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.

In Your Corner: Should You Self Publish a Large Print Format?

seniors large print type

It’s no secret that writing a book is hard. That is why most authors publish multiple formats of each book they write. Why only publish one format when the same words can be used to publish many different formats?

As the average lifespan increases, the overall population is aging and that makes it a perfect time for LARGE PRINT editions. A large print edition of your book is exactly that — the same words, just formatted at a larger print size (usually 14-16 point font) to make it easier to read for seniors.

Imagine opening up a whole new marketing opportunity for your self-published book. If your current book is already successful, publishing a large print edition may add another great revenue stream. And if your book isn’t performing so great, a new edition may give it the shot in the arm it needs to find a new market, and re-attract interest in the original edition, as well.

Seniors are a huge market with a voracious need for books (plus disposable income). They are their own niche market, and yet, a niche market that is general enough to seek cookbooks as well as poetry as well as general non-fiction, and fiction. If you’ve been having trouble finding a niche for your book, seniors may be the place to look (and if you haven’t had any trouble, that’s even more reason to add seniors to the list!).

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. 

Kelly Schuknecht: The Highlights Reel (part 2)

Today we continue the work began in last Wednesday post as we farewell our longtime contributor Kelly Schuknecht. Kelly is moving on from Self Publishing Advisor to take on new challenges and we wanted to revisit some of her best and most popular posts here. Here are three more posts that really went down in the record books with us and our readers!

self-publishing in december

Here’s a gem for the ages! After all, it’s an evergreen subject; every author needs constant reminders of just how easy it is to miss errors in one’s own work, and of the need for extra eyes on any unpublished manuscript before it goes to press. This post, first published in 2010, really connected with its audience–and that was before Kelly updated the post with further tips and tricks in 2016. This post, and its update, has been one of our top performers of all time, and for good reason: Kelly walks readers through how to utilize an editor, how to get those extra eyes on your work, how and when to leave the manuscript as finished, and several suggestions on how to read the material by your lonesome and still achieve excellent results (clue: the words “out loud” and “backwards” are both used, but not together). This post serves as great proof that good writing will always be good writing, and therefore suggestions on how to craft good words will also remain steady.

Have you even thought about Amazon’s BXGY lately? Chances are that you haven’t, since the program was phased out soon after Kelly’s original post in 2008 (one of her earliest!). It’s worth checking in on the original post just to see how far Amazon’s sales algorithms and promotions have come; back in 2008, this post was so popular it almost broke our analytics, but these days for obvious reasons it’s a quiet corner of the blog. If there’s a moral to be learned here, it’s that the only constant in the age of the internet is change, and Amazon is no exception–and one of our missions, as self-publishing authors tasked with marketing our own books, is to adapt to those changes and try to get ahead of the curve … if we can. That’s one of the reasons we write this blog!

Last but not least (for today, that is), we bring you one of the blog’s highest-performing posts of all time. As with her post on tips and tricks for finding errors in your writing, Kelly’s suggestions in using your first chapter to boost book sales has a serious and ongoing following–because the information is still useful and valid. And yes, Kelly did an update of this post too (in 2016), and it too is a high-performer (statistically speaking). In her original, Kelly walked us through how to use Amazon, email, and even Craigslist to host the first chapter of your book and gain those “preview purchasers,” browsers who are unwilling to commit to a purchase unless they have a chance to look inside first. In her update, she touches on using social media as well as the Kindle app, two of the most popular ways to discover new material these days. We have the feeling that this blog will have a very long-term following, indeed–and we definitely recommend that you check it out (old and new) and leave us your own feedback. This is a post that ought to constantly evolve to fit the times!


As a self-publishing author, you may find it helpful to stay up-to-date on the trends and news related to the self-publishing industry.This will help you make informed decisions before, during and after the self-publishing process, which will lead to a greater self-publishing experience. To help you stay current on self-publishing topics, simply visit our blog every week to find out the hottest news. If you have other big news to share, please comment below.

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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

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.