From the Archives: “There is No Such Thing as Free Lunch”

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: May 28th, 2012 ]

Have you heard the cliché “There is no such thing as a free lunch”? Everything has a cost, even if it appears to be free. This true for self publishing as well as all other areas of life.

While there are companies who say they publish your book for free, there are still costs to you. For instance, you may have to buy large amounts of merchandise after the book is printed, or you will have to spend vast amounts of time marketing your own book. In addition, a “free” publishing company could harm your reputation has an author if your book is not of professional quality.

Authors who want their books to be taken seriously need to invest in their projects. This means you’ll at least need a good copy editor and possibly an experienced graphic designer. Depending on your skills and goals, you may also require marketing services. Not all self publishing companies offer these extra services.

Authors should invest in their books by choosing a full-service self publishing company that offers a variety of production and marketing services as well as excellent customer service. This will ensure that you have access to skilled professionals who will help make your book a masterpiece.

I’d love to know, what additional services do you plan to use when self publishing your book?

– by Wendy Stetina

free lunch

While a good (almost) five years have ticked by since Wendy first wrote this post, much of what she has said remains true. Yes, you still need to watch for hidden fees tucked into your self-publishing contract. Yes, you still need to guard against paying for any package that leaves big gaps for you to cover, especially if these gaps coincide with a lack of experience or expertise on your part that you can’t hope to redress in time to sell your book effectively. And yes, many of these issues naturally resolve themselves if you take care and exercise sound judgment in choosing the finest self-publishing company you can.

And since you’ve opted to pursue self-publishing, clearly your judgement is a finely-tuned instrument to begin with!

But I think Wendy had another, greater point buried within her original post, all the way back in 2012. The point of reputation. Your reputation is, for all intents and purposes, inseparable from your personal brand. And your personal brand is what, in the end, sells books. In an age where boycotts have been proven an effective means of communities exercising influence over what works of art get funded and produced, an author’s reputation means a lot. A lot. So much, in fact, that it might as well mean everything, because once it’s even faintly tarnished, it’s rather a complete loss.

The natural end of this formula (a + b = c) is that, yes, the self-publishing company you choose is fundamental to either losing or building a stellar reputation. While self-publishing authors and companies don’t have exclusive ownership of this formula (consider the rage boiling over a certain Twitter troll’s contract with Simon & Schuster, for example, which will affect both of their reputations in the long run), the self-publisher lives and operates an awful lot closer to the line of no return.

And several self-publishing companies have mistreated their customers. This is a sad fact, and not at all indicative of the general trend (which we hope we espouse) towards respectful and honest, unilaterally positive treatment … but even one rotten apple in a bushel is enough to inspire caution, isn’t it? (Or maybe a carton instead of a bushel. I cracked open a rotten egg a week ago, and let me tell you, I have struggled to walk through the kitchen ever since. The memory sticks.)

My point is this: listen to reviews from authors who have self-published already. Spend some time sussing out the dark corners of the internet to verify the company of your choice is, in fact, generating the kind of reviews it should be. Don’t pay any attention to general naysayers who give all self-publisher’s the middle finger, but do listen to articles and posts that are company-specific, and rooted in individual experience.

There’s no margin of error when it comes to your reputation and its relationship to your decision of where to take your next self-published book. Take it somewhere where it–and you, and yes, your lunch–will be in safe hands!

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.

From the Archives: “HUGE MISTAKE: Using ‘Traditional’ Business Cards as a Coach/Speaker”

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: February 28th, 2011 ]

You’re an AMAZING speaker. You know how to work the room when you’re in front of an audience. Once your presentation is over, though, you make a HUGE mistake. This one is really big, but no one told you what you were doing wrong: you hand out a business card. That sounds harmless enough, right? Not if you’re a coach or speaker.

A business card can’t portray the true value of a speaker’s knowledge in their field. Last week, I presented at Kathleen Gage’s New Horizon’s Telesummit on the topic “Your Book – Your Business Card”. If you haven’t published a book, you are doing your business (yourself) a great disservice. Think about how easy it will be to attract/retain clients and book speaking gigs if you had a published book

  • Your audience can get to know more about you and your business
  • You can share your expertise with your target customer and others in your field
  • Coaching is intangible. A book allows the client to touch the coach via the book.
  • A well written content rich book will validate the author as an expert. Experts get to charge more.

Okay, I’m sold. I know I need to publish a book to build my business. How can I get started? If you decide to self-publish, it’s not as difficult as you think. There are some companies that offer self-publishing packages for coaches and speakers, including Outskirts Press. Packages like these are designed for busy professionals that are always on the go. If you think self-publishing is right for you be sure to choose a self-publisher that can accommodate your marketing and distribution goals. Truthfully, creating the actual book is the easiest part. Make sure that you are maintaining the rights to your material and that you have control over your retail piece and your trade discount.

Some authors don’t want to pay to publish their books. In cases like these, you may consider going the “traditional” publishing route. Remember that you will be selling your rights to the book, but you will still be responsible for promoting your book after the process is complete. Also, publishing your book this way could take months or even years (if it’s accepted).

