An Indie Author’s Social Media Primer | Etsy

If you’re a bibliophile, chances are you’ve heard of Etsy.  Chances are you’ve shopped on Etsy––or at the very least, window-shopped.  There’s something so winsome about this platform that just … sucks you in and then later spins you out, dazed and simultaneously envious of other peoples’ talents at handcrafts and carefully counting your change to see if you can afford to buy something beautiful today.  I’m not speaking from experience, of course.

Okay, so I am.  And what’s wrong with ogling a beautiful watercolor print of one of my favorite quotes, or eyeing a delicate little charm to add to my collection, or drooling (just a little) over the “reading fox” bookends––which happen to come in at #11 on this Buzzfeed contributor’s list of perfect gifts for the bibliophile in your life who already has all of the books that he or she might ever need.  There are at least a dozen other Buzzfeed articles that cover the exact same ground, and this isn’t just because Etsy is a great place to shop.  It’s because Etsy is a great place to both promote and sell, including for the self-published author!

Etsy

When it comes to the big social media platforms out there, nobody quite knows what to do with Etsy.  Is it social media?  Or is it just some form of social shopping, translated from the physical mall into the digital sphere?  The fact of the matter is, most people don’t think of Etsy as a digital gathering space for people so much as for objects, and that’s a crying shame.  Etsy goes out of its way to provide a friendly platform for indie and self-published authors to sell their books––and nobody seems to be talking about this very important fact!  And in large part, this mass silence can be attributed to one overarching misconception about Etsy:

Debunking the Great Etsy Myth: “It’s just a glorified Craigslist for selling vintage castoffs and overpriced coasters.”

Oh man, don’t get me started.  (Well, we’re already started.  This rant’s on me.)  Unlike last week’s post, which delved into the book-lover’s best friend Goodreads, not a lot has been written about Etsy as a community and a platform for authors––so this is all relatively new territory in respect to writing out the theory, even though Etsy has long been supportive of its self-publishing shops.  Etsy has gotten lots and lots and lots of attention, however, for carving out a vital place as a launching point for entrepreneurs of all kinds.

It’s easy to throw buzzwords like “entrepreneurial” around, but Etsy has a history of being absolutely serious about improving the lives of its users, particularly its marginalized, impoverished, or otherwise struggling users.  And self-published authors know all about struggle, right?  Sure, you can buy stuff on Etsy––but that’s not the only thing it’s good for, and if you spend even five minutes browsing the site’s many links and means of connection, you’ll get a good taste for why I’m including it in my list of Very Important Social Media Sites You Should Join Immediately!  Here are just a few thoughts to get you started.

Top 5 Best Practices:

1. Join a team … or a few.  Even before you list items in your Etsy shop to sell, you should take a gander through Etsy’s “Community” tab, and hone in on its ever-expanding list of “Teams.”  I know of at least two that are dedicated specifically to authors––this one, and this one––and there’s at least one more that’s given over exclusively to Etsy users who take part in the November NaNoWriMo challenge.  Quite apart from the wide-open general forums, these teams will help you find “your people” in Etsy.  The author groups are, for the most part, small enough to feel comfortable and large enough to provide a diverse representation of all sorts of best practices as lived out in various authors’ stores.  You don’t have to be an active seller on Etsy in order to take part in the teams and forums, which is a handy thing indeed for when you’re looking to launch your store but are still searching for ways to do so successfully!

2. Work the metadata!  Yes, yes, I know that my continual harping on boosting your “findability” is probably starting to sound like a broken record … but it’s as accurate in application to Etsy as it is on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Facebook, Goodreads, and everywhere else you can imagine.  So: fill out your seller profile page fully, and mention all of the appropriate buzzwords––”self-publishing,” “children’s book author,” “author,” and et cetera.  You can even use your profile picture to feature the cover art for your latest book.  Etsy’s seller profiles, along with each item’s individual listing, feed directly into indexing search engines like Google, so give those algorithms some meat to chew on!

