Easy Breezy Summer Publishing (Part 1)

july 5th fifth

We all know that self-publishing and independence go together, right? Or at least, that’s the general idea, and the ultimate goal. We kick off the constraints of the traditional publishing houses, their heavy-handed contracts and royalties disputes, and waft our way over to the Elysian fields of indie bliss ….

But that’s not how self-publishing works, is it? Yes, you’re independent, but independence comes with a price tag. And this isn’t some fatalistic attempt to push you, our readers, towards traditional publishing (believe me! we hate it as much as you do!). The fact remains, however, that when it comes to self-publishing, you get what you pay for, and the rest you accomplish through elbow grease.

So … how does one market as an independent, self-publishing author? Is it even possible to rival the promotional work of the Big Five when all you have is a halfway decent laptop, debatable graphic design skills, and very little free time? How do we break free from Big Business but still sell books?!

The simple answer is: it’s hard … but totally possible. And we’ll dive into some of the pros, cons, and various logistics over the Wednesdays to come. Stay tuned for more musings on a marketing theme! (And say that ten times fast.)

Tomorrow, Royalene will be talking about how self-publishing intersect with the personal freedoms we so value here on our side of the pond. Watch her space for more excellent “independence” advice on Friday mornings this summer!


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 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: Where (& Where NOT) to Sell Your Book

Typically, a (midlist, traditionally-published) book tour can only last so long–about three months, on the average–and that same book has about the same length of time to linger around brick-and-mortar bookstores like Barnes & Noble before being shuffled off to (midlist, traditionally-published) book heaven. There are exceptions to the rule, of course, and those rare blockbuster successes like Harry Potter and John Grisham’s latest book will never know these trials. But what about self-published books and self-publishing authors? It’s hard enough to get your book on any shelf, period, so how do you figure out which shelves matter the most, given the limited times that various retailers will be interested in stocking it?

I would offer up the following list of places to consider NOT selling your book:

  1. Big box stores. I read somewhere recently that around seventy percent of American adults haven’t stepped inside a bookstore for the last ten years. Blame the skyrocketing usefulness of digital services if you like, but the point is … most people aren’t going to find your book if it’s only for sale in a bookstore, particularly a big box store like … well, Barnes & Noble and now Amazon’s physical bookstores (Amazon’s algorithms are always sure to privilege Kindle Direct-published titles, anyway). The greatest problem of all with big box stores is, however, simply this: they won’t go to bat for you. There are too many other competing concerns, and they’re not likely to take the time to care about your individual success in the midst of all that. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t try at all to stock your book at B&N and elsewhere, but be prepared to have your books returned to you after some months if you don’t actively promote your book in each location yourself. We’ve mentioned it elsewhere on the blog, but stores may not even be willing to stock your book if you don’t give them a free return option.
  2. Independent bookstores. This one might get me into trouble with some other self-publishing authors, but my point is that independent bookstores are for the most part incredibly crowded places, with thousands of competing titles jammed into a small space. I would posit that the indie bookstore is a fantastic place to hold a reading, but a difficult place to sell books if you yourself are not present at a book launch party or a reading in order to promote it. Indies don’t have the budget to do that for you, and as with all other sales locations you should expect to bear the brunt of the marketing.
  3. Restaurants and wine bars. There can be ways to make a restaurant or wine bar or coffee shop or other “edible” establishment a happy home for your book, but usually only as a live event space–for readings and launch parties and such. Problematically, however, these locations tend to charge for such events, often a hefty sum, and the cost can outweigh the advantages–especially if there is a library or civic space nearby where you can hold your reading for free. If you’re going to sell at a restaurant, be ready to have to compete with lots of other activity and noise OR to be sectioned away from the main public area and therefore unable to draw newcomers in. It’s hard to feed serendipity when there’s a wall between you and the front door!
  4. Online. Not all algorithms are created equal, right? Amazon has come under fire in the last few months for deliberately downplaying indie and self-published works that were produced by other publishers than their own Kindle Direct service, and Barnes & Noble’s Nook store has never seen the same level of traffic as their amorphous competitor. You should not expect for your book to sell, magically, online without extensive marketing on your part and careful attention to where you sell. As in a lot of other facets of self-publishing, you want to sell through people who will go to bat for you. The folks over at Outskirts Press seem like a great example of such a company, and their online bookstore is easy to find and navigate.
  5. Under your bed. There are plenty of ways to NOT sell your book, but hiding them under the bed and expecting them to sell without you having to put in some serious elbow grease is perhaps the worst of all. The other entries on this list of “NOTs” is still a better place to start than here, in the realm of neglect. Promote, promote, promote!

