Category Archives: Road to Publication

Marketing Media Press Kit

The Press Kit. Probably one of the most important things that need to be created for your book to achieve success (besides the book itself). I will be going through the ins and outs of creating one in this post. But first, what is a Press Kit and why do you need one?

What is a Press Kit?
-> A press kit is a succinct and compact kit that provides media sources with all the details they would ever need to know about your up and coming bestseller. It will provide more information about you, your book, and the specifics of everything book wise.

Why do you need one?
-> In the age of increased competition for books, its essential to have one. Not having one will result in dismal sales and overall the flop of your book and most likely your ambition to write more. To show the validity of your novel and also it will serve as a great piece of marketing literature for anything you want to do later on in promoting your novel.

So, what is in a Media Press Kit?
-> A few things. (A) A Cover Letter, (B) Press Release, (C) Author Biography, (D) Photograph of yourself, (E) Spec Sheet, (F) Order Form, (G) Writing Reviews, (H) Business Cards, (I) Question and Answer Sheet), (J), Mock Book Review, (K) A COPY OF YOUR BOOK!!!

(A) The Cover Letter
-> Should be brief and enticing. In this, tell what the book is about, when the publication date is, and why it is of interest to each specific person’s audience you are sending it to. Explain any promotional and advertising plans. Do you have any special qualifications as an author? List them! Make sure you start off with a riveting opening line so that it hooks the attention. Like resume cover letters, there is a general template for creating this. Here is what I did. 1st paragraph = selling your story. 2nd paragraph = What are your goals in writing your piece? Who are you planning on attracting with your book? Hit those audience demographics. 3rd paragraph = When is publication? Where is book launch party? What are you doing for marketing with it? Do you have a book tour established? All these questions should be answered here. 4th paragraph = Prompt them to return the form you should have included with your kit. This will weed out the people who want the book and who don’t. Also, it should save money on shipping out books for them not to be read.

(B) Press Release
-> It should be no longer than 2 pages double-spaced. But, the shorter the better. You want to create a buzz about your fiction by creating an interest gathering headline, a little bit about you, and a little bit about your book. You may also want to tell a little story about how you came up with the idea for your story.
-> At top or bottom of page list the specs of the book (title of book, name of author, cost, amount of pages, ISBN, contact information including phone and email, website address) I did this in using a table in microsoft office word.
-> It may also be a good idea to include the back-cover blurb in this. Tell them why your book is essential for them to review and buy. You need to have a point of difference! What is your book’s PoD? There should be something here, how else can you separate yourself from the competition. Expand on this in here as well. End with a paragraph on how they can reach you and a link to your website so you can start driving traffic there.

(C) – (G) Fiction Author Brochure
-> Okay, so you can decide to do all of these things separately. However, I highly recommend you create a fiction author brochure and you include all of C-G (mentioned above) in it. Here’s how you do it. I did a tri-fold. So a tri-fold has 6 total pages. Let’s go through each one of them.
-> 1st page = cover of the book. Name of publishing company (if you created one). List your website address.
-> 2nd Page = Back cover blurb of the book. Also, depending on how much space you have left after this, I included my spec sheet again. So here is where I would talk about pricing, trim size, page count for softcover and hardcover if you know that all. Publication date. Publisher. Distributor.
-> 3rd Page = Author biography and below it your Author Profile Pic. That should take up the whole page. Now, what should you include in the biography? Well, whatever you plan on putting at the end of your book but somethings you could touch on is what kind of things you are involved in (are you involved in any writing circles?), have you done anything remarkable, also the last sentence should look something like this “To stay in touch with Michael and receive updates and exclusion content not featured elsewhere, signup at (website stuff in here). And don’t forget to follow him on twitter at www.twitter.com/michaelethies” This will help build up your twitter following, Facebook following, whatever social media you plan on putting at the end of the sentence. But, it’s a call of action. And it’s very powerful if done right.
-> 4th page (rightmost side of inside of brochure) = Order form. Put a check box here with a few options for the person to check off and return to you. Have check boxes next to each of these below.
* We expect to review this book in: ___________ on Approximately: ________________, 20___.
* We are considering the following subsidiary rights on this title: (leave space for them)
* We are considering stocking/adopting this title.
* Please send a photo of the book.
* Please send a photo of the author.
* Sorry, we didn’t find this book suitable for our needs.

After that include a place for them to write in their name, their occupation title, where they work, their email, and their complete address. Also, have at the bottom the address where you will be receiving all of your publication information so that you can keep in contact with them.

-> 5th page (leftmost backside page) = Leave blank. There is no point to have anything on this page because they will be ripping it off and sending it back to you. If you did want something to put in here when you get more book reviews that will fill up your last page (the back cover) then put in a variety of ways that someone can help you promote your book. Here is what I put!

“It would be a fantastic help if you could utilize some of these suggestions to help promote the book.
• Buy the book on amazon.com
• Post a five-star review on amazon.com
• Call your local bookstore and ask for my book
• Ask for the book when you’re at local bookstore
• Follow me on Twitter (search: michaelethies)
• Like on Facebook (search: Guardian of the Core)
• Connect with me on LinkedIn (search: Mike Thies)
• Blog about my book; be sure to include a link to www.guardianofthecore.com
• Interview me on your blog”

-> 6th page (last panel) = Writing reviews. Get some reviews from your friends, get reviews from teachers, anyone! This will start out small, but as soon as you get more you can keep updating this. So the very first things people will see when they get this brochure will be the Cover Photo and Reviews about your book. PERFECT!!!

