Tomorrow we’re having another book marketing meetup, this time our special guest is Erik Wecks. He’ll be talking about his experience self-publishing his Amazon bestselling personal finance book, “How To Manage Your Money When You Don’t Have Any.”
Erik will be discussing the business reasoning behind his decision to self-publish this book. He will also share his thoughts on book marketing. As more and more publishers cut back on their marketing budgets, both self-published and traditionally published authors need to understand how to market their own material.
Click on the image for more information.
Ok - so this idea isn’t that silly. It’s based on the idea that media will sometimes write a piece or a review based on the fact that it might be a “History Month” or “Wilderness Month” or “National Pie Eating Day”, etc.
Does your new book have a tie into one of these crazy days? Do you have a personal tie, but happen to have a book too? If so, draft a sexy pitch, making note of the holiday, and make sure to send a copy of your book three months in advance to the media of your choice, giving them time to read your work and write a feature/review.
Ten points to the author who can get a book review on national “Something on a stick day” … otherwise known as March 28. On second thought, I don’t think anyone wants to know what is on that stick …
Here are a couple of handy resources for authors to discover new, relevant and interesting holidays:
Hallmark, not surprisingly, has some kickass resources:
So does this website, Brownielocks (but don’t let the circa 1997 design fool you):
During the past week we’ve seen news about self-publishing in prominent national media, and regional Pacific Northwest media.
As a book marketing consultant, I take an eagle-eye look at self-publishing news, and thought I’d share some of what I’ve seen in the past week.
If you’d like to learn about my special marketing services for self-published authors, please <click here>.
Here are some of my favs:
From the Pacific Northwest:
Self-Publishing Takes off With Seniors: The Columbian
“Getting older seems to bring out the author in people. And seniors are discovering the booming self-publishing industry is their path to every author’s deepest desire: a book.”
Comments: I’ve worked with many seniors during the past year and I understand their unique challenges and concerns. Please contact me at (971) 266-3515 if you’re a senior and are looking to market and promote your self-published title.
Self-publishing offers an array of choices for authors: The Spokesman-Review
Comments: Great overview of the industry with resources for soon-to-be self-published authors in Eastern Washington.
Self-Publishing: No Longer Just A Vanity Project: National Public Radio
“They used to call it the “vanity press,” and the phrase itself spoke volumes. Self-published authors were considered not good enough to get a real publishing contract. They had to pay to see their book in print. But with the advent of e-books, self-publishing has exploded, and a handful of writers have had huge best-sellers.”
Comments: A great feature with anecdotal stories - no real new information here.
2012: the year of self-publishing: Christian Science Monitor (blog by Husna Haq)
Comments:No new information; a fine piece for those unfamiliar with developments in the self-publishing industry.
Another First for Self-Publishing: Forbes Magazine
“We learned earlier in the year at Digital Book World that in 2012, self-publishing took a $100 million bite out of U.S. trade publishing revenues in 2011. Sounds like a lot but isn’t much compared to the nearly $14 billion in revenues the book business made in the U.S. that year. This year, the number is certain to be more.”
Comments: That’s about the extent of any “news.” Like the Husna Haq piece, this one is referencing NY Times reviewer Michiko Kakutani’s decision to make a self-published book a choice for “Book of the Year.” A first ever decision by the paper, but arguably not surprising in that it’d have to happen sometime, and frankly, there are more self-published novels being produced than at any other time in history.
I host these quasi-regular book marketing Meetup groups in Portland, Oregon - where self-published authors, traditionally published authors, book marketers, book publicists and other interested parties get together to talk trends and strategy. It’s super cool. This is your official invite to the next one ….
Last Friday I put together an event for an acclaimed Portland author named Todd Grimson, and I’ve decided to write about my process as it’s befitting to my strategy for book marketing and book publicity for authors.
- Grimson spent then last 15 years writing under the moniker I. Fontana; ie; his personal “brand” has become diluted since his groundbreaking hits “Brand New Cherry Flavor” and “Stainless” were originally released in the early 90’s
- Grimson isn’t necessarily active on social media (despite having Goodreads, Author Central, Twitter & Facebook accounts)
- Grimson cannot do public speaking appearances due to his struggle with multiple sclerosis
- How can I introduce his work to newer, younger audiences?
- How can I maximize exposure for this literary event and for the release of his brilliant new collection of short stories?
- Traditional Media Outreach Campaign (for Portland this includes: The Mercury, Willamette Week, The Oregonian, Portland Book Review, Portland Literary Review and calendar listings throughout the city. In other words, “the easy part”
- Social Media Outreach (Bloggers, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, etc)
My goal when putting on events is to work with as many partner groups as possible to build the largest word-of-mouth buzz possible. My intention for this event was to create mutually beneficial and community building partnerships in an effort to create a win-win for all involved.
