Business, technology, and how-to books can be viewed as one-sided sales conversations. Though the author may hope to sell products or services, what’s usually being sold directly to the reader is an idea—a strategy or philosophy that can be used to achieve a benefit. And the author is not present when they make their pitch—hence the one-sided conversation. Before readers will invest time in consuming, understanding, and executing the book’s idea, they need to know that the author:
Understands their culture
Addresses their pain points and challenges
And that the author will produce specific benefits that:
Save time and money
Make them feel better about themselves and their place in the world
Chapter 1: Is My Book for You?
Nonfiction authors often wish to establish thought leadership. They want to build communities and catalyze movements around their ideas. To do this, they need to put their books in the hands of relevant readers. Have you ever filled out an online form and downloaded a piece of software only to discover that the developer failed to mention it only runs on whatever platform you don’t use? Failure to qualify your user/reader results in nothing but unread books and ill will. In the first chapter (and on the back cover), make it clear who your ideal readers are and what result you intend to deliver for them. Who is your customer and what is your value proposition. Continue reading →
Rose Sneeringer, The Book Nurturer, invited me to join her panel of experts in the publishing portion of her summit, “Creating Your Dream Business: How to Follow Your Calling, Fulfill Your Purpose, and Succeed at the Work You Love!” The publishing telesummit is part of a broad selection of entrepreneurial discussions designed to promote creative entrepreneurship. The online event begins on February 15, 2016.
Publishing offers great opportunities for writers who pursue it as a business, but those who pursue writing as an art are often frustrated with their business results. In the publishing summit, we discuss some of the important challenges that face indie writers, how indie publishing is different from traditional publishing, common publishing pitfalls and mistakes, and how to adjust your expectations (or your writing and strategy) to achieve success.
The publishing telesummit covers such topics as:
Book and Cover design
Find the right editor
Take control of your publishing business
Should you hire a book publicist?
EBooks in the web browser
Making your own eBooks with WordPress
Sign up to attend the free publishing telesummit to hear my conversation with Rose and expert book publicist, Penny Sansevieri, along with publishing, marketing, and business advice from the rest of the panel of business and publishing professionals at http://yourdreambiz.net.
Book cover design tells the story of the story. It must convey the spirit and intentions of the author authentically, and it also has a few practical chores to perform. If a book cover design is to accomplish these things in a world of publishing “climate change,” old approaches must be both embraced and questioned. Books are marketed in ways that authors and publishers could never have imagined only a few short decades ago; a new approach is needed. At the same time, a study of the history of printing and design affords powerful opportunities to communicate in fresh new ways.
The notion that a book will be found in a bookstore, picked up, and perused is sadly obsolete, especially as it relates to indie publishers. If you don’t have a contract with a big publishing house, your book will probably never see a bookstore. It makes no sense to design a new cover to fit an old merchandising model. Consider how prospective readers will be exposed to your book, and what information will be presented in that context. The title, byline, synopsis, reader reviews, author pages, and other data are part of every book’s online listing. The cover art occupies only a small portion of the page. And all that data won’t be visible on the tiny, digital cover even if you do pack it into a book cover design.
It makes sense to rethink cover design. If your book is commercial, the cover should convey its practical value. But if your book is literary art, an artistic, uncluttered cover might convey that as well as any blurb or list of testimonials. As a designer, I find that liberating. Continue reading →
The host announces the next author. She walks to the lectern, offers a synopsis, and begins reading aloud. It’s not bad prose—and I can’t say that for every writer here—but after three pages of preface and another six of chapter one, I fantasize about ringing a gong and approaching the stage with a shepherd’s crook. I pretend to look interested and engaged, but that train jumped the track ten minutes ago. How can this well crafted writing become such an anesthetic when read aloud? This article offers tips for reading aloud that will help you keep listeners’ attention.
Why Reading Aloud Fails
According to ReadingSoft, the average adult reads prose text at 250 to 300 words per minute. The best readers consume over 1000. In its guide to Reading Aloud, The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America suggests that 150 words per minute is a suitable pace for reading aloud. In other words, the best and most efficient way to transfer ideas from author to reader is by distributing printed words on paper. If you want to share text exactly as you wrote it, hand out printed copies. Why read aloud if audience members can consume your work faster and focus on it more deeply on paper?
