Tag Archives: Self-publishing

What can be Improved Upon in English College Courses (Part 2)

So, in the first part of this topic I discussed why teachers shouldn’t really be limiting the writing ability of creative writing students. Here is another topic that I feel needs to get addressed while we are critiquing the English college curriculum.

Alright, so it has been argued that many people go to college just to get the degree, but that it really doesn’t prepare you for the real world. I guess, in some ways that’s true, but I definitely think it gives you the opportunity to prepare for that real world through the offering of internships and through a good college curriculum. As far as us Creative Writers go, how does college prepare us? The question I always received when people knew I was a creative writing major is “What are you going to do with that?” And it’s true, what do many people do with a creative writing degree? Well, there is always publishing poetry, short stories, or maybe even that novel. However, therein lies the problem with the education, it revolves around publishing. I was very lucky in many regards that I started taking my writing seriously at a high school level. When people asked me the question above I would respond with, “Well, I’m going to get my novel published. I already have it written.” People were so impressed by that and many of my fraternity brothers said I was “10,000 steps ahead of other Creative Writing majors.” And, I probably was, but anyone can do that, they just need to put the time in to get that done. But, getting to my point, my experience in publishing has caused me to look upon the college curriculum with a new perspective.

I think that in the English Education system at the college level there should be an offered class that teaches the people in the major all the ins and outs publishing. There is so much to learn! I honestly did so much research in order to publish my book and I still feel like I’m running around with my head cut off. What this class would do is talk about every aspect of publishing: book specs, trim size, to-dos, Independent Book Publishing Association, Publisher’s Weekly. There is so much info that you could put into a class. In fact, you could probably have two classes, one a beginning class going through the basics of what all is publishing and your different types of publishing options: vanity presses, indie presses, POD, or traditional publishing. And then you could have another course, a more advanced one that has a project of actually getting a work published by the end of the class. You would utilize your previous course knowledge and then implement it with querying your stories out, building your press kits, etc. Or, you could have a “virtual” simulation or a project where you put together your business plan, a marketing plan, and a timeline of implementation just so that when you do decide to take that step and publish something later on in life you have a blue print, you have done it before, and you’ve been pretty much “taken by the hand” throughout the whole process.

With this kind of info at least at their fingertips I think it’d encourage many more students to really get out there and write! Writing isn’t about jamming out a novel in a day, it’s about persistence. It took 6 years for me to get my first novel to where I want it to be. Although these courses will not help the motivation factor, it will definitely help benefit them with just a deeper knowledge of the publishing industry. I feel as though this would benefit many many English students who don’t really know how to take that next step into utilizing that English major that they acquired. Or, even if they didn’t want to publish something, they can take this knowledge to try to get jobs at publishing companies and have a job that directly relates to their major (which is something hard to find for many students nowadays like I said before).

 

If any of you reading this are pursuing something in the English Major what do you think about including some elective publishing classes? What other ideas can you think of that would help other English majors feel more prepared after college? I’m interested in hearing your thoughts!

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.