Thanks for this great discussion and the constructive comments! My biggest challenge right now in the prepublcation phase is trying to determine the best way to allocate my limited funds to get exposure, reviews, distribution and targeted marketing.
As I have my own publishing company, Chase & Wunderlick Publishers, I am multitasking on many fronts.
I'm having some trouble trying to prioritize my marketing efforts/strategy because of course, I want my choices to be the 'right and successful' marketing moves the first time out. I know this can be self-defeating behavior...but hey, I'm being honest.
I like the suggestion of doing 5 things a day for 365 days. It breaks down the scope of an overwhelming task.
My nonfiction book, 'The Naked Invisible ~ Notes From the MotherShip' has a publication date in late September 2007.
Hi, Adrienne. You're focus on prepublication marketing is solid. Now is the best time to begin marketing your book. There are many potential marketing avenues you can take and selecting the most productive ones is difficult. There are three fundamental questions you must answer to best determine which avenues to take.
First, who is the ideal reader of your book? What does she/he look like? The answer to this question cannot be "everybody." It must be more refined than that. A good place to start thinking about your ideal customer is to take inventory of yourself. You wrote the book for people like yourself, therefore it's reasonable to assume that your readers will be like you. What do you look for in a book? Where do you buy those types of books that most closely resemble yours? What publications do you read? To what blogs, websites, etc. do you subscribe? The answer to these questions will help you refine who your ideal reader will be.
Second, what is your platform? Platform is a trendy word in publishing. Having a platform means you have a way, or ways, to reach your potential audience. Oprah has her television show, her XM radio show, her magazine, etc. as ways she can reach her potential audience. Others, like Robert Scoble, have powerful blogs. How are you reaching your audience today - even before you publish your book? Your platform will become one of the most powerful mediums to reach your audience when the book is published.
Third, what media would you like to cover your book? Which magazines should review it? What radio shows should feature it? Which newsletters will review it? Begin listing all the media you think are important for your book. Identify as many as you can. John Kremer suggests creating a list of 100 top media for your book. Once you know what media will benefit you most, begin a search (on the Internet or in your public library) to find the correct people inside the media to whom you'll send review copies of your book. Begin contacting them immediately to create a rapport. Start by commenting on what you've read, or seen, that interested you. Compliment them on it. Create a dialog, if you can. Don't be discouraged if you can't, however, it's equally important that you get your name in front of them so that when the time comes for you to send a review copy, they are familiar with your name.
If you do these three things, you'll begin to focus your marketing efforts so that when the time comes to do your five marketing activities each day, the activities will yield the highest impact. Note, by the way, that all three things I recommend cost nothing to do (except your time).
Try faxing and emailing libraries with a deal for when they buy direct. Remember, libraries can obtain your books at full price through other library distributors. For that reason, don't discount advertising to libraries in the U.K. who have a distributor that is in kind between North America and worldwide. There are also several groups that showcase your books at library shows but that does cost. Jenkins Group is one that seems professional.
Library sales are not hampered by returns and surprisingly they can often order more than one book.
Your book certainly fits a narrow niche. Finding a publisher for such a niche may be difficult. You've identified that publishing is a business. Although I don't agree that it's ALL about the money, any publisher must make money on the books published. The most popular books are called Best SELLERS, after all.
You characterize your book as not fitting any one publisher's profile—too Christian, too, feminist, too latina, etc. Is this based on feedback you've received from publishers, or is this your perception of your own work? It's not my experience that publishers turn down book proposals by characterizing them as too much of one genre or another. They simply turn them down. Is it possible that your own beliefs about your book are blocking you from seeking the right publisher? There are over 63,000 publishers in the United States, according to the Book Institute Study Group in their report, "Under the Radar." It's hard to imagine that one of these publishers wouldn't be interested in your work.
Have you done some simple research? Go to the bookstore and identify some books similar to yours. (I know no book is exactly like yours. Find some that you like in the same general genre as yours). Find out who the publishers are and contact those publishers. Repeat this process on Amazon, too. These are the most likely candidates to publish your book. Don't be dismayed if they reject you, however. There are over 172,000 new books published each year. And there are unknown numbers of manuscripts submitted. It's a numbers game with the odds stacked against a first time author.
There are three main ways to publish a book today: subsidy publishing, self-publishing and POD publishing. Each has its own risks and rewards. Subsidy publishing is traditional publishing where a publisher buys your manuscript, and pays you an advance against royalties for the book. The publisher edits, prints, binds, distributes and markets the book. The publisher, in other words, takes all the risk and you get paid a royalty for every book sold (beyond the advance). Advances for first-time authors are typically low, ranging from $0 (according to one New York Times article) to $5,000. There are exceptions, of course, but they are rarer and rarer.
Self-publishing is what the name implies. You are the author AND the publisher. You take on all the duties of the publisher: editing, printing, binding, distribution and marketing. You take the risk. You pay the money. You get all the rewards, if the book sells. The challenge for most authors is this. Writing is a solitary act. It favors an introvert. Selling books (aka publishing) is a social act. It favors the extrovert. It is rare, indeed, to find an author that excels in both. It's rarer still to find an author with enough money to properly package and market a book. One colleague puts the cost at $25,000 to properly package and distribute a book.
POD publishing is a hybrid. It's self-publishing with some of the risk minimized. You pay a POD publisher a fee to prepare the book. The POD publisher designs the book, prints and binds it and makes it available for distribution. The author is responsible for editing and selling the book. Each time a book is sold, the POD publisher pays the author a royalty. Books don't get sold, however, unless the author is actively marketing and promoting the book. Most POD publishers charge between $500-$1,500 to prepare the book and make it available to the distribution channels. The biggest disadvantage of POD publishing is the high cost of providing books to alternative distribution channels besides bookstores. For instance, in your case, if you decided to sell your books to the Unitarian Church (a likely potential buyer), it will cost you a great deal to buy the books from the POD publisher to sell to the Unitarian Church. There may not be enough revenue margin to profitably sell the books.
In the final analysis, books ARE about the knowledge you share. There are always potential buyers for your book. Chris Anderson explains this in his best-selling book, "The Long Tail." The challenge for you (or your publisher) is to find out how many people there are are and how to find them. The key to successful publishing is to identify who the potential buyers are BEFORE you write the book. See my comments in my earlier post to Adrienne Zarub.
Bill, I think your fingers got ahead of your thoughts. Subsidy publishing is not traditional, advance/royalty-based publishing, but it's what you're calling POD--where anyone can buy an inexpensive suite of publishing service and become a published author.
However, POD is more accurately used to describe a printing method of printing only as many copies as you need at a time. Yes, subsidy publishers use this process--but so do many traditional publishers and true self-publishers.
While there are certain circumstances where subsidy publishing makes sense (I have one of my books available through Infinity, in fact), in most cases, the author would be better served by true self-publishing.
Also, it doesn't have to cost anywhere near 25K to self-publish. Most of mine come in around 5K, including all costs.
Thanks for the clarification, Shel. Yes, I am speaking of advance/royalty-based publishing or, what most people think of as, traditional publishing.
My colleague used the $25,000 figure to publish fiction books that will sell through bookstores; competing with books from large publishing houses. For $25,000, these books look great and are very professional and competitive.
I believe strongly in publishing through companies such as Infinity. For many authors, it's the best way to publish. The Book Industry Study Group published a factoid that over 70% of books publishedd in 2004 sold 99 copies or fewer. For those authors, publishing with Infinity (or a comparable subsidy publisher) is the most economical thing to do.
To find a list of agents to represent your manuscript and publishers who publish books of your nature, go to your local, public library and use the Literary Market Place, LMP for short. The reference librarian will know where the LMP is shelved.
My biggest challenge is in keeping marketing on my brain. I tend to go in spurts--updating my website, scheduling signings, sending out mailers. Then I sit. Months sometimes go by and I think--"gee, sales have slowed down..." but of course they have! From an online perspective - (which is where I sell most of my books), I am always looking for ways to increase my site rankings through search engine optimization (SEO). It is another one of those things though that doesn't last forever. You have to continuously do more. My goal right now is to get more people to link to my site - especally sites with a similar set of key-phrases (introvert, relationship marketing, business networking, career) this will help my Google page rank assuming they are well ranked sites themselves. But this is a long process with payouts so far in the future it is hard to keep focused and diligent. I am hoping that this network and the work I am doing to promote online will keep those sales up and my head in the game. I just need a kick...once in a while to take my own advice and do it.
You write on a great topic, Meghan. Your book may be helpful to people in this social network. Writing is suited to introverts. Selling books and promoting is suited to extroverts. This is the self-publisher's dilemma.
Is your book available on Amazon? Are you spending time optimizing your Amazon book page to sell? There are many things you can do to optimize your Amazon page—17 things, in fact. If your book is available for sale on Amazon, it may be beneficial to you to optimize your standing where the book is sold.
Consider other distribution channels for your book as one possible way to increase sales. If you sell your book primarily online, what reviewers have you contacted to review the book and direct readers to your web site? Have you tried a "virtual book tour" to promote your book to interested bloggers and social networks? These are among the lowest-cost, highest-impact ways to reach a wider audience for your book.
With whom are you connecting in the "real world?" I see Carolyn Howard-Johnson offered to introduce you to C. Hope Clark, author of the "Shy Writer." What other contacts are available to you in the literary world?
SEO is of great interest to me. Has it been successful for you? I admit I have an author who's site has been Search Engine Optimized and it's made little impact on product sales, site visits or free newsletter subscriptions.
Bill - Thank you. It is constant struggle for me to balance the obvious need to promote the book -- and my introvert impulse NOT to talk to people about it!
Yes, my book is available on Amazon. I did work for a while on making sure that the page had basic SEO - however it is a project that has not taken priority (although it should!) -- I will bite--17? I look forward to reading your tips.
I have not contacted any reviewers. I will though now that you said that. The book has been out since Dec 2005 so I kindof figured that it may be considered "old" at this point. Originally the process of writing the book and getting it published was such a personal thing and I was almost afraid to have anyone review it for fear they would say something negative. Even some of my closest friends did not know I had writen the book until I invited them to the first book signing! At this point enough books have sold and I have had enough feedback that I am a lot more secure about the book, and a lot more removed from those feelings that I had when I started out.
--That said there are a few online reviews that were done when people found me -- and the WSJ did a story a year ago about networking where they included information on Confessions of an Introvert. (Thank you SEO...)
Do you have a place I would start for finding/contacting reviewers? And how would I start a virtual book tour?
My real-world contacting has definetly got to ramp up too. Originally, I contacted other local authors and bookstore managers as well as business people and owners. Once college even sold Confessions as a business 101 textbook. I have also just moved to Charlotte - so my "real" people network is now smaller and I do need to make an effort in my new home. This forum is "dipping my feet" back into full time writing and book promotion. But I need to get myself out of the kidde pool again!
SEO has been a huge help for me. I would say that the author that you have that is not having success with SEO isn't optimized correctly - perhaps for the wrong keyphrases, or phrase that don't get a lot of traffic? I use GoodKeyWords to find phrases that people are actually searching on that will bring the highest volume of qualified traffic to my site. That and doing the basics (keyphrase-rich content, good alt-text, headers, titles and good links into the site) are generally easy if you have access to the site or can have your web person change these - I would be happy to review the site - or any others for some basic SEO advice.... I was VP of a website design development and SEO company for a while in a previous life and my skills are not entirely out of date yet!
Thank you for the advice and the kick in the butt...I look forward to your response.
Meghan Wier Confessions of an Introvert: The Shy Girls Guide to Career, Networking and Getting the Most out of Life