(H) Business Cards
-> If you don’t have some made, make some up for yourself and your book. If you have a publishing company like me, then make some with your logo and publishing company info on it. Otherwise, if it’s just you and the book, provide the cover image of your book (if applicable) but definitely your contact info and try to make it look as professional as possible.

(I) Question and Answer Sheet
-> What do you need this for? So that they already have the answers to some of the questions they would need to ask you to publish anything about you. The people you are trying to reach are very busy. So, be courteous and have all of these questions already answered for them. They don’t have time to actually interview you. With that being said, here are the questions you should answer.
1) Why did you write this book?
2) How did you become interested in the topic?
3) What did you hope to accomplish by publishing your book?
4) Who is your intended readership?
5) When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?
6) How did you research your book?
7) What surprised you about the process of writing your book?
8) What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
9) Are you working on another book?

(J), Mock Book Review
-> This is simply a book review that you write. Many reviews are too busy to read your book carefully. So a mock review helps them out. So they can simply just take some passages from it and use that.

(K) Copy of Your Book
-> Pretty self explanatory but yeah, just make sure you have a copy of your book along with it. What that order form is doing up above is making sure you get advanced notice of any reviews coming your way so that you can look for them. It is not an order form saying, “Oh I want to review this book” You can screen out and qualify people through the sending of PDF formatted Galley Copies and save the hard galley copies for the “important” reviewers, the ones with more reach than the others. This will cut down on expenses.

Alright, and there you have it. Your own media press kit. Good luck in creating it. Have fun with it to. It’s a blast and a nice project. If you have questions leave a comment and I will try to answer them as promptly as I can.

Building Readership

Although this post will not be anything novel and original, I do want to reiterate this because it is something that I am doing currently through my pre-marketing strategies (which if you’ve read my other posts should be around 3 – 4 months prior to your books release). The strategy? Well, its releasing your novel piece by piece and week by week hopefully. Now, like I said before, many authors already currently do this, and that is good because it really does build a large readership and sorry to say folks, it’s usually not the first book that makes you money, it’s the second and the third and so on. The first book is just to establish yourself as a recognized author and to slice out a pie in that saturated author market. It’s about building up your fan base. With that being said, though, here are a four options that you can do while trying to build readership (although I’m sure there are probably lots more available).

Option #1: GoodReads

  • Here on GoodReads you can make an author profile for yourself once you have a few basic things taken care of with your book (like an isbn being the most important) because they offer their author program to those who are published, yes, but also who are in the process of publishing, so start building that readership today. I have just started this, and am posting chapters weekly for people to read.

Option #2: Wattpad

  • I don’t believe this one is as well known, at least I never heard of it until very recently, but it has worked wonders for authors.
  • Wattpad is an online writing community site and app where people can visit and either read free stories or post them. It’s sort of like a YouTube for writers. Anyone can join (it’s free!) and writers can post poetry, short stories, full-length novels, screenplays—pretty much anything writing-related—and other users can read them, comment, share, vote, etc. It’s the number one app of its kind in the world and has about 10 million+ unique visitors a month.
  • The same tactic I mentioned above about utilizing a weekly post will go good with this, too. I highly recommend it. The more visibility the better.

Option #3: Blog

  • Have you considered that blog of yours as a potential option for sharing tidbits of your story? If not, you should. I have been going back and forth about this decision myself just because I have been so busy but I think I’ll probably end up going with it in the near future. And even if you don’t post chapters of your novel, perhaps just doing a weekly blogpost like “motivational mondays” where you say your favorite quote or something. That’s always a good way to build readership and eventually you’ll get people looking forward to what is the next thing you’ll post.

Option #4: Twitter

  • Twitter, some have said, is online poetry. It restricts the user to only using a certain amount of characters and that’s it. Well, although you can’t post a whole chapter on Twitter, why don’t we utilize a new approach? Have you ever written something in your story and you’re like “Damn, that is good writing.” I have. Or, at least I like to think I have. And I wish every single sentence could be like it. It are these gems, though, that you could put as part of a weekly Tweet that either is separate from the novel chapters you are posting, or coincides along with them. For example, I am doing mine on Sunday as part of my “Quotetastic Sundays” (I know, not the most catchy or original thing), but one of my characters in my fantasy story gave really solid, intriguing, and thoughtful advice. He said, “Warriors still standing do not stand still.” I personally really like that line so I decide to Tweet it out as #newauthor #GoC (guardian of core, series of my book) #fantasy. Any hashtags that will get me found pretty much. Anyways, I plan on utilizing a lot more of these awesome lines and advice in the near future.

–> The problem I think many of us will have with this is where do I stop it? Should I give the ending away? Really, I think it is your own call there. I would say go for it, because here’s the thing, if it’s good writing, and people like your story, they will buy it regardless of it is online for them to read. Why? 2 reasons (although there are probably more): (1) You didn’t make it easily accessible, you spread it out over weeks and months. (2) Reading online blows!!! It tires the eyes much faster than e-books on kindles or nooks, or the printed versions.

Although I’ve been posting lots of stuff about good marketing strategies and how to get your book known, there is one that I haven’t yet and that’s because it should be a fundamental idea that all authors live with. Good, quality writing will attract fans. There is hardly any time where bad writing will garner a lot of sales because so many of us live on reviews of books nowadays. If you want to be a successful author, first and foremost, put out a good book.

