Whenever you produce something and make it available to the public, you have to be ready for feedback to come your way. Of course, when it’s of a positive nature, this is a delightful aspect of running a business and producing materials. It’s definitely not always like that, but I am so grateful for the people who take time to express gratefulness for something that has helped them. Here are a couple of comments I’ve recently received in e-mails regarding the Journey to Self Publishing CD that I released last year:
“You and Arlen have kept me company as I’ve driven around town doing errands, and I’ve learned so much from your CD.” ~Anne O., Canada
“God bless you for sharing what you have learned about self-publishing with “others” through the CD. I received your CD from my daughter and son-in-law for Christmas and it was by far my favorite Christmas gift! I listen to your CD at least five days a week as I drive to and from work.” ~Debra W., North Carolina
If you have dreams of writing and publishing a book, this is for you! I’ve put together a Special Self-Publishing Package that includes a copy of both Journey to Self Publishing and Pajama School so that you can refer to the book as I discuss various aspects of the design and publishing process. Throughout the month of February, you can get the Special Self-Publishing Package for only $24 (plus shipping) by using the coupon code: FEB2011
In the same issue of Book Business that I referred to last week, Peter Hildick-Smith also gives publishers this tip in his article, Fourteen Tips to Increase E-book Sales:
Earn personal recommendations. A large enough initial group of people have to first read and love a book before there are enough recommenders to make a difference in the book’s later sales. Personal recommendations are earned, not created. Before that can happen, the book has to be discovered, interesting enough to buy, and a strong enough read that the reader will be moved to want to share it and recommend it. Make sure that those who are most likely to respond to a given book’s topic of story have every chance to discover and read it.
When I first received my load of books, I think I was too stingy with them. Sure, I slated some of them for review and giveaway purposes, but in retrospect I don’t think it was nearly enough. Especially as a first-time author, it takes a lot to establish credibility. Since my target is the homeschool market, I should have come up with a list of 200 influential people in the homeschool world who would agree to review my book and publish their review either on-line or in print. Instead, I think my list was closer to 25. We’ve made up for it some over the last year and a half, but there is a certain momentum when a book is first released that is forever lost after several months have passed.
So, if you’re still looking toward a future publication of your book, make that list of a couple hundred influencers in your field and be sure that your budget includes the cost of those books plus shipping. Getting your name out there is a long, grueling process, so the more you can connect with people and build a coalition to help you in this arena, the better!
Sometime in the last couple years when I was heavily into researching and learning about all things publishing-related, I signed up for the free Publishing Basics Newsletter put out by Ron Pramschufer. I’ve been so swamped this spring that I’ve just been deleting it when it arrives in my inbox at the beginning of each month, but today I took a few minutes to peruse the July issue and realized what a treasure trove of tips and ideas it is!
If you’re looking for some good, solid information from other authors and publishers who have been down the publishing road, you’ll want to subscribe to this newsletter. In my initial perusal, this quote in Carolyn Madison’s article, Is It Possible to Over Edit? caught my attention:
Oscar Wilde expressed a similar view: “I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again.”
I can so relate! Maybe that’s why I’m such a slow writer… 🙂
Obviously, as with any publication that is comprised of content from a wide variety of individuals, you will have to take some things and leave others. With that in mind, though, you’re sure to find a good dose of information (like this article, Why the Obsession to “Protect” Your Writing is Misguided by Fred Gleeck) and inspiration (like this article, How long did it take you to find a publisher? by Charles Noland) in each issue!
Thanks to the Google Alerts that I have set up so that I can track mentions of various book-related terms, I found out that someone had added my book, Pajama School, to the Goodreads website. I had never heard of it before, but after a brief perusal, I was able to submit a request to be listed as a Goodreads author so that I could edit and add content to my page. Within 24 hours, my request was granted, and I just finished setting up a Goodreads Author Page. This looks like another great way for authors and self-publishers to spread the word about their books! If you have a listing on Goodreads, you should let me know so we can connect!
Whether I’m mailing in paperwork, making a phone call, or sending off an e-mail, one important realization to keep in mind is that it’s just another person on the other end. Especially when working with large companies, it’s easy to get lost in the idea that it’s some inanimate organism with no personal element. This perspective may result in sloppy work, stiff conversations, or canned-sounding correspondence.
