I tracked Reg Revans down to his lair. I wanted to see whether he could be persuaded of the fact that Action Learning and Manchester Business School might have a shared future. The meeting was not a total success

Reg, with what I now believe to be typical bluntness, explained his beliefs about the irredeemable wrong-headedness of Business Schools in general, and Manchester Business School in particular.

I had been warned that there was a history of missed opportunities for rapprochement from the time of the School’s inception in the 1960s. He did not dwell so much on that, as on the folly of trying to achieve effective management education using traditional pedagogic approaches.

We talked for a few hours. Or, to be more precise, I suspect I listened for most of the time. I can not date the meeting particularly well, but it was most likely to have taken place in the late 1970s or early 1980s. My big idea was that if Reg Revans had not been accepted at Manchester Business School, then he must have been misunderstood. Everything I had heard and read about his action learning approach made it utterly compatible with ideas that were bubbling up in the School at the time. He was spoken of with some reverence by senior figures there, such as John Morris, and also by emerging junior faculty. Surely when I explained, he would see how John’s ideas of joint development activities were close to the work of the burgeoning Action Learning community? And anyway, he would be bound to warm to efforts I was making at the time to introduce creative problem-solving into projects within the MBA curriculum. He would see how the Manchester Experiment (and subsequently The Manchester Method) were far closer to Action Learning than they were to the traditional Business School curriculum.

As far as I could remember, after a frosty start, the emotional climate of the meeting warmed up, but not a great deal. If I had come bearing an olive branch, I seemed to have stuck it right up the nose of the great man. I doubt if he ever set foot in Manchester Business School thereafter.

Time passes

Time passes. Reg Revans completes a fulfilled and long life. With one of those ironic turns, The Revans Institute elects to accept an invitation to make its home at Manchester Business School.

At the introductory event [26th Nov 2008], I was invited to share a concluding session with Mike Pedler. Another irony. Mike had been one of those figures who first enthused me about the potential of Action Learning, all those years ago.