Digital Marketing Options

I recently came across this amazing image and although it is more for small businesses I think any independent publisher who has their own house is a small business owner. More realistically, though, for those of you who have not set up something like that, then this may be relevant for the types of things that will get your book noticed. It breaks it down by “Time” spent and “Money” spent and what is going to cost more in either category. Genius, really.

Image

To see the explanation for each of these options click on this link here: https://getlisted.org/static/resources/digital-marketing-options.html   This will help you when you need to start thinking about visibility for your book.

That’s all for now. I will try to get some more info up about creating the press kit for your book, but my schedule is very hectic, too 🙁  Look back for more updates later! Also, I hope to reveal the logo for my publishing house sometime later this week (the graphic designer told me it’d be done). So, be excited for that.

Putting Together the Plan

Alright, it’s been a while, but like I said, I’ve been busy with my own deadlines to meet. We talked last time about building a plan for your book and how it should have a marketing scheme set up 2-4 months prior. Also, I mentioned that this timetable (the one I gave in the blog post before this)… “Imagine that this is the skeleton for your book’s body. Now we need to fill it in with skin tissue, organs, nerves, etc.”  So, let’s fill that in with all the good stuff now! Just a disclaimer, there is no order to the bullet points within each section, just make sure you cover them all.

(pre-timeline) When you make the conscious decision that self-publishing is the way to go, here are a few things you want to get done immediately:

  • Write Library of Congress to get your LCCN
  • Join Independent Book Publishers Association (great source for independent authors)
  • Obtain a PO Box (this is because most self-published authors work from their home to avoid overhead costs of a facility. This PO box will make the business look for professional)
  • Subscribe to Publisher’s Weekly Magazine (you will want to do this to eventually start to create buzz about your book)
  • Get your ISBN number. You really don’t need to worry about the barcodes now. And don’t buy them from Bowker, you can get them for much much cheaper than $25 bucks.
  • Create your publishing company name (discussed earlier) or have a plan of what you want to do with self-publishing (createspace, lightning source, offset presses). YOU DO NOT NEED TO CREATE A PUBLISHING COMPANY TO SELF-PUBLISH A BOOK. However, I will add that it makes getting into stores easier.
  • Research your nation-wide marketing plan. By this point you should know what kind of audience your book appeals to. Start gathering ideas for targeting those people (see my post below about marketing tactics if you need help)

(4-5 months prior of publication) After you’ve finished writing that awesome book of yours:

  • Have that manuscript copy-edited. And developmental edited (if you need it.) By this time, though, you should just need the former. The developmental edit should come way before it. Also, make sure that after this copy-edit when you actually typeset it, you will need to ONCE AGAIN carefully read through it so that everything transferred correctly.
  • Get the interior design planned out. This includes typesetting.
  • Get a professional to design your cover (this should be done probably first here because you will want to start Facebook pages, or Twitter things for your book to build an audience)
  • Establish your publication date.
  • Get author photo taken. Smile!
  • Start figuring out what costs you want to place on your book. By now you should have the proper page count down so you will be able to know how much it will cost you to print it and what you will need to make a profit.
  • Obtain your barcode!
  • Write following promotional materials: news release, sales letter, mock review, customer sales flier, and email pitch.
  • Prepare a personal mailing list from holiday card recipients, business associates, club membership directories, your Rolodex, database, or other sources. (This will help you in marketing your book). Remember this first book is all about building that fan base.
  • Please have your website already started being created. You need to start building your SEO (search engine optimization). You want people to find you online, right?
  • Have your distribution channels set up. Are you going through a digital press, or are you going to be doing all the delivery yourself? Remember that with the latter option, it takes a considerable amount of time, and my guess is that you do not have that amount of time. I know I plan on going through LightningSource to print and distribute my books for me.

(at least 3 months prior to publication) Do while your book is being printed:

  • First, request the appropriate amount of galley copies to start sending off to people who will review your book before it comes out. No one wants to review a book afterwards 🙁 Sad truth, but the truth nonetheless. So, when your main book is getting printed, make sure that whatever source you are going through for your book also gets galley copies to you. If they don’t offer them, then perhaps go with a local print store or 48-hour books is another good option. This is when you want to send stuff off to Publisher’s Weekly and other good national magazines.
  • Review printer proofs of your book very carefully for any final corrections.
  • Implement your nationwide marketing plan. This is the time to start ratcheting up everything.
  • Copyright that book. Now, if your book is being published from September – the end of the year, you can use the next years copyright on it. This is important because no one wants to read an “old” book. By using this copyrighting trick, you’ll avoid that.
  • Start contacting bloggers and other sites for your virtual author book tour
  • Prepare following additional materials: acknowledgement card for reviewers, discount schedule, and return policy statement.
  • Submit articles to online articles sites, with links back to your web site (this will help build traffic to your site and ultimately increase your SEO).
  • Mail your prepublication offer to your personal mailing list. Get as many preorders as possible. Not only will this boost your credibility in the first day your book is released, but it’s always nice having for sure money coming in.
  • Embellish your book detail page on Amazon.com

(2 months pre-publication) When Your Books Arrive:

