Tag Archives: book marketing

Self-Publishing Versus Pursuing a Traditional Book Deal: A Writing Q & A

Question: With so many self-publishing options out there, why should I bother to pursue a traditional publisher for my book?

Writing Q and A: Traditional Book Deal

Answer: I love this question!

Here’s my short response: Traditional publishing requires less of the author, will likely result in more book sales, and carries the prestige of a publisher selecting your book for publication. The negatives include the effort to find a publisher, the length of time to publish the book, and earning much less per copy sold—if anything at all.

A commonly sighted reason to not self-publish is the requirement to market and promote our books. While it’s true that if we self-publish our books, we must market them if we expect to sell any, traditional publishers also expect you to help promote, market, and sell your books. If you can’t or won’t do that, the publisher is unlikely to decide to publish your book. In short, they want authors who can move books.

There is no one right answer. It depends on the goals and priorities of each individual author. Also, some authors do both, depending on the book. They’re hybrid authors, going with traditional publishers for some books and indie-publishing (self-publishing) for others.

Should You Be a Writer or an Entrepreneur?

Authors are advised to treat their writing like a business

Entrepreneurial

If you write solely for the fun of it or treat writing as a mere hobby, then don’t read this post. Seriously, it will just make you mad.

But if you want to succeed as a writer, regardless of how you define success, then this post should give you some ideas to consider. Please read on. Then let me know what you think about it.

Writing is a Business

When we treat our writing like a business it means we strategically pursue actions to meet the needs others have. We hope to earn a profit doing so. This need we strive to fill is information, inspiration, or entertainment. Maybe all three. For nonfiction we know things (or can find out things) that most people don’t know. For fiction we tell stories others want to read. We write to fill these needs. When we charge money for meeting the needs of others, we ensure we have the means to write more—and meet more needs.

A Book Is a Product

Yes, our books are creative works. Books are art, but they are also products; books provide a service to our audience.

A Series is a Product Line

If one book is a product, then a series is a product line. This is why beginning authors need to stay within one genre or one theme, so they can develop a product line and build a following around that line.

A Book Proposal is a Business Plan

At its most basic level an author’s business plan is a book proposal. Look at the elements of a proposal. It outlines the theme and purpose of the book (the product), it lays out a vision for what it will accomplish, it talks about the need for the book, and it addresses the competition. It also proposes follow-up books (a product line).

At the very least, a book proposal informs our writing and guides us to producing a marketable book (product). No business will ever produce a product people don’t want. An author shouldn’t either.Writing is a business, a book is a product, and a proposal is a mini-business plan. Click To Tweet

We Need Backing

The purpose of a business plan is to raise funding, to procure investors. When it comes to publishing a book our business plan (our book proposal) is the means to get a publisher to back us, to invest in our product (our book).

In theory an advance is money to live on while we develop the product (write our book). Our publisher will produce the book for us, distribute it, and sell it.

If we self-publish our book, we may go to Kickstarter to raise funds or solicit friends and relatives. They’ll want to see a plan before they fork over cash. Even if we self-fund our book, we would be foolish to do so without treating it as an investment.

Marketing Plan

Our marketing plan—often part of the book proposal—addresses how we will let others know about our book. Even if we go with a traditional publisher, they will expect us to market our book. If we self-publish, marketing is even more critical.

Writing and publishing a book requires thinking like a businessperson; we must become an entrepreneur, especially if we choose to self-publish.

Do you think of your book as a product? What do you think about treating writing as a business?

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

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Know Your Target Book Length Before You Start Writing

Book Length

When pitching my book at a writers conference, one industry person said my length was perfect, while another wanted it 20,000 words longer, and a third said it should have at least 25,000 more words. That’s a huge difference.

Finding the Ideal Book Length

There is no universal answer for the ideal book length, but there are some generalities. To avoid wasting time and effort, we need to be close to industry expectations when we write. Here are some ways to find out how long your book should be:

  • If you have an agent or publisher, start there. What they say, goes.
  • Ask people in the book publishing industry who know.
  • Go to a library or bookstore and look at the length of books similar to yours. (A rough average is 300 words per page.)
  • Search online (like I did) and find a lot of conflicting information, but at least it’s a place to start.

Know how long your book should be before you start writing. Click To Tweet

The main thing is don’t waste time writing a book that is way too short or too long for anyone to ever publish it. The closer our book is to our publisher’s expectations, the easier it is to tweak to meet their requirements.

