The Ultimate Guide for B&B owners and innkeepers

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 Hi

 

We are thinking of compiling a guide that covers everything from marketing, to making your website user friendly, to competitor analysis and seo, pricing, offers and general customer service tips. I was hoping for some advice.

1. Do you think this is a good idea? Would you or aspiring innkeepers find this useful?

2. What do you think we should include? Do you have any ideas for sections?

3. Would you, if we did this, be interested in contributing your ideas and experiences (what works and what doesn't - you'd be listed in the contributors section)?

 

I'd love to hear your thoughts on whether you think this is a good idea or not, and what information you think would be of value.

 

Thanks!

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BnB Edition is a resource for bed and breakfast and inn owners. We provide practical and inspirational ideas for managing your B&B. All ideas welcome!
www.enjoybedandbreakfast.com/bnbedition/

 

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Thanks for all the contributions, thoughts and ideas. I can see we will need to do more than one guide! We can easily do one for starting and one for the more advanced. It might be better to keep it focused on marketing, promotion, pricing, websites, as there is a lot of info out there on general operations, like setting up a merchant account, or decorating a room. I am going to have a think and come back to you all in the next week with some ideas for chapters and you can tell me what you like or hate!

 

Thanks again!

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KayBee here is a thought:

You can ask or even do a poll on what the current innkeepers would have found useful or more useful if it had been covered more in a book.  Remember many go to aspiring conferences and seminars, even work at an inn, so the hands on part is not as useful in print.

Thinking back on it for me I can think of some of the mistakes I made and that is the area I would have appreciated more expertise.

Finding a good online resource would be a huge benefit. That is where people search, they come to this forum at times without a clue, literally no clue as to what they are getting into.

The issue I find with the innkeeper interview type scenarios is they will never tell the down and dirty of running an inn (most share the glamorous bits). Example: Like yesterday my husband helped me freshen the rooms only to discover a femals feminine hygiene item unwrapped - as it many times the case - in the waste basket he was emptying and nearly barfed!  I told him, please that ain't nothin'!  He said "Don't tell me! Don't tell me!"  I only laughed, yes he is an innkeeper - the other half of this team - and doesn't get half of what I DO EVERY DAY.  So there is a topic in itself right there!

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Not sure I would get more from the "ebook"........that I don't get here at Innspiring ?

Everything I could ever want to know regarding the B&B industry is right here

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One Day wrote:

Not sure I would get more from the "ebook"........that I don't get here at Innspiring ?

Everything I could ever want to know regarding the B&B industry is right here

The e-book lets you read at your own pace and not get caught up in the day to day kidding around and thread highjackings that go on around here. And, although there are the occasional links to spreadsheets and hard core behind the scenes accounting stuff that people need, it's not the strong point here. An e book would be good for that.

Otherwise, yeah, you can find it all here.

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Madeleine wrote:

One Day wrote:

Not sure I would get more from the "ebook"........that I don't get here at Innspiring ?

Everything I could ever want to know regarding the B&B industry is right here

The e-book lets you read at your own pace and not get caught up in the day to day kidding around and thread highjackings that go on around here. And, although there are the occasional links to spreadsheets and hard core behind the scenes accounting stuff that people need, it's not the strong point here. An e book would be good for that.

Otherwise, yeah, you can find it all here.

I agree with you One Day, but here we are real people, and with people...personalities...we all have left and come back once or twice getting miffed off.  Again, that SHOULD BE great training for those who say "We are a people person" but then can't even handle this pack of innkeepers/aspirings here.  They don't have the safety zone, if they ask or interact.  But this is what is should be all about, imo. You know that old saying about learning from a book, and how it just doesn't work.

Just as an aside, there have been at least half a dozen come to the forum to glean information to write a book (whether fiction or non).

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Joey Bloggs wrote:

 Again, that SHOULD BE great training for those who say "We are a people person" but then can't even handle this pack of innkeepers/aspirings here.  They don't have the safety zone, if they ask or interact.

That is perfect. 'People people' who don't get that their guests are going to be like the 'people' here. 

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I would add to this string that the reason I come here is to see what is 'between the lines' of the How To Book. Many things here are A'hah moments to be put in memory. The heated bathroom floor is one I can think of. Great touch of comfort on a cold damp morning.

