In Your Corner: Growing Your Market With Elbow Grease

Over the last several weeks of this summer, I’ve written about the difficulties of both making a fresh start when getting started and having to re-start your marketing plan when something goes south. Both of those involve a lot of work, it’s true, but this week it’s worth reminding everyone (including myself) that the work is worth it.

I wrote recently about my gardens being stripped accidentally. Well, after having a mini-meltdown and lapsing into total self-loathing and disappointment for a few days, I decided to take a couple of baby steps. I did a soil pH test one day, laid down some fresh soil the next. Ordered a couple of packets of wildflowers and bush beans the day after that. Took handfuls and spread them out the following weekend.

Now, things are starting to come up. It may not be the garden I first envisioned, and it may never again look like the original, but it’s still something. And it still makes me happy. It brings me joy.

Just like writing, and marketing, when I see the first signs of success.

gardening

The elbow grease needs to be there. It’s never going to be the easiest thing, marketing. But it also doesn’t have to be the hardest thing you do each day. Line it up after your fifteen minutes of foreign language learning each day (Duolingo is brilliant, isn’t it?), your half-hour walk, and your afternoon smoothie. Making marketing just another part of your routine, something that has a little bit of structure but not so much it interferes with the rest of your day, is critical to it remaining a long-term part of your life.

I should know. I’ve been to the marketing (and the gardening!) doldrums this summer with you. I know what it looks like. And I’m here to remind you: it’s not the end. It’s never the end. It’s just another part of your life, and you get to make it fit with the rest of who you are and what you do. And in the end, you’re going to sell some books simply because you were willing to show up for a few minutes each day and remind the world that you have a brilliant new book out there in the world, and it’s ready to be read.

You are not alone. ♣︎


Elizabeth

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Director of Sales and Marketing for Outskirts Press. The Sales and Marketing departments are composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, 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.

 

In Your Corner: Growing Your Market in Barren Soil

So here’s a story. Last winter, I spent weeks reading up on ways to make my yard and garden more butterfly friendly, bee friendly, and bird friendly. I checked out a pile of books from the local public library on how to combine these ideas with square-foot gardening, and put in some raised beds. I spent time at a local nursery, and picked the brains of both the nursery staff and my neighbors, who’ve been gardening in this alpine valley for generations. I talked with the local conservation nonprofit, collected native seeds, and come spring, put everything in the ground. I stopped mowing my lawn so often (and so short) and started caring more about soil composition, moisture, and pH levels. Basically, I took the time to care properly about a thing I should have been carrying more about anyway.

Then, one day, I came home from work to find that my homeowner’s well-intentioned handyman had “weeded” my wildflowers, pulled up my soil-fixing plants, stripped the beds, and basically reduced my various riotous little garden spots to bare earth. And then he sprayed them so that nothing would come back up. Sad, right?

For the record, I don’t blame the handyman. He had only the best of intentions, and there’s little visual difference between a healthy butterfly friendly, bee friendly, and bird friendly garden … and a wilderness. He simply didn’t know that it was intentional, and that I was happy with the chaos.

But here’s where things get real for those of us who self-publish: often, our setbacks often feel like they reduce our emotional landscape to scorched earth (or in this case, thoroughly sprayed earth). It can even seem like we’re starting from scratch, or worse. And it can feel like it’s not worth the energy, the sheer elbow grease, required to restart the garden mid-season.

So how do we get past that hump? How do we get to a point where it feels like we’re past the worst, where the garden is already back on its feet enough for us to see progress again?

As with last week’s post about kicking the summer slow-down, it’s all about breaking it down into littler, manageable chunks. If you need to treat the comeback like a fresh start, then that’s what you need to do. But even better than a fresh start is a re-start which builds upon the groundwork you’ve already laid. You don’t have to go full-throttle the moment you get back into the game; it’s totally okay to just dip your toe in at first. Remember how last week I recommended fifteen-minute chunks of social media time a day to get started? That tip applies to re-starts as well as fresh starts.

The difference between a fresh start and a re-start is, of course, how difficult it feels. It’s even in the terminology, isn’t it? A “fresh start” sounds positive and upbeat, a joyous celebration of something new. A “re-start” sounds a little beat up around the edges. And that may be an accurate reflection of how you feel, when push comes to shove. That means that your first job, even before you start re-establishing structure and launching plans, is breaking through the negative mindset which comes from facing down a rough patch.

