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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Orchestrating a Successful Book Release


Today's post is by fellow author and blogger, Jamie DeBree.

Jamie's author website is here.

A full-time webmistress by day, Jamie writes steamy, action-packed romantic suspense late into the night. She resides in Billings, MT with her husband and two over-sized lap dogs. Here are her tips on Orchestrating a Successful Book Release. I think you'll be impressed with her organization! Take it away, Jamie.
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When John asked me if I’d like to do this post, I hesitated. I was in the midst of frantic last-minute chaos surrounding the release of my second book, and I felt, as most relatively new authors probably do, that I was doing it “all wrong”. I sometimes need to remind myself that there really isn’t a “wrong” way to market a book – there are things that work, and things that don’t…and the only way to figure out what will work for you and a particular book is to experiment. I’m still learning and experimenting with different marketing methods, but hopefully this will help those just starting out. Note that I don’t actively market locally in deference to my day job, so I do my promotion primarily online.

What Is Success?

First, let me define what a successful book release means to me. It may mean something different to you, but for me, I have only two goals for an actual release date:

  1. To get the word out about my latest book.
  2. To sell more copies of the new book on release day than I did for the previous book launch.

Number one, of course, is to tell people about my book. One day is not nearly enough time to spread the word around, and from what I’ve seen, it’s far more effective to have other people spreading the word than doing it yourself. But in order for others to want to talk about your book, you have to make *them* excited about it too. My philosophy is to market my books to my immediate social circles first, in the hopes that come release day, they will spread the word to their networks. And that means starting to market well before the book is due to come out.

When/Where To Start

Here’s the basic breakdown of what I did to lay the foundation for releasing Desert Heat.

Six Months Ahead

- Blurb for Desert Heat in the back of my first book.

- Talked about the revision process for Desert Heat (DH) on social media as I was going through it.

Three Months Ahead

- Talked up the final editing process for DH

- Started sharing small excerpts via newsletter & blog

- Announced a free sample & giveaway opportunities to come in Dec.

Two Months Ahead

- Circulated first three chapters of DH free on web sites & through social media

- Offered a three-week giveaway on Goodreads for 8 advance reader copies of DH

Six Weeks Ahead

- Set a firm release date of January 21, 2011

- Started more twitter marketing of my first book, as well as the sample chapters of DH

- Shared progress reports on the final cover art & formatting progress via social media

- Traded business cards & bookmarks with another author to mail out with print copies

Three Weeks Ahead

- Sent out ARC’s for potential review to GR winners and friends

- Shared short excerpts & progress reports via social media

- Kept promoting both books via social media

- Traded back-of-the-book blurbs for DH with an author friend

One Week to Release

- Announced the uploads of electronic files

- Started separate contests for Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and my blog for signed copies of DH (to last all week)

- Promoted my books along with others through social media outlets at least once daily

The Big Day

From what I’ve seen watching other authors, gimmicks, expensive contest prizes, and multi-media don’t really have much of an impact on sales for release day (and whether they have long-term sales impact is debatable). My strategy is to keep it simple – a blog post announcing the release populated through all social networks to be shared by those in your network. I post the cover, links to where people can buy the book, and a nice long excerpt that isn’t included in any of the sample chapters online. I also post individual links for kindle, nook & paperback versions throughout the day on various networks, and deal with any issues that pop up (like formatting that always seems to go awry no matter how many times I go over it before posting). I considered posting a press release on my business site, but ran out of time – I may try that for the next launch.

You may be wondering why, if everything was so organized I was in a frantic state just before the release. Part of it is that unlike a lot of writers, I don’t stop writing just because I have a book coming out, so the release workload is added to my normal schedule. I also tend to butt right up against deadlines (always have), so my natural inclinations work against me there. If you avoid those two things, your book launch will probably be much calmer than mine.

I have more ideas to wade through that I may implement for my next novel release around July/August this year, as well as for a few short story releases under a pen name between now and then. What’s good for one may not work for the other, so I plan to do a lot more experimentation along the way. I think that’s really the key to orchestrating a successful book release – experimentation and being open to new ideas.