  • Ask enthusiastic readers to write customer reviews for the book at Amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com (you should have already given some galley copies away and have contacted book bloggers. Use these people to your advantage. Get those reviews up on your website, too).
  • Fill complimentary copy request generated by Nationwide marketing plan
  • Fill advance orders
  • Complete your copyright registration
  • Send copy of book to LCCN office
  • Send copy of book to Baker and Taylor
  • Make sure your books are not damaged in delivery if you get a bunch to sell yourself (which you should, this goes almost without saying).
  • Always carry copy of book with you and have case of books in your vehicle. You will always want a chance to sell your book.
  • Contact all bookstores in your area. Start pounding the pavement and getting into local bookstores that you can eventually get into the nationwide bookstores. On top of that, read this article to help out other local authors you may know, or you can give your friends ideas to help out you and your book.  http://writerunboxed.com/2013/01/28/jan-28-column/
  • Start utilizing radio, tv, or even magazine ads for your book.
  • Develop an available for interview sheet
  • Contact local media for interviews and stories
  • Pursue reviews, excerpts, interviews, and book sales on various internet sites
  • Be constantly on the lookout for any new review sources and sales opportunities

Things to do to have a successful publication and what to do after a successful publication:

  • Follow all steps above ^
  • Consider having two publication launches. One a “soft” launch where you have your book for sale but its technically not released yet. And then a “hard” launch where you have essentially a book party and friends and family can come meet the author and hang out. At this party, I would advise having bookmarks available with your author tour that you’ve set up by going to local bookstores. Give interested individuals a few of them to pass out. You need to build interest.
  • Add favorable reviews to website, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
  • Revise, update, and or expand book as needed
  • Get reprinting quotes on a second printing (if you run out of books because it’s so popular) or…
  • Offer book to major trade publishers.

And there you have it folks, the skin and tissue to your skeleton. Good luck with all your writing efforts. Look back to my next post when I have time when I discuss how to go about making some of the above documents I mentioned in bold and italics.

Planning the Timeline

Alright,

Been busy the past couple of days, and this week is actually extremely busy for me as I meet my own deadlines, but while I mention deadlines, I figure what an appropriate place to talk about scheduling.

Something I would invest in right off the bat is a planner. Whether you have an hour-by-hour one in addition to a day-by-day one, or merely a day-by-day one, is up to you. I know the hour-by-hour one really helps me plan out my days. Why do I recommend a planner? Because you will be busy from NOW (yes, this very second after you finish ready this blog) to months after your book is even published.

We are going to use my books timeline as an example of what you should be looking at when planning your own for your book.

1) When do you want your book to get released?

  •       Originally, I was planning on having an early November release so that I could advertise Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales as well as Christmas. But, then I figured, this would HORRIBLE. There is no way I can compete with all the fierce competition that is out there. So I moved mine back to December 10th (Tuesday).
  • Reason for picking a Tuesday? It has actually been proven that Tuesday’s yield the best results for launching something (why else do you think movies come out for rent at video stores on Tuesdays). Monday everyone is groggy and by Tuesday they are back in the swing of things. Also, December is a good month because it’ll be after all the crazy sales, but you can advertise your book (if yours is targeted towards college-aged adults like mine is) as a book to read over winter break.
  • With that in mind other dates I would consider are January, February, and May (spring break for the earlier two, and summer vacation for the last one).

Once you have your date of publication, you will want to set AT LEAST 2 months of marketing up beforehand, if not 4 MONTHS. During these months you will be sending out galley copies, soliciting subsidiary rights, talking to book clubs, following up on any marketing research you were doing, doing author book blog tours, etc. A huge marketing opportunity for me is the chance to blurb my book in a magazine that goes out to over 80,000 people NATIONWIDE. Crazy marketing option that I can’t pass up but In order to meet deadlines I need a physical galley copy a month before it goes out so by end of September, early October.

2) Goal to meet is November.

  • So, working backwards, you need to allow 3 – 4 weeks for printing services through Lightning Source (POD publisher) so you have physical copies to send out. That puts us back at end of August/early September.
  • Note: If you are going offset printing, it’s typically around 6 – 8 weeks. So, plan accordingly.

3) Proofreading and Copy Editing

  • Copy editing can take about 4 – 5 weeks depending on who you go through. (These are just things I have seen personally, not saying yours will). You will want to allow for one week to a week and a half for proofreading your book (because, yes, even editors can fail sometimes even though you are paying them). With this being said it put us back to middle July.

4) Final Revisions

  • Maybe you are already here. Your manuscript is as polished as it can be at this point. Well congrats! Start with #3 and move on upwards. For me the developmental edit phase (4 – 6 weeks) and my final touch-ups (another 4 – 6 weeks) puts me all the way back to end of March! Holy shit. And that was after I thought my book didn’t need to be changed that much (boy was I wrong). I would always recommend a developmental editor, because they will catch things totally oblivious by you.
  • Use this time that it is with the editor to read up about self-publishing (or continue reading this blog 😉 ). Otherwise, use the time to develop marketing ideas (see most recent blog post), some books to invest in are “Complete Guide to Self Publishing” by Sue Collier and Marilyn Ross and even the “Self-Publishing for Dummies” (even though this latter title is way out of date).

What is this trying to tell you? That if you want to have a successful book launch, a successful book in general, you need to actually commit yourself to this project ALMOST A WHOLE YEAR before the book actually comes. It’s like pregnancy for authors.

So, my advice to all of you planning on self-publishing out there, first thing you will want to do is determine a significant release date and from there work backwards to determine your schedule. It will make your life so much more organized and efficient.

Oh, and I was going to end it there, but I have to make this disclaimer before I leave. THIS IS NOT ALL THAT YOU WILL BE DOING. Imagine that this is the skeleton for your book’s body. Now we need to fill it in with skin tissue, organs, nerves, etc. All that comes in the form of websites, social media marketing, blogging, researching, querying, and more. Oh yay! We can get more in-depth with all of that later, though. Plan this basic template, first, and then we’ll focus on filling in the gaps.

