Monday, December 16, 2013

Children's Book Tip: Clarify Your Life-Changing Message.

The  key to marketing your book: Once you have determined your message, your core reader, and your core buyer, I want you to use this information to answer this question. 
  • How will you change the lives of your readers and your buyers?
This may sound like an ambitious goal, and it is meant to be. Think about it. If you are not out to change lives by writing and publishing this book, why are you doing it? If you are doing it for yourself, that's fine. If crossing off an item on your bucket list is your main motivation, why should anyone else care?

On the other hand, suppose you can say with confidence that your book is going to change a child's life, and here's how. And suppose you can say that your book is going to change your buyer's life, and here's how. You have just determined that your book is important—even necessary—to others. This is your version of the "elevator speech," your thirty-second explanation of what you are all about.—The Publishing Pro.

Marketing Tip: Start Yesterday.

This blog headline from Guy Kawasaki got my attention: "10 Social Media Tips for Authors." Below is the first of the tips. Follow the link to see the others. Also worth noting is his reference in the introduction to "artisanal publishers" (aka self-publishers).
You must make progress along two fronts at the same time: writing your book and building your marketing platform. You cannot wait until you’re done writing, because a platform takes nine months to a year to build. Ideally, you started building your platform before you even began to write your book.
The Publishing Pro

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Children's Book Tip: Define Your Buyer.

Step Three: After defining your core reader, you need to define your core buyer. In the case of a children's book, your targeted reader is unlikely to be the same as your targeted buyer. Your buyer is going to be an adult, but what kind of an adult? Will your buyer be ...
  • a he or a she?
  • someone in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, or 80s?
  • a professional or a member of the family?
  • a grandparent, parent, relative, or unrelated caretaker?
  • buying a book to read herself to the child or to give to the child's parent or guardian?
  • associated with an institution (a school, a hospital, a daycare center, a church, a therapist's office)?

Again, you might paint a picture in your mind of the typical buyer. Your book, at least on its outer edges, will need to appeal to your buyer, or it will never find your reader. The Publishing Pro

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Children's Book Tip: Define Your Audience.

Step Two: After settling on your concept, you should define your audience. Ask yourself these questions:
  • What age group am I writing for?
  • What gender am I writing for?
  • What race or ethnic group am I writing for?
  • What is my reader's family situation?
  • What is my reader's school situation?
  • What is my reader's economic situation?
You should almost certainly determine your targeted reader's age—this detail will have the most impact on how you write and the kind of illustrations you use.

The other questions may not seem as relevant. However, if you are writing for boys and girls, make a note of that. And if you are trying to reach across racial and ethnic lines, make a note of that as well. And so on. 

Finally, as you answer these questions, you might use a writer's trick and let the picture of a specific child come into your mind. Give this child a life. Give him or her parents or guardians, pets, a home and school life, friends, and preferred activities. Thinking about this child will make your creative efforts more personal and powerful. The Publishing Pro.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Children's Book Tip: Define Your Concept.

First things first: Before you even start writing (or drawing) your children's book, you need to think it through. This begins with the concept. Answer these questions:
  • What is your book about? (e.g., dinosaurs, bananas,
  • What is its purpose? (e.g., to teach reading skills, to
    change behavior, to support children, to have fun)
  • Who is the main character? (e.g., a greyhound, a third-grader)
  • What is the tone? (e.g., funny, gentle, crude)
  • What is its message? (e.g., you're not alone, do the right
Note: Generally, I've switched to advising all book authors to begin the publishing process by deciding on their core reader. (See previous post on memoir writing.) This exception is from my book, How to Publish Your Own Children's Book, which I'm in the process of revising. On review, the exception makes sense. The Publishing Pro

Friday, October 18, 2013

Memoir Tip: Decide on Your Core Reader.