For a more detailed report on the actual release day for Desert Heat, please visit my publishing/marketing blog, Beyond the Words. http://bookbiz.jamiedebree.com/2011/01/27/post-release-report-for-desert-heat.aspx

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Thanks for sharing your expertise, Jamie. I can tell that you have put considerable thought into this process. I know that, personally, I
have learned a lot today.

If you have comments on Jamie's post, she will be checking in periodically and may be able to respond. So feel free.

All the best!

John

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Choosing a POD Printer

Hello all.

It's been a busy week; but I'm back with another post. :)

With eBooks sweeping across the publishing landscape, there may no longer be a need for every book to be published on paper for it to be a success. But for those writers who still like to see their work in a tree-book format (like me), and want to have their book available for buyers of tree-books (like me), what's the best way to get that book into print?

There are lots of options. Let's consider what we should be looking for.

What type of book do you have?

Is yours a gift book? a novel? a romance? a children's book? a scholarly text? a biography? a How-To manual? the list goes on.

When you choose a printer, you need to consider your particular book, the POD printer's ability to produce it. If you need a hard cover, that will limit your options. And color images will dramatically affect pricing.

I must confess that I have no personal experience with hard covers or color interiors, since I write good old black-and-white text-filled novels. So my advice in today's column may not help those of you who need a hard cover or a lot of color inside your book.

If your book has these cover or color requirements, look for confirmation that your chosen printer will do a good job for you at a reasonable cost.

The remainder of this post deals with trade paperback books that have color covers and black-and-white interiors.

Some POD printer options.

There are a number of POD printers out there for you to choose from. These are a few of the more popular ones. (A listing here is NOT an endorsement):

-- Lightning Source (affiliated with Ingram Book Company)
-- LuLu
-- CreateSpace (afilliated with Amazon.com)
-- Virtual Bookworm
-- Xlibris
-- iUniverse

A more complete list with evaluations of strengths and weaknesses of each Printer may be found here.

My favorite and why.

My favorite POD Printer is CreateSpace for the following reasons:

1) Low upfront costs. You can literally have a proof copy of your book (that looks just like the finished product) in your hands within two weeks for under $20.00.

2) Low cost for author copies. I can buy copies of my books, including shipping costs to my home, for anywhere from $4 to $6 each, if I buy at least 20 at a time. I can also buy 1 at a time. But shipping costs about double the cost of the book.

3) I set my own price and royalties are based on that price. CS Tells you going in what your royalties will be when sales occur through various sales channels. There are no questions later on.

4) Print quality has been excellent for my books. This may not be an exceptional statement -- but it is certainly a necessary one.

5) Book orders are delivered to me within two weeks -- often within 10 days -- of my placing an order.

6) Books are listed for sale on Amazon.com without any additional listing fee from Amazon. This is a biggie for me. Amazon is the "elephant in the room" in the self-publishing business. If I can sell through them as cheaply as possible, that's a huge plus. In addition, CS handles placing the listing on Amazon promptly AND my book qualifies for Amazon's FREE SHIPPING OVER $25.

7) I have found author support from CS to be excellent. You can message them or have them call you IMMEDIATELY during business hours.

8) CS has a nice selection of customizable book covers that can give you a cheap start on setting up your book. Their not the same as covers you pay a bunch of money for; but they're free and you can make them look pretty decent. Check out the cover for my latest book, A HIGHER COURT. Of course, you can also custom-design your cover from scratch if you wish.

9) Distribution channels. CS offers what they call Expanded Distribution Channels. Through these channels your book will be sold by wholesalers Ingram and Roberts & Taylor, and to libraries through whatever their usual buying channels may be.

The only POD printer I have found that comes close to matching what CreateSpace has to offer for MY books is Lightning Source. Their biggest advantage is affiliation with Ingram Book Company (huge book wholesaler) which I presume would get you a better shot at getting your book into bricks and mortar bookstores at a decent discount. CS can make your book available at bookstores. But when your books go from CS through Ingram to get there, the stores only get a 25% discount instead of the 40% they're used to.