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My only last point (actually thats a lie i will probably add more later) is what drives me mad is you hear this in conversations - Oh yes I was mad about SEO and then I dashed on to my meta-tags before doing some blogging though I am neglecting my tweets. I deal with small businesses every day and am helping a lot with social media marketing and web sites as they know this is something they should be doing but all the jargon terrifies them and they just shut down. A lot of people don't have much money in the marketing budget and as you know B&B people are time poor as well so want to make sure what they are spending is getting them the best return for their money. So maybe with some subjects do an idiots guide as well as a more advanced one. I am not saying you should treat people like idiots but for so many people and I get this every day with people who don't have web sites AT ALL! we can't afford it so we do nothing where as if they knew about the many cheap and free options they at least would have something. Now I know the more advanced among us will probably shoot me down on this but I think something is better than nothing, however they see the price charged by "so called professionals" for a decent web site and the number of cowboys out there and they are terrified. The going rate is $6000 plus round here and I know a particular couple who paid that 2 years ago and still have nothing. its a lot of money to shell out for nothing and believe me they are not alone and it scares the tarr out of people.

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 It's true - there are a lot of people who don't know they can do it themselves (if they have the patience!). I know you can set up a Wordpress blog with a fancy design for under $100 (actually your entire website can be a Wordpress solution for under $150/200), but I think people can be duped easily. I heard a story the other day about someone who received a call from someone trying to charge them $50 to set up Google alerts ($50 per alert!).

 

I have also seen people completely ripped off by these so called 'experts'. Sometimes you think that if you haven't done it before it's better to hire an 'expert' and then after you have spent a small fortune (obviously its relative) you realise that these experts aren't experts at all. We started our own website and know and understand the web and we have experienced this. It hurts! I wonder if when trying to get things going you need to set aside a 'rip off' budget! Chancers are a very common occurance in small business and in internet marketing. I also hear amazing stories - someone we know just helped a B&B owner treble their revenue just by giving her some website improvements. Yes, treble!!! He was charging $150, but he is one of those people who just wants to help small business owners succeed. 

 

Take a look at these guys - http://southafricayoga.com/ (ok not a B&B, its a friend) but they were going to hire developers and we spoke to them about how not to, and this is what they did on their own with Wordpress! And no, they are not designers or developers.

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I think its a two pronged problem with the economy in the toilet its either

(1) - people are terrified and it overloads their natural caution when presented with so called "experts" they want to believe and end up ripped off.

(2) they bury their heads in the sand and do nothing. because A have no clue what to do or B they are very time poor and figure its too complicated and time consuming to do anything about.

I speak to small business every day and hit this all the time its all about teaching people what to look for and what questions to ask.

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Boy! Can I see myself in your comments here! LOL I am one who does not know most of the short hand that people use online. They bring it from their texting on cell phones. Here in Northern NH, we have limited cell phone coverage snd none where I live. We use Wildblue Satellite Service for Web access. If I wanted training on computers, the closest place is 70 miles away. That is a long way to go for two week classes at 2-3 hours a night. I am sure that I am not alone in this. Also, Social Networking take time. One of the meetings I attended that had a Computer Consultant trying to sell us on using Facebook and sites like it, I asked how much time I would have to devote each day to touch base with Friends. After much hesitation, he admitted it would take up to "2 Hours"!  I was working as a Photographer and needed to talk for a least 3-5 mins with each. The B&B scene is different so this may not be the case. Either way, I know that this is something that I will have to gain some knowledge of. POW has cell coverage which is a plus.  How far I have to go for training is not yet known.  Art

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Its the language and attitude that really snarks me off if you actually explain it to people in a normal way they are totally capable of doing a very simple wordpress or blog based web site. (ie recon if you can shop online and send an email you can do this) but the web industry has shrouded itself in so much hype the more technophobic amongst us just run and hide. I learnt how to do things myself for this reason - when we took over here they had a 3 page web site which was about 6 years old and was incorrect in various ways (they had in fact taken it over from the previous owners to them!) for example it said we have a bar which we dont and various other things. I spent a great deal of time chasing the company who were supposed to maintain it and a great deal of time on hold. Eventually got hold of someone who told me they didn't even do this service anymore and hadn't for 2 years which may explain my inability to find anyone who knew anything about it. Was so angry and furious I decided that I would learn HTML if I ruddy had to so as not to be so inconveniced and at the mercy of idiots who wouldn't do as I told them. Luckily found it is a heck of a lot easier than that now and I have complete control and its cheap.Yes I could pay someone to make it amazing but I am happy with what I have.

Also as regards social networking 2 hours a day i think is excessive I probably do about 10 mins. I am working on a things to do in Harrogate fan page so am doing more than I usually do to get all the info on and I try to do a tweet a day when I can think of something interesting to say! what does help is my facebook and twitter are linked to my blackberry mobile phone (but am sure all smart phone do this) so I can do it when I am in line at the supermarket etc. I don't probably blog as much as I should and have a list of about 8 topics on my pad but I want to make sure its an article people will find and read.