First things first: I always advise the authors I work with to begin the process of writing a book by defining their core readers.
I do this because I want them to have marketing in mind from the get-go.  Defining their core readers gets everything going in the right direction. To be honest, I was not sure I should apply this principle to the memoir writer. That’s because there are two kinds of memoir writers: those who are writing principally for their families and those who have a wider market in mind. Clearly, the scope will be different in each of these cases. The author writing for her grandchildren is less likely to get her work professionally edited, designed, produced, and printed than the author writing about struggling with a muscular dystrophy. The latter can imagine that his readers will consist of hundreds who either share his condition or who love someone who does. Nevertheless, the principle applies to both types of authors. By defining their core readers, authors of both types begin to see what lies ahead—even before they begin to write! And that’s the point—or at least one of the points. 
One of the other benefits of defining your core reader—and again this applies whether you are writing for your family or a larger audience—is that it gives you someone to write to. This is not foolproof, but having a specific audience in your head should help you write more clearly. In addition, it turns the process of writing from a self-absorbed activity into one where your relationship with your readers is very much the point. Real authors care about their readers. 
Notice that my title is “Decide on Your Core Reader” (singular). I believe it helps if you imagine your reader as a specific individual, who could be real or imaginary. It is easier to write to a specific individual than it is to an abstract and amorphous group. This is not an absolute rule. For example, I am working with an author who is writing a book for married couples. His core “reader” is, surprise, a couple. Okay, couple is a collective noun, in which case it can be treated either as singular or a plural entity. 
A similar example comes from U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer, who inspired me in this way of thinking. His core “constituent” is a family of four. He knows where the family lives, where everyone works or has worked, where everyone goes to school or has gone to school, and so on. Focusing on this imaginary family helps him do his work. 
As a memoir writer, you can do worse than imitating him.The Publishing Pro

Friday, September 20, 2013

Why Most Novels Don't Sell

Their writing is, um, flawed: Thanks to Russell Urquhart for sending me this blog post from Kas Thomas, who describes himself as a "writer and technology evangelist." Bad writing isn't the only problem plaguing amateur novelists, but it's high on the list. If you don't like Thomas' cheeky style, read on anyway. If you're guilty of the literary sins he describes in useful detailand you admit ityou can repent and become a better writer.
Not long ago (April 2013), Mike Cooper tried to calculate the average amount of royalties earned per year by self-publishers of novels, and he came up with the appallingly low (but probably accurate) figure of $297.
Why so low? Well, there's a tremendous oversupply of titles, for one thing. With around 2 million titles available (growing by 5% or more a year), you can't expect that the average book will be terribly lucrative. But there's also the fact that most novels are not particularly well written (to put it kindly). Let's be blunt. Most self-published novels (and a large percentage of traditionally published ones) are irredeemable junk. And thanks to the Dunning-Kruger Effect, most authors of said novels don't have any idea how bad their work is.
Read more ...

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Readable Memoirs Are Novels ...

Just Not Fiction: I've been telling my memoir-writing students that memoirs are like novels, except they are true. Well, mostly true, but that's another issue. Thanks to Molly Wingate, a writing coach, for making the same point and, in the process, tipping me off about this advice for memoir writers from Kathy Brandt, who wrote a book with her son about his life with a mental illness:
Remember the story arc.
What is the story arc?  It’s a beginning, a middle, and an end. In his book Screenplay, Syd Field calls it the dramatic structure “a linear arrangement of related incidents, episodes, or events leading to a dramatic resolution.” When I write fiction, I eventually diagram the book on a long sheet of paper—a time line with each incident or plot point rising to the final climax and resolution. It becomes a visual roadmap and a way to identify places I’ve gone wrong. Once we’d written several drafts, Max and I realized we needed to do the same. We diagrammed our roadmap or story arc and began rewriting.
Read more.
And don't miss Brandt's "Eight Questions to Consider As You Draft Your Memoir" further down in her article.—The Publishing Pro

Monday, July 22, 2013

Testimonials and Reviews Are Gold

Hit the motherlode: All authors want to know how to market their books. One of the best things you can do is cheap, effective, and easyat least for some people. And that is: Solicit testimonials and reviews.

