The Book Marketing Blogby Penny Sansevieri
February 7, 2011
Part 1: What is a Platform and How Can You Identify it?
There’s a lot of information out there on the “how” of social media: How to set up a Twitter account, how to tweet, how to build a fan page, etc. But there isn’t a lot of information on why you’d want to use social media. You might say, “Well, everyone is doing it and having great success!” I would observe that not everyone is having great success; in fact, many authors I speak to are still trying to find their way online.
One thing that I’ve noticed when it comes to social media is that most of the time we think that it’s ok to just jump in, and that’s true — up to a point. You’d never think of driving from San Diego to New York without a roadmap or GPS, so why would you endeavor to promote yourself online without first mapping out a strategy and surveying the terrain?
Why does any of this matter? Well, I will tell you that the more work you do in preparation for your campaign, the less of an effort it will seem once you get started. Also, the more work you do now can and should save you considerable wasted expense later. You will know exactly where to spend your time and money and you will have a campaign that will not only feel seamless, but also move more quickly towards your success. Sound good? Then let’s begin!
One of the first things you’ll want to do when you start down this path of social media promotion is ask yourself: Why am I doing this? Well, you might say, to promote myself. Exactly! But (other than book sales), what is the motivation behind that promotion? The reason I say “other than book sales” is because you must have a broader scope to your work than just selling a book. If your single focus in promotion is to sell a book, you will be sorely disappointed. Your focus must be larger, such as:
• Expanding my business
• Increasing my speaking gigs
• Growing my platform
Then you’ll have a much better chance of success online and you’ll be ready to dig into online promotion. Let’s first look at growing your platform.
What’s your platform?
Before we can launch into what your platform is, you must first have a good grasp of what a platform is. A platform is not who you know, but who knows you. It’s your area of influence. Still unclear on this concept? Take heart, most authors leap into marketing without knowing what a platform is or how to grow it. First, let’s look at what might be considered to be a platform:
1. Your business: this is pretty obvious. You have a business and your business is your platform. Your reach and your influence are through your customers.
2. Your speaking: any speaking you do, whether paid or unpaid, is considered a platform.
3. Newsletter subscribers: these are people who want to know what you’re doing; they are your tribe and also part of your platform.
4. Existing fan bases: any connections, whether through speaking, your newsletter, or any other fan base can be considered part of your platform.
5. Associations/groups: do you belong to any type of related association? These people and this affiliation can also be part of your platform. Though perhaps less direct and immediate, I’ll walk you through how to solidify these contacts and bring them into your funnel.
6. Work you’ve done in the past: anything related to what you’ve written about now is part of your platform. Teaching, classes you’ve taken, speaking, or just life experiences as it relates to your topic can also be woven into your platform.
Identifying your platform
For non-fiction authors, the goal of identifying a platform you either have or wish to grow is pretty easy. But for fiction authors it can be a bit more challenging. Yes, you too must have a platform and generally, it is tied closely to your genre.
Every author, whether fiction or non-fiction needs a reach, and once you define where these folks are and how to get to them, you’ll begin to connect with readers both current and future, who can help you to expand your tribe. First, let’s look at defining those readers.
Let’s say you’ve written a fiction book and you are new to the industry and perplexed as to how you might go about expanding your readership. I suggest if this is you that you find other, similar authors in your market and research them online. Becoming your own detective is really the quickest way to piece together a platform and learn how their platform might help you build yours. For example, if you have written romance you can research the top 15 authors in your market. If you do this, I suggest looking at the midlist authors, not the top sellers like Danielle Steele, etc. who, through years of publishing, have grandfathered themselves into a mega-platform. Instead you want to look at authors who are likely on their own, meaning without the resources of a personal assistant or staff of a thousand. Research these authors and see where they end up online. Do they have Fan Pages on Facebook? Are they on Twitter? What groups do they participate in, etc.? Now you’ll start to get a sense of how a platform is built and what you need to do to grow yours.
If you’ve written non-fiction and the idea of a platform seems foreign to you then I suggest that you do the same thing, Follow your market, research others who share your specialty and uncover the different ways that they expand their reach via their platform.
Next time, we’re going to dig into your platform even further. We’ll look at the steps necessary to grow a platform and how to break this down into a manageable action plan.
