Posts Tagged ‘publishing’

There are moments in our lives that change everything. One of mine occurred in 1997 as I was taking a coffee break and flipping through a newsletter from the UK’s Guild of Health Writers.

One of the articles mentioned that a boutique publisher was looking for professional writers to author some forthcoming books. One was on a topic I knew nothing about, wasn’t sure I believed in, and sounded like a job for a New Age nut rather than a serious journalist.

But I was unable to shake off the strong sense that this was a book I was destined to write. So I picked up the phone and persuaded the acquisitions editor that, with one book already under my belt and a reputation as a talented and reliable alternative health writer, I was the author they were looking for.

The result? The Book of Crystal Healing was published in 1998, went on to sell hundreds of thousands of copies worldwide and was quickly followed up with a commission to write The Book of Chakra Healing. Some 13 years later, that book is about to be republished as a Gaia Classic. Because of that one moment, I went on to fulfill a number of childhood dreams, not least becoming a full-time writer and consulting co-author whose 14 books continue to generate royalties.

Frans Johansson would call that early experience a “click moment,” which just happens to be the title of his latest book, subtitled Seizing Opportunity in an Unpredictable World. In it, Johansson clarifies something you may have wondered about (because I have): why is it that some activities require long hours of hard, focused effort in order to achieve success, while in some spheres a total novice can come in and enjoy instant fame and fortune?

According to Johansson, the “10,000 hours rule” that Gladwell cites in Outliers is necessary to succeed in rule-bound domains like chess or tennis, but isn’t required for more fluid arenas. Which is why folks can open a business like The Chocolate Room in Brooklyn, New York, having never “had any deep experience making chocolate.” Or first-time novelist Stephenie Meyer can score best-selling status with her Twilight trilogy.

Likewise, business success today is largely serendipitous, the result of greater complexity and chance encounters. But don’t shrug your shoulders and attribute it all to dumb luck. As Johansson discovered and reveals in The Click Moment, there are many ways to increase the odds of coming face to face with unexpected opportunities. Indeed, publishing a commercially and critically successful book seems like it has a lot to do with what Johansson calls “the purposeful bet.”

For example, scientists who publish many high-quality papers and low-quality papers (and aren’t necessarily smarter or more experienced than their peers) are the ones found most likely to write a groundbreaking paper. In Bird by Bird, nonfiction author and novelist Anne Lamott writes about the benefits of crafting “shitty first drafts.” She’s prolific – and her books sell. So do Stephen King’s, with each early success increasing the odds that readers will like the next book, and the next.

According to Johansson, Stephenie Meyer “broke all the rules…because she didn’t consider them.” But here is where I think many aspiring authors of nonfiction, as well as fledgling novelists, are misled. There are some generally accepted rules of storytelling that you must either learn or intuitively understand in order to write a compelling book. They are absorbed best, I believe, by doing a lot of reading — not least in the genre you wish to inhabit.

Johansson’s The Click Moment is a masterful example of great storytelling in action. In the tradition of Malcolm Gladwell, Daniel Pink and others, he has the ability to grab the reader’s attention right from page one and never let it wander until the end of the final chapter. I don’t believe you can do that without considerable understanding and effort, not least writing plenty of “shitty first drafts” that never see the light of day (or maybe your blog)!

If one of the opportunities you’re looking to court involves writing a commercially and critically successful book, I strongly suggest you read The Click Moment. Not just for guidelines on how to create more defining moments, to place purposeful bets and harness complex forces, but to see how superior nonfiction is crafted.

Liz-AlexanderLiz Alexander is a prime example of how childhood passions are the best indicators of future careers. She’s been writing since she could pick up a pencil, was reading newspapers at age two, and Homer’s epic poems by the age of 8. As “Dr Liz” (granted after five years in the educational psychology doctoral program at UT Austin), she draws on 25 years of commercial publishing experience to transform subject matter experts into best-selling thought leaders. Instead of the usual bio blah, blah, you can find an infographic depicting her communications career here, as well as social media links. Liz loves mutually respectful, intelligent arguments; feel free to challenge anything she writes here, or on her website
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In the days before the Internet and photo-sharing sites like Flickr, Photobucket, and SlickPic, you could rarely escape the post-holiday season without someone inviting you to look at their vacation pictures. If you’re anything like me, I’d rather have root canal work than sit through another presentation documenting the minutiae of a friend’s or family’s fortnight in Venice, or wherever. Call me anti-social, but seeing endless pics of said vacationers with “that great couple we met up with from South Africa” would invariably leave me cold — and wondering why it is that human beings believe that others are as interested in their lives as they are.

