Posts Tagged ‘self publishing’

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.

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

Unless you are self-publishing your book, one of the most important steps in your journey to a published book is to attract the attention of the right literary agent. A well-written book proposal stored on your hard drive doesn’t do anyone any good. You need someone to help you with the birthing process of your first book.

Agents and midwives

Choosing a literary agent to represent your first book is similar to choosing a midwife for the birth of your first child. For example:

  • You don’t know where to look.
  • You don’t know what you’re looking for.
  • You want someone with credentials and experience, yet you also want someone with whom you feel instant confidence, rapport, and trust.

That’s quite a list!

As in so many other areas of publishing, there’s an “old way” and a “new way.”

The “old way” of locating a literary agent

Until recently, the starting point for most authors was to buy one of the guides to literary agents that were published each year. These guides contained listings of agents, contact information, and areas of specialization.

After reviewing the hundreds, if not thousands, of agency profiles, authors would prepare and send query letters to agents chosen from the profiles.

The problem, of course, that immediately comes to mind, is “How do you choose the agents you’re going to contact?” You can’t really afford to send query letters- -let alone, complete proposals- -to every agent, and “cold-calling” on the telephone is not recommended unless agents specifically invite telephone calls. So, what is the criteria you’re going to use in making your decision?

On the surface, you could choose literary agencies based on their size, (“small is good” versus “a large agency with clout.”) Or, you could choose agents based on their location, (“I want a New York City agency!), or books previously represented, (fiction versus non-fiction, areas of specialization, or best-sellers you may recognize).

Even if you make the right selection, the “guide” approach puts a premium on your direct-response letter-writing skills, and your ability to craft a letter that engages the agent’s attention and convinces to read further in the first sentence. Basically, your experiences and your potential have to be boiled down to a 10 or 30 word “hook” intended to get their permission to send them your book proposal.

Another problem is the volume of query letters sent to agents listed in the yearly guides. It’s not only hard to boil a book down to 3 or 4 paragraphs, it’s even harder to make your query letter stand out from the 10, 25, or 100 letters that might be arriving the same week as yours.

Plus, who is reading your query letters? Is it an agency principal, or is it a newly-hired intern who is hired to select a couple of query letters each day from the pile that grows a little deeper each day?

It can be done; the old way does work, and numerous first-time nonfiction authors do it every day. But, thankfully, there is a better way, a new way.

Improving on the “old way”

I’ve never been a fan of the “shotgun approach” to attracting a literary agent. It doesn’t offer potential authors enough control or likelihood of success. The competition is too great, it puts a premium on skills that might not play to your strengths, and- -basically- -the odds are stacked against you.

A refinement of the “old way” approach that slightly improves your chances of success involves attending writing conferences, where you are likely to get “face time” with potential agents. While chatting with presenters and attendees between sessions and during networking events, you might find yourself talking to an agent or publisher who might be the perfect “midwife” for your book.

A variation to this is to seek out events where there are “pitchfests” where authors get a chance to present and defend their proposal to several agents as part of the program.

The down side of pitchfests is that they’re usually time-limited, you need nerves of steel, they place you in direct competition with others, and you have to deal with conference, lodging, and travel costs- -which can quickly mount up.

Branding: the “new way” authors attract agents

The “new way” of locating a literary agent reverses the whole process: instead of authors seeking agents, it’s based on agents using the Internet to seek authors!

The Internet- -blogs, search engines, and social media make it feasible for authors to attract agents the same way authors attract readers!

The first time I became aware of the power of the Internet to facilitate getting published was when I interviewed David Meerman Scott, the author of The New Rules of Marketing & PR. In his book and interview, David described how his book’s success was driven by blogging about it and allowing readers to download chapters for free.

Since then, for Published & Profitable, I’ve interviewed numerous other first-time authors,  such as Gar Reynolds, author of Presentation Zen and others whose first books emerged from out of nowhere as highly-successful business books because of the author’s blogging activities.

During my interview with Gar Reynolds, for example, it turned out he wasn’t necessarily going to write a book, his immediate goal was to develop and share his presentation philosophy with others through his blog.

His passion-driven blog created his market and- -in doing so- -not only validated the need for a book, but attracted agents and publishers who were looking for fresh book ideas!

The key words, of course, are “agents looking for books”

And, in a nutshell, that’s what the new way is all about, and that’s the power of blogs like this which has already served as the launch pad for several successful books, as continues to do for new authors. You can visit Rajesh Setty’s Blogtastic Project for an insider’s look at the “new way” in action.

So, there’s a new way to attract a literary agent in the Web 2.0 world. Instead of going hat-in-hand to agents, doing exactly what tens of thousands of other authors are doing, you can attract agents to you by creating a blog with a title that creates a brand, and posting helpful, relevant, and useful at frequent interviews.

Do your job right, and be ready for the day you receive an e-mail or blog post comment from an agent, or publisher, who is looking for a fresh perspective on your topic and is impressed by your blog.

Resources, old and new

Here are several books describing “old way” approaches to attracting a literary agent through query letters:

The best of the “new way” resources remains the second edition of David Meerman Scott’s New Rules of Marketing & PR and his follow-up, World Wide Rave.

Conclusion

There’s finally a new and better way to attract a literary agent- -and I find it pretty exciting. No longer is agent acquisition a “blind numbers game” based on spending your time crafting 3 or 4-paragraph query letters sent to randomly-chosen recipients and waiting for an expression of interest. Instead, you can focus on developing and sharing your ideas, knowing that properly-managed content is its own reward, helping you attract literary agents who are searching for you!

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.)