My advice? Take time for you, and your craft. If you’re anything like the authors I’ve met, you probably spend your summer splitting your time between scrambling to make sure everyone else is having a good time (summer schedules are insane!) and trying to get some much-needed “you” time. If you have any time left to spare, it’s probably spent trying to cram in some writing time. If your summer is anything like my summer, it all feels extremely disorganized and messy, and like you’re doomed to fail at everything simply because you can’t get it all done.

Well, I’m here to talk you down from that mentality, just as much as I’m here to talk myself down from it. You CAN succeed, and you can start by succeeding at loving yourself, and seeing yourself as the triumph you are. Maybe once you see how great you are, you’ll see that great things can happen even on the most stripped-bare soil.

Only then will you have the conviction to pull out a new batch of seedlings.

You are not alone. ♣︎


Elizabeth

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Director of Sales and Marketing for Outskirts Press. The Sales and Marketing departments are composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, 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.

 

In Your Corner: Growing Your Market by Seizing on “Gift Opportunities”

It’s now high summer, which means it’s time to kick the summer languor and get our various ambitious projects back into gear. And if you’re anything like me, you have … a lot … of projects! Even if your workload is more manageable, the heat saps our energy, and even the little things start piling up as the temperature spikes and the speed of progress slows down. And when it comes to self-publishing, a temporary slowdown is fine but it’s best to keep momentum going, and to keep building towards that final end goal: a healthy, strong, and vibrant marketing strategy which will actually sell books.

I’m here this week to launch a new summer series on growing your market, and most especially growing your market while in the midst of the summer slowdown. And I’m going to start where I always start in the garden: with what comes back each year, whether I plant and cultivate a garden intentionally or not. My neighbor Jules, whose backyard is a magnificent display of carefully pruned herbs and vegetables, calls these volunteer plants and other little treasures “gifts.” And every year, it seems as though I find something new in the mix: several varieties of rose, two kinds of apple tree, lilies, lilacs, daffodils, and tulips. More has come up this year than ever before, since this is the first year our little alpine valley has not been knee-deep in drought.

There are “gifts” when it comes to marketing your self-published book, too, in that you’re never really starting from scratch. There will be volunteer seedlings coming up from before the last winter (metaphorically speaking): the people who’ve been with you along your journey, the social media you’ve already been investing time in, and your book’s genre’s built-in audience. All you have to do is fan them back to life–give them the water they’ve maybe been lacking, put some time and money into mulch and fertilizer, weeding and pruning.

The metaphor starts breaking down here a little bit, of course, as a book and a marketing plan is not a garden in anything other than a superficial metaphorical sense. So how do you go about coaxing your gift opportunities into something more–something substantial, and structured, and that stands on its own two legs?

The best way to start to build something structured is to structure our own behavior, of course. And since structure is what slips first in the summer slowdown, that must be the first thing to come back. Not all at once, and not in such a rigidly enforced way as to leech all the fun and relaxation out of a time which is meant to be as healing and refreshing as it is supposed to be relaxed and laid-back, full of pool parties and backyard barbecues.

Start with integrating the two: relaxation and a reset of your marketing plan. Start with fifteen minutes of social media posts and self-promotion. You can do this from the poolside or the backyard, and in fact snapping some candids while you’re out and about may be just the thing to re-infuse your marketing plan with some life and energy. Once you’ve gotten to fifteen minutes a day, it’s time to start adding a plan, and figuring out how to break that larger plan down into fifteen minute chunks, as well. Can you spend fifteen minutes working on your website design? How about do a series of fifteen-minute blog interviews with other authors? Emerging into the sunlight doesn’t have to happen all at once; it can be gradual and step-by-step. Find those chunks that fit with both your plan and your schedule … and seize on the moments you have available, and that add to your life and joy, and also serve a practical function.

After all, if growing things is anything, it’s practical.

If you’re growing your market and have run into setbacks, our next installment will be one you won’t want to miss. Join me in two weeks!

You are not alone. ♣︎


Elizabeth

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Director of Sales and Marketing for Outskirts Press. The Sales and Marketing departments are composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, 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.

 

In Your Corner: Ask the Right Questions!

questions ideas

Regardless of whether you are holding out for an old-fashioned publishing contract or taking matters into your own hands with custom self-publishing, here are 5 questions you should know the answers to when you decide to publish:

  1. What is the minimum number of books you have to purchase, and what does
    each book cost you? Many require certain quantities to be purchased at highly marked up prices. That is how they ‘get you.’
  2. Who determines your retail price? How much is it? Here’s another one to look out for. You should have that control. Publishers that don’t allow that are often in the business to make money on your book. You’ve done the work. You should see the rewards.
  3. Who determines how much money you make from each book? Another good test. Your publisher should pay 100% of the difference between the wholesale price and the production price of the book. Most publishers pay anywhere from 5%-50%.
  4. Do you receive marketing support after publication? Free services like the Marketing COACH offered by Outskirts Press is an invaluable collection of proven tactics shared to help improve your book sales.
  5. Do you retain all the rights to your book? You definitely should. Check the contract of wherever you publish.

