applause applause applause we live for the applause plause

Marketing BASICS : Call Your Own Shots

Last week, I tackled a fairly unpleasant reality when I itemized a few reasons why paying for a little advice isn’t such a bad idea––why it is, in fact, a fantastic idea––but I wanted to follow that lengthy tidbit up with an equally lengthy reminder that the whole reason self-publishing is worth exploring is the fact that it allows us––the authors––to call the shots when it comes to our own work.  And there’s no getting around the fact that free things are wonderful, just as there’s also no denying the reality that sometimes it’s best to do a few things really well and bring others alongside who can do the rest instead of doing everything decently and nothing exceptionally well (or worse, doing everything poorly).

Paying a little out of pocket doesn’t negate the value of an author’s hard work, and it certainly doesn’t erode our creative control, but rather reinforces it; when we foot the bill, graphic designers, copyeditors, and other paid publishing consultants become our employees, and our vision becomes their mission.


Welcome back to my series on marketing B.A.S.I.C.S.!  This is the fifth in a series of blog posts where I tackle the fundamentals of marketing in hopes of making things a little more manageable for you, the self-publishing author.  Four weeks ago I launched the series with this introductory post, followed by:

This week, as you might have guessed, we’re taking a look at:

  • C. Calling Your Own Shots

applause applause applause we live for the applause plause

There is, of course, an upside and a downside to being your own boss.  The upside is, as previously mentioned, you’re in control at every step of the process (that you want to be).  The product of your labors will turn out exactly the way you want and pay for it to do.  Your masterpiece, made your way by the people of your choosing.  Perfection.

The downside is: Bosses abide by deadlines, just like everyone else.  Better still, they set their own deadlines.  This is quite a leap to make, if you’ve never been self-employed or self-directed before––but it’s not the end of the world!  As Tom Wood of Killer Nashville Magazine writes, “self-imposed deadlines might be the hardest of all—precisely because only three people will push you to complete the book: Me, myself and I.”  Says Wood, “It’s not easy to find the time to write in a day full of work, chores, raising a family or whatever.”

Maybe deadlines aren’t actually a downside.  Some people thrive at the challenge of creating their own internal structure and abiding by it!  I don’t hate deadlines, even after the requisite years of working under the thumb of many such requirements, but I do hate falling behind and I have a tendency to fall into cycles of unproductive self-loathing when I do so.  It’s not hard for me to finish projects if nothing else (Wood’s “whatever”) interrupts me … but it’s really hard to re-hone and focus my attention if (or when) it does.  My main problem is I forget to write things down, and if it’s not on paper … well, it doesn’t happen.  Period.

The best investment I ever made was in a large––I mean, large––calendar planner, broken out into days on top of the usual weeks and months.  It doesn’t exactly solve all of my problems for me, and it doesn’t magically give me the motivation to do things I didn’t want to do in the first place, but it reminds me of the bare minimum.  And some days, we can all take pride in doing the bare minimum since even that is an insurmountable difficulty in a busy life and a busy world.  On days when I do more than what I write in my calendar … well, let’s just say that I’m not above keeping a chocolate stash in my desk drawer to celebrate.

Whether it’s buying a planner or tracking down an accountability partner, take some time to figure out your best fit when it comes to setting––and keeping––deadlines.  We may or may not like ’em, but we definitely can’t avoid living among them.  In the wild moors of self-publishing, singing with the echoes of a dream-laden wind, we call the shots.  Every.  Single. One.


Thank you for reading!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at selfpublishingadvice@gmail.com.  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠

KellyABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.
marketing consultant

Marketing BASICS : Investing in a Little Advice

Your book isn’t just a product, as neat and simple as that might seem to make things when it comes to marketing; it’s much, much more.  It is, in every way and shape and form, an investment.

  • you have already invested valuable time, energy, and other resources in writing it; and
  • you will continue to invest valuable time, energy, and other resources in marketing it.

More importantly, however, you should constantly monitor how you are spending these resources in respect to spreading the word and promoting it to fans and followers and readers alike.  In a impossibly cool and detached financial sense, you need to know when you’re spending more on your book than you should be––and then be prepared to take action.  (Though, let’s face it, who of us is ever cool and detached about our precious offspring of the imagination?  Not I.)  The Return on Investment (ROI) of your book should always reflect a balanced approach and a sustainable increase of returns.


