Archive for June, 2011

Insightful blog from Bob Mayer, an author with 20 years of traditional publishing experience, and 2 years of indie publishing experience.  Take a look at the blog he  just posted today: http://writeitforward.wordpress.com/2011/06/29/if-i-were-a-newly-self-published-author-what-steps-would-i-take-to-succeed/#comment-1772

Just stumbled across this blog, which seems well formulated and helpful to Northern Colorado writers: http://the-writing-bug.blogspot.com/

This blog has a great resource of indie/self-publishing book reviewers…plus tons of other information regarding self-publishing.  Also has a link to an article that I enjoyed regarding the first self-published author to sell over 1,000,000 ebooks (John Locke).

http://selfpublishingreview.blogspot.com/2011/06/indie-author-breaks-million-sold-mark.html#links

Marketing 101

Posted: June 21, 2011 in Writing
Tags: , , , ,

It has been…too long.  Perfect example of life catchin’ up with ya.  Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you won’t have time to write, dream, or create.  Don’t let that get you down though!

There’s no better time to tackle this next subject than when I’m in the midst of preparing to market my own book.  Don’t be naive about marketing–it’s a ton of work.  And, if you’re starting with marketing right when you’re about to list your book for sale, then the bad news is that you’re behind the eight ball.  That’s because marketing is largely derived from who you know…your network.  Unfortunately, networks don’t grow overnight.  Leads to our first rule of marketing:

PLANT YOUR NETWORKING TREE NOW, AND PATIENTLY TEND TO IT

You don’t need a book to start building a network.  But, once you have the book, you’ll need the network to market and sell it.  So, start now.  Start with interest groups.  If you like gardening, join a gardening club.  Same for cars, painting, model trains, Star Trek, writing (duh!) what-the-hell-ever.  Just get out there, don’t be bashful, and start meeting people.  Once you meet them, suggest going to coffee or lunch.  Listen to them in order to determine what they like to do–and then ask them if they want to do it.

This isn’t a one-time thing though.  You don’t just water a plant once and then leave it alone to wither and die.   Maintain steady contact with your new network (by steady, I meant to imply you should not stalk!  Every relationship is different, but seeing a network contact every 2-3 months is a healthy frequency).  Soon, you will have “rolling” meetings with network contacts, where you may have 2-4 every week.  Why spend all the time to do this?  These are the people that will buy your book, and more importantly, these are the people that have their own networks where they can spread word of your book.  You know them, but they may know 100-300-1000 people you don’t know!  That’s power of the people!!

There’s one word that underlies building a network, and all marketing for that matter–selling.  If you hate that word, and if you think it has only negative implications, then you’re in for a tough haul to get anyone to buy your book.  If your goal is to actually sell books, rather than just using them as glossy coasters around your house, then you will need to be relentless in your sales.  Our second rule of marketing:

EMBRACE YOUR INNER SALESPERSON

Okay.  Your inner salesperson may be a molecule, rarely (if ever) called upon for duty.  Your inner salesperson may squeak like a mouse.  Your inner sales person may be like the Cowardly Lion (put ‘em up, put ‘em up!).  Or, your inner salesperson may be the other side of the spectrum–some slick back, gel-ridden hair, big plasticky teeth, and verbal moves like a male salsa dancer.  Think Matt Dillon in There’s Something About Mary.  In either case, he, or she, or it, exists.  You just need to acknowledge its existence and begin to work on honing its skills.  Why?  Because especially at the beginning, you will be selling yourself.

For instance, to get down to specifics on avenues to market, you will be selling yourself to a bookstore to host your release party.  You will be selling yourself to your potential readers.  Remember, they don’t know what or how you write yet.  So, if they buy a book, they are buying it based on you more than anything.  You will be selling yourself to alumni magazines, local newspapers, local television, online reviewers (think Amazon reviews), agents and editors (if you go the traditional route).  In short, pretty much everything you do outside of actually writing your story is sales.  And, quite honestly, if you write without thinking about who you are going to try to sell the book to, then you’ll probably sell a handful of books for your selfish effort.  What is the core rule of sales?  In my humble opinion:

IT’S A NUMBERS GAME

Perhaps the best thing that ever happened to me was rejection at an early age.  I won’t get into specifics, but I will say it was fourth grade, and involved getting three “no’s” from three girls in a class of about 25 students.  The next day, naturally, it was the group’s focus.  Eh, the next 2-3 years actually.  Was it devastating?  Uh yeah, I’m human.  Still stings to this day.  But, it also made me into a gorilla when it comes to the “ask.”  If you are petrified of rejection, you will never get to the ask.  And, if you never get to the ask, there can never be a “yes.”  Finally, if there’s never a yes, well, then you’ve just made a whole bunch of glossy coasters for your home.  Once you get past the idea of being rejected–because you will get rejected–then you’ll realize it’s all just a numbers game.  Some people you try to network with will say no.  Oh well–their loss.  Some people won’t want to buy your book, or won’t like it.  You’ll undoubtedly get plenty of rejections from agents and editors if you decide to go that route.  When you boil it all down though, every scenario is just a numbers game.   The more you ask, the more you get.

The summary of Marketing 101?  Build a network, build your inner salesperson, and build your fortitude against rejection.  We will undoubtedly visit Marketing 202, where more specific marketing ideas are visited, with their corresponding pro’s and con’s.  Talk to ya soon!