Whatever questions you ask, the sheer willingness to ask them will make a world of difference to your self-publishing experience. Those who don’t ask questions end up trapped in contracts which leave them underserved, or worse, while those who do ask questions are on a constant quest for self-improvement and the improvement of their circumstances and sales. That questing spirit? That’s one of your greatest assets.

Never be afraid to ask the hard questions.

You are not alone. ♣︎


Elizabeth

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Director of Sales and Marketing for Outskirts Press. The Sales and Marketing departments are composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, 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.

How to Make a Book Club Kit as a Self-Publishing Author

How would you like to sell 10-15 books at a time, rather than just one? You would?! Well, then keep reading, because Book Club Kits are one of the best-kept secrets of savvy book marketers.

book club

What is a book club kit, you ask?  We’re glad you asked! A book club kit is a bunch of your books and some other materials all packaged together in either a canvas bag or a storing box (or something even more fun and creative).  The most obvious customers for book club kits are book clubs, but the less obvious (and more fruitful) customers for your book club kit will be libraries.  Rarely do book clubs purchase books anymore, since that requires buying 10-15 copies of a single book.  Book clubs usually rely on libraries.  But even finding 10-15 copies of the same book across multiple libraries is challenging, which is why many libraries stock book club kits to loan out to local book clubs.  Rather than loaning out 10-15 copies of a book, they loan out one book club kit.  Who sells book club kits to libraries?  Authors!  

And that’s where you come in. So let’s get started.

  1. Decide how many copies of your book you are going to include

The best thing about making and then selling book club kits is you get to sell multiple copies of your book at once.  But don’t get overzealous.  If you cram too many copies of your book into your kit, the kit sales price may be too high for some libraries, and the kit itself may be too heavy.  Most book club kits range from 8-15 copies, and the number often depends upon the size of the community being served by the library.  So how do you decide how many copies to put into your kit? You ask!  Visit your local library and ask to browse their book club kits.  See how many books are in other kits. Ask the librarian which kits are the most popular.  Ask the librarian how many copies he/she would recommend, or what their budget is for purchasing kits.  All this information will help you decide how many copies to include in your kit.  Remember, your kit doesn’t have to be the same size for every library. You may have one kit comprised of five books for a smaller neighborhood library and another kit comprised of 15 books for a large metropolitan library.  

  1. Decide how you are going to package your book club kit

The number of copies you decide to include may determine how you are going to bundle your kit, since a canvas bag doesn’t carry as many copies of a 400-page hardback as a 28” x 18” plastic storing bin. On the other hand, a customized canvas bag (more on that in a second) makes a better first impression than a big bulky bin. Although if you opt for the bin (available in different quantities for different prices on Amazon), be sure to at least create custom stickers to put on the outside of the bin identifying yourself and your book.

  1. Customize your bag or bin

If you opt for a canvas bag, you can customize it by printing either your book cover or your author photo on the outside of the bag, along with its title. You may even want to add “Book Club Kit” onto the side of the bag, too.  How do you create custom canvas bags?  Through websites like Zazzle or CaféPress.  They’re a little more expensive if you do single-units, but they represent the most economic way to start until you grow confident enough to buy larger quantities, at which point you can go to a local printer for a better deal.

If you opt for a plastic storage bin, customize a sticker to put on the outside of the bin (using the same print-on-demand sites mentioned above).  The title of your bin is NOT the title of your book.  The title of the bin (or bag) is BOOK CLUB KIT.  The subtitle is your book title, and your author name.

  1. Create your “table of contents”

The similarities between a book and a book club kit just keep going and going, don’t they? Not only have you titled your kit BOOK CLUB KIT but now you get to create a Table of Contents… and in this case, it literally is a listing of all the contents of your kit.  You can get fancy and make this single piece of paper colorful, or artistic, or even laminated, but the ultimate purpose is to specifically mention every component of your kit, including the quantity of each component (especially important in regard to the number of copies of your book).  This is how the librarian will ensure kit has been returned without any missing “pieces” after each club borrows it.

