Remarkable Finds

3 Marketing Must-Do’s to Sell Your Book

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From L to R: Glenn Hunt, Lulu’s community manager; Kelli and Daniel Segars, the powerhouse couple behind FitnessBlender.com; and Dan Dillon, Lulu’s director of product marketing at the 2013 Self-Publishing Book Expo

It’s actually not so lonely at the top. Not if you’re a rock star author who has published through Lulu. At the recent Self-Publishing Book Expo, author, activist and cultural icon Kevin Powell was joined by Daniel and Kelli Segars, the power couple behind the Fitness Blender craze, on a panel featuring rock star authors. They shared copious insights and advice about how to reach as large an audience as possible and how to successfully market a self-published book. Here are the three must-do pieces of advice they shared:

1. Content is king
It’s easy to market a great product. It’s not so easy to market a bad one. The quality of your book — from the story to the format to the cover — is critical to its reception in the market. Make sure your book is ready for the audience you’re aiming to win over. If you’ve done all of the work that you can to make your book as remarkable as it can possibly be, your readers will market it for you. Word of mouth is the most powerful form of advertising, and you can’t buy it with money. You earn it with an awesome book.

2. Whet people’s appetites
There’s a trend in the book market where authors are releasing small pieces of a larger story to build an audience. Think of this as the contemporary version of serialization. The best ways to make sure your readers are satisfying their appetite for your work is by creating blog posts or podcasts to issue a chapter at a time, or do a reading of your book and provide commentary about how an aspect of the book was conceived — a key character, a plot device, the setting or some other interesting dimension of your work.

3. Dedicate time
Just as you set aside time to write your book, you need to set aside time to market your book. It’s a discipline, one that requires focus and resolve. In the free guide to marketing your book to maximize holiday sales, more than 60% of Lulu’s most successful authors spent fewer than 5 hours per week marketing their book. But the key here is that they spent time doing it. Set aside one hour each day to actively market your work and you’ll gain traction. For ideas on where to start and how to make the most of your one hour per week, download the free ebook, “How to Marketing Your Book for Holiday Sales”.

Follow this advice from our rock star authors, and perhaps you’ll be on Lulu’s successful author panel at next year’s Self-Publishing Book Expo.

12 Tips for Marketing and Sales Success: Tip 2 – Finding and Building Your Audience

Now that you know the importance of identifying your target audience, it’s time to go out and get them. We asked successful authors how they found the audience for their book.

Here’s what they said:

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Most authors wrote for audiences they either consider themselves to be a part of or whose needs and shopping behaviors they were already familiar with. This may have made the process of determining how to reach their audience easier because they had an idea of which marketing channels would effectively grow their reader base. Is this also true for you? For example, if your book is on health and fitness and you have identified your audience as other like-minded fitness enthusiasts, you may already know several websites they may regularly visit to learn about fitness and make related purchases.

If you’re writing for an audience you don’t know that well, you’re not alone! Nearly a third of authors conducted research to find out what made their audience tick and how to find them. They used pre-existing professional networks, organizations or online communities to reach readers that would respond to their content.

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12 Tips for Marketing and Sales Success: Tip 1 – Know Your Audience

Spoiler alert.
The most important step towards effectively marketing your product – whether it’s a book or a business or a lemonade stand – is understanding your audience.

We knew this was true for Lulu.com as a business, and wanted to see if this basic principle was also true for successful authors. So we posed a question to a large group of our most successful authors: “Why do you think your book was so successful?” Here’s what they said:

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Screen Shot 2013-11-11 at 9.57.11 AMThe top 3 answers that authors credited for their book’s success are all representative of understanding and providing content for a very specific audience. Again and again the words “niche,” “audience,” and “filled a need” came up in answers to this question.

As one author said, “Make it your overriding passion to learn as much as you can about your audience and then give them what they crave.”

For now, take note of two related answers “Only book of its kind” and “Subject matter / topic.” Many authors stress that successful books require a fresh perspective on a popular topic or that they cover a subject that’s never been written about. One author said their book was successful because “it fills a niche with no competition either for content or quality and clarity of presentation.”