Let’s Talk Marketing

Alright everyone, with this post I’m just going over a few things you want to consider when marketing your books. Or businesses for that matter.

I talk with a bunch of small businesses trying to gain accounts and marketing is one of those “necessary evils” that no one wants to admit. It’s just a tad bit more exciting than insurance selling, but everyone thinks that they do not need marketing or advertising, when, in truth, they do. Why do they think this? Because most people are focused about now. Will I gain money from it now? There is a possibility for that with advertising, but most times its function is to tell people you are there so that you have the POTENTIAL for business. That is a very important concept to understand here. Just because you do some of these marketing ideas, does not mean you will have the best-seller–but it sure doesn’t hurt. Plus, I’m not sure if anyone told you this, but most authors don’t make money on their first book, they make money on the second book and third book (if it’s a series). The importance of marketing, then, is really to tell people you exist! Once you have a fan base your sales will only increase exponentially.

So, your book is coming out. How many months should you plan on marketing? Beforehand four months is preferred, but two months is the very minimum. With that being said, let’s break down marketing into the (free) section and the (paid for) section.

Free Marketing Opportunities

The reason is that alot of this pre-marketing is going to involve sending your first free option (1) galley copies to various editors of magazines. For example, I am a member of Delta Sigma Phi fraternity (joined it in college) and when my books hit the shelves sometime later this year, they are agreeing to put a blurb about it and me in their magazine that goes out to over 80,000 people, nationally. THAT IS SOME CRAZY PUBLICITY. But, don’t stop there, try to get reviews out in Publisher’s Weekly. Or perhaps some genre-based magazines. Anyways, no one wants to review books AFTER the fact that is has been released, they want to review it before hand so that they can have some sort of influence of whether or not it is a flop. Research the Writer’s Market for some of these magazine options,  but also, just Google stuff.

Free option (2) comes in the form of social media. Do not outright tell people to buy your book, that is selfish, and desperate, but you can tell them that the book is scheduled to be released at such-and-such a date. Or even if you are writing a book many people already have an interest in reading it because they personally know you. When you do have a book release ask people to post something on their statuses about “checking” out this book or whatever. You’ll be suprised the power of social media.

Free option (3) = virtual author book tours. So, I guess I should clarify something really quick, these aren’t necessarily “free” options. Most people who review your book and agree to publicize it (for free in a magazine) usually request a free copy of the book. That is something that you will have to pay for, however, the cost is more than worth the publicity in most instances. With that being said, let’s talk about virtual author book tours. Blogging is huge nowadays, and if you already are an established blogger, then you have a following. But, look for people like you, and those who enjoy your particular genre and ask them to review a copy of your book on their blog. You will want to keep the query letter short when reaching out to these people. Now, this is a pre-marketing tool (it can also be after release date), but when doing this you will want to make sure that you actually have books on hand in case it generates traffic to your website and that you will need to fulfill orders. Make sure to thank them for their time afterwards, and if you are engaging in discussion with others, make sure you have timely responses! This is your credibility on the line here.

Free Option (4) = Signatures. Now, this is really subliminal marketing but when you have emails, you have a “signature” option which is usually composed of your (1) name, (2) title just so that you don’t constantly have to type it. Well, now you can put that you are an “author of such and such a book” under that too. It will give you more credibility, and also, people might be intrigued by you being an author and now that they know the book, they will hopefully search you out, so have a website ready! Don’t limit yourself to just emails, though, use these signatures in chat rooms pertinent to your book’s topic as you are out there building rapport with other authors and establishing yourself as a vital online presence.

free option (5) = book signings. Again, do when you have physical copies to sell, but out of all the options this can be the biggest flop and most heartbreaking. It all depends on how well you advertise the book signing, and most people that come will be your friends who already know you wrote a book. This can be good for increasing publicity, though, if you do it enough. And that is what we are really going for here. Bookstores should not ask you for money when doing these sort of things, if they do, don’t go with that bookstore.

free option (6) = telephone calls. Alright, so this is really really stealthy, but it’s pretty sweet. So, if you are really interested in getting your self-published book into big brick-and-mortar stores, call and request it. When they say that they don’t have it, say that you will get it from the independent book store. Now, one of these phone calls will not do anything. Why, 100 of these phone calls may not do anything. But if you get your friends to call (and if you have contacts in other states that would be interested in doing it, contact them about it and the script they should follow) enough times you will start to pique their interest. Now, what constitutes calling enough? Well, that is really up to you but I would not call yourself more than three times a week. if you have your friends call this same amount at random hours, then it will start to gain publicity with the clerks and perhaps they will go that extra step and request the manager get it so that they don’t miss out on sales.

free option (7) = public television and radio. if you can get on public tv shows as an interviewee I would recommend doing so. One writer’s group I am in has a person who runs their own tv show where they interview authors, so I plan on setting up something with them once the book is actually published. Now, when you do this, make sure you are ready. Nothing worse than stumbling over your answers and not knowing what your own book is about. You might actually LOSE sales that way. So, come prepared and swing for the fences.

free option (8) = book trailers. Design one of these with some cover art of your book. Having videos with not only increase your SEO (search engine optimization) of the website if you have it embedded, but it is also great for another vehicle to channel your book information out into. What should you include? Well, what your book is about, the title, publisher, author, and of course when it comes out. Other things may include website info for everything you (this includes Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, LinkedIn, etc.) Need music for it? Look here, http://incompetech.com/music/royalty-free/index.html?keywords=revenge&Search=Search

You’ll have to credit the guy who is doing it, but they are pretty nice instrumentals.

