Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Your Writing has Style - So Use a Style Sheet!

If you are a computer programmer, you have probably used style sheets in your day-to-day work. If you are an editor, no doubt you use style sheets on a daily basis (if you don’t prepare these for your clients, you should). However, as a writer, you may not have even heard of a style sheet until an editor or publisher has made you use one. It’s a good thing to know before you start your book – it will save you many headaches later.

A style sheet is your list of style standards and practices for your book, article or even your entire vision of your own image. It is composed of your grammar and punctuation rules, your protocol for capitalization, numbers, italics, proper names and nicknames, character sketches and profiles, details of the settings you use, timelines. Most book publishers use Chicago Manual of Style, so look things up if you are accustomed to writing with another stylebook (MLA for medical articles, AP for newspapers, ALA for college for example).

In addition to your own style sheets, you may be asked to adhere to a publisher’s own rules and recommendations, so make sure you inquire early on. The Chicago Manual of Style may have special rules for specific things that go against what you or your publisher may want  – most of the time, there are good reasons, but sometimes there are just “taste” things that the author wants to convey, or cultural things that add to the flavor of the book. DO NOT allow yourself to misspell things or to use incorrect grammar for cultural reasons except in those instances where it adds flavor to dialog or verse.

The purpose of a style sheet is to keep the writer on track throughout the writing process, and to inform the editor about spelling, punctuation, numerical practices and other items so a manuscript can be consistent throughout. This is particularly important for a writer who takes breaks between writing sessions – or for one who is writing several items at once.

If you are a novelist, you should have a detailed spreadsheet listing out scenes, plot lines, and timelines—and one for character traits (physical descriptions, language habits, and their history). I also suggest producing these same detailed spreadsheets if you are writing non-fiction—particularly a memoir or family history. Take the time to do this and you will have an easier time ensuring consistency and you will reduce your chance for error.

Use a style sheet as your rule book

  • List names: first, last and nicknames used. Verify those names to make sure you are spelling them correctly in the manuscript, because your style sheet is the rule of law!
  • List your punctuation rules, including serial comma or no serial comma, em dash or en dash, other rules special to your manuscript.
  • List your rules for using numerals and words for numbers. Are you following Chicago Manual of Style for your number handling or does it make sense for you to have rules specific to your manuscript? Don’t decide this arbitrarily—ask your editor what might be the best way to handle them, and always treat them consistently.
  • List abbreviations and their extended meanings. Also note why they are abbreviated and when they should be spelled out.
  • List words that are always capped, and those that have unconventional capitalization specific to your manuscript.
  • List words that you make up, along with their meanings, capitalization rules, and spellings.
  • Note anything unusual that the writer or copy editor should know about. For example, any oddities that would not appear in standard language. Keep in mind that the reader may not have previous knowledge of certain phrases—and your job as writer is to guide the reader through your journey or story.
  • If you have author notes or footnotes, spell out your rules for those ahead of time so you know when you should be using them.
  • Last, but not least, make a comprehensive spreadsheet of characters, including the spelling of their full names, descriptions, timelines and special characteristics in mannerisms, gait, language, etc.  If you have people in your book, you should always use this, no matter if it is fiction or non-fiction.
You don’t have to start your style sheet as you put the first word on paper, but it will help you in the long run if you do. If you have already written your first draft, sit down now and prepare a style sheet as you reread your manuscript.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

What you need to know before you start your publishing/speaking business

I love owning my own business, and I love helping my clients create their own publishing companies from the ground up. While it's rare that one of our micropublishers turns into a full blown publishing operation where they take on the business on their own, it does happen and there are many things to learn as they grow into an entrepreneurial role.

I always caution my clients:
 You have a creative side and an analytical/logical side -- make sure they aren't crossing over
and letting the creative side make business decisions and the business side make creative decisions.

I recently contributed to a well known entrepreneurial blog, where the question was "What do you wish you'd known when you first started your business?"  Here is the introduction to the blog and a link to the 100 things recommended by her entrepreneur network. 

Reprinted with permission from Carol Roth's Blog:
100+ Things You Need to Know Before You Start Your Business

As many of you know, I often talk about “Business Beer Goggling“- the phenomena of being so intoxicated with your new business idea/venture that your view of reality is completely distorted. So, to help you take off those beer goggles and sober up, I have asked the CarolRoth.com contributor network of entrepreneurs and experts to use their 20/20 hindsight and provide the one main thing that they wish they knew before they started their businesses. Their answers are presented below in no particular order.

You may notice some similar insights, but I kept the concepts separate, as something in the way one is framed may resonate differently with you.

1. FOCUS!!!

I wish I would have realized that the more focused and specific our company's niche, the more easily understood and referred our services would have been.

Everyone's heard the saying, "A jack of all trades is a master of none," but many people, when starting a business, don't take this to heart. Focus on what you do best and partner with others who can help you succeed!
Thanks to: Rocky Walls of 12 Stars Media.

As you read on......I'm #21
21. Integrity Isn't Reciprocal

My first year in business was easy. I did what I promised and people paid their bills. Of course, many of my first clients were writers I already knew. A couple of years into my venture, new clients found me through our website. When I first started doing books for those I didn't know, I continued using email and verbal okays. I did what I promised, but they didn't always. Once Bitten, Twice Shy, as they say. Have a formal contract with legal oversight and clearly share expectations. Document everything.
Thanks to: Lisa Pelto of Concierge Marketing & Publishing.

Here's the link to the rest of the article:  100 things you need to know

Moral of all this to any new author, publisher, or small business -- make sure you know who you are doing business with, focus your business, check out your customers and vendors, have faith in yourself, accept that you will now be a salesperson first and a writer second, and then GO FOR IT.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Nebraska Writers Guild Fall Conference - October 14-15, 2011

October 15, 2011, in Ainsworth, Nebraska, Lisa Pelto will be presenting the following workshops at the Nebraska Writers Guild Fall Conference.  Please join us! *

"Legitimately Published"- Self Publish, Print-on-Demand, or Getting an Agent and Sending a Query - What's Right for YOU?

In this session, you'll learn how to determine what is best for your book, your budget and your brain. Publishing options have changed and so have the models for selling books. Don't sign anything until you attend this session!

Developing the SuperBook - How Product Development, Innovation, Marketing and Keeping the Consumer in Mind Help Make a Better Book

The old publishing model took editorial and creative control from the author's hands and gave it to the publisher. Then the Print on Demand model blasted its way into the marketplace and gave editorial and creative control back to the author who had no idea how to harness the power of the intellectual property they had developed. The person who was missing from these two models?  The consumer! Now, in this new era of publishing, the consumer has gained the power of demanding high quality books of depth and substance that are edited, produced well and readily available, in the formats they want to read them, at a reasonable price. You'll get the scoop on the new Hybrid Publishing model that is sweeping the industry, and you'll work through how you can make a better book for your reader.
*The Nebraska Writers Guild doesn't have information up yet, but their contact info is on this link.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Treat Every Criticism Like Gold

Not knowing why someone doesn't like you doesn't make you better.
Most customers don't tell you why they aren't doing business with you -- they just quietly disappear.  Since it is so rare that someone will tell you, be sure to mine any criticisms or negative comments you are lucky enough to hear about your book or yourself until you get to the heart of the problem. Then try to fix it.

