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Why won’t the book stores talk to me?

 

Recently I received an email from a gentleman who had his first book on the market. He was upset - he couldn’t figure out what he was doing wrong:

I composed what I thought was quite a good marketing email and set up a wholesale easy-ordering web page accepting purchase order, check or major credit cards through Paypal. All for naught.  I sent it to dozens of indie stores and got no takers.  Web stats indicated they never even visited the order page.  I phoned quite a few too, and they had very little interest in speaking to a (micro) publisher or author.  Do you think that’s a typical response, or might I be doing something wrong?

My response helped him see his plight from a very different viewpoint:

Put yourself in the place of the retailer. There are 500,000 new books this year to choose from. You have your accounts set-up with Ingram and maybe B&T. You can aggregate purchases onto a single order form, get one bill, have full return privileges, they keep track of everything for you – you have only one account (or maybe two) to keep track of and your buys and returns are all tracked perfectly.  Running a book store is difficult, but at least the ordering has been made easier with the advent of Ingram. The retailer no longer has to deal with thousands of vendors – if it is worthy, it will be available from a wholesaler at a minimum. It is a way of “weeding” things out too.

Then you get this piece of email from someone who you don’t know, don’t know anything about the author or the book – just one book that I’ve never heard of – and who is this publisher? – and I can’t just order it from Ingram or B&T?  DELETE….

Make sense?  It is a very tough business and no one wants to make life any more difficult than it needs to be.  Why would they disturb their business model to deal with you? What’s in it for them?  If you want to play their game, you have to use their tools – wholesalers, distributors, and mainstream promotion.  If you can’t or don’t want to do that, you are going to have to be happy with direct to consumer promotions – mainly through the internet, but others are possible.  This is what a marketing plan is all about – making those choices and having a business plan to back it up – how will you finance your choices and a million other decisions.

I feel badly for you because you are trying to do things right, but you are thinking in terms of your own self-interest, not the self-interest of the book retailer who is the "gatekeeper" to your success.

 

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An e-book or something totally new?

Lots has been bantered around about the changes that are happening in the book world, but none is quite as graphic and real as this short video done by Penquin books.

Our entire way of distributing books, selling books, and reading books will change in the next ten years. Even the "old folks" like me will have to put our papers and paper books down because there will be so much completely mind-blowing content on the mobile devices that it will compel us to be involved.

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Pre-Pub Publicity Done Right

 

I was out for my walk this morning enjoying NPR’s "Fresh Air" - a podcast of Terry Gross’s very popular show, this edition about Global Climate Change - and it dawned on me at the end of the podcast that this was a perfect example of pre-pub publicity done right.

The guest has an upcoming book this spring on climate change, which he plugged, but what was more interesting was how he got on NPR (a dream for all of us, right?). He did what I tell clients to do all the time - write articles about your SUBJECT, not your book, your subject, and get them into circulation well before your book comes out.

In this case, he wrote an article about global climate change that was picked up, in of all things, Rolling Stone magazine. Huh? Well, I guess they do articles on things other than pop culture and music. Terry Gross saw the article and invited him to her show. Now, of course, we can’t all get written up in Rolling Stone or on NPR, but we surely can get written up in journals, magazines, blogs and websites that relate to our content on some level.

So here is the progression of the pre-pub publicity that will undoubtedly sell many books for him due to this wonderful media coverage:

  • Author writes book and sets pub date many months out
  • Author writes articles RELATED to the book’s content - hopefully several
  • Author gets articles published, either online or in print - this takes time too
  • People see article and look for more information creating interest
  • Maybe even someone with a TV show, radio show, podcast, or film studio sees the article.
  • Author gets invited to participate in TV, Radio, film - or maybe another print interview or article - or maybe several
  • Author gets to talk about his subject, and, oh by the way, his upcoming BOOK.
  • The interview gets turned into additional content - podcasts, youtube, video trailers, that more people see.

This is the power of pre-publication publicity that gets your book off to a great start and the buzz started before it is available. All of these same tactics are worthy and available post-pub too, but they have special buzz-creating properties when utilized before the book is available.

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Is the 70% Kindle “royalty” a good deal?

So, what no one is talking about is the little line that Amazon slipped into their announcement package: " For each Kindle book sold, authors and publishers who choose the new 70 percent royalty option will receive 70 percent of list price, net of delivery costs."

They went on to say: "Delivery costs will be based on file size and pricing will be $0.15/MB. At today’s median DTP file size of 368KB, delivery costs would be less than $0.06 per unit sold."

NO BIG DEAL, right? 

Well, maybe not right now, but the e-book arena is expected to explode with all kinds of new features embedded in books - links, pictures, video, animation, and who knows what else - and what does that mean?  BANDWIDTH. Cost to download.

That is what Amazon is really doing - positioning today for the huge files that will be downloaded in the future - and the ability to charge the publisher/author for the "delivery" of those files.

We may all be yearning for the days of 25-30% "royalty."

 

 

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The Decade of Mobile Publishing

This is a guest post from a fellow Linked-In member - very insightful about the coming decade.