Now that we’ve talked plenty about free ideas that you can consider, let’s talk about paid forms of marketing.

Paid (1) = TV. If you have a genre type book, you may want to consider this. Guardian of the Core is a science-ficiton/fantasy book and I am aiming it towards college aged males. What types of programs do they watch? Well, probably comedy central, FX, spike, syfy. Romance? SOAP Network, Lifetime, Hallmark channel. Research here is the big thing and be prepared to spend a little. What I would recommend using here for TV spots, by the way, is the book trailer that I mentioned up above under free advertising. Great way to let people know about it and it’s, for the most part unless you paid for someone to make it, free. For the video at least.

paid option (2) = conventions. Here is a great way to meet fans of your genre and build your rapport with the reading and writing community. Look online to see if your genre has any of these conventions, and if they do, start researching how you can become one of those booth people. What you’ll have to consider here is cost/benefit. You will most likely need to pay for hotel room, travel, food, etc. So, will you earn enough publicity/make enough money through book sales, to warrant such an expense? If you do go, I suggest you bring a friend along with you who will (a) make your trip a little less boring, but (b) can handle the cash register while you interact with your fans!

paid option (3) = direct mailers. From genre-based magazines, get a list of people who subscribe (you’ll have to pay for this) and if it is within your budget send them a direct mailer that is snappy and grabs their attention mentioning the release of your book. If you have them, include some reviews from pre-publicity attempts.

paid option (4) = Swagger. Okay, so what I mean by this is gear that you can hook up your fans in! Sky is the limit here. Bookmarks may be essential for readers. For my book there are different houses that have different sigils (pretty much the olden day version of logos for today’s companies). Anyways, what I plan on doing is creating buttons for each of these main sigils and giving them away (or at the very least selling them for cheap) with each book. People start wearing these around and ask, “Oh what does that represent.” The person tells and, Boom! You have a referral. Another options for you servers and waitresses out there is buy a bunch of custom-made pens with the title of your book on it, and the website. When those people steal your pens (and trust me I know they do because I have been a server before), they will go home with information about your book and a link to your website. Another subliminal tactic. And, while people sign the checks, you will be exposing them to it, although they may not think so.

There are probably more that I didn’t cover. But alas, this blog post is getting quite long as it is. Use your creativity for marketing ideas and you will come up with a bunch more. Again, the first book is all about getting your name out there. You want to build your fan base and cut a slice in the market for yourself. It will cost money, but if you play it right, and write it right, the book should start building its own publicity in time. Many books don’t get discovered for years. The Hunger Games was out two years before people noticed it. Game of Thrones, even longer.

With all, make sure you research before utilizing these ideas or any ideas that you may have. You want to see where you best marketing dollars are placed because this venture that you’re taking is already going to be expensive, no sense in doing things that will not give you the most possible ROI.

Until next time. Happy writing.

Business Plans–The Rest of It

Alright, so yesterday we looked at just the expenses part of the business plan because when you are making something like that, that is the one section you want to start with. Now, I forgot to mention this but you should also add your projected revenue. This is a TOTAL GUESSTIMATE. Especially if you don’t have an established fan-base. But for books I listed possible revenue coming from: (a) online sales, (b) e-books, (c) face-to-face selling, and (d) bookstores… Pretty basic. For most self-publishers the first 3 will be your main selling areas, and as far as calculating this you need to do some research. (1) Find out who your distributor is, I recommend Lightning Source for online, and BookBaby for e-books. (2) Research prices and start drawing up some hypothetical scenarios for where your book will fall (unless you have a “for sure” word count and page count. And then just take the profit margin and multiply it by # of books sold and then don’t forget to add in royalties to bookstores or vendors or whoever else there may be.

Now, the first four things on the business plan are (1) Description of company, (2) ownership and location information, (3) products, and (4) pricing strategy. These are definitely the easiest and for the most part self-explanatory. But, let’s discuss the basic jist of each one briefly, before going into what’s going to set your business plan apart.

ITEM #1 = Description of Company

  • Alright, here you just put what your company plans on doing. For example, “The purpose of Writer’s Block Press is to spearhead publishing and merchandising for the written creations of Michael E. Thies.” Here is where you will also want to list what type of salary you expect, and how you plan to utilize left over money.

ITEM #2 = Ownership and Location of Company

  • Who owns it. What type of company is it (i.e. sole proprietorship, LLC, partnership, etc.). Do you have employees? How many?
  • Where is it located. If you are working from your house you could say something like, “Writer’s Block Press will be run and operated in a designated office on the residential premises of your name here.
  • Who to get in touch with if approached for movie deals or sponsorship opportunities

ITEM #3 = Products

  • What type of products do you offer? For a publishing company it is most likely going to be books, and that’s pretty much about it. Make sure you tell what format they are in (print and e-book, maybe audiobook?)

ITEM #4 = Pricing Strategy

  • Unless you have the capabilities and know-how to run a POD Press, or an Offset Press, I would just say something like “Writer’s Block Press, until deemed financially necessary, will outsource production of books to POD publishers such as LightningSource or CreateSpace. As such, Writer’s Block Press is subject to their pricing for works published.”

NOW THE GOOOOOOOOD STUFF 🙂 —> Here we will be discussion a few things: (6) Production schedule, (7) Targeted Audience, (8) marketing and promotion plan, (9) web plan, (10) long-term goals, (11) summary…. (If you noticed I skipped item 5, that is because that are your finances which I already discussed in the previous post).

