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Setting Your Self-Publishing Sights Higher

February 18th, 2013 . by Peggy

Setting Your Self-Publishing Sights HigherAll the smart self-publishers these days are using techniques like speed-implemented print on demand, which is low-risk and high-yield. However, be sure you’re still thinking like a big-business publisher and using some classic business-building techniques.

I totally advocate the use of Print-On-Demand (POD) services like Lulu.com. The low-risk approach, the profit comparisons to major publishers, and the speed-implementation mindset are all things I really admire. However, be sure you’re not missing something that I make sure all of my clients are aware of from the get-go: publishing is a go-big or go-home business. I’m not saying increase your risk, but there are a number of small things that will make a big-thinking approach pay off. You can be all-in emotionally, without losing your wallet.

Let’s assume you’re a great writer. Your topic is timely, you’re credible, you know who your customers are, and you are very logical in your overall strategic business approach. Many authors do this, sell a fair amount of books, and have every right to be proud of themselves, especially if they sell the equivalent amount that a publisher asked them to commit to for the book project – a major accomplishment, to be sure.

But, what I don’t see many doing is hitting the pavement to simultaneously push your book through multiple outlets, including an affiliate marketing program, small retail outlets, and a wider non-business (or parallel-niche) audience. I would love to see more indie authors practicing good online marketing activities, like building a list of interested customers. You don’t have to sign up for anything to get many author’s free stuff, which is nice for us, but very bad for the author’s business. I would also like to see more authors move their RSS feed signup (the way people get the blog posts delivered to them in their inbox) to someplace more visible on your site. I want more podcasts. I want online training. And I want more interactivity.

Many author’s blogs get buried within their current site, meaning you have to click around the find the blog, which could be their biggest mistake. Make it the first page! The first thing people see! Even if you’re freelancing other writing, and selling a decent number of books anyway, think bigger! You could be building a wider following, and enhancing your personal profile, in minutes a day by making the blog the forefront of your website. If your existing website is a little flat, pump it up, and correct any lingering usability issues like buttons that don’t quite work the way you want, etc. Polish it up to a nice shine.

Why don’t all writers set their sights higher? A good book is hard to come by, and I know many writers that have several, each worth bragging about – yet they don’t. When one book is not wonderfully profitable, the next one is harder to write. Even if your self-publishing business doesn’t seem to be suffering, waiting until that is happening is the wrong time to start additional marketing activities.

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Keyword Research – Download This

April 8th, 2010 . by Peggy

This is the revised version, April 2012.

Keyword research is so very important that I want to highlight this tip sheet for my readers. Please download this free PDF for a fast introduction to the why and how.

I recently gave a talk for the Nanaimo Women’s Business Network here on Vancouver Island, and for the Ladies Who Launch in Vancouver, and we talked about keyword research quite at bit more than I had intended to. I suppose I really am an Uber-Geek, because I actually enjoy doing keyword research. Seriously. This is how I spend my evenings while all of you are out dancing at the local pub.

You should do a basic keyword research exercise (30 mins to 2 hours) before you do any of the following;

  • write a book
  • even think about writing a book
  • decide on the final title for your book
  • design the cover for your book
  • create a company logo
  • setup your website
  • create business cards or brochures or advertising
  • write a business plan (especially this!)
  • create a blog post
  • put anything on social media sites
  • create a podcast
  • revise any of the above

I’m not trying to freak you out – I’m just trying to make it clear how important this is. The document is free, so please feel free to re-distribute it to friends.

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Self-Publishing Debate

May 11th, 2009 . by Peggy

I find this blog post from the Society of Authors in France interesting because it’s what many of us perceive as the main points of debate on self-publishing.

Here’s what I agree with in this post:

- Every Author needs help. It’s real work – you can’t do it all yourself.
- Every Author is afraid of selling. We all get over it, and the faster you do, the more you’ll sell.
- Hire an Editor. I don’t care if it’s me or not, but almost nobody can edit their own work. (I should know – I’ve tried for years and it always sucks when I edit my own stuff.)
- It’s true that more people are reading eBooks, and for some, that’s definitely the way to go. (BUT: see note below.)
- Write because you have something new, groundbreaking or truly useful to say, not because you think you can make money writing about a particular topic. It is twisted but true that writing just to make money will make you poor.
- Finding alternative or unusual markets for your self-published material can be your greatest success. In fact, any truly great self-publishing success that I’ve personally experienced or witnessed has happened in this way. Don’t think bookstores – they are rarely profitable.
- A new breed of professional is definitely developing (ahem – such as Yours Truly) who is all about helping self-published Authors get their stuff out there.
- All self-published Authors need to get serious about selling from a quality website which includes an affiliate marketing plan.