December 17, 2010
We’re highlighting several of the best book marketing Tweets during the past week to boost your marketing efforts. These tips come from bloggers, marketers, authors and others and cover a variety of topics, such as finding an agent, keeping your readers on your blog longer, creating a Facebook Page, and how to maximize your book revenue. Best of luck with your marketing!
* 7 Ways to Define Your Blog’s Target Readers, http://dld.bz/98K8.
* Marketing Tips for Authors: 5 Tips In Responding to Criticism, http://dld.bz/Ag7M.
* What to Focus on Once the Book is With the Publisher, http://dld.bz/9AyU.
* How to Build a Solid Social Media Platform, http://dld.bz/Ag8f.
* 7 Habits of Highly Effective Tweets, http://ow.ly/3iGzV.
* Google eBookstore: Your Next Sales Platform? http://dld.bz/Ag89.
* Find an Agent for Your Book, http://dld.bz/AgAt.
* 40 Useful Things You to share on Twitter besides Blog Posts, http://ow.ly/3lMoM.
* Elements of a Successful Marketing Plan, http://dld.bz/AgAU.
* How to Keep Readers on Your Blog Longer, http://bit.ly/hw2uSV.
* Why Twitter is a Better Search Engine Than Google, http://dld.bz/AgBs.
* What Does it Mean to Comment on Blogs – and Why Bother? http://ow.ly/1araXt.
* When (or Why) Social Media Fails to Sell Books, http://dld.bz/AK5S.
* How to Become a Powerhouse Blogger in just 15 Minutes! http://retwt.me/1Q6MS.
* YouTube Trends – see what’s hot on YouTube Right Now, http://dld.bz/AK6k.
* How To Create A Facebook Fan Page For Your Book Or Author Brand (video), http://bit.ly/ewgTGp.
* Publishing Insiders Wrap-Up: Top Publishing Trends for 2011, http://nblo.gs/bReLW.
* How to Build Your Credibility as an Expert While Blogging, http://dld.bz/AK9d.
* Showing off the Best Material in Your Blog Archive: http://dld.bz/97NM.
* 10 Tips to Go From Novice to Noticed on Twitter, http://dld.bz/AK9E.
* Monetize It – JA Konrath Talks About How to Maximize Revenue From Your Books, http://bit.ly/dWi31n.
* How to Write a Press Release That Gets Attention, http://dld.bz/AKBd.
* Conquering Your Fears of Social Media, http://dld.bz/AKBQ.
September 4, 2010
It’s Labor Day weekend and hopefully you’ll get out, have some fun and enjoy the last hurrah for summerâ€¦
Publishing is still in some limbo – Ron Burkle and Len Riggio continue to fight over the future of Barnes and Noble. More and more e-readers are coming onto the market, and there is now an e-reader priced under $100. What will the holidays bring in terms of price wars? It’s bound to be good for consumers. Meanwhile, Borders has had some layoffs and has stopped speaking to the media, apparently. The future of this bookstore chain has also been subject to much speculation, and its foray into selling e-readers and partnership with Build-A-Bear will be interesting to watch to see if it can turn things around.
There’s more back and forth over whether e-readers are the death of publishing or its salvation. Our conventional wisdom is: neither; e-readers represent another way to sell books.
There’s also a brouhahaha over the New York Times and its supposed love of Jonathan Franzen and other white male authors at the expense of women authors, but it’s hard to put Franzen in the same boat as Jodi Picoult who writes more mainstream, less literary books (as much as we enjoy her work). But we’ll say that any debate involving books (over, say: reality TV “stars,” and the like) is a good thing to take up headlines. For fun, check out Chick Lit versus Dude Lit, http://bit.ly/ah7yDF.
Finally: Knowledge is power: Read a banned book today, in honor of Banned Books Week, September 25-October 2, 2010! http://bit.ly/9KKcsm.
So, let’s look at some highlights of the week that was:
* 12 favorite non-book literary oddities on e-Bay, http://bit.ly/aI3k3P.
* ‘Dora The Explorer Book: Over 50 Million Copies Sold As Series Turns 10,’ http://huff.to/blUSYr.
* PC World looks at the next wave of e-readers coming soon, http://bit.ly/duNKzU.
* â€˜To Self-Publish or Not to Self-Publish’ – very useful breakdown of the pros and cons, http://huff.to/8YJbHf.