That thought occurred to me as I read Gary Wimmer’s A Second in Eternity: The true story about a voyage beyond time and space and into the Infinite (The Lithomancy Institute, 2011), a book I would not normally review here but which highlights an issue of relevance to many aspiring authors – including those planning to write business books.

This memoir relates experiences the author had in 1977 that involved some profound psychic realizations. Not that I have an issue with that, given a spiritual encounter of my own (Sevenoaks, Kent, England; 1999; in the bath. Enough said!). But in reading Gary’s book I reflected back on what Trevor Blake  (whose memoir-type book I reviewed for Thought Readership #12) had written in Three Simple Steps (BenBella Books, 2012): that he had focused on the process, not the person. Hence that author used personal stories to provide a narrative framework for the “three simple steps” he has used to achieve monumental business success. In Gary Wimmer’s case the only take-away was a recounting of his spiritual experience, and I couldn’t help but think that you would have to know and like him to be that interested.

As a rule of thumb, when it comes to your book it’s always about the reader. For novelists the challenge is to “entertain me.” For non-fiction authors, it’s typically to “inform or enlighten me.” Which means that even if your book relies heavily on your life story to “show” rather than “tell,” the needs and interest of your desired reader must remain foremost in your mind.

Why do you think Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love was such a huge commercial success if not for the fact that zillions of women could relate to her relationship issues at the beginning of the book and desired, vicariously at least, to journey to contentment as she did? Similarly, people are more likely to read Daniel Smith’s Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety if either they’ve experienced anxiety themselves or know someone they care about who does, and are looking to better understand and share insights about this condition.

Regardless of the genre or scope of your book, ask yourself why you are writing it, from the reader’s perspective not your own, and specifically what’s in it for them — before you begin.

It’s a fact — even in this so-called age of community, crowdsourcing and the like — that most people care less about you than they do about themselves. Which makes marketing and successfully selling copies of your memoir as a relatively unknown person a mighty challenge. And in Gary Wimmer’s case, writing a well-received spiritual memoir is, as this Daily Beast post points out, extra difficult.

I suggested to Gary that instead of simply writing a chronological account he might have highlighted the link between psychic abilities and mental illness so that readers who had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, as he had, might regard their situation differently. Or he could have illuminated us on the difference between these spiritual experiences and his former drug use, injecting plenty of humor into the telling.

Many people believe that there’s a book within each one of us. I don’t dispute that. What I do question, however, is whether there is a sizeable market for most of them. If you start out by thinking more deeply about whom you want to read your book and why they would do so, you’re part way to achieving the commercial success most of us are seeking when we write.

Otherwise your book is likely to be as welcome as forcing a complete stranger to review your holiday albums!

WIIFM: What’s in it for Me!

Liz-AlexanderLiz Alexander is a prime example of how childhood passions are the best indicators of future careers. She’s been writing since she could pick up a pencil, was reading newspapers at age two, and Homer’s epic poems by the age of 8. As “Dr Liz” (granted after five years in the educational psychology doctoral program at UT Austin), she draws on 25 years of commercial publishing experience to transform subject matter experts into best-selling thought leaders. Instead of the usual bio blah, blah, you can find an infographic depicting her communications career here, as well as social media links. Liz loves mutually respectful, intelligent arguments; feel free to challenge anything she writes here, or on her website
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When it comes to the commonly espoused belief that a nonfiction book automatically confers credibility on an author, my feeling has always been maybe, maybe not. After all, surely it depends on whether the book is any good with respect to delivering on its commitment to the reader, and isn’t just a 250-page equivalent of what Steve Jobs called “fart apps.”

When aspiring authors ask for my opinion on what they can do to make their book more credible, my answer is always “research.” Because, as one Harvard Business Review blog post commenter (thanks, Mark Mccarthy, whoever you are!) creatively pointed out in response to an article by a couple of consultants, “…without the research data (this information) could be as useful as a chocolate fireguard.”

Before you go running for the hills at the sound of the “R” word, let me assure you it’s not necessary to go to the lengths of the three co-authors of The Customer Experience Edge: Technology and Techniques for Delivering An Enduring, Profitable, and Positive Experience to Your Customers (McGraw-Hill, 2012).

Having the resources of their employer SAP at their disposal in order to commission an independent study, Reza Soudagar, Vinay Iyer, and Dr. Volker G. Hildebrand might have been expected to come up with a credible book; but not necessarily so. It wasn’t just a question of doing research, but also the kind of deep analysis and organization of material that enables the average reader to immediately “get” the data’s applicability. If that doesn’t happen, all you end up with is another data-heavy, dry textbook yawn-fest.