… but of course, every challenge has its flip side. I would offer up this second list, in increasing order of value, as a compendium of places to DEFINITELY sell your book:

  1. Local indies. Look, I know what I said about independent bookstores on list #1. But local indies are another story. A nearby town has three of them, and they constantly compete to get visiting and local authors to stop by and sign books, host readings, and generally be a presence in their stores. It’s a mutually beneficial partnership, and many of the problems of the general indie bookstore disappear when you’re able to stop by multiple times a month and make yourself a part of the life of your local indies. They’re often willing, even, to pass word along about your other local events–readings at libraries and such. The three local indies I mentioned above all network with the big city library to take some of the pressure off in hosting parts of the annual state book festival. When things are local, they become fertile ground for long-lasting relationships.
  2. Local libraries. For many of the same reasons as with local indies, local libraries are fantastic places to sell your book. Not just at book launch parties and readings, although those too are fantastic, but possibly even at the front desk or via the community bulletin board. The point is, again, to keep yourself an active presence at the library, to stop by both at planned and unplanned moments to engage with the library patrons and staff. To cultivate relationships. One little local library I visit regularly had a special relationship with a local historian who published books about the town, and always had one or two copies of his book on hand to sell for him. When he passed away, those books suddenly became very hot property in the community, and the library hosted a farewell memorial with his family. I won’t say this particular arrangement is a common occurrence, but it’s a possibility.
  3. Local businesses. There are all kinds which might be willing to partner with you, either by putting up posters or keeping a couple of copies by the register–hair salons, museums, art galleries, specialty stores, you name it! Wherever people browse slowly, that’s an opportunity. And it’s all the better if you have a personal connection with the staff at these businesses, so that they’re interested in picking up the books themselves and having a read. The more people who know what’s inside the covers of your book and who stand behind counters in authority positions, the better, I say! The author who had that special relationship with his library? His books really move at the local city museum, too. There ought to be at least one place which just fits so perfectly for you, right?
  4. Elevators. You will have heard of the “elevator pitch” if you’ve hung around authors or businessfolk at all, and I can’t overemphasize the importance of having one of your own. There are countless opportunities to deliver a thirty-second spiel as you’re going about your daily life, your weekly routine, and your monthly once-offs! It’s all in the mindset, and flipping that switch which turns you from a regular everyday commuter to a self-promoting self-publishing author. It’s often a conscious decision, and it’s not always easy–we all want to just zombie around and relax, every now and then. Social interactions can be awkward enough as it is! But every day is full of opportunities, and if you’re sensitive to them and the mood of the person stuck in that hypothetical elevator with you, you might just have a potential future fan on your hands.
  5. Online. Yeah, yeah, I know this made my list of “NOTs” earlier. But it’s more about how you go about it and where you do that going-aboutness. And as always, think in terms of relationships. Where can you cultivate relationships so that you’ll be creating a team of people willing to promote your book with you? Very likely, social media will play an important role–but only if you’re willing to spend the time to cultivate real and actual, authentic interactions with your followers. So long as you’re dependent upon people you trust and care about–your fans–and not some faceless algorithm, you have a very good chance of growing your reach and selling some books along the way.
Girl (6-7) standing in front of bookshelf
Girl (6-7) standing in front of bookshelf — Image by © Sasha Gulish/Corbis

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.