* â€˜Ron Charles Takes 60 Seconds to Save Book Reviewing,’ by using video, http://bit.ly/b4qAAW.
* â€˜Fall Books 2010 Highlights: Who Made The Cut?’ http://huff.to/bGukuy.
* â€˜Next Generation of E-Readers Could Be Flexible,’ http://bit.ly/a2yswY.
* Try the weird words quiz – recognize any of these? http://bit.ly/byUpM7.
* Catchy concepts in kids’ books (love these covers!) http://bit.ly/bxd9n4.
* Staples will start selling Amazon’s Kindle, http://bit.ly/9EQRCy.
* â€˜Borders Slashes E-Reader Prices to $99,’ http://bit.ly/acA0Rq.
* â€˜10 Facts About Books You Won’t Read in a Book About Books’ – fun video, http://bit.ly/bpSAUC.
* Stephenson and Bear Release ‘social Book’ a digital novel titled The Mongoliad, http://bit.ly/dcbM2z.
* Does a book’s popularity guarantee its movie’s success? http://bit.ly/dwwUYN.
* â€˜Cool fall books: Warm up with these reads,’ http://bit.ly/9G8hev.
* â€˜The 11 Worst Memoir Covers Ever,’ Some of these are fun to look at! http://huff.to/9TdeBq.
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- Jodi Picoult Says Book Reviewers Favor “White Male Literary Darlings”: It’s Sexism, Not Sour Grapes (thefrisky.com)
- Randy Susan Meyers: Lit Versus Commercial Fiction: Writer Wars? (huffingtonpost.com)
- Jason Pinter: Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Weiner Speak Out On Franzen Feud: HuffPost Exclusive (huffingtonpost.com)
August 28, 2010
Round one goes to Random House, which “won” its battle with Wiley Agency’s Odyssey Books over digital rights. Wiley created Odyssey to publish e-books and signed an exclusive deal with Amazon to offer e-books of 20 classic titles, from the likes of Philip Roth, Martin Amis and John Updike, which Random House promptly protested. Since most of the Odyssey authors had print deals with Random House, the publisher claimed the digital rights as well; this week the matter was quietly settled between the two groups. Wiley has not released any statement about the resolution, but Random House announced that it will shortly sell 13 of those 20 Odyssey titles at various online sites (not just Amazon). For more, check out http://on.wsj.com/9DRGkA.
The battle for the future of Barnes & Noble gets ugly, with Len Riggio, chairman of the board, working hard to urge shareholders to reject any offers from Ron Burkle to purchase 30% of the company. Publishers Weekly breaks it down, http://bit.ly/b8tBqf.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention digital books and digital reading devices. Amazon.com was back in the news this week as its newest Kindle (called K3 by customers) started shipping. Reviews of the new device, which is lighter, slimmer, faster and offers better screen resolution, have been uniformly good and the first wave of K3 owners seem quite happy. Meanwhile, additional devices are entering the market at low prices, a color e-reader will be available soon, and everyone is waiting to see the price wars that will develop – especially around the holidays.
In other publishing news:
* The 10 highest-paid authors; James Patterson is at #1 with $70 million, http://bit.ly/cl7uNr.
* CVS will sell a $100 Sylvania netbook and a $179 e-reader this fall – Tylenol not included, http://bit.ly/dcUxDo.
* The words ‘Climate change’ and the ‘vuvuzela’ leave a mark on the Oxford Dictionary of English, http://bit.ly/9NELYm.
* ‘Get Ready for Ads in Books,’ (product placement in TV, movies paves the way), http://bit.ly/cQrQHm.
* ‘Breathtaking Adaptations: 13 Classic Books Transformed Into Graphic Novels,’ http://huff.to/bm7ubg.
* ‘Obama Gets Franzen Novel Early, and Publishing Panic Ensues,’ http://nyti.ms/9qBYTy.
* ‘Booksellers Brace for â€˜Mockingjay’ Landing’ (and have high hopes for a bestseller), http://nyti.ms/b8ttOS.
* Check out the e-readers coming soon to Borders, including a tablet, http://bit.ly/92sZHb.
* ‘Medieval Copy Protection – the Book Curse to Keep Thieves at Bay,’ http://bit.ly/aok7PT.