  1. Include your author photo and author biography

Book clubs discuss books, sure, but they also discuss authors, so be sure to include your author photograph (8.5×11 on glossy paper, if possible), and your author biography.  These are typically elements you’ve already created for your book’s publication, so it’s usually a simple matter of reprinting them for the purposes of your kit.  It’s not necessary to print more than one copy of these elements, even if your kit contains 10-15 books.  The book club leader or administrator will hold onto the rest of the elements of your kit, including your photo and biography, for display and/or discussion during their actual meetings.  You may even want to include more comprehensive and personal information about you and what motivated you to write the book. After all, these are the elements of a book club kit that makes it valuable for book clubs.

  1. Include discussion topics

Most book club kits suggest discussion topics for the leader or moderator of the club as a means for spurring conversation about your book once everyone has read it.  One of the most magical things about being a published author is being the creator of your particular “world” in fiction, or the expert voice over your particular subject in non-fiction.  Members join book clubs for exactly this insight, so be sure your book club kit delivers.  Ask questions about your main characters. Offer alternative endings your considered.  Mention particularly difficult choices you, as the author, had to make when writing your book.  Summarize the choices you made and why. Ask the book club members what they think about your choices.  These discussion topics should “match” your author biography page in the kit, so if you laminated your author bio, laminate your discussion topics, too.  Every element of your kit should look professional and branded.  Many authors include all the separate pieces of paper in a branded or customized folder, to keep them pristine while rattling around in your kit surrounded by heavy books.

  1. Go social

Book club members also join book clubs to learn about new writers and to experience new books.  Even if they just borrowed your book from the book club kit for the purposes of their meeting, that doesn’t mean they won’t buy your book after-the-fact.  Be sure to include one piece of vital information in every kit: Purchase information and, if you’re open to discussing your book personally with readers, author contact information. Even if you shy away from one-on-one contact, you can suggest to members of the book clubs that you welcome honest reviews on Amazon and you often respond to individual reviewers in the “Comments” section.  The possibility that their review could spark a reply from the author may provide enough incentive for your book club readers to compose reviews on Amazon and/or Barnes & Noble (which is always a good thing).  If you are the more extroverted type of author, you can even suggest the coordination of a skype or facetime discussion, or offer your time to “appear” on a book club’s blog as a special guest.  

  1. Put it all together

Once you have all the components of your kit, bundle them all together in your canvas bag or plastic bin.  Then, find your customers.  You can do a search for libraries on Google.  Price your kit so that it’s a good deal for the library and also profitable for you (the books will typically be priced at the wholesale, rather than retail price).   Congratulations! Your book is now part of the book club circuit!


brent sampson
In 2002, Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Semi-Finalist Brent Sampson founded Outskirts Press, a custom book publishing solution that provides a cost-effective, fast, and powerful way to help authors publish, distribute, and market their books worldwide while leaving 100% of the rights and 100% of the profits with the author. Outskirts Press was incorporated in Colorado in October, 2003.
In his capacity as the Chief Executive Officer and Chief Marketing Officer, Brent is an expert in the field of book publishing and book marketing. He is also the author of several books on both subjects, including the bestseller Sell Your Book on Amazon, which debuted at #29 on Amazon’s bestseller list.

Is It Time to Relaunch Your Book?

book launch

Publishing a book for the first time can be an exciting proposition. Dreams of hitting it big can fill your eyes with stars and the world with hope.  Sometimes those dreams come true immediately, but more often than not, reality has a way of stifling even the most optimistic writer.  Success rarely comes immediately, even for those “overnight successes” you hear about in the news. What the news often fails to tell you is how many months and years that “overnight success” toiled tirelessly to reach that brass ring.  Often, the only difference between success and failure is not giving up.

If the bloom has fallen from your publication in the absence of overnight success, now is the time to dust off the dust and get excited again.  Your book is still published!  You are still a published author! And things in the marketplace may have changed in your favor since you’ve put the book on the back burner.  Bring it back to the front and let’s relaunch your book with all new zest and zeal!

1. Re-announce your book
Repeat all the steps you took when you published the first time. Does it matter that your book isn’t brand “new”?  No.  It’s new to anyone who is hearing about it for the first time, so that’s more than enough reason to widen your net.

