In Your Corner: Start Thinking About Holiday Marketing … NOW!

Remember our “Ringing in the Holidays” post series from late last year? Wouldn’t it have been oh-so-much easier to execute the perfect holiday book sales plan if you’d started just that little bit earlier in the year? Well, I’m here today with a reminder as you start to look down the barrel of yet another end-of-year holiday frenzy: it’s time now! If you want to put your holidays in order, you have to start thinking about your marketing plan today. Yes, in August. If not July!

So let’s make a plan!

First stop: Who’s your audience? You’ll be able to plan an effective strategy only if you know who your ideal readers are–or who their parents with the pocketbooks and credit cards are, in the case of children’s books–and where to reach them, either online and in terms of raising awareness about your book, or in person through events and a campaign that they can conveniently connect to.

Second stop: What’s your format? If your book is digital, then giveaways are a must. An absolute must! There are also some great freebies–free chapters, free peeks, etc–that you can do by integrating your material into your website, social media, and so on. Make sure you give your website a facelift if you haven’t in a while–you want to be ready for the holidays, not just responding to them when they happen!

If your book is print, then yes–giveaways are still a must! But also book signings, book readings, and perhaps even workshops and teaching opportunities. The more ways–and the more creative ways–you can put your book into the hand of a potential buyer, the higher your chances of actually getting that buyer to pull out the pocketbook! Print books offer a great opportunity to distribute shiny merch like bookmarks, postcards, and so on to readers–even when your book may not be present or being sold! Think of the places people pick up their merch–banks, hotels, libraries, restaurant waiting areas–and partner with local businesses to see about featuring your book in these places.

Third stop: Get a move on! By the time those holidays roll around–whether Labor Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, or Christmas–it’s already too late to put together a comprehensive plan to reach new readers at that time. You really have to think ahead! Which is why we’re here. We’ve been there. If we’re honest with ourselves, we still are there. We know what it’s like–but here’s a guarantee: if you plan ahead, you will sell more books than if you don’t.

Sure, we can take it easy on ourselves, and feed ourselves the same line we did last year: “Oh, but there’s always next year.” And it’s true, for most of us. There will be more time to perfect our methods. But for this book, and this year, there isn’t a moment to waste–and it really would be a shame to push back our perfect holiday season another year simply because we let ourselves off of the hook today. Because for as many wonderful and eloquent “New Year’s Resolutions” posts we put up here on Self Publishing Advisor that we really do intend to keep, there’s always something that gets away from us. So we keep at it. Better todays mean better tomorrows mean a strategically stress-free Fall and Winter 2017!

But don’t worry, I’m not saying I’m anywhere near perfect. All we can ask is that we get a little bit better every go-around, right?

You are not alone. ♣︎


Elizabeth

ABOUT 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.

In Your Corner: Choosing a Quality Publisher

You’ve spent absolutely ages writing your book, and now it’s as perfect as it gets! Why choose a sub-par publisher who’s just going to mess it up—or worse, betray your trust—by providing a sub-par final product?

Here’s the thing: no one in their right minds does make that choice—at least, not knowingly. And there’s the rub! Sub-par publishers sometimes give off a very real impression that they’re anything but. Sometimes, they’re more convincing than the bonafide deal, the companies which are legitimate and will treat you right, but struggle to stand out in a marketplace crowded by phones, vanity presses, and other publishers who’re like as not prepared to milk you for every dollar you have, and satisfy their obligations by producing the bare minimum in terms of quality product.

In a sense, you’re in a double-bind as a self-publishing company! The onus should be on the publisher to provide the best possible product they can with the funds available … but because it’s difficult for regulators to enforce this—and because publishing, especially self-publishing remains ahead of the curve in regards to legislative oversight*—the reality is that you, the author, are ultimately the one person you can trust to make sure you get the best deal possible.

* One day legislation may in fact catch up to the ever-evolving products and services which have risen along with the Internet, but that day is not today.

decision making

You want a quality publisher who will give your book the attention that it deserves.  How to ensure this happens?