Understanding the Nature of Your Customer Relationships Helps You Utilize Criticism
In helping authors self publish, I understand that my work involves handling someone's baby – a book he may have dreamt of his entire life. With that in mind, my own opinions may need to be carefully weighed before I push them too hard. 

Most clients are ecstatic because we are so good at what we do. However, there is a rare frown or unpleasant long pause. I understand that an author must love their book, so if I sense any unhappiness, I sit down with them and all but beg for them to tell me any criticisms they have about me, my company, the product we created, how they have been treated -- you name it, I want to know. I assure them that I want to know what they are thinking and that they may indeed hurt my feelings, but I would be more hurt if we didn't create something they absolutely love.

Criticism is a Gold Mine of Business Intelligence
I treasure any and all criticism and/or negative comments as nuggets of gold -- little bits of wisdom I can mine both to make our company better at serving our clients, and to make products and services that our clients are proud to affix their name (in 1 inch letters on the front cover!).

Friday, July 22, 2011

Coming Up For Air Can Net You the Biggest Fish

As a book marketer and packager of many different genres, I know how distracting the various markets can be and how hard it is to catch every little fish in the pond -- let alone the big fish.  I know how bad it feels to just miss an opportunity that should have been mine, or one of my client's.  "The One That Got Away" always feels awful for a long time.

I'm sure you have experienced it, too. Everyone misses opportunities because we are drowning in information. To make it worse, the news always bubbles to the surface only one measly day too late -- you hear about an event that would have been perfect for featuring your book, or you see an article in the paper where you would have been the perfect expert to interview, or a conference brochure arrives in the mail with another author delivering your topic, or someone tells you the most horrible news of all: Oprah just did a show on just your topic.

How can you be sure you are reeling in the best opportunities when there are so many places to fish?  Realistically, you can't. You are probably forehead deep in your topic already and can barely find time to come up for air as it is.  But you need to if you are going to thrive as an author. Using tools that are available can certainly help.
Here are three of my best fishing holes for automating a constant flow of useful information. Yes, I know any angler will tell you never to reveal where the fish are biting, but these will help you be more on top of things.  
1.  Google Alerts with daily notifications:
  • Your name (and all its misspellings)
  • Your book title (ditto on the misspellings)
  • Your company name (ditto)
  • Your competitors' names (ditto)
  • Your competitors' book titles (ditto)
  • Your topic areas -- in as many ways as you can think of saying them (ditto)
  • Celebs, VIPs, experts in your topic area (ditto)
  • Associations, organizations, groups important to your topic (ditto)
2.  Conference Programming Committees often put out a notice that they are looking for experts. They will post a "Call for Presentations", "Call for Speakers", "Call for Presenters", "Call for Papers", etc.  I put this phrase in my Google Alerts with my topic areas, too -- HOWEVER, doing a weekly search and deliberately looking for opportunities will net better results.  Google the phrases in quotes, with your topic areas outside the quotes.  For example, if your topic is Caregiving, your Google searches would be
"Call for Presentations" caregiving
"Call for Presenters" caregiving
"Call for Speakers" caregiving ..... and so on. 

The results will come up with various Calls and you will be asked to prepare proposals for your presentations -- some are very short and concise with their requirements, and some are extensive proposals.  Knowing they are available is 3/4 of the battle!

3.  Subscribe to HARO.com (Help a Reporter Out) and PitchRate.  Every day, you will receive an email (sometimes more than once a day). That email contains a list of articles for which reporters and bloggers are currently looking for experts to interview.  Casting your line into the water is simple, and you'll be surprised at how you can easily and quickly build your reputation for being a helpful expert. 

Come up for air, use the tools that are free and readily available, and start catching those opportunities!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Weigh Your Options -- And Your Book

If you are expecting book sales that will require mailing single copies, have your printer make a mock up of your book with the actual papers and page count prior to printing, and then weigh it. Then add an envelope and a mailing label -- and any other collateral items you are considering including in your orders. This is operations, my friends. And operations can make or break a publishing company (or any other type of company for that matter).  Does it really matter?

Challenge:  We completed a project wherein 75% of the books were sent out to individuals one at a time.  The book weighed 15.2 ounces, but with the envelope, bookmark and label, the final weight was 16.1 ounces. That meant that rather than paying $2.41, he was paying $2.82 per piece. (see Media Mail pricing sheet). With a margin barely at $4 per book when he arrived, that was a pretty significant difference. Prior to working with us, my client had paid for the whole second pound on each package because of one stinking 10th of an ounce. In this case, he was already using the lightest weight envelope and a regular mailing label, and my client liked the papers used in his book, so we didn't want to change that.  Did we have an option?

Solution:  On the next printing, we cut off 1/8th inch off the height of the book -- and that did the trick. There are creative solutions to nearly every problem, and this was a great fix for a potential profit hog. In our case, the buyers didn't even realize anything was different, and my client's profit margin rose over 10% per sale.

Moral of the story:  Consider how you will be selling and fulfilling your books, and make the shipping operation part of your initial planning process. Make sure your shipping costs reflect the actual weight of the book, and that you have thoughtfully considered whether or not your buyer values that extra fraction of an ounce over saving a little on shipping. It could be the difference between making a profit and losing money on books sold, depending on the buyer's terms. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

What Makes a "Good Contact"?

I was talking to a few people upon my return from BookExpo, and found myself saying "I met a couple great leads and a few good ones." But now, I'm thinking "What makes them a good lead?" Are they saying "I made a great contact" after meeting me at the show?

It's not just the connection at the show that makes a "Good Contact," it's the relationship that buds at the show, and then blossoms with care and nurturing after the show.

Just like any other type of relationship, a "Good Contact" requires give and take, too. It requires trust on both parts and integrity on both parts. And you need to plan how to handle your new relationships from the early stages so they are able to grow. At CMI, we plan what we are doing with contacts before we go to a show or networking event. Sometimes you are the one getting the contact; sometimes you are the contact. You have to decide if the relationship is something you need and want in your professional life. Here are the questions that you should ask yourself:
  • Is this going to be a one-way relationship, or are there reciprocal benefits?
  • Do we have something legitimate to offer each other in our businesses or is it not really a perfect match?
  • Do the benefits of this relationship outweigh the costs of nurturing and maintaining it?
  • Am I willing to share my network with this person?

Set your own list of non-negotiables in the contacts you make -- and be aware that others are also doing the same (you hope). The most difficult part in the networking relationship is looking at yourself in the mirror and asking "Am I a good contact?"

For more great information on networking, read Jeff Beals' book Self Marketing Power.

Monday, May 30, 2011

BEA and IBPA Book is Closed for 2011

It was true at Publisher's University, and confirmed at the Book Expo:  Self Publishing is evolving...quickly.

Turning the page to the future of books, the Publisher's University seemed to be all about Amazon. They are seemingly taking over the world. They were everywhere at Pub-U.  Yes, Amazon is important, no critical, for any self publisher's toolbox. But it's only one tool - okay maybe 10 tools, but still. Today's DIY publisher needs to be forming a platform, sharpening their focus, and needs to be tightly edited and well formatted and designed. 

My presentation at Pub-U was all about how to work with publishing services companies; starting with hiring professionals for editing, cover design, interior layout, and other publishing duties, to evolving our mindset to serve the customer. Much of my presentation covered "orientation" in the growth and evolution of self publishing -- product, production and customer orientations.  It's a concept right out of college marketing texts, but fits perfectly with the publishing e-volution.

