Every builder knows that to be successful, you need the right tools. For Orlando custom builder Dave Konkol, that includes a book he wrote and self-published last year, which has since become the centerpiece of his marketing strategy--and to which he attributes a boost in sales and market share at a time when other central Florida builders are struggling to survive. With seven contracts as a result of his literary venture, Konkol is now making the book available to small builders in other markets for a licensing fee. And he’s allowing licensees to customize the content to match their business models.

Created as a resource for prospective home buyers and real estate agent, the hardcover book, Building a Quality Custom Home: What You Need to Know is essentially an organized download of Konkol’s 24 years of experience building luxury homes.

Friendly and service-oriented in tone, it provides a step-by-step guide through the contract, design, and construction processes, with chapters addressing issues such as how to find a competent builder, where it’s important to spend money in a house (and where it’s not), common beefs between builders and clients, and how to make smart choices that will eventually maximize resale value. At roughly 100 pages, the guide includes helpful checklists and a glossary of key terms.

Konkol, who builds 10 to 15 custom homes per year with prices ranging from $1 million to $4 million, credits the book for kick-starting the seven high-end projects currently in progress, plus a prospect list of 30 additional contacts.

“Most builders send a brochure, talk to potential customers once, and then hope they will call back,” the custom builder explains. But sales brochures tend to get tossed quickly, whereas a book is something customers are more likely to keep as a resource ... and use to build a shortlist of builders once they're ready to move forward. 

In addition to converting tire-kickers into contracted clients, Konkol says the book has yielded secondary benefits. It's opened doors to speaking opportunities and media interviews (authorship lends credibility, he says), and it's made his construction cycles run smoother, to the extent that an educated and empowered buyer is a better customer.

“I find I don’t have homeowners negotiating with me so much on margin anymore,” Konkol says. “The book explains the difference between a cost-plus and a fixed-price contract. It explains why it’s fair for a builder to get a change order fee as a percentage. The book sets realistic client expectations, and after they read it, the relationship is so much easier. They know how we do business; we’ve already laid the groundwork.”

The book also has proved a useful tool for real estate agents, whom Konkol says have become a valuable source of referrals. “Previously I was doing no work with Realtors. Now I can offer them a value-added giveaway that helps them with their business. So I’m not just another builder coming into their offices and taking up 15 minutes of their time. I host open houses and go to their meetings and highlight the chapters that will be helpful to them in their industry. We give them extra copies for their clients, and will even mail books on their behalf.”

Having served (successfully) as the guinea pig on his first print run, Konkol is now making the book content available by license to custom builders in other markets: one per market, that is, on a first-come, first-served basis. Licensees agree to become co-authors and are given the opportunity to tailor both the jacket copy and chapters to fit their businesses. So far ten builders have co-opted literary rights to publish their own versions of the book. All proceeds from the sales of Konkol's own book will go to Habitat for Humanity.

Visit www.builderspublishinggroup.com or call 407-467-9117 for more information.

Jenny Sullivan is senior editor, design, at BUILDER magazine.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Orlando, FL.