Saturday, September 26, 2015

Indiependents Day – What I Learned About the Publishing Industry – Post 2

What is a book? What is a sales window? What is publicity?

The independent author and the independent bookseller are mostly on their own. Everything you do to work with the booksellers in order to give them a reason to want your book in their store…matters.
A “book” to a bookseller includes the following:

  • ISBN – and there are different ones for print books and e-books. If you have a publisher, the publisher will handle getting these for you. If you are self-publishing, you have to buy them yourself. 
  • Title 
  • Contributors 
  • A real edit – a copy edit (technical), a content edit (beta), proofreading. Booksellers do not want a self published book that is poorly written and edited. Pay to have someone proofread and copy edit the book. You shouldn’t have to pay for beta readers. Beta readers are oftentimes other authors who you then exchange beta reading services with. “You beta read my book and I’ll beta read yours. 
  • Cover copy – a paragraph or so about your book or an elevator pitch, with is one or two sentences about your book.

After the book is done, you need to get the Advanced Review Copy (ARC) out to booksellers. If they like your book, they may decide to carry it and push it. Get it to them before you publish it. Send the ARC to book bloggers, especially genre specific books. For example, there are subcultures of readers who subscribe to blogs about science fiction books or fantasy books. If you wrote a book that fits into those genres, get the ARC to the popular bloggers for a review. If you are working with a publisher, they will get the ARCs out to their list of book bloggers and reviewers. It doesn’t hurt to provide a list of your own after doing your research. Any published reviews of your ARC can be used to help promote your book. You can have them put onto your book jacket or in the front of the book. You can put them onto your website. You can use the reviews when contact booksellers in order to show that they should carry your book or allow you to hold an event in their store.

A sales window for booksellers is 60 days. Basically, your book needs to do well in their store for them to continue to carry it longer. Like anything else, it has to start out strong. Many independent sellers will keep a book in stock for 3 months and then send the remaining books back if it isn’t doing well. You have to remember – There are 150,000 to 200,000 books published each year. That is A LOT of competition. 

Publicity is your willingness to spend money to get your book out there to booksellers and the public. Like in any business or investment, you have to spend money to make money. Most authors aren’t walking around with a supply of cash to get a book published and out there. So like in any other life experience, you have to find a way to do it in a cost effective way. Do favors, barter for services, ASK for a favor…like I tell my daughters...“Make them tell you NO.” Use your connections. Use social media SMARTLY. Know who you are trying to reach – what kinds of booksellers and what kinds of readers and then go to where they are. If you are going to spend money, you can purchase ads on blogs and Amazon. 

Use your community. There are freebies and opportunities everywhere. For example, in my area, there is a popular morning radio show that has random people come into the studio every week for the duration of the show. If you can get onto that show – it is free and you can talk about your book – and it reaches an untold amount of listeners, many of whom read books. 

During this panel, I asked about book trailers. Video is very effective. You can easily use any simple video making software program and make your own book trailer, giving readers a sneak peek. During trade shows, there is a book trailer channel, where authors have book trailers going 24 hours a day. Make a trailer and put it on Youtube. Again, an effective but inexpensive way to get your book out there.

If you are alone or with a small publisher, without the backing of one of the big boy publishing houses, you are swimming up the current in the sales market. So…you need to prepare for the hardships associated with that and decide that you are going to be in the water for the long haul. 


Sunday, September 20, 2015

Indiependents Day - What I Learned About the Publishing Industry - Post 1

I kept trying to come up with a better title than that, but I think whomever came up with “Indiependents Day” nailed it. Who am I to try to best it? I suppose I could answer that with…I’m a fiction writer…that’s who I am! But I won’t bother this time. Indiependents Day works.

I’ve decided to write a brief series of blog posts on my experience at Indiependents Day (I hate how MS Word keeps redding me on the incorrect spelling of "Indiependents" but I guess I’ll just have to put up with this). This event was sponsored by the North Carolina (The Writingest State! …again…what the F is up with the witty incorrect spellings in order to name things?) … sorry, let me start again.

This independent author event was sponsored by the NorthCarolina Writer’s Network and the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA). SIBA covers the Southeastern United States and just so happened to have had their convention in Raleighwood (also known as Raleigh), North Carolina. Several of the independent authors in attendance were from other areas of North Carolina, which is admirable, because it is a loooooong state from the Mountains to the Sea.