Here are the groups I thought to get involved:
1 - bookstore (took four tries to find one that was available)
Win-Win: In exchange for their services, I promoted their name in the media and on our social media pages and website.
1 - established literary venue (a relatively new concept in this literary town)
Win-Win: I promoted their venue to the media, and brought new people to their venue.
2 - meetup group invitations (I have my own Meetup, as did the venue)
Win-Win: I created something interesting and different for members of Meetup to enjoy.
3 - bands; performed after our reading was completed (each has their own ‘fans’)
Win-Win: I helped build an audience for them to showcase their work to.
4 - readers (actors w/friends that read collections from the short story)
Win-Win: I gave actors an opportunity to tie their name into a prestigious release event, secured media and social media exposure for them.
We had a successful event, despite our initial challenges. We received coverage in The Mercury and The Oregonian and had our event posted to the calendar listing section of various other local television stations and assorted media. Because of his condition, we did not try for television or radio or even podcasters.
Our group partnership strategy was successful in that each brought audience members to help fill up the venue, and secured exposure for all involved.
Next time you, as an author, think about putting together a literary event to promote your work, ask yourself these questions:
- How can I make my book event interesting enough for the media? (new release, providing a service, teaching a class, involving music, involving actors, etc)
- Who can I partner with to create a mutually beneficial and community building event? (bookstores, clubs, actors, musicians, venues, small companies, politicians, media, etc)
And always remember, as the great U2 once said:
Sometimes book marketers needs to remember to take a deep breath and take a step back. In the British Aisles, this would be referred to as going to the pub. As in, “Screw this, I’m going to the pub to get a pint.”
Today I’m having one of those fun days where several marketing campaigns have converged into one ginormous publicity outreach fun-fest. Therefore my fingers are numb and I’m losing my voice from a multitude of phone calls and emails. (Thankfully I prepared in advance and didn’t have to scramble to do any last minute research, as that would only serve to add onto my heaping to do list.)
With the outreach behind me, and the call of the weekend a blarin’ - I’m fighting off a feeling that any book publicist/book marketer can relate to. That sensation you experience after many pitches go on deaf ears, or onto voicemails, or in the case of email … into a questionable intergalactic void. I know I reached out to a bunch of people, so why is my inbox empty right now?
It’s times like this when I like to remind myself to cool my jets and call it a day. Any real book marketing campaign should take a long term approach. Any real book marketing campaign isn’t out searching for a silver bullet. Any real marketing campaign builds a foundation, and relationships based on sincerity.
So, I remind myself that there are people at the other end of my outreach … who are away from their desk, or swamped with work, or took the day off, or are zoning out on The Daily Beast or Huffington Post.
I take a deep breath and remind myself that today, I stacked a couple bricks on that foundation. And next week I’ll pick up again where I left off. Checking my email on Monday morning will be exciting. I am free to enjoy the weekend.
Now, if I can only get away from my computer …
How many of you Portlanders made it out to Wordstock this year?
Yuvi’s presentation was fascinating, witty and his book sounds inspired and interesting. Therefore, I leapt at the chance to invite him to our Meetup Group to talk about his experience as an author, and his long and winding road to marketing success (or continuation of said journey).
Yuvi has made a series of awesome videos.
This one shares his thoughts on networking:
This is his book trailer:
Have fun exploring his website, and please join us OCTOBER 30th at 6 p.m.for what promises to be a fun evening.
An Exploration of the Negative Stereotypes Afflicting Self-Published Authors.
Self-publishing is a tricky business, and I am afraid most self-published authors are not looking at self-publishing as an actual business. Typical artists, eh? These authors often think that they wrote an amazing book just waiting for the entire world to accept it with open arms and will therefore receive voluminous sales numbers. Tsk tsk tsk!
Let’s not kid ourselves here. Publishing is a difficult business, and marketing a book is extraordinarily challenging. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t follow your passion, but you should be more realistic, creative and strategic about your goals. Publishing companies play a very vital role in publishing a book and most of their basic functions are lost in the self-publishing process.
If you think about it, traditional publishing companies act as “gatekeepers” and do not publish titles indiscriminately, which serves to bar the lack wits from publishing their lackluster memoirs or ill-advised “Lord of the Rings” clones. Additionally, these old skool stodgy traditional publishing firms edit books for grammar, spelling errors and in some cases - content. This gives the publishing world a relative purity and creates a certain standard. If a traditional company strays from this standard, ie, releases a book full of spelling errors, it is noticed by reviewers and the publisher’s reputation is damaged, making it more challenging to market their books and build relationships. As a result, these businesses avoid half-assing it!
