- Five Tips on Evaluating Publishing Options, Tanya Hall
- Using a Book to Build a Brand, Sandra Poirier Smith
- Exclusive Offer from Publishers Weekly
- New Service Announcement
- Smith Publicity’s 2nd Book Marketing Scholarship for Persuasive Writing
Five Tips on Evaluating Publishing Options
by Tanya Hall, CEO, Greenleaf Book Group
Despite the allure of traditional publishing, self-publishing is growing as a viable option for prospective authors. Still, it may not be right for everyone – in many cases, a hybrid model is the best fit. Here are five quick tips to help you find the best business model for your book:
- Consider Ownership of Rights: When dealing with traditional publishing houses, you don’t sell them ownership of the book itself but instead the right to reproduce and sell your work. So long as they own those rights, the publishing house has complete control over how your book is published, packaged, and when it is delivered. Self-publishing lets you retain all rights and ownership of your work as well as control over the creative direction and distribution of your work. Many hybrid options involving author investment also allow the author to retain rights and ownership.
- Examine Potential Sales Channels and Payout: Self-publishing provides the highest returns. Authors generally receive 20-35% off the cover price for books sold through retailers and 100% of the retail price for all books sold directly from the author to the consumer. For niche titles most commonly bought online, self-publishing may make the most sense. Traditional publishing, on the other hand, pays out 5-15% of the cover price and only after money paid out for advances is recovered through retail sales – however, traditional distribution models may bring much larger volume in sales than self-published authors can accomplish alone. Hybrid models (like Greenleaf Book Group) provide easy access to online sales plus the distribution muscle required to sell in the brick and mortar landscape.
- Determine Importance of Time to Market: Traditional publishing can take years to go from idea to finished product on the shelves. Self-publishing lets you get to market in a fraction of that time. However, choose your self-publisher carefully to ensure they have enough distribution power to get your book into national retailers and specialty markets if those channels are a priority. The retail buying schedules (for Barnes & Noble, etc) still require five months lead time, so avoid “shotgun publishing” if retail bookstore distribution is one of your goals.
- Understand the Importance of Quality: Self-Publishing as a whole is not known for its quality of product. Often times, retailers will refuse to carry self-published books because they do not match up to retailer’s standards in terms of content and design. There are, however, standout companies producing high-caliber materials that either meet or exceed industry standards. Be sure to compare the quality of a prospective self-publisher’s produced materials with those available through national retailers before committing to a partner. Remember, this is your brand that you’re putting out there, and it’s hard to pull back once it’s live.
- Assess Your Risk Tolerance/Investment Capability: Because it provides the highest returns, self-publishing and hybrid models require a larger upfront investment from the author. Here, the author assumes the risk for publishing, covering all elements of production including editing, design, printing, shipping, and warehousing. The author is always responsible for his/her own marketing, whether publishing through a traditional house or as a self-publisher. Traditional publishing requires no initial investment from the author to cover printing, but the author retains less on the back end…and if sales are poor, traditional publishers may status the book out-of-print, tying up your content until the rights revert or are bought back.
Now that you have a basic understanding of the options available, you’ll need to evaluate your skills, goals, project, and budget to determine which approach is best for you. The questionnaire below may help:
1. Would you rather:
a. Not spend your own money and get paid up front
b. Pay just to print in exchange for a moderate return
c. Make a reasonable up-front investment for a higher return
2. Would you prefer to:
a. Let someone else handle the entire process
b. Manage the process yourself
c. Retain creative control while working with an experienced team
3. In terms of marketing and sales, are you more comfortable:
a. Handling your own marketing, but knowing the publisher’s credibility will carry you through the distribution chain
b. Handling all of your marketing and forgoing retail distribution
c. Coordinating your marketing efforts through a strategic campaign through retail and specialty distribution channels, while still having the option to sell directly to readers
4. In terms of creating content, are you more comfortable:
a. Writing it yourself, but working with an editor to finalize it
b. Writing and editing it all yourself—I’ll hire an editor if I need one
c. Writing it yourself, but using the help of a ghostwriter or an editor to organize your thoughts and save time
5. When it comes to design, would you rather:
a. Leave it to the pros
b. Do it yourself
c. Have creative control, but work with a skilled designer
6. When it comes to distribution, do you want:
a. Access to a traditional distribution chain
b. To sell them all yourself
c. A combination of traditional distribution and the ability to sell books on your own in return for the full cover price
Mostly A’s: Traditional publishing is probably the best option for you.
Mostly B’s: Digital or self-publishing may be best for you.
Mostly C’s: An independent/hybrid publisher is likely the best fit.
Regardless of which option you choose to pursue, it is vital that you protect yourself by doing your homework, taking the time to weigh the pros and cons, and analyzing each option’s ability to help you meet your short and long-term goals.
Publishing a book is a smart and crucial step toward building your brand. Take the time to do it right!
Tanya Hall is the CEO of Greenleaf Book Group, a (hybrid) publisher and distributor specializing in the growth and development of independent authors and small presses. Contact her at Tanya@greenleafbookgroup.com or @tanyahall on Twitter.
Using a Book to Build a Brand
4 Strategies to Consider Before Writing Your Book
by Sandra Poirier Smith, president of Smith Publicity, Inc.