Product Orientation - In the infancy of modern self publishing, authors found that they could get their work published and pushed out to the public with little regard for the customer. What they had to say, they had to say ... and "everyone" should buy it and like it. They published with the product foremost in their minds because they could do it, no matter the cost to them financially, nor the cost to editorial quality. 

Production Orientation - The next major evolutionary step loomed in the production and printing advancements in the self publishing industry. Virtually anyone could publish their product and push it through to the public easier than ever. Thus the technology drove much of this era in publishing. 

Customer Orientation - Now that over a million books are being published (and countless others are being produced that the general public never even sees), the customer has finally become a critical piece in the mix. For the first time, the customer's editorial, quality and content needs are a factor in what authors are writing. In addition, the way in which the customer consumes the book is also driving how the publisher produces their book.  It's finally the way it should be.

Hopefully the current customer orientation will never change. With the customer in the mix as the major element driving publishing, the industry is bound to flourish.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Book Expo America and NYC -- Here we come!

Keeping it light and easy this year on our way to BEA.  First stop Saturday: DIY Conference (if our flight is on time.)  Sunday: Brunch with a client, and then off to the first day of IBPA - Publisher's University.  Monday: Into Javits by 7am for networking, then presenting with Amazon's CreateSpace guru Jon Fine on how to work with a publishing services company, and then meetings, meetings, meetings.  Monday night: Ben Franklin Awards. Tuesday: It's off to the races at BookExpo, starting off the day with a rights agent to explore what our clients have been up to... then off to meet with distributors and printers, catalogers and buyers.... and finally, meet with the CEO of Baker and Taylor about a few things that are on my mind. 

We're out there advocating for our clients nationally. Many of our clients are advocating for their platform all around Nebraska and in many places nationally. It's a crazy weekend and a crazier two days to follow, but I'm SO EXCITED!!!

Thanks to my AMAZING staff for pulling everything together, and to my wonderful family for putting up with my passion for the independent author.  We have some really cool tricks up our sleeves for finding real business for y'all!  We'll be reporting regularly here on this blog... stay tuned for news!


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Utilizing Publishing Services Companies

I'm preparing my presentation for a program in New York with Amazon CreateSpace's VP of Marketing. My job is to talk about using the "new tradition" of publishing. In the initial stages of deciding the direction of my presentation, I planned on talking about Amazon and their print-on-demand division, CreateSpace, as the main players to get you where you need to be. I do believe that they are an important and very major player in any new hybrid publishing endeavor, but they aren't the only option. I like them especially because you own ALL the rights to your book (not just the copyright --you want publishing rights too.)

My plan at IBPA is to soak up all I can about all of the upcoming publishing avenues for our clients and other publishing friends. At BookExpo, in addition to it being the biggest book show in the world, we have appointments set up with our foreign rights agent, the press room, a distributor, a couple of ebook companies, five printers, and two catalog buyers. Two days at IBPA, and one rockin' day at BookExpo. 

I'll be writing a lot about different publishing options over the next few days, blogging about our trip to New York, and bringing new information from IBPA's Pub-U, and BookExpo. 

If you are so inclined, you can still register for both:
Pub-U May 22-23
BookExpo America May 24-26

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Tracking Your Time

There are a lot of reasons to keep track of your time. As I get older, I realize how much I got done in the weeks prior. But as a publisher, it helps me analyze where my company is spending time - and whether or not we are spending our time where it matters.

From 2004-2009, I used massive spreadsheets to help keep myself organized and to help my company track billing. At billing time, I wanted to drive my car into a wall most months. By then, I had three employees and each one of them would unknowingly write a different description of what they were working on. One would enter in Business Cards, the next one Biz Cards and another 2 Sided Bus Cards -- but that doesn't sort very easily to tell me they all spent time doing something with a business card for a client. I tried protocols, but there was inevitably a misspelling here or there and I missed a lot that way too. Billing took me 40-60 hours a month!

Then in January of 2009, I instituted three new things: A task list called Checklist by Task Solutions and its counterpart Task Anyone, which sends notices to individuals to whom I assign tasks. We have sort of outgrown it at this point, and I'm searching for another more flexible solution to it -- but it worked well for me when I had only 100 or so tasks to track. I'll continue to use it until I find something equally user friendly and cost effective for our task lists that are more than 2000 tasks long.

The third item I purchased and put in place was Standard Time. It is a time-clock oriented piece of software that has things compartmentalized by the person assigned to the task, the client and the project on which we are working. Each project is broken down into subcategories and then down to tasks within those categories. For example, a string might look like this:

KELLY W. (Client in purple here)
   Book 1 (Projects in royal blue here)
       Publishing Compliance (Subcategories are in red)
             Purchase ISBN (Tasks are in black)
             Apply for LCCN
             Join IBPA
             Category Research
             Pricing Research
             Front Cover
             Back Cover/spine
     Product Feature development
             Diagram album
             Press Release
             Sell Sheet
             POP Display
             Book Launch Party
             Facebook Updates
      Distribution and Sales
             Baker & Taylor set up and maint.
             Amazon updates
             Amazon sales
              Facebook Updates

Each time a person works on something, they are able to specify exactly which thing they are working on simply by clicking a clock-like icon and then selecting the task as the project tree expands from that simple click. Expenses are noted in the same way. For example, let's say someone spends $45 on their company Amex card printing sell sheets. They just expand the tree until they see the sell sheet category under Marketing and PR, and then enter the amount and the payee. When reconciling the Amex bill at the end of the month, I know exactly what the charge was for. And for billing I run reports to tell me by client, project and employee what we worked on how many minutes it took. (You can set parameters to always round up to five minutes, or fifteen minutes, etc.) There is also a feature that lets you link to Quickbooks or bill directly from the program. 

This type of program is quick, inexpensive, and very effective. I researched several and found this one more than served my needs. (The only thing I wish I knew how to do is write my own reports for it; currently I use the pre-existing ones that come with the program with the various filters that allow me to customize them for me.)

Check this out:  Standard Time, and talk to Warren Peacock.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


The final entry in the WAKE UP Marketing Strategy is all about Perception, but this is really just the beginning of the real work of marketing your book with solid information about your target audience!

P = Perception

Always remember that as an expert in whatever you have written, you are probably very much like your prospective customer.  Just like you, your customers immediately perceive the things they see, hear or experience. Perceptions are technically nothing more than what a person recognizes and understands -- but that's all marketing really is. 

All along in our analysis of the WAKE UP psychographic marketing strategy, we have been talking about locating your target audience through their beliefs, values, habits and interests. These can not be easily manipulated by a marketer; however, a person's perception of something can be controlled by skillfully crafted and placed messages. Your packaging, your marketing, and any other tie-in to your book should honestly and effectively convey a message that results in the perception you are aiming for.
“It is one of the commonest of mistakes to consider that the limit of our power of perception is also the limit of all there is to perceive.”    ~ C. W. Leadbeater
There's perception, and then there's reality. The reality is what your book will provide to the reader -- from the format, to the words you've chosen, to the distribution strategy that you selected. It's your skills, your story, your life, your expertise, and then even your delivery of all of those things in a form you can share that are the reality. It's the things you have chosen in your publishing program that make your book what it is.  But does the reality of your product match the same as your customer's perception of your book?  It needs to be totally in sync to maximize your effectiveness. 
Consult with your Watch Group again to gauge their perceptions of your marketing messages. 

