Friday, February 25, 2011

The Risks in Getting Published

There are a lot of questions about the benefits of getting published versus self-publishing. But first consider the risks.

I have had the good fortune of having published more than 100 titles. I have also self-published 7 books, one of which landed me an agent and publisher.

As a publishing company owner, having launched hundreds of campaigns for my authors, I can tell you that your book gets one chance to prove itself.

If your book does not take root in the marketplace, determined by its ability to produce immediate reorders (and few returns), you become not just backlist like every book that is 3 or more months old, but you quickly fall off the radar of your once eager publicist. She or he is too busy working on the hottest titles.

Publishers must go to where the sales are. They do that by continually seeking ways to own a niche' in the market. They produce title after title, hoping the next will be a winner. Meanwhile, they continue promoting only those titles that show a sales growth pattern. It's just simple economics.

The publisher puts out an initial print run backed by a media campaign of a size befitting anticipated sales. If the book doesn't stick, most publishers hope the book will at least contribute to monthly backlist sales. When all sales die, the book falls fate to remaindering. This, of course, is frustrating to the author. The silver lining is that rights will likely revert back to you, and you can exploit them in other ways yourself.

It is important to note that once you sign a publishing contract, you give up rights to your book. In most cases the rights to your next books too.

One path to consider is to first self-publish your book. By producing a professional self-published book, and building an author platform, you essentially package yourself. And packages have value. A good package will reduce a publisher's risk by reducing their development costs. And you can get on press sooner.

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Thursday, February 24, 2011

How to Promote a Book

There are an infinite number of ways to promote a self-published book. The limit is your creativity. And if you're short on that, don't worry,  there's help.

How to promote a book for maximum exposure begins at writing. It's all about networking while you are writing. If your manuscript is written, it's never too late to join online communities relating to your topic. Write articles and answer questions on targeted sites. Get known in circles. Manage the relevant contacts in a database. By networking early you increase the exposure for your book.

Pick a publication date and post it on a blog or website for your book. The site can be simple to start, but it must have a place where you can write updates. Identify the strong keywords for your topic and try to include them when you can. You will build traffic, make connections, while generating content for your book. Your followers can actually help shape your book if you're willing to ask. People love to help each other.

When I was writing "The Good Home Cookbook: More Than 1000 Classic American Recipes," I got overwhelmed testing recipes. So I thought of asking journalists if they would run a piece for "recipe testers needed." They did. More than 3,000 recipe testers offered to help test recipes. I picked 700 total from all 50 states. In return for their help, I printed all 700 recipe tester names in the book, and gave a free copy to those who tested five or more recipes. The recipe testers then became customers who inadvertently helped launch a successful viral campaign. The media "hook" then became "The First-Ever Public Recipe Tested Cookbook."

When your book enters the design stage arrange to speak at local networking groups, libraries and other organizations where your topic may be of interest. Print a colorful card with your book's cover, a brief description, and your web and contact information. Give it out like a business card. Also gather contact information and add to your growing database.

If your book is fiction (or not!), get as many testimonials as possible. Go after them like you would names for a ballot measure. That means printing your manuscript (or finished book!) and giving it away in exchange for an honest review. What "others say" is especially critical for promoting fiction.

For non-fiction (and some fiction), pitch your book to local radio and TV. Find a good hook. Most local programming prefer local topics of interest to the local community. Your hook should provide some kind of benefit if possible.

Get with another author and dream-up a presentation the two of you can do together.  It can be very powerful to combine your two networks. Who knows, you may even co-author a book together. It has happened more than once!

Think of something you can give away with the first hundred copies or so of your book. In addition to my cookbook, I gave away a mug, apron, and magnetic grocery pad to select media and sales avenues. The kit was cute, but not overly cute. The chief buyer at the largest book club in America let me know that she still uses my mug everyday. Now that's branding! You don't have to go that elaborate. Any added bonus is better than nothing. Even a colorful bookmark with a special saying on it is nice.

And this barely scratches the surface! When thinking about how to promote a book, consider how you will build your network and how you can benefit others.

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Self-Publishing a Book for Distribution

Your best bet to successful distribution is to write a book that's needed.

The target buyer must be clearly defined. Let me give you an example of one of my cookbooks. "The Good Home Cookbook: More Than 1000 Classic American Recipes" targets home cooks looking for a large collection of go-to family favorites. These include first time cookbook buyers, wedding gift buyers, students, and even realtors who buy copies to give to their clients at closing. There's mail order catalogs, campus stores, gift shops, and other specialty stores.

If you can't identify who and where your book will be bought, besides bookstores, rethink your approach. Distributing a book begins with seeing your market. Do some research before you begin writing, that is if you plan to sell a lot of books. If your book is written, think about your market and make sure that your slant is strong.

Look very closely at your competition. Go out and buy their books. Study them. Read the cover copy. Reflect upon the retail prices they chose (not what you paid for them). The more you understand your competitors the better you will navigate yourself onto the radar.

Once you're confident that you've nailed the target, skillful publishing comes into play. The way your book is crafted, from the quality of the content, through editing, design, and printing, increases your chances for success. The package has got to be right. No cheap editing, on-demand printing, or shabby ho-hum book cover is going to cut it. Even the title needs to rock.

Get the package right, see your market, target where they congregate, and you will sell a whole lot of books!

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