Check out this great blog post at Writers on the Brink entitled “Some Humbling Statistics About Getting Your Book Published”  http://www.writersonthebrink.com/some-humbling-statistics-about-getting-your-book-published

Certainly supports the arguments that traditional publishing is going the way of the dinosaur, and explains why self-publishing is turning into such an enormous business.

So, you want to self-publish?  It’s gonna cost you!  And, just like building a house, you’ll be better off if you know the costs upfront so you can budget.  Here are most of the line item expenses you can expect, with an estimated range next to each.  If you have other expenses that you notice are left out, shoot me an email/comment and I’ll add them!

Forming your own publishing company: Be it LLC, corporation, whatever, it’ll cost you some dime to set up a company with your state’s Secretary of State.  It’s a pretty easy process (in Colorado at least, where you just have to fill out a form) and only costs $50 in Colorado.  Check your state’s requirements and costs.

Purchasing your ISBN number: Some of the self-publishing companies will provide you an ISBN number  “free of charge.”  Only catch, the ISBN is theirs, not yours.  Recommendation is to get your own ISBN, and it costs $125 for one through Bowker.  Go to www.myidentifiers.com to get yours.

Bar code: Again, some self-publishing companies will provide these for free, and there doesn’t seem to be a downside to accepting the bar code for free.  If you’re a DIY freak and won’t even take free stuff, there are free bar code generators online.

Cover design: Don’t judge a book by its cover?  Yeah right!  If that were the case, why not omit the cover and just jump into the text? One of the most distinguishing factors between a book published by a traditional publishing company and one self-published is oftentimes the cover.  And, people judge a book by all of its visual cues, most of which derive from the cover.  My recommendation–DON’T SKIMP ON THE COVER.  Find a great cover designer you can work with to create something that is visually on-point with your book, and that grabs a potential reader.  Especially if you are self-publishing, don’t give readers a chance to write your book off before they even buy it.  I used a freelance graphic artist named Brianne Pickert, with Izonu graphics.  Her email is Izonu@mac.com, and she was excellent!  Crowdspring also seems like an interesting way to get your cover design done, because you can submit a price for the “job” and then have multiple graphic artists submit their work for your selection.  Expected cost: Approximately $400-$1,000.

Author photo: This follows cover design in that you want something that looks professional.  Now, if you’ve got a good camera, or a friend with some skill, then you could probably save yourself a couple hundred bucks.  Expected cost: Approximately $150-$300.

Website development: A lot of websites that will offer you templates for your own website.  Because of that, it doesn’t make much sense to try to learn HTML if you don’t know it already.  They charge a monthly fee which varies based upon what kind of services you are receiving (i.e., the number of templates you want to choose from, if you want to add e-commerce, what type of customer service options you want, etc.).  Wix.com was a great way to build my website, and Wix supports flash, which makes a website stand out.  Note that flash is slower to load, and is only now becoming something you can view on mobile media devices such as smartphones.  Flash will give you a much better looking website, but don’t go crazy with it.  The yearly cost for a website through Wix is about $100.  Expect to spend 30-40 hours building your own website and developing the content.

Of course, you can also decide to hand the website development off to someone else.  The cheapest price I’ve seen for website development and hosting is about $500, but expect to pay more like $1,000-$1,200 for someone with skill.  That will get you a webpage, some design/creative process time, hosting, and 4-5 pages on your website.

Email blasts: Proper marketing includes getting the word out, and one of the best ways to get the word out is to send email blasts to people you know through work, friends, spouses, activities, groups, etc.  Imagine anyone that could fall within your target audience, and let ‘em know what you’ve got to sell.  There’s literally nothing to lose except the sale(s) of your book.  If you’re gonna self-publish, there is no room for being timid!  There are a host of companies that help you with email blasts, including giving you templates for the blast itself.  CNET did a nice review of the Top 10 companies here CNET. Expect to pay about $10/month for their premium services, and for about 500 contacts on your emails.  Prices go up with greater amounts of contacts.

Business cards: You can design them online.  Again, don’t skimp out.  Don’t mortgage the house for ‘em either, but select some of the upgrades that will make you look professional (i.e. gloss on cards, or better stock).  I used Vistaprint and got 1,500 business cards I designed myself for $64 shipped.  Excellent deal!  Expect to pay about $50-$150 for 1,000 to 5,000 business cards.

Miscellaneous: It would be silly to leave out a category for miscellaneous expenses, because they inevitably come up.  For instance, you’ll need to pay for shipping on your proof, and then shipping of books you buy and intend to sell yourself.  Maybe you will want other promotional materials than business cards, such as pens, flyers, notepads, etc.  Perhaps you will pay for a professional review or press release regarding your book.  Will you pay someone to format your book, or will you?  (Expect to spend approximately $300 if you pay someone else for this service).  Will you pay someone to edit your book, or will you?  (A professional editor can cost anywhere from about $500-$1,200 for their review).  This is where your budget can really inflate, so make sure you know what your budget is going in and then you can determine how much of this icing you can slather onto the cake!

Bottom line: In short, you’re probably looking at a minimum of $1,200 to do your own book right and if you are a pretty aggressive DIY’er.  You could easily spend $3,000-$4,000 if you don’t do a lot of the aforementioned things yourself.  If that is the case, remember to determine what your expected profit per book will be, and then calculate how many copies you will need to sell in order to break even.  Not much point running an operation that loses money!!