Testimonials (or endorsements) are blurbs used for promoting your bookon the back cover of your book, on the inside in the front or back, on your blog, in ads, wherever you can.

Reviews are similar, but they tend to be longer, more substantial, and appear in places that you don't control.

However, even though you don't control the published result, you should solicit reviews. This is part of the traditional publicity process. While it is difficult to get magazines and newspapers to publish reviews about self-published books, today you can solicit friends, colleagues, and supporters to publish their reviews on next to your book. Reviews, especially in quantity, affect how easily it is to find your book and give it the appearance of success, which often translates into genuine success. Amazon reviews, especially if they are well written and specific, convince browsers to buy your book on the spot. Amazon encourages reviewers to be helpful by allowing buyers to tick whether reviews are helpful or not.

You do control where and how testimonials or endorsements are published. You canand shouldbegin acquiring them as soon as you have a publishable draft to share with desirable endorsers. But who makes a good endorser?

In general, you want all the testimonials you can get. The more the merrier. However, endorsements for your back cover have the highest value. In fact, most of the time I prefer three to five endorsements to my own punchy sales copy on a back cover. Here are some rules of thumb for back-cover testimonials.
  • You have room for only three to five testimonials on a back cover. Assume there will be some editing involved. Promise to show endorsers the back cover before publication.
  • You have flexibility in terms of how you identify endorsers, ranging from anonymous to detailed references that include full names, title and position, accomplishment, and locality.
  • Endorsements from identified experts familiar to your potential buyer have the highest value.
  • Endorsements from people in different professions have more value than endorsements from people in the same professions. 
  • Endorsements from experts based in different locations suggest that your own network is equally broad. 
  • Children's books benefit from endorsements from children (who can be anonymous) as well as adults, who can represent buyers or experts.
Of course, these rules can be broken. One of my authors recently requested endorsements from five of her proofreaders. In so doing, she broke a couple of my recommendations. One is that I don't like asking proofreaders for testimonials, on the theory that thinking about testimonials interferes with their job as proofreaders. Another is that endorsements from friends, which was the case for all of her proofreaders, are not usually strong. However, in so doing, the author got five early testimonials. All were sincere, substantive, and strongmaking her book look successful out of the gate. This leads to my last and perhaps most important guideline.
  • Good testimonials should be substantive. On the back cover, it is most helpful if endorsers make different points. 
The Publishing Pro

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Radio Interview 101

Which stations to choose? Many of my customers want to promote their books and ask me if I know someone who can help them. I usually tell them "No, you have to promote your book yourself." Paying someone to do your publicity is an easy way to squander your funds. An exception, sometimes, is finding someone who can get you interviews on radio stations. Why? Because doing radio interviews, once you know how, is one of the few publicity gambits that has a direct impact on book sales. Bryan Farrish Radio Promotion specializes in this task and is worth a look. If you want to spend money on marketing, this is one area where you might not be wasting it.

In the meantime, you can read one of Mr. Farrish's articles:
What elements affect the choice of radio stations when approaching them for interviews? There are over 13,000 radio stations in the U.S. and Canada... you can't target them all, so how do you narrow the list?

First, let's make clear that there are two separate schools of radio publicity... First is the "shotgun" campaign, whereby you fax/mail/email every station in existence and then wait for replies. 
 Read more ...

An Entrepeneur's Most Important Tool

Self-Delusion: This surprising article from A.J. Jacobs (author, lecturer, and editor-at-large of Esquire) came to me via LinkedIn:
It’s one of the greatest inventions in human history. Right up there with the wheel, the steam engine and the waffle maker. I’m talking about self-delusion.
I don’t mean damaging self-delusion (and certainly, too much can lead to disaster). I’m talking about constructive, healthy self-delusion, which is absolutely crucial to building a business.

As an author, I rely on self-delusion ..."

Read more ...

