Why You Need a Presence in the "Bricks and Mortar" Bookstores and Online
Believe it or not, there are still just as many people out there who prefer to hold a physical book in their hands as there are people who love the compact convenience of e-readers. And many of these people still prefer to shop in a regular bookstore. So, if you only publish an e-book or print-on-demand (POD) paperback online, you're likely missing out on half your potential audience.
If you're ready to reach your full target market with both a paperback or hardcover and an e-book, then this is the course for you. I'll show you how to "cast a wider net so you can catch more fish" and enjoy more commercial success with the traditional "bricks and mortar" booksellers as well as the e-commerce retailers.
Understand and Achieve Your Goals
A self-publisher is an entrepreneur. Your book is your business card. As a business owner, doing one’s due diligence is especially important when it comes to self-publishing a book. In this day and age, so much information is out there on this topic that it can be quite overwhelming and more than a little bit confusing. What road should you take? Which choice will bring you the best return on investment? Who can best help you to achieve your goals? Well that all depends. What are your goals? We're going to figure them out together here, and then I'll show you the best road to take in order to achieve them.
Learn About All the Players in the Book Supply Chain and How They Can Help You Sell More Books
We're going to cover everything in this course: sales and marketing, writing and publishing, ISBNs and barcodes, book reviewers and publicists, distributors and printers. You'll learn how each of these players fit into the worldwide book supply chain, how they can help you to sell more books, and what they expect from you before they'll help you. I'll show you how to navigate this mysterious business littered with acronyms, peculiar old-fashioned practices, and unforeseen pitfalls so you can sell more books and enjoy greater commercial success.
Some people choose to self-publish after months, even years, of manuscript rejections by the traditional trade publishers. Others choose to self-publish after disappointing sales results with earlier trade-published books.
The stigma that used to be attached to self-publishing has lifted just as many of the myths regarding trade publishing are being revealed. If you've decided to take the self-publishing route, I congratulate you. Now my job is to show you how to do it right so your professionally self-published book can stand proud next to the trade-published books in your genre.
Throughout this course, we’ll be referring to two fictitious case studies along with their respective goals and self-publishing budgets:
These authors’ costs and budgets, for everything from publishing to printing, are based on example North American rates. But please note these are only examples. The rates in your area may be less (or may be more) depending on who you hire to complete various tasks for you and where you have your books published/printed.
Therefore, it is recommended that you use the budgeting tools available to you here, but be sure to plug in your own numbers once you’ve received quotes in your area.
Before you decide where and how you want to self-publish your book, it is best to read through and answer this list of 10 questions for yourself so you can get clear about your self-publishing goals.
I set goals for every single one of my books, and I attach strong emotions to each of those goals. Why do I do this? Because the only way to reach a destination is to first figure out where you’re going; and if you give yourself a compelling enough reason to get there that really excites your senses, you’ll be that much more committed to making it happen. The rest (the hows) always seem to fall into place once you’ve made that firm decision inside your mind.
We talked about—and debunked—two of the most stubborn and lingering book industry “myths” in section one of this course. Now we’re going to tackle a most peculiar old-fashioned practice that is unique to this industry. It’s called “returnability.” And whether or not you mark your book as “returnable” or “non-returnable” can greatly affect its distribution with the mainstream bookstores.
When it comes to copyright, four primary questions seem to arise most often: What exactly is copyright? How do I obtain it? How do I protect it? How long does this protection last? This section of the course will provide an elementary introduction to international copyright.
One of the greatest reasons to self-publish ahead of taking the traditional trade publishing route to produce your book is the retained copyright ownership of your intellectual property. When you retain that ownership, you also maintain control over all aspects of your book project ... including the sale of subsidiary rights.
There is one more important point to make about copyright before we move into the main part of this book publishing course. It has to do with the contracts you set up with the various vendors you’ll be hiring to help you produce your book … for example ghostwriters, illustrators, or graphic designers.
Presumably, you’re taking this online course because you not only want to self-publish a book but you want to produce a professional-quality book that you can sell commercially in both traditional bookstores and online. If this is the case, you need to start thinking about the sales and marketing aspect of book publishing long before you even finish writing your book. This is why the Book Sales and Marketing section of this course lands before the Writing and Self-Publishing section. It’s that important to your overall success.
Both types of marketing have an appropriate time and place. However, most people are already pretty comfortable with price-based selling (such as offering sales and discounts to try to undercut the competition’s price); therefore, I want to take this opportunity to focus on value-based selling here, instead.