Let me give you a brief backgrounder to how this book came about, before we look at how to scale-down their approach for the kind of credible book you might write.

The authors had taken notice of IBM’s Global CEO study, which found that getting closer to customers was the number one priority for the executives polled. So they commissioned Bloomberg BusinessWeek to research the topic by surveying their reader base and interviewing companies that had achieved significant transformations through a primary focus on customers. Deciding to weave those findings into a book didn’t strike them until the research was completed, 12 months’ later, co-author Vinay Iyer told me.

What the authors did was to break down that mass of information, extracting four essentials of customer experience: Reliability, Convenience, Responsiveness, and Relevance, which were validated by the real-world responses from 307 director-level and above executives at midsize and large companies. They then mapped these essentials onto three key technology-related areas (they work for SAP, remember) and used specific company examples to show how this framework results in the “customer experience edge.”

What can those of us do, who don’t have the resources to support this kind of large-scale research or want to wait 12 months before getting started on our book?

Why not personally interview a sample of industry or business experts to gather their perspectives about your topic, using that material as a key feature in your book? At the same time you’re gathering advocates to help market the book when it’s published.

Or you could develop a short Wufoo or SurveyMonkey questionnaire, promoting that through your social media channels, to gather relevant data.

Certainly there’s nothing wrong with writing a book based only on your opinion—although preferably if it’s been honed and refined over many years and tested against a wide range of situations. But without the added credibility of research, as the man said, your book could end up as useful to the rest of us as a chocolate fireguard.

Coming Next on Thought Readership: A Legend In Its Own Lunchtime: What A Developmental Editor Could Have Done For This Book!

Liz-AlexanderLiz Alexander is a prime example of how childhood passions are the best indicators of future careers. She’s been writing since she could pick up a pencil, was reading newspapers at age two, and Homer’s epic poems by the age of 8. As “Dr Liz” (granted after five years in the educational psychology doctoral program at UT Austin), she draws on 25 years of commercial publishing experience to transform subject matter experts into best-selling thought leaders. Instead of the usual bio blah, blah, you can find an infographic depicting her communications career here, as well as social media links. Liz loves mutually respectful, intelligent arguments; feel free to challenge anything she writes here, or on her website
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The publication of your first book marks a milestone in your life and in your career. You’ll probably never forget the excitement you felt when the first box of books arrived and you reached in and could hold your book in your hand.

Hold that thought! Because your feeling of joy and satisfaction will soon be followed by the question, What am I going to do next?

Where’s the second act?

At some point, your agent, clients, friends, and publisher are going to ask you, What are you going to write next? It’s not an easy question to answer, here are some of the things you should be thinking about:

  1. Write or market? Should you devote more time to marketing your current book, or should you move on to new projects?
  2. Topic. Are you going to write about the same topic, or a different topic?
  3. Format. Will you write another book, or will your follow-up project be an audio, video project?
  4. Distribution. Are you going to self-publish your next project, continue with your current publisher, or seek another publisher?

Some of the answers to these, and other, questions may be beyond your control. Depending on your agent’s, or your, savvy, your current publishing contract may limit your options. Unless the dreaded “Right of first refusal” clause was deleted from your contract, for example, you may be limited in your publishing options.

Likewise, if you don’t have clear copyright ownership of your book title, or, at least, the key words in it, you may not be able to take the title elsewhere or use it for creating your own back-end events, products, and services.

Your book’s sales also make a difference. The sales of your book will influence your desirability and bargaining power with your current publisher and your reception at other publishers.

Is your title expandable?

Most important, Were you looking to the future when you chose the title for your first book? Did you choose an accurate, distinct, and memorable title that you can expand into a series of books? Was the core idea of your first book so specific that it won’t survive the test of time? Or, did you choose a title that describes a condition that will be around a long time?

The ideal book titles balance brand and specificity.

  • Narrow book titles, like How to Get Rid of the Water In Your Basement, doesn’t provide many opportunities to build your brand. These titles are so literal that there is nothing to remember.
  • Branded titles, however, emphasize an attitude, approach, or perspective, such as the 5-Thumbed Homeowner’s Guide to Getting Rid of Water in Your Basement. Now, using a title formula, you can do what Jay Conrad Levinson’s Guerrilla Marketing series, the …for Dummies series, or Robert Kyosaki’s Rich Dad, Poor Dad series, did and create a series of best-sellers that can be added to over the next 20 years!

