Tuesday, June 30, 2009

What I'm reading right now

I'm a reader; I love to read! But my tastes for leisure reading tend to run toward trashy thriller-type novels. That's all great fun, but I've decided to really step up my educational reading, so I'm going to start focusing on marketing and sales. I'll be laid up for a few days next week after a medical procedure, so I picked up some classics:

Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
First Things First by Stephen R. Covey

I also have a couple of titles put out by Entrepreneur magazine.

Of course with all that said, I also picked up the first season of Nip/Tuck.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Book promotion tips—9 sure-fire strategies

1. Know your competition. How can you make your book better than what's already out there unless you are aware of your rivals? Look in the Subject Guide to Books in Print in a major library to determine what other books are available on your topic. Check out Amazon.com. Then stop at a good independent bookstore and ask the owner or manager what three books on the subject he or she would recommend. Buy them. Study them. Don't emulate them! Find a way to make yours more complete, shorter, funnier, easier to read, more appealing in some way.

2. Include marketable mentions. Hoping to sell quantities of your book to a corporation? Include the name of the organization and a quote from the CEO. (Conversely, you might choose not to mention names to keep the content generic so it can be used in a number of different companies.)

3. Consider global appeal. If your topic will "travel" into other cultures, you might have potential for foreign rights sales or translations into foreign languages. If so, exclude words or ideas that might be offensive to people in other countries. It's not unusual for a book to make more money in foreign than domestic sales.

4. Get a well-known person to write a Foreword. Hopefully, you've been developing contacts in your area of expertise for years and database full of potential Foreword writers. It is often more graceful to simply request their feedback on the manuscript first. Then, once they've raved about it, ask if they would honor you by writing the Foreword.

5. Think about adding a Glossary. Especially if your topic is technical or if newcomers to the subject will be using the book, include a Glossary. One reviewer commented that the Glossary in our Complete Guide to Self-Publishing was itself worth the price of the book.

6. Create a bookmark. A bookmark is a miniature Mighty Mouse. The one we developed for Self-Publishing Resources founder Marilyn Ross’s book Jump Start Your Book Sales is a stand-alone order form. It includes a photo of the book, sales copy with bullets, testimonials, how to order, plus our Web address for people who want more information. We tuck one in everything that goes out of this office: invoices, sales letters, general correspondence, lead packages, proposals, etc.

7. Go after excerpts in magazines. Once the official publication date has passed, you can merchandise what is termed "second serial rights" to magazines and newsletters. Perhaps it will be a chapter, a quiz, a sidebar of information, or maybe a small self-contained section. They may pay you a couple of hundred dollars—or nothing. But your real payback is the ordering blurb you'll include at the end.

8. Recycle your publicity. Often it's the second or third time around that's more powerful than the first exposure! Include reviews, feature articles about you, interview pieces, etc. in speaking proposals, media kits, everywhere! People like to jump on an already-moving bandwagon.

9. Be generous with review copies. We sent out almost 500 free copies of Jump Start Your Book Sales. When the publication date was just a month away, we'd already received 16 reviews and there was a "buzz" starting. Assuming it is done well, your book is your very best sales piece. And don't stop sending reviews once the book is older. Always be on the lookout for new publications or prominent people who might be interested in a copy.

Friday, June 19, 2009

The difference between self-publishing and subsidy publishing

I frequently get phone calls and emails from burgeoning self-publishers who are confused--or completely unaware--of the difference between self-publishing and subsidy publishing. They are not one in the same.

A subsidy publisher (sometimes called a vanity press) takes payment from the author or self-publisher to print and bind a book. With subsidy publishers, it’s the writer’s cash, not the quality of his or her work, that counts since they publish anyone who can pay. Typically, they provide no book editing, book marketing/promotion, or book warehousing services. They are a book publisher for hire, not a self-publishing company.

