Posts Tagged 'book marketing'

Back to writing!

With all the changes in the book publishing world, we’ve been changing too. We’ve moved our offices and refocused our business, so I haven’t posted in a while.

We’re now working with authors to publish their books themselves. Technology has made it easier for authors to publish e-books, for example, but technology can’t create good editing, proofreading, cover design, interior design, etc. You still need publishing professionals if you want your book to look professional instead of  “do-it-yourself.”

That’s where we come in. We still guide authors through the publishing process, but the authors work directly with the editor, proofreader, designer, and printer (in the case of printed books) so the author knows what’s going on every step of the process. We have all the contacts, which flattens the learning curve for the author.

That also means I can get back to writing. Thanks for your encouragement and patience during this time while we made the changes.

I expect you’ve been taken away from your writing now and then (as I was), so I want to encourage you to get back to doing something connected to writing every day. Here’s a list of some things to get you going again.

  • Read something fun (a chapter in a novel, a magazine article), and think about what the writer did to bring it to you to enjoy so you can do the same for your reader.
  • Make a list of topics you’re interested in writing about–then decide if they are articles or book chapters (or both).
  • Research your book. Research can be done many ways–experience, observation, reading, interviewing, etc.
  • Think about your reader and how you’ll market your book so your reader knows it exists.
  • Give your book a working title. When you have one or two working titles, look them up in or Google them to see if they’re already in use. You don’t want people to confuse your book with others.
  • Write!

Happy writing!


Everyone has an Agenda

Have you ever noticed how there are two sides to every issue? The decision to royalty publish or pay-to-publish is no different.

You’ll find royalty publishing advocates who assert you aren’t “really” published if you pay to publish. They say you need an outside party to deem your work worthy of purchase (yes, you are selling your intellectual property, so  no longer own your own writing when you royalty publish).

I don’t disagree that you should have some third party (writers group or volunteer readers qualify) honestly tell you about the quality of your writing, but too often the criteria royalty publishers use to determine whether or not someone should be published is how much money the author can make for the publisher rather than the quality of writing. That’s why the two primary questions royalty publishers ask are (1) What will you do to sell this book? and (2) What is your platform (meaning how well known are you)?

If selling your intellectual property and doing the marketing to earn about 7 percent of the net (which is typically 25 to 35 cents per book SOLD) works for you, I’m all for it for you.

Authors who pay to publish (whether that’s self, subsidy, or equity) invest in themselves and, depending on the choices they make, keep all the profits from sales or share some of the profits with the publisher or get minimal “royalties” back when they sell books they’ve already paid to publish.

A book is self-published when the author actually owns the ISBN (International Standard Book Number) since ISBNs are issued to publishers. Expert Publishing owns its ISBNs, thus our authors are not self-published and we don’t represent that they are.

With so many publishing options, books are flooding the marketplace as never before. The biggest challenge an author has today is not getting published–it’s in attracting readers. Authors have to do more than ever to get noticed by readers and sell books. And that goes for all publishing options because, frankly, most readers don’t pay attention to how a book is published as much as how clearly it is written, how professionally it is designed, and how easy it is to get.

As you plow through the publishing options available to you, be mindful that everyone has an agenda. Royalty publishers dislike self-publishing. Pay-to-publish publishers dislike royalty publishers. I think there’s room for both and publishing is a business decision each author must make individually. Just remember to do your own thinking because everyone–even you–has an agenda. Stay mindful of that and you’ll make a better publishing decision.

Happy writing!



Book Signing Blues

Last week I participated in an “Authors Room” at a trade show. The event promotion folks did a great job creating signage that showed all the book covers, the book titles, and the authors’ names. They also did a great job with print media promotion before the event. Their website featured the event speakers and authors. And the four-color, multi-page program was very classy and well done.

But something went wrong in the event execution.

The Authors Room wasn’t set up on time. Authors stood in the hallway waiting with boxes of books. The hotel workmen scrambled to set up tables, but the room only held  six tables and there were eleven authors. Several authors brought along helpers to assist them, which made the room even more crowded and less inviting to anyone entering.

Crowded isn’t necessarily a negative thing–unless the crowd consists of authors selling and signing books rather than readers lining up to meet the authors and buy books.