* ‘Fusion: The Synergy of Images and Words,’ (great photos of readers with their books worldwide), http://bit.ly/9f0Xdw.
* ‘Aluratek’s E-reader Cracks the $100 Barrier,’ http://bit.ly/a9cFvX.
* Try the Ray Bradbury quiz in honor of his 90th birthday, http://bit.ly/byaLFQ.
* ‘Homer the Memoir Cat Gets a Comic Book,’ http://bit.ly/aH4Ad8.
* ‘Color Comes to an E-Reader, the Literati,’ http://nyti.ms/cFH36P.
* ‘6 ‘Flashlight Worthy’ Children’s Books to Read After You Finish Mockingjay,’ http://huff.to/d9CIdy.
* ‘HarperCollins Releases Kids’ iPhone Apps,’ http://bit.ly/99rEUi.
* ‘The ABCs of E-Reading: People Are Reading More, Even While in a Kayak,’ http://bit.ly/bpJkcp.
* New Laura Lippman thriller sells more e-books than hardcovers, http://bit.ly/aYU5H1.
* ‘Empty Space: 40+ Stunning Minimalistic Book Covers,’ http://bit.ly/aIb4QM.
* ‘Cakes and Cupcakes Inspired by Books,’ (amazing and mouth watering!), http://bit.ly/cU751F.
* ‘Five Books to Read After Checking the Egg Recall List,’ http://bit.ly/bGAY53.
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- Weiner Escalates Feud With Franzen Coverage (huffingtonpost.com)
- Kindle 3 user review compilation (ireaderreview.com)
- Penguin in talks with Wylie over Odyssey titles (teleread.com)
August 21, 2010
It’s time to veg out; summer is just about over, back to school is around the corner (if not already underway). Let’s kick back as key events in the publishing world play out. Will Barnes & Noble be sold or become privately owned? Will Wiley Agency’s e-book imprint Odyssey succeed? What will happen with the digital book and digital reading device price and product wars? We’ll just have to wait and see.
We’ll consider lighter matters: Celeboirs (aka celebrity memoirs) to anticipate, fear or loathe in the coming year. These include: annoying reality star The Situation (ghost writer for sure) ; singer Natalie Cole; rapper Jay-Z; actress/comedian Betty White, who gets a 2-book deal from Putnam; actor Rob Lowe; actress Barbara Eden; singer Ricky Martin; teen idol Justin Bieber; actress Kate Jackson; actress Soleil Moon Frye; actress Ashley Judd; singer R. Kelly; actress Susan Lucci. Meanwhile, actress/train wreck Lindsay Lohan supposedly worked on her memoirs while in jail. Perhaps she’ll suffer the same fate as Octomom Nadya Suleman, who wrote an autobiography, but no one wants to publish it so far. Have you heard of a few, some or all of these people? Most promising: White’s look back at her long, fruitful career; ditto with Eden’s memoir.
Other news in publishing:
* Dr. Seuss’ ‘Green Eggs and Ham’ turns 50 (and it’s outsold Harry Potter), http://bit.ly/b07Xmo.
* Can you name these books from the portion of their covers? Try it! http://bit.ly/5TaPQu.
* ‘Librarians save the day! 11 great movies in which they star,’ http://huff.to/aGusEN.
* “The Secret” sequel ‘The Power’ is a boon to book sales, http://bit.ly/dAJcjA.
* ‘6 Great Novels that were hated in their time,’ http://bit.ly/aJ2fxK.
* ‘What would ATTICUS do?’ Bookstore’s bumper sticker sales take off, http://bit.ly/cxg3Jb.
* ‘U.S. neighborhood bookstores thrive in digital age,’ http://bit.ly/dwlm9t.
* ‘HarperCollins launches new Vampire Diaries series,’ http://bit.ly/aZsQw5.
* ‘Kobo e-reader price to drop to $99 by Christmas,’ http://bit.ly/b8lAEE.
* ‘5 great books about obscure presidents,’ http://bit.ly/aAt4bt.
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- This Week in Publishing – Bits and Bites from June 26, 2010 (amarketingexpert.com)
- This Week in Publishing: Bits and Bites for July 10 (amarketingexpert.com)
- This Week in Publishing – Bits and Bites for July 3 (amarketingexpert.com)
August 14, 2010
While Barnes & Noble gets ready to put itself up for sale, there is speculation that Len Riggio, chairman of the board, wants to take the company private. But first he’ll have to contend with a possible proxy fight with the second leading shareholder, Ronald Burkle.