 

Welcome back to my series on marketing B.A.S.I.C.S.!  This is the fifth in a series of blog posts where I tackle the fundamentals of marketing in hopes of making things a little more manageable for you, the self-publishing author.  Four weeks ago I launched the series with this introductory post, followed by:

This week, as you might have guessed, we’re taking a look at:

  • I. “Investing in a Little Advice.”

So, what happens when your investment isn’t paying off?

First off, I’d like to remind you that no matter what profit you make off of your book in financial terms, it’s an absolutely fantastic thing that you’ve done!  You’ve written a book!  You’ve published it!  You’ve sent it out into the world for others to be changed by!

Secondly, I’d like to clear up a myth about self-publishing: you don’t have to go through it alone.  Let me phrase it a little differently:

There’s nothing wrong with asking for help.

I wish I had known this sooner––I wish I’d felt convicted of the truth of this sooner.  I’ll be the first to admit that one of the greatest appeals to me of self-publishing is that it provides a platform to and a haven for the fierce individualist, exactly the sort of person to incur the wrath of Traditional Publishing for wanting too much artistic control, among other things.  But the truth of the matter is that self-publishing is for everyone, including the insecure first-time author, including the burnt-out and disillusioned veteran author, including the technologically-challenged author, including the risk-averse author, including authors who find themselves at the end of the rope and in desperate need of assistance.

The indie community isn’t just a community of self-assured and confident entrepreneurs; we’re far more diverse than that.  And the indie community is a remarkably non-judgmental, unsnobby collection of people, in possession of vast and varied resources and an overwhelmingly supportive, generous spirit.  I promise you, if you hop on to a forum or listserv or social media group dedicated to indie authors and pose a question, you will be inundated with advice and shared resources.

Of course, sometimes what you really need is targeted advice.  If you have been posting promotional material to a blog or social media platform for a long time with very little engagement, or if you’ve been spending hours upon hours obsessing over marketing only to sell very few books, it’s time you sought professional advice.  But where to begin?  Even just a quick Google search for “Consultant for self-publishing a book” turns up “About 7,330,000 results,” which says a lot about the growth in this sector of the publishing industry––even once Google’s many duplicates, oblique references, outdated listings, and other “wrong” search results are set aside.  Seven million results!

There are a lot of marketing consultation websites out there geared toward you, the self-publishing author, ranging from freelance consultants (including many who’ve transitioned from being publishing consultants within Traditional Publishing) to personal marketing assistants with hybrid/self-publishing companies.  Freelance consultants can be excellent, but it’s difficult to know which ones have the know-how you need.  The benefit of going through a hybrid/self-publishing company is that every consultant has been vetted for expertise, experience, and the quality of their insight.  That’s a pedigree worth exploring.

marketing consultant

No illusions here: when it comes to seeking professional advices on marketing your book, you’ll have to spend some money.  Remember how I spoke about your book as an investment?  So too any money you spend on marketing is the same.  The only difference is, exchanging money to save yourself the time and energy and frustration of sorting out all the details on your own is what we might call a “fair market value.”  It’s worth it, in other words, to see your book’s future set on a solid foundation and to use your time far more effectively in writing the next book.


Thank you for reading!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at selfpublishingadvice@gmail.com.  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠

KellyABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.
Consultant Talking with Family --- Image by © David P. Hall/Corbis

In Your Corner : Resolutions for 2016 That Every Aspiring Author Should Make (pt 4)

Three weeks back, I launched off a new series for Self Publishing Advisor with the singular goal of answering one simple question:

What’s your goal for 2016?

This question, of course, lay the groundwork for a whole host of further sub-questions that rapidly morphed into a series of tasks I think every author probably keeps in mind as a new year rolls around–and indeed, these tasks make for an excellent New Year’s Resolution list if ever I saw one.  Even though a small part of me cringes at the thought of yet another to-do list, I can’t help but recognize that the recoil is somewhat a consequence of semantics: I may not have had much success giving up sweets or processed foods or otherwise accomplishing resolutions of years past, but I fully acknowledge the fact that structured and manageable goals are important and sometimes even necessary things to move a book from ideation to final publication.  If we divorce the word “resolve” from its holiday baggage, I think there’s no denying its powerful potential for instigating personal transformation.  Just think of its original–and simple–definition:

resolve

With a firmness of purpose firmly instilled in our hearts and minds, we have already examined the first eleven of the fourteen total resolutions I propose (click on the links to view the respective blog posts):

  1. Set goals.
  2. Facilitate goals.
  3. Make writing a priority, and
  4. Read, read, read.
  5. Master at least the basics of social media.
  6. Research deeply.
  7. Connect with other authors.
  8. Embrace a good critique.
  9. Learn to love rewrites.
  10. Try something new, and
  11. Stop comparing your achievements with others.