  • Notify close family and friends in person and by phone or text
  • Notify an even wider circle of friends and associates via email and social media
  • Mail promotional announcements or postcards to everyone you know

2. Use social media
Depending upon how long ago you initially published your book, things may look quite a bit different in social media, and those differences can represent an opportunity for your book that may not have existed before.  Was Facebook the behemoth it is today?  Were videos on YouTube as popular as they are today?  If you were marketing a book even as recently as two or three years ago, the landscape is completely different now.  You may find more success with a book video trailer, more success with a Facebook page, and more success with author readings or events.   The world of independent writers is still growing, which means the community is becoming more vibrant and active in all circles of life.  That activity can translate to awareness, which can translate to word-of-mouth advertising, which can translate to increased book sales.

3. Update your author platform
If your attention on your book has waned over the past several months or years, chances are your author platform is in need of some loving care, also.  Check in on all the social media profiles you set-up when you were initially published.  Is your profile picture still a good representation of you? Do any of your other graphics or images need an update?  Has it been a while since you’ve posted anything on your Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or Linked-In accounts?  Refocusing on book marketing means refocusing on all the elements involving your writing career.  You may discover that as you get more excited about your book, so, too, will readers.

4. It’s never too late to START marketing
Perhaps your attention waned shortly after publication because reverence and riches didn’t follow publication as soon as you had hoped.  Perhaps you didn’t put as much effort into marketing as you could have when your book was first published.  That is very good news!  Why?  Because that means all the opportunities you had when your book was first released are still available to you.   People rarely pay attention to when a book was written or published.  All they care about is whether it will solve their problem, or entertain them, or help them prepare something delicious to eat, or help their children fall asleep peacefully.  No matter how “old” your book may seem to you, it’s brand new to everyone out there in the world who hasn’t heard of it yet.   Start marketing your book TODAY and help those people find your book.  


brent sampson
In 2002, Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Semi-Finalist Brent Sampson founded Outskirts Press, a custom book publishing solution that provides a cost-effective, fast, and powerful way to help authors publish, distribute, and market their books worldwide while leaving 100% of the rights and 100% of the profits with the author. Outskirts Press was incorporated in Colorado in October, 2003.

In his capacity as the Chief Executive Officer and Chief Marketing Officer, Brent is an expert in the field of book publishing and book marketing. He is also the author of several books on both subjects, including the bestseller Sell Your Book on Amazon, which debuted at #29 on Amazon’s bestseller list. 

Easy Breezy Summer Publishing (Part 6)

goodbye summer

Summer’s Over … What Next?

Here’s a hard thing for me to contemplate, much less say ….

Sometimes, we have to move on.

And at the end of Summer, as we transition into a new school year and all of the challenges and possibilities which it has to offer, I think we have to consider the reality and visceral truth of this statement.

Sometimes, we have to move on.

There’s no better time to do it, really. Ending something, after all, is often a doorway into starting something new–and we all need a reminder of this every now and again, especially when or if we find ourselves stuck in ruts and looking for a way out.

Oh, don’t get me wrong–everything I’ve said throughout this series ( 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 ) is still true. If you have the willpower and the resources–and everyone has just a little of each, for sure–then you should definitely keep plugging away at marketing your existing, already-published indie books. You should definitely work on innovating your strategies. You should definitely think forward to the holidays now while you have the chance.

But also … you should probably end a few things. If you’ve been hammering away at the same marketing strategy for a while now with no change in sales prospects, it’s time. If you’ve been chipping away piecemeal at a new manuscript and have lost the joy of working on the project, it’s time. If you have been sending queries out to editors, agents, and traditional publishers and receiving only rejections in reply ….

It’s time.

Ending things–bad habits, dependencies, wish-dreams with no likelihood of fulfillment–is agonizing. I have no illusions about that. And it can be absolutely terrifying to cut off something now without a clear plan in place for the future. But if I’ve discovered anything–and I have some personal news to share in the days to come on this–it’s that sometimes you have to end a thing before you can really, truly, and clearly think about what comes next.

So here are my last thoughts in this series, where we have considered oh-so-many ways to sharpen your marketing strategies and hone your self-promotional skills:

  • Recognizing a thing as incomplete, unproductive, or simply “not working out” and deciding to end it is not the same thing as giving up. It’s giving yourself a new way forward!
  • We all face some tough decisions in the days to come, if the news reports are correct, and we simply can’t afford to entrap ourselves in habitual behaviors if they’re not producing the kind of results we need to see.
  • Y’all, our dear readers, give me constant hope that with a bit of diligence, a lot of pluck, and a community of writers and writing professionals to surround ourselves with, we can find a way forward, together ….
  • Even if it means ending a couple of things now.

What have you been trying for a while that isn’t working out? Is it time to tweak or a time to change tracks entirely?


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. ♠


Kelly

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the outgoing 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