And yes we do have cowboys but they are the unpleasant kind. The thing is most of them were weeded out about 10 years ago but a lot of people were burnt in the Oh you must have a web site gold rush that occured about then and so are very cautious and who can blame them? its all about recommendations and certainly not paying up front!

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I think a lot of my problem and those of my generation, is that we lack the basic knowledge of computers that is now taught in grammar school. Calculators came out about my seventh grade. They were not allowed in school as it was considered cheating to use them. When the youth of today reach the seventh grade, they are already well versed in all the terms and vocabulary of the electronic age, and, assume every one else is also. So, when they make up a video, book, of class instruction, they jump over that basic stuff. They know a Browser does more than just cover up the top of the screen. They know what Wordpress is and how to use it. I still use a phone to talk on! I answer E-mail! The younger group of today do neither. They Text and Twitter. I have left many messages for my brother that go unanswered. They never look at their E-Mail. The class instruction I have had was before I had a computer to practice on. That came 2 years later, and, I had lost much of what I learned. Plus, I had to learn on a new operating system, windows 98. I now have Vista and do not look forward to having to start again on Windows 7 or 8. If I took a course today on Windows 7, they would assume that I already knew all there was to learn about Vista,and, that they just had to teach about the new stuff. I am sure I would get a lot of dirty looks from the rest of the students for holding them back with my dumb questions. I have seen that happen to others. So I wii continue my Peck & Search and stumble my way  along. Please excuse my blank look when you give a simple answer to my Dumb Question. It is not that I and others can not learn. We just have a lot of holes in what we do know. And, I have pushed " That Button " and fatally crashed my computer and lost years of photos! Call me gun shy now! LOL   Art

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this is my point! you are not alone its all about pitching to the right level and being aware that some people have limited knowledge and not acting like they are bonkers for not knowing.

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camberleyhotelharrogate@yahoo.co.uk wrote:

this is my point! you are not alone its all about pitching to the right level and being aware that some people have limited knowledge and not acting like they are bonkers for not knowing.

In other words, too basic.  Beginner - starting out the process or more advanced.  What we know and say here is "beyond advanced" when newbies happen upon this forum they run away screaming like little girls...

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I may run and scream........maybe just scream.

 

I aint no little girl

 

Smiling

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Hence two books! LOL one looking/starting and one on running?

Too many people and I am certain everyone on here will agree with me say "oh it can't be that difficult you just do breakfast and make a few beds and thats it" drive me mad!!!! and this is an attutude that is prevelant amongst the new starters as well they see this as an easy option or a possible redundancy choice. They have to understand that to make it and do well there is a heck of a lot more to it.

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After our recent 1 week interview with our new assignment D and I realised that this attitude of -  "oh it can't be that difficult you just do breakfast and make a few beds and that's it"  was indeed that of the owners of the B&B when they took it 6 years ago, and it shows. I think maybe they thought money could make it easier - but it didn't - atleast money not well spent. 

D & I see soooo much work needed to really make this a successful venture...and we are the kind of people who are ALL IN, ya know? I don't know how to do something half as_ed. I am afraid this will be a great point of contention between us and the owners. The B&B is beautiful and it sells once people find it...but getting it seen a the problem.

And I am indeed scared of the enormity of it all. I did marketing for a multi-housing real estate company 1980-91 and I was very successful with it - but that was a whole different creature than this marketing online stuff. I have also created a really beautiful/creative website a few years back for a different samll business venture of my own - but, I had no idea how to optimise it and still don't. When I get out there and try to learn it I become soooo overwhelmed by all the jargon. Eyes wide open it is exhausting just to simply think about trying to stay up with the current pace of the world technology wise - do Interent marketing of the b&b and make beds and cook breakfast.

I have already created some postcard mailouts (vista) and the like - but I don't think it will be enough to market it this way. I personally cannot afford to take classes - so I am praying that the owners will see it as a good investment to send me to take some classes this winter during the down time. But honestly, they seem to think their weeney, behind the times, un-updated website should be enough at this point. Frustrating that they don't get it. 

So...if I create a decent website like on Wordpress or whereever - how DO I get it seen? Seems like we B&B folk are all little simply tiny little PLANKTON in a sea of giant fish. Not sure how to compete.  

~Scared, but not running....

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SSC, the absolute best thing your owners could do for you is to send you to the next PAII conference in LIttle Rock

Beg & plead if you have to. Convince them that sending you there would translate into THEM making more money in the future. At the conference, you will learn tip and tricks, marketing, website 101, and convince them it will be an investment in THEIR future. In fact, if you could get one of the owners to also attend, it would be even better. Even though they own this place, they have no idea what their doing, especially if they think their website is adequate.