Also, take a second look at the votes for “Author platform.” Later on in the book we’ll look at the different elements of an author platform, and which parts of the platform our best-selling authors think helped them the most.
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Richard Coady’s “The Maya Papyrus” Wins 2013 Global Ebook Award

Screen Shot 2013-10-18 at 1.18.31 PMOn August 19th, Richard “Ric” Coady’s book, “The Maya Papyrus,” was awarded top honors by the 2013 Global Ebook Awards for the category of Historical Literature Fiction – Ancient, set before 500 AD. The result of 13 years of writing and research, including collaborating with an Egyptologist to confirm the accuracy of the story, “The Maya Papyrus” is a political thriller detailing war and adventure as the protagonist Aye rises to power. Coady spoke with us recently about the Global Ebook Awards and he shared a glowing review of the process.

“The accuracy of the book was critical to its success as it directly impacts the readability of the text,” said Coady. “I was pleased to see that the judges of the Global Ebook Awards are experts in the area and would appreciate my dedication to keeping the story as true to life as possible across the lifespans of several kings. I am excited to see the positive reviews from readers online and was ecstatic to hear that I had won the Gold Award.”

Registration for the 2014 Global Ebook Awards is now open! If you are interested in learning more about the award and submitting your work for consideration, please visit http://globalebookawards.com/registration/.

What Lulu Readers Buy as Holiday Gifts

What you’ll learn:

  • Why hardcover books priced below $30 are the most desirable for holiday gift purchases
  • How readers find the books they buy as gifts and what influences their decision-making process
  • Where shoppers go to find the books that help them spread holiday cheer

The holidays are here! Parties are being planned. Stores are decking their halls. And people everywhere are scratching their heads as they try to find the perfect gift for everyone on those ever-growing holiday shopping lists. The question to you—independent authors – is how do you get your book in front of the shoppers interested in your book’s topic?

In order to help with this perplexing question, we’ve asked Lulu readers about their shopping habits and decisions, and there’s great news! For starters, over 70% of the nearly 1,200 respondents give more than 3 books as gifts over the holidays. Secondly, and an important consideration for you as you work through the steps in our free eBook, Marketing Your Book for Holiday Sales, most of the gifted books will be hardcovers.

So, what are these shoppers buying and how do they decide what to purchase? There are many factors that go into the decision-making process for Lulu readers. Let’s start by looking at one of the more fundamental pieces of the gift-giving puzzle — the price. According the Lulu readers, $30 is the magic number when they’re considering a book to give for the holidays with nearly 90% of respondents saying they’ll pay between $5 and $30. Only a small percentage of gift-givers, 8.4%, will pay more than $30.

How much, on average, are people spending on a book for a holiday gift:

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Now that we know Lulu readers are most likely to purchase and give hardcover books that fall below the $30 price point as they share their holiday cheer, let’s take a closer look at how gift-givers decide which books to give as gifts. When we asked the respondents about how they decided which books to give, an overwhelming majority of Lulu readers indicated that they rely most heavily on online research. This means that an online presence that effectively markets your book to the desired audience is critical to your success gaining holiday sales. Notably, the second most common way gift-givers found books to give as gifts was by giving books that they have already enjoyed and believe their friends and family will love, too.

Decision about which book to give:

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We also wanted to know what other factors contribute to holiday book purchase decisions, like delivery speed and media reviews. While 22% of respondents do, in fact, judge a book by it’s cover, we also learned that the familiarity of the author’s name and customer reviews contributed heavily to the decision to purchase a book.

Factors that play in to online purchases:

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Finally, we asked folks where they shop and make book purchases, both online and brick-and-mortar. Unsurprisingly, Amazon.com was overwhelmingly the most popular retailer, with independent booksellers, Lulu.com, Kindle and other eReaders, and Barnes & Noble stores following, respectively.

Where are people most likely to make their book purchases:

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What does this mean for you?

Simply put, we hope this information helps you sell more books. By asking buyers what they typically buy and how they find these books for the holiday season, we learned not only how the book should look and feel (hardcover), but also the most desirable price point (less than $30) and the importance of having a strong online presence and distribution strategy.