As the workmen hurried, some of the more assertive authors raced into the room and grabbed the prime real estate of the first two tables near the door. Those authors were able to add their floor easels holding promotional material into the tiny space before the workmen finished setting up the rest of the room.

Some of the more polite authors ended up at the back of the room, stuffed in the corner and hardly visible.

The book signing was scheduled from 5:00 pm to 10:00 pm.

One of our authors was there and she did everything right–her books were displayed well, she draped her table top with red satin (which made her spot stand out), she displayed an elevated prop for visual interest, and she mingled with the other authors in the room, which meant she wasn’t stuck behind a table looking bored.

By 7:00, the authors in the back of the room  packed up and left.  Within a half-hour, the remaining authors followed that lead.

Lessons? Despite the promoter doing everything right, the book signing was a bust from a sales perspective. The room was too small. It was located by the portable bar, so the people standing in line to get drinks blocked the entrance to the room. If a person did get inside the room, the set-up was uninviting–more reminiscent of dogs in an animal shelter looking  to be picked than an opportunity to meet authors and get books signed.

Perhaps it would have been better to schedule the signing for just an hour or two. Perhaps it would have been better to have a bigger room or fewer authors. Perhaps it would have been better to have some ambiance in the room other than authors staring at the door waiting for someone to come in.

I did sell books (one reader even wanted her photo taken with me). The author I shared my table with was a delight, and I wouldn’t have missed meeting her and sharing with her for anything. Sometimes the value in book signings is more than just selling books. I’m glad I was there.

Happy writing!

Once Published, Books Don’t Sell Themselves

I wish I had a dollar for every author who thought that once his/her book was published, Oprah would be sending the limo immediately. The truth is, that’s not going to happen. Nor are a lot of other expectations authors have for selling their books–unless the author creates a buzz about his/her book.

Last week I had the honor of speaking to the Minnesota Chapter of the National Speakers Association. I was one of three presenters. One spoke on products, one spoke on Internet sales, and I spoke on book writing/book publishing/book marketing. The audience ended up being 50 percent more than had signed up. It was an energizing day.

There were many questions, but the recurring question was about marketing.

I told the audience the worst place to sell a book is the bookstore. Not only do bookstores take 55 percent of the cover price, but they return (no matter what the book’s condition) unsold books to you for FULL credit. That means you end up with books that are basically unsaleable and you lost money because you paid shipping to boot!

Not only do you pay a hefty premium to be in bookstores, but your book competes with all the other books in the store for the consumer’s dollar. Why would someone find your book and buy it when they can find so many books they’ve already heard about elsewhere?

So, what can you do to sell your book? Place them in other types of stores where they stand out. For example, if you have a gift book,  place it in a gift store. Fishing book? Sporting goods store. Parenting book? Children’s clothing or toy store. Well, you get the idea. Even better, try to hold an event/book signing in that store.

What else can you do? Write articles based on your book and make sure you get a tag line that mentions your book. You can submit your articles to any number of places on the Internet. Create a video (called a book trailer) about your book and put it on the Internet. Create a website for your book and offer ideas/guides for book groups to use your book. Entire books are written on book marketing, but I’ve given you a jumpstart on thinking about ways to market.

With technology today, you have more opportunities than ever to get the word out about your book.  People buy authors, but they won’t buy you if they don’t know about you.

Happy writing!

Tie Your Book to Current Hot Topic

Most authors are surprised to learn they hold the primary responsibility for marketing their books once published. Over the years I’ve heard many authors say, “I’m a writer. I don’t want to market the book.” We don’t publish those authors because we know their books will fail in the marketplace and they’ll blame us instead of themselves.

So, what do you do if the thought of marketing your published book creates anxiety or fear in you? Find ways you can create a buzz about your book that take the spotlight off you.

One of the easiest ways to attract attention is to tie your book to a current hot topic. I urged one of our authors to do that with his book after the horrific shooting of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and the other victims in Arizona last month. You see, his book, Flashbacks of Abuse, tells his story of how he and his daughter survived a shooting incident while on vacation in Europe and how his life changed since then.

What could he do to tie his book to the current topic? He could blog. He could write letters to the editor. He could connect with local media for interviews and share what goes through one’s mind when facing a gunman. He could send out press releases regarding his experience.

How can you tie your book to a current hot topic?

