Tuesday, December 28, 2010

What’s Your Plan?

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. It’s an old saying and cliché yet rooted in truth. What is your plan to market your book?
When many writers get this question, they pile on the excuses and look around for someone else. They have fallen into the trap of someone who has written a nonfiction book. They firmly believe, “If I build it (write it), they will come (buy it).” These writers firmly believe the marketing for their book is the responsibility of someone else—some publisher or some bookseller or some marketing person. Countless times I’ve listened to writers in my role as an acquisitions editor when they tell me about their disappointment in the results of their book sales.
Remember, when you point your finger at someone or something, four of your fingers are pointing toward you. As the author, you have the primary responsibility to continually market your book. No one else can do what you can do.
Let me give you a bit of my background so you see why I’m writing about this issue. I’ve published more than 60 nonfiction books and for five years I was a book acquisitions editor. When I became a book editor, I began to understand the economics of book publishing. It’s important for every author to understand these dynamics—whether they write fiction or nonfiction.
Here’s the financial information that I didn’t understand: for every book (fiction or nonfiction), a publisher is going to spend $50,000 to $100,000 (real dollars) to take your manuscript and turn it into a finished book. These numbers are with a modest advance to the author (say $5,000) and zero marketing dollars. These costs are production, cover design, editorial work, etc. on your book. Publishers receive thousands of submissions from would-be authors. As a part-time Fiction Acquisitions Editor at Howard Books, I was looking for six to eight full-length novels a year—and I’ve received over 250 submissions from individuals and literary agents. I’ve rejected some quality fiction because of the volume and limited spots. Imagine these numbers multiplied on other editor’s desks.
Let’s pretend for a minute that you are the editor and have to wade through these volumes of material to find the books for your list. You have two manuscripts. Both manuscripts are excellent, fascinating stories. One manuscript has a marketing plan and the other doesn’t. As the editor, you will be held accountable for your choices (within the publishing house). It’s a business to sell books. Which manuscript will you choose to champion to the other editors, the publishing executives (sales, marketing, etc.)? Editors risk for their authors. Your challenge is to prove to be worthy (actually more than worthy) of this risk.
Everything that I’m going to write is based on the assumption you’ve learned your writing craft and produced an excellent manuscript that is appropriate for a particular publisher. A big part of you may resist even creating a marketing plan. Isn’t that why you go to a publisher instead of publishing it yourself? No, you go to a publisher to use their marketing efforts in combination with your efforts to sell more books (and to have your books in the bookstore). Publishers love authors who “get it” and understand they need to roll up their sleeves and take a bit of their energy to market the books to their own network. Also publishers always want to do more for their books especially when they release. Yet they have 20 books to shepherd through this process—and you have a single book. Who is going to be more passionate about the book? It’s you as the author—well show a little of that passion in your marketing plans for your book.
Check out PyroMarketing by Greg Stielstra (Harper Business). This book will help you see how you can stir people to purchase your book and why mass marketing techniques are ineffective. To get a taste of this book, read this free introduction (I use with Greg’s permission).
Next learn from bestselling fiction author, Debbie Macomber. She has over 60 million novels in print. Bounce the ideas of PyroMarketing (particularly the fourth point of Pyromarketing: saving the coals or saving the data) against this page in her guestbook. I heard a “rumor” that Debbie has over a million names on her own database. Look at the information she is collecting on her guestbook from each person—including your bookstore information. Debbie understands what most beginning (and many published authors) don’t understand.
Finally can you bring your publisher a deal from the beginning that will sell at least 5,000 books? It’s not a crazy question since 70% of special sales are something that the author begins. For some creative ideas, check out Jerry Jenkins’ site. This is not the Left Behind author but another Jerry Jenkins. Put your own spin on these ideas with your book. Also you can learn more about this special sales idea through a free teleseminar which I hosted at: http://bit.ly/massbks.
Publishers are looking for true partners in the bookselling process. A marketing plan shows that you are actively going to enter into the process of selling books. Yes, publishers are looking for excellent storytellers but they need authors who care about selling books.
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Monday, December 27, 2010

Every Writer Needs A Plan

How did 2010 turn out for your writing life? Did you get as much into print or online as you planned? Or did you plan at all?

Many writers have a haphazard system for getting their material submitted and out into the marketplace. They work at it off and on without any type of consistent action, then they act surprised when little or nothing happens.

I've written many times about the necessity for a writer to learn his craft and improve their writing skills. It happens through consistency and constant learning and growth. Through experience their communication abilities increase and more of their work appears in print or online. As you write better, you will be compensated better (in most cases) for your writing. The principles are the same for growing your audience, your presence in the marketplace and improving your marketing skills. You need a plan then to consistently execute the plan. If you fail to plan, you should not be surprised when little or nothing happens.

As Raleigh Pinskey writes in the early pages of her excellent book, 101 Ways to Promote Yourself, "P.T. Barnum is the father of a well-known marketing cry, 'Without promotion something terrible happens--nothing!'"

