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Is a Subsidy Publisher right for your project?

This is a guest post from fellow consultant Shel Horowitz. He originally did this as a post on LinkedIn and I liked it so much, I asked him if I could post it here. Thanks, Shel.

 

It doesn’t sound like it would be a big deal, but the organization that assigns the ISBN to the book is the publisher. When your publisher is a subsidy house (such as Trafford, AuthorHouse, XLibris, iUniverse—all owned by the same company, incidentally—or Outskirts, Infinity and their hundreds of competitors), anyone in the industry can tell by the ISBN that you went with a publisher that does no vetting, that will take anyone who can pay the fee (other than hate speech or smut), that doesn’t give a flying f about whether the book has been proofread, let alone edited—and that in most cases will have a very generic cover and interior design. The industry, having seen vast quantities of junk coming out of these presses, assumes that anything with one of those labels is junk.

And the unfortunate reality is that 90 percent of the books coming out of these presses should never have been published. There’s certainly a lot of junk coming out of true self-publishing, too—but the percentage of good stuff is much, much higher.

Now there are a few reasons why in some cases it makes sense to go this route, as long as you know what you’re getting into and have good reasons. For example:

  • A client of mine whose book was good enough to publish traditionally told me he was in his late 80s and didn’t want to wait two years to find a publisher and have the book come out, and likewise he didn’t want the hassle of being his own publisher. He went with iUniverse, and probably sold a lot fewer books, but got it done very quickly at relatively low expense.
  • Infinity (my favorite of this ilk) got wind of my Grassroots Marketing for Authors and Publishers and begged me to let them publish it. I let them do their own edition for the book trade. If a bookstore wants to order, I let them order Infinity’s edition. If an individual orders, I fill the order from the books I printed under my own ISBN (which cost me half as much per copy as Infinity’s). What I got out of it was outsourcing all the hassles of dealing with bookstores, as well as “street cred” with subsidy-published authors who might hire me for book consulting or marketing consulting/copywriting.
  • Professional speakers often use these companies because they don’t want the hassles, and because they have a built-in market that doesn’t care that their books are ugly and overpriced. In that market, they can pay the $9 per book to get them printed, because they sell them direct for maybe $25. In a bookstore, where comparable books might be $18 and the bookstore takes 40 percent, the numbers don’t work.
  • Finally, when I get a client with a crappy book that has a sharply limited life expectancy, I recommend these companies. If you’re going to sell 100 or fewer books during the life of a title, there’s no point setting up a publishing company, choosing printing and design vendors, etc., or paying someone to do it for you.

In true self-publishing, you buy your ISBN block and you choose your vendors for all the services you need (such as editing, design, indexing). And you set the price of the book. Some subsidy houses will allow you to supply your own cover and interior. Some will even let you set your own price. And some subsidy houses also offer on-demand printing services where they don’t assign an ISBN; in this case, you are buying short-run printing from a company that happens to also offer subsidy publishing services, but you are not subsidy publishing. Many people use companies like Lulu and the printing arm associated with Infinity to do Advance Reader Copies (ARCs). I used Lulu to do a relative’s vanity project in  run of 6 copies. I didn’t ask for ISBN and I didn’t use one of mine. I was simply using them as a printer.

But ultimately, there’s only one test that makes the determination whether a book is self- or subsidy published: who obtained the ISBN from the official ISBN agency (Bowker, in the US).

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Book shepherd and publishing/book marketing consultant Shel Horowitz’s two most recent books are Grassroots Marketing for Authors and Publishers (self-published) and Guerrilla Marketing Goes Green (Wiley), both of which have won multiple awards. Visit him at www.FrugalMarketing.com

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Marketing Gurus and Publicists - Who does what?

In my opinion, there is only one huge  reason to hire a PR firm - who they know. Just sending out an email "blast" - you can do that for yourself.