As a self-publisher, you will have to make a lot of connections with bookstores – both local shops and big chains, distribution companies, news media outlets, niche market bloggers, and more. This can seem overwhelming and intimidating! But if you keep in mind that in every instance it is just a person on the other end, and ultimately it is a person (or a group of people) who will make the decisions regarding your book, it makes it easier to branch out and attempt connections that might otherwise seem impossible.
Whenever communicating with others, here are some thoughts to keep in mind:
- Be professional, but personable.
- Express appreciation for their time and service.
- Jot quick handwritten notes of thanks when appropriate.
- Be prompt and thorough in responses, and take whatever steps of action are recommended.
- Be respectful, even when you receive negative responses. (i.e. don’t burn any bridges!)
- If possible, familiarize yourself with the person or organization so that you are more aware of how your book will appeal to them, and how you can add value to what you are offering them.
One of the best marketing strategies for a self-published book (or any product) is to generate buzz. In a nutshell, you want to get people talking about your book. I just read an informative question and answer post on The Art of Generating Buzz. I really have no experience yet in this area (at least not enough to know if what I’ve done will be effective or not), but I thought I’d list some of the steps I’ve taken toward this end:
1. Create an e-mail list of friends and other interested parties to keep them informed about the progress of your book. I’m just using a free list software that works in conjunction with my free website software (find out more about these options here). I imported my personal e-mail address book, and then add new contacts as people express interest. About once a month I send out a personal update letting people know how the progress is going and what new developments have taken place since the last update. This generates good feedback – both via e-mail and when I visit with people in person.
2. Involve others in the process. As much as I like to think that I can do everything myself (that’s why we’re self-publishing in the first place, right?!), I cannot express strongly enough how much it has increased the quality and value of my book by tapping into the expertise of friends to help me with various aspects of the project. I also implemented a unique idea I’m really excited about that involved 26 close friends (more on that another time, though!). One of the benefits of this is that more people have a vested interest in the book and thus their desire to see it succeed is increased even more. Plus, they have a greater level of confidence in the product and are more eager to talk about it and recommend it to friends.
3. Solicit endorsers and reviewers liberally. So far I’ve sent out 23 Advance Review Copies (ARC) of Pajama School – stories from the life of a homeschool graduate. Eleven of those are for potential endorsements; nine have been sent to bloggers who have agreed to post a review and host a giveaway of one or more copies of my book. My goal is to hit my target market from a variety of places and hopefully start to create some buzz. I’m still hoping to find some more homes for my remaining ARCs – my Marketing Manager is hard at work in that department. The books certainly won’t accomplish anything sitting in a box in my basement!
4. Maximize Social Networking Utilities. I know I could do much, much better in this area. But I do have a Facebook Page that imports notes from the Pajama School Blog. And I just recently started Twittering – I’d love to have you come Follow Me! I’m also in a couple of self-publishing e-mail groups (that I haven’t done a very good job of keeping up with lately!) that have helped me connect with and learn from some wonderful people.
No doubt there are many more ideas for effectively generating buzz, but these are four primary steps I’ve taken in regards to my book so far. More ideas are always welcome! I’m trying to be more alert to what’s buzzing in the world around me, too, so that I can learn from the effective strategies of others. Now if I could just figure out what the secret is behind Twilight… 🙂
Like any good child of the 20th/21st century, I’ve grown up depending on e-mail as my primary mode of communication. It’s so convenient – you can do it at any time of day or night, it can be personal or formal, and best of all, it can help you avoid the awkwardness of “cold calling.” For some reason, it just doesn’t seem as painful to be rejected by e-mail as it is over the phone. But that’s the catch. For some reason, it also seems easier to reject the requests of others via e-mail. The handy delete key can be dutifully employed and no one’s feelings have to be hurt. Instead, one is left wondering whether the e-mail was properly transmitted, whether the intended recipient viewed it, whether they are just busy and haven’t gotten around to replying yet, or whether they have indeed rejected the request and deleted it altogether.
Thus I have learned the value of a simple phone call. In my process of soliciting endorsements for Pajama School – stories from the life of a homeschool graduate, I’ve sent out numerous e-mails. Most went unanswered. However, last week, due to a tip from a friend, I made a phone call to an organization where a person from whom I was hoping to secure an endorsement works. After a brief conversation with his assistant, I sent a follow-up e-mail with the promised additional information and links. Later that afternoon, an endorsement arrived in my inbox. I was shocked! And regretful of my frequent hesitation/refusal to make phone calls.