ITEM #6 = Production Schedule/Writing Plan

  • It’s always nice to have goals down in print. I think it helps you achieve them. So with this section you are going to list (I would say for the next 2 years minimum) your product plans.
  • So for new books make sure you include, dates to get drafts done by, dates to get edits done by, proofreading, to have galley copies ready, to have release dates. By having these items, you will really set yourself up for success. So, for example, the first book in my series, Guardian of the Core, titled “Eska’s Trials” is coming out this December. For the whole year of 2014 I have plans of finishing the second book, and of dates I need to get each draft done by, so I can release the second book of the series, come January of 2015.
  • This is the type of planning that financial people want to see. It will exude a sense of professionalism with them and that you are taking into account the longevity of the company. And of your career of course!!!

ITEM #7 = Target Audience

  • Pretty self-explanatory. Who are you marketing towards? For me, my book is New-Adult science-fiction/fantasy so a bunch of my readers will be college-aged males. Writing a romance? Well, it’s probably females. Writing a How-To Book on engineering? Well, then middle-aged men. Of course, always try to be as specific as possible with this.
  • Include answers to these questions in this section: What is the best way to reach readers? What are the number of books planned in the series? Is it a standalone novel? What is the novel about? What is the genre?

ITEM #8 = Marketing Plan

  • Sorry to disappoint everyone, but I’m an Advertising Major, so this is right up my alley. With that being said, I want to do it justice and not just give a brief overview. Check back later as this will get it’s own blog post, just like finances did. This is almost an entirely separate document than your business plan since it can be very long depending on how thorough you are and the ideas you have.

ITEM #9 = Web Plan

  • What are your url’s going to be? If you know, RESERVE THEM NOW! I am pissed because someone already has “writersblockpress.com” reserved so I had to go with the next best thing and choose “.net” but then I also purchased “www.guardianofthecore.com” and “www.michaelethies.com” and I am going to include url forwarding for all of them to my author page until deemed financially appropriate to get separate websites for the rest of them.
  • Also, here is where you want to list your presence and visibility on social media. Do you have a blog? Of course you do, you’re following mine! 😉 But, besides that, do you have a Facebook Page set up, Twitter Account, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Pinterest (I admit to not using the last two I listed, but if you have them, list them). Perhaps you have a Youtube Channel that can correlate with your company’s vision.
  • This is an important part because investors want to see your marketability and nowadays all of that marketing stuff has to do with an online presence. You need to have one!

ITEM #10 = Long-Term Goals

  • Include 3-Year and 5-Year goals in here. Again, these are just “goals” you are not bound to these. For mine, I included having another book out in 3-years, and then one more book and even other authors by 5-years from now. Also, I put in here that I will have personalized websites for the links I mentioned above within this time frame.
  • This is an important section because, as I said before, investors want to see the longevity of your company planned out. If you have goals for 3 and 5 years down the road, then they will start to trust you more as a person who wants to make this business succeed and will do everything in their power to try and make that happen.

ITEM #11 = Executive Summary

  • Summarize your entire document. Here is a sample of what I put:
  • “Writer’s Block Press will see continued growth through 2014 and 2015, and subsequent years after that. By February of 2015, Writer’s Block Press will have two titles published that will be for sale via print and e-book. Each book published by Writer’s Block Press will be of high quality, going through the necessary revisions and steps before it is released. Branding author and owner, Michael E. Thies, will never stop, nor will marketing his series, Guardian of the Core. Writer’s Block Press will be a name known to all, because name recognition equals sales or future sales for all author’s publishing under it.”

Now, that is a lot of information to take in. If you want to get your business plan critiqued I’d be more than willing to look at it, send it to me at writersblockpress@gmail.com or, what I would also recommend, is to take it to a bank and ask to speak to a loan officer and ask them this, “If I were to do business with you, what would you offer my company” hand them your business plan and get it critiqued.

Anyways, sorry that this post was so long. But there is a lot of information here, and I just grazed the surface. Look forward to the marketing plan as this is one thing that writer’s continually struggle with. Happy writing and good luck with establishing your company, whatever that may be.

Creating the Business Plan–Expenses

Business Plans are by far the most taxing part about the writing process (pun intended). They are dry, dull, and boring material that definitely limits our creativity. However, we still need to do them because that’s life. If you plan on getting a loan for publishing your book (because it can be quite the hefty sum) you will definitely need a business plan to woo over any potential investors and or bank loaners.

So, in summary here is the basic outline of a business plan.

  1. Description of your company
  2. Ownership and location of company
  3. Products that you will be offering
  4. Pricing strategy
  5. Financial Plan
  6. Production schedule and writing plans
  7. Targeted audiences
  8. Marketing and Promoting Plan
  9. Web Plan
  10. Long Term Goals
  11. Executive Summary

That is a lot, right? Well it needs to be thorough in order for people to trust you enough and see what type of person you are so that they feel comfortable about loaning you thousands of dollars (because trust me that is what it will take.) Total costs for first books usually take anywhere from $10,000 – $20,000 to get off the ground. And that doesn’t include your salary! (You wanna make a living right?) So you want to add whatever you project for that in there as well. Now, if you noticed, I’m talking a lot about finances and expenses, that is because it is the most crucial and the hardest part to come up with for a business plan. In this entry, I will be only discussing expenses and finances because most of the other stuff will be self-explanatory but I will still give you a template anyways.