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its all about getting as many eggs in as many baskets as possible and maximising your exposure in as many ways as possible. This can be expensive or it can be cheap. For example PR is free but ca be time consuming, twitter is free but don't let it take over your life! a facebook fan page is free, blogging is free but make sure you have something interesting to say. Also to help with optimisation you can link them all together and for example twitter, facebook and blog can be linked so you update one it updates them all which is a real time saver. One of my best marketing tips is make sure you always have a stack of business cards on you cos you never know who you might meet and you never ruddy have one when you want one. Also another free web site provider is Weebly its a dead easy site which walks you through building a web site and they will also walk you through optimisation as well (again all free!) If you want to take a look at the one I am building using Weebly its www.harrogateindependentshops.com and if you can send an email you should be able to master this very quickly. If you do have any trouble their support is excellent also.

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They are the same people who think that "House Wifes" have it easy. Get Hubby & The Kids out the door in the morning and then lounge around eating Bon Bons and watching the Soaps.  Right?  Art

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You forgot the drinking champagne part =) Tiny bubbles ~hee-hee~

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Hollowwood wrote:

"House Wifes"

We prefer the terms "homemaker" or "domestic goddess" Eye-wink

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As it comes to computers, I liken myself to someone who knows how to find his way thru a busy city to get to a friends house. But, I end up getting there in a round about way when if I had known about a few short cuts, it would have taken less time and effort !  Art

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Don't feel badly. I was a programmer in the way, way back time machine using a computer language today's programmers never heard of - I am talking PRE-Cobol. I know enough to be dangerous which is more frightening that knowing nothing because I KNOW what havoc I can cause with the twitch of a finger. In today's world, I am an almost total non-techie.

When I was in high school they were still using slide rules.....

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A long time ago,I bought a Radio Shack Color Computer with a dedicated cassett recorder for storage and uploads. I did the pain staking upload from a magazine for a game called "Pong". It was done in Basic Programing Code. I soon discovered that all that typing was not for me. One mistake meant going back over all your input to find that typo! No Thanks!!  LOL  I sure wish that I had hung onto it. A good collector peice. It was many years before I got back into computers.  Art

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Hollowwood wrote:

A long time ago,I bought a Radio Shack Color Computer with a dedicated cassett recorder for storage and uploads. I did the pain staking upload from a magazine for a game called "Pong". It was done in Basic Programing Code. I soon discovered that all that typing was not for me. One mistake meant going back over all your input to find that typo! No Thanks!!  LOL  I sure wish that I had hung onto it. A good collector peice. It was many years before I got back into computers.  Art

 Why are writing everything in boldface?  

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I am using boldface because I have been told it is easier to read than trying to read it this way. On small screens or in bright light, this is much easier on my old eyes than this. So I agree. What say you?  Art

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Hollowwood wrote:

I am using boldface because I have been told it is easier to read than trying to read it this way. On small screens or in bright light, this is much easier on my old eyes than this. So I agree. What say you?  Art

 It's kind of like you're hard of hearing and talking too loud to compensate.   I have old eyes too.  Boldface is not necessarily easier to read.

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Hollowwood wrote:

I am using boldface because I have been told it is easier to read than trying to read it this way. On small screens or in bright light, this is much easier on my old eyes than this. So I agree. What say you?  Art

"I say" you are the only one using boldface, and boldface is for shouting or emphasing.  Try this CTRL + that will increase the font size on your screen.  What needs to happen is for old eyes to set THEIR OWN browser for their own eyes, not for everyone elses. Please, pretty please, thank you so much.

We also break up paragraphs so it is easier to read, one giant paragraph will get skimmed or not read at all.  We have a couple who do that here and they know we don't read it if they don't break it up a bit.  Smiling CHEERS.

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I was not aware of the protocal on this.Point taken. Had not known that it was seen in a negative light. Art

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Good point. There are plenty of ways an owner with little experience could get a WordPress blog-formatted website up with simple details just so they can say, 'YES! We have a website with photos, go here to look!' Paying $6000 or £6000 is awful if you have nothing to show for it.

Cowboys. You have cowboys? I thought that was just here.

And this is why something like this guide has to be an e-book, not a paper book. Too many things to go over to try to print it all out and have it mean anything in a year.

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and ps:

 2. What do you think we should include? Do you have any ideas for sections?

3. Would you, if we did this, be interested in contributing your ideas and experiences (what works and what doesn't - you'd be listed in the contributors section)?

