Publishing Insiders wrap-up: A Self-Publishing Success Story

by | Aug 12, 2010 | Book Marketing Basics

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We had an inspirational show with self-published author Randy Kearse, who has managed to sell 14,000 copies of his books – with many of those sales made on the New York City subway. Blessed with a lot of drive and a true entrepreneurial spirit, Randy attributes his success to doing whatever he can, whenever he can, to tell people about his books.

Map of the New York Subway
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The show kicked off with a segment on what to look for in a web host, with SEO expert Susan Gilbert.

It’s important to select a good hosting company as not all are created equal, she says.

Two of the most important things to consider are: your up time – it has to be 99%, and not many hosts have that. In addition, you need a good 24-hour 800 number to call. Susan says you need to have a phone number, and if your host doesn’t have a number, don’t use them.

Don’t go with free. If you can’t afford $150 a year for web hosting, don’t even bother, she adds.

And be careful, even with big names – Go Daddy, for instance, has security issues.

Robert's Website
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For the full scoop on what to look for in a web host, including some recommendations, visit Susan’s blog:

http://www.susangilbert.com/how-to-select-a-good-hosting-company-not-all-hosts-are-created-equal/.

For additional resources and tips check Susan Gilbert’s website, www.susangilbert.com.

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About our guest: Once deemed a menace to society by a judge who sentenced him to 15 years in 1992, Randy Kearse, author, motivational speaker and entrepreneur, served 13 years, 6 months and 2 days in federal prison. He returned to society with a new perspective, a fresh focus, and strong determination to succeed. Born and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y. Randy grew up in the Farragut housing projects. He provides people with a formula to turn a negative situation into a positive opportunity. He is the author of Street Talk: Da Official Guide to Hip-Hop & Urban Slanguage (first self-published then picked up by Barricade Books Inc. for Street Talk; Changin’ Your Game Plan: How to use incarceration as a stepping stone for SUCCESS; The Writing Game: How to Print, Publish, Profit in the Book Industry; co-wrote From Incarceration 2 Incorporation with best selling author J.M. Benjamin; and recently released The Street Survival Guide for the young Black and Latino Male. Learn more at http://www.randykearse.com/ and http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/10/nyregion/10books.html.

Randy said that selling his books on the New York City subway happened by chance. He used to set up a table on the street in shopping areas, a tactic he used for about a year until a van accident made it difficult for him and his books to get around the city.

One day he put some books in a bag, jumped on a train, and started talking up his books with subway riders. People were very receptive, and Randy eventually put together a presentation – and the rest is history.

He doesn’t go out every day on the subway to make book sales because it’s not realistic to sell every day at the same level of energy.

While subway riders seem to comprise a tough crowd, he said people have been very supportive. For one, they see in Randy an example of someone who has a passion to do something adventurous, and it excites them.

The book he sells on the subway, Changin’ Your Game Plan: How to use incarceration as a stepping stone for SUCCESS is a nonfiction motivational piece that covers his life journey of overcoming mistakes and adversity. Randy finds his story resonates with a lot of people who have overcome something, and it also appeals to people who love an underdog story.

And Randy has had an amazing comeback – he spent 13 years, 6 months, and 2 days in prison and has since turned his life completely around.

Now he wants to be known for some good in life, not just bad. “Nobody is born bad, we learn to be bad, we make decisions/choices that put us in a bad direction, so we need to go back to that period where we had dreams and choices,” he says.

Randy started writing Street Talk: Da Official Guide to Hip-Hop & Urban Slanguage while incarcerated. He admits prison is a tough place to get creative energy going, and people were saying he’d never sell the book. He never stopped believing, though.

Motivation is not a problem because he’s seen so many lives wasted, destroyed or squandered, and he doesn’t want anyone else to go through what he’s been through.

“It’s about choices, and it’s the choices we make that determine the life we’re going to live,” he says. We all have a certain strength in us, it’s a matter of bringing it out.