Growing Pains: Part III

Last week, we explored the ways in which you can specialize in certain key products and services you offer so as to streamline your business and “grow” your sales. This week, I’d like to speak to the ways in which you can expand upon your product line, if you’ve found that you’re comfortable with the level of work-sales ratio you’re receiving with your current products.

    If you plan to expand your product line, it is crucial that the products and services you add complement those you already provide. By this, I mean that you can see a connection between these things and that your marketing efforts can be used seamlessly between one and the other.

   Let’s say you’ve become a prolific self-published author. You’ve gone through the trial and error processes of editing, formatting, illustrating, marketing, etc etc. You’ve seen what works, and more importantly, what doesn’t work. A complementary service you could offer–with this knowledge you’ve acquired–could be assisting other aspiring self-publishing authors.

  By offering copy-editing, formatting or marketing assistance, you would only further those skills for yourself as an author–so long as you didn’t let it replace the time you spend working on your own books.

     Or, let’s say you’ve found great marketing success is hosting events–book readings, poetry slams, etc. Maybe you’ve even found you have a certain knack for planning these kinds of events. Plenty of authors dread orchestrating such things, and you could use that skill to assist them, while simultaneously building your networking platform. A well-planned event is great marketing for you as an event planner, and it may even turn into great marketing for you as an author.

    Another option: you write children’s books and they’ve become rather popular. Consider branching out and creating book themed toys that model characters in your stories, children not only love interacting with illustrations in your stories, but they especially love being able to have tangible versions of your characters to play with in real life! How exciting would it be to have it be an option to add that toy during a check out of a purchase of your book?? This would be especially great during the holiday season.

  With any of these options for “growing your business,” always keep in mind what your priorities are, or what they should be. Don’t let your side projects take over or take you away from what you love. Put yourself and your work first always. Helping someone else market will only help you if you’ve made enough time to market for yourself first and foremost. Editing someone else’s work will only help you if your work is thoroughly edited and given the attention it deserves. Planning events for other authors should never take precedent over planning events of your own.

In summation, if you don’t have the time or energy to offer these other services, don’t. If you find yourself with extra time and motivation, by all means go for it! The sky is the limit!


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 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

Time For a Spring Reset!

Spring often signifies new beginnings in literature and poetry, a rebirth, if you will. All that which lay dormant in winter now slowwwly stretches its limbs, lets out a big yawn and sigh of relief and comes back out to bask in the sun. The trees are budding, the deer are grazing, we now awake to the calming sounds of birds chirping, the sun stays with us well into the evening, it’s finally warm enough for sandals and everyone seems to be in generally better spirits because of those things aforementioned.

spring stretch

The charm and warmth of spring should not only put a pep in your step in your day to day life, but it should also be a time to pep up your writing and marketing efforts!

 

  1. Let spring be a new beginning for you. Make a list of things you’d like to begin with a fresh start. Do you need to begin editing, creating a marketing plan, blogging, etc? Now’s the time to do it!
  2. Use some springtime writing prompts to get the creative juices flowing and to help you “reset” after winter. Write about how the sunshine affects your mood and creativity, write about spring as a symbol of birth/life, write about the your sensuous experience wandering around in the natural world in springtime, etc. etc.
  3. Host an outdoor reading event in your community. Pick a nice sunny afternoon to encourage members of your community to get outside and share their love of the spoken and written word. This is a great way to network, to connect with other writers in your area and to have some fun in the sun!
  4. Start being more active on social media! Take pictures of the beauty around you, toss in a quote from a work of yours or of your favorite author’s and share with your audience! Blog, post about new developments in your publishing process, connect with readers on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter! Now that the butterflies are back, why not be a little social butterfly?
  5. Spruce up your website. Who knows more about you than…well, you? Write up a fresh author bio that includes recent accomplishments, publications, life developments and so forth.
  6. Join some forums, join Goodreads! These are both terrific venues for marketing your book and they help you connect more intimately with your audience.
  7. Host a drawing contest for the cover of your next book! The winner gets a free copy of your book and gets featured on your website and social media pages!
  8. Add a “Store” page to your website. This is a great way to increase sales and to have your readers buy directly from you rather than some third party website.
  9. Do some spring cleaning of your writing space and bookshelves. See our last few blogs for tips on how to “declutter” as a writer!
  10. Take advantage of this nice weather! Try writing outside, even if it’s just brainstorming. A little vitamin D and time in nature can go a longgg way!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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 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

