Marketing Tips

10 Things You Want to Know About Self-Publishing

The author of this article, Laura Shabott, and I were panelists at last year’s Self-Publishing Book Expo in New York City where we discussed and answered questions about book formats and formatting. Her advice is thoughtful and her tell-it-like-it-is approach is both refreshing and informative.

We all know this is a golden age for writing and publishing. Counterpoint?  The competition has never been more ferocious. With over 5,000 new book releases everyday on Amazon, today’s self-publishing author needs to be shrewd, savvy and prepared. Here are ten empowering things you need to know before entering the playing field.

1) You may write for yourself, but you publish for a defined audience.

Writing is all about you. Publishing is not. It’s about them, your future readers. Who are these people? If your quick answer is, “Well, it’s anyone who can read,” stop right there. Listen to me. You need to know who is going to read your book. Is it a professional network, your yoga students or your blog followers? Will you go to every bookstore within a hundred miles of your home and ask them to carry your book? Will you bite the bullet and plunk down 10,000 dollars for a publicist? Tough, tough question; who is my audience? Answer it and you have a book that sells.

2) Pick a book title that works with Internet algorithms.

Your title is organized by its exact words in search engines. Using the name “Confessions of an eBook Virgin” for my self-publishing guide groups it with “Confessions of a Virgin Sacrifice.” If the focus of your book (yoga, diet, novel, anthology, divorce) isn’t somewhere in your title or subtitle, it will drift aimlessly in the vast oceans of digital content.

3) Editing is EVERYTHING!

People often balk at paying for a seasoned developmental book editor or writing coach, copy editor and proofreader. So WHAT if it costs a couple of grand? Anyone can get a part-time job, but no one can reverse a sloppy book launch.  You, a David against the Goliath marketplace, have a shot at rising to the crème de la crème of books if it’s tight. Use pros to ready your manuscript for market. Skip this part and be relegated to the miles-high heap of self-published typo-filled slush.

4) Choose the formats that work for your readers.

My readers? Every last one wants a book in the hand; digital natives, baby boomers, artists, writers and actors all want that. Once I produced a paperback edition of “Confessions,” sales took off at speaking engagements and local stores. This is ironic, since the book is about publishing eBooks. But, hey, audience is King. Give them what they want.

5) Manage your time wisely.

I manage my 168 hours a week like a dragon guarding a priceless treasure. If I am going have to be my own writer/designer/producer/promoter and financier, the case for any self-publisher, I need to get the most out of every minute – and so do you.

6) Don’t rush the publication of your book.

“Oh, I don’t have to line up 25 to 100 post-launch online reviewers,” thinks the new author/publisher. Or, “I don’t have to have a blog tour or get a professional review service. People will find my book because I am amazing!” No, they won’t and you will cry bitter tears of anguish.

You have to have a marketing plan. The checklist in the back of my book is a good place to start.

7) Beware heat-seeking sharks in the water.

Do your research before hiring or trusting anyone. Get at least three referrals from people like you when going with a vanity press or any publisher who will have control of your edition. Protect your asset; that book you spent months or years on is your intellectual property. But don’t shy away from a collaborative publishing arrangement with a small or mid-size press, a growing option instead of going it alone.

8) People will say bad things about your book.

Amazon trolls, your neighbors, reviewers and friends will say idiotic things about your book. Unless they are in the writing business, in which case you will think that they are cruel. Lighten up or it will crush you.  If you keep hearing the same thing over and over (I don’t like your protagonist), then it’s a real problem that you, the author, need to fix.

9) Self-publishing gives you total control. Use it.

If, after all this work, there is a fatal flaw in your first effort, yank it. Start over. Put the title back out fixed. That is power. You are the boss of your book and anyone on your team.

10) Go Local

Take a carton of your print-on-demand edition or short run and sell directly. Canvas your own region through library talks, independent bookstores, fairs, flea markets; anywhere you can grow an audience. Going local is organic, affirming and actively engages your community in your work.

 

Takeaway: Self-publishing a good, if not great, book is a rite of passage. The experience can lead to a career in writing more books, providing support services like editing, reviewing or designing – or something totally unexpected!