Although B&N offered a positive financial forecast in June at its investors conference, based on the introduction of its Nook digital reader and its move into digital publishing, Wall Street was less impressed. Shortly after, there was news that B&N would be put up for sale.
It will be interesting to see what develops… you can read more here:
Also in publishing this week:
* â€˜The Worst Negative Book Review ClichÃ©s,’ http://bit.ly/aL5o2i.
* â€˜The Top 10 Most Expensive Rare Books Sold On AbeBooks This Month,’ http://huff.to/a2D2KZ.
* â€˜50 Famous Books That Were Posthumously Published,’ http://bit.ly/cIPGsR.
* Last words of 10 famous authors, http://tinyurl.com/23ljxev.
* â€˜25 Pickup Lines to Use on New Bookworm Dating Site Alikewise,’ http://bit.ly/bgBtjx.
* â€˜The Library of Bad Books’ – be sure to add your pick(s)! http://bit.ly/buOO7O.
* â€˜Artist Builds Rooms Out of Books,’ http://bit.ly/bkx41Y.
* Shelf lives of bookstore cats, http://bit.ly/dzTTn0.
* Books of the world, stand up and be counted! All 129,864,880 of you, http://bit.ly/db4XOx.
* â€˜Will Independent Bookstores Be the Last Ones Standing?’ http://bit.ly/9OUJwY.
* Banned Books Week is Sept. 25 – Oct. 2, 2010 – see how you can participate, http://bit.ly/13TwRM.
* â€˜The Truly Best-Dressed Characters in Literature,’ http://bit.ly/cECeBT.
* â€˜Jane Mount’s Ideal Bookshelf’ – custom art of your favorite book spines, http://bit.ly/9hA0UU.
* â€˜Book, Movie, Love: Best Sellers and the Hollywood Bounce,’ http://bit.ly/b0lNMD.
* â€˜The 20 Strangest Celebrity Dedications,’ http://bit.ly/d6qnzu.
* Kobo offers free use of its e-readers at 10 Fairmont hotels, http://bit.ly/9t5WXh.
* â€˜Pete Hamill, Patriarch of Print, Goes Direct to Digital With Next Release,’ http://nyti.ms/akhOch.
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- Burkle attacks Barnes & Noble at poison pill trial (reuters.com)
- “Over 1 Million Digital Books Now Available Free to the Blind and Print-Disabled” and related posts (internetarchive.wordpress.com)
- Banned Books Week: Be Your Own Robot ” an Ad a Day (anadaday.wordpress.com)
July 24, 2010
Just when it seemed like the dog days of summer had descended on the publishing world, The Wylie Agency fired the shot that echoed throughout the industry – a shot that will have far-reaching consequences. The agency launched a digital publishing business, called Odyssey Editions, to sell e-book editions of classic titles that are available exclusively on Amazon.com by such Wylie clients as Philip Roth, Martin Amis, Salman Rushdie and John Updike.
Already, Random House has stepped forward to say that because they have the print rights to those authors’ works, they have the digital rights, too. Meanwhile, many in publishing have weighed in, with the sentiment across the board highly critical of Wylie’s decision.
It will be interesting to see how this develops, for more, check out:
Wylie, Random House Dispute Heats Up –
Random House Prepared to Challenge Wylie Agency’s New Publishing Biz –
Digital Shockwave: How Millions of Dollars and the Survival of the Publishing Industry are at Stake –
Konrath on Wylie –
In other publishing news:
* â€˜The Secret’ author Rhonda Byrne’s follow-up, â€˜The Power,’ is out next month (will it set sales records like the first book?), http://bit.ly/cLMqzi.
* Is the true saviour of publishing Starbucks? An interesting piece, http://bit.ly/bWkv33.
* B&N, Blackboard to offer NookStudy, e-textbooks, http://bit.ly/cJVr5F.
* The Celebrity Book Frenzy – it doesn’t always lead to bestsellers, http://bit.ly/9MrOVh.
* Amazon says its e-book sales outpace hardcover sales, http://bit.ly/dr7q8n.
* Choose your ruined future with the Literary Dystopia Quiz, based on one of the hottest genres in publishing right now, http://bit.ly/bkWYkT.
