It’s been a busy book-publishing year for me. My new book, Impact: Six Patterns to Spread Your Social Innovation was published in April. In addition, two expanded versions of my first book, Safe and Secure were published – one in British Columbia, the other just recently in England. There are now 12 editions of Safe and Secure available in various jurisdictions since I first wrote it in 1996. And another three editions are under construction, (Poland, Japan, First Nations.)

I share this information to make the point that books have a much longer shelf life than most people realize. Particularly publishers.

Publishers lose interest in books mere months after publication unless you are a Margaret Atwood or an Alice Munro. Provided you can get them to publish your book in the first place. Regardless, publishers don’t understand the social change market. They underestimate how many readers are interested in making the world a better place. They see it as a niche market that won’t make them any money.

That is why PLAN became a book publisher. We had an extensive contact list. And we wanted to earn extra money to further our work supporting families who have relatives with disabilities.

Based on the continued success of that experience I’m floating a proposal.

Let’s create a social enterprise publishing house specializing in books on social change. There are many excellent already published books that should be brought back into circulation. And those about to be published should be given an extended boost.

It’s not as hard as you think to become a book publisher.

  • The social enterprise/non-profit/charitable/philanthropic sector has a combined database that would be the envy of any book publisher. For example, I recently polled a handful of social enterprises and non-profits in Canada. They have direct contact with more than 100,000 folks. That’s a great distribution system and easily shatters the myth of a niche market.
  • The expertise of book editors, designers and publicists are readily available. Sadly, publishing companies have laid most of them off so they are working freelance.
  • The costs of printing (offset or laser) are reasonable.
  • And then there are the tools of social media, e-publishing, audio books…

Books are an excellent ‘container’ to spread your social change ideas plus earn revenue.

If you are an aspiring social entrepreneur(s) willing to take this project on or a foundation willing to invest in it, contact me through my website or via: al at impact6 dot ca. I’d be delighted to share my experience with you.

The shelf life of books, like all good ideas, should be measured in decades, not months.


Words, words, words–it is around these that civilizations create and imagine themselves.

     –John Ralston Saul

My music selection is from Eric Siblin’s intriguing album project Studio Grace.

Listen to Go Slow here.

See also his book by the same title which chronicles his dream of recording an album of original material.


Take Us to the Limit

Salt, Seed and Taking Care

Caring Makes the World Go Round

Thinking Like a Voyageur – Prévoyance

Angels in the Architecture


  1. Shari Graydon

    Brilliant idea, Al; I hope you get some pick up from an eager entrepreneur or two that sees an opportunity to capitalize on your proposal. I’m getting close to producing my own first self-published effort and am very excited about the potential to benefit from the exercise in the very ways you describe. (But visiting the post office to discover the cost of mailing individual copies was a sobering experience: distribution of actual, vs virtual, copies is a costly affair, when done one at a time!)

  2. Al Etmanski

    Distribution is a challenge is you are trying to do it yourself. Securing partners from within your movement is the key. That enables bulk purchasing and distribution by and through your partners’ network, In the meantime get a Canada Post small business card!
    Can’t wait to read your new book.

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