To help each of you achieve your goal of creating the perfect hardcover for the holiday season shopper, we’ve introduced new premium options to make your book stand out. This includes new linen covers, foils stamping, dust jackets and archival paper to ensure your book is a gift your readers can cherish for years.

Be sure to check out the free eBook, Marketing Your Book for Holiday Sales, and sign up for your free First Edition Hardcover.

Happy Holiday Sales!

Your Friends at Lulu

Who has the lowest prices on professional photo books and calendars? Lulu Studio does!

Screen Shot 2013-10-24 at 11.46.21 AMLet it be known that we are here to serve the people! We receive a lot of very helpful feedback, both positive and negative, from our wonderful authors and customers, and we strive every day to improve how we operate in response to the feedback.

Recently, we’ve been speaking with a lot of photographers and authors of photo-rich content about the pricing for photo books and calendars on Lulu Studio. Based on these conversations and the follow up research we conducted, we are excited to share some pretty big changes with you.

Today, we introduced new wholesale and volume discount pricing for professional photo books and calendars created using Lulu Studio. With photo books starting at $12.99 and calendars starting at $9.99, the newly introduced pricing allows photographers and other creators of photo-rich products to pass savings on to their customers, thereby increasing both your audience reach and resulting sales opportunities.

Self Publishing Momentum Continues!

The independent publishing industry has taken great strides since Lulu first made the option to self-publish books widely available in 2002. On October 9, Bowker released new data highlighting the strong adoption of self-publishing as the industry continues to build momentum.

Most notably, Bowker cites a 59% jump in self-published titles in 2012 from 2011. That’s huge! Similarly, eBooks continue to gain popularity among self-published authors with 40% of the ISBNs that were self-published in 2012 being eBooks compared to 11% the year prior.

Recently, there has been yet another groundswell of enthusiasm and participation in the movement. There is ever-increasing credibility and success among self-published authors, even those that have been traditionally published before. Writers everywhere continue to embrace the opportunities and control afforded by making their books directly and immediately available to readers everywhere.

Highlights from Bowker’s 2011 annual findings included the addition of over 148,000 new self-published titles, which translates to 43% of all print books released in the U.S. that year. Also, self-published books represented 12% of all e-book sales and as much as 20% of specific genres like romance and fantasy.

You can read more about these trends and Bowker by visiting these sites:

Top ten errors writers make that editors hate

Screen Shot 2013-10-07 at 3.40.50 PMHelga Schier, independent writing and publishing consultant and founder of Withpenandpaper.com, recently gave a brilliant presentation at the Writer’s Digest Conference covering the trials and tribulations of book editors.  More specifically, she eloquently and succinctly outlined a list of the top ten errors editors hate — and often see — the most. For the writers in the room, this was a gold mine of valuable information and I would like to share what I learned.

First and foremost, there are three levels of editing and they should all build upon each other.

  • Editing that deals with the surface structure of the words on your page – copy-editing.
  • Editing that deals with style and voice, as well as, tightening your manuscript by getting rid of unnecessary sections – line editing.
  • Editing that deals with ways to make your world come to life, including ways to create your characters, build your world, and write good dialogue  – conceptual editing.

Before you hand your book to an editor, you should have already gone through these three levels of review…

The Basics: Writing

1. Editors hate it when it’s clear that you never ran that spell-check.

These are things everyone can fix.  This level deals with spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Your words are your tools so make sure they are in good working order. Some may argue that editors should care more about the story and characters. This is true, but these kinds of mistakes greatly distract readers from understanding and absorbing the book.  Your job as an author is to take the reader by the hand and take them on a journey through the story.  Bad grammar or spelling mistakes detract and sway from that journey.

2. Editors hate it when you serve leftovers.

  • Plot or character inconsistencies
  • Timeline issues

A good way to keep this from happening is to run a second reader check. Give your book to someone who will critically read it and ask them to report on things that don’t make sense to them.

Beyond the Basics: Writing in Style

3. Editors hate it when the writing is heavier than a ten-ton-truck.

  • Inflated sentences – polish your sentences, don’t use unnecessary lead-ins. Get to the point or meat of the sentence quickly.
  • Stilted language – you want to meet your readers through your work and you want to call the readers attention to your story or argument.  Unnecessary language reminds readers that they are actually reading and takes them away from being immersed in your world.
  • Overuse of adjectives and adverbs – makes a story feel cumbersome and lazy.  Most adjective and adverb phrases don’t do the description justice.