3. If you printed and made your own book, list it.  There are constraints to what you can sell on Etsy, it’s true, and this is how the website has managed to differentiate itself from big box stores and that behemoth, Amazon.  Its forté is in providing specially crafted goods of limited availability, either vintage or handmade.  What qualifies as “handmade” turns out to be a rather amorphous mass of flexible options, so don’t despair!  The easiest book to sell is going to be one you printed and packaged yourself, and if you’ve chosen a Print on Demand (POD) option like this author (who uses a local printing company in the UK) or this author (who used a digital printing company for comics artists, Ka-Blam) then you’re most likely still in the clear.  If you’re unsure about where your POD company falls in respect to Etsy policy, it’s easy to drop an email to Etsy staff to confirm or to apply to work with an “outside manufacturer.”  It’s helpful to approach these occasions not as obstacles, but as safeguards––Etsy simply wants to elevate demand by ensuring an item is of high quality and limited availability.  Self-published books almost always fit these criteria!

4. If your book doesn’t quite fit the category of “handmade,” think “BUNDLE” instead!  You can still take advantage of Etsy by offering your book for sale with a related craft item, perhaps a themed bookmark or other object or piece of limited-run merchandise that somehow ties back to your work.  For example, you might include some handwritten recipe cards if you’ve self-published a cookbook, or include an original (and signed!) piece of art if you’ve self-published a picture book.  Whatever you choose, you can either make it yourself or have someone else make it for you.  Just make sure the bundle carries with it a significant personal touch!  Think in terms of bundles, and think in terms of gifts.  What would you buy to go with that new mystery you picked up for your husband?  What item would just perfectly complete your Christmas package for your bibliophile of a best friend?  These are the sorts of items that will round out your bundle!

5. Go digital.  Etsy’s policies allow for automatic downloads when buyers purchase digital files.  This absolutely includes ebooks!  Most of the ebooks for sale on Etsy are, at present, craft-related or instructional guides (as this author/seller demonstrates), but there’s a growing cadre of authors in all genres finding representation there (if you don’t believe me, check out this author, and this one, and this one).  The only limitations are size (20 MB or fewer) and format (.PDF files only), but these are relatively easy constraints to work around.  And as always, Etsy demonstrates its eagerness to set its users up for success by posting a thorough “how-to” page for listing and selling digital items.

Most Overlooked Feature:

As you might have inferred from what I’ve already written, I think the most fearfully neglected asset Etsy has in its favor is its tight-knit community of staff and fellow author-sellers.  If someone hasn’t already asked the question in their forums, and if they haven’t already addressed a concern in their “Online Labs” (found in the “Community” section) or in their “Help” pages, and if it hasn’t been thoroughly analyzed in the “Teams” discussions, then Etsy staff will go out of their way to help you out via email.  Etsy’s founders want you to succeed.  Your fellow authors and sellers want you to succeed.  You want to succeed.  It’s literally the perfect environment for a newcomer to dive into self-publishing, complete with a resilient safety net and a genuinely interested set of supportive people to serve as your cheer squad.

I hope you’ll join me in building this Social Media Primer!  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 social media know-how. ♠

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

Self-Publishing & Merchandising : Working with CreateSpace & Others

In this, my tenth post in an ongoing series about Self-Publishing and Merchandising, I’ll be taking a close look at how you can optimize your use of the CreateSpace platform––as well as recommending a few others for your consideration––just as last week I put together a few words about working with Barnes & Noble to merchandise your work, and the week before I examined Amazon’s platform to similar effect.  (And really, these brick-and-mortar or digital retailers end up doing much of the work for you, which is lovely of their algorithm-wranglers.)  I also mentioned the fact that much of the merchandising we’ve looked at together over previous weeks takes for granted that the book is its own complete product, the sum of its parts (see: book covers and jacket design, interior design, special additions, and the blurb), and the sum of other parts, too (see my posts on the book review, as well as how to get and give blog reviews).  While retailers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble certainly have a head start and therefore an enormous edge over their competition, it’s still worth taking a peek at a third party or two to see what they have to offer!