Laura Shabott

Laura Shabott

Laura Shabott is a Provincetown based writer, a dynamic speaker and an empowering self-publishing consultant. She is the author of Confessions of an eBook Virgin: What Everyone Should Know Before They Publish on the Interneta five star rated primer for anyone curious about online publishing. Go to http://www.laurashabott.com, tweet @laurashabott or email laurashabott@gmail.com.

The Business of Self-Publishing: ISBNs

ISBN Gold

With publishing open to everyone, authors are now the CEOs of their own publishing companies. Self-publishing requires authors to make all product decisions including paper color, font, book layout, cover design, distribution and marketing strategy. As such, you must be not only a creative genius, but also a savvy business person. Otherwise, the siren song of literary success will cloud your business judgment. After all, who isn’t tempted by the prospect of seeing their book listed for sale in every online bookstore?

Publishing with an ISBN*

An International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is the holy grail of book distribution and Lulu provides them for free if your book meets certain requirements. The ISBN is a bit like your book’s fingerprint; it is used to both identify your book and track its sales. An ISBN paired with Lulu’s free GlobalREACH distribution makes your print and eBook available for purchase in online bookstores such as Amazon.com, Barnes&Noble.com, iBookstore, Kindle, and Kobo stores among others. Your book will also be listed in global bibliographic databases from which any number of institutions, bookstores, and online retailers can discover it and offer it for sale.  For authors seeking a broad audience, publishing with an ISBN is indeed a requirement.

ISBN ExplainedISBNs, however, directly affect pricing. Applying an ISBN to a print book results in an automatic retail markup being added to your book’s price. This markup is the amount a retailer can potentially earn from selling your book on their site. Retailers may choose to sell your book at its full price or offer it at a discount with “free” shipping – all of which is paid from the retail markup or retailer’s portion of the book’s price.

Regardless of the price your book sells for, you will always be paid the revenue you set when publishing the book. Unfortunately, retail markups often force authors to greatly reduce earnings per book in order to remain competitively priced. This revenue tradeoff is offset by the possibility of more sales being generated when a book is widely available for purchase and is a sacrifice most authors are happy to make.

*At this time, only Premium format books may be assigned an ISBN.

Publishing without an ISBN**

Depending on your ultimate goal and target audience, publishing without an ISBN may make more sense. Forgoing an ISBN allows more formatting choices and greater pricing freedom in the Lulu bookstore. These are advantages if you are publishing a book for sentimental reasons, for a limited audience, or to promote your business. For example, if you are a teacher publishing educational books, an ISBN is not required to reach your students who are your target audience. The same applies when publishing your family history or grandmother’s favorite recipes – your intended audience will be aware of your work and be happy to purchase it directly from you or from the Lulu bookstore thereby cutting out the middleman.

**Authors may choose Premium, Standard, or Photo Quality formats when publishing without an ISBN.

Publishing with AND without an ISBN

If your dream is to one day strike it rich as an author, you may wish to publish a Premium Paperback version of your book with an ISBN for wide distribution and publish another version without an ISBN using Lulu’s Standard Paperback format. This strategy allows you to maximize book exposure through online retailers while maximizing revenue through direct sales of a Standard Paperback. Sales from your web site, the Lulu bookstore, local bookstores, and events such as book signings do not require an ISBN. The Standard Paperback formats are printed using state of the air ink jet technology that significantly reduces manufacturing costs. Additionally, with no middlemen to pay, you have greater pricing flexibility that translates into higher earnings. The Standard Paperback format is also perfect for proofing, review copies, and giveaways.

ISBN bigstock-Barcodes-Seamless-vector-wall-25203968As you consider the future of your writing think about your goals, your audience, and the options described above. The manuscript and cover files you created for the book you sent into distribution are the same files you will upload to create your Standard Paperback, or “personal stock” copies. With a few minutes of effort, you can be on your way to increased sales and higher revenues.

E-book or “Real” Book – Which Should You Publish First?

eBook print bookIn the past, traditional publishing followed a well-defined path of first releasing a “real” book in the most expensive format possible, followed by a less expensive paperback and an eBook. Today, with self-published authors determining the formats and release order for their work, is the traditional path still relevant? Should a print book be released prior to an electronic book?