* Celebrate! 11 literary holidays that every book lover should know, http://bit.ly/cjUMUb.
* A review of Borders’ Kobo e-reader, http://bit.ly/9XGFlu.
* B&N files an application for a new e-reader, http://bit.ly/du42w8.
* Karl Rove, former advisor to President Bush, now has a summer book club (he used to have reading contests with President Bush), http://bit.ly/d1n5gA.
* Penguin creates an â€˜amplified’ Ken Follett e-book, just in time for the launch of the TV miniseries, http://bit.ly/brumYy.
* The bookcase you’ll want to live in, http://bit.ly/aFkGw2.
* How Google plans to crush the e-book market, http://bit.ly/9zhepJ.
* Can fart jokes get boys reading? http://huff.to/dtZNST.
* A $20 e-reader will eventually hit the market, http://bit.ly/aJ4s8v.
* â€˜Why The Next Big Pop-Culture Wave After Cupcakes Might Be Libraries,’ http://n.pr/9wWtfG.
* Woody Allen records his first audiobook, http://tinyurl.com/2e36u6l.
* Hate Hemingway and other classics? Check out actual one-star Amazon reviews of books from Time’s 100 best novels from 1923 – present http://bit.ly/nvhoD.
* Eat, Pray, Cancellation – no book for Elizabeth Gilbert’s ex-husband (who was going to write a memoir to give his side of the story), http://bit.ly/cBu2cy.
* Apple iPad owners outnumber Amazon Kindle’s, says analyst, http://bit.ly/ar9cin.
* Sharp plans to launch an e-book reader this year, http://bit.ly/aKUQFC.
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- Amazon strikes sweet exclusive deal – good for them, bad for consumers (crunchgear.com)
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July 17, 2010
To Tweet or not to Tweet – it’s a question many authors and publishers ask. The truth is, tweeting in and of itself does not generate book sales. But in terms of exposure, Twitter is a great tool for authors and publishers, and this week one big topic du jour in the publishing world concerned Twitter, and in particular, the use of hashtags to highlight a subject (such as #dearauthor). Read all about it below, and enjoy the rest of the week’s news – plenty of digital book news, new memoirs, summer reading for kids, a self publishing success story and much more!
* New Mark Twain biography offers a new look at the author and his life, http://nyti.ms/9i6cVd.
* Summer reading for the kids (to stop them from saying I’m bored!) http://bit.ly/9QhlK8.
* Book cover design gives a boost to old books, and is important for e-books, too, http://bit.ly/bY6Fjl.
* A happy ending for the buyer of a damaged thrift shop book (see how the publisher responded), http://bit.ly/b2Q10Z.
* Barnes & Noble introduces NOOKstudy, a free e-studying tool, http://bit.ly/9POjUj.
* 50% of college students plan to buy e-readers, http://tinyurl.com/2c8fqw3.
* Selling 14,000 (self-published) books on a subway? You bet, and learn how one author did it, http://nyti.ms/a07FId.
* “I Write Like” program compares your writing to famous authors – take the challenge! http://bit.ly/cMEzI4.
* “Is it sweet to tweet or is Twitter twaddle?” Both sides, pro and con for Twitter, weigh in on its value (or not) for books and publishing, http://bit.ly/9m2xMu.
* Bookstore Bingo FTW – or why it’s great to be a bookstore customer instead of the staff, who face a barrage of absolutely ridiculous questions, http://bit.ly/9xmpip.
* Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor gets a deal with Knopf to write her memoir, http://bit.ly/a8hDoe.
* Book excerpt: “How to Land (and Keep) a Literary Agent,” by agent Noah Lukeman, http://bit.ly/bJox5X.
* ‘Nanny Lit’ (a la The Nanny Diaries) still in vogue, http://bit.ly/9syoIK.
* Millions of books are digitized for the disabled, http://bit.ly/alhZGC.
* Book excerpt: “How to Write a Great Query Letter” by agent Noah Lukeman, http://bit.ly/dlja8V.
* Author Dean Wesley Smith on “Writers Must Be Taken Care Of,” a myth he tackles in “Killing Sacred Cows,” http://bit.ly/pC8mH.
* Are smaller iPads in the works? http://bit.ly/cCiEly.