CREATESPACE :

First, to clear the air: CreateSpace is an Amazon subsidiary.  Back in the days when it was known as CustomFlix, the company that is now CreateSpace was mostly known as a place to create “flix” or movies.  These days, its mission is “to profitably connect filmmakers, musicians, and authors to their worldwide audience,” a mission that has seen it rise to the top of companies offering Print on Demand (POD) books as well as Audio Books on Demand (ABOD)––a wonderful mission for readers and self-publishing writers on the whole, but not necessarily good news for those who wish to publish out from under the shadow of the giants.  If you’re looking for a platform that gives you glossy and polished POD books as well as the benefits of beautiful algorithms that will more or less take care of your merchandising for you, then keep CreateSpace on your list––and follow my directions for working with Amazon.

If you’re looking to branch out, here are a few more options for you!

  • BookBaby allows authors to distribute their ebooks through Amazon, Apple’s iStore, and elsewhere. This platform’s nonstandard payment model makes it a great fit for those authors hoping for strong sales of their books: rather than subtract from royalties, its basic package charges $99 in an initial sign-up fee and then $19 for every following year.
  • Booktango creates opportunities to convert, upload, and edit manuscripts, distributing through Nook, Amazon, and other digital retailers. Booktango claims to offer authors 100% of royalties from its own online bookstore as well as 100% of net royalties from other online retailers once they’ve sliced away their own commissions.
  • FastPencil serves as a publishing and networking service for authors and publishers by providing assistance with content, distribution, marketing, and workflow for both print books and ebooks.
  • Kobo Writing Life is the digital publishing arm of Indigo’s Kobo hardware program. It offers analytics, a learning center that helps guide new users through the (global) publishing process.
  • Lulu provides for-pay premium services, such as editing for manuscripts and promotional video creation, not to mention free e-book conversion.  In addition to commission fees charged by distribution websites like Apple’s iStore, Lulu charges an additional 10%.
  • Outskirts Press (and other hybrid self-publishing companies) offer paid publishing services for authors who are looking for entry into the self-publishing market without the hassle of taking on all of the work themselves.  The best part of choosing a hybrid self-publishing company like Outskirts is that authors get to keep their profits (thereby recouping the original expenditure of purchasing a publication package) while benefiting from professionals who really know what they’re talking about when it comes to editing, design, distribution, and––yes!––merchandising.
  • Printful + Gumroad have teamed up to create a simple payment and digital delivery system which will allow authors (or anyone else with digital products to sell) to weave e-book sales directly into their website. Websites like Sellfy, DigitalDeliveryApp and e-Junkie offer similar services.
  • Pronoun (formerly known as Vook) is currently going through a transition before it relaunches, but has a history of offering design work for both digital and print books, marketing, and distribution. It makes (made?) room for video and audio features, and polished, professional-looking POD books. Vook offered free consultations before it even provided a quote, and distributed through all major online retailers.  It also had a lovely dashboard.  There’s no reason to believe that in its next incarnation, Pronoun/Vook won’t continue to offer the same services.
  • Smashwords remains one of the largest distributors of self-published ebooks in the world, and its “Meatgrinder” program lets authors convert their Microsoft Word documents into any of the offered ebook formats for sale in any of the big online ebookstores. Authors get around 85% of net sales made through Smashwords’ online store, a bit less through other retailers.
  • Wattpad is a social writing and reading platform built for those looking to create visual design-driven projects, including interactive novels. The process begins with choosing a template, then text and images, animation and three-dimensional objects. It does not provide authors with ISBNs for their books, but those can be purchased elsewhere if necessary.