When you’ve chosen a branded title, you can create a series of 5-Thumbed Homeowner Guides to building outdoor patios, renovating bathrooms, or converting a spare bedroom into a home office!

Should you re-invent the wheel?

Thus, when selecting topics for follow-up books, avoid the temptation to reinvent the wheel. Instead, look for ways you can build on the brand you began with your first book or e-book.

The following are some topic ideas you can use when choosing a topic for your follow-up book:

  1. Go deeper and narrower. In your follow-up book, you can explore a particular aspect of the process described in your original book, going into greater detail than you did in your original book. Often, a topic that you covered in a single chapter of your original book- -or, even- -just part of a chapter, can form the basis for your next book.
  2. Different formats, different prices. In contrast to going deeper, you might explore ways to write a less expensive version of your original book, perhaps one designed to appeal to newcomers to your field. If your first book was an expensive Handbook, for example, your follow-up book can be a Weekend Guide. By offering a lite version of your original book, you can appeal to a particularly price sensitive market.
  3. Narrower market focus. Another alternative is to narrow your focus, and focus your next book on a particular market segment. If your first book introduced 10 ideas or tools, for example, for online marketing, your follow-up books could apply the ideas or tools to particular business categories or occupations. A series of books on home maintenance, for example, could be created targeting different geographic areas, i.e., cold climates, warm climates, humid coastal locations, etc. Jay’s Guerrilla Marketing series, for example, has been adapted for financial planners, non-profits, performers, and writers. There are also versions targeting techniques, like online marketing.
  4. More helpful. Even if your original book contained exercises and questions intended to help readers apply your ideas to their specific situations, there’s usually room for improvement. In this case, consider offering a workbook containing worksheets and planning sheets readers can use in conjunction with your original book.
  5. Case studies and profiles. One of the best ways to return to the theme of your original book is to describe the experiences of readers who read your book and followed your advice. Undoubtedly, new ideas and perspectives will emerge as you interview your original readers, which will add interest to the follow-up book.
  6. Updates. New challenges, opportunities, technologies, and trends are constantly appearing, and new case studies are likely to emerge. In some situations, there are opportunities for yearly updates. In other cases, however, you can wait for new tools to establish themselves before writing a book describing their impact on your field.

The importance of planning ahead

Planning has been a constant at every step in this Author’s Journey (see previous installments in the Author’s Journey series). Whether you’re picking a topic, analyzing the competition, creating a table of contents, or setting up a blog, you start with a plan. Serendipity will always present itself, but it’s essential that you look to the future when planning, writing, marketing, and profiting from a book.

rcp-heming-picRoger C. Parker helps others write books that build brands. He’s written over 30 books, offers do-it-yourself resources at Published & Profitable, and shares writing tips each weekday. His latest book is Title Tweet! 140 Bite-Sized Ideas for Article, Book, and Event Titles
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The next logical step, after planning, writing, and promoting your personal branding book, as described during the past 29 weeks, is to create a series of information products based on your book.

Information products are often referred to as “back end” profits, since the profit goes directly to the author, and the profit is generated after a reader’s initial purchase of a book.

The purpose of these information products is to build profitable, long-term relationships with prospects who have read your book and now know, like, and trust you. The key words in the previous sentence are profitable and long-term:

  • Profitable. The relatively low selling price of most books, coupled with the costs of production, printing, marketing, and distribution, severely limit an author’s profit options. However, there is no limit to the profits that authors can earn from selling information products based on their books.
  • Relationships. An author’s ultimate profitability is determined not by a reader’s first, or, even, second, follow-up sale, but by the author’s ability to create an on-going relationship that generates multiple sales from readers of their book.

Today, with the Internet, it’s easier than ever for branded, nonfiction authors to create and market information products to their tightly-defined markets. However, authors must prepare the groundwork well in advance of their book’s publication.

What are information products?

The best definition of information products comes from The Official Guide to Information Marketing on the Internet, by Robert Skrob & Bob Regnerus, with a Foreword by Dan Kennedy. (An Entrepreneur Press book.)

In the Foreword, Dan Kennedy wrote:

Information marketing, then, is about identifying a responsive market with a high interest in a particular group of topics and expertise, packaging information products and services, matching that interest (written/assembled by you or by others, or both) and devising ways to sell and deliver it.

Dan concludes: If you can name it, somebody is packaging and profitably information about it.