Conversely, I’ve observed many self-publishing companies who do not require editing and charge an additional fee for this service. This results in many self-published authors opting out of these editing fees in an ill-advised effort to save some money. This is a bad idea and sets a bad precedent for self-publishing. (or good, if you’re of the opinion that it makes it easier to separate the good from the bad, or good if you think everyone should have easy access to express their art, or just good in general depending on how you want to look at it).
In nearly all cases, self-publishing companies don’t serve a gatekeeping role at all. There are so many pros and cons to this, but the lack of gatekeeping is really a pain in the ass from a marketing standpoint as many self-published titles don’t often reach the benchmark of quality and standards pre-existing in the old publishing model. This is part of the reason as to why self-published books hold a negative stigma. Without pointing any fingers, I’ve seen self-published books that appeared to have been written by a team of C-student 3rd graders working in unison with a corps of specially trained monkeys. The end result is that professional reviewers and readers don’t want to be bothered with this stuff, and many self-published titles are tossed into a “special” pile on an editors desk.
As a result of these marketplace challenges, I think authors need to get creative - if in fact they truly want to turn this into a career. In addition to a marketing plan, website, social media, publicity and advertising - here’s yet another little nugget of a good idea from your dear friends at THE NEO COM GROUP.
I often argue that some authors shouldn’t even look at their book as a source of revenue. In many cases, a book can be a glorified and/or utterly impressive business card. It may lend credibility to you as a speaker. If you like crowds and have an important message to tell, perhaps you should consider yourself as a public speaker and look into bookings that garner speaking fees? If this is the case, your book is a component of your resume.
CASE STUDY: I work with a guy who regularly receives upwards of $2,500 - $5,000 a pop for his talks. He hasn’t sold enough books to put him on the New York Times bestseller list, but $7,500 for a week of work makes him feel better real fast.
My main point is that self-publishing is a business and if you have any expectations of making money, you need to treat it like one and think like an entrepreneur. If you are getting into this thinking you’ll sell enough copies of your book to buy a boat, or to take a paid-for trip to the British Isles then GET BACK TO WORK. (when I wrote “get back to work” I was imagining myself as a coal mine foreman in 19th century England)
The competition is fierce, the negative stigma is strong, and there are 200,000 other self-published titles that have been released in the past year.
THE BEST NEWS is that most authors traditional/self have not given any heed to any of the thoughts I pumped out this afternoon making it easier for you to stand out when you do things right!
Your job is to play this game smarter and with more strategy and more tools in your tool belt.
Now, will someone edit my blog entry?
As I continue delving deeper into the self-publishing world, I find new authors asking me three simple questions over and over again:
1. How do I find an agent?
2. How do I get my book into Walmart (or other big box stores)?
3. How do I get a traditional publishing deal?
These are hard questions to answer, and most of the time it involves me throwing an ice-cold bucket of water onto all of their hopes and dreams.
I have answered the questions below with the self-published author in mind. These answers are for anyone who has self-published a book, or is thinking about self-publishing their first book.
Question: How do I find an agent?
Answer. Don’t even try. It will be a fruitless and frustrating exercise in which you’ll receive lots of negative criticism and rejection notices that will hurt your feelings. No one will ever take the time to give you any constructive criticism, and at the end of the day you’ll wonder why you even bothered writing a book in the first place. In the event an agent accepts your book, they are going to have a tough time getting you an advance because of your status as an unknown self-published author. Further, traditional publishing companies are taking less risks with undiscovered talent. Therefore, if you have an agent, you’ll be paying them 15% of nothing for no reason. However, they’ll happily claim that 15% owed to them if something pops serendipitously. It’s better to prove yourself before even thinking about an agent. You don’t need one at this stage in your career.
2. How do I get my book into Walmart (or other big box stores)?
Answer. Don’t even try. Do you know how many other people are trying to get into Walmart? How are you even so sure Walmart readers will buy your book? What happens if 10,000 copies of your book go out to Walmart’s across the country and 9,000 of those aren’t sold and are then taken off the shelf and returned to you. Who pays for that? Further, unless you have a distributor, you’re wasting your time going after a big box store, and you aren’t getting a distributor until you can prove yourself.
3. How do I get a traditional publishing deal?
Answer. Don’t even try. I do think that in today’s era the best way to a traditional publishing deal is through self-publishing. Your challenge then is to prove that you can build your own fan base and sell 25,000 copies on your own merit. Hell, if you can sell 25,000 copies of your own book, do you even need a traditional publisher? This will be a lot of hard work, but if you treat your book like a business, you’ll be more successful and you’ll attract opportunities to come to you instead of whoring yourself out to book review bloggers.