So yesterday morning, I performed the much-disliked task of calling all the other endorsers from whom I had not heard to follow-up on the e-mail I sent weeks ago. And you know what? I didn’t get a single rejection. Every person with whom I spoke was friendly and receptive. But best of all, now I have a full list of names and addresses of people who are eagerly waiting to receive an Advance Review Copy of my book as soon as it’s printed and ready to go! 🙂
Tonight, I spent a good deal of time making adjustments to my Sibro Publishing website. You probably won’t see any of them, though, because they are all in the backend! I’m using the Open Source Joomla CMS for the website, and have installed the VirtueMart Shopping Cart component to handle the orders. I highly recommend both of these! They have a bit of a learning curve, but it can be done. It’s well worth it in the long run for a variety of reasons:
1. It is free!
2. It is a very customizable and flexible structure that allows for expansion if you decide to grow your self-publishing business.
3. Both of these have excellent support communities where you are almost guaranteed to find answers to your questions.
4. There are tons of additional components and plugins that can be installed. (I’m also using the free Acajoom mailing list component to manage subscribers, and send out a regular e-newsletter.)
I will say, this option is best suited for the more serious web developer. I’m a huge fan of Open Source (when it suits my purposes), so I don’t mind investing the time to work through some of the headaches involved with getting everything set up, customized, and ready for business. The real test will come, though, once the orders start pouring in! 🙂
(I have been trying to work through some cross-browser inconsistency issues, so if you see anything that doesn’t look quite right, please don’t hesitate to let me know!)
Since my book is in the hands of editors right now, I haven’t been focusing at all on the writing aspect of the project. I finally sat down and made a list of the top things that I need to do right now business-wise in preparation for the launch of my book. These are things that will be necessary further down the road and I’ve been putting them off because, well, frankly because I didn’t want to do them. 🙂
But last night I assigned numbers to the list so that I had an order to work from and this morning I set about to tackle the first item on the list: Research and set up affiliate program. I used the open source Joomla CMS to develop my website and have installed VirtueMart as my e-commerce solution. There is supposedly a built-in functionality for an affiliate program in VirtueMart, but it doesn’t work. So I’ve been scouring the forums and extension offerings for the past couple of hours trying to figure out if there is a solution that has been developed to handle an affiliate program. It appears that there is a lot of demand for such a product, but only a couple in development or available and I’m a little leery of forking over the money before I know for sure that the company behind it is legitimate and the product works as advertised.
So, I’m still researching. Some of the more well-known affiliate programs are exclusive to downloadable content, so that’s no good. The search continues and hopefully I’ll have this figured out soon so I can move to the next item on my list. That’s my favorite part – crossing items off my list! 🙂
Morris Rosenthal has an excellent post on his Self Publishing blog about the Publication Process and Agreements. I have learned throughout this process the exact same things that Mr. Rosenthal addresses in his post. In particular, the importance of clearly outlining expectations and agreements, and how much of the self-publishing process is interdependent. I’ve outsourced a number of aspects of my book project, including:
1. Editing – several family members and friends have volunteered their time to edit and I currently have one freelance editor that I hired to go through my book. Primarily I was interested in getting an outside perspective from someone who doesn’t know me as well as my family and friends and will be able to determine if there are gaps, etc.
2. Cover Design – I tried to design my own cover, but it was pathetic. Book cover design is an art in itself and I am SO glad to have my professional graphic designer friend doing this part of the book for me!
3. Interior Design – You may remember me mentioning that I was planning to purchase the InDesign software and learn it to do my own interior design. Shortly thereafter, a friend of mine offered her services to me at a reduced rate to take over this aspect of the book for me. I am extremely grateful and relieved to not have this huge task hanging over my head!
4. Marketing – Another of my dear friends has been supporting and encouraging me in this project from the start and I recently hired her to help me with a lot of the huge responsibilities associated with marketing. Another incredible blessing!
5. Printing – Of course I knew off the bat that I couldn’t do my own printing, but it took a lot of research and connecting to determine what type of printer to use. It’s an amazing story how I developed the connection with the printer that I’m planning to use, but I’ll save that for another post!
Anyway…I definitely encourage self-publishers to read and learn from Mr. Rosenthal’s experience and expertise.
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