Information product decisions

As we have seen throughout my Author’s Journey, success is ultimately based on an author’s decision making ability. At every step along the way, authors are making decisions, choosing one title over another, deciding how much information to include in each chapter, and deciding whom to approach for pre-publication marketing quotes.

With regard to information products and back-end profits, authors must make 3 types of decisions:

  • Copyright. Who owns the rights to the book’s title and contents? When authors choose a trade publisher, copyright ownership is usually split between author and publisher. Although, on the surface, this sounds innocuous, it can lead to future problems in terms of using the book title and key ideas to generate information product profits that are not shared with the publisher. One of the reasons many authors choose to self-publish is freedom from potential copyright hassles.
  • Format. What are the best formatting choices for information products? How should information be packaged and distributed? Authors often approach formatting decisions, i.e., printed paper pages electronic files, CDs and DVDs versus streaming audio or video. However, a better way to approach formatting decisions is from the perspective of: Which format does my market desire?
  • Topics. After making the correct copyright and format decisions, the last topic involves choosing the specific topics, or titles, for information products. Should an author focus information products on providing the latest information, implementation assistance (i.e., tips and worksheets), or should the focus be on creating customized versions of the book for specific vertical markets?

There is no universal right or wrong way to answer the above questions. In most cases, information product decisions, like planning, writing, and book marketing decisions, ultimately involve serious tradeoffs.

An author’s decision to accept a trade publisher’s, hypothetically, $20,000 advance for a  hardcover book that will be sold in Barnes & Noble and Borders, plus airport bookstores, must be weighed against their 100% ownership of the brand created by the book and freedom to control audio and video rights, and create a profitable “train the trainer” program that can be sold around the country.

Sometimes, of course, it’s possible to do both! But, this won’t happen by accident!

If an author’s goal is to create a personally branded franchise that can be leveraged around the country, rights have to be negotiated with the publisher. Or, the author should plan on max’ing out the credit cards, or taking out a second mortgage on the house, in order to self-publish their book.

Closing thought

For too long, authors have approached writing books from an ideas, or purely “writing,” point of view. A few authors, with a more enlightened point of view, have viewed books as the result of a partnership between writing and marketing.

But, now, as competition for traditional retail shelf space has intensified while the Internet has opened new avenues for self-publishing and self-marketing have opened up, it’s become increasingly obvious that it is difficult to separate books from information products. Today’s most successful authors view their books as tools for subsequent sales of information products; authors are now publishers; but can only succeed as publishers when they plan, from the start, to make the transition

rcp-heming-picRoger C. Parker helps others write books that build brands. He’s written over 30 books, offers do-it-yourself resources at Published & Profitable, and shares writing tips each weekday. His latest book is Title Tweet! 140 Bite-Sized Ideas for Article, Book, and Event Titles
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Roger-Step1-PlanAuthors must look beyond the obvious – -the trends and the hype – -when choosing the type of book publishing that’s best for them and their family. It’s easy to get seduced by the many recent, exciting, changes in book publishing technology.

Before rushing into a decision, I encourage you to make your choice from a detailed analysis of how each publishing option will impact you and your family both before and after your book is published.

Publishing options at a glance

The 3 primary publishing options include e-books, trade publishing, and self-publishing.

E-books

E-books span the gamut from word-processed documents distributed as Adobe Acrobat PDF files to professionally designed books optimized for on-screen reading, like Rajesh Setty’s Defiant. A new generation of e-book readers has received a great deal of attention, like the Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble Nook.

When analyzing the pros and cons of e-books, authors need to be careful to ask the right questions. The questions should not revolve around the current popularity of e-books and e-book readers- -i.e., whether or not e-books will replace printed books, etc.

Instead, authors must ask whether or not an e-book, by itself, will be enough to build the compelling, income-generating, personal brand they desire.

The big question is not whether or not e-books are popular, but whether or not they can position you as a subject area expert in your field

Trade publishing

Trade publishing, i.e., printed books published by large, specialized firms and distributed online and through “bricks and mortar” retail channels like Barnes & Noble, Borders, and regional independent bookstores offer authors a “no cost” way to get their book published.

Trade publishers front the money for all of the costs involved in editing, designing, formatting, printing, and distributing the book. In fact, traditionally, authors would receive often-significant advances on the future earnings of their books.

In exchange for freedom from up-front investment, however, authors must pass the gauntlets of rejection; publishers typically receive hundreds of books proposals for each book they publish. In addition, authors typically sacrifice a lot of control. It’s no longer “author and book,” but “author and committee”- -and the committee is a huge one.