 

Yes. This is what would be valuable. Instead of one person's experience who writes the book and is the "expert" on everything, or doesn't cover everything correctly.  Having it more than one, even some POLL questions from innkeepers to get some decent feedback.  Poll questions will give you an overview of a topic. Those who have time can elaborate or not.

Is this for OPENING an INN or OPERATiNG AN INN? That is what I would determine. The books - pre internet, on opening an inn were way LESS HELPFUL than the books on OPERATING AN INN. Generic info is a waste of print, imo.

Some of the books tell the reader/aspiring what they will have to do in situations that there is no way of telling what they would do or should do. I recall one book stating you have to love people.  I disagree with that.  We all love who we love, we tolerate who we tolerate, no one loves everyone all the time, it was a misnomer.  I laugh at that now, I can secretly go into my kitchen and say "She eats her peas one at a time!" or something. Smiling

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 Like the idea of polls. Going to give that some proper thought.

Opening an inn is a bit trickier because a lot of what you do is dependent on the country you live in. However, we were thinking of looking at it from the operating/marketing/web perspective, but as if you were either a. starting out b. wanting to change or c. wanting to improve things. 

I dare you to find someone who loves everyone! Patience is probably more valuable these days Smiling

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or (i keep having thoughts) I would advertise it as buy it direct from us ie through your own web site and receive free updates for x amount of time. this will help prevent people sending each other copies which eats into your bottom line. You could also have a renewal fee for more updates afterwards. Doesn't have to be a lot ie 3 buck for 6 months but it all helps.

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Oh we weren't even thinking of charging! We want to do this as a free ebook resource that people find useful and can just download. Not the 'oh you must have a blog' type stuff either. We want to actually give detailed info on how you can do certain things step by step.

We want to chat to owners about the day to day stuff as well, there must be thousands of tips and ideas you guys have! You're the ones dealing with the people every day, so we could never be experts in that!

 

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 That sort of thing is all over the web, and advice changes day to day because technology changes minute to minute. A blog would possibly be better. so you could keep your advice up to date, but it would be a full time job and you have a lot of competition out there already.

RIki

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 It's already been done, but to do a more modern eVersion may be a good idea! There is so much changing so rapidly that is not covered in the older books. Since i know your website, I know most of what I am speaking about is covered THERE, so to compile it all in one place would be great!

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I really like your website. There are some good articles on there that are to the point and helpful. Like other businesses, book info goes out of date kind of quickly, even something you'd think would be stable like recipes!

An e-version that you could update on the fly would be better than a paper book.

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 Thanks Madeleine, that's spot on what we were thinking. Maybe we can ask the internet to stop changing for a year or two? Smiling

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I am a Newby, but, I have found that to do a How To Book, you have to choose who you are talking to. There is a big differance between the Mom-Pop B&B and, The Country Inn w/Restaraunt & Pool type. Both are B&Bs, but, in name only are they the same. At the bottom end, manuals are where you look. At the top end you can get help from advisers also. This was true when I was getting into the Photography Business ( Hyside Photography ).  I would think that applies to any venture.  Art

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 Yes, we have seen that as well. It's a great point. I think it depends on how an inn is being run as well. Some people just do it because they enjoy it and it's extra money, others treat it more like a business and want to make a profit. 

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 I think it has been done already.

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 Before you do that, you might want to have a look at Mary White's excellent book on the subject.

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 Hoping I can twist Mary's arm for a contribution Smiling She is very helpful!

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also a chapter suggestion - swot analsis is this the place to open a B&B? people drive me mad with oh we bought this place to do B&B in the back end of no where and funnily enough we don't do a lot of business. what a shocker! People need to go into this industry with their eyes open. A big nice house don't cut it.

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 A big nice house don't cut it.

It also depends on the layout of the house. I looked at many that were great until you walked in - the floor plan just would not work and I was not about to be moving walls and looking for load bearing, etc - then it is no longer that house.

And most people do not have a clue about marketing.

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 Thank you. Maybe if they positioned the house as a country retreat for eco friendly travellers then it could change the whole ball game if you know what I mean?! And thanks for the offer to contribute. Will let this thread run for a while, and then plan some chats/polls/ideas out.

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04/02/2010

I would be happy to contribute but (not that this isn't probably obvious) i would make sure you do a electronic version you can sell yourself through your web site or amazon or whatever but then you can keep updating it ie somewhere in the book it says sign up to our mailing list to receive updates on your book. Trouble is with so many of these advice books by the time they are out they are out of date this would combat this problem and then every so often you put out a full new edition. Also another of my bug bears is you buy a book called say running a bed and breakfast for dummies - no where on it says I am us focused. I have no problem with this but as a UK person I would have liked to know as the whole section on legislation is irrelevant to me and thats about 4 chapters.

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