Monday, July 15, 2013

5 Ways to Fix Book Publishing

Worth a look: Is there any way to reverse the industry’s demise? Anis Shivani says the system dominated by executives, publicists, and agents needs to be torn down—to give control to readers. More from The Daily Beast.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Facing Your Fear of Publishing

Good fear, bad fear: I've done quite a bit of thinking lately about the fear of publishing. Three reasons:
  • My author meetup, composed of all the members of my two classes on "Writing and Publishing Your Own Memoir." They are all good writers, even if they don't think so. Their publishing problems mostly have to do with fears.
  • My current customers. Again, they are all working on worthy projects. Their issues have to do with fears. 
  • My memoir: From Rome to Jerusalem: A Non-Jew on the Way. This helped me understand where my authors are coming from.
Let's establish something from the get-go. Fear is not a bad thing, at least not necessarily. Fear is a survival mechanism. When your life is threatened, fear kicks in, your adrenalin spikes, and you are better able to fight or flee. Without fear, many more people would have died in the terrible wildfire near where I live. Two people did die, but most listened to their fears and got out of Dodge when authorities told them to evacuate. It helped, probably, that we had a terrible fire a year ago. People saw what happened then and had a basis for their fears. Most ran. Good thing.

Fear is not a useful mechanism when it stays around past the moment of danger. The adrenalin rush that was so handy when you saw a drunk driver coming straight at you, and you swerved out of the way, is not so helpful when it stays around for weeks. Chronic fear drains your energy and hinders your mental, emotional, and physical functions.

In publishing there are things that you should fear and things you shouldn't. There are things you can change and things you can't. The following are fears that almost every author has and should have:
  • Fear that you don't have anything important to say:  This is fundamental. You address this fear by defining your core reader, your message, and how you will change his or her life. If you can't do that, especially for a non-fiction work, you should flee (and not publish the book.) 
  • Fear that no one will buy or read the book: This is also fundamental. In addition to defining your core reader and how your book will change his or her life, you address this fear by coming up with a marketing plan.
  • Fear that I will lose money: Of course you should worry about this. You address it by doing your homework, figuring out what your costs are and what your likely sales will be. You can and should be conservative. In these days of on-demand printing and ebook publishing, you face almost no inventory risks and can break even with 100 books sold instead of the 1,000  (or more) you needed to sell in the old days when you couldn't realistically print fewer than 2,000 copies. Nowadays, your wild cards are your preparation costs (copy editing, book design, and page makeup) and the swamp they call marketing.
  • Fear that my book will look and feel amateurish: You should be concerned, but you can address this by getting help in those areas where you have no professional competence. 
  • Fear that my book will have typos in it: Oh, it will, so it pays to pay attention. Rule of thumb is that good proofreaders miss 50% of all errors. For this reason, traditional publishing protocol is to have two people read the first set of page proofs and, if possible, two different people read the second proof. In theory, this should eliminate somewhere in the neighborhood of 95% of all the boo-boos. Adding proof cycles and proofreaders is prohibitively expensive, even for traditional publishers. (Don't confuse this fear with the last fear mentioned in this article.)
The following are fears that you should have (but many authors don't):
  • Fear that you might violate copyright: While there are rules of thumb about "fair use" when it comes to quoting others, the reality is that copyright infringement tends to be determined by the copyright holder. Lawsuits are rare, but to be safe, you should either not quote directly from sources or get permission from the copyright holder to do so. You should credit the ideas of others and indirect quotes. Plagiarism is a related danger.
  • Fear that you will be sued for libel: This is not common, but you do need to be careful about what you are saying about others. This concern tends to come up in memoirs. In my own memoir (From Rome to Jerusalem: A Non-Jew on the Way), I dealt with this first by trying to tell my story instead of someone else's story and second by masking the identity of others when I could. If you have concerns in this area, checking in with a lawyer might be called for. 
The following are fears that hinder the publishing process:
  • Fear that someone will steal your ideas: Would-be authors who fret about copyrighting their work exhibit this fear. One of my smarter editors once told me, "If someone steals your idea, have another one. If you don't have another one, you're not that smart and your first idea probably wasn't that good." You get copyright protection the minute you put pen to paper. Sure, there is some benefit for registering your copyright, but worrying about someone stealing your thunder is a waste of time. Your real protection is getting your name, your brand, and your ideas into the market. Put your energy and money there.
  • Fear that you're not a good enough writer: This seems like a useful fear, but I find that it muddles the publishing process and, in the worst case, prevents good books from being published. In my experience, you do not need to be "good writer" to be a good author, at least for non-fiction. Here's why. If you do the front-end work--determining your core reader, your message, how you will change his or her life--you're almost there. Now if you write a coherent table of contents and follow that map for one or, at most, two drafts, you are there. You now have a publishable draft. A good copy editor (like me) can take your draft, tease out the best of your style, and transform your draft into professional prose. At this point, messing with your writing because you don't think you are a good enough writer only adds errors and delays publication. (Besides, if you didn't think you were a good enough writer to begin with, what makes you think you suddenly became a master of words the day before the book is supposed to be printed?) Finally, I don't want authors to focus on their writing. Instead, I want them to focus on their audience and their message. The best authors do that.
  • Fear that your book will not be perfect: Nothing is perfect, and you will make yourself crazy trying to get there from here. Instead, shoot for excellence or professionalism. Give yourself over to a process that steps you through the publishing process that resemble the one used by traditional publishers. Then plan to do updates on a schedule. I suggest 90 days after the first printing for a minor update and no more than once a year for major updates or new editions. 
If you can't change it, it isn't worth worrying about. The Publishing Pro.