Have you ever written something that was the wrong length? How are you at editing something to hit a word count? Even if you’re good at editing to hit a target word count goal (like I am), it’s a time-consuming and frustrating endeavor.

That’s why it’s best to make a book the right length to start with.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

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Why We Should Always Have Four Books in Our Book Pipeline

Writers: How many books do you have in your book pipeline?Some authors start writing their book, focus on it until completion, work to publish it, and then promote it. Then they start their next book—assuming they have an idea for one. They have one book in their book pipeline.

Other authors are working on so many books that it’s hard to accomplish anything. I fall into that trap. I have about a dozen books in various phases of development. In reality, the number is much higher. It is insane. How many books are your presently writing? What do you think about having a book pipeline? Click To Tweet

One successful fulltime writer works on three at a time. Even though I don’t spend all day writing books, I tweaked his advice to having four books in my book pipeline:

The Planning Stage: Starting with a book idea, be it a title, a concept, a lead character, a plot, or an ending, we gather information. This includes research, making notes, taking pictures, outlining, and writing the book proposal. This activity is not our focus, but it must be intentional. Our goal is to be 100 percent ready to start writing when the time comes.

The Writing Stage: For this phase we write the book from start to finish. We work on it every day. This is our focus. We don’t switch books. Bouncing from one project to another dulls our concentration and lengthens the time required to finish it. When we finish the book, we start writing the next one right away because we have already done all our prep work.

The Publication Stage: If we are seeking a traditional publisher, this phase entails writing query letters, fine-tuning our book proposal, and seeking representation. Once we have a publisher, we need to work with them to finalize the book.

If we are indie-publishing, this involves hiring an editor (or two) and reviewing their edits, having a cover designed, finding someone to do the interior layout, and so forth. This is our book, so we must be involved with every step.

Regardless of which publication path we pursue, there are lulls in activity as we wait for others to do their work. Our involvement happens in spurts. When it is time for us to act, we must make it a priority, all the while writing our next book.

The Promotion Stage: As the publication date nears, we switch into promotion mode. This could start six months in advance but at least one. Our involvement for this stage looks like a bell curve: there is a little bit of work leading up to the month before the launch, things peak—requiring much attention, and then a month or so after the launch things taper off. However, for as long as the book is in print, we should be promoting it to some extent.

Having four book projects in our book pipeline at all times ensures we will have a steady stream of output and hopefully some income to match.

How many books are your presently writing? What do you think about having a book pipeline?

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

Should You Form a Book Publishing Co-op to Produce Your Next Book?

Book Publishing Co-op

Last week we acknowledged no one has all the skills required to self-publish a book. The only solution is to pay a team of people to handle the critical tasks of book publishing. This includes cover design, editing, interior layout, photography, and so on.

Or is there another way?

Although it would take great effort, you might be able to put together a consortium of book writers. They can pool their collective talents to work as a team to produce each other’s books, with each author tapping his or her skillset for everyone else’s books. You could put together your own self-publishing co-op. If you have a book publishing skill to offer, maybe a book-publishing co-op is an option worth considering if you want to self-publish but have no money to do so. Click To Tweet

What a Book Publishing Co-op Might Look Like

Let’s say you’re an editing ace, but are lousy with a camera and don’t have a clue about graphic design or interior layout. Find an author who is also a professional photographer and another who does interior book layouts for a living. Then locate a fourth writer who does book covers for their day job. You edit their books and they contribute their individual expertise to yours. Of course a fifth author is helpful. This is someone who stays current with publishing options. They can serve as the logistical guru to keep abreast of production and distribution options. Then bring others into the group to handle other details, such as promotion, marketing, publicity, legal, and so forth.

Finding these people would be a challenge. But the Internet and social media makes it feasible, providing you have the time and patience to find the right people.

Though I’m not aware of anyone who’s formed a book publishing co-op, I’m sure there are already people doing this in concept. If you have a book publishing skill to offer, maybe a book publishing co-op is an option worth considering if you want to self-publish but have no money to do so.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

A Traditional Published Author Needs to Be an Entrepreneur

Just like their self-published counterparts, a traditional published author has much to do besides writing

Last week I pointed out that self-published authors need to be entrepreneurs and listed what that entailed. The reality is that a traditional published author needs to adopt this same mindset, being entrepreneurial as well.A Traditional Published Author Needs to Be an Entrepreneur

A given requirement is writing a great book.