Spending Money to Save Money!

Ever find yourself lured into buying something simply because it’s cheaper, only to find that it doesn’t work and then you have to spend more than twice as much money trying to replace it with what you actually need? We’ve all been there. We’ve chosen the cheap mechanic or car salesmen only to have our car break down just a few miles up the road.

As self-publishing authors, the temptation to choose the cheapest route is a dangerous one. A cheaper illustrator for your cover may save you a few bucks in production, but it could cost you exponentially more in sales. Spending money to make money always hurts initially. It’s a risk-based investment that you can’t guarantee will pay off. However, you can almost always guarantee that going a cheap route to save money will  never pay off.

Here are some things that cost money and are worth every penny:

  • Proofreading!!!!!
  • Developmental Editing and Copyediting
  • Interior Designer
  • Cover Designer/Illustrator
  • An up-to-date, visually appealing website
  • A book trailer or other social media marketing tools
  • Education — attend conferences, classes, writing retreats, etc. These things make you a better writer and will improve your sales, your networking and reputation as a writer.

Look at these investments as what they are: things that will pay off in the future. You invested so much time into creating a manuscript that you felt proud of, so don’t sell it short. Invest the money in it that you would like to get back and you will be amazed at the returns. If you just want a book to give to friends and families, feel free to skimp, but if you’re trying to market yourself, spend your money on quality investments.

money dollar bill


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 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

From the Archives: “Book Marketing: Magazine Reviews”

Welcome back to our Tuesday segment, where we’ll be revisiting some of our most popular posts from the last few years.  What’s stayed the same?  And what’s changed?  We’ll be updating you on the facts, and taking a new (and hopefully refreshing) angle on a few timeless classics of Self Publishing Advisor.

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[ Originally posted: April 2nd, 2010 ]

The following list comes compliments of ForeWord magazine in the interest of helping you secure reviews with not only their magazine, but all magazines you pursue.

1. Become familiar with the magazine
2. Read the submission guidelines for each magazine before submitting your book for review
3. Create a good cover letter
4. Include a sales sheet (ask your self-publisher or publishing rep).
5. Follow-up

The best way to familiarize yourself with a magazine you want to review your book is to read the magazine first.

You can usually find submission guidelines for magazines on the magazine’s website.

When sending your book out for review, always include your contact information so the reviewer can get in touch with you if necessary. This should be a part of your cover letter. You can also politely request that a reviewer notify you when/if they review your book (but realize that many may choose not to do this).

 

Is the day of the magazine editorial dead?

What about magazine reviews?

magazine magazines rack

No. No they’re not.

At least, so say the print magazines themselves–and yes, they have  a vested interest in trying to impress their shareholders as much as possible, but when everyone from CNN Money to the New York Post to Wired Magazine lines up to say it’s not so, ti’s time to listen to what they have to say. (It’s worth noting that these periodicals are often at odds over ethics disputes and general worldview, so for them to agree is something magical. And also, it’s far more in their interest to say they’re doing well despite industry trends than to state that everyone’s doing well. They want people to defect to be their subscribers, after all. That’s just marketing.)

And we’re here about marketing, too.

So how does knowing print’s not dead help you market your book?