This week, I’m going to close out the series with three more:

  1. Writing consultation.
  2. Learn about self-publishing, and
  3. Embrace your style!

Now we come down to the brass tacks.

What is a writing consultation, and how can it help me?  Have you ever been stuck in a rut?  Is the dreaded “Writer’s Block” a regular or even constant companion of yours?  There are untold untapped resources out there to help jump-start or fine-tune your writing and get your book back on track, such as the writing consultation service from Outskirts Press (my employer).  A number of other indie, hybrid, and self-publishing companies offer similar services, and there are all kinds of free websites dedicated to the same thing–and the only downside to these free services is the fact that they can be hard to navigate.  When you have thousands upon thousands of web pages to filter through for relevant bits of information, where do you get started?  Herein lies the benefit of an actual, honest-to-goodness sit-down session with a live human being and professional: a consultation session gives you time with a skilled writer who is also an industry expert in order to address any writing issues you are experiencing.  You should also emerge with a great deal of valuable advice and a plan of action for moving forward.  A live consultation is the great rut-breaker!

consultation

And what’s this about learning about self-publishing?  Simply put, the more you know about the self-publishing industry–and the options available to you, the author–the easier it is to find your way forward.  Don’t be afraid of the Great Unknown!  You can’t afford to not know what you’re getting into, and if you find yourself overwhelmed, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the self-publishing community through web forums or even the experts that your prospective self-publishing platform keeps on hand for just such a moment.  They’re there to help!  And while I can’t speak for all experienced indie authors, the ones I have had the pleasure to meet and work with are unfailingly kind and generous with their time, advice, and feedback.  So: do your research and learn what you’re getting into.  Odds are it’s not nearly as scary a process as you may imagine.

Finally, embrace your style!  As a writer, you may do things a little differently from the next writer at the imaginary conference table, but that’s what makes you so special–and it is also what sets you apart and what will help you sell books later on.  Never give up.  Never surrender to self-doubt!  Your style and your choices as an author are valid.  Not only are they valid, but they’re your greatest strengths and your greatest selling points.

writing style

Don’t shrink from your quirks and “what makes you weird,” as one of my old writing instructors used to say.  Own them!  Play them up!  If you’re doing things your own way and you feel like you’re writing the book you want to write, then I guarantee you that you’re writing a superior book.

Always remember: you are not alone. ♣︎

ElizabethABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 18 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, pre-production specialists, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.
selling a book

Marketing BASICS : Selling Readers ON Your Book, Not Just Selling Your Book to Readers

Welcome back to my series on marketing B.A.S.I.C.S. here at Self Publishing Advisor, of which this is the fourth installation.  Three weeks ago I got the series underway with this introductory post, followed by an exposition on the “B” in B.A.S.I.C.S. (“Building an Online Presence“).  Last week, I answered the burning question of “What does the letter “A” stand for, then?” with a not-so-simple answer tackling various ways and means of “Ascertaining Your Ideal Reader.”  This week, as you might have guessed, we’re taking a look at the next letter in B.A.S.I.C.S. as we examine just how to go about Selling readers ON your book––and not just selling your book TO readers.  If the distinction seems a touch unclear, consider it this way: there are a lot of reasons why people do or do not buy specific books, and it only rarely can be defined as ONLY a financial transaction.  Ultimately, a book’s larger success can be credited to the author’s creation (and after, cultivation) a fan following made up of readers who really love and connect to the book.

As I mentioned last week, this series emphasizes marketing for new or first-time authors, but this point––this letter “S”––carries a lot of meaning for even the most experienced of authors.  There’s no point in an author’s professional career––even a blockbuster success of a career––where free passes are handed out.  No matter what stage of the self-publishing process you are at, you must continually strive to connect to your readers, and to create a product that is more than just attractive to them––you must strive to create a product, a book, that blows them away.  Each and every time.  This, too, is one of the most important and foundational of steps to crafting a successful marketing strategy.

selling a book

So, how DO I sell readers on my book?