  1. Spend time researching your publishing options.
  2. Learn what your publisher will do for you before your book is published, while your book is published and after your book is published.
  3. Think through what’s important to you and what you need (as opposed to those nice things you really, really want but can get by without).
  4. If you need someone available to help you, be sure you choose a publisher that offers help and support.
  5. If you know you need an amazing cover design, choose a publisher that offers a custom-designed cover. Same goes for marketing services, formatting, and everything else. Do you have the necessary skills? No? Make sure your publisher does—and for a reasonable price.
  6. Don’t turn your book over to just anyone. Your book is your book, not something you can afford to let anyone else ruin.

You’ve spent the time getting it just right … and now it’s time to find that company which will treat your book with the dignity and respect it deserves. Not to mention, which will treat you the same way.

You are not alone. ♣︎


Elizabeth

ABOUT 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.

In Your Corner: Libraries, the book-lover’s paradise!

public library

Let’s face it, if there’s one place we go to find out information about books, it’s our local public library. Bookstores just feel like such a commitment sometimes, you know? But at a library, the art of browsing is elevated to an art form, and you can feel free to study the shelving arrangement, the genres, the popular nooks and crannies, the competition, and the various ways and means librarians use to “sell” their books to the public–all without feeling guilty for not buying something! In fact, if you’re “caught” browsing in a library and the librarians find our you’re a local author, you’re far more likely to get hooked into giving a book reading than you are to get shushed or to get side-eye from booksellers who really need to sell a certain number of books a day.

Libraries mean unlimited books and unlimited resources for free. And one of the best resources is the librarians themselves. Your local librarian can provide help with, yes, possibly setting up a book reading event to help you market your book, as well as finding answers to questions on how to have your book stocked in that library and much more. Librarians are an amazing source of help and information!

What are some other ways you can promote your book by using the library?

  • Donate a copy (or several copies) of your book to the library. Be sure to go through the proper donation channels.
  • If your book is geared towards children, give a school library presentation on your book’s subject. School libraries are always looking for new books! Just make sure to reach out through the proper channels (i.e. through the principal and administration, as well as the librarian).
  • Connect with librarians via social networks. Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn are powerful ways to network!
  • Stock promotional materials such as flyers and letters at local libraries. Be sure to include of the essential information about your book such as subject, genre, audience and purchasing information. It’s best to ask if they’d be willing to stock these supplies on their “freebies” counter or in their brochure pocket wall first, just in case they need to check their policies.
  • Ask a librarian to review your book in a local publication. This will bring positive attention to your book and encourage other locals to buy it! You might even be able to get a librarian to review it in your library’s state or regional newsletter, which would encourage other librarians to buy it.

Libraries are a powerful part of your book promotion strategy. Creative marketing tactics can increase your chances of a library stocking your book. They can also lead to great relationships with librarians and readers. The best way to find out what your local library wants is to talk to the librarians. Work on building an honest relationship, and you may just find one your book’s best promoters.

Not sure where to find your local library? Hop on www.publiclibraries.com and search by city, state, or zip code–or you can visit the American Library Association (ALA) at www.ala.org, where you’ll find loads of information on the current state of libraries and how you can get involved, both as a self-publishing author and a lover of books!

You are not alone. ♣︎


Elizabeth

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 18 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Manager of Author SeLibraries are a book-lovers paradise.  Unlimited books and resources everywhere.  One of the best resources is the librarian itself.  Your local librarian can provide help with possibly setting up a book reading event to help you market your book, answers to questions on how to have your book stocked in the library and much more.  Librarians are an amazing source of help and information.rvices 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.

In Your Corner: Put Your Vacation to Work!

laptop flowers

Oh, I know–turning a vacation into a working vacation isn’t necessarily what you had in mind for your summer, but the fact remains: books aren’t going to sell themselves, and when it comes to being an indie author, there’s not a moment to be wasted.

Even … vacation hours.

Maybe even especially vacation hours!

Luckily for everyone, there are some easy ways to boost your sales and make your vacations work for you rather than against your book sales!