 

Whether it will be the Apple Kindle killer or someone else’s tablet computer, mobile publishing will have a huge impact in the next decade with serious consequences for the print industry. Printers who choose to disregard this phenomenon will do so at their own peril. Print production will rapidly become a subset of multimedia production. Folks with knowledge of print production will retain their value only if they also augment their skill set with a thorough knowledge of video, flash, html authoring and other multimedia skills.

Many have argued that formats like the Amazon Kindle, Barnes and Noble Nook and other electronic content delivery systems will never have the look, feel and flexibility of the printed page. In some cases they are probably right, but in the vast majority of cases, that point of view is simply wishful thinking.

Here’s why. The next decade will see tablet PCs that are much more than electronic books. They will have gorgeous full-color touch screens that will come very close to simulating paper, but will have even more flexibility. You will be able to write on them, create art on them, shoot and retouch and edit photos and video on them, and of course connect with the Internet through WiFi and 4G networks. Phone, fax, notebook, notepad, still and video camera, voice recorder, calendar, LinkedIn, Facebook and a whole lot more all in one 6×9 package weighing a pound our less.

Would you honestly spend two or three times as much money for every book you buy when you can carry around a few dozen books everywhere you go and use the same device to replace your laptop, desktop, fax machine and more?

A few other things will almost certainly happen in the next decade. Solid state memory will probably replace existing hard drives because they are better suited for mobile computing. The ability to read SD cards is already a de facto standard in the PC market. CDs will fade in popularity because the devices for reading them are simply too bulky for tablet applications, and they will be replaced by SD cards. It’s a bit surprising that this trend hasn’t already started, though I suppose CDs are still cheaper than SD cards and the superior capacity of the cards is not a plus when you are selling music. Still, movies are not yet moving to SD cards either. I predict they will in the coming decade. The bulk and cost of adding CD/DVD read/write mechanisms to tablet PCs will make the manufacturers of those devices opt for smaller memory devices that don’t require any moving parts.

When a very good full color tablet PC hits the market, which may happen as early as next month if Apple rumors are correct, they will sell by the millions. Netbooks are already selling well, but they just don’t hit that sweet-spot of portability and capability that a Kindle-sized tablet PC will offer. The book sellers are ready to pounce on the market since they make most of their money on books and related offerings, not on the end-delivery product. Amazon and Barnes and Noble may try to keep pace with new offerings, but it seems likely a more full-featured machine will quickly eclipse the models currently available.

If you’re looking for a growth market, I’d suggest European-style men’s carry bags which will be perfect for the new tablet PCs. They’re too big for your pocket, but a heck of a lot easier to carry around than a laptop.

Authored by Stephen Beals  http://www.printoolz.com

 

 

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When do you Start Marketing Your Book?

Get your book really ready by following these steps:

1) You need a distribution strategy (whether POD or off-set - just the logistics are different) - how sad is it to create great buzz - and you don’t have your book anyplace where the trade and consumers can get it for your anxious buyers. Big lost sales and a waste of $$ on the publicist.

2) To engage a trade distributor (assuming you are doing print runs) you must have a written marketing plan for them.

3) You have to make sure that your product is top notch - or a publicist won’t take it - their reputation is on the line with every book they recommend to their media contacts. that is what you are really paying for - who they know.

4) You have to make sure that your price is competitive with other books in your genre or no amount of publicity will create the sales that you expect.

5) You need a good media kit for the publicist to use as a basis for the publicity she/he will create for you - or you can pay the publicist to do that work for you.

When I can "have it my way" - which isn’t often (<: - I prefer to work on the book at least 6 months ahead of the pub date - you really need that much time to get the marketing/distribution/pricing plans together, apply to distributors, get their paperwork done, get their sales team representing your book to the chains, the chains place their advance orders, you know how many to print and ship to them, they have to get them in stores - all prior to your pub date.

A website is another activity that should be done as early as possible - you can use it to begin creating advance buzz for your book, have a media room where the media can learn about your book (cover art, pictures from the book, pub date, etc.) and a place to post your media coverage as it comes in. You can post your Table of contents, a sample chapter, do a blog, and so on - lots you can do to start building that platform waaayyy ahead of the book.

You also need your publicist in place with your media kit to do pre-pub reviewers 3-4 months minimum before pub date (required time), get early copies out to large magazines with long lead times, and then when the time gets closer, do newspapers, blogs, websites, and short cycle magazines.

WHEW!!! See why it takes 6 months? Oh - and YOU have to follow-up on all this to maximize the impact.

My motto: No follow-up = no results

Of course all of this is predicated on your goals for your project, the amount of resources (time & money) you can devote to your book and any constraints that your life situation imposes on you (don’t want to do live appearances or maybe radio terrifies you, etc.).

So give your book a chance – start early and plan your marketing just as carefully as you planned your words on the page.

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Should I buy a media e-mail list?