  • Even before you publish your book, build community.  Spread the word!  Launch countdowns and promotions (like giveaways of Advance Reader Copies, or ARCs) on social media early.  And don’t forget to reach out!  Many first-time self-publishing authors find their most passionate advocates to be other members of the indie community.  Why?  Not only do they understand the rigors and narrative of self-publishing, but they’re by and large a welcoming bunch with extensive and generous networks––networks made up, in part, of avid readers looking for their next great book.  You shouldn’t approach the indie publishing community, online or off, as a chance to steal eggs from someone else’s basket, though: humility is a quality that belongs in the self-publishing community every bit as much as it does in fairy tales.  And, seeing a little of themselves in you, many established indie authors will be willing to put in a kind word for you with their readers.  One day, you’ll be able to pay it forward in the same way.

 

  • Share.  You’re not just selling a book––you’re selling the larger narrative surrounding your book, and that narrative intersects with your own life in ways that you won’t always be able to predict.  A key ingredient to selling readers on your book is to follow in Steve Job’s footsteps and be your own product’s biggest fan; your book is a beautiful and wonderful thing, and your enthusiasm for can be positively infectious.  Never be ashamed to share with your readers your passion for what you’ve created, and to do so in as many creative ways as you can think of: radio and blog interviews, posts to Twitter and Instagram and Tumblr and Vine that reveal the “behind the scenes” elements that give a book its own life and render you, the author, into an interesting character in your own right.  (And trust me, you ARE interesting!  You’ve written a book, after all.  You’ve put a piece of yourself out in the world for other people to engage with and respond to.  Whoa.)

 

  • And last but not least: Publish the book that you would want to buy.  If you’re only halfway sold on the concept, execution, or presentation of your book … well, let’s just say that readers are usually looking for the same things in the books they buy as authors really want to see in the books they publish.  Give every detail of the process––from conception through creation to final publication––the same level of care and attention that you might give to a priceless work of art.  The comparison is only fair, as your book is art.  And I, for one, can’t wait to read it.

Thank you for reading!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at selfpublishingadvice@gmail.com.  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠

KellyABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.
amazon bookstore

From the Archives: “Self-Publishing Authors Can Get Their Books on the Shelves of ‘Traditional’ Bookstores”

Welcome back to our Tuesday segment, where we’ll be revisiting some of our most popular posts from the last few years.  What’s stayed the same?  And what’s changed?  We’ll be updating you on the facts, and taking a new (and hopefully refreshing) angle on a few timeless classics of Self Publishing Advisor.

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[ Originally posted: April 27th, 2011 ]

Even with the recent changes in the book publishing industry, a “traditional” bookstore presence should still be a goal for authors who want this. Why? Well, with this presence, authors are able to target an audience that is passionate about books. Think about it — people have to leave behind the comforts of their own home to go into a bookstore. Most likely they are there to purchase a book. If your book is on the shelf, yours may just have a chance at being the book they buy.

How can you work toward getting your book into that bookstore, though? Is it a matter of luck? Can self-publishing authors make the cut? The good news is that even if you’re not necessarily on a “lucky streak”, it’s still possible to successfully target placement in “traditional” bookstores. However, you must have a solid plan in place for doing so. Here are a few action items to put on your list as you get started:

  • Make sure your book is fully returnable. If your book cannot be returned, there is great risk involved for the bookstore. For example, if they stock 10 copies of your book and only 4 sell over the course of a year, they are losing money. If the book is returnable, though, the store can simply send the book back that doesn’t sell. Think of this return-ability as a type of “insurance” for your book.
  • Offer a sufficient trade discount. What’s sufficient? Typically that will be around 50-55% (or higher). Of course this does cut into your profits, but a higher retail margin gives the bookstore more incentive to stock your book on their shelves. No incentive? No cigar.
  • Build proof that your book is desirable. This is probably the most difficult (though not insurmountable) part of it all because authors often have a bias view of their book. However, the best indicator of a desirable book is exponential sales figures. If the amount of books you sale doubles, triples, quadruples, etc. month-after-month, that is something that can work in your favor. If you aren’t a professional marketer, you may want to seek the services of a book marketing consultant. Make sure they are able to help you draft a marketing plan and go forth on planning your publicity.

After you’ve done all of the above, you must put together a proposal to submit to bookstore contacts. You can find others specifically on their websites, but Barnes & Noble can be reached here:

The Small Press Department
Barnes & Noble
122 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10011

Other bookstores can be found through Google. Another popular site for locating independent bookstores is Indie Bound.