Now the real work begins.....

Monday, May 9, 2011


Continuing with the in-depth examination of the W-A-K-E U-P Marketing Strategy using psychographics.

U = Understand

Up to this point, we have stressed how important it is to know your audiences, but it's critical to understand the questions that your customer is subconsciously (and sometimes consciously) asking before they purchase or read your book.

Even for a relatively inexpensive purchase like a book, you need to make your marketing materials address these issues. These are the questions that your customer is pondering while looking at your book and your marketing materials, (or even while listening to you speak):
  1. What can you DO for me, teach me or show me? How is what you know going to help me, entertain me or enlighten me?
  2. Is this information or story IMPORTANT to me? Your buyer is looking for a book they want to buy rather than the book you want them to buy. Of course you are in love with your book, but if your book is of no value to your buyer or reader, who will care?
  3. Is the information contained in the book NEW to me or MORE than I've gotten in the past? Whether people own up to it or not, everybody wants more, everybody wants new.  It's not rude for a person to want more -- it's just human nature. 
  4. Is the information BETTER than I've had in the past? Book buyers and readers alike are very likely to have many books on your subject or genre. Does your book offer something better? ("Better" is subjective in fiction, but quite objective in non-fiction.)  Most readers simply want one nugget that will inspire them -- is there something in your book that sets it apart from the others in the same category? 
  5. Is the information TIMELY? It's true that time is money. It's just a fact. One of the best reasons to independently publish is that you can get a book into the marketplace in a timely fashion. (Do not skip the editing process to get your book out fast - remember quality is important!)
  6. Does the book provide VALUE for the price? There is a point at which the cost is too high for the value a reader gets from it, and in turn, there is also a point at which the price is so low that the customer doesn't believe it is valuable. 
Taking the time to understand what your customers want from you will ensure the money that you spend on publishing your book is not wasted.  If you don't make the effort to consider what customers want from you, why should they go to the expense of purchasing your book? 

Friday, May 6, 2011


Continuing with the in-depth examination of the W-A-K-E U-P Marketing Strategy using psychographics

E = Examine

There are two definitions for the word Examine: #1 is to "Inspect (someone or something) in detail to determine their nature or condition; investigate thoroughly," and #2 is to "Test the knowledge or proficiency of (someone) by requiring them to answer questions or perform tasks." This is the time in your marketing planning that you need to do both.

In this step of your WAKE UP Marketing Strategy, it's time for you to really dig in and inspect the information you have before you, and test its validity. Listen to voices other than your own. Will the knowledge you gained in the previous step really hold up in the marketplace and enable you to get your book in front of your primary (and secondary) audiences with a message that compels them to purchase it or read it?

Examine your facts closely and determine the actual words your target customer finds relevant and persuasive. Uncover the tone of voice used in the messages that have influenced your audience. Remember, your Watch Group told us how they purchase and what they like –  but WHY do these messages break through the clutter of your audience's internal and external noise?
  • Is it the creative? (The overall idea, concept, look or format of the piece)
  • Is it the timing of its arrival?
  • Is it the offer?
  • Is it the clever copy?
Truth is, it's a mix, with each of these items ranking in different order for different audiences at different times.

Examine what you have learned, inspect for any irregularities as well as any harmonies, test everything thoroughly. Look for timing opportunities, offers, lingo, geographic differences, etc.

Once you have thoroughly examined what you know about your primary audiences and your messages, it's time to prove your understanding of these audiences and their needs by applying what you have learned and creating messages and campaigns that will persuade those audiences.

Thursday, May 5, 2011


Continuing with the in-depth examination of the W-A-K-E U-P Marketing Strategy using psychographics  (This post has been repaired.)

K = Know

Know what your final objective is before you move further. That objective is not to prove that you think you know who your customers are and how they buy or consume things, but to use the new facts and information you just gathered from your Watch Group so you actually know how your target audience thinks and behaves, based on the information they shared with you. Good marketing strategy doesn't always go with your gut instinct – and now that you have asked your Watch Group, you actually know the answers to important characteristics, interests, values and beliefs of those you need to target...Really use and internalize this information so you know who you are marketing to and how to reach them through the noise. Use your data to know who these groups are and how to find them and communicate with them.

Here's what you need to know:

End User vs. Customer / Buyers vs. Readers / Primary vs. Secondary Customers 

Wow, is it hard to know who to target in book marketing! Let's distinguish some terms from one another:
End User = Reader = The one who actually commits to consuming (i.e. reading) the book
Customer = Buyer = The one who actually commits to the purchase of your book
Primary audience = In some industries, this is the actual buyer, but in book marketing, primary audience is the person specifically compelled to consume OR purchase the book by the topic could be the reader OR the buyer, depending on your book. The book industry resembles the jewelry industry in a lot of ways, in that the marketing is targeted to the buyer differently than it is marketed to the end user. Pay close attention to the Mother's Day ads for jewelry to see this distinct difference in messaging.
Secondary audience = A customer that is outside of the regular scope of your book, but one who is attracted to the content or product for some other reason. (Sidebar example: We did a memoir about the life of a land developer and her family. It's a very interesting web of murder, innovation, thievery, brilliance, love, hate, family, solitude, riches, hardship, deceit and loyalty. However, in our WAKE UP research, we found a larger secondary audience of those who were interested in the development of the cities in which this family played a huge part.) *

Since you are a publisher/author, you have another tier of buyers that buy for a different reason. Of course I'm talking about distributors, wholesalers, retailers, rep groups, rights agents. I'll handle this in a different post later.

Now you know; next, examine the audiences and your messages and how they fit together to accomplish your goals.

*If you are interested in this book, click here Schepp Family Chronicles, and it is also available through Amazon, or Smashwords.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


Continuing on with the in-depth examination of the W-A-K-E U-P Marketing Strategy

A = Ask

Once you find a Watch Group that agrees to share their opinions, ask them how they get their information about, in this case, parenting and childcare issues. (Remember our example book is a work-life balance book for parents.) Go so far as to ask them to show you what they read (and tell you why), what other things they like to do, what kinds of online activities catch their attention, etc. Ask them where and how they purchase things for their family -- and WHO BUYS versus WHO USES goods and services in their circle of influence.

Ask them pointed questions about how they like to gather information. Don't ask "yes or no" questions -- ask things that require a short answer. You are more likely to get valuable information that way.

Dig Deeper

Don't let your Watch Group members generalize. For example, when you ask where they gather information and a Watch Group member says "TV" or "Junk Mail", ask for more information. What TV shows? What channels? When do they watch? Do they use DVRs? For direct mail, ask them to save any and all junk mail for you for 2-3 months (in a sack). Ask them which ones caught their eye and enticed them to actually read the piece. Ask them what type of mail would probably lead to a purchase, which ones would normally get tossed without a moment's thought, and which ones get put aside for another day. Send them a shipping label and ask them to ship their direct mail pieces to you for further examination. (Some people want to black-out their name, and that's okay. It isn't necessary to ask them to do that, though.)