It is important that you weigh the pros and cons of each option and decide which one works for you.

– by Wendy Stetina

Wendy was right–the best advertisement for an author is a book, and the best means of marketing a new book is to start working on the next one. This isn’t to say you won’t have valuable things to add to the conversation about self-publishing if you yourself haven’t finished publishing your book, but as someone interested in indie publishing you probably know better than most the true importance of timing. It’s worth waiting to give that big presentation until after you have some hard copies of your book in hand, even though waiting is agonizing and fun for no one.

We’re talking about the power of tangibles. There’s a lot you can do with the force of your personality alone in terms of capturing an audience and convincing its various members of your sincerity and authenticity … but there will always be at least one person who will lobby a comment during the Q&A session asking how and where to purchase your book.  If you don’t have an answer for that person, your credibility as a presenter tanks.  It may not tank a lot, but any tanking is a bad thing.  On the other hand, if your book is for sale digitally and you can confidently state its retailers, you’ll earn credibility.  The more at home you are with the particulars of your own publishing experience–the date on which your book was or will be published, the retailers where it can be purchased, and your personal website address and social media account handles where your audiences can seek out more information–the more your image as a worthwhile presenter is built and the more your listeners will see you as an author and not just as any old speaker.

When it comes to speaking about self-publishing, there’s real currency in sharing your personal experience.  This is why I’m 100% an advocate of signing yourself up to be a presenter … and just a tad cautious about signing up too soon.  Make it worth your while.  And if you’re absolutely going to be steam-rolled into a presentation before your book is out in print, make your business card an access point to the publication process.  By which I mean: make sure it not only includes your publication date and website information, but make the giving of it an actual incentive to buy.  Incentivization is king!  You might offer a 15% discount to everyone who can provide proof of business card acquisition at online checkout–perhaps each business card is printed with a discount code–or you might use it as the first clue in a series that will lead your presentation listeners on an Easter egg hunt around town to friendly businesses that are promoting your work.  You can get really creative at this point–my suggestions barely scratch the surface!

Just … don’t let your business card be boring.

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.

Publishing a Book to Enhance Your Credibility

How can I get A client? How can I get MORE clients? What coach or consultant doesn’t want to know how to keep a steady stream of work flowing into their practice? After all – the more work you do, the more money you earn (in most cases, anyway). Why are we talking about this on a publishing blog, though? The reason is quite simple, actually. The best way to get new clients is to “show them the money”. In other words, you need to show them what you know. There are many ways to showcase your expertise – blogging, writing articles, etc. The most effective, though, is publishing a book.

Imagine the respect your clients will have for you once they find out you are a published author – or better yet, a bestselling author. This could significantly change your visibility and credibility amongst the clients you serve. Do you remember the last time you needed help with a particular issue? Wouldn’t you feel even more comfortable trusting the opinion of an “expert” if they have published a book on that very topic? After all, we don’t go to the podiatrist when we have a toothache. That’s not to discredit the podiatrist, but we are seeking someone who is an EXPERT to guide us through our issue. While a podiatrist is a doctor, they don’t have the same specialized experience as a dentist when it comes to toothaches.

Let your clients get to know you as an expert before they speak even one word to you. That way – they will be much more open to trusting you. Once they trust you, it’s easier for them to invest in your services with confidence.

Are you a coach or consultant who has seen a boost in business after publishing your own book?

ABOUT WENDY STETINA:
Wendy Stetina is a sales and marketing professional with over 30 years experience in the printing and publishing industry. Wendy works as the Director of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable customer service reps and publishing consultants; and together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process in order 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, Wendy Stetina can put you on the right path.

Am I Self-Publishing If I Use a Self-Publishing Company?

When you decide to publish your book, there are essentially two well-traveled paths you can take – seek out an agent/publisher or self publish. Of course, there are a few other options in between but most authors fit into one of either of those buckets. Traditionally published books are those that the author doesn’t have to pay to publish. Normally the author secures representation by an agent, is sometimes provided an advance, and allows the publisher to do all the “work”. Of course, these authors still have to market their books, but all of the production costs are absorbed by the publisher. When you self-publish, you pay all of your own costs and are in complete control of your book.

Some that are from the school of thought that if you use a self-publishing company to publish your book, you aren’t really “self-publishing”. That couldn’t be further from the truth. You are as much of a self-published author as any other author.

Let’s take it one step further. Dictionary.com defines the adjective “self-published” as “having published one’s own work independently: a self-published author”. The site also defines the adjective “independent” as “not subject to another’s authority or jurisdiction”. Most self-publishing companies, including Outskirts Press, allow authors to have complete control over their book. So, by definition, authors that are able to exercise full creative freedom over their own work are self-published authors.

Using a self-publishing company is much like hiring a freelancer to work on your book. Why pay someone else to publish your book? The answer is simple – because you are a professional in your field, but not necessarily as well-versed in the world of publishing. Do you plumb your own toilet? Repair your own car? Wire your own electricity? Probably not. Can you? Sure – but you would lose more money in the time it takes you to learn how to do those things than it would cost to hire a professional. The same is true for publishing a book. In the end, will your “savings” really be worth it?

