Thursday, August 16, 2007

Smart Publishers Don't Market Individual Books ...

... they market books: New authors--and some experienced ones--think publishers exist to market their individual books. While this seems logical, book publishing doesn't work this way in the real world. In fact, it doesn't make financial sense. A very modest project--a small book with a press run of 2,000--might cost the publisher $10,000 for editing acquisition, production, printing, order-taking and fulfillment, administration, and marketing. If the publisher expects to make a profit, only about $1500 (15% of the total costs) can be allocated to marketing--and that includes the book's share of marketing department salaries, catalog, website, exhibits, customer service, and directly allocated marketing expenses such as press releases. Only for really large projects is there any money at all for and individually tailored marketing or publicity campaign.

This doesn't mean that traditional publishers do nothing for a book. What niche publishers bring to the table is a large basket of customers interested in books in a given area. Travel, for example. They have a marketing system--catalogs, websites, customer service, telemarketing, package stuffers, trade exhibits, and so on--that reaches travel customers. They plug each new book into the system and can usually count on some percentage of their existing travel customers being interested in this new book. And this new book then will generate a few new customers who might be interested in some other travel books already published by the company.. It's a relatively efficient system--and the way most niche publishers make money, if they make money.

Does this mean your book will get no individual attention? No, but you're the one that will have to give it that individual attention. Your publisher will expect that. Most publishers try to make this clear--though I've noticed that many authors don't seem to hear the message and become resentful when they realize they have to do "all the work." Like it or not, this is how the business works. If you can make your peace with it, you can take advantage of your publisher's infrastucture to become quite successful.--Ken Guentert, The Publishing Pro.

Marketing Tip: Write Yourself a Book Proposal

Don't write a book without one: If you're on the hunt for someone to publish your book, you'll send prospective publishers a proposal. If you're smart, that is. (If you're not smart, you'll send them all a manuscript that they'll throw in the wastebasket.) Writing a book proposal is a good exercise--even if you're planning to publish your book yourself. The reason: the book proposal is your primary planning document. Here are the basic steps:

  • Write a short description of your target reader. Instead of using generalities, describe a specific person, or couple, or family. Depending on your book, relevant details might include their appearance, their age, their marital status, their family size, their income, their needs, their desires, their values. If you can picture an actual person in your mind, more’s the better. (Note: if your book’s buyers will be different from your book’s readers--the case for children’s books, for example), you might have to split this exercise in two.)
  • Write a short summary of your message. This is best phrased as how you will change your reader’s life. This is a powerful concept. The change you promise may be modest—maybe you are a mystery writer who only wants to entertain someone sunning herself on a beach—but the more significant the change you can promise, the more likely you are to find readers and the higher price your book can command. If you can’t promise to change someone’s life, why do you expect anyone to buy your book?
  • Decide on a working title and subtitle. Generally, the title and subtitle should clue your potential editor and reader into what your book has to say and to whom. Be descriptive rather than poetic How to Make a Million Dollars Selling Widgets is a stronger title than Widgets Gone Wild. If you must be clever and creative with your title, your subtitle definitely will need to the do the descriptive job. As in: Widgets Gone Wild: How I Became a Billionaire Selling Widgets.
  • Write Your Table of Contents. Again, your Table of Contents should be descriptive. The purpose is to clarify (for yourself, if you’re self-publishing, and ultimately for your readers) where you are taking your readers and what you will do for them. Your Table of Contents is an extremely powerful marketing device, one that may determine whether someone buys your book or not. Writing a good one—it’s basically an outline—also will make it easier for you to finish writing your manuscript. And it will definitely help you stay on track.
That’s it. Now you’ve got a proposal that defines your book from the ground up.--Ken Guentert, The Publishing Pro.