In short, if you’re looking for a new indie platform on which to launch your latest work, we’ve got you covered––or rather, the internet does, and we simply put a few words together.  We hope you take the time to explore them all––and to learn the peculiar quirks and wonderful merchandising benefits that each has to offer! ♠

I’m realistic, or I like to think I am.  This topic is bigger than just me and my own thoughts.  I’d like to open the floor to you, dear reader.  If you have any thoughts to share on the topic of merchandising, or questions you’d like answered, send them my way via the comments box below!  I want to hear from you, and I love nothing more than a good excuse to do a little research if I don’t know something off of the top of my head.  Jump on in!

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

Self-Publishing & Merchandising : Working with Barnes & Noble

Last week, you’ll recall that I put together a few words about working with Amazon to merchandise your work.  (And really, they end up doing much of the work for you, which is nice.)  I also mentioned the fact that much of the merchandising we’ve looked at together over previous weeks takes for granted that the book is its own complete product, the sum of its parts (see: book covers and jacket design, interior design, special additions, and the blurb), and the sum of other parts, too (see my posts on the book review, as well as how to get and give blog reviews).  As a massive online retailer, Amazon happens to be one of those parts, but what about Barnes & Noble?  Is there any work to be done there, when it comes to merchandising your self-published book?

Despite the fact that Barnes & Noble seems to be losing its edge in the digital book market, it is still a juggernaut of a force to be reckoned with.  The decision whether or not to self-publish your book through Barnes & Noble’s NOOK Press ought not to be touched, yet, by rumors of the company’s eventual demise––a demise which may indeed come, but not before the retail giant sells many more books, of which yours may be one (or two, or three, or five hundred).  Instead of asking “Should I?” a better question might be, “How can I best take advantage of the service while it exists?”

GETTING STARTED :

Luckily, as with Amazon’s Kindle store, Barnes & Noble itself takes care of much of the heavy lifting for the independently published author.  The first step, of course, is to sign up for a NOOK Press account, a simple enough process, and one that is available to authors residing in the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Belgium, and the Netherlands.  With an interface not much different from that of Kindle Direct or Kobo, the NOOK Press website allows authors to publish in Spanish, German, French, Italian, and Dutch as well as the default language of English––and it allows authors to be paid in their local currencies, also, which is a nice touch.

PRESENTATION CREATION :

It is easy to upload manuscript files to NOOK Press, and while the uploaded ePub files often end up riddled with errors, the NOOK Press interface allows authors to make changes without uploading new files––a nice feature, and one that you should absolutely use, given my advice in weeks past about the importance of presenting a polished document to ensure a positive reading experience.  A beautifully formatted book is its own advertisement, after all.

The same golden rules of self-publishing applies to the Barnes & Noble NOOK Press experience as it does anywhere else––and the NOOK Press makes the upload of a book’s cover image incredibly easy.  All you have to do is access the “Cover Image” tab while creating a new project.  (It is easiest, I find, to create a new project through NOOK Press with all of the files you need already in hand, cover image included, than it is to alter an existing project or try to go back and forth between the tabs when creating a new project.)  It’s equally important to render your book ‘findable’ by entering in all of the book’s data at the beginning, including keyword-rich descriptions and summaries.  It’s best not to leave any of the fields provided by the NOOK Press interface blank, as each one generates computer code that subtly tweaks the algorithms that show your book in the NOOK Store and elsewhere online.

EDITORIAL REVIEWS

As with many other self-publishing venues, the NOOK Press interface allows indie authors to incorporate editorial reviews into their book listings, and this is an important feature to take advantage of!  It is, according to Barnes & Noble, only “optional,” but you should question the wording!  Editorial reviews may well be truly necessary to your book’s findability and salability.  Once you ensure you have the rights to publish a review, you should get to it.  You can include up to five (5) editorial reviews with each book you publish through NOOK Press, and every single one of them adds to the reputation and visibility of your book.  (And if you’re looking for more instructions, indie author Sarra Cannon has put together a detailed step-by-step guide to using the NOOK Press interface, complete with screen captures to illustrate each step.)

