In Your Corner: Self-publishing Ripple Effect Marketing

Think of self-publishing book marketing as a marathon, not a sprint. Plan the journey, prepare to work, pace yourself, and not become discouraged when you the bear jumps on your back. Your second wind is right around the corner.

Unlike blockbuster books like Harry Potter, which sell 90% of their copies in the first 90 days of release, an independently published book is often the opposite––not surprising since titles like Harry Potter make up a percent of a percent of all books published. It takes time to build awareness. Sales may start slowly, but can climb over time if you persistently market your book.

If you’ve yet to nail down a specific marketing plan, I suggest starting in your own hometown. Build a following. Attract the interest and readers of people in your inner circle before you focus on your neighborhood. Then, focus on your neighborhood before concentrating on your city. Next your state and region, etc. This is known as the ripple effect.

It applies to both online and traditional marketing tactics.

Water background red and silhouette hand

Thinking of marketing as something other than a sprint, or a laundry list of items to get through (“Poetry reading, check! Social media account created, check!”) is the wisest advice I’ve heard all year. Thinking of your marketing as you think of your other relationships–as more than just the sum of its parts, or the sequence of events–is important. Every action affects every other action, and the changes are cumulative or even, sometimes, exponential! Think, instead, of your marketing strategy as a whole, and a whole which is best contemplated as a web of interrelated components which all touch each other and all affect how the other components play out. Some pieces need to come before others in order for them both to work, and sometimes a misstep with one component will lead to a cascade of problems in the others.

Another great image to keep in mind is the ocean. Yes, the ocean operates under the same physical principles and constraints as a ripple in a swimming pool–but would we really compare their behaviors and say they’re the same thing? There’s more at work than simple scale; the ocean works on its environment in a multitude of ways, and one of its most impressive qualities is its ability to wear anything down–given time. The ocean is interminable, it is unstoppable, and it is unwearying in its work upon the seashore. Wave after wave after wave can lead to an entirely new shoreline, right?

So as we head into Fall, think about ripples and oceans. They are the same thing … except they aren’t. Steal from both. Steal the cumulative effects of the ripple (and the interrelationships of the web) and steal the repetitive unstoppability of the ocean. This is your arsenal against the soporific atmosphere of midsummer.

You are not alone. ♣︎

Do you have ideas to share? Please don’t hesitate to drop us a line in the comments section, below.
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.

Self-Publishing News: 5.21.2019

May -wooden carved name of spring month. Calendar on business office table, workplace at yellow background. Spring time

And now for the news!

Some highlights from this month in the world of self-publishing!

This week, Forbes came through for self-publishing authors in a big way, with this article by ForbesWomen contributor MeiMei Fox bringing a bit of sunshine into our lives. Fox’s premise is fairly self-explanatory, given the article’s title, but her content is well worth a deep read or two. “These days,” Fox opens the article, “aspiring authors don’t have to rely on the miracle of finding a literary agent and securing a deal with a traditional publishing house. Self-publishing makes it easy to get your words out there – the tricky part is ensuring that your work gets read. That requires self-promotion.” She touches base with three bestselling self-published authors who happen to be women, all three of whom “have built highly successful careers […] while also being sure to create entire brands around their literary creations to generate income and further secure their fan base.” Those authors are Crystal Swain-Bates, an accomplished children’s book author dedicated to closing the diversity gap in publishing, Kristen Ashley, successful author to numerous romance novels that embrace body positivity and a richer perception of womanhood than is common in the genre, and Penny Reid, who first got into self-publishing because traditional publishers rejected her romance work as having “too many thoughts and used too many big words,” which says a lot about what publishers think women want and are capable of digesting. Each of the authors Fox covers provides some strategic advice to authors (of any gender) looking not only to get into self-publishing but to market their books successfully. Fox’s article closes with a list of eight suggestions on how to do just that.

While many self-publishing authors who are not male might bristle at this article title, this article provided by Prime Press to the Good Men Project opens with a statement of fact: “According to a study published by ResearchGate, men cover at least 72.62% of all the published books recorded since 2010. In the digital publishing world, nothing much will surprise you as well.” Publishing has been growing more diverse of late, of course, and self-publishing provides a democratizing influence over the process as it makes room for diverse authors, women authors, and voices from the margins—but it’s true, men are still in the lead when it comes to overall quantity of voices. As Prime Press puts it, “a whopping 31% of e-book sales on Amazon’s Kindle Store are self-published books, with at least 51% of it written by male authors. This is not surprising since literature spent centuries being a male-dominated arena. There are more male authors receiving recognition, financial success, and hold positions in relevant associations.” But that percentage—51%—is a lot closer to parity than in traditional publishing! The article goes on to profile a number of male self-publishing authors, including Mitch Miller, Robert Gallent, Paul Halme, and Brad Gilmore, each of whom has had great success in self-publishing. Well worth a look!


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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 each month to find out the hottest news. If you have other big news to share, please comment below.

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The Alchemy of Holiday Marketing (Part I)

alchemy ingredients

In my last post, I introduced the idea that marketing—specifically marketing as regards self-published books—is a kind of alchemy. Alchemy, of course, has a lot of meanings or connotations, but we’ll be running with this definition from Merriam-Webster: “a power or process that changes or transforms something in a mysterious or impressive way.” Which then means that an alchemist is someone who is the agent of that transformation. Merriam-Webster, for the record, has some lovely historical notes on the history of the term’s evolution, including:

alchemy alchemist

You, dear author, are an alchemist. And your marketing plan can really benefit from approaching the process with that in mind. Alchemy is all about transformation, and transformation requires something to be transformed. Which begs the question (as we foreshadowed last week):

What do you have or bring to the table as an author that’s special?

The answer (which is, of course, “a lot”) shapes what comes next. All authors share the same fundamental ingredients: a manuscript (published or yet to be published), a method, and a vision. But each of those three components will be shaded by your personal approach, interests, and unique voice. And they are the base material upon which your marketing must perform its alchemy in order to introduce your book to its ideal readers.

This is where I recommend taking a leaf out of the bullet journaling page, or out of accounting’s reliance on spreadsheets. It doesn’t particularly matter what medium you use to take stock, but take stock you must, and create a baseline record of what you’re already doing. Sit down and diagram your day. What all bits and pieces of your day are related to the writing and marketing process? Do you already use social media for personal communication? How about email and newsletters and listservs? What part of your day or week do you carve out for creation, and the writing of new material? Once you’ve taken stock of several weeks in a row, you’ll start to see patterns emerge, and you’ll get a good sense of what the outliers are. (i.e. Maybe you spend one whole day browsing Netflix because you’re bored or frustrated and need escape. That’s fine … but that’s probably not a typical day. It’s an outlier and while you must make allowance for the ongoing existence of outlier days in your life, you don’t want to let them define or move your average.)

habit tracker

Many authors make the mistake of thinking that marketing is a one-size-fits all system, and that every recommendation made out there on the Internet will apply to their specific situation … and that’s just not the way of things, sometimes. Rather than starting with a list of marketing ideas and trying to apply them all at once or without alteration, start with your existing habits and see where you’re at, and what sorts of rhythms might work with your habits. You may already doing things that are the perfect platform for marketing, and you may already lead a life that makes certain marketing strategies redundant, inapplicable, or unlikely to succeed without significant cost (in time and energy as well as money). Diagram your days, make note of your habits, and then—only then—can you move on to the next question.

What is that question? Next week, we’ll get into it.

Do you have ideas to share? Please don’t hesitate to drop us a line in the comments section, and I’ll make sure to feature your thoughts and respond to them in my next post!

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.

 

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.