Publishing Part 1: Marketing

Over the weekend I attended a writing workshop at the local writing center.  The day’s four sessions focused on various aspects of publishing.  I thought I’d share what I learned here, as well as my own experiences.

Part 1 (today): The Fifth Dimension – Marketing
Part 2: Dipping Your Toe Into the ‘E’ Pool; E-Books 101
Part 3: Get Into The House (Finding an agent)
Part 4: DIY Publishing – Is It For You?
Part 5: My own insights into marketing: social networking and blogging

The Fifth Dimension – Marketing

This session was hosted by two local self-published writers: Jane VanVooren Rogers, editor and author of a poetry chapbook entitled How to Avoid Being and Other Paths to Triumph, and Jane Reinhardt-Martin, self-published author of several books including Flax Your Way to Better Health.

Jane Reinhardt-Martin’s books fit a very specific niche market, so she’s been able to sell over 50,000 copies in the last ten years.  Jane VanVooren Rogers, on the other hand, has a small poetry chapbook from a local publisher, so she has a lot of different challenges than the first Jane. 

Here are the useful points I learned:

  • Get your book listed in Bowker’s Books In Print; if your title won’t scan at a register, bigger places won’t be willing to sell it (according to a Barnes and Noble manager).
  • Books-A-Million and Barnes and Noble prefer to work through a distributor, not through the author herself.  While this could potentially be a good sales avenue, distributors typically require you to give them thousands of copies upfront.  And if your books are damaged or discontinued, you’re stuck with all the unsold copies.
  • If you want your book sold in local bookstores, go to the really local ones; Books-A-Million and Barnes and Noble aren’t big on self-published locals taking up shelf space or doing book signings.  Independent small business owners, however, can be receptive to your works.  One bookstore owner in town offered to split both the overhead and profits from books he sold by local authors, and another store – a fair trade craft-type place – lets authors not only sell books, but have book signing parties at the store.  At the very least, it doesn’t hurt to ask.
  • When deciding on the price of your book, consider the cut others may take.  Yes, it’s your book, but in the example Jane Reinhardt-Martin gave us, her book cost $2 to produce (she went with a local printshop after negotiating with several in the area).  A bookstore she approached would buy it from her for $4, then sell it for the list price of $10.  That left her with a profit of $2 – not the 100% most people would expect.  Jane VanVooren Rogers sells her books herself through Amazon, so she has to factor in their cut.
  • Attend trade shows, conferences, book signings – anything you can where potential RELEVANT readers might be.  For example, Jane Reinhardt-Martin attends flax seed trade shows, and some of her biggest customers are flax sales people, because everyone wants to know about the product.  Jane VanVooren Rogers attended a regional writing conference and split a booth with several other local writers.  At one point, she walked around and traded books with other authors; while it didn’t increase sales, it helped get her name out there.
  • Consider what your purpose is with your book:  money, getting your story read, or a mixture.  Jane VanVooren Rogers bought some ad space on Facebook for a month, targeting people in the Midwest who like the arts.  While she gained over 100 likes on her Facebook page, it didn’t translate into sales.  Same with trading her book with other authors.
  • Get something tangible to promote your book: postcard, bookmark, even just a business card.  That way people will remember who you are and what you wrote.
  • And finally, consider your audience’s access to computers.  Jane Reinhardt-Martin sticks an ordering form in the back of her books, so that people can easily send a check or money order to get more copies.  A lot of people prefer snail mail (or stores) to Amazon.  Make sure the book is easily available.
  • Jane Reinhardt-Martin recommends checking out some advice by Brian Jud on CreateSpace.  She gave us handouts of his “Marketing Plan for Non-Fiction Titles,” but he has guidelines for fiction as well.

Unfortunately, the session didn’t focus on online marketing except in brief passing – social networks like Twitter and Facebook, blogs, Goodreads, Amazon reviews, etc.  I’ll focus on those in part 5.

Is this advice helpful?  Does it mesh with your own experiences?  Do you have anything you can add to the list?

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