Selling books to the public on the street, and later the subway, was not easy at first. Randy said he felt shy about approaching people. Yet when he was living on the street and doing wrong, he wasn’t afraid then. He asked himself: “Why be afraid now, when I’m doing right? That’s how I go forth in my life now,” he says.

What’s surprised him the most on this journey to becoming a successful author is how well people receive him. “A lot of times we have an idea of what a person who has been in prison is like,” he observes, but when Randy speaks to people, he says they tell him they never would have known he’d been in prison if he hadn’t told them. People have not placed a scarlet letter on him, Randy says.

Randy admits it’s still an amazing feeling when someone walks up and says, “I read your book, or it’s changed my son’s life.” He thinks, “You’re talking to me? I’m not sure I will ever get used to that. I never guessed Changin’ the Game Plan would have such an impact, I hoped to provoke some people to change – that they would read the book and say, if this guy can change, I can change, too.”

Although Randy’s stature is growing, he says, “I’m an ordinary guy, you can walk up and talk to me. I don’t think I’m better than anybody just because I’ve written a book.” He went to a book expo with 100 writers, and 99 authors were sitting down waiting for someone to come up to them. That’s not how Randy operates. “I don’t sit down at a book signing. I’m going to meet you and greet you on the same level, eye to eye, I want to shake your hand… people can miss something if they are waiting for others to take action,” he says.

Meanwhile, he keeps on selling; everywhere he goes has books with him. Randy has sold books at Burger King, McDonald’s… and he’s always ready to sell – “anything I can possibly do I’m out there selling books.” He attends conferences, speaks at all kinds of events and has shared his message on boat rides, at barbecues, in schools, at barber shops – he’s open to any and all ideas. You can see Randy in action on this YouTube video.

The most unique place Randy has sold a book is in a bookstore. He walked into a bookstore, started up a conversation with a patron and asked them if they ever read this book (showing them a copy of his book). They asked who wrote it, Randy said he did – and the patron bought it.

It’s that kind of drive that makes a difference. As self-published authors, “we have to grind, be creative. If I don’t sell books, I don’t eat,” he says.

Description: F Train, Manhattan-bound, 17 May ...
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Next up, Randy will start a newspaper in the fall about overcoming adversity, starting businesses, things to inspire people that he hopes to turn into a radio show or local TV access show. “I want to inspire people to live out their dreams,” he says, and these new vehicles will allow him to market his books for free.

In addition, Randy will appear on a book marketing panel at the Self Publishing Expo Oct. 2, 2010 at the Sheraton New York, http://www.selfpubbookexpo.com/.

Randy’s mother is proud of his journey, he says. “That is more priceless than anything I’ve done, just to see the smile on her face.”

His advice to self published authors is simple and straightforward: “Just go get ‘em. Don’t be afraid to approach people about your books, promote them. The worst thing people can do is to say, no, I’m not interested. Give out flyers, beat the street.”

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Upcoming Episodes

Please join us August 24 for our next show, Amp Up Your Online Book Promotion with Jo-Anne Vandermeulen http://www.blogtalkradio.com/thepublishinginsiders/2010/08/24/amp-up-your-online-book-promtion-with-jo-anne-vand. Jo-Anne hosts a weekly live Blog Talk Radio show, “Authors Articulating,” http://www.blogtalkradio.com/prempromotions, where she shares marketing and promotional tips for writers. Learn about the importance of online marketing, as well as tips and insights into top social media networks such as Facebook, Amazon Connect, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, Goodreads and more! A published author, Jo-Anne’s first book, a women’s fiction (suspense/romance) called “Conquer All Obstacles” was released in November 2009. Her latest book, a non-fiction resource titled Premium Promotional Tips for Writers, was released in December 2009. She recently created a new online business where she supports and markets her fellow writers: Premium Promotional Services, http://www.premiumpromotions.biz.

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