Ask your Watch Group how they most like to be communicated with. Do they like workshops? Which ones? Do they read mail? Do they participate in groups online? Which ones? Do they use Facebook for information? Are they otherwise connected online? Do they read blogs? Which ones? Do they read magazines? Which ones? Do they go to trade or consumer shows? Which ones? At what types of retail outlets, both online or in-store, do they shop? Which ones?

Ask, and you will know (which happens to be tomorrow's post)

Monday, May 2, 2011

Watch for Your Readers and Buyers - Build a Watch Group (Advisory Board)

Continuing on with the in-depth examination of the W-A-K-E  U-P Marketing Strategy

W = Watch

In the "Watch" phase, you are looking at the whole universe of prospective customers to examine further. (Remember, our example book in this series of posts is a work life balance book for parents). Here you are doing a parenting book about work life balance, probably for people with children, grandparents, and caregivers...but perhaps your book would be one that parenting groups, doctors, daycares, or family therapists might find useful. In the case of this example book, we might want to watch for human resource departments at companies as well, because of the topic. Who among these groups is our customer, and in which part of their life are they a customer? (i.e., you might have an HR person who is not a parent -- they would never see your marketing if you only marketed to parents in their homes.) All of these various groups become your "Watch Group," which by the way, I build simply and inexpensively on Facebook (when possible).

Hint:  "Everybody" is not a Watch Group.  If you have identified "Everybody" as your audience... well, it's not an audience and you can not begin to market to "Everybody."  Do YOU buy "Everybody" else's books?

One way to build a valid Watch Group that can provide you with valuable information about how to reach others like them, is to use the search feature on Facebook. Ask group leaders and popular fan page owners to help you post a notice to invite people to be in your group. Once you build the group with a few people, expand it by asking those people if they know others who might want to be on the Watch Group (Advisory Board). 

Once you have built a group of 10 or 12 people, set some rules -- for example, no bashing or name calling, no opinions about others' ideas. Just sharing where they get their information. Most people will be very forthright, but be advised, some people just like to hear themselves talk and will get all over others. Don't let that go -- stop it as soon as it starts.

Next up:  A = "Ask"

Friday, April 29, 2011

CMI is presenting at IBPA’s Publishing University on May 22-23 NYC

It's official!

I will be one of the industry experts slated to appear at IBPA’s Publishing University in NYC, now in its third decade of offering the best in publishing education to new publishers.

Here's their announcement:

Speaking in the session entitled The New Publishing Tradition: Q & A with Pub Service Professionals. Pelto will be sharing the nuts and bolts of utilizing the new options for self publishers and small presses through publishing services companies with attendees.

Join Lisa Pelto along with keynote speaker and visionary Skip Prichard of Ingram Digital, the E-magination Panel of ebook experts, private consulting sessions in the “Ask the Experts” event, and enjoy more than 20 concurrent sessions, general sessions and the Benjamin Franklin Awards Gala at IBPA's Publishing University in New York City on May 22-23 at the Javits Center.


No matter what stage of publishing you’re in—an author-publisher, a one-book publisher, a more experienced publisher—IBPA Publishing University, held at the Javits Center just prior to BEA, brings you hands-on tools and techniques to succeed in a world where the only constant is perpetual change.
  • 20 breakout sessions including the hottest how-to topics in publishing led by industry experts
  • General sessions featuring the movers and shakers of the industry—including keynote speaker Skip Prichard, CEO of Ingram Content Group
  • The opportunity to “Ask the Experts” in your own private consulting session.
  • Formal and informal networking with colleagues and future mentors
  • Celebration concert with Beatles tribute band “Mostly Moptop” at the conclusion of the Benjamin Franklin Awards for Excellence in Publishing
  • Discounted badge for BEA
See http://www.ibpapublishinguniversity.com/ for details and register now for early bird pricing. See you at the U!

W-A-K-E U-P Your Marketing Strategy - an Introduction

In an earlier blog this week, I introduced my gimmick method of identifying the "psychographic" characteristics of your customer and using that info to create an effective marketing message. It's my WAKE UP strategy. Over the next few days, I'll outline what this anagram stands for and why it contains important keys to success in publishing and marketing your book. This method is designed to help you find your real target audience and understand what to say and where to say it. I have a degree in marketing, but you really don't need one to understand psychographics. You simply have to understand what your mom always told you -- it's not what's on the outside that counts, it's what's inside. It's a lot more difficult to find the values, beliefs, interests, hobbies and behaviors of your customer, but in those nuggets, you'll find gold.

Here's a Working Example
To help you see what each step is, an example might help -- we'll keep this example throughout this thread of blog posts. Our example book will help moms and dads find work-life balance. In this marketing study, we want to know who is buying parenting books, where they are hearing about these products, how to talk to this customer, what price point to set, what sales venues to target as partners...for starters. In this post, I'm only doing an overview of our WAKE UP strategy. In subsequent posts, we'll dig in...so stay tuned.

  • W = Watch  - Here, you are looking at the universe of prospective customers to examine further. Who among these groups is our customer? This is your Watch Group. (BTW, I now do Watch Groups on Facebook, because, as you know, not all of your customers are geographically close.)
  • A =  Ask - Once you find a Watch Group that agrees to share their opinions, ask them how they get their information about parenting issues. Ask them where and how they purchase things for their family -- and WHO BUYS versus WHO USES goods and services in their circle of influence.
  • K =  Know - Know what your final objective is before you move further. That objective is not to prove what you think you know, but to actually know, based on the information shared with you.
  • E =  Examine - Really dig into the messages you are hearing. LISTEN to voices other than your own. Examine each piece of information closely and determine the words your target customer finds relevant and persuasive, and uncover the tone of the messages.
  • U =  Understand - Now, seek to understand who your buyer is and who your reader is. They aren't always the same individual. Your marketing messages have to serve these two masters!
  • P =  Perceive - As an expert in whatever it is you have written your book about, you are probably very much like your prospective customer. Ask your Watch Group to review your marketing materials to gauge their perception of the creative aspects, copy, offers, the marketing vehicles by which you are delivering those messages, and your distribution plans (where will you sell your book?). 
After you WAKE UP, use this as your marketing road map. This is no longer only your gut feeling, but real, workable knowledge.  Today's consumer has so many messages being thrown at them. Make sure your message is relevant, and in the right place at the right time.  Next issue, Watch, brought to you by the letter W.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Why Would Large Publishers Jump In to DIY Publishing?

In the past few months, I've been watching large publishers announce their entrance into the DIY or author services market. Interesting. How many times have you heard traditionally published authors and their publishers, publicists and the media belittle and degrade those that have chosen to self publish? If you have been around publishing in the past decade or more, probably a lot! 

So, the traditional publishers suddenly want to "help" self published authors that have been swimming in the big shark-infested waters of NY publishing for years. Why? Because the smart money is on high-quality independently published books that have a niche and an aggressive marketing strategy, that's why. 

What's really ironic is that in the last few weeks, I have seen many self publishing experts writing about how to be a bestseller, or how to get your book on the shelves of the big bookstores, or how to pitch to an agent, or how to do a query letter, or how to attract a publisher. WHY? Why would you want to spend your money to get into a distribution channel that makes it virtually impossible to make a profit? One that requires a wholesaler for sure (at a 55% discount plus shipping), and possibly a distributor (another 25% discount on net, plus all sorts of fees), returns, accounting issues, cashflow -- Argh!