Clark Douglas Burris discusses his new book Walk & Roll, in which he tells the story of how he started the Miami Beach Senior High Rock Ensemble while battling the progressive effects of multiple sclerosis. Doug Burris shares his thoughts on writing, publishing, and book design.
Tom Morkes recently published The Perfect Book sales Page on his blog. I’m usually the first person to reject formulaic approaches to book marketing. Many well-written books are horrible products. But what I like about Tom’s template is that it forces you to ask important questions that can help determine whether your book is a marketable commodity. And it adds basic sales elements that communicate value to the prospective reader. Even if you haven’t written your book yet, consider how filling in the various sections in Tom’s template might change the way you write and publish.
Like this? Learn how to sell more books with Tom Morkes.
The Perfect Book Sales Page: Section 1 – The Big Picture
The Perfect Book Sales Page: Product Summary
At the top of the Perfect Book Sales Page, the title and cover that you’re selling a book, along with some bullet points that illuminate its key selling points. Stop! As simple and obvious as these may seem:
Does your title convey what your book is about?
Is your cover engaging?
Can you name at least three compelling reasons why a reader should buy your book?
So many authors never ask these basic questions. Smart publishers use them to determine what manuscripts to acquire and invest in. Writers who want to sell books ask these questions to help determine what to write. Yes, your book has to be good—but it also has to be a marketable product.
Rarely do I republish a blog post, but I just got another email from a writer who didn’t do his homework.
Many self-publishers start their book projects with unrealistic expectations and misunderstandings about how publishing works. A huge industry has arisen to prey on writers who are unsure of the path. This article explains the basics of how publishing scams work and how writers can avoid them.
Publishers must learn the risks inherent to their business. If you fantasize you’ll earn your investment back as soon as you get on Oprah’s show, it’s not the supply chain’s job to pressure-test your assumptions.
“If I’m a painter and you want purple zebra stripes on your pink house, someone’s going to take your money; it might as well be me.”
Though that kind of business practice isn’t strictly unethical, it overlooks the fact that the most important thing publishing service providers can sell is guidance. Too many author service companies take advantage of the fact that it really is your responsibility to know what you’re getting into.
To understand where the bait-and-switch usually happens in publishing scams, it’s essential to understand how the bookseller’s economic pie gets sliced.
The good folks over at Smith Book Publicity were kind enough to publish a guest post I wrote about “Writing the Cover Blurb,” that oh-so-difficult-to-write-well description that appears on the backs of book covers and on inside jacket flaps.
How can indie writers and self-publishers use a blog to build an author platform? The visitor stats for this site will soon cross the 150,000 page-view threshold and I expect to hit 200,000 by year’s end. Other bloggers have much higher visitor statistics. This article explains how to publish online content to build community around your books.
Build an Author Platform: Set up Your Blog
A blog (short for web log) is a publishing platform that enables you to publish static pages (About the Author, My Book, etc.) and a chronologically ordered stream of articles (called posts). My favorite engine for blogging is WordPress. WordPress is free and most web hosting services have an automatic installer that sets up a WordPress site with a few clicks. I also published my own installation guide on this blog. If you don’t want to buy a domain name and a web hosting account (or have decided that this article is already getting too technical for your tastes), start with a free account from WordPress.com. You can upgrade to your own, fully-customizable copy of WordPress that runs on your own server later. (Download your own copy from WordPress.org when you’re ready). Google’s Blogger.com is a popular alternative. It’s quite functional and it’s free but WordPress is infinitely more customizable.
I’ve learned a great deal, shared a lot of information, and met some some clever folks on LinkedIn writers’ forums, but no matter what topic is being discussed, some clown always posts a link to his latest book. Really? Are you kidding? Though I’ve written on this topic before, here are some thoughts on forum etiquette.
Forum Etiquette: Don’t Change the Subject
Changing the topic of a discussion to suit your own commercial agenda is spam—bad form. Topic changing is also called “hijacking” the discussion. Some group moderators will (quite rightly) ban you for it.
Forum Etiquette: Sell Books to Readers
Though you might feel like you’re among sympathetic colleagues, every single participant in writers’ forum discussions either has her own books to sell or is in the process of creating one. If everyone posted links to their books, any possibility for productive discussion would die altogether. Selling books in a writers’ group is like trying to sell boxed lunches at a chefs’ convention. Ask questions. Offer answers. Support or challenge the contributions of other participants, but don’t hawk your books in discussion forums—sell books to readers, not to writers! Continue reading →