That said, here is a free BASIC checklist for those still hoping to get a traditional book deal via the self-publishing route. Granted, if you want all of my genius thoughts and ideas you’ll have to consider hiring me.
Start with $2,500 - $10,000 to market yourself, or to pay a professional.
1. Have a professional edit your book. Surely you are an amazing undiscovered talent, but if you think you can edit your own book you are wrong. If you think your brother’s girlfriend’s sister who got an English Lit degree from Fontbonne can edit your book, you’re wrong. Think about it. If your goal is to have a book with the best chance of selling enough copies to make you a successful author (financially speaking), then you cannot skimp on the actual content of your book. Otherwise you’re being a cheapskate hippie and are putting a vintage VW Bus engine inside a contemporary Porsche body and that’s just a recipe for disappointment and humiliation!
2. Pay a professional to design the cover and layout. They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but unfortunately the drooling consumer hordes don’t see it that way. A well designed book cover can tell a story in a second that otherwise might require a 30 second investment from the consumer. Today’s consumer wont give you 30 seconds if they don’t know you. If your book cover uses Times New Roman font and is the graphic design equivalent of Charlie Brown’s teeshirt, no one will want to give it a second thought. Period. A counterpoint argument might be that The Beatles White Album was very successful. However, they’d sold millions of copies by that point in history, so they had some graphic design capital to exploit.
3. Pay a professional to draft a marketing plan. As noted in this blog entry, it isn’t enough to declare you want to be in Walmart or sell 10,000 copies or that you want to get scooped up by an agent. That isn’t a marketing plan, that is an ensemble of somewhat delusional goals. With a marketing plan, you need to think about whom outside of your personal network of family and friends will want to read, or god forbid, buy your book? Will your target audience be different from your target reader? ie, will Mom’s be buying your book for their teenage son?
4. What is your web strategy? Websites are becoming increasingly affordable these days and you don’t need to trade your first born child to get a good one. I had a fun experience several years back whereupon I was hired at a company just as they’d completed a website redesign. The design was so horrid, and I didn’t know it was new, so I naively suggested we could use Wordpress to make a more visibly pleasing website for only a couple grand at the most. This was before I realized my employer had dropped close to $30k on this horrific, beastly website. Needless to say, my thoughts and suggestions weren’t appreciated. Once you DO get your website up and running you have to ask yourself some questions. What is my branding message? Have I kept it simple for the casual visitor? Do I portray myself as a strong, virile expert in my field of choice? Is my website integrated with social media technologies? Does my website look good on mobile phone and tablet technologies? As you ponder these questions, I will quietly sneak back to look at my own website to see if I followed my own advice ….
5. What is your publicity strategy? Let’s say that you’ve published a polished, sleek and sexy book. You’ve created a website, complimented by social media profiles including Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Google+ and Author Central. Further, your website looks good on a mobile phone, has a blog and has a page that makes purchasing a copy of your book, easy-breezy. Now. How is your target audience going to discover you in the first place? That is where publicity comes in. Publicity roughly translated is the act of getting newspapers, magazines, radio, TV and blogs to give a **** about you and your book. The mistake I see most often is that people will publish their book first, then try to get media coverage later. This is a no-no. Don’t do this! Bad author, bad! Why? Because, if you published in the PAST your book is no longer NEWS and you lose one of your strongest selling points. Authors also seem to neglect the concept of lead times. Let’s say little Jimmy wrote a memoir and has booked a tour through the Pacific Northwest in a month and wants to get some press coverage. If he is thinking about publicity with only a month before his events, he is too late. Different media have different lead times, most need a couple months. I recommend to give media a three-month head start, as a general rule.
6. Let’s say you’ve followed all of these steps. You’ve invested $10,000 of your own money and you have been actively promoting via social media, radio, tv, blogs, newspapers, and events. After a year you’ve only sold 1,500 books and haven’t even made your money back yet. Should you be disappointed? No.
This is a difficult journey you’ve embarked upon. You are entering the marketplace of ideas. This is where the cream rises to the top. This is where winners emerge and losers flounder. I want you to become a winner. Mostly because I’m appreciative that someone is reading my blog, but also because I want the best for all peoples and humanity.
Greetings from Portland, Oregon - where it is currently way too hot and I have no air conditioning.