The next step is finding an agent, who will find a publisher. To get the attention of both, many writers first hire—and pay—a developmental editor, copyeditor, or proofreader to help them make their work the best it can be before the agent or publisher even sees it.

The author also needs to conduct market research to write a compelling proposal. For nonfiction authors, success in all this, however, largely hinges of them having a platform, from which they can sell their books. Fiction authors don’t face as much pressure to have a platform, but it still helps.

Landing an agent, who will hopefully land a publisher, doesn’t mean the author’s job is done, however. Once the book is published, which could take a year or more, the author must also promote, market, and sell their books. Yes, the publisher will do this, but they’ll expect the author to do most of the work.

No one will be more passionate and have more at stake than the author. This may involve hiring a publicist. A traditional published author needs to adopt an entrepreneurial mindset. Click To Tweet

In addition to writing a great book, the traditional published author needs to adopt an entrepreneurial mindset, handling the following tasks:

  • Build a platform
  • Conduct market research
  • Hire a developmental editor, copyeditor, or proofreader
  • Find a publicist
  • Handle marketing and promotion
  • Develop and execute paid advertising

The days of sending your manuscript to your publisher and letting them take it from there are over. Even with a traditional publisher, the author still has a lot of extra work to do. Maybe self-publishing isn’t such a bad idea after all.

[What if you don’t want to be an entrepreneur and just want to write? There’s another option: become a ghostwriter.]

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

Put the Reader First or Risk Losing Them

Write for your audience, and don’t try to impress others with your skill

Put the Reader First or Risk Losing ThemI recently read a nonfiction book. My assessment was that the author wrote to impress more than to educate. Though I did learn from her words, I’d have gained much more had she gotten out of the way and put me, the reader, first. I didn’t care how educated she was or about her sometimes sassy style. I wanted her to teach me.

Regardless if we’re writing a book, article, or blog post, we need to put the reader first. Our words need to serve them, not call attention to ourselves with our clever use of words or the way we weave a phrase. The same applies to sales copy and marketing efforts for our books.

Whatever our promotional activities, we must carefully consider each campaign from the perspective of the prospect. Before we launch our promotion, even before the test marketing, we should take a step back and look at our creation as if we were the prospect.

We must consider each marketing campaign from the perspective of the prospect. Click To TweetConsider an email I received. It was set up like an email newsletter. The first item caught my attention. The email only provided a two-line teaser, so I clicked on “more” to read the rest.

That took me to a website (as opposed to the full text, lower in the email). Unfortunately, that page only provided the first four lines of the text, so I couldn’t read further until I clicked on “read full article.” I was six lines into it when the screen grayed out and an ad popped up, covering the entire piece. Then I had to “skip” the commercial so I could close the ad.

As this happened an intriguing video played to the right. My curiosity was piqued, and I wanted to hear the audio, but there was no volume control or “on” button. Incredible!

By then I had lost interest in the article and was peeved by the entire ordeal. I closed the window and opted-out from receiving further messages from the company.

I doubt that was their intent.

What steps can we take to put the reader first? What do we need to do to get out of the way of our message? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

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How to Build a Fan Base

Every writer needs avid supporters to help get the word out about his or her books

How to Build a Fan BaseWhen it comes to marketing our book we need a group of loyal followers. They are apt to buy our books and will be excited to tell others about them. We need a platform.

Most writers cringe at the word platform. That’s probably why some people use other words. One person says tribe and another prefers community, while others say street team. I prefer the word fans, which is short for fanatic. Yes, we all need fervent followers who are committed to our writing, our work, and us. But how do we find them?

Model What We Seek: To have a fan, we need to be a fan. Think about it. Look to serve instead of being served. Give without expectation. If they reciprocate that is a bonus, and we have found a new fan.

Share Freely: We need to give to our fans. This might be our time and attention. It might be personal messages via email, Facebook, and Twitter. We can offer them a nice discount on our book or even share advance copies for free.

Avoid Insincerity: No one likes a sleaze. Don’t become the used car salesperson of books. Avoid high-pressure tactics, false pretenses, and artificial limited time offers. We should avoid doing to others what we hate being done to us. It’s that simple. And if we are to error, lean towards humility.

Thank Profusely: We need to show our appreciation. We can do this with words and with gestures. We salute them: privately and publically. We let them know how much we appreciate them.