Major decisions, like titles, book covers, size, pricing, and market positioning, are taken out of the author’s hands, and many surprises occur. (Many authors don’t even see their book’s front cover until it’s too late!)

Other compromises involve the amount of money authors receive from sales of their books, copyright issues that can limit back-end profit opportunities, and rights to future electronic products (like DVD’s). Most non-fiction books fail to earn royalties beyond the initial advance, although the occasional “home run” can create life-changing cash-flow.

Authors must ask themselves if the publisher’s credibility, expertise, and bookstore distribution are worth the lack of control and reduced earnings characteristic of trade publishing.

Self-publishing

Self-publishing continues to enjoy growing popularity. And, like “hybrid automobiles,” the term covers a broad range of options. Self-publishing ranges from an author taking responsibility for everything- – including editing, designing, printing, and distributing their book- -to options where outside firms will take as much responsibility for book production and distribution as desired.

Self-publishing offers control and speed: author’s call the shots and can get book into the hands of their clients and prospects faster than trade-publishing.

In addition, depending on how much money the author initially invests in their project, authors can far more profit per-copy than they would ever earn from trade publishing. This is especially true with direct online sales and from selling multiple copies of their books to businesses and associations.

Before choosing self-publishing, however, authors must determine whether or not they have the resources necessary to self-publish their book, and also make sure they want to spend their time performing the tasks necessary to distribute their book.

Authors have succeeded, and are succeeding, with each option. In addition, hybrid options are becoming available. What’s important, however, is What will work best for you?

How to choose the right publishing option

Ultimately, the choice for most authors boils down to just 2 issues: cash-flow and task preferences.  Cash-flow and how the author wants to spend their time after their book appears are the crucial issues.

Cash-flow

For many authors, the issue is cash-flow. Self-publishing initially involves negative cash flow, the money flows away from the author. The author is investing (or borrowing) money against future profits. Authors must put out money for editing, design, production, and proof-reading- -in addition to paying up front for printing and shipping.

If the money is there, i.e., if an author can more comfortably invest in their book without risking their financial security, self-publishing makes sense.

But, if the investment will seriously impact their family’s standard or living, or- -, even worse- -put it at risk, self-publishing doesn’t make sense.

The Preliminary Cash Flow Projection worksheet displays the implications of self-publishing versus trade publishing.

Task preferences

Successful self-publishing requires a different set of tasks than writing a book. It’s up to you whether or not the tasks are those you’d like to either commit to on a daily basis or delegate to others. These tasks involve:

  • Processing and fulfilling orders, packaging and addressing individual books, handling the occasional, inevitable, returns.
  • Shipping cartons of books to distributors and bookstores, handling returns of unsold books.
  • Monitoring inventory, deciding when to re-order books.
  • Legal and accounting; monitoring accounts receivable and tracking down overdue payments, dealing with copyright issues.
  • Negotiating terms with bookstores and distributors, including discounts and return privileges.


There’s nothing inherently wrong with these tasks, but authors must balance their writing and client-service time with the minutiae involved in bookstore distribution and fulfilling individual orders.


The Author Task Preference Worksheet helps you identify your “fit” with the tasks involved in self-publishing.

Conclusion

As the above questions show, choosing the right publishing alternative involves more than simply “going with the flow” or choosing the most popular alternative. The right choice of publishing alternative involves carefully balancing their goals and resources with the realities of each publishing option.

To help my clients, I’ve created several worksheets, like my Self-Publishing Expense Planner, shown above, to help authors realistically run the numbers and make the right decisions. (E-mail me if you’d like to see a sample.)

rcp-heming-picRoger C. Parker helps others write books that build brands. He’s written over 30 books, offers do-it-yourself resources at Published & Profitable, and shares writing tips each weekday. His latest book is Title Tweet! 140 Bite-Sized Ideas for Article, Book, and Event Titles
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Roger-Step1-PlanOne of the most important decisions you should ask yourself during the planning process is, “Who is my intended reader?”

Your answer to the question will have a lot of bearing on the overall profitability of your book publishing project as well as help you make faster progress. Your response will influence your book’s title and subtitle, your book’s contents, as well as how you market your book.

More important, by carefully answering the above question, you can not only serve your most target market better, but you might also be able to write a shorter book and get it to press faster!

All readers are not created equal

Roger-Parker-Post-2-Reader-IDentif-Plnr-TWO.jpgThe market segments you want to sell to in the future should determine the readers your book targets. As every business owner and marketing professional knows, some segments are more profitable, more loyal, and easier to deal with than others.