4. Editors hate it when style isn’t really style but writing in your comfort zone.

  • Repetitive use of vocabulary
  • Repetitive sentence structure and length

Every writer has a set of words that they fall back on and don’t often notice unless they specifically go looking for them.  Remedy: make a list of your most used words/phrases and go through your manuscript hunting them down.  Make sure your characters use their favorite words not yours.

Vary the length of the length and structure of sentences to provide a unique mix for the readers. Also, allow your characters to use varied sentence structure depending on their personality, background, and environment in which they find themselves. Step outside your comfort zone and find your voice.

5. Editors hate clichés. Except when they don’t.

  • Innovate and personalize clichéd images and comparisons.
  • Use clichés and stereotypes as character markers.
  • Turn stereotypes upside down to define a personality or relationship.

Leave trusted clichés behind. Clichés are predictable and writing should never be predictable.  Replace established clichés with your own creative ones. These images should be new and personal but, not obscure to your readers. You want your readers to turn the pages because they can’t wait to see what is beyond the next paragraph.

Far Beyond the Basics: Writing to make your world come to life

6. Editors hate it when characters resemble cardboard cutouts.

Don’t let your characters be predictable and don’t give your character’s entire back story all at once.  Readers can’t digest that volume of information and the story comes to a screeching halt with all suspension of disbelief gone. Giving the character’s back story is not the same as creating and developing a character that comes to life. You want fully developed characters with their own psychological make-up, who have a past, hopes for the future, and most importantly, a motivation or reason for their actions.

7. Editors hate it when the narrative tells rather than shows.

  • Scenes need to show how characters act and interact.
  • Narrative needs to observe, not comment.

Show don’t tell, but this does not mean that you should shy away from the description. “Show don’t tell” refers to the way your characters should interact. Scenes cannot happen in a vacuum. Your narrative must develop the scene.  Don’t simply say, “the restaurant was loud”, rather describe the conversation at the bar, the waiter dropping the tray, the phone ringing off the hook at the host stand. If you show something well enough, there is no reason to tell the reader.

8. Editors hate it when dialogues turn into speeches.

  • Dialogue requires that people interact with each other verbally and non-verbally.
  • Dialogue passes on information.
  • Dialogue defines characters and their relationships.
  • Dialogue exposes tension and conflict.

Dialogue in a novel is polished speech that serves certain functions…it shows relationship, moves the story along, creates scenes, etc.  None of your characters should ever lecture or pontificate. Dialogue should always have at least two people interacting verbally and non-verbally. The words a character chooses says a lot about the character’s background, personality, and status. Again, words should be theirs, not yours. Dialogue words must also fit the situation. Someone will speak differently given a different situation.

People don’t necessarily say what they mean or mean what they say. There is often a subtext. Do the characters have a relationship? Trust each other? Hate each other? Have a secret crush? This all can come through in the subtext of the dialogue.

9. Anything goes! But just because you say doesn’t make it so.

  • Events must be caused by earlier events and lead to the next.
  • Natural story development depends on the interplay of plot and character.
  • A character’s natural behavior must be motivated by his/her psychological disposition.

Remember, in a novel one event must lead to the next and the interplay of your characters and events should create the plot…in other words, it is the characters that write their own stories.

10. Editors hate hangnail writing.

  • Everything in your story has an impact on your readers.
  • Show and tell your readers only what is relevant. No more.
  • Show and tell your readers everything that is relevant. No less.

An extra scene, banter, subplots, or characters that don’t drive the story forward create boredom and distrust of the author.   Show the readers what is relevant, no more and no less. Readers take in everything about the story, so you must follow through. You absolutely must show everything that is relevant as readers only see what you show not what you may know.

Quick but hugely important tip:

Take time off from your manuscript, a step back, and gain distance. In that time…READ, READ, READ (other people’s work) then, reread your work.  First, start looking for the big picture stuff. Before you edit, read it again and look at style and genre. The third time, go for typos, spelling etc. DO ALL OF THIS BEFORE YOU BEGIN TO REVISE!