I was fortunate to be part of ASJA’s Annual Writer’s Conference in April and to brainstorm with authors and aspiring authors on the topic of using a book to build a platform. The most common questions revolved around when to write a book. Related to this, authors also wanted advice on how to launch a book when the goal is to use a book to attract opportunities including speaking engagements, consulting projects, new publishing deals, social media followers, book sales, etc.
While each person’s business plan is unique, here are some universal tips when thinking about writing a book and using it as a marketing tool to showcase your expertise:
- What comes first, the book or the audience? Many authors asked if they should write their book and use it to help build a following, or build a following and then write their book. My suggestion, based on the many authors we’ve worked with, is if you are ready experience-wise to write a book, write the first book, use it to build a following and then consider writing a second book. Most authors have more than one book in them. Plan your brand and the book title with a potential series in mind. Often, an author’s second book is more successful than the first. If you are only planning on writing one book, begin by building a following, and then publish a book to take your brand to the next level.
- Write about what you know. Some people write a book to facilitate a career and become known as an expert in a new field. If this is your plan, make sure you have enough experience before writing a book. For example, I talked with a personal finance professional who wanted to transition to a career as a relationship/dating guru based on his work informally counseling clients as they struggled through tough times and sometimes divorce. He had no related formal training or education, had just begun working with individuals specifically to help them with relationship concerns, but was excited to begin a new path. I advised him to hold off on a book in order to build credentials (such as earning meaningful certifications), and work with more people just for relationship advice. He had an interesting start to this new career path, but in his case, the media and potential readers, clients, and people hiring speakers need to see more substance in his bio before trusting his advice.
- Plan your target audience and then write your book accordingly. I often hear new authors say, “my book is perfect for everyone.” If that is the case, then likely it will be too broad and not appeal to those most important to you. Think about your bigger goal: who are the people and organizations you want to hire you to speak, write, or consult? Then, design your book with advice and information specifically for them. For example, I am working with fitness and exercise professional. This is a crowded field full of authors and experts. However, she knows her target—empty nest women 45 to 60, who have never seriously exercised, are 15 to 30 pounds overweight, and now have the time to focus on their own health. Could her advice be applicable to college age girls, new moms, or elderly women? Sure. But having a narrower target audience allows her to focus her book on topics specifically designed for this audience.
- Pre-launch marketing: It’s never too early to start. Another common question from authorsis: How soon should I start creating awareness about my upcoming book? Although it’s never too late, ideally authors should start pre-launch activities 12 to 18 months before the publishing date. Author-led initiatives include writing blogs and articles related to the book’s topic, and following, connecting with, or adding related experts (especially ones in the position of recommending you to others), clients and potential clients, relevant trade organizations, and targeted media to your social media platforms. You don’t want to “friend” someone and then offer your new book the next day. The goal is to build genuine relationships. This also makes it easier for you to follow your industry’s hot-button topics, trends, and often asked questions while allowing you to more easily join the conversation and write targeted articles/blog posts. Make sure social media platforms are optimized with your target audience in mind—be focused on how you present your bio, especially when platforms like Twitter allow for only a brief description. Newsletter sign ups are great ways to collect emails in order to share valuable content, showcase your knowledge, and for selectively announcing your upcoming book, events, talks, videos, media placements, etc. Once you have a publication date, start sharing, for example, by noting the date, cover and book title in your email signature line. If attracting pre-orders or beta test readers, let people know. The goal is to make it as easy as possible for the right people to understand exactly what you do and to develop meaningful relationships.
While each aspiring author’s goals are different, what applies to everyone is strategically planning when to write your book or potential series of books, and being at the right stage in your career. Also, define your target audience and then focus the content of your book for this market. Finally, if possible, set the stage early to develop a meaningful following. This early stage planning helps position authors to make thoughtful and strategic use of a new book.
______________________________ Smith Publicity’s 2nd Book Marketing Scholarship for Persuasive Writing
Smith Publicity is again offering a $1,000 scholarship to one high school or college/university student in the United States. The scholarship will be awarded to the student who writes the best essay on persuasive writing. We chose this topic because our book marketing services are in large part dependent upon persuasive written communication.
The Spring 2014 winner, Kelci Weidenaar said, “I truly love writing and it meant a lot to me to win this scholarship from an organization like Smith Publicity! It’s opportunities like this that are helping my educational dreams come true!” Kelci will be a freshman at Central Christian College of the Bible in Moberly, MO this fall.
For more information about the scholarship visit our website.
New Service Announcement
Smith Publicity now offers a Author Social Media Launch service to help authors set the stage for success on the most popular social media platforms. Visit our website for more information: Author Social Media Launch service
Exclusive offer from Publishers Weekly
Publishers Weekly is offering Smith newsletter readers an exclusive offer for the PW Select marketing program. Normally $149, PW and Smith Publicity are offering a special price of $139 (use promo code “SMITH” when submitting your PW Select order) which includes:
- listing of your book including four-color-cover artwork, write-up and on-sale information in a special section of PW‘s print and online editions
- a listing in Publishers Weekly‘s announcements database powered by Edelweiss
- feature placement for one month on BookLife.com
- social media promotion on BookLife’s Facebook and Twitter platforms
- six month subscription to Publishers Weekly‘s digital edition
- one year digital subscription to Publishers Weekly‘s PW Select monthly supplement
- a free copy of the Publishers Weekly print issue in which your listing appears
It’s a great, cost-effective way to promote your book to the publishing industry. For more information and to sign up, visit our PW Select page:
And don’t forget to use promo code “SMITH” when submitting your PW Select order so you can get the special price.