By identifying your most desired clients as early during the planning process as possible, you tailor your book to your A-list prospect’s needs, rather than “spinning your wheels” with more B-list and C-list prospects.

Thus, start to plan your book by analyzing your firm’s past and current clients. I recommend creating a worksheet similar to the Published & Profitable Reader Identification Worksheet shown at left. Worksheets make it easy for you to answer questions like:

  1. What characteristics do my most profitable, A-list, clients have in common?
  2. What are their problems and goals?
  3. Why is this reader segment important to me?
  4. What problems and services do I hope to sell them in the future?
  5. What keywords do they use when searching for information online?
  6. Who are the experts this market segment trusts?

What your answers will reveal

Your responses to the above questions will help you get started planning a profitable book, one that will open doors of opportunity by attracting qualified prospects and search engine traffic.

Let’s analyze each question and the information your answer will provide:

  1. What characteristics do my most profitable, A-list, clients have in common? Your response will help you better understand the readers market segment most likely to turn into profitable long-term clients.
  2. What are their problems and goals? By focusing on your most profitable market segment, you can tailor your book’s contents and marketing message to their particular needs. You can “go deep” and better address this market segment’s needs, without diluting your message by attempting to appeal to the needs of every market segment.
  3. Why is this reader segment important to me? Your answer will reinforce the reasons for focusing your book to appeal to a few, key, marketing segments. You can state your answer in terms of average cost per sale, frequency of purchase (i.e., cash-flow), the number of referrals they generate, the promptness of their payments, their long-term loyalty, or ease of dealing with them.
  4. What problems and services do I hope to sell them in the future? Knowing what you want to sell them in the future helps you identify the content needed for your book. You’ll be able to subtly plant the seeds of future purchases in your book, highlighting areas of your expertise and describing the benefits of taking action with the help of your tools or your qualified assistance.
  5. What keywords do they use when searching for information online? Knowing the terms that attract appropriate search engine traffic will help you choose the right title and subtitle for your book as well as the right section titles and chapter titles. Book titles that contain relevant keywords enjoy a great advantage over their more creative, but less SEO-friendly, competition.
  6. Who are the experts this market segment trusts? Your answer will help you identify your competition, existing books in your area as well as the blogs and websites that are competing for your ideal client’s attention. Addressing this question now saves you time in the future when you are preparing the “competing books” section of your book proposal.

As you can see above, there are numerous benefits to beginning your author journey by identifying your most desired readers. In addition to doing a better job of serving their needs, by focusing on your ideal prospects, you might be able to write a shorter book. A book that serves “everybody” has to be encyclopedic, but books that target specific markets can focus on just the desired market’s information needs. Thus, a shorter book that can be brought to market faster.

Take action now

Your Reader Identification Worksheet doesn’t have to be fancy. You can create one by simply taking a sheet of paper and dividing it into three equal columns.

  • Ÿ  Left-hand column. Label the left-hand column “A-list” or “Most Desired Prospects.”
  • Ÿ  Center column. Label this “B- and C-list” or “OK prospects.”
  • Ÿ  Right-hand column. Label the remaining column “Least desirable” or “More Trouble Than They’re Worth” prospects.

Then, thinking about your client and customer experiences over the past few years, look for commonalities shared by your best clients and ways they differ from your “just OK” and toxic clients.

The business of books

If all this sounds familiar to your previous experiences preparing business and marketing plans…that’s because books are businesses!

Just as a strong business plan begins with identifying the intended market and their needs, nonfiction books should begin the same way. Books have to be sold–that’s the bottom line. It’s a waste of time to write the perfect book, only to find out after it’s been published that nobody wants it.

So, as you begin your author’s journey, identify your ideal prospects and plan to write the book they want to buy!

Offer

I’ll send the first 10 readers who e-mail me at Roger@Publishedandprofitable.com a copy of the Reader Identification Worksheet shown above. Please mention Reader Identification Worksheet in the subject line

rcp-heming-picRoger C. Parker helps others write books that build brands. He’s written over 30 books, offers do-it-yourself resources at Published & Profitable, and shares writing tips each weekday. His latest book is Title Tweet! 140 Bite-Sized Ideas for Article, Book, and Event Titles
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Roger-Step1-PlanI’d like to invite you along on an author’s journey towards writing a nonfiction book. During the next 26 weeks, I’m going to share my progress towards my 39th book. I want to share with you some of the strategies and tips I’ve learned about book publishing and personal branding. I also want to share some of the changes that have taken place in publishing, as well as share the steps in the decision-making process that can save you time and help you avoid expensive mistakes.

