The Lost Ships of PisaA Special Guest Column

Making More From Your Books: Thinking Sales as You Write

Michael H. Sedge

July/August 2003 

The Lost Ships of Pisa by Michael Sedge Buy This Book via

Five months ago, my twentieth book was release in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Next month, Il Saggiatore publishers in Milan will put out an Italian language edition. Before the title ever reached the bookstores, Discovery Channel had purchased book club rights. And, I am now discussing TV documentary rights with two major producers.

All of this sales activity did not happen by chance. In fact, sales were a driving factor in the concept and writing style of this book. The subject was a new archaeological discovery outside the Italian city of Pisa. It offered adventure, exploration, and a geographical location that was familiar to both global and armchair travelers. It was also a subject that could easily be adapted to various markets.


"When it came time to negotiate the contract, I, therefore, insured that I maintained serial rights." – —Michael


Thinking Alternative Markets

Because there were numerous aspects to this topic—they had found not only 2000-year-old Roman ships, but skeletons, thousands of artifacts, etc.—I realized that, if written correctly, I could sell each section, or chapter, as an article. When it came time to negotiate the contract, I, therefore, insured that I maintained serial rights. This allowed me to sell “articles” directly from the book text—no extra effort; increasing my income while promoting the book. Some of the publications that have run stories from the book include Archaeology Odyssey, Scientific American Discovering Archaeology, and Singapore Airlines’ Silver Kris.

It also occurred to me that this subject would make a perfect television documentary for cable companies like Discovery Channel, History Channel, or National Geographic. In developing the idea into book chapters, and then into the writing phase, I thought of this project in visual terms; as if I were putting together a TV program.

In the first chapter, I had readers walking with me in the archaeological site, “viewing” the “river” of artefacts, looking at the centuries old, wooden ships, and talking with archaeologists. Throughout the book, I would use this approach—taking the reader by the hand and inviting him/her to travel the Italian peninsula with me, exploring and seeking out answers to this archaeological puzzle. Along the way, I would answer the questions how, what, and why, with the help of experts.


"My book topic offered several wow factors.”" – —Michael


My book topic offered several “wow factors.” These are highlights or mini-stories that can be used in a television show to “wow” the audience. One example was a human skeleton found below one of the ships. In its outstretched hand, was the skeleton of a small dog. Therefore came about the story of “The Sailor and His Dog.”

These types of tales make both excellent reading-in book and article form-as well as enhance a TV documentary.

While thinking in TV terms, I also explored book clubs that might have an interest in my topic. When the galley proofs were available, I had already compiled a list of possible buyers and provided it to the publisher’s marketing staff. This resulted in Discovery Channel Book Club acquiring the title, and allowing us to print this on the cover of the book.

Book sales are never easy. Thinking sales in the early stages of your work and keeping sales in mind during the writing, will allow you to increase the exposure and profits. Try it on your next title.

Michael Sedge is a veteran journalist/author, and president of The Sedge Group, His titles, including Marketing Strategies for Authors, Successful Syndication, and The Lost Ships of Pisa are available from Mr. Sedge also runs the annual Dolce Vita Writers’ Holiday, in Tuscany, Italy. This year’s holiday is scheduled for October. For more information contact Sedge at