Here’s what I don’t agree with:

- You don’t lose out on anything such as editing, graphic design, or quality printing if you self-publish. Anything is available to anybody these days.
- eBooks are not a direct alternative to printed book publishing. They are a different market altogether, and anyone considering the eBook route should perform market research to see if an eBook is appropriate for their market and materials. (See a future post for details.)
- You do not lose out on marketing, publicity, distribution, or reviews in the press if you self-publish. (Who ever said a traditional publisher got you all that stuff, anyway? All Authors end up doing tons of work in this area whether self-published or not. You may need help, but it’s no harder than for a traditionally-published Author.)
- Being self-published does not mean that you are not going to be of interest to agents. It means that you are going to have to approach them differently, but they will probably be just as interested if not more, because they know they’re working with an Author who is committed and hungry.
- Shipping your own books is rarely practical. There are plenty of fulfillment providers that will do this for you, and I can recommend a great guy who ships for me worldwide if you need one.
- Self-publishing does not rule out any opportunities to sell foreign rights. I don’t know where anybody got that idea, actually.
- I don’t know why an Author would want to sell their eBook to a publisher. The bulk of the cost of self-publishing is in the printing, so once that is out of the picture, why wouldn’t you self-publish?
- Here I go again, but print-on-demand is not usually the way for most Authors to publish their books. (For my reasons, just read some of my old posts.)

Every Author wants to produce the best book that they can. For some of us, self-publishing seems difficult to navigate, and we’re worried about being forced to accept sub-standard results. We worry about things like learning to sell and how we can afford to launch a national marketing campaign. The reality is that if we are treating our books as a business, we won’t have any trouble selling it. This means doing proper market research, writing very well (ie. saying something really valuable), and performing due diligence on things like quality graphic design and product creation.

In conversations with plenty of authors, self-published or otherwise, I have heard many of the same concerns over and over again. But with help, anything is possible. Always remember that another Author has been there before you, and if they did it, so can you.

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Print-On-Demand: The Fly That Won’t Buzz Off

September 28th, 2007 . by Peggy

A friend in the book marketing biz recently sent me a link to a blog post by R. W. Ridley, the “Self-Published American”. Link directly to the relevant post here.

Essentially, Mr. Ridley states that POD (Print on Demand) is akin to the methods of the independent filmmakers of Hollywood, whose rejection of convention means that they are able to put their material out there with less risk and greater profit potential. They may even get picked up by a major publishing house, as per “… It’s reducing their (the publisher’s) risk when acquiring new material. Print on demand has become their minor league program. They (traditional publishers) monitor the market for books that are selling well, and find material that has already built an audience and with more marketing dollars has the potential to build an even bigger audience.”

Let’s consider for a moment who is speaking: Mr. Ridley works for a major POD supplier. What I read in his posting here is something like, “OK Mr. Author – you do all the work plus make the major up-front investment, and once you’ve done that, you’ll be able to recoup part of your money when Huge Publisher Inc. pays you a royalty. ”

If you read my blog on a regular basis, you’ll know that what frustrates me about this post is not the idea of print-on-demand in general, but Ridley’s attitude specifically. POD has its’ place, but the way to make money in print-on-demand is not to use it to get a publisher to buy your work. If you’ve gotten to the point where you can produce a good quality manuscript worthy of printing at all, you’re probably better off to market the book yourself than to take money from a major house.

As I’ve said before, I think POD has its place, but it’s not what’s best for most publishers. If you make an analysis of what it costs to produce a book, you’ll know that there’s a lot of pieces that the pie must be cut up to serve. The printer takes a big slice, but when you’re doing POD for anything serious, you might as well give him the whole pie, and be happy with licking off the plate. I tell clients that printing should take up a maximum of 15% of the retail cost of your book. With POD, the slice is more like 50%, and that’s before you take into account the fact that most retailers (virtual or otherwise) will buy your book for 40% off the cover price. Hmmm, that must mean that you now have no budget for professional graphic design, marketing, publicity, sales, etc. Gee, is that why you’re trying to do without those things, and you’re having trouble with your plans to sell your book on your own? I can see why the temptation to sell out is very strong.

However, when a book is treated like a small business venture – which it is – including market research, planning, and quality design, isn’t it amazing how the profit potential for that project increases?

I do know of one author whose book magically sold a gazillion copies as soon as it was released. He’s been in print since forever. Yet, he does no marketing, or his marketing seems to happen at no cost to him. He doesn’t need to research his topic, and lousy graphic design and print quality doesn’t seem to affect his sales, which grow every year. And since we never see him in public, we can only assume he’s working on the next great release.

Actually – he is seen regularly doing his thing in Vegas. Isn’t “Jesus Christ Superstar” still running on a stage there?

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