One thing I learned about the publishing industry is that the independent book sellers are in regionally based associations. This was SIBA’s fall regional event. Book buyers in the Southeast (which really means in many cases, the bookstore OWNER him or herself) come to the event for the weekend, attend workshops, panels, keynote speakers, overpriced luncheons, and meet authors and publishing house representatives who are pushing their books. Authors can't just show up - it isn't an author based event with all kinds of book signings, but there are some who have been invited for various reasons. 

There is a trade show also going on during the event, which includes an exhaustive list of publishing houses. There are the Big Boys, like Harper Collins…and then there are The Cute Little Guys That Could, like the small publishing house from New Orleans with the adorable representative with a British accent. The Little Guys obviously have a much smaller selection, maybe only 2 books for the Fall, that they are trying to sell to book buyers. But since I am a believer in the spirit of the entrepreneur, I appreciated seeing just how many small publishers are out there. My own publisher is based out of Indiana and is also a small publisher. A small publisher is the one that gave me a chance.

It was very hard for me to walk by A Large Publisher Who Shall Not be Named and NOT pull out my inner Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman and say, "You work on commission, right? You rejected my query letter. Big mistake. Big! Huge..." and then walk away... 

The author event was well attended, especially for the first time this has been done, and it was full of very helpful information. I am going to post about each workshop topic in separate posts, but my overall experience included the following:

If you want an independent, local bookstore to carry your book or host an author event for you...never, ever ever ever bring up Amazon. Amazon is the enemy of the little bookstores. Amazon is the Walmart and the local bookstore is the mom-n-pop hardware store. “Buy Local” is more than just a slogan with independent bookstore owners – it is their livelihood, their bread and butter, their battle cry. They don't just sell you books. They sell you a world. They sell you an experience. They sell you a relationship. 

So while the public is always being told to “Buy Local” because it supports your local economy and gives back to the folks who live and work there, authors especially need to find a balance between selling their books on Amazon and then also being very supportive of their local independent bookstores. While an author is not likely to piss off Amazon ...because let’s face is kind of a big black hole, an author does NOT want to piss off their local bookstore and its people. Just be nice. Be respectful. Be aware of their role in your journey as an author and YOUR role in their journey as a bookseller. Your local bookstore can be one of the best and longest lasting relationships you make as a published author.

One thing that I will be sure to do – once I actually have something to sell! – is to promote, as much as I can and as professionally as I can, the indie bookstores in my state. They are entrepreneurs. And entrepreneurs are the backbone of this country. 

While they are not the same as Amazon, independent bookstore owners DO have an online way to purchase books. It is called IndieBound. I had never heard of it before! And if you haven’t either, now you have. 

If you are interested in supporting independents, maybe the next time you want to buy a book online, go to Indie Bound instead. 

Thanks for reading…

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Tit for Tat - You Scratch My Back....I'll Scratch Your's!

I've been reading a book about how to build your author platform and gain publicity. Platform is "what's out there" about you - your website, blog, social media sites, etc...your voice. Over the past several months, I've been trying to build my platform, gain followers, figure out how to get people to care about what I have to say. This is a challenge because I can't even get the people in my own house to care about what I have to say, let alone anyone else (ha ha). The only time anyone cares about what I have to say is if I say "wanna go for a walk?" to my dogs.

In this book, the author says that one way authors build platform and gain publicity is tit for tat or old fashioned bartering. (please...keep the tit jokes to yourself...or's only Wednesday....) Apparently, this is actually a huge part of promoting your work. You share a blog posting from an author....that author turns around and interviews you for his blog. You promote an author's book on your social media accounts...that author promotes your book when it is released.

The very same day, I was contacted by an author from New York via my website. I had followed him on Twitter - because I've been following other authors and writers on Twitter in a daily effort to connect and build my platform. He sent me an email and told me that he is the senior editor of a major online book review site (I'll leave the name out). He explained to me that he was trying to build up his book reviews on Amazon and Goodreads due to an extended absence from publishing (a family situation) because the only way to get the attention of the folks on "Pub Row" (not a bar scene...but the publishers in Manhattan) was to have a certain number of reviews.

Then he offered me a tit for tat: if I read his two books and provided him with reviews on both Amazon and Goodreads (they don't even have to be good reviews), he would in turn give my novel a spot on his review site. He would have it reviewed by his staff and also publish the first chapter on his site as a teaser. All for free. I can even use his review on my cover.

As a new novelist in a very crowded market, this is a good deal for me. It's free marketing. I know my publisher will do what it can, but in this publishing world, if you are an independent - the best promoter of your work is you.

So I started reading one of his novels. It takes place in the Pine Barrens and has referenced Trenton, New Jersey, where I was born. Must be fate. Or something (since I don't really believe in fate anymore LOL).