For access to Schier’s slide deck, click here.

 

 

 

Writing the breakaway self-published book…words of wisdom from Ivory Madison

Screen Shot 2013-09-27 at 11.40.30 AMIvory Madison isn’t only  the RedRoom.com CEO and Editor in Chief, she is an accomplished writer and author coach with numerous years of experience.  I was fortunate enough to catch her session at the Writer’s Digest Conference in Los Angeles, where Madison shared her “Red Room Method”, which helps authors blast through writer’s block and quickly develop into razor-sharp writers.

Her opening question to the audience and what you should contemplate while reading this post: is your book as good as it can be already?

A lot of people jump the gun.

One thing learned in teaching writing is that most people are doing it wrong.  They are trying to do too many things at once…worrying about marketing, if the structure is correct, do they need an agent, etc.

The Red Room method separates what you are doing into different buckets: Writing, Editing, and Marketing and focuses on getting your book done faster, easier, and at a better quality.

Writing (words of wisdom)

  • Writing comes from passion and processing. First drafts WILL be bad…they are supposed to be. A writer should  focus on the writing ONLY at first. Stop trying to do two things at the same time, “It’s like trying to run a marathon and you keep stopping and saying ‘Oh, I got the first steps wrong’.” Your first draft has to be imperfect so that your can productively edit.
  • There is a level of self awareness that is required for writing…it is a shift of self-perspective.  Stop trying to write like a writer and write like yourself!
  • Ann Rice once said that the great thing about writing is that it can be an expression of you without any special training or access. In other less eloquent words, writing is about yourself and marketing is about everything else.
  • If your goal is to finish your book then, schedule your hours with other people. Sit down with the group and dedicate the full hour to writing. People won’t show up for appointments with only themselves. Just remember that you can’t win a Nobel Prize in an hour BUT, you can write about 1,500 words. Relish that accomplishment.
  • Quit worrying about the quality. A baby’s first few steps aren’t fantastic but, they are still wonderful.
  • Remember to not write.  Don’t forget the other things in your life and relax and don’t always worry that you should be writing. Stop torturing yourself. Enjoy the other parts of your life and let your brain process it.
  • Some people have “blocks” and only think about all the reasons they aren’t finishing their book: I don’t have enough time, money, knowledge, etc. Bottom line is you make time for what you make time for. Don’t feel like you SHOULD be writing…GO WRITE!
  • Some people believe the myths about being a writer. Remember, every brilliant, successful author was told by someone somewhere that they were terrible. Perfectionism is the opposite of high standards.  High standards means getting it done, perfectionism means never getting it done.

 

 

 

Mythbusting: Traditional Publishing vs. DIY Publishing

Screen Shot 2013-09-27 at 1.32.51 PM“The only reason I’m here is to support and do whatever is possible for an editor to do to support a writer” is how Roy M. Carlisle started his presentation at the Writer’s Digest Conference.  This was refreshing…especially since it was being said by a man who lived in traditional publishing for years. Carlisle is currently the Acquisitions Director for the Independent Institute and gave us the inside scoop about traditional publishing and the myths associated with the industry.

A few things that are myths in traditional publishing:

  • Traditional publishers will always tell you that the self-publishing marketplace don’t exist.  Truth: that is completely false and your market is out there. Editors are often going to small publishers now to find authors.  Independent small publishers have grown by 5,000% in the last few years and there are 40,000 independent publishers now publishing really interesting, creative things.
  • You can’t do this on your own.  Truth, you CAN publish individually! You need to know what your strengths and your weaknesses are…in other words, know yourself. Reach out to experts from editors to cover designers and listen to their advice.
  • Only the GOOD books are published by traditional publishers. This is a blatant lie! There are numerous examples of amazing books done by DIY publishers. Refer 50 Shades of Grey sales figures. Don’t believe the hype!
  • Minor myth: Authors get rejected for specious reasons. Often times, traditional publishers are limited in their ability to respond in detail because of legal reasons. Get strong editorial critique from a qualified editor and don’t be afraid of it.

Final word: you are the future of publishing.

Yes, we are!