* “Will Self Publishing Make You Die?” (A very tongue in cheek piece that is worth reading) http://bit.ly/cSpTOm.
* “Four Ways E-books Will Change Your World” (from Jane Friedman of Writer’s Digest) http://bit.ly/cG9Lya.
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- Barnes & Noble Adds Free Classics to Nook Store [Ebooks] (gizmodo.com)
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July 12, 2010
I get this question a lot: “Now that I’ve self-published I need to find an agent, how do I do that?” Well, it might seem to be a simple and easy transition. I mean you’re already published so it shouldn’t be that hard, right? Not so fast. There are a number of things you need to know before you run headlong into an effort to get a publishing contract.
First off, publishers like what other people like. Well, generally they do. If you’re building success for your book, getting great reviews, building your audience and online presence this is a good thing and will often be viewed favorably by publishers. While there are agents and publishers that won’t even consider a self-published book, there are a number of them who will. The key is to find those agents and publishers and get to know what they specialize in. Since there are a million articles and books on how to craft a query letter and submission packet I’ll skip that. For the purposes of this article, though, we’re going to focus on personal branding and industry positioning.
The first question authors will ask me is how do they know they’re “ready” to submit? Ok, so you’ve got a dozen or so great reviews, you’ve been blogging regularly and you are a regular at author events. Sales, however, are still slumping. You’ve sold 1,000 copies at best and struggled to even make that meager number. Is that a bad thing? Not always, but it depends on how your book was published. If, let’s say, your book was published through a print-on-demand company, a thousand copies is a fairly high number (the average print-on-demand book sells 75 copies).
Also print-on-demand is limited in its distribution, meaning that even if you’ve gotten great media interviews, reviews, and buzz for your book, the reason you’re not selling a ton of copies is the broken distribution systems these books often wrestle with. Bookstores won’t stock them because of the non-returnable factor. (Note to the savvy author, avoid, at all costs, the “returns program” POD publishers offer, bookstores don’t care if you’ve paid to have your book returnable. Don’t believe me? Sign up for it, pay your $500 and then do some calling around to find out).
Here’s the deal: print-on-demand has for years been the red-headed stepchild of publishing. Are there good books published through POD publishers? You bet. But for most of these authors it’s like pushing a boulder uphill. Now don’t get me wrong, all of my first books were published via POD and still they’ve been successful despite the biases and all the other things New York publishing likes to heap on this form of publishing. But the point being: knowing your market and understanding how the market works will go a long way to giving you the insight you need to be successful. Distribution is not defined as a place on Amazon or Barnes and Noble, because anyone with an ISBN can get this type of placement.
Distribution is defined as a distribution company actively marketing your book to bookstores and other sales channels. This doesn’t happen in POD and the New York publishers know this. So, if your book is still selling well despite these obstacles then you’ve got a winner on your hands, and it might be time to seek a bigger publisher for your work. On the flip side, if you have self-published and you do have a distributor in place, then consider trying to pitch your work after you’ve sold over 3,000 copies of your book. But there’s a small catch: you don’t want to sell out of your market. Generally speaking this won’t happen, but in certain cases it could.
Let’s consider, for example, that you wrote a regionally-focused book about the history of a town or state and you’ve focused all of your marketing efforts in that region. It’s likely that if you’ve sold 5,000 copies a publisher or agent could view this as sold out of the majority of the market. You might counter that you could sell this in other markets but unless there’s some tourism angle, it’s not likely and even then, the appeal needs to be really strong. Most books based on towns or cities are sold in the city and generally not outside of that area unless they are big tourism draws, in which case the market becomes much more competitive. Also note that if you’re thinking of trying to cheat the system you should know there’s a little thing called Nielsen BookScan that logs all sales by book and author, so no fair counting your author purchases as sales – BookScan notes sales through commercial sales channels only (major market retailers and bookstores).
All right, so you’re ready to pitch your book. You meet the sales criteria and you know you haven’t sold out of your market. What’s next? Next, ask yourself what your platform is. Platform is one of those words that agents and publishers love to toss out to unsuspecting authors. So what does platform mean? Well, it’s a bit tricky because it varies depending on what you’re writing. Platform isn’t who you know but who knows you. It’s your area of influence. For fiction writers it could be your e-mail list, the subscribers to your blog, conventions you speak at, conferences you attend (as a participant, not just an attendee). For non-fiction authors, defining your platform is a bit easier. Often non-fiction books are tied to speaking, coaching, or some other business model. These are all part of your platform.