It’s an important skill to master because, at the end of the day, anyone can sell on price. But here’s the biggest problem with that plan: if price is the only thing you’ve got, and then someone else with a similar book comes in at a lower price than you can match, you’re done. You’re finished. You’ve got nowhere else to go. However, if you can learn how to sell based on perceived value right from the start, you’ll always be able to justify your price as it is. You can even increase that price down the road by adding even more value to your overall offering.
What is a keyword? In short, a keyword is a phrase that someone might type into a search engine such as Google, Bing, or Yahoo to try to find something they’re looking for. Including proper keywords in your online marketing materials is critical to your success.
Customers don’t buy books so much because they want a book. They buy books because they want a solution of some kind—whether that solution is to entertain themselves, escape from reality for a while, pass the time in an enjoyable way, or learn something new. Marketing campaigns that focus on selling the features of a book ahead of the benefits make the incorrect assumption that their readers will automatically understand why they should buy it. Proper communication of the benefits is crucial to making a sale.
Now let’s discuss one of the most obvious, yet least utilized, components of every successful sales campaign: the call to action. Simply stated, a call to action is your very clear request to consumers to buy your book TODAY! Right now!
What is an elevator pitch, and why should every author have one memorized and ready to recite at a moment’s notice? In short, it is a brief sales pitch that will help you to sell more books both in person and online: According to the Free Dictionary, “the name ‘elevator pitch’ reflects the idea that it should be possible to deliver the summary in the time span of an elevator ride, or approximately thirty seconds to two minutes.” When delivered correctly and confidently, it often results in a sale right on the spot.
The list of traditional sales techniques you can use to sell more copies of your books is a long one:
It’s also a great idea to try to sell your books inside other types of retail outlets rather than just sticking to bookstore sales. Sometimes, that helps your book stand out among other merchandise which could increase the chances of a sale.
The list of online sales techniques you can use to sell more copies of your books is just as long as the traditional list:
There are many ways to sell a book in this day and age. It is a great time for self-publishing authors!
Some authors misunderstand the role of publicists. They hire a publicity firm assuming that organization will advertise and sell their book(s) for them, but this is incorrect. The true role of a publicist is to garner publicity for their client—to get that author mentioned in the media via Associated Press-style articles and press releases written about the topic(s) in his or her book, and by promoting that author as an industry expert in his or her field. The idea is to attract newspaper, radio, and television interviews that will highlight the publicist’s client within the mainstream media. The by-product of this publicity is a heightened interest in the author, which should boost sales of his or her book much like advertising does.
Different types of book reviews are available to help authors sell more books: unpaid traditional book reviews, and paid online book reviews. Each has its own unique pros and cons. Both are effective tools that can be used by authors to sell more of their books.
To publish a book in this day and age, you must have access to a properly functioning computer, email, and the Internet. You must also have a working knowledge of and access to a Web browser (such as Internet Explorer or Google Chrome) and software programs such as Microsoft Office (primarily the Word, Excel, and Picture Manager modules) plus Adobe Acrobat Reader (or a similar program for viewing .PDF proofs).
In this digital age, all book publishing is done online. All the files that are used to produce books are sent and received via email, the Internet, drop boxes, FTP sites, and cloud sharing. Many times, you’ll be dealing with people in other cities or countries around the world. This is why records management is absolutely critical. How you each organize and name all your digital files—from the original manuscript, to the book’s graphics, to the various proofing rounds of your designed book—will have a huge impact on everyone’s ability to find things when they need to find them later on.
This section contains three bits of advice to help you finish writing that book once and for all along with the “10 commandments” for writers and self-publishing authors.
Although some authors are both qualified and have the time to write their own books, others might choose to hire professional ghostwriters to help them create that compelling narrative. Both are acceptable ways to produce a book. That said, when hiring a ghostwriter to help pen a book, it is important for authors to remember that ghostwriting is an ongoing, collaborative process (much like the entire publishing process); and, to make things run smoother, they should have a few things prepared ahead of time such as clear deadline expectations and clear notes.
If you’re serious about self-publishing and want to present yourself to the public as a professional author, then you need to have your work copy edited in the very least. And it should be done by a professional copy editor—not just a well-meaning friend or family member.
The fact is, self-publishers’ books are competing in the marketplace with trade publishers’ books. Traditional trade publishers always have their books professionally edited. Always. This is why they can boast such high quality. In light of this, can self-publishers truly afford not to have their work edited? It may seem excessive to some, but it is a necessary investment if that author is serious about publishing and competing in the marketplace.