Your Target Market: Bigger Is Not Better.

From CreateSpace: I've been telling authors not to aim for the big, broad market for years. It's good to see CreateSpace carrying the message.
Many writers make the mistake of thinking that bigger is better when it comes to defining a book's target audience. Logically, it seems to make sense: they want to sell as many books as they can, so they want to find the biggest pool of people to market to. That line of thinking is all about the numbers; the bigger the number, the bigger the opportunity to succeed. So the author designs a generic strategy in order to appeal to as many people as possible. They believe that if a potential reader is simply made aware of their book, then surely they'll take a chance and buy it. Read more.
On-demand printers (like CreateSpace) and ebook distributors (like Kindle) make targeting a narrow well-defined audience even more effective. The Publishing Pro.

Monday, May 13, 2013

For Emphasis, Less Is More.

Some Writing Basics: Inexperienced writers tend to use various techniques to emphasize all or parts of their text. Most of them are wrong and will be eliminated by your copy editor. Avoid the rush and don't use them.

  • All Caps: Sometimes, titles and chapter titles are fully capitalized. Other than that, except for the occasional appropriate use of all caps within your text (e.g., BANG! or IBM) or when quoting from a source that used all caps (ugh), don't use all caps for emphasis. And while you're at it, get rid of the "Caps Lock" button on your keyboard.
  • Initial Caps: In German writing, initial caps are part of the style, being used for nouns. However, in American English, initial caps are reserved for the beginning of sentences, key words in headlines (in an "up style"), and proper nouns. They are not used to emphasize words or phrases that you think are particularly important.
  • Bold Face: Many writers like to use bold face to emphasize words that are more important than words that are italicized. Don't. Reserve bold face for its proper use in headings, subheadings, and paragraph or bullet lead-ins (such as I've used in this post).
  • Exclamation Points:  Like a smack on the back of the head with a baseball bat, the exclamation point has its uses. However, said use should be rare. (See aforementioned, BANG!) Unless you're a 13-year-old girl, never use more than one. Got it!!!! (And I hope that hurt.)
  • Italics: Last but not least, words or phrases to be emphasized should be italicized. However, beware of overdoing it. If you emphasize too many words--let's say way more than one percent--you've reached the point where nothing will be emphasized. The Publishing Pro

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Kindle: What We Know So Far

By popular demand: In the past couple of months, egged on by my customers who were baffled by the process, I've been sticking my toe into the Kindle waters. I've learned much and have more to learn.