Do you know of any other bookstores that are small press/self-published friendly?

by Wendy Stetina

When Wendy first posted this article back in 2011, the publishing industry looked rather different––and in many ways, it looked to be stumbling down the path to utter self-annihilation.  Borders, once a behemoth of the bookselling industry, went out of business in 2011, leaving many readers and authors questioning what––if any––place the brick and mortar bookstore held in the future of their industry.  In the heated discussion that followed in the post’s comments section, various Self Publishing Advisor subscribers pointed out the rise of online retailers as the cheapest and most effective sales platform for indie authors.  In response, SPA moderator Elise L. Connors wrote that “[T]his post wasn’t written with the intention of persuading authors to go after bookstores. It was actually written to let authors who are going after that avenue know that they shouldn’t give up on that ‘dream’ because of the current landscape of the industry.”  (The italics are mine.)

It’s true that Amazon has continued its meteoric rise to the top of the bookselling industry since 2011, and it’s also true that Amazon’s expanded offerings to self-publishing authors have captured much of the market and spurred much public dialogue about the world of indie publishing.  It’s true that Barnes & Noble’s online presence, the Apple iBooks Store, and a whole host of social media platforms and numerous self-publishing companies have sprung up in recent years to diversify and stabilize the market.  And while there have never been so many ways to buy and sell a book as there are in the year 2016, it is true too that ebooks and e-readers have done nothing to lessen customers’ appreciation for the pure tactile pleasure of a brick and mortar store.

Even Amazon has come around to seeing a street presence as importance, as evidenced by the launch of the first Amazon Books shop (in Seattle) last year.  Yes, it seems mostly a kind of marketing gimmick, but it’s one that works.  As one skeptical self-publishing expert learned, even the store’s critics often walk away with an Amazon Prime Membership or a physical book or two.  (These are true stories, people!)  There is, apparently, nothing that quite beats the “instant gratification” of beholding actual physical books on an actual physical shelf.  And while the jury’s still out on whether Amazon Books stores will do anything specifically geared to boost sales of self-published works––like installing Espresso Book Machines, for example, or offering curated collections of Print on Demand (POD) editions of Kindle favorites––one can’t help but notice the wide swathes of shelf space dedicated to Kindles in pictures of the interior.

amazon bookstore

And Amazon’s not the only company with a brick-and-mortar presence that can make a difference for indie and self-publishing authors.  In fact, many independent bookstores and even larger chains like Denver’s Tattered Cover go to great lengths to boost sales of local indie authors.  On my last visit to one of Tattered Cover’s several stores, I stepped inside the doors and made my way toward the coffee bar––only to find my progress impeded by a series of low bookshelves that blocked out the cafe’s seating area.  These shelves were the first thing every customer sees when walking in that store, and they were positively packed with self-published books, placed there on consignment.  (If you live in or near Denver and are interested in knowing more, visit their website.)

 

But ultimately, I’m not here today to defend the bookstore as a vital place to sell your books.  I’m here to help those of you who already know you want to get your book into a bookstore somewhere … to do so with the least amount of fuss.

To return to Wendy’s original post, most bookstores now either mandate her first point (“Make sure your book is fully returnable“) or take any guesswork out of the equation by relying on a consignment model (as with Tattered Cover, above).  And Wendy’s second point holds true: when an author is given the option, it’s a wise idea to “Offer a sufficient trade discount.

In many ways, however, Wendy’s third point is the most important.  Aside from keeping your name and work in the public eye, simply by virtue of placing your book in a bookstore, there are several ways you as an author can help “Build proof that your book is desirable.”  Most bookstores have stringent standards for the self-published books they stock: the title in question must dots its is and cross its ts in that it must have an ISBN, a cover that exudes professionalism and sound design sense, and so on.  Striving to meet these standards in order to appear on Barnes & Noble’s or Tattered Cover’s shelves can only do good things for the “desirability” of your book on a larger scale.  I guarantee you that an attractive, professional-looking book will sell better online as well as off the shelf.

Last but not least, a fantastic way to sell readers on the value of your book is by building relationships with them––and one of the best ways to make contact with your readers is to host events … at your local bookstore.  If you pursue hosting such an event, many bookstores will offer additional opportunities to feature your works within your stores, especially since good attendance at your event will likely translate into a solid spike in general sales for them.  (More foot traffic always equates to more sales when it comes to a brick-and-mortar bookstore.)  And the flipside of the coin is also worth examining: if you have already managed to clear a bookstore’s consignment standards, they are more likely to agree to partnering with you on hosting such an event.  Readings, Q&A sessions, and book signings are fertile ground for the indie author!  ♠

KellyABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.