I'd be interested to hear others' comments on their experiences with POD printers. Maybe someone has found a better deal than CreateSpace.

Please share your knowledge. (Did you know that "knowledge" isn't really "knowledge" unless you share it with someone?)

That's it for today.

Thanks for stopping in.

John

Monday, January 17, 2011

eBook Pricing - Redux

Hello all.

A few months ago, this blog discussed the issue of eBook pricing of novel-length works. At the time, I didn't have lots of comparative data from my personal experiences. I asked others to share their thoughts on bargain ($1 or less) eBook pricing and got a few comments from readers (Thank you). No one who commented said lower prices had helped their sales.

Since then, I've been doing quite a bit of research and "field testing" concerning my pricing theories. This post will share what I have found out.

Theory

We have to begin with a bit of marketing theory here, so you can see the logic behind my price testing.

As most of us know, sales are controlled by the laws of supply and demand. In most circumstances, the number of units (books) sold is a factor of pricing vs willingness to pay the asking price. The lower the price, the more books sold. This is how typical product pricing is determined in our economy, and how competition keeps product prices in check.

There is an exception to the "lower price equals more sales" paradigm in the area of "luxury goods." In the case of luxury goods (such as prestige watches - Rolex- fine jewelry and gems and luxury automobiles - Mercedes/Ferrari) sales actually DECLINE when prices are too low. This is because either: 1) buyers of luxury goods want everyone to know that they possess these luxuries that others cannot afford. Lower prices mean more people can afford the items; or 2) buyers perceive that higher prices mean higher quality (and conversely, lower prices mean lower quality).

Artistic creations often fall into the category of luxury goods. Buyers assume that if the price is too low, the art is no good. Since buying art is a very subjective purchase decision, buyers rely--to a degree--on the pricing of the product to assess its value.

What about books?

What I have found is that, in the venue of book sales, buyers act more like purchasers of "luxury" goods than they do buyers of "normal" goods. The market value of a book, like the market values of many other artistic creations, appears to be driven more by luxury buying principles than ordinary supply/demand economics.

That is a very cool finding in so many ways!

If you consider your book to be a "good" book with a target market that can afford "good" books, charging more for your book (within some parameters) will actually stimulate sales! You can earn a decent sales margin and not have to worry that buyers will think you are pricing yourself out of the market. Of course, this thinking won't work if your buyers don't care if the book is any good. They'll happily pay $.99 for a book they expect will be worth only that amount.

What have I done that leads me to this conclusion about books being luxury goods?

First of all, I've done a lot of asking among book buyers. "What do expect to pay for a quality eBook?" Responses have almost universally been that any price under $10 is considered a good deal.

Not coincidentally, many NY Times Best Sellers are currently being released at a price of $9.99. Apparently the market research of these mega-publishers coincides with my own, much smaller, sample.

Secondly, I tested my theory over the last six months. I currently have two novels that have been listed for sale as eBooks for more than six months. During that time period I have re-priced each book at different points and observed sales results.

-- at a price of $6.99 -- sales are okay.
-- Drop to $2.99 -- sales drop off dramatically
-- Raise to $8.99 -- sales approximately same as at $6.99
-- drop to $6.99 -- sales remain steady
-- drop to $2.99 -- sales drop off again
-- raise to $8.99 -- sales increase to previous levels again

Conclusion

If you have a book that you want to market as a quality work of contemporary commercial literature, or as a quality non-fiction work, I recommend pricing it at $8.99 (just under the NY Times books, but still high enough so buyers perceive the quality of your publication).

Okay . . . I'm sure many folks will disagree with me. And no one can ever say for certain what the total sales of their specific book would have been had they sold it at a different price.

So . . . if you have your own well-reasoned pricing strategy that you'd like to share, please feel free to comment. I'd love for my readers to benefit from it.