IN-STORE MERCHANDISING :

Unlike Amazon, a retailer which has found enormous success without a physical presence, Barnes & Noble retains a number of brick-and-mortar advantages in the book-selling market––and not least among their many resulting strengths is the company’s cadre of merchandisers, flesh-and-blood employees whose entire jobs revolve around marketing Barnes & Noble products to the eager book-reading public.  While Amazon and other companies also keep merchandisers on staff, they rely heavily if not almost exclusively on computer algorithms to group products with other products, and those who sell online through Barnes & Noble still benefit from the company’s understanding of what objects and pleasures a casual shelf-browser may find resonant with each other.

THE FUTURE NOOK :

There are plenty of reasons to be both excited and apprehensive about the future of the NOOK Press and Barnes & Noble in general.  The company is splitting, and has indeed shown quite a few fissures for years now, as its NOOK and college stores peel away from the parent company with its lasting brick-and-mortar experience.  This time, the changes run deep, down to the bone of the company.  Still, there’s no reason to expect this split to have immediate consequences for NOOK sales or ebook sales in general, even though I always recommend that the informed author should keep abreast of ongoing shifts in the hazy underworld of book-publishing and book-retailing board rooms.  The ebook market is stabilizing, not backsliding, and new overseas markets continue to open up the industry and inject it with fresh vim and vigor. ♠

I’m realistic, or I like to think I am.  This topic is bigger than just me and my own thoughts.  I’d like to open the floor to you, dear reader.  If you have any thoughts to share on the topic of merchandising, or questions you’d like answered, send them my way via the comments box below!  I want to hear from you, and I love nothing more than a good excuse to do a little research if I don’t know something off of the top of my head.  Jump on in!

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

Comparison of Outskirts Press and Trafford’s Self-publishing Packages

Deciding which self-publishing company to go with can be a real challenge. To assist you with this process, I’m writing a series of posts where I do the leg work for you! I’ll prepare a side-by-side comparison of two similar publishing packages from two self-publishing companies. I’ll strive to keep it as simple as possible to help cut through the vast amount of information out there by giving you an easy to read chart and a brief summary of my impressions on the comparison.

This installment of the series is a comparison of two of the most robust self-publishing packages available: The “One Click for Coaches & Speakers” from Outskirts Press (which you can enjoy even if you’re NOT a coach or speaker, by the way) and the “Scroll,” from Trafford. The information shared here is current as of the date I completed the comparison (19 December 2012) and is dependent on what I could located on the websites without contacting representatives.

Outskirts Press One-Click Publishing For Coaches & Speakers
$4,497
Trafford Publishing Scroll Publishing Package
$5,749
Production Options Paperback Format
Custom Cover
Professional Interior Formatting
Copyright registration
Library of Congress Control Number
Interior Elements Up to 20 images Up to 60 images
Copyediting Up to 75,000 Words Up to 250,000 Words
Author Copies (Paperback) 10 Copies 40 Copies
Expedited Service
Cover Scribing
Your ISBN/ Imprint or ours
Hardback Format
Author Copies (Hardback)
Indexing Up to 500 entries
Additional Formats Secure EBook Edition
Amazon Kindle Edition
Espresso Book Machine Edition
Marketing Services Book Video Trailer & Distribution
Custom Press Release
Author Webpage
Barnes & Noble See Inside
60 Second Book Video Trailer 1 of 3 choices
Social Media Marketing Setup PMA
Post-Publication Marketing Assistance Marketing COACH (2 years) Learning Center (1 year)
PR Publicist Campaign
Personal Marketing Assistant (PMA)
Submission to 10 Reviewers
Electronic Clipping Service
Publication Press Release
Streaming Audio
Amazon Cover Enhancement
Amazon See Inside the Book
Bookseller’s Return Program
Marketing Promotional Materials 100 pieces

With Outskirts Press, for $1,252 less you receive expedited service, a private label (optional), the Amazon Kindle edition of your book, the Espresso Book Machine edition, a PR campaign, 10 Book Reviews, a clipping service and 5 hours of personal marketing assistance with a professional book marketing expert, among other benefits.