Self publishers: Stay the course and keep selling to your non-traditional markets and do not spend your money chasing after your dream of seeing your book on the shelf of Barnes and Noble. (If you really, really need that for your ego, put one on the shelf and take your picture standing next to it! But don't push your book into stores when it's not profitable.) And stop worrying about getting on Oprah and being a NY Times Bestseller -- neither one of those things guarantees you'll sell a ton of books, but they DO guarantee you'll spend a lot getting there. 

Final thought. Don't think for a moment that the traditional publishers are getting into this market because they want to help authors. They see the writing on the wall -- Self publishing, or DIY is where the money is being spent, and the consumer is beginning to realize that the books published by high-quality independent self publishers are likely more timely, more efficient, more cost effective, and better when the author is in control and they know their market.

If you would like to offer your books as premiums, check out Brian Jud's Premium Book Company.  Great way to expand your reach into the non-traditional markets, break down huge barriers to entry in this distribution channel, and gain new readers.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

WAKE UP Your Marketing Strategy

With the vast number of books inundating the shelves each day, how do YOU know who to market to? Who cares that you wrote a book?  More importantly, who cares that you are publishing your book? 

No really, WHO CARES?

If you can't answer that question right now, sit down and do some homework before you publish. Publishing is an expensive business anyway; but there are dumb ways to spend your money and there are really smart ways. Know who you are marketing to, specifically, fundamentally, and categorically. To really understand the market I'm pursuing for a given project, I use my own "W.A.K.E. U.P." Marketing Strategy: 

Watch. Ask. Know. Examine. Understand. Perceive.

I'm not talking about demographics--married/single, age, own home/rent, ethnicity, religious affiliation, kids/no kids, geographic region, employed/self employed/retired, income, etc. Yes, you can locate this data quickly and easily. Any "list company" will sell you a list selected down to the exact demographics you specify. But what do those stats tell you? 

HERE'S A RIDDLE:  A 45-year-old female new small business owner wants a poster for her wall. She's educated, is married, is mother to two kids, owns a modest home in a middle-class neighborhood, and owns two cars. She brings home $60,000, and her spouse brings home $65,000 from his job as a salesman for an insurance company. 

Pyramid of Success Poster - 36" x 24" - Click Image to Close

Which "success" poster is she most likely to hang in her office?*

ANSWER: While both posters are very nicely laid out, colorful, and hold the information our subject may want to see every day, she would likely choose the bottom one over the other. Why? She also happens to like camping and this poster reminded her of that place overlooking that lovely river she visits each year and dreams of owning someday. But how the heck would you have known that? Very tough, but not impossible. It all comes down to knowing what makes your buyer tick. How do you wake up those important facts?

You needed to know what her behaviors are. Her psycho-graphics. Today, you must reach higher than the low-hanging demographics to find out what her interests are. What are her values, beliefs, behaviors, triggers. What magazines/newspapers does she read? What programs catch her eye? What does she do with her spare time? What does she consider spare time? Does she volunteer? Does she like to travel? Garden? Exercise? Read? Cook? Is she a precise thinker? Does she go to seminars or workshops? Is she interested in nature or environment, religion or spirituality, or is orange just her favorite color?  How does she get new information?
What did her age, marital status, home ownership, income, or ethnicity have to do with her choice here? Not nearly as much as her interests, beliefs and behaviors.
Now for YOUR book

Think about these things when you first start writing your book -- make sure you have a market (look in the mirror, first, because you are probably a good profile for your buyer), and then consider what else motivates your buyer. If you have a market you can find, publish your book to fit that market. If you are just publishing for yourself, admit it up front, check your ego at the door and set your expectations realistically. 

*These posters were simply pulled randomly from a Google search for illustrative purposes. No permissions were asked or granted -- however, no posters were harmed in the making of this blog post, and I hope the copyright holders will understand my intent.
**Next post will examine each step in the WAKE UP marketing strategy in depth.

Friday, April 22, 2011

For Earth Day - Save the World - Publish an E-book!

Every book can't fit in a bookstore, nor should we try.

There are a lot of pundits out there that say that e-books are no better for the earth than printed books... but consider these truths:
  • Bookstores fill their shelves with consignment inventory so they look beautiful and enticing
  • Large publishers don't care if they get 90% of their stock returned
  • Many large bookstores tear off the cover of a book and send that back as a return, and the bookstore tosses the naked books in the trash (loads of them)
Both printed books and e-books have valid reasons to exist, and readers like each for different reasons. I love the ability to enlarge the type and conduct searches on an ebook; but I love the feel of paper in my hands with a paper book.  If I need information, I use the e-book. If I need entertainment, I most often choose the paper book.

On this Earth Day, I just want to appeal to publishers:  Make your book available in both formats so people can choose what is right for their own use.... There are 7.5 million++ titles in Books in Print right now (some estimate the real number of titles in print is 29 million+); can you imagine if 7.5 million titles were in a bookstore just once?  {Well imagine this: If you put one copy of each book in print end to end (averaging 6x9 size), you would be able to go around the world nearly 226 times!  Is it just me, or would that make a REALLY big bookstore?}

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Taxes - Ignorance is NOT Bliss!

First, let me say I'm not an accountant or tax guru, but this is the information I have researched and verified over the years. Check with your own accountant and use your state's tax laws to make sure you are following the rules in your own jurisdiction.

Taxes, Schmaxes!

As a small business, you will need two new best friends: Your attorney and your accountant. These are trusted advisors in any business venture and you should have them on your team from the start. As a publisher, as with any small business, you will have to pay many different taxes, among them are income taxes, city and state taxes where applicable, use taxes for online purchases, and sales taxes.

In order to determine what amount of revenue you actually pay taxes on in a given year, you'll need to decide what accounting method suits you best. Then you'll need to file with the state to become some form of tax paying entity. Sole proprietorship, Limited Liability Corporation, or Corporation Subchapter S are the main types of business structures. Ask your accountant and your attorney what is best for your fledgling publishing company.

Accounting Methods

All forms of business entities must decide whether to do their accounting on an accrual or cash basis.

Using the cash method is the most common for the type of sales a typical small publisher encounters. You will count revenue when you receive money. You don’t list it as revenue until you have it in your hands. If you bill, but don’t get paid, you have no income yet.

The other way, the accrual method, where you book revenue at the time services are rendered or the time goods are provided, and it doesn’t take into account when and/or whether payment is received.

For most micro businesses, but especially small publishers that will have to deal with distributors and wholesalers who have 30-60-90-120-180 day payment cycles, the cash method will work best for you because you won't account for sales until you actually get paid. Cash basis accounting is simple to use, and at the end of your tax year, it’s very clear what your business made, because you only counted real money.

Federal and State, County and City Tax Terms

Make sure you know what the laws in your state are as far as filing your tax returns. It may not be the same schedule as your personal tax return. Sole proprietorships, limited liability companies or partnerships, and corporations filing under Subchapter S have different rules depending on what state your business is incorporated. Check with your state’s tax office or your accountant.

Direct Sales to Customers

You will be required by state, city and county laws to charge a tax on all sales directly to consumers. If you intend to travel to a different state for a bookfair or tradeshow, make sure you check with that state’s tax office to see if you need a concessionaire’s license, or a temporary tax permit. Some venues will even come to your booth and ask if you have a permit – so make sure you know before you go.