Why do business professionals like you write books?

Certainly, it’s not the “big bucks” advances from conventional trade publishers. Celebrity 6 and 7-figure advances notwithstanding, direct income from book sales is likely not to become a significant income source for you and your family.

And, unless you self-publish, which requires you to spend money before you can earn money–you’re unlikely to profit from endless streams of recurring income from book royalties each month.

So, why do business professionals write books, if it’s not the money?

There are two ways to answer this question: the anecdotal approach and the statistical, research study approach:

  1. Post-1-MLevy-42Rules-TWO-5Anecdotal approach. The easiest and most readable way to learn why busy professionals write books is to pick up a copy of Mitchell Levy’s 42 Rules for Driving Success with Books. The 5 sections of this book provide concise, entertaining, and revealing real-world portraits of authors who have escaped the economic hell of anonymity by writing a book that positioned them as experts in their field. If you’re looking for believable role models of publishing success, this is the place to start at a very reasonable price.
  2. Post-1-RainToday_Rprt-TWO-5Research-study approach. RainToday, the research and publishing arm of the Wellesley Hills Group, has published a detailed, 2-volume, 300-page Business Book Publishing Series Report. Based on detailed interviews and surveys with published authors, these reports make a dollars and cents argument for writing and publishing a book to build your brand and attract qualified prospects.

The most telling statistic: 96% of authors reported that publishing a business book affected their practice either “Positively” or “Extremely Positively!”

So, why am I, again, beginning an author’s journey?

My last book, Design to Sell, came out in 2006, and my previous book, The Streetwise Guide to Relationship Marketing on the Internet, came out in 2000. My previous books sold over 1.6 million copies throughout the world. (My shelves are loaded with copies of my books I’ll never be able to read, i.e., Chinese, Polish, Russian, and Hebrew editions.)

My best-selling books came earlier, when it was easier to earn significant incomes from publisher’s advances and royalties on book sales. My first NY Times best-seller was Looking Good in Print: A Guide to Basic Design for Desktop Publishing, and the late 1990’s were subsidized by significant royalties from Microsoft Office for Windows 97 For Dummies, and others in the series.

Now, it’s time to write again, and there are several factors driving my decision. The relative importance of the following varies from day to day, but all of the following play a role:

  • Writing is fun. Isn’t that a crazy thing to say? Yet, it’s true. At the end of the day, there’s satisfaction to be found in whatever you’ve been able to accomplish. There’s a lot to be said for starting with nothing, and ending up with a page or two of convincing arguments that didn’t exist at the start of your writing session.
  • Repositioning my expertise. For many years, I was known as the “design guru of our generation who has taught desktop publishing excellence to hundreds of thousands,” as Ralph Wilson said. I continue to love graphic design, but at the present time, I’m more interested in teaching writing skills at Published&Profitable and writing about writing in my daily writing tips blog. The time is right for me to write a book about publishing that will attract more qualified traffic to my website and more invitations to speak.
  • Passion. I’m not only very passionate about the topic, I want to learn more about it and be able to teach it more effectively. Writing is the best way to enhance your understanding and ability to communicate it to others.
  • It’s a different world. There are some wonderful changes taking place in publishing these days. New tools are available that open up new frontier of opportunity for authors who are willing to adapt to the times. Never before have the barriers to entry been as open to entrepreneurial authors as they are now. I’m tired of writing about these changes, I want to take advantage of them myself!

I’m tired of writing about these changes, I want to take advantage of them myself!

I’m looking forward to putting today’s new writing and marketing tools to work writing and promoting a different type of book, one that only now makes sense for business professionals.

My new book also provides an opportunity for me to synthesize marketing and writing in ways that were impossible for most business professionals in 2000, and were only known to a few non-computing professionals in 2006.

I hope you’ll come along for the remaining 25 installments of this author’s journey; and, if you’re so inclined, I hope you’ll become convinced that it’s time for you, too, to begin an author’s journey.

In the second installment of this series, I’m going to address the first question you should ask yourself when writing a book: Who Do You Want to Read Your Book? The answer may surprise you.

Note: Drop me a line at Roger@publishedandprofitable.com and I’ll send you a PDF of the mind map I’ve created for my author’s journey plus a mind map of the contents of my next book!

rcp-heming-picRoger C. Parker helps others write books that build brands. He’s written over 30 books, offers do-it-yourself resources at Published & Profitable, and shares writing tips each weekday. His latest book is Title Tweet! 140 Bite-Sized Ideas for Article, Book, and Event Titles
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