  • Smashwords' Advantage Over Kindle: Easy. Smashwords makes your book available to more different devices, including Kindle. Also, setting up your file is easier. 
  • Kindle's Advantage Over Smashwords: Also easy. While your customers can access your Smashwords edition with their Kindles, your book will not appear as a Kindle edition on Amazon unless you do a separate Kindle edition through KDP Amazon. That's a big deal. (KDP stands for Kindle Direct Publishing). 
  • What To Do: You can do both a Kindle edition and a Smashwords edition. Neither KDP Amazon nor Smashwords buys exclusive rights.
  • But: You cannot sign up for KDP Kindle Select if you also have any other digital edition, including but not limited to Smashwords, in publication. Kindle Select gets you into libraries, where patrons can download the book for free, for which you get paid through a mysterious process and which may (or may not) be useful promotion. See "Pros and Cons of the KDP Kindle Select Program" by Rebecca Livermore for a walk through the ups and downs. And here's the voice of experience on a KDP support board.
  • CreateSpace vs. KDP Amazon: CreateSpace and KDP are both owned by Amazon, so "versus" perhaps doesn't describe the relationship correctly. Just know that CreateSpace is where you want to go to self-publish your book in print. KDP Amazon is where you want to go to publish your book in Kindle format. End of story. If you've self-published your printed book through CreateSpace, don't bother asking them about publishing a Kindle edition. In the end, what they'll do is put you through the KDP system. On the way, they'll confuse you no end. Avoid the rush, and go direct to KDP Amazon. The strange thing is, the KDP setup is similar to the CreateSpace setup.
  • The Difference Between Print and Kindle: The advantage of print for the author-publisher is that you control the design, production, and the customer experience. What you (the publisher) see is what (the customer) gets. With an ebook, unless it is a PDF, you have control over the content (you hope) but surprisingly little control over how your customer is going to see and experience that content. Kindle formatting is html-based, which like a website adjusts itself based on the customer's device and choice of settings. Alignments don't happen the way you expect. Pages don't break where you want them to break. Long URL addresses blow up. You do your best, but your canvas is a moving target. You are designing for iPhones and larger tablets and things in between This is not a game of precision. On the other hand, you don't have to pay to print a book. And your customer can hop from place to place, via hyperlinking (not always an advantage for the publisher).
  • Is it hard? Yes and no. If the basic formatting is simple, it is no harder to format a book for Kindle than it is for Smashwords. If it has graphics, tables, or (egad) footnotes that need to be linked to references, it can get hair-pulling. Most books are simple--or can be made so. If you need your book turned into a Kindle edition, give me a buzz. The Publishing Pro.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Marketing Tip: Lead with Your Strength

Good news for introverted writers: I was on a publishing panel last month with Michelle Vandepas, a marketing coach who works frequently with authors. At one point, she noted that book authors tend to be of two different types, those most comfortable with the creative aspects of the job ("writers," in my vocabulary) and those most comfortable with the social aspects of publishing ("authors," in my vocabulary). The latter always have an easier time with marketing, she said. No news there.

What got my attention was her insistence that writers and authors should build marketing strategies around their strengths rather than their weaknesses. When I put it this way, it seems obvious. However, the surest way to sell books is to interact with potential readers, via all manner of presentations, and sell books directly to them. Extroverted authors are at a clear advantage in this arena. Introverted writers, on the other hand, are known for cultivating the "if you build it, they will come" fantasy. If you write a book, get it published, and get it into stores, readers will be found. (Passive voice used intentionally.) This is so delusional, in my experience, that I've just assumed that the introverted writer who truly wants to be successful must suck it up and act like an extroverted author.

Not so, suggests Vandepas. She believes in building marketing platforms for writers around their aptitude and propensity to write. Thus, the introverted writer may find herself being pushed to work seriously on a blog (or blogs), become active commenter on other blogs, join and participate in Yahoo groups, and so on.  

To be honest, I don't think the introverted writer should forego the in-person social interaction that is most effective for selling books, but the idea that your marketing strategy should be based on your strengths is both compelling and reassuring--especially to this introverted writer.--The Publishing Pro. .