Some publishers that fall into the subsidy/vanity category include:
• AuthorHouse
• Xlibris
• iUniverse
• Trafford
• Vantage
• Dorrance
• Outskirts
• Booksurge

Their use of the term “self-publisher,” which they and their authors are not, is misleading at best and dishonest at worst. They are even so bold as to imply that authors have only two choices: publish with a traditional house or “self-publish” with a subsidy publisher. Subsidy presses deceive authors into believing they are “self-publishing” when in fact they are not. Self-publishing your own book implies that you, yourself, are the publisher. If you use a subsidy press, they are the book publishing company, not you.

If you have visions of your book becoming the next bestseller—or if you’d simply be satisfied just turning a modest profit—a subsidy press is not the best route to go. Books printed by subsidy presses rarely make it into bookstores. If your book does make it into a bookstore, you may find that it is not shelved in your intended genre, but rather, it has been placed in a catch-all category called “local authors.” Potential buyers often ignore this category because they perceive these books as being inferior in overall quality, which they often are. Sometimes the book bindings themselves are shoddy or less than professional. Cover art is noticeably amateurish at times, and the typesetting and font selection is not enticing for the reader.

Review copies of books sent to columnists by subsidy publishers generally go directly into the trashcan. Reviewers realize that very little editing has likely been done, and they also know that promotional efforts will be practically nonexistent and the book will not be available through the usual book distribution channels. A subsidy publisher name on a book is pretty much the kiss of death.

When you choose a subsidy publishing company, there is another issue to consider: Since they own the ISBN for your book, they usually set the price. They literally will tell you what to charge for your own book! This is more than a loss of control—it can even damage the sales of the book if they set the price too high or too low. Once an ISBN is set and printed on the back cover, and imbedded in the UPC bar code, you cannot change it.

It boils down to three types of publishing.
1. Traditional publishers. An author who signs a contract with a traditional publisher usually receives an advance against future royalties. The publisher owns the ISBN, but the copyright is in the author’s name. The publisher pays for and makes decisions about editing, cover, size, price, and production. Sales channels generally include book wholesalers and retailers, as well as inclusion in the company’s catalog. Authors are expected to do a good deal of book promotion and publicity—although they are often not aware of this until it’s too late.

2. Subsidy publishers. Authors who are “accepted” by subsidy publishers—and 99.9 percent of them are as long as they have the cash—pay to have these companies publish their books and get royalties on copies sold. The publisher generally owns the ISBN, although the author retains the copyright. The author pays for all steps in the publishing process, but the publisher makes most or all of the decisions on editing, cover, size, price, and production of the book. Sales channels are usually limited to the Web since these books are generally ignored by reviewers and others in the book trade. Authors must do their own promotion and publicity. Since they make money up front, subsidy publishers take no risks, and they have no incentive to design an outstanding book or fix typos or other problems.

3. Self-publishers. Self-publishing authors assume all responsibility for all aspects of their books—and they keep 100 percent of the profits. They also own their books’ ISBNs and copyrights; they pay for and make decisions about editing, cover, size, price, and printing, and they can use a wide variety of sales channels, including the Internet as well as all routes available to traditional publishers. Self-publishers know up front that they will be responsible for marketing, promotions, and publicity. Self-published books that sell extremely well may be noticed by traditional publishers, who might want to buy the rights from the author/publisher.

Authors choosing subsidy publishing really need to do their homework to make sure they understand exactly what they are signing. But if you intend to make money selling your book, and if you want value for your money as well as a credible product, self-publishing is likely the best way to go. If you do selfpublish, ensure your book’s quality by working with a reputable self-publishing company. Doing anything less can be a costly and career-threatening mistake.

All things self-publishing

After a few false starts, I have finally settled on a "home" for my new blog. Here, I hope to provide valuable information on all things self-publishing--from manuscript writing and editing to book packaging to promoting and marketing. I'll also be talking about the progress I am making on the book I am co-authoring with self-publishing guru Marilyn Ross, The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing, 5th Edition (slated for release March 2010).

Please feel free to comment and ask questions!