Vacations and the reunions that go with them can be the absolutely most ideal time to market your book and gather some new readers. Or maybe old readers. Age doesn’t matter. Everybody reads, especially when they have a personal connection to the author–you! Reunions are a fantastic place to tell family members, friends, and other personal connections about your book and where they can buy it.

Then there’s the most magical of all summer vacation destinations: the gift shop, the ultimate place to display and present your book for shoppers and readers on their various road trips. And while you travel, too–any stranger you meet on a trip is only a stranger until you break the ice by sharing your book!

Of course, if you’re going to make the most of your vacation, there are some things to keep in mind. You’ll need to:

Keep up with your social media.

Before you take off for the beach of the mountains, schedule. Schedule, schedule, schedule. Facebook has a lovely, easy tool built-in to make this possible–simply put your posts together, and click the drop-down arrow next to the ‘post’ button and input the date and time of your intended schedule.

But what about the others? There are quite a few tools out there to manage all of your media at once. Hootsuite is one, Later.com another, Buffer yet a third. Do your due diligence and pick a service that fits your needs, and be aware that there are free options, so you should theoretically be able to take care of your scheduling needs affordably. Once you have an account, all you have to do is preload your tweets, your posts to Google+ and Instagram and so on.

And of course, be safe! Play up your travels as much as you like as a kind of promotion, but don’t make a point of mentioning how long you’ll be away from home, or other personal details that the disingenuous might exploit. Take pictures and make plenty of memories to share later!

Network!

Take full advantage of your trip to plan for the future. Is there a writing conference taking place in one of your destination cities? Get on the list. Are there book readings? Could you plan a book reading at one of the libraries near your beach or mountain idyll? Local writing groups are another great option. Plenty of people might be interested in having you speak about the process of self-publishing.

And of course, come prepared. Keep a pack of business cards, bookmarks, postcards, posters, and a couple of promotional copies of your book on hand, and practice your elevator pitch thoroughly before hand. If you haven’t yet invested in some merch, go ahead and start down that glorious road. Think outside the box, too: is there a way to promote a giveaway while traveling, guerrilla style?

Make it a GRAND tour!

Some of the items on your agenda are a given, no matter what kind of vacation we’re talking about. But it’s well worth your effort to look into the libraries, museums, gift shops, bookstores, civic spaces, and other places that might serve as a spot for a reading, signing, or other promotional event. If your book somehow relates to local history or events—even better! Marketing your self-published book shouldn’t take up all of your precious vacation time, but spending even just a handful of minutes each day checking Twitter or arranging a couple of book readings will help support the marketing and sales momentum you’ve worked so hard to build–not to mention pay for an even better vacation next year!

You are not alone. ♣︎


Elizabeth

ABOUT 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.

In Your Corner: Put a Schedule On It

Holiday suitcase

Look, summer presents unique challenges to writers, doesn’t it? By July, everyone’s deep into their vacations, children are running riot while out of school, family streams in and out in a series of reunions, and … it can be hard to continue writing.

Of course … there are remedies. And this week, I suggest trying your hand at a schedule––and then, of all things, sticking to it!

Now, those who know me well know that I’m not aways given over to structured practicalities and organizational tricks. I know how to kick back and relax, especially in summer. After all, if you work in publishing or with authors, as I do, you’ll know that victories are hard-won and well worth celebrating! So … don’t take this as heavy-handed pontification from someone who’s eminently hypocritical. I often suggest many things which I do not myself do all the time, since I’m as firm a believer in changing the habits to fit the situation as I am that success in self-publishing is the nexus of persistence, skill, and good luck.

I recommend schedules for everyone. If not for always, than for a season––and there’s no better season to try your hand at scheduling in summer, when the emotional, physical, and social stakes are so high … and very little writing is getting done anyways, so why not try a new approach? You may be writing by a pool with a mimosa at your side, but you can still work a schedule like nobody’s business, and churn out more writing than you would otherwise. Anyone with a plan can make it work!

In garden a woman surfing on internet with laptop.

Oh … but a plan? How do I come up with one of those?