For now, my eBooks are for sale at $8.99. I certainly need sales to increase to make significant money in this writing endeavor. But as I mentioned in earlier posts, marketing books is a marathon, not a sprint. I'm only about 7 months into my initial 18 month marketing strategy. (And 18 months is the average time that a traditional publisher will market a book BEFORE releasing it. So I think my timetables are reasonable here.)

That's it for today. Thanks for stopping in.

Cheers!

John

Friday, January 7, 2011

Book Marketing While the Sun Shines

Hello all.

Today's post is about taking advantage of opportunities when they present themselves. The old farmer's saying is that you need to "make hay while the sun shines." In other words, take advantage of the good weather, because it's gonna rain sometime.

Well . . . I'm not baling any hay this winter. But I have had a bit of sunshine come my way in the publishing world. And I'm going to tell you how I hope to take advantage of my good fortunes.

Book Awards

Two of my books, A Higher Court and The 19th Element, have recently received year-end book awards from literary bloggers. (I'm not saying which blogs here, because promoting my books is not the primary focus of this blog.)

Besides being pleased by this fortuitous "sunshine," is there something else I should be doing with this news? Of course. I need to get the word out to as many potential markets as possible that my books are considered "award-worthy" by at least somebody. Here's what I'm doing.

Local/Regional Newspapers

I put together a press release to be sent to my area newspapers and emailed that out to the appropriate contacts. A couple of these papers have previously favored me with some press coverage. Why not see if they (and maybe another paper or two) will help out a local author?

Speaking Engagements

I know that it may not be possible to arrange speaking engagements on short notice. But I was lucky enough to have one scheduled for yesterday, January 6th. I had been invited to speak to a group of about 50 "Golden K" (senior citizen) Kiwanis members. Purely as a matter of chance, one of my books received an award that very day (which I learned about in my email inbox shortly before my date with the Kiwanis club).

I quickly printed out the award information and brought it with me to the meeting. During my presentation, when I mentioned that this certain book had just received the aforementioned award and held up the printout to prove it -- though of course, no one could read the paper while I was at the podium -- I received a robust round of applause. After the meeting was over, I sold 13 copies of my two award-winning books. (For those of you who may have no idea about such things, that's a pretty decent sales number for a half hour chat -- especially when my presentation wasn't at all geared toward sales.)

I KNOW mentioning the awards helped those sales. And I will probably sell more books when the Kiwanians tell their friends about the "award-winning" author they heard speak at their meeting.

Future Book Signings

As soon as I am able, I plan to schedule a book-signing or two so I can use the "award-winning books" line as a sales tool. I'll be sure to mention the awards in the pre-signing media advertisements as well.

Embossed Medallions?

Neither award came with an embossed medallion to attach to my paper books. I'm seriously considering asking permission from the bloggers if I could fashion my own award medallion and then affix them to my books. People are impressed by a gold seal you know . . . no kidding . . . it's been proven. :)

Book Contests

Receiving these awards has also prompted me to spend a bit of dough and enter these books in the IPPY Awards Book Contest this spring. I know that some positive mentions in literary blogs does nothing to guarantee success in a book contest. The judges won't even know the books have received the awards. Still, the recognition of my books has tipped my confidence scales in favor of me spending the $85 to enter the contest. Again, no guarantees. But you never know.

Success?

I don't know how an author should measure success. I can only say that I believe each author must have his/her own definition of that word in the context of writing.

I can say, however, that having two books receive awards this year is now a part of my definition of the personal success of these books. I still would like more sales -- which is why I continue to market. But I definitely feel closer to considering these books "successes" in my own mind. And isn't that what really matters when it comes to success?

Conclusion

You may have other ideas of how an author should take advantage of receiving book awards or recognition. If so, please share them as comments below. The goal of this blog is for everyone to benefit from my experiences -- not necessarily from my wisdom. ;)

Well . . . that's it for today.

Thanks for stopping in. Cheers!

John