Have you ever published a book on your own? Would you do it again?

ABOUT WENDY STETINA:
Wendy Stetina is a sales and marketing professional with over 30 years experience in the printing and publishing industry. Wendy works as the Director of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable customer service reps and publishing consultants; and together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process in order 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, Wendy Stetina can put you on the right path.

Consider Your Sales Annotation Early In the Publishing Process

You’ve written a book that you’re ready to publish. Now you have to decide on quite a few key ingredients – including how you will publish the book (i.e. will you use a self-publishing company or try to publish on your own), what price you will set it for, etc. One thing that’s fairly simple to overlook when you’re starting the process is how you will market your book. Aside from some of the more obvious reasons why authors should start thinking about marketing early on in the process, you should also consider your marketing plan when putting together your sales annotation.

What is a sales annotation, you ask? That’s a great question! It’s the information about your book that is submitted to sites like Amazon.com, Barnes&Noble.com, etc. Sometimes authors opt to have this match what’s shown on the back of their book. However, this isn’t necessary, and I actually recommend that your annotation be different because your online description not only describes your book, but it also can be neatly packaged with your book’s keywords because you can fit more information in an online description space than on your back cover.

In the example below, you’re able to see the online description for Sell Your Book on Amazon that can be found on Amazon.com:

As you can see from the above image, it is important to not only describe your book in a way that will entice your reader but also make sure that you are using your keywords frequently.

DISCUSSION: What tips can you share for writing a solid sales annotation?

ABOUT WENDY STETINA:
Wendy Stetina is a sales and marketing professional with over 30 years experience in the printing and publishing industry. Wendy works as the Director of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable customer service reps and publishing consultants; and together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process in order 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, Wendy Stetina can put you on the right path.

Using Your Own Self Publishing Company

There are many ways to self publish a book. Some of these options have associated costs, others don’t. As an author it is important to research all available options and choose the one that works best for you. Sometimes this may mean publishing under your own self-publishing company. After all, this will allow you to not only publish your own book but also the books of others.

There are many things to consider when “going it alone”. You have to consider whether you have the skillset to publish a book on your own, whether you will enlist the services of independent contractors, or if you will hire another self publishing company and publish the book under them using your name. Each of these have different costs (time/financial) associated with them, but they each come with their own benefits/rewards.

For example, at Outskirts Press, we allow authors to publish books under their own company name (aka an “imprint”) for a nominal fee. This allows you to enjoy all the flexibility that comes with publishing your book and books of other authors with all of the documentation pointing to your own company. We do all of the work, and you get all of the credit. Contact one of our Publishing Consultants if you’d like to learn more.

ABOUT WENDY STETINA:
Wendy Stetina is a sales and marketing professional with over 30 years experience in the printing and publishing industry. Wendy works as the Director of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable customer service reps and publishing consultants; and together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process in order 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, Wendy Stetina can put you on the right path.

Avoid the 3 “Tell-Tale” Signs of Self-Published Books

You’ve self-published a book, and it’s amazing that you’ve dedicated so much time and energy into writing and creating you own masterpiece. While there’s nothing wrong with self publishing, and it’s actually a great opportunity for many authors, you don’t necessarily want your book to “look self published”. That could mean inability of your audience to take your book seriously, receiving horrible reviews, suffering from poor sales performance, or worse.

Here are a few of the 3 “deadly sins” not to commit when publishing your book:

  • Use of cover templates – Templates are often rather dull, at best. Invest your money into really making your cover stand out.
  • Unedited manuscript – Run on sentences, sentence fragments, etc. are all things that can leave a bad taste in the mouth of a reader. We always recommend that you hire a professional editor for your manuscript. No, your sister-in-law doesn’t count as a professional editor. You need more than a fresh set of eyes when it comes to choosing an editor. You need someone who is professionally trained in editing.
  • Non-traditional interior
    • Double-Spaced – A book should NEVER be double spaced. Just because something works great for reports and other forms of communication doesn’t mean it will work the same for a printed book.
    • Strange and/or difficult to read typestyles – You like typing in Script MT Bold. It looks beautiful on screen, but will not look as good in a printed book.
    • Missing headers/footers – Have you ever read a book (other than a children’s book) without a header or footer? Why leave them out on your book?
    • Non-standard page numbering – Make sure your page numbers are in the same position on each opposite page. Also make sure font is consistent across all numbering.
When you hire a self-publishing company, all of these things can be taken care of under one umbrella. However, if you are “going it alone”, it’s important to remember the tips above to make sure you avoid showcasing an unprofessional appearance.
What other “self publishing” don’ts have you seen?

ABOUT WENDY STETINA:
Wendy Stetina is a sales and marketing professional with over 30 years experience in the printing and publishing industry. Wendy works as the Director of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable customer service reps and publishing consultants; and together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process in order 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, Wendy Stetina can put you on the right path.