Most of the books I have published are available in both print and electronic formats, but when I published Reality Check, I only published it as an eBook. The reason was that I wanted the book to be available quickly with a minimum of delay. The book was an exploration of the issues I faced as a Brit who moved to live in Brazil in 2013 and I wanted it to be very fresh with comment on current affairs during this time.

The book did well. Amazon featured it as the #1 book about Brazil for a long time and as I look at their charts while writing this article, I see it remains in the top 20 for books about South America. Yet, I now believe it was a mistake to release it only as an eBook.

The real answer to the question eBook or print book is “both.” I don’t think the publishing order matters now, so long as the versions are released at approximately the same time. Some readers are eBook fanatics. They only download books and consume them on their Kindle, iPad, phone, or other reading devices. Other readers want to feel a physical book in their hands and to decorate the bookshelves of their home with beautiful objects.

However, the process of self-publishing an eBook and a print book is slightly different. You will probably need to take your final edited manuscript and subject it to two separate preparation processes.

Getting your manuscript eBook ready for publication means the manuscript must be formatted in a machine-readable format, usually HTML (Lulu provides an excellent eBook conversion tool for non-technical authors). You can’t specify details such as the font size because the reader may change all of this on their eReader anyway. You will also need to add links, similar to website links, so the reader can click and find key places in the book, such as the index or chapters.

Getting your print book ready for print publication is more of a what-you-see-is-what-you-get process. You need to ensure that your document is formatted to the correct size for your printed pages, that your font and character sizes all look exactly as you expect in the book, and details such as page numbers and starting a chapter on an odd-numbered page are applied.

These are two separate processes and having done both a number of times now, I suggest the quickest way to get your book out there once you have a final edited manuscript is to launch the eBook first. The preparation process for an eBook is quite fast as there is only a limited amount of formatting allowed and you can use free preview tools, such as Calibre, to see how it will look on an eBook reader. Once submitted to Lulu, your eBook will be available for purchase almost immediately.

Once you have the eBook out there you can focus on taking the same manuscript and formatting it for the physical book. This process takes longer because once you have the book ready, you still need to purchase a single copy and check that it has printed correctly. You might get it right the first time, but I have found that I usually miss something the first time around and get the printed version right on the second attempt.

With luck, you can have the eBook and physical book published within a week or two of each other and both available so that customers who like either format will be satisfied. And, that book I wrote about Brazil? The second edition is going to be published as a paperback on Lulu next month because I don’t want to ignore all those people who still love “real” books!

Author BIO

Mark Hillary

Mark Hillary is a British author, blogger and advisor on technology and globalization based in São Paulo, Brazil. He is a regular contributor to journals including The Huffington Post, Reuters, The Guardian, and Computer Weekly.

Mark live-blogged the 2010 UK General Election for Reuters. He was an official blogger at the 2012 London Olympics. He was shortlisted as blogger of the year in 2009 and 2011 by Computer Weekly magazine.

Contact Mark: www.markhillary.com (@markhillary)

Mark on Lulu: http://j.mp/lulumarkhillary

 

Facebook CEO resolves to read 26 books in 2015

Could yours be one of them?

 

Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, is known for his ambitious New Year’s resolutions. Last year he learned to speak Mandarin. In past years he became a vegetarian (except for animals he killed himself), made an effort to meet a new person everyday (who was not a Facebook employee), wrote a thank you note everyday, and wore a tie every day (well, this one isn’t as extraordinary).

This year’s resolution, announced on January 2nd, is as equally impressive. “My challenge for 2015 is to read a new book every other week — with an emphasis on learning about different cultures, beliefs, histories and technologies”

He is also challenging all Facebook users who like his A Year of Books page to read the same books in the same time period. The page invites everyone to “read a new book every two weeks and discuss it here…. Suggestions for new books to read are always welcome.”

As of this writing, A Year of Books has received over 225,000 likes and Amazon announced that the first title to be read, The End of Power by Moisés Naím has already sold out. Lucky for us, print-on-demand books never sell out!

We are encouraging all Lulu.com non-fiction authors who specialize in cultural writing, belief systems, history, or technology, to tell Mr. Zuckerberg about your book.