First of all, it opens up untold numbers of possibilities that the average author might not think of for ad placement and reviews. Facebook, sure. A local radio station, sure. But a print magazine or journal? “I thought those were dead,” you might as well have said. But they’re not. They’re not dead. In fact, they’re thriving–so long as they reach a dedicated niche audience.

Secondly, print magazines and journals have a vested interest, too, in upholding the work of talented authors in a way that a local newspaper may not. Newspapers are looking for news, while magazines and journals are looking for talent. If you have it, and you reach out to the right ones, you might very well find yourself being scouted for additional pieces, or find yourself pushing against an open door as far as promoting your book goes.

So don’t give up on magazines. Well, maybe give up on some. Do your research, and dig around a little bit to see what your ideal reader is picking up at Barnes & Noble or their local indie bookstore or subscribing to digitally. Instead of firing scattershot into a great void and hoping to land some hits, you should spend your time and energy firing precise, surgical volleys at market niches which will both welcome you and connect you with more of those ideal readers.

Long live paper!

Thanks for reading.  If you have any other ideas, I’d love to hear them.  Drop me a line in the comments section below and I’ll respond as quickly as I can.  ♠


Kelly

ABOUT 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.

Ringing in the Holidays: Black Friday Edition!

Black Friday brings a lot of not so flattering imagery to mind, from shoppers pushing each other out of the way in Wal-Mart aisles to lines of people camped out outside stores and lines of traffic stymied on the highway. Black Friday has become a quasi-holiday of sorts, mainly because it is an American tradition that dates all the way back to the 1930s. Yes, that far back.

Regarded as the beginning of the Christmas shopping season (again, ‘quasi-season’), retailers began opening their stores a bit earlier the day after Thanksgiving back in the 1930s. Today, some major retailers will open right after Thanksgiving dinner, or midnight–or other hours no one should be out shopping–offering promotional sales to those who are obviously not suffering from a tryptophan induced turkey coma, and who are thus able to storm out into the night for the deal of a lifetime.

Supposedly the cognomen “Black Friday” originated in the 1960s in Philadelphia, where people used the term to describe the abundant foot traffic and cluttered streets. I rather like to imagine that it’s perhaps more fitting today; people whisking out into the dark night, stalking up and down aisles and preparing to battle other predacious consumers over that new X-Box or flat screen TV. If you think that’s a dramatic depiction of Black Friday, keep in mind that seven people have died on this day since 2006, and there have been about 98 injuries associated with the Black Friday shopping madness.

Entertaining history digression aside, Black Friday is the biggest shopping day of the year, which means that as an author with a book to sell, it is not a day to sit back and relax. So, what can you do to rake in some of the Black Friday business?

black friday holiday

First of all, BIG discounts are all the rage on Black Friday. Offering your book for an extremely cheap rate will assuredly promote ‘impulse’ buys from people who might otherwise have considered giving your book a chance. While you don’t always want to offer your book out for an extremely low price, doing so on this particular day could be beneficial for gaining new readers!

Another thing to consider: 99 cent or free ebook editions of your book can gain you free advertising on free or bargain ebook sites. These sites will want to feature your book when it is discounted, and that feature will be free advertising for you, before people even buy your book! Notify these sites when you discount your book, and try to line it up with Black Friday; snag online shoppers who are looking for a deal or to try something new!

Collaborating with other others who have books similar to yours is also a great way expand your marketing efforts. When you combine promotional efforts, this means that their audience becomes your potential audience! It’s a, ‘You scratch my authorial back, and I’ll scratch yours,’ kind of thing. The best thing about this collaboration is that you will enhance your network for book marketing in general, which obviously expands well beyond Black Friday!

So, whether or not you see yourself armed with pepper spray for self-defense as you go out to buy the new iPhone 10–or whatever number they’re on now–just remember that before Black Friday, there’s a lot you can be doing to market your book. More importantly, none of those things require the bravery and fortitude it must take for someone to actually go shopping on that day.


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 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