Here’s where I get a little bit … experimental. As the first step to developing a schedule, I recommend starting a bullet journal. You have probably heard this term before, and associated it with highly neurotic, organized, possibly even OCD? people with phenomenal artistic skills. sure did, and refused to start a bullet journal, until I dug into a great conversation at the local library with a young mother named Melissa.

Melissa bullet journals. No surprise there! But wow, she has zero artistic skills. I mean, not a single artistic bone in her body! She was a bit reticent to show me her bullet journal, since she felt insecure about the lettering and such, but I was eventually able to persuade her. And I was incredibly impressed! Melissa has gotten to the heart of what a bullet journal is all about, which is to say, she started hers with lists––shopping lists, to-do lists, etc––and by tracking the little things she does throughout the day. Then she took it one step further and started to set goals … once she knew what her days usually already looked like, and what was feasible.

That, my friends and dear readers, is the value of a bullet journal. It can eventually help you shape behaviors, yes, but first it shows you what you already do––and therefore, what you’re already good at, and maybe some areas to work on. It’s like Google Analytics, but for a person’s daily productivity!

Printable Journaling Cards with Rooster Illustration. Line Style

You can put a bullet journal to work describing your days and then use the data you gather––when meals happen, what they look like, how many hours you’re sleeping a night, what your weekly and daily commitments look like and how they change in the summer––to transform or tweak your schedule just a little to squeak some more writing in. Poolside, or otherwise.

It’s all about sustainability. Radically altering your writing behaviors without a plan just isn’t a good idea––and it isn’t, ultimately, sustainable. Small changes are great, however, and over time you can build one change upon another until your summers are your most productive months, rather than the opposite! But it starts with knowing where you are, first.

If you’re looking for insight into bullet journaling, hop on Google or YouTube! There are literally thousands of them out there, but beware: many are a bit deceiving, touting life-altering effects and demonstrating uncannily beautiful hand lettering skills. You don’t have to make all the big changes at once, and you don’t need to be a gifted artist to figure out a better summer schedule by bullet journaling!

Still, here’s a quick snippet to get you started:

You are not alone. ♣︎


Elizabeth

ABOUT 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.

In Your Corner: The Benefit of Personal Service

personal service

Personal service. What does that even look like?

Consider where we are, in 2017: a world where one can order groceries off of the internet for home delivery, where autonomous cars are a real and actual thing and only a couple hundred rounds of safety testing from sitting in your garage, and where robots write blogs, and pretty well, too. (Don’t worry, there’s a person writing this blog. We promise. She just needs her morning coffee.) In fact, bots run quite a lot of what we do these days.

In the world of 2017, you can quite feasibly buy all the things a person needs to live–‘food, shelter, and safety’ echoing down from fifth grade science classes–online and without ever once leaving the house. And this is a potentially wonderful thing, especially for those with anxiety disorders and mobility problems. And while a lot has been made of the whole ‘bot stealing your job!’ meme, the facts do not (yet) bear that out. Most of the jobs being ‘taken’ by bots are more like gaps in the workforce that software designers and engineers are working to fill. (Most. That blog-writing bot still has me worried.)

The thing is, sometimes we really need personal service and help, and in a world so digitized and automated, it’s hard both to find it and even to figure out that you need it in the first place. After all, if no-one’s offering it as an option and recommending it in the various blogs and news articles you read, how are you going to know that personal service–particularly in self-publishing, our industry–is of benefit to you? How are you going to know where to get it?

It’s worth paying for someone to advise you, guide you, and to help you when it comes to something as important as publishing your book. Personal help from an expert that advises authors for a living is a valuable tool, not just some luxury, and should be perceived (and treated, and marketed) as such. Of all the self-published and self-publishing authors who I’ve worked with over the years, a grand total of zero (ZERO!) have commented that they “really didn’t need as much help” as they got through the company I work for (Outskirts Press). And since Outskirts consistently wins awards for its personal service … well, I guess it’s just proof that one can’t have too much of a good and useful thing.