One important little tidbit – if you collect sales tax, you must actually pay the state and local entities. You can’t collect taxes and then keep them as revenue. Seems logical, but you’d be surprised at how many people don’t do this.

How do you know what's taxable and what's not taxable?

DIRECT RETAIL SALES (A SALE MADE DIRECTLY BY YOUR COMPANY TO CUSTOMER/END USER): As a tax-paying entity, you'll get a handy guide from your state tax office that tells you what is taxable. As a publisher, if you sell a book to an end consumer, you should collect Sales Tax according to the state in which your feet are actually standing during the transaction. More and more, states are requiring collection of Sales Taxes on internet sales, too. It is a sale to the end user, so put in place a way to collect Sales Taxes on your website. If you don’t collect Sales Tax on your site, those lovely IRS people will now collect Use Taxes from the buyer later anyway. Best to just start collecting and paying as you start up your website.

RESALE (A SALE MADE TO A BOOKSTORE, WHOLESALER OR SOMEONE ELSE WHO IS RESELLING YOUR PRODUCTS TO THEIR CUSTOMER/END USER): When you buy goods you have manufactured with the intention of selling to a wholesaler, distributor or retailer who resells your products, you will need a resale license, and under that license, you will not pay Sales Taxes on those goods. The person who collects the money from the END USER is the one who collects Sales Taxes at the time of the sale, and thus, the one who is responsible for paying those taxes to the state or local taxman.

Sales you make to the wholesaler? You don't collect sales tax on this sale.

Sales you make to a bookstore? You don't collect sales tax on this sale.

Sales you make to Joe Customer for their use (even it is a gift for someone). You charge the customer sales tax.

Internet sales are different from state to state - always check with your accountant.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Choosing the Right Fonts for Your Book

There is such a thing as the perfect font choice.
Seemingly insignificant details are labored over by font designers to evoke a certain type of feeling from a buyer, a reader, or someone else who passively experiences the flow of printed words. The reader may have no idea that their feelings about a particular brand may come from a place they have never even thought of... such as the lines, cross bars, serifs (or lack thereof), or the finer details like arms, ears, legs and tails of the chosen font. There are also complex components such as apertures, ascenders, descenders -- all vitally important to the performance of the font in certain applications. (more information

Who knew? 
Blogging programs don't give you much of a selection; but most online fonts have been tested and carefully considered in backlit applications and over different platforms. Nonetheless, when you are designing your book cover, you have thousands of choices. For an experienced designer, the choice of the right font for the right project is innate in her designer's brain. For those who aren't so lucky to be born with this extra "font sense", several things need to be top of mind:
  1. What is your book's topic? If you're designing a children's book, you don't want a font on the front cover that you might find on a business book. And vice-versa. Unless of course, you're writing a "How to Write a Children's Book" book. Then of course, the lines of font choice are a little blurred; but that said -- pick a font that fits your topic.
  2. Who is your audience? Is your book intended for an older crowd who might need a larger, easier-to-read font? Is it intended for a more modern reader that might prefer a cleaner, more stylized look?
  3. If your intention is for someone to be able to read your title, select a font that is actually readable. Don't choose something so out there that nobody can discern an "a" from an "e". That defeats your purpose, now doesn't it?
  4. Don't get stuck using a font everyone and their mom seems to be using these days (think Papyrus and the movie Avatar...). Choose a font that resonates with your reader, fits your topic, reads well from 10 feet away on a shelf and also reads well at 1-1/2 inches tall for your advertising purposes and online listings like Amazon.
  5. Your subtitle should complement your title font -- but make sure the fonts work in various situations and weights inside your book as well. You don't want to have a contradictory message from the cover to the interior -- they go together as one cohesive package.
  6. For the interior of your book, that rule is a bit different. You need a font that works with horizontal and vertical justification, italics (if you have a lot), and has several choices of weights. Choose a serif font for greatest readability for your body text, but leave room for flexibility in special sections that need to have another treatment to guide your reader into different areas of your book. 
Best place to start: Go to the bookstore and look at other books in the genre. Check out size, leading (distance between lines), and weights of subheads and chapter titles. It's as important to know what doesn't work as it is to know what does work -- so spend three or four hours digging in to other books. Also, try to find newer copyrights and releases -- you want to look modern, even if it is a nostalgic topic. If you are having trouble finding a book that gives you the mood you need, I suggest going to the grocery store and looking at items in the beauty aisle, or even the greeting cards. Those items have the greatest likelihood of repackaging to fit up-to-the-minute trends.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Brainstorm Your Way to the Perfect Book Title

Today, we named another book. The manuscript was originally written without the title; but with a focused objective in mind. That's an important key to remember, because that helped us create a laser-like approach to finding a title that would:
  • Attract an audience
  • Show up in organic searches
  • Appeal to corporate bulk purchasers, and
  • Jump off the shelves
Our job today, along with our client, was to join together marketing genius, public relations hooks, editorial experience, distributor and bookstore rules, creative design, and the author knowing her audience inside and out. All of these pieces formed the foundation of our final book title. Brainstorming was (and always is) the key to releasing the perfect title from the depths of the manuscript -- even if the eventual result seems so obvious when it's reached.

I can't divulge the book or the title we were working on, but I would like to share our rules and methods of brainstorming this critical detail of a book:
  1. Gather together minds that know the various aspects noted in blue above.
  2. Assign a scribe to write down EVERYTHING that is said.
  3. Focus the group's attention and remove distractions. 
  4. Make all members aware that all suggestions lead us to the eventual result. No mocking, no insults, no judgments allowed during the brain dumping, idea flowing session.
  5. Start by asking your author if there are critical elements or words that are non-negotiable. Look for lingo that is specific and important to the genre.
  6. Think of benefits to the reader -- not just features of the book. What will the reader gain from reading your book?
  7. Let the ideas flow freely and openly, one from another.
  8. No individual member is allowed to take credit for the eventual results. The result of the brainstorming session is reached by the confluence of ideas and each idea flowing into the next. Feelings get hurt when one idea leads to another that leads to another and so on until the winning title rolls off someone's tongue. It's a team effort and you all share one brain during brainstorming. If you allow members to take credit, resentment can build and will affect buy-in and future participation in brainstorming.
  9. Write down valid objections that are brought to the table about individual problem words or phrases so the path taken doesn't end in disappointment. Members of the group should present objections politely and without ridicule or inappropriate comments.
  10. Don't schedule brainstorming when you only have an hour to come to a consensus. Stress and brainstorming don't mix.
  11. Finally, remember that the final list of ideas may be long and will be a pool of ideas from which we can choose the most powerful mix of all elements in the actual title selection meeting. It also could end with one obvious title standing out during brainstorming. 
We do plenty of research to make sure a title will play as well as the group thought it would. However, this is the way about 80% of our books are titled and subtitled. It's energizing, necessary, and fun, and every member of our group feels a sense of accomplishment when the outcome is reached.

Monday, April 11, 2011

How Much Traffic Makes a Good Booksigning Event?

I'm an advocate of planned, paid-attendance events with author appearances rather than bookstore booksignings. Put a short performance or presentation in the mix, even better -- but not necessary.  Stay open to unusual things happening, too. If the event is charging money and marketing to their audience effectively -- you'll be more likely to have a crowd to talk to. Think about your own behavior when it comes to a free event -- sometimes you make the last-minute decision to pass on it because you have no commitment there.