What are you wanting to accomplish in the year ahead? A typical goal might be to gain more people coming to your personal website---or traffic as it is called in the Internet world. What steps can you take to generate more traffic and increased relationships because as John Kremer consistently teaches, writers sell books through building relationships.

I suggest you tap into this free resource from Anthony Morrison, 30 Days to Massive Traffic. This 76-page resource will not cost anything but it will require effort on your part. First download it, print it, read it but then apply it to your life. You will see a different result for your work in the days ahead. More people will know about you and your work.

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Monday, December 13, 2010

Do You Need Permission?

I work with a number of first-time authors who ask me about whether they need to gather permissions for their work. While I am not a lawyer (the first thing that I remind them), in most cases they do not need to get permission. Now if it is a poem or a song, then it is likely they do need permission because of how those forms are treated in the marketplace. If they are quoting a few sentences from a full-length book and refer to the source, it is unlikely that they need to get permission from the publisher.

Recently I read Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry's new book, The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published, How to Write It, Sell It, and Market It...Successfully! This book is loaded with sound advice on many areas of the publishing process--including permissions. As they write on page 212, "Don't start getting permissions too soon, because you don't want to waste your time or money. However, since it often takes a while to track down a pesky permission--and all permissions should be handed in with your finished manuscript--we suggest the following process:

"1. Break your permissions into three piles. Definites, Maybes, Unlikelies. Track down all sourcing and contact information for the Definites as early as possible. Get prices and any necessary forms. This will help you guesstimate total costs and figure out how much you'll have left over for the Maybes and Unlikelies."

"2. Don't pay for a thing until you're sure what's going in your book. This way, you won't wind up spending money on a Definite that turns out to be an Unlikely."

Then Eckstut and Sterry include a length section about what needs permission. This discussion is tied to the over 30 pages from The Chicago Manual of Style on the topic of fair use (a legal term related to the amount of material you can use from a source without asking permission. Here's the critical sentences on page 213, "It's okay for us to quote 122 words from The Chicago Manual because that's a tiny percentage of its total word count (the book could double as a doorstop). However, if you took 122 words out of a 200-word poem, you must get permission to reprint it--unless, of course, it's in the public domain. And don't forget, composers' and poets' estates are notorious for going after people who abuse copyright law."

Also Eckstut and Sterry include a fascinating story called The Pangs of Permissions: Acquiring permissions requires the patience of Job and the persistence of a pit bull. When she began writing A Thousand years over a Hot Stove, a book with more than 100 photographs and illustrations, Laura Schenone was ill-prepared for the amount of work permissions required. Not to mention the pounding her pocketbook took in the process."

"Laura was presented with an unexpected challenge. Many of the people she was dealing with would sell her rights only for the first printing of her book. 'My editor told me this would be 7,500 copies,' she says. 'When I bought the permissions, I wanted to up this number to 10,000 to 15,000 copies to be sure I was covered. But sometimes the fees as much as doubled.'"

"Laura's story illustrates the importance of understanding permission costs before signing a deal or developing a project. That said, Laura couldn't be happier that she wrote her book permissions and all. A Thousand Years over a Hot Stove went on to win a James Beard Award, the Pulitzer Prize of food writing."

Eckstut and Sterry include a sample permission form in an appendices (page 448). I've only shown one little area this book covers many other topics with great depth and valuable insight. I recommend this book, The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published--and in the process of writing this entry, hopefully I've shown you a little bit about the permission process.

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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Avoid the Many Pitfalls of Book Publishing

To many people, book publishing seems easy. Have a great idea then sit down and write your manuscript, send it to a publisher and have a bestseller. Poof!

The real story is quite different and full of small decisions which can make a big difference whether you achieve the dream or turn it into a nightmare, never-to-be-done-again experience. Every writer needs experienced guidance through the process. THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO GETTING YOUR BOOK PUBLISHED is packed with insight and wisdom from two experienced voices in publishing.

Avoid the many pitfalls of book publishing where the smallest decison can make a huge difference. For this comprehensive title, agent-at-large for the Levine Greenberg Agency Arielle Eckstut mixes her experiences with her husband, David Sterry. Check out their website at www.thebookdoctors.com. Their personal stories about publishing are combined with experiences from others in the publishing community.

The book is divided into three sections: Setting Up Shop, Taking Care of Business, and Getting the Word Out. The first section examines areas like finding the right idea, social networking and platform building, whether you need a literary agent or not, the submission process and taking action from rejection. The second portion examines how to make a publishing deal, practical concerns for writing the book, working with a publisher and finally whether to go the self-publishing route. The final section is an area where many writers are lacking: marketing and publicity and the fine art of selling to places like libraries, bookstores and unexpected places.

I read this book from cover to cover. While I've been in publishing over 20 years, I often found myself nodding in agreement and learning new insights in this book. I highly recommend it for the new and inexperienced author but also for the much-published author because they can find valuable insights in these pages.

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