It’s easy to do

  • Visit the Facebook page, A Year of Books and click the Like button to join the group.
  • Pitch your book on the page. Tell Mr. Zuckerberg how your book will help him learn about different cultures, beliefs, histories and technologies. Think of this as your 30-second elevator speech and don’t forget to include a link to your book to make it easy to find.
  • Tell your fans, friends and family that you’ve nominated your book to be read so they can like your post.
  • And, finally be sure to let us know you submitted your book for consideration. Simply tag us in your pitch by including Lulu.com in the post or using the hashtag #Lulu.

We wish you the best of luck and hope to see your book on Mr. Zuckerberg’s 2015 reading list.

Email Marketing 101: Making the Most of Seasonal Sales

Let’s try out a few seasonal metaphors for your email marketing efforts…

Stuff your readers’ stockings with email! Deck the halls with deals on eBooks! Pass the turkey and mashed potatoes… and… strategically develop an email marketing plan that takes advantage of Lulu.com’s sales and special offers…

Okay, so that last one doesn’t really flow. But – it’s good advice all the same. Email marketing that coincides with Lulu’s impressive special offers is the next best thing to having your books carried right down your readers’ chimneys.

What’s so great about it? For starters, email marketing works. Social media may seem the savvier approach, but email is roughly six times more effective at bringing in new buyers than Facebook and Twitter. Email gives you a great platform for sharing special offers and introducing new books, without your carefully crafted content getting lost in the endless scroll of tweets and status updates.

And it’s simple. We were recently inspired to share a template with you based on an email from one of our authors to his reader base. So, you can take what’s below based on an offer we currently have running – and be sure to get the email out soon.

 

Email Subject Line: Get <Book Title> for 35% Off

Email Body:

Have you ordered a printed copy of <book title> yet? <Placeholder for one line description of title> If you haven’t placed your order already, then today is the day to do it.

Until December 3, you can save 35% by checking out with code WQT32 on Lulu.com. Simply visit the link: <Placeholder for link to book>, add it to your cart and apply the code at checkout to have your discount applied.

Plus, you can grab copies at a great deal to share with friends and family.

Grab a copy today! <Link to book>

<Author name>

 

See? Simple. You can highlight the current savings, briefly describe the book, and gives easy instructions. It’s low-pressure, good-natured, informative and brief. You can even provide a link right to your Author Spotlight and save your readers from searching.

And, though we are currently entering the season of sharing and shopping, this strategy works year-round. At Lulu.com, we’re always looking for ways to promote you and sell your books. Whenever we have a sale — seasonal or otherwise — send out an email blast letting everyone know. After all, ‘tis always the season for reading!

Self-Publishing Book Expo Recap

This past weekend, Lulu.com was proud to once again be a sponsor of the Self-Publishing Book Expo (SPBE), which is now in its sixth year and was held in New York City. Originally created for authors considering self-publishing as an alternative to traditional publishing, the expo has expanded and now features lectures, panels and workshops targeting both novice and experienced independent authors.

This year, two members of our team and a Lulu.com author participated in panel discussions throughout the day. Dan Dillon (Product Marketing) led discussions on Team Building, Advanced Marketing and participated in the Ask an Expert panel. While Dan was sharing his expertise, I manned the exhibition booth and moderated the Formatting panel discussion. Even more exciting, Lulu.com author Pascale Kavanagh, author of Fish Tails & Lady Legs, was a featured speaker in the Romance Authors’ workshop.

Expand Your Distribution and Reach More Readers

At Lulu.com, we want to give every author the tools they need to have a chance at success. After all, there’s a lot to do with your self-published book between editing it, formatting it and designing the perfect cover. That doesn’t even include writing it! But there’s one aspect you might not have given a lot of thought to yet: how exactly are you going to sell your book?

Selling on Lulu.com is a great start, but to reach the largest pool of potential readers you need to be in the most stores possible – that means Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and more. Luckily, Lulu.com’s globalREACH distribution service lists your book on websites around the world in a few quick steps.

So why should your book have globalREACH? Well, there’s no reason not to get it! Worried that it’ll take too much time and effort on your part to get everything set-up? Think again – it couldn’t be any easier.