How I Started A $1.5M/Month Publishing And Marketing Company

Published: April 27th, 2020
Adam Witty
Founder, Forbes Books
Forbes Books
from Charleston, South Carolina, USA
started July 2005
Discover what tools Adam recommends to grow your business!
social media
Discover what books Adam recommends to grow your business!
Want more updates on Forbes Books? Check out these stories:

Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Adam Witty is the Founder & CEO of Advantage|ForbesBooks and has built the company into one of the largest business book publishers in America, serving over 1,500 Authors in all 50 U.S. states and 63 countries.


Advantage was on the Inc. 5000 list of America’s most rapidly growing private companies seven out of the past eight years. In addition to his work with Advantage|ForbesBooks, Witty is a sought-after speaker, teacher, and consultant on marketing and business growth techniques for entrepreneurs and authors. He's shared the stage with Steve Forbes, Gene Simmons of KISS, and Alan Mulally. He's been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Investor’s Business Daily, USA Today, and more. He was named to Young Presidents’ Organization 40 Under 40, 50 Most Progressive, and named to the 2011 Inc. magazine 30 Under 30 list of “America’s coolest entrepreneurs.”

Advantage|ForbesBooks specializes in Authority Marketing™ for entrepreneurs, business leaders, and professionals who want to grow their business. Utilizing the Forbes multi-platform media network, ForbesBooks offers a branding, visibility, and marketing platform to business authors that is absolutely unrivaled.

Advantage|ForbesBooks is the pioneer of pain-free book creation. Our famed Talk Your Book® and Ghostwriting programs have helped over 1,500 entrepreneurs, CEOs and professionals create a book in 10 to 24 hours of their time over the course of six months.

What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

As a kid, I didn’t grow up wanting to be a publisher. In fact, no kid does!

While in high school, my parents made me get a summer job. Our neighbor worked for a publishing company and offered an internship. I thought I would hate it. I ended up really liking it. I found the creation of books, the marketing, and sales of books absolutely fascinating. But I went off to college not really thinking about it again.

While in school at Clemson, my boss at the publishing company ventured out and started his own publishing business. He asked me if I wanted to partner with him. I did. We worked together for about a year, but we had different visions for the company. I wanted to create a big business. He wanted a lifestyle business that would employ his family members and he could work from home. We parted ways.

My mentor is a well-known businessman. He has written a number of books which have helped build his fame. He convinced me to start a publishing company for entrepreneurs. He said every business owner should be the “author of the book on the topic” their business specializes in.

I started Advantage on July 19, 2005. I was 23 years old. In the first year, we did about $250K in sales. I paid myself a salary of $40K. I lived very frugally.

Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.

My mission was to demystify and democratize book publishing for entrepreneurs.

Given my passion for entrepreneurship, I quickly realized that business owners were the people who could benefit most from a book.

I partnered with local writers and graphic designers at the time. We pioneered a done-for-you system that made book publishing an easier experience, even within the demanding schedule of a business owner.

Advantage could write, design, and distribute books that told the stories of its authors—whom we warmly referred to as “Members” of the “Advantage family.” The process appealed to hundreds of entrepreneurs nationwide. The idea gained steam and spawned imitators.

Your job as CEO is not to grow a company; your job is to grow people who grow the company.

Describe the process of launching the business.

Launching a business is all about selling. Until you make the cash register ring and a customer gives you their precious dollars, you don’t have a business.

There wasn’t a “launch strategy.” I was too young and naive to know what that was. I just started reaching out to my contacts and telling them what I was doing. It created word-of-mouth and referrals.

Starting and growing a business is really hard. Once you get the marketing engine running, you now have to focus on operations (delivering a quality product profitably). As your company grows, and your employee headcount probably grows, too, you have to focus on managing, growing, and leading people. All of these things are really hard, and screwing up any one of them can sink your ship.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

After growing to a team of more than 20, I took note of something critical: once Members were armed with a published book, they still needed guidance on how to market and leverage the newfound “authority status” the authorship afforded. I adapted the company to meet this need.

I understood that a published book amounts to a marketing tool. Every business owner who published suddenly had more clout in their industry. Some Members even became celebrities on the strength of their book. Many were able to beat out competitors because their book “tipped the scale” in customers’ minds.

I polished the foundational principles and processes of this idea and called it Authority Marketing®. Thereafter, Advantage would not only publish books, but it would also help authors use the book as the foundation to build authority. With authority status, authors leverage that currency to grow their business.

I set out to build a world-class marketing team of strategists, writers, and web developers, whose gold-plated credentials matched the writers and designers I already had on staff. Our in-house marketing agency took on its own life. It is now staffed by a team of consummate Authority Marketing experts. The suite of marketing products that emerged became known as the Authority Marketing System.

As our star rose, business media juggernaut Forbes took notice. Although Forbes had dominated the magazine market for decades, they had yet to make a foray into books. Advantage’s track record and entrepreneurial target market made Advantage Media Group the perfect match for Forbes’ budding ambitions for a book-publishing imprint. In 2016, Forbes partnered with Advantage Media Group to launch ForbesBooks. Advantage dropped ‘Media Group’ from its name, and joined its new sister imprint to form a single company: Advantage|ForbesBooks.

We put ourselves in a “category of one” so we couldn’t be commoditized.

I have been invited to speak and lecture at events, which is a terrific way for us to generate new authors. Additionally, we advertise online and offline.

A significant generator or new business for our company is author referrals. Because authors want to talk about their book, telling their friends and family, that has opened lots of doors for us.

Launching a business is all about selling. Until you make the cash register ring and a customer gives you their precious dollars, you don’t have a business.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

We are growing our core business. We have also grown by creating the “Advantage Family,” which includes two other businesses that serve our target customers, entrepreneurs, and CEOs.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

A piece of advice I got from a mentor a long time ago was this: ‘Your job as CEO is not to grow a company; your job is to grow people who grow the company.” If you want to be a big business that is respected far and wide, you’ve got to get into the business of growing people. Watching others learn, grow, and develop has been one of the most rewarding parts of my entrepreneurial journey.

Make sure everyone is in alignment. Everyone in the company, from the intern all the way up to the CEO, should know what the company’s strategic plan is and how what they do each day helps the company achieve that plan. What I’ve found in most businesses is the senior leaders want to keep the company’s strategic plan a secret. They think all these important things shouldn’t be discussed with the rank and file. But if employees aren’t clear about the company’s plan, how can they successfully help bring it about?

Let facts and data guide decisions. I always say, “When it comes to decision making, if we’re going to go with opinions, we’ll go with mine.” In reality, I don't want to make decisions based on my opinion; I prefer facts and data.

Encourage professional development. If people aren’t careful, the company will grow and they won’t grow with it in terms of their abilities. We encourage 120 hours per year of professional development for everyone on our team. We grant each employee $1,000 per year to buy business books, invest in online seminars, attend classes, or take other steps that help them improve. “If you don’t have the aptitude, drive, and desire to improve yourself, why would I want you on my team?”

Have fun. My team members and I should enjoy the journey and each other.


What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

All of Dan Kennedy’s books. Dan is a famous marketing advisor to entrepreneurs.

American Icon: Alan Mulally and the Fight to Save Ford Motor Company by Bryce G. Hoffman.

The Discipline of Market Leaders by Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

Entrepreneurs are the greatest force for good in the world. A growing business is an incoming tide that lifts all boats. Everyone associated with a growing business is made better off as a result of that company’s success.

Make sure everyone is in alignment. Everyone in the company, from the intern all the way up to the CEO, should know what the company’s strategic plan is and how what they do each day helps the company achieve that plan.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

Our positions are posted here.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!