Now, I highly suggest you start by seeing a SCORE individual–SCORE is a group of retired business professionals who have created businesses and now are retired and donate their time in order to answer questions about marketing, business plan implementation, etc. They want to see you succeed (and they don’t cost a dime). You can get in touch with a score representative by contacting your local chamber of commerce, there are plenty of them.

So, how I decided to break down my business plan when I went about creating Writer’s Block Press was to list separate expenses.

Expense #1 = Business Expenses (i.e. website design, office supplies, logo design, etc.). Then I had book expenses (i.e. ISBN #, each edit that I had done, barcodes, e-book formatting). Don’t forget to include your anticipated salary here. Be daring, reach big, it is always better to overestimate than underestimate.

Expense #2 = Book Expenses. This is how much you think your book is going to cost to print. Get quotes from offset-printers if you decide to do that (you will need a signature count and that means you will need an even amount of pages. The highest signature count is 32 pages) So if you had a 160 page novel, you would need to buy 5 signatures. Anyways, for most self-publishers this isn’t a viable option for it requires a small fortune so check in with your POD publisher and find out how much it costs to print through them (they will have a price per page typically). Set a range of pages for your list of expenses (unless you know a definite page count) and whalah. Now, take that price per unit and plan on buying the amount of books you think you can personally sell within two years (you always want books with you) and now you have that number.

Expense #3 = Association Affliation Fees. What are these? These are subscriptions to magazines, membership into writing groups, anything that will eventually become vital in your marketing plan. Some good ones to be a part of are Publisher’s Weekly, Independent Book Publisher’s Association, local Writer’s Guild, etc. These fees are optional, but I would highly recommend you invest in them and start building your presence in these online communities.

Expense #4 = Marketing Expenses. If you don’t have this mindset, start developing it now. Many things I hear from authors is that they assumed the publisher was in charge for marketing their book. They are not. I repeat, they are not. It is up to you to see your book succeed or fail. It is the publishing companies job to publish the book. Now, I would highly suggest getting help from a professional agency here. I work at a marketing agency during the day, so if this is something you need help in (creating a marketing plan) let me know. My email there is mthies.creativebuzz@gmail.com. Anyways, marketing ideas can range from free reviews in magazines of your genre, or as expensive as direct mailers. Now, something I do need to mention here is you need GALLEY COPIES. No one wants to review the book AFTER publication. They want to review the book before it comes out and they want to read it for free. This means you need to cover the expense of these copies, and they will be worth it but just don’t give it to anyone, give it to people who have a lot of visibility. The idea is to build as much pre-publicity as you can. This should happen the two months before the book is actually released. Talking with your POD distributor, they should have a price for galley copies.

Now that you have all your expenses, we will discuss pricing and promotion in the next segment. Stay tuned. But for now, start here. Find out how much money you are going to have to shell out and then really think to yourself, “Is this worth it?” For me, it was.

Choosing the Name

This was the hardest part for me. I know from advertising and being a huge fan of Madmen (which if you aren’t watching you definitely should) that picking a name can be one of the most frustrating things to do. It can’t just be ANY name. It has to be the “write” one, especially when you are choosing the name of a publishing company. So, my process? Well, to begin with, every publishing company should have one of these words in it: press, publishing company, books, or publishers. This is solely because no one should ever question what it is that your company does.

Then, I decided I needed something to convey the type of writing being done there. Or, perhaps not even the type, but something that conveys the authors. I pulled from exotic words not typically used, to symbolic words from Greek mythology, to just iconic problems. Some of the words I chose were: Finesse, Muse, Moxie, Visceral, Quill.

With that set, I began creating lists of what I wanted to call the company. Here are some examples of some of them I chose, and perhaps why I chose them (in parenthesis afterwards).

  • Finesse Publishing Company
  • Lucid Quill Press
  • Visceral Publishing House
  • Muse Books
  • Writer’s Moxie Publishing Company
  • Moxie Press
  • Writer’s Block Press

Out of this list I had four favorites and I’ll list them in order from least favorite to favorite (and of course you probably know which one I chose looking at the title of my wordpress account.) Anyways, Finesse Publishing Company because I wanted to convey a certain degree of skill in publishing. Number two was Moxie Press because moxie is a nice word for everything that an author should be. The problem with both of those, however, is try creating a logo for either of them. What would you do? That is something you need to consider, too, when establishing a publishing company. You need a logo. Every company does, it is their identity and eventually it will just become “you” without all the extra words. With that being said, number three was, Lucid Quill Press. It sounds nice, and you could do quite the logo design with that. (Always be thinking about the bigger picture).

But, alas, I went with none of those, I went with “Writer’s Block Press.” Why? Doesn’t that seem counter-intuitive by labeling something that typically has a negative connotation in the writing sphere? Well, here is my reasoning behind it, and this took me a while so trust me, I really planned it out. In all of writing, that is the one phrase that probably EVERYONE knows (perhaps besides basic story terms like: climax, falling action, etc.) Also, it’s ironic. Who doesn’t love a little irony in their life? Taken another way, this publishing company is a block (or group) of writers, all trying to publish books. And finally, what did publishing consist of being today’s digital age, back in the days of Johannes Gutenberg? Well, it was a block press. Literally.

Anyways, there you have it, the idea behind the name. Now as you go out and perhaps create your publishing company, or even create anything in life, make sure that the name has significance, that it’s not just thrown out there, and also make sure you can capitalize on that significance with an awesome graphic design. My logo is getting created for the company right now and when it is done, I will be posting on here for all to see.

Thanks for taking the time to read the first in many blogs posts. Hope you enjoyed it. This has been step #1. Stay tuned for the next installment.