When I pitched Red Hot Internet Publicity, one of the first things I listed on my marketing/book outline was my platform: subscribers to the Book Marketing Expert Newsletter, business revenue, speaking events I am booked on, average client base – everything. All of this is your platform and all of it lends itself to having a built-in audience. This is what publishers look for. Regardless of how you publish you still have to market your own book, and publishers know it’ll be easier to market a book that has a following than one that doesn’t.
After you define your platform the next thing is to define your hook. Especially with self-published books, agents and publishers expect you to have a hook. Since the book is published, if you don’t have a hook this is a tell-tale sign that you haven’t been marketing this book correctly, if at all.
How can you find the right agent or publisher for your book? The traditional ways certainly work: getting books and guides designed to give you agent and publisher contact info, but there might be a better way. Try going to some writers’ conferences that allow you to schedule editor and agent appointments. This is a great way to get some immediate feedback on your book, pitch, and the possibility of selling your work. There are a number of conferences around the country, just be sure to look for ones that offer one-on-ones with publishing professionals.
And finally, it’s sometimes tempting to switch genres to get published. But unless there’s some compelling reason for you to genre-hop, like a changing focus in your business, I recommend sticking with what’s been successful for you. Don’t one day write on true crime and the next day start offering dieting advice unless that’s where you want your ultimate focus to be. Also remember that if you’ve been writing true crime for years, and have built an audience and following, you’ve now lost that base by jumping ship.
The truth is that the odds aren’t always in our favor. With several hundred books published each day in the US the market is narrow, to say the least, but if you know your market, have a platform and are selling books, you’re already 90% of the way there – the rest is just finding the right match for your book and maybe a little bit of literary luck.
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July 10, 2010
What’s better than an anniversary? In the publishing world, the classic bestseller To Kill a Mockingbird turns 50. While author Harper Lee may be a bit of a recluse, that hasn’t stopped fans of the book and author from celebrating – there are events all around the country. Interestingly enough, all this buzz about To Kill A Mockingbird has put the book back on the bestseller list!
We’d be remiss not to mention the latest development with digital books. Borders is now a player in the market, having opened its e-bookstore this past week. Apple, Amazon, B&N and Borders are currently vying for dominance, but by next month another rival enters the fray: Google, with Google Editions. Things are getting very interesting indeed!
Now it’s a question of whether Google can really help indie bookstores, see http://nyti.ms/a2Ldec.
Google Editions will launch later this summer, selling digital books that will be readable online and on any e-reader – not locked into a particular format or device.
In addition, there are reports that Google is completing a deal with the American Booksellers Association, the trade group for independent bookstores, to make Google Editions the primary source of e-books for hundreds of indie booksellers in the U.S. Clearly, summer is no longer the slow time in publishing!
And now for the roundup of the rest of the news:
* Books-A-Million launches an e-bookstore, http://bit.ly/buXOkP.
* ‘In Defense of Privacy: The 20th Century’s Most Reclusive Authors,’ http://bit.ly/9Obcvo.
* The Top 10 rare books, http://is.gd/dbCUU.
* The top 10 high school summer reading books (have you read all these? We haven’t!) http://bit.ly/cE1Dcq.
* James Patterson sells more than 1 million e-books – a record! http://bit.ly/ciUx11.
* Amazon Kindle dual-screen e-reader patent granted, http://bit.ly/bdIzhe.
* What does the digital book mean for book covers (in our opinion, covers still matter, even if they’re a thumbnail on a page – compelling graphics/design and clear headlines stand out!) http://bit.ly/cQXBN6.
* Denver library increases e-book titles, http://tinyurl.com/2ero86b.
* A novel book club idea: Books and Bars, http://bit.ly/bCNo7n.
* Borders opens its e-bookstore and takes on Amazon, Apple and B&N, http://bit.ly/9KuYym.
* Amazon.com announces ‘best books of year’ (so far): http://bit.ly/aoAGtL.
* Will reviewers want digital galleys? HarperCollins hopes so, http://bit.ly/c062Uh.
* Top 10 pubs in literature, http://bit.ly/b3BGY4.
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