One author (not ours) connected spending habits to dieting. How much attention does the media give diets each January when it urges everyone to begin the new year by creating new habits or a new you? It’s smart to tie financial concepts to the current hot topic of dieting at the beginning of the year.

Tune into what’s going on in the world, then find a way to tie your book to what’s hot, and you’ve got a ready-made marketing opportunity for your book.

Remember, people buy the author, not the publisher, and your book’s success in the marketplace depends on you. No one will be more excited about your book than you are, which is why you’re the perfect person to market it.

Happy writing!


Book Reviews–Valuable or not?

One of the ongoing discussions in the book publishing world is the value of book reviews. How much do book reviews influence the reader to purchase a book? Authors get paid for books sold, not for books read. So, to be valuable, the book review should entice readers to buy the book, not just read it.

Actually, if most readers were honest, they don’t (or won’t) read 80 percent of the books in their personal libraries. The books on their shelves or stacked by their beds warrant their places in the reader’s home, but finding time to read them all challenges even the most dedicated reader. So, again, the value to the author comes in the reader buying the book more than in reading the book.

One of the ongoing discussions about book reviews is whether or not to pay for the review. Many well-known review sources require payment for reviews. ForeWord magazine’s review guidelines offer to send your book to one of its reviewers for $99.00 (they call it a small handling fee). To ForeWord‘s credit, they will refund the money if the book doesn’t pass their review standards test.

But if you pay for a review, do you create a conflict of interest? Do you have a right to expect a positive review since you paid for it? Or can the reviewer be trusted to be objective and ignore the influence of payment for the service?

If you don’t pay for a review, what credentials should you expect the reviewer to bring to the table? Do readers value the opinion of a well-known reviewer over someone who likes to read and comment on the book or doesn’t that matter?

I submit that an appropriate reviewer will back up any assertions made in the review with evidence to support those assertions. Evidence shows the reviewer actually read the book and has a basis for what he/she says. Evidence carries more weight than opinion.

The final issue in determining value of a book review deals with what the author does with the review. Positive reviews are wonderful–if the author does something with them. Remember the value is in the purchase of books, so the author needs to use positive reviews to market the book and create buzz about the book. That’s what translates into sales.

Book reviews can be valuable, but it’s up to the author to make them so.

Happy writing!

Do You Really Want to Sell Your Book in Bookstores?

Ask anyone who’s been in the book publishing business very long that question and you’ll get a “Yes–and–No” answer. The yes because you want your book available to sell in bookstores (whether online or brick and mortar), and no, you don’t really want to sell your book there.

Huh? Some people only buy books from bookstores, so you want to be available for purchase there. But the ugly truth is bookstores are a consignment business. They don’t buy the book from you until the customer buys it from them.

Here’s how it works. Your bookstore shelves your book, but only if the store  buyer is convinced you’ll drive traffic to that store to buy the book. If you’re an author with a platform (read famous), that’s not a problem. Or, if you’re an author with an established fan base, that’s not a problem. For 98 percent of the authors, however, neither is the case.

If you do convince a store to shelve your book, the book sits there until purchased or returned for full credit (often a book is only given a handful of weeks or it’s returned). If purchased, the bookstore gets the money, cash manages the money for 30 days or so, then pays the distributor. The distributor cash manages the money for 30 days or so, then pays the publisher. Thus, even if a book sells immediately upon hitting the bookstore, it’s entirely possible you’ll wait 90 days or more for your share of the sale.

What is your share of the sale? After the bookseller and the distributor take their cuts, anywhere between 30 and 45 percent is left for the publisher. The publisher pays the cost of publishing, the cost of shipping and handling, and the overhead costs out of those leftovers. Of course, if you’re royalty published, you’re a cost to the publisher too.

Let’s say your royalty is 5 percent of net. If you crunch the numbers above, you’ll see a publisher needs to keep the cost per book at around 40 percent to break even–that’s $4.00 on a $10.00 book. So, your 5 percent is based on $4.00, which is a whopping 20 cents per book sold. However, if you have a literary agent who typically gets 15 percent of your earnings, you don’t get 20 cents per book. You get 20 cents minus 15 percent, or a net 17 cents per book sold. Royalties aren’t figured on review copies, promotional copies given away, etc.

Before you get all excited about selling your book in bookstores, do the math. You may find you do better selling in other types of venues. At least consider your options.

Happy writing!