One of the biggest challenges of my job is when I start working with a self-published author who is already far along in the self-publishing process. It’s challenging for me because if the author in question doesn’t have the proper guidance, they may unwillingly make mistakes, many of which aren’t easily corrected. There is nothing I dislike more than looking an author in the eyes and telling them that I found mistakes in their completed book. I’m not a heartbreaker by will, only by trade.
Further, many self-publishing houses will fail to guide you properly because they are thinking more in terms of the printing process, and less about the marketing plan. That is why you need an ally like me.
In the following blog entry I share some advice on how authors may avoid some common pitfalls in the self-publishing world.
I keep saying it, and I will say it again - self-published authors need to pay good money for an editor before they go to print with their manuscript. I can’t tell you how many “finished” manuscripts I’ve been presented with that are riddled with simple errors, and larger structural problems. Talk to me if you think you might need an editor. I will give you some free advice. Seriously.
Book publicity for self-published authors and traditionally published authors is and should be different. Not in every case, and not all the time - but as a general rule.
For starters, most self-published authors are publishing a book for the first time. They may not have a resume stocked with writing experience to lend some credibility. Further, many don’t use a proper editor, like I just discussed. Credibility is often something that is lacking, and needs to be built up in other areas of your pitch. What makes your book different? What makes you as an author important? What are you saying that needs to be heard? Those are some samples questions you should ask yourself.
Also related to book publicity - another mistake I see time and time again is that an author will approach me AFTER their book has already been published. Why is this a mistake? Because by this point, the author has already lost the most relevant part of their news pitch … the actual “news” element.
Check out the following example. Which do you think goes over better with an editor at a newspaper:
“Hi, my name is Jimbo and I published a book five months ago and I am wondering if you will review it?”
“Hi, my name is Jimbo and I am publishing a book in three months. Would you like to see an advance copy?”
Surely, that example is a little silly - but my point is that in the second example you are in the very least providing the necessary “news” element for your target book editor/reviewer. Don’t strip this advantage away from yourself.
No matter how well you are prepared, not every editor will be interested in reviewing your book. The reasons are far and wide. Maybe your book doesn’t fit within the traditional parameters of books featured in their column. Maybe they focus solely on local writers. Maybe they don’t like the genre your book is written in. There are many more variables.
That said, if you’re an unknown or first time author, and you’re insistent on getting some traditional media coverage, your best chance for book publicity is to stick to your local media. It always helps to give the book editor more “news” to work with. So try these helpful examples:
1. Host a book release event. Partner with a library, coffee shop, or organization related to the content of your book.
2. Provide a service. If you wrote a book demonstrating some expertise on a specific specialty, like making gluten-free donuts for example, host a class and invite the public. If you’re a fiction writer focusing on unicorns and trolls, host a fiction writing Meetup group. Be an expert, share your expertise, build your credibility.
3. Be relevant. What part of your story will appeal to the readers of a given media?
Finally, if you are a self-published author and have tapped local media, have been turned down by regional and national media, have exhausted the “news” element with your intended audience - try reaching out to bloggers. There are thousands of bloggers eager to receive free books to review on their website. They need content, you can help them.
Instead of harassing a book editor and competing for their limited and shrinking print space, and competing with the other 211,000 self-published titles that have been printed during the past year - go after your friends in the social media realm. Reach out to your target audience on Twitter. Share some of your expertise in the form of a blog. Buy some targeted Facebook advertising. Start a profile on Goodreads, or Linkedin. Host virtual book clubs using Google+’s free technology.
Generating book publicity is challenging, don’t let anyone fool you or lead you to believe otherwise.
But if you talk with a professional like me in the early stages you may ensure that you set yourself up with the proper infrastructure to put your best foot forward. You can also ensure that your time and energy is taking you in the right direction.
I look forward to discussing book publicity with you!
Hey PDX -
What does it take to create a great writer’s website?
Jan Bear will lead the discussion, giving you an idea of what kind of website works for writers (hint: it’s probably simpler than you think).
Writers who need a website sometimes find the process of creating one overwhelming. They don’t know what the steps are or where to start.
And then there’s the question: How do I get all that done and still have time to write?
If you’ve wanted to get a website but hate the idea, you might be interested in the next Book Marketing Meetup.
Jan will answer the burning tech question about self-hosting, recommend a solid, easy-to-use web platform, and give you the criteria to determine your web design. She’ll tell you the five basic pages you need for your site and address the question: To blog or not to blog.
You’ll walk away with a much clearer sense of your options. Whether you want to create your own website or hire someone to do it for you, you’ll be in a better position to make decisions that fit you and your audience.
Jan Bear helps authors take control of their book marketing. She posts on book marketing and web design at MarketYourBookBlog.com.
For more information, please click here: