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Self-Publishing Your Book Need Not Be A Nightmare

That old saying, "Ingnorance Is Bliss" does not apply in this case -- basically, within the self-publishing arena, "Ingnorance Is NOT Bliss". For those interested, this forum is to be used to present questions for both the beginner to the advanced on all aspects of the self-publishing process. Remember, no questions are silly and use this to learn, share and expand!

Tags: authors, book, design, promotion, publishing, self-publishing, writing

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Hi Judi,
Can you give me some insight on your experiences with self-publishing? I recently published a book and I encountered problems with my author rep who was never available to meet my needs. I had to email others within their organization to get answers or have things move forward. It was not a good experience. I also did not like the fact, that I was not able to speak to anyone over the telephone. It was all by email. I have just about completed my next book and I am not sure which way to go.

Donna Wells Austin
I am sorry, Donna, that your experience was so frustrating -- it should never have happened that way and, as an author, you must realize that you have the right to 'fire' anyone associated with your work who you do not feel is giving you the correct service. Technology is great, but a lot is lost within e-mails and the telephone is still a key element within the art of communication. Think of yourself as the 'CEO' of your company. First clue: if someone is too busy to meet your needs, you don't need them (actually, they probably need you more than you need them).

Donna, I am not an author (yet) -- I have an advertising agency which designs and promotes self-publishing authors. I do not work on a 'wal-mart' basis due to the fact that it doesn't work that way: each author is individual; therefore each book / campaign is put together to meet those needs. I base my business on relationships and that is key when working with each author. My advice to you for your next book is to truly 'interview' and 'listen' to whoever you are considering to work on your book and never ever panic -- the right person is there for you.

If you have any more questions, feel free to call me -- I promise you Donna, I do return phone calls. Hope this helped a little.
Hello Judi,
My name is Katerina and my father and I have self-published our 1st
autobiography. My father does not read or write very well so I have
been trying to help him with promoting the book. It has been extremely frustrating
because I do not know what to do or whom to promote it to. I also work 2 jobs so I
don't have much time to help as well. We have created a website, made business
cards, written to shows such as Oprah and Montel, written to newspaper
companys, sent books to Oprah, Barnes & Noble, etc. but no luck so far. We really
need some advice,direction and how to break into the market to become a
successful author. Thank you for your time.
Sincerely,
Katerina& Spiros Sideris
Greetings Katerina,

Before I respond to you, may I comment that your father is indeed an extremely courageous man and his mission within his book is extraordinary.

I also notice that you have posted a request for possible investors for your screen-play. Katerina, pitching movies is very different than marketing books, so for now let's concentrate on some positive steps you may take moving your dad's book. Because of your inexperience and lack of time, I would first suggest you obtain John Kremer's book, '1001 Ways To Market Your Books', -- it will educate you and is filled with a great deal of golden nuggets about marketing a book.

Personally, I would begin slowly thus building larger -- in other words, I would create a 'buzz' and develop a following before pitching to the major networks. There are many ways you can do this but I would need more information on exactly how and what you have done so far. Also, are you distributed through Bowker and Baker and Taylor? What is your print run, what is your marketing plan? How have you contacted these media persons?

Because of the sensitivity of your dad's work, a specialized campaign should be developed hitting the the 'heart' within the public. This is not about selling the book as much as touching people creating a need within them to 'have to have this book'. and that's where a specilized campaign should be enforced with a solid plan hitting all areas gradually -- print, radio, internet and television. Has any articles been written? Have you develped a media kit? How have you created your work to 'stand out' from the millions of other books out there -- Again, Katerina, I would need to know more details in order to be more specific for you but I hoped this little bit of response helped you.

Thanks, Judi
Hello Judi,

Thank you for taking your time out to look at our website and for
all your insight. I truly appreciate it. I will soon purchase John Kremer's
book as well.
My father and I have not distributed yet with any company. We have
been selling the books one by one ourselves. I don't know if a distributor is the best option for us or not. I have written and sent copy to Barnes & Noble's
warehose and Borders, but no response yet. It has been over 2 months
now and can take up to 4 they say. I'm not sure what a print run is and
our marketing plan isn't really developed.
Since this is our 1st book and I have no clue about book promoting I
truly need help or guidelines for a marketing plan, etc. Ofcourse we
would like it to be in those two book stores and then hopefully we can
get interviews on radio and t.v.and have it become sucessful.
I have contacted quite a few people such as various newspaper editors
to give us an unbyast review.I have written emails to Oprah's book club,
Montel William's show, a morning show in Tampa, Publix grocery store,
WFLA radio show, CNN Book-tv, and a few other television shows. Still
no answer from anyone. It has been very discouraging.
I agree with you on making a campaign to hit the heart of the public and
that is what we would like to do but do not know our resources or the
exact steps to take to do this. I don't kow how to develop a media kit.
How can I find out how to do so? I do have a few reviews from people
whom have read the book & given their opinion on it, but no articles have
been written. I would appreciate any help or further information you
could give me Judi. I appologize for asking you for so much. I just want
to see my father's dream to become a reality and to share our story with
the world.
Thank you for all of your time.

Sincerely,
Katerina Sideris
Greetings Katerina,

Before I respond to anything here I want to ask you to do one thing: take a deep breath, close your eyes and relax -- you are spinning and pretty soon your dad's work will no longer be a mission of love but rather a mission filled with a great deal of despair and anxiety.

Whenever I work with authors, the first thing I tell them is to detach themselves from any outcome -- There is no one blueprint for marketing a book but a heartbeat must be put into every campaign to put personality and feeling into the work -- You know what it is you and your father want but have you asked yourself, 'What type of niche are we trying to enter?' 'Where does this [work] fit in for audience(s)?' -- 'what is it about my (dad's) work that will make everyone NEED this?' -- Smart marketing is creating a need for the public, not a need for you.

I may get blasted for advising you this but what the heck, this is what I do: Katerina, forget Barnes and Nobel and bookstores right now, forget any movie screen-plays for right now, forget television and radio, forget everything you have done thus far (for now) -- take a 'mini-vacation' away from this and diligently read John Kremer's book as best as you can but do not get overwelmed (it's a big one) -- try reading a chapter a week when you are relaxed and can focus -- Also, please don't expect that you need to be an expert with all the material within that book -- some things will apply to you and some things will not.

Then I suggest you collaborate with your dad and look at this (your father's book) as a business, not a 'mission of love' and devise number one: a strong business plan with projections and a strong marketing plan. Do not rush through this process, this is important, especially if you are seeking investors -- authors must think like business people.

You need distribution if you want to go retail but you need a firm marketing plan with projections and not selling books one book at a time.

Once a business plan and marketing plan is done then it's time for what I call phase one: setting up your brand so that in time people will recognize you just by seeing the work -- every piece of correspondence: website, printed material, cover letters, media kits, author site must look 'branded' and it can be done with whatever budget you have -- (never, ever spend 'a million' dollars on this phase, stay within your budet or you will find yourself budgeted out once the marketing begins) -- you do not want to look 'home grown', you want to look like 'you have arrived'. This is what I refer to as 'image making'. This is the time when creating a media kit comes to play and the media does not have the time to sift through these so a media kit must be a quick read but relevent. This is also the time to begin creating the 'buzz' about your work -- but again, not with your needs but focused on the needs of the public.

Katerina, I offer free consulation and would be happy to guide you through these steps -- you are confused because you have never done this before but once guided and, with a better understanding, this will all make sense to you. And once this makes sense, you can begin enjoying the process and view it like 'playing a game of chess' where you will win!

Thanks,

Judi
Hello again Judi,
Sorry it has taken me so long to write back. I appreciate you always writing me back with good advice. You are totally correct-this has become very stressful for me and not enjoyable, which is very upsetting. Right now what I want to do is get someone to help me market/promote my father's book. I am running out of time and getting more and more into debt due to this big venture. I have contacted a few companys so far for promotion, but I would like to speak with you on what you can provide for me. I appreciate the advice you have given me and think that you could help me get my father's book out to the public. I am very frustrated right now and need someone to help me. I will contact you this week. Thanks again.
Katerina
Judi:

I am a self-published author the book will make it's debut in August of this year. My question is regarding distribution. Where do I begin? I am not sure of what questions (the right ones) to ask as it relates to the distribution process. Can you provide me any tips on the do's and dont's of how to deal with a distributor? I am an inspirational author, and this aspect of the publishing business has become sort of nerve racking. Help!
Hi Tabitha and Congratulations! I apologize for taking so long to reply to you but business has been extremely hectic (Thank God) -- Since I don't know anything about your marketing plan or your projections, it's a bit difficult to reply generically. If you are doing pod, then as always, I recommend Lightning Source who can set up distribution for you -- however, if you are handling your book traditionally, I will respond to you as I had to another member on this blog and if this doesn't help you please feel free to contact me.

I will just submit a pretty good article on this subject below however, bear in mind, as I tell everyone, it is important that you develop a strong marketing plan with projections.

This article was written by Jacqueline C. Simonds and will probably help others as well:

Authors and publishers need to be clear on how they'll get their books into the hands of customers--but many don't understand distributors versus wholesalers, and what each can do. I thought I'd pitch in with definitions, advantages, disadvantages and other thoughts.

Distributors: There are many different companies out there. Bigger is not necessarily better. Smaller doesn't necessarily mean friendlier. And neither guarantees solvency. Many distributors have folded in the last few years. One small press pal of mine had 2 go out from under her. She had to pay to get her inventory back. Ask questions. Better still, ask their current clients if they get paid on time.

Try going with a distributor who knows more about your market. For instance: If you have a travel book, find someone who carries travel books. They charge 25-35% of revenue earned. Some figure this off list price (a mistake, from my pov), others off actual revenue (what is earned after the wholesalers or bookstores take their discount).

If your marketing plan is aimed primarily at the book trade (bookstores and libraries), you might consider getting your book with a distributor. Start looking for one *before* you go to press.

If your marketing plan is primarily aimed at areas other than the book trade (back of the room sales after speeches, kitchen stores, etc), then you should probably skip distributors and look at vending directly to wholesalers (see below).

Advantages:
Some of the bigger distributors can get your book into B&N, Borders, Costco, etc. But you had better do a lot of marketing to support that effort, or those books will all come back.

It's hard to get attention as a 1-2 book press.

Distributors help you leverage your title by being part of a larger organization.
Distributors (or most) get you into Ingram. Many bookstores will simply not order a book unless it is listed with this company. See more below about Ingram.

Distributors can send your book to the pre-publication review magazines. This apparently helps. Almost all the titles we've sent to Publisher's Weekly, etc. have been reviewed by at least 1.

Books on Amazon are listed at the favorable 20-30% off, which Amazon usually doesn't do with Advantage products.

Distributors warehouse, pick, pack, ship, accept returns, bill and send you the check. This leaves you time to MARKET the book... and plan more titles for your growing company.

A good distributor will work with you. They will help make sure there are enough books in the system for events (let them know 2 months in advance). They can provide feedback when you try different marketing tactics.

Disadvantages:
Most are exclusive, meaning you have to let them sell your book to the trade. Some get grumpy about selling off your own website.
They DO add to your cost per book.
They do a little marketing--in that you are 1 (or a few) book in their line. But YOU have to do the heavy lifting marketing-wise.

If you have done a digital print run, your cost per book is already too high to work with a distributor.
This is one more layer between you and your ultimate customer.

Wholesalers: Ingram, Baker & Taylor, Quality Books and many other smaller companies take orders from bookstores and libraries and then order from the distributor or directly from the publisher. They want a 55% discount.

If you refuse to discount and/or only let them have a smaller discount (say 20%), your book will be special order and these wholesalers will not stock it. Booksellers are notoriously nervous about ordering a book that is listed in Ingram, B&T, etc. as special order. For some books and marketing plans, this isn't a problem. For a traditional market plan (targeted to the book trade), this is an invitation to fiscal disaster.

Getting your book into B&T and/or Ingram will get you stocked on Amazon, and probably at the 20% off discount. However, Amazon is now buying titles in the wholesalers' databases directly. It's not clear if Amazon is discounting new titles acquired this way.ç
Ingram is the 6000 lbs. gorilla of wholesalers. It doesn't accept books from publishers of less than 10 titles or whose income *from Ingram* is less than $25,000 a year. (This figure will probably be raised to $30k next year.) This makes life very hard for the new or struggling small press. Most bookstores won't bother with a book that isn't listed in Ingram. It's not fair, but it's the way things are.

Baker & Taylor is more open to small presses. They have programs through SPAN to sign up. Be aware that unless there is significant ordering, B&T will not stock your book. They will list it in their database and order when there is activity. They have the most hair-trigger returns program I know of (books can often come back 2 weeks after shipment when you are a 1-2 book publisher). This is because they are terrified of You owing Them money (returns are charged back to you).

NOTE: B&T underwent a reorganization of their accounts payable office recently and it has been nothing short of a disaster. If I tell you we're on a first-name basis with our AP person (Accounts Payable), you should take that to mean we call on a very frequent basis--and it's not a friendly chat. You might require pre-pay. I don't know what this will do to your order status.

Advantages:
You get the orders from the wholesalers and have a good idea where your book is selling per region.
You lower your cost per book by cutting out the middle-person (distributor).

You know what quality you ship out and what condition the returns are in (if the wholesaler says you shipped a case of torn books, you can straighten them out).

You can ask your buyer to order extra copies because you are doing an event (caution: don't over order. Be very conservative, otherwise they just come back and the buyer won't believe you next time). Make sure you do this at least 1 month in advance.

Disadvantages:
When the orders are just a few books a month, it doesn't take much time. But if you start to have strong sales (which, of course, is due to your hard marketing), you'll spend more time shipping. At some point you have to evaluate where you can delegate or outsource some work, so that you can get crucial tasks done.
You are the one responsible for calling up and finding out where the heck the check for invoice **** is.

All those books will take up your parking space in the garage. Otherwise a storage unit is in your future.
And always remember!--Getting into distributors, wholesalers and bookstores is not the important part. You have to create demand for your book--which means you have to figure out how to create customers!
hi Judi,

I would love your advice as a self-publishing writer and author.I actually am a creative with my hands. I love designing and print my own books and doing poetry cards, bookmarks, letter head poems. I have thus far, linked with some Christians or inspirational site some and I have add a much details I can adding searchable words and info of my site. I also, had one site commerical and had one of my poems recited and link through podcast and submit to few new online christian magazines. And had my books up for good few months as well as my site. From the time I had it up I would said four sold by the same person. And one download sold. Since then I haven't had any other orders. Which is frustrating. I have send out today a New online PR release. I also hoping through pray I can save enough from every sale from my book to get my ISBN and barcode and this would get my books in bookstores.

And I am looking at possible submiting a 3 to 4 line in classifies of a community newspaper for $4.00dollars which is all I can afford.
I have sold two of my books at event along with one bookmark and poetry card. I notice I sell more attending these events however, a fee always applies, yet they aren't really high. Not like the festival anyway.

My book are at follow site: www.inthearmsofgod.com

What are some ideas or advice could you give me? but a low cost effective way?
Feon, I am guessing that you have not produced any sort of marketing plan. Whatever your goal is, it is always important to 'write down' your projections as well as produce some sort of marketing plan since your book is your 'business'. In reading between the lines, I am sensing that you are working on a complete no strings budget. Getting back to basics, I am hoping that you have obtained your copyright? Bookstores are not your great savior, Feon, I am more partial to selling on your own, however it is important to make all the necessary steps and if an isbn is not even in your budget, I would advise you to put your project on hold, save some money so that your book can be properly marketed. As with all self-publishers, if there is no money for the marketing phase, your book, no matter how good it is, risks being 'a vanity book' that will only lead to disappointment. Remember, your market today is global and your vision must be as big as your dream.
Actually, To be honest Judi, I don't know anything about marketing, however, I do the best to get the word about my books through free PR and other advice and links to other sites. I actually should say my web site it's not so much a business that it doesn't put food on the table. I do have copyright for all my books as well. With my experience planning isn't always meant to be, and God has been my guidances and strength throughout my life. Even in the mist of disadvantages and disappointments. I also not going say I haven't of submitting to a company. But as I said, before no money to pay out much less to borrow due to health. I have good turn out selling at events, and vendors events. If its God's will in the future I may just publish through a company.

If possible, please explain what you mean "vanity book". And I disagree with this being a disappointment, because what is from God's Holy Spirit its a blessing to all in his Name. This is HIS reason I am writing.

Jeremiah 30:2 Thus speakth the LORD God of Israel, saying, Write thee all the words that I
have spoken unto thee in a book.

Hebrews 10:16 This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord;
I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them;

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