There are a few options that come with Trafford’s Scroll package that are not included with the Outskirts Press package such as a hardback format and more author copies.  Although, you could order most if not all of those services a la carte with Outskirts Press and likely still come in at an overall lower cost.

My vote? Outskirts Press! See all the benefits and features of the One-Click Package for Speakers & Coaches by clicking here.

I’d love to know, which option would you choose and why?

Self-publishing Costs: POD vs Offset Printing

Publishing has traditionally operated on a model of offset book printing where the publishing house pre-prints a set number of books based on what they feel they can successfully sell. Authors would receive an advance (yes – get paid upfront) based on that projection, and receive a royalty percentage on sales, typically 10%, only if books sold beyond that initial number.

Self-publishing authors have the option to print offset as well, and receive royalty figures well beyond that 10% mark.

As you consider your self-publishing options, you may be wondering whether the right choice for your book is offset printing or the newer POD model.

Here are 5 details to consider…

5 – With offset printing you will pay in advance for a large number of books, regardless of whether you sell any.

4 – Your books begin, and often end, in your basement or garage not in reader’s hands.

3 – Even after you pay to print your book, you still have to find a way to distribute it, and then you have to track sales, invoice customers, and ship product.

2 – Your book will go out of print unless you pony up more dough for another print run.

1 – An off-set order requires “overages” of 5%-10% of the quoted print-run. That means if you order 2000 books, you may actually get (and be required to pay for) 2200.

If you are considering self-publishing through a printer, the price quotes you received may have scared you. No wonder. Newsweek Magazine recently noted that it generally takes an investment of $5,000 – $25,000 to self-publish a book through an offset printer.

Time to think POD?

 

Determining What Book Readers Want

Your book content – fiction, non-fiction, children’s, religious – naturally presumes a value to readers intending to be entertained or learn something from your work. How do they decide they want to read your book?

They don’t. You do. Sound like an incredible power? It is. It’s name: Marketing

When Thomas Edison turned 16 do you suppose he wanted a Tesla Roadster? Probably not. In order to want something you need to know it exists. One definition of marketing is convincing a a mass of people to want what you have. That puts you, the author of your book, in the cat bird’s seat. Who knows your book better than you, after-all.

How readers know about books has changed a great deal over the past decade, and my guess is that trend will continue. With Amazon, Twitter, Podcasts, Bookfinder, etc. we no longer rely on a single-minded source for telling us about books. A good CEO (the self-published author) knows how to leverage the expertise of others and delegate work. Consider the long-term. Research self-publishers with ongoing marketing support and services. Being published is rarely even enough.

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Importance of Book Cover Copy in Self-Publishing

Readers really do judge books by their covers. That is what your cover is designed to do – communicate the value of all of the great material in between. Keep this in mind when developing your back cover copy and make sure it’s professionally drafted by your self-publishing provider – this is marketing writing; artistic writing.

The BACK COVER COPY is restricted by the size of the book’s back cover.   Ideally, the size of the cover should be taken into account when composing the back cover copy to ensure the ultimate balance between font size and aesthetics. You don’t want too much copy so as to require an illegibly small font. You also don’t want too little copy, leaving big empty spaces on the back cover.   There are three main components to the back cover copy: 1) the headline, 2) the synopsis or marketing copy, and 3) the author biography.  There may also be quotes, cover blurbs, or other testimonials about either the book or the author. In some cases, these cover blurbs may justify more exposure than the summary of the book. Ultimately, the entire back copy should be composed with the goal of getting a browser to become a buyer.  Bullet point and numbered lists are good, effective elements of back cover copy for non-fiction books.  Cover copy for fiction books should demonstrate highly effective prose.

Have fun and keep writing.

– Karl Schroeder