What a true PR professional (I’m not one!) brings to the table is a virtual "rolodex" of media names in your industry (very important) who will listen when this professional sends a story lead to them. They trust this person and know that if he/she sends the lead - they should consider it. It is the rifle approach vs the shotgun. I don’t think shotguns work very well (<:

A marketing professional (I am one) brings a different set of skills to the table. They look at your project from a holistic view. They consider all parts of the project and how to best market it. They work with such things as:

* Who is the target market? How large is it? How easy is it to reach?

* Is the product produced appropriately for the market? Is the language the right level? Are the graphics appropriate, Is it well-edited?

* What is the competition? How does this book stack up against the competition?

* What is the unique "hook" that this project brings? How does it fit in with the competition?

* Is the book priced correctly for the market? Can it be distributed at that price and make money?

* How should the product be distributed to meet the authors/publishers goals? What has to be done to get it distributed to the correct channels?

* How do each of the appropriate channels fit into the overall sales mix? Does that mix create profits?

* And lastly, how should this product be promoted? What mix of publicity and/or advertising will be needed to meet the sales goals?

* Does the author have the funds to meet those goals? If not, what can be done to modify the sales goals and/or increase exposure within the budget?

* Which methods is the publisher/author willing to employ to sell the book? Live presentations? Internet? Print? Broadcast? Everyone has their own time, financial and personal constraints that expand or limit what they are willing and can do.

You’ve got to hire the right person for the job you want done. Some publicists also do some marketing work as I described, but many do not. I work with (and refer to) a lot of PR professionals - and they often bring me into jobs that aren’t yet ready for publicity to help get them ready. There is nothing more disheartening than to see someone pay for a publicity campaign when the underlying marketing work has not yet been done. A good example is a book that wants nationwide publicity, yet is only available on the author’s website and at a price that doesn’t fit the market they are going after. Sigh…

The other advantage a marketing professional brings to the table is that they can help you develop a marketing and media plan that you can implement yourself. I prepare media kits, media plans with timelines and resources, as well as do marketing and website evaluations, pricing plans, get appropriate distribution for people, and yes, refer to a publicist when the author/publisher has that as part of their overall marketing plan.

Sometimes it is a "tough love" business, but a good marketing professional will always guide your decision making in the right direction. They don’t say things to be mean - they just want you to be successful. But, one of the beauties of being an author and/or a publisher, is that you get the final say on all phases of your project, including your marketing.

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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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To Deface or not to Deface Review Copies

This is a guest post by Peter Furtado, historian and publisher www.historyfm.co.uk

Peter provides real world experience from a post originally on LinkedIn.

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As a former magazine editor I used to get a mountain of books across my desk every day, some of them on totally irrelevant subjects. Maybe one percent in total got reviewed in my magazine. What to do the with rest? The options are:
1. Send them back
2. Keep them
3. Give them away (or take them home)
4. Sell them on.
5. Burn them.

Option 1 puts me to time and expense that I couldn’t afford - these are, ultimately, unsolicited trade samples. It can a big enough job for a small publisher to unpack and check all the review copies that arrive, without packing them back up again and posting them back.

Option 2 is impractical: my office has limited space.

Options 3 and 4 both potentially detract from potential genuine sales for the publisher and author in equal measure. From their POV, these are not good options, but from mine they are practical and manageable. So that’s what we did. They meant that, once every couple of months, I could see the other side of my office. And by putting them in circulation, there is always a good chance that these volumes will contribute to a word-of-mouth whispering campaign about how good that book is, which would not be the case with options 1 and 2.

Option 5: not for me.

PS Defacing a book won’t stop people selling it on, or buying it. For breakfast this morning, I have just had bread from my local deli. The bag is clearly marked ‘Not for Resale’. I’ve asked about this, but the retailer can’t explain why, and I can’t buy that bread anywhere else, and it’s the tastiest bread I can buy in Oxford where I live. Frankly, I don’t care about that Not for Resale sticker.

 

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