It’s not just Outskirts Press who offers great personal customer support, but they are a great case study. When the company was founded all the way back in 2002, the world of self-publishing was a disorganized mess! There weren’t a lot of companies in the business yet, and there weren’t a lot of options available for the discerning author to allow for the flexibility which we so take for granted today. But it became a part of our founder’s operational framework that his company would focus on customer service and personal contact, starting with an author’s first expression of interest and continuing all the way through the publishing and marketing processes. This has since become our guiding star, and exerted an influence on other self-publishing companies, as well.

When you see the benefits of personal service, there’s no going back to simple templates and click-and-paste solutions.

But what about the cost?

One of the things you’re paying for at a self-publishing company is its personal service, and the more people working on your book–a Personal Marketing Assistant, a Graphic Designer, a Copywriter–the more you can expect to pay. But once you do pay for them, whether up-front or in installments, the benefits you unlock will last for years. You’ll have a cover design of which you can be proud and which will reel new readers in. You’ll have a marketing plan laid out from start to finish, and next steps for when you’re ready to publish your next book. You’ll have promotion on a variety of platforms, perhaps a book trailer on YouTube and a press release sent to various reviewers’ inboxes. This costs money, yes, but it pays its dividends.

And there are costs to doing it the other way, too–to going people-free in self-publishing. Although some publishers offer free digital services, when you need help, no one is there to guide you through the process. And it’s an incontestable fact that books with generic, template-based covers don’t catch customers’ eyes all too often. That their interior formatting is often a mess because there was no one there to make sure it copied over cleanly. That there’s no fanfare, no publicity, no social media optimization–unless you know how to do it yourself and are willing to pay the price in time and energy to make it work.

It’s worth the cost to have someone in your court, ready to help you when you need it.

You are not alone. ♣︎


Elizabeth

ABOUT 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.

In Your Corner: When Free Isn’t Free

When it comes to self-publishing, “free” isn’t always free, if you catch my meaning. In an industry where we’re used to self-publishing and indie presses being the much-lauded “little guy” going up against the Big Five traditional publishing houses, we sometimes overlook an important fact: indie authors still need to read the fine print.

Every publisher is a business–small presses, vanity publishers, and self-publishing companies like Outskirts Press included–and therefore, publishers still must make a profit somewhere. And that “somewhere” part is … well, the key. Rather than learn about hidden fees after you’ve gotten started down the path to self-publishing, wouldn’t it be better to know ahead of time how much you’ll need to spend? Planning, budgeting, and creative control are all vital facets of the experience, and we want to put you in the driver’s seat.

To that end, here are a couple of hidden fees to watch out for:

  • Amazon’s “Megabyte” Fee: If you happen to choose the 70% royalty option when publishing through Amazon’s KDP store, Amazon will charge you for each megabyte of your document. They have a full explanation on their KDP pricing page. It’s also worth noting that Amazon is not the only publisher to invoke this kind of hidden fee; many digital publishers do. So read that fine print!
  • Cover Design: Unless you opt for a bundle or collected service from a self-publishing company which offers professional cover design, you won’t be receiving one for free! And while many online websites offer free tutorials, the results … don’t always look so good. If you need a little convincing to pay out the money for a professional cover design, see one of our many previous posts on the benefits! The same is true for professional copyediting and many other interior design aspects of your book.
  • ISBNs: Unless you already knew you needed one, you might not know about this hidden fee. It’s a sneaky one, too–but there’s help at hand! It’s easy to file for an ISBN, if you know how or who to hire.
  • Street Cred & File Conversion: Some of the unquantifiables of self-publishing include more generic “business expenses,” like establishing credibility by having an imprint’s name rather than your own personal name on the Library of Congress information page, and paying for a good and accurate conversion of your manuscript file to the final format. Neither of these things is strictly necessary, in that you can self-publish without them, but it will take you much longer to get your book out there, and much longer to sell those books once they’re printed if they’re not formatted correctly or attached to a “legitimizing” imprint.

In many ways, you get what you pay for, so hidden fees aren’t strictly an evil thing. They exist for a reason, and your success depends on knowing which of them is useful to bow to and which ones you can forego. Just be aware … they’re out there, and you need to budget them in before committing to a final bank balance.

hidden fees

You are not alone. ♣︎


Elizabeth

ABOUT 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