I think buying email lists are a waste of time for the most part. I use three tactics to contact the media:

1) When each edition was launched I used a publicist who specializes in my genre to do a campaign (cost about $3K) - that really gets the ball rolling. Having the publicist’s name attached to a book creates immediate credibility - they won’t represent a book they think is not salable - their reputation is on the line with their carefully nurtured media contacts. I was able to get 30+ articles, reviews, etc. with this method each time. Each of those stories and reviews created hundreds of sales.

2) I keep the name and email address of every media person I ever talk to on an excel spreadsheet - these are people who I know write about my genre and I use that to send media releases.

3) I develop that list using Google Alerts - I keep alerts for my "book name" (in quotes), my "author name" and several relating to the genre - for me "road trips", "road trip budgets", "RV trips", etc. Then whenever something is written about any of those key words, I get a notice from Google. I follow the link and see what the article, discussion, website, blog is about. I often post a helpful comment with a link to my website (thus creating valuable "back links"), or contact the journalist/blogger/website owner if I can find their email, then add whatever information I can glean to my media list. it is also often another opportunity to get someone to write about you and your book.

The email lists that you buy are not usually very "clean" and they are seldom targeted to your needs, and most importantly, those people don’t have a clue who you are or why they should even open your email or note.

In today’s market it is all about having the right contacts and targeting the right media.

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A Bad Distribution Experience

I recently had a conversation with an author who was trying to understand why her distributor “oversold” her book and she got so many returns. She had even done an additional print run to try to keep up with “demand” and was now stuck with hundreds of books that didn’t “sell through” to the consumer. This is a very good illustration of what can happen when you decide to play with the “big boys” without really understanding the full implications of doing that. The sad thing is that this author really only wanted her book in a few local stores, but didn’t fully realize what she was getting into when she signed on with a distributor. Here is part of the advice and information I provided to her:

 

A distributor only responds to the demand placed by the book stores and wholesalers – they weren’t “unsure of the demand” – they were obviously getting orders.  They don’t order books from you just to have them sit in the warehouse.  If orders are coming in from their clients, they fill them – and order more.  They are used to the returns game, so they just keep ordering.

You have to realize that this is a huge business – you can’t just play the game “partway” – it is an all or nothing game.  The distributor doesn’t “test the waters” – their job is to sell books and to fill orders – nothing else. The book sellers want to sell every possible book of yours they can – they have to have them in the supply chain to do that – in their warehouse, in the stores.  And they do this thousands of times a day – they don’t have time to worry about your individual titles – you’ve signed up to play the game and they are “gaming the system” for you.  It is nothing personal – it is all done by computers – no one is looking at your titles – it is only numbers.  YOU are the only one looking out for you.

As I said, you needed to understand that all the books “in the field” weren’t sold.  Your distributor can look that up for you, but they won’t unless you ask. Their computers are just whirring away placing orders and taking returns.

So, all that being said, what are you going to do now to sell your books?  How many do you have left?  Unfortunately you just have to chalk this up to experience and move on with your sales efforts.

##############

This is why having people on your team that have been through these very situations is so important. A few dollars spent on some consulting would have saved her a print run, a bad experience with distribution and a lot of heartache.

 

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The Power of Publicity

Just to point out the power of publicity, let me share a little story. In 2006, I had an opportunity to be interviewed for Money Magazine (circ. 2M) on a topic totally unrelated to the book. The story ran many pages with lots of pictures. They even sent a photo crew - it was great fun. See the online version here:
http://money.cnn.com/2006/09/07/pf/retirement
/retire0610_prosperlifetime.moneymag/index.htm

Buried several pages into the article was this one little statement:

That money helped to finance a retirement dream: She and her husband Phil spent a year in an RV visiting all 48 contiguous states and even wrote a book about their adventure.

That was the sum of the mention of our book - no name, no website URL, nothing. So how was I to capitalize on this "non-mention"?

I had my webmaster add "Money Magazine" "Retire Rich" (that was the cover banner), and "Can you Live Long and Prosper" (the article name) to my key words for the website (our names were already key words). We also put the cover on the home page so that if people found us - they would know they had reached the correct website.

Our sales doubled that month! I figure we sold somewhere between 100-200 books extra due to that non-mention in a major magazine. So what are the "take-aways"?

* All publicity is good publicity - never pass up an opportunity.
* Be creative in how to take advantage of your publicity
* Always be on the look out for a way to get mentioned - and don’t be shy about asking for a book mention.

In November, GEICO gave us a nice mention in an article about traveling with your grandchildren - also unrelated to the book. That pumped sales for November nicely.

They even mentioned the book name this time!
http://viewer.zmags.com/publication/6b02c1a9#/6b02c1a9/11

Hope that gives you some inspiration for your own publicity.

 

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New Google Tool for Key Words

Here is a really interesting video for those of us who are trying to market on the internet – it describes a new free tool that Google is providing to help you analyze appropriate key words, but it also goes on to describe how to use some of Google’s other great features that will help you find appropriate blogs, discussion groups, videos in your niche, etc.

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RGxOPUNzBj4

This may be a way to decrease your risk when using Google Ad Words as a marketing tool.

 

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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