Reward Generously: We can recognize our fans in the acknowledgment section of our book. We can mention them on social media. We can let them read our next book before anyone else. How about sending them an autographed copy with a personal note?Developing a fan base is all about being nice. Every author can do that. Click To Tweet

Many book promotion gurus claim we only need a thousand ardent fans for a successful book launch. Though that’s a lot, it feels attainable. However, I’ve heard success stories from authors who only have a couple hundred. And I listened to a podcast interview of one successful author admit she focuses on about forty true fans. She lavishes them with attention, and they propel most of her releases into best-seller lists, and she makes a full-time living from her book sales. Finding forty followers is doable.

Cultivating fans is all about being nice. Everyone can do that – and every author should.

What do you do to find fans? How do you keep them? Please share your    thoughts in the comment section below.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

 

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8 Ways to Measure Success as an Author

Author discusses possible ways to measure publishing success

8 Ways to Measure Success as an AuthorAs an author how do you measure success? Here are eight possible ways:

1) Number of Books Published: What do you think when you read an author bio and learn they’ve written over one hundred books? You may think they’re successful. I wonder if they do. How many books does a writer need to publish to be successful? Many will likely say, “Just a few more.”

2) Number of Copies Sold: Looking at the number of books sold is another common measurement. However not all sales are equal. Do we count books given away? How does a 99-cent ebook compare to a $17.95 print book? While the total quantity of copies moved may be an encouraging (or discouraging) number, it is also misleading because not all sales have the same value.

3) Total Dollar Volume: Instead of looking at the number of units moved, a better way might be the dollar amount of those sales.

4) Amount of Revenue Earned: Equalizing the disparity between units sold and gross dollar volume is looking at revenue earned. This more practical evaluation looks at our writing career as a business. Though revenue earned from books is a great way to measure business and financial success, it may not fully reflect author success.

5) Reader Response: Other authors fixate on reviews and the number of stars, social media interaction, fan mail, blog comments, and email list size. These, however, put authors on an emotional rollercoaster, where success follows the latest whim of reader opinion. Some days are good and some, not so good.

6) Earning a Living as a Writer: Another consideration is being able to make a living as a writer. Meeting basic living needs through writing is all some authors want. But for others this is an unattainable goal, while another group finds it insatiable.

7) Personal Satisfaction: The knowledge of a book written well drives other authors, knowing they did their best. Similar sentiments are seeing ongoing improvement or having sincere pride over our work. But these are internal evaluations, which vary with our emotional state. One day we may feel successful and the next day, not so much.

8) Enjoying What We Do: There is much value in simply enjoying what we do as writers. Yes, numbers are great, earning a living is a bonus, and seeing improvement is affirming, but enjoying what we do is key.

While the initial question was how do you measure success, the better question is how should we measure success? I’m not sure how I measure success as a writer. It might be a combination of these; at times it may be all of these.

How do you measure success? How should you measure success? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.How do you measure success as an author? Click To Tweet

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

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Let’s Make the New Year Your Best Year Yet

Let’s Make the New Year Your Best Year YetIn this blog we talk about writing books, producing books, and marketing books. Successful writers must do all three. Neglect one element and your book will fail to meet your expectations and reach its full potential.

Even if you find a traditional publisher they will only handle the second requirement: publishing your book. Unless you are an A-list author they will do little marketing for you and expect you to put forth most of the effort.

And if you self-publish you must master all three: write a great book, produce an excellent product, and sell it effectively. Few authors naturally excel at all three. These are learned skills.

What do you shine at? What do you struggle with? Look at your weak area and commit to improving it this year.

The first step is writing a great book. Without compelling words, the rest doesn’t matter. Not really.

However writing a great book is just the first step. Next is producing it. This includes careful editing by skilled editors and a professional cover by an experienced designer. I’ve seen otherwise good books fail because of sloppy editing or an amateur cover.

Last, and perhaps most critical, is telling others about your book. We call this marketing. And though some artists think of marketing as the dark side of their craft, it is essential if you want to make money from your book and put food on the table.

Marketing starts with a great website, an email list, and an engaged social media following. Then there are ads, promotions, and pricing strategies.

Whether it’s writing, producing, or marketing, look to round out your skill set for this year and make it your best year ever.

Where are you at in the book publishing process? What will you do this year to shore up your weak area? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.Learn the 3 steps to successfully publish a book. Click To Tweet

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

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