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Archive for September, 2010

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Are Book Award Contests Worth the Fees?

So many of my blog posts come out of responding to a question from a client or colleague and this is no exception.

Here’s why I think book awards are valuable to authors who are struggling to get recognition and feedback for their books: 

·         Stimulates sales – most people don’t care or understand what the award or sticker is – only that the book has one.

·         Stimulates bookings – get more radio interviews, book signings and speaking gigs

·         Provides credibility and feedback on the title for the author/publisher

·         Good for putting on your media materials to add credibility

·         Gets buyers in book stores, libraries and other outlets a reason to at least look at a book twice

·         The “gold seal” impresses consumers to buy the book when in a store or at a signing

·         Might get someone interested who wouldn’t be otherwise – like a traditional publisher – again it is the “second look” idea 

I have a story that I often tell about a book signing we did where we ran out of the books that the store had ordered from our distributor (they weren’t stickered), so I went to the car and brought in another case, which just happened to already be stickered. Pretty soon, the people who had bought the earlier store copies were coming back wanting their stickers – “why doesn’t mine have the award stickers on it?”  Geez, fortunately, I had brought extra stickers in my kit of supplies, so I went and got them and stickered their books – and the extras we left at the store. 

People are weird.  But I do know that my awards have helped my books and my consulting business.  Having won the Ben Franklin for the best marketed booked in 2006 was the start of my consulting business – people started calling me to help them with their books too.So awards are good for not just books.

I guess I feel that the small fee to enter (if you have a worthy book), is insignificant compared to the possible “good things” that can come from it. And yes, as many people point out, it is a good source of revenue for the company holding the contest, but they do have expenses for shipping to judges, preparing the awards, and in the case of the IPPYs and Ben Franklins – they put on quite a nice event for the winners and provide some publicity around the award winners.

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How much does it cost to self-publish?

While it doesn’t have to be cost-prohibitive, getting a book published does require some money to do it in a way that will give you a real chance at success. As I’ve discussed here before, using a "self-publishing company" will only lead to heartache over the long run. People are now thinking that "if I just e-publish I won’t have to pay anything." This too is faulty thinking as you will see.

What we need to remember is that self-publishing is a business and, like any business, there are costs associated with running it. It doesn’t have to cost a fortune, but depending on how much you can do for yourself, you will have (minimally) costs in this range whether you e-publish or p-publish:

Business set-up: $20-$500+ depending on whether you set up as a sole proprietor, LLC, or corporation and what the laws are in your state regarding licensing, taxes etc.

Business tools: ($50-$2,000) computer, software, bookkeeping/checking account, business cards, stationery, website - some things you may already have, some you may have to acquire.

ISBN: block of 10 costs $250 from the US ISBN agency, Bowker. NEVER buy your ISBNs from someone else and never buy a singleton. The numbers identify who the publisher is and if you buy one or more from someone else - they are the publisher, not you. As a small press, you don’t need any of the other services offered by Bowker.

Book Production: This includes editing (about $500-$2,000 depending on what needs to be done), cover design (roughly $200-$1500), interior design and typesetting (depends on complexity and book length $200-$2000). If you can do some of these tasks yourself, then those costs can be reduced or eliminated, however, I don’t recommend skipping editing or editing your book yourself, even if you are professional editor - you are too close to it.

Marketing: $500-$5,000+ - depends on your goals for your book, how you will distribute it, what types of publicity you want to do (print, broadcast, internet & live appearances), and, again, how much knowledge you have to do some tasks yourself.

As you can see, the only cost that e-publishing avoids is printing, which runs from about $1.50 a book on up depending on size of print run (and whether it is off-set or POD),  format & size, page count, color usage, etc.

Because the book business is so hyper-competitive with about a million new books being produced each year, you really can’t cut corners if you want a professional book that will get noticed and garner sales in a range to be profitable. But successful publishing is a business and has costs like running any business.

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"And I thought after 40 years of writing, I could write a sales letter... WRONG! Carol White's letter went beyond my imagination and into the sales stratosphere. Thanks, Carol! " -- AD Walker