Any book that is being published to sell commercially must contain an ISBN and a barcode on its cover. As a matter of fact, every version of that book must have its own ISBN and barcode (i.e., the paperback version will have one, the e-book version will have another one, and the hardcover version will have yet a different one). The only exception to this rule is when you upload books to be published directly to Amazon/Kindle. They assign their own "ASINs" to each file.
When it comes to physical books such as paperbacks and hardcovers, there is more to a book cover than simply the front cover. Once you decide you want to produce a physical book, you're going to want to do a bit of research to figure out how you want that book to appear before handing your materials over to a professional designer to bring your vision to fruition.
Professional graphic design is a critical part of the book publishing process, and it is as important to an e-book as it is to a paperback or hardcover. No matter how engaging your story might be, people are going to “judge your book by its cover” before they ever decide to read it. Yet, it won’t stop there. They’ll not only judge it by the cover design; they’ll also judge it by the interior design.
Non-fiction readers expect to find an index in the back of your book. They also expect your information to be completely accurate. You can hire fact checkers and indexers to help you with this. It will make all the difference to the perceived professionalism and functionality of your book.
Where a copy editor’s job is to review and improve an author’s raw manuscript, and the graphic designer’s job is to arrange that raw edited text into a professional and appealing layout, a professional proofreader provides yet another set of eyes to ensure that all the components fit together properly and the book is ready for public viewing and printing. A professional proofreader is someone who is knowledgeable and experienced with both basic language editing (spelling and punctuation) as well as the technical aspects of book design (kerning, bleeds, trim size, et cetera).
Converting the digital (.PDF) files of paperback and hardcover books into e-books works quite well. There are many conversion companies out there nowadays who can do this for a reasonable price. But trying to convert an e-book (e.g., a Kindle .MOBI or a Kobo .EPUB) file into a paperback or hardcover? Don't bother. It just won't look right.
So, for best results, you have a choice: you can either have each individual format created separately; or you can complete the physical books first and then convert them into e-books after the fact.
Okay, now we're going to talk about how to set your retail price…
…keeping in mind that we talked about the importance of consistency in pricing between your physical books and ebooks;
…also keeping in mind that we’re starting out by producing the physical books first and then converting them to ebooks after the fact.
Two more important things must be considered when it comes time to sit down figure out your retail price you: who will print it for you and who will sell it for you.
In this section, we're revisiting the original goals from our case studies to see how many copies of their books they will have to sell to make a profit. You can now see how they came to their numbers. Once they knew their net profit per unit, they were able to determine how many copies they would have to sell to cover all their costs from writing and publishing straight through to printing and still come out with a profit at the end.
It used to be that, whenever a book was published, there was automatically a large run of 1,000 or more copies of it printed and stored away in a large warehouse by the publisher and/or its distributor(s). This large run meant a higher upfront cost for that publisher on all of its books without any guarantee that they would be able to sell them all off. Times have changed.
Today’s self-publishing authors have many more choices available to them. If they want to print that many books straight away, they still can. Alternatively, they can choose to print fewer numbers of books at a time (i.e., 250 copies) as selling opportunities arise. Alternatively yet, they can even choose to not print any physical copies of their books at all, but simply to sell digital versions of them online. The sky is the limit nowadays, and this is good news for self-publishers.
I once received a note from an aspiring author who was overwhelmed by the publishing process and wanted to know when and how she was supposed to fit it all in. I gave her my personal formula for writing, publishing, marketing, and selling my books, and now I'm giving it to you...
We'll all face it. None of us can escape it. Criticism ... an unwelcome but also unavoidable byproduct of becoming a published author. Here's some thoughtful advice to help you through it.
If this is your first book, then you may find solace in this bonus book excerpt. It’s a story about my own publishing journey, from the first poem I had published at age eleven to the day I published my fourth book—which also went on to become my first bestseller both on Amazon and in the Calgary Herald. I hope you enjoy the story and come away from it knowing that this entire course was written for you by a writer just like you.
So many people are now opting for self-publishing ahead of the traditional trade publishing route, and they need guidance regarding best practices with everything from writing to publishing to selling their books. I've made it my life's mission to help these people navigate this mysterious business littered with acronyms, peculiar old-fashioned practices, and unforeseen pitfalls.
As a bestselling author and TESOL certified sales coach for authors with over twenty years’ experience in the North American English book publishing industry, I can show you how to write, publish, advertise, sell, market, and publicize your book(s) using all the effective traditional and online tricks of the trade. Add my substantial advertising sales and marketing background into the mix, and you have a serious mentor in front of you who can help you achieve commercial success as an author in the traditional "bricks and mortar" bookstores as well as online.