We did a targeted show with a more-than-perfect audience. The show organizer advertised effectively and repeatedly, and marketed well. We purchased a booth for $200, as did 15 other marketers that were selling goods and services that this audience budgets for each year. It was a beautiful day, a very convenient setting, and all-in-all, a great event planned. It was a free event for these attendees, and the attendees are actually volunteers for their organizations.

But then, it was a beautiful day. Only six people attended the event, in all.  Pretty pathetic, right? 

Not so fast. We made a single sale to a fellow exhibitor's company who will use the book as an ongoing promotional incentive. Did we plan for that? Yes, fortunately. Specifically that? No. But we have learned that the unexpected happens at these events. Not only did this single sale pay three times what the booth cost us, but the potential future lifetime potential of sales from that deal are many hundreds of times higher. One person, one sale, made our show worth it. The author also was asked to prepare a proposal for a paid keynote speech at the state annual convention. 

Being at the right event, with a relevant audience doesn't mean there has to be hundreds of people there.  Don't forget that the other exhibitors may be your customers too. Stay open, stay realistic and honest with yourself about your goods and services, and be prepared for anything to happen.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Join a Publishing Association for Networking and Marketing Opportunities

In 1993, I joined Publisher's Marketing Association. From the first day, they offered great advice, but mostly they offered me a chance to be with like-minded people at events, and to talk to people about what they did for their own books, from printing to marketing. Truthfully, the organization changed the direction of my career and I fell in love with the independent publisher/author/illustrator/expert members in the group and elsewhere in the world.

In 2009, they became the Independent Book Publisher's Association, focusing more of their resources and attention on the business aspects of book publishing. It's been a valuable relationship, and I have met some amazingly creative people. If you plan on publishing a book, I highly suggest joining IBPA, one of their affiliates, or another association. Don't just join. Participate and be involved for the greatest payback.


What other organizations do you rely on for your book publishing and marketing?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Blurbs, Testimonials and Endorsements - An Author's Silent Partner

You and your mom can't be the only ones that think you are the best at what you do. There's nothing more powerful to help you make the sale than when someone else says something nice about you. When an author takes the time to solicit the thoughts of others for their book cover or their marketing materials, they are essentially hiring a silent partner that screams BUY THIS BOOK.

We ask our clients to name their "A" List.  There's no reason to be scared to ask -- the worst thing the person can do is say "No." It might feel bad, but you just move on to the next person. Here are some rules:
  1. Make a list of those people that you admire in the field you have chosen to write about.
  2. Do your research to find how best to reach them. Sometimes, it's simple. Think logically first. I got a direct line to a very famous author by entering hisname@hisname.com.  He was very nice, but he did tell me no...and I'm still here to talk about it.
  3. When you do find contact information, write a very courteous and SHORT letter asking them if they will review your book, why you selected them.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A Marketers Tribute to National Poetry Month - With Cheese on Top

Moving Mountains

Those who paved the roads before us  
carved paths around the hills.

The little things that wouldn't budge, 
weren't match for rampant will.

When barriers were in the way,  
too big and way too tough,

Like TNT, tenacity 
always proved to be enough.

~Lisa Pelto

When you are embarking on your publishing journey, or opening a business, or going after any goal, remember that obstacles will be in your way. You can go around them or you can move them -- but don't let them stop you from achieving your dreams.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

"Triple Threat" Theory is as Important in Your Business as it is in Show Business

Singing, Dancing, Acting. Movie stars, TV stars, stage actors and other performers are quickly identified as Unbeatable when they embrace their gifts and hone their skills in all three of these areas -- they are Triple Threats. You don't have to break out your opera glasses to see that you can apply these principles to your book, your promotions, and your business, too.

Tom Becka examines the relationship between business and show business in his funny, practical book There's No Business Without the Show (Orpheum Brothers Press, 2008), he demonstrates how any type of business can apply show business techniques to enhance their sales. I've watched him deftly apply his theory to non-profits for fundraising, to government agencies protecting their budgets, and to businesses of all types and sizes setting their sights on increasing revenues.

I see it in my own business, and I have had the opportunity to watch some authors succeed beyond their dreams; and I have also seen others falter with their books and their platforms -- and the spotlight is focused squarely on how well they script their message, and how well they deliver it day after day.

Here's your Triple Threat Plan:

Singing: Create a message that is harmonious with your product or service. When you deliver your presentations or promotion, make sure you connect with your audience, show your passion, and also that you are on pitch and in tune with your market.

Dancing: The choreography of your whole business and every product and service within it is important. Make sure your techniques are spot on, your timing is right, and you are following through with your actions.

Acting: Pull from your own emotions or reactions to identify with the product or service being portrayed. Carefully answer the needs and wants of your audience when developing your business strategies and designing your products, services, promotions, and marketing materials.

I know this isn't new information, but the principles beg to be revived: Develop a great script, choreograph your moves, and deliver a great performance night after night.

There's No Business Without the Show (Hardcover)If you would like to read Tom Becka's book, it's available in hardcover or paperback on our website (here's the link).  If you prefer ebooks, it is available on Amazon Kindle, and all other ebook formats via Smashwords. Use his Promocode ZZ34F to save 44% through April. If you are planning an event, I can also attest that he is an entertaining and thought-provoking speaker!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

QR Codes Are Here...Easy, free, and powerful

QR Codes are popping up everywhere, ads, name badges, trucks, brochures, billboards and business cards.  As diverse as the uses are, the opinions of using them are just as diverse. Initially, groups like realtors thought they would change the face of putting a house up on the market. Some say that it has not made a difference in the way prospective buyers research houses; some say it hasn't been enough time to make that judgement and consumers are just barely adopting these codes as useful tools. I think that the technology is here, it is powerful and easy to administer. Sure, only those with devices that can read these codes benefit now, but those numbers are growing in herds. So why not use this tool if you have an executable and viable application for it? 

QR Code is a "Quick Response" Code. You can embed text, an image, your website, a telephone number, a promotion, etc. You can get them at many websites. Here's one: QR Code Generator

Add a QR Code to your book wherever there is data to share, an image to see or a website you want the reader to visit. Add these codes to your business cards, your marketing materials, trade show materials (including your booth), or virtually anything on which you think you can reduce risk of user error when they enter your info later, or to increase the user experience by adding expanded content that you normally wouldn't have room for. The code I have added above contains a paragraph of text.

When you are publishing a book in today's technology-driven world, there are lots of tools that can not only make your book more interactive for your reader, but can actually make your book exponentially more useful. This is one of those tools. It's not hard to do and it adds value to your product.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Make Your Website Your 24/7 Salesforce (I know, blah, blah, blah)

Since you cannot be "ON" 24 hours a day, seven days a week, you need a website to do some of the work for you. There are easy ways to build a website -- it just takes a little time and a few hours of planning. You can get started on your website and be done in a matter of a couple of days. Here are a few things to keep in mind. 

Create a website using a professional development programming platform. There are inexpensive and easy-to-use website building platforms out there that allow you easy access to easily change things on your site. You can and should:
  1. Write or edit your pages to have relevant keywords so people can find your website in their searches. 
  2. Incorporate images in your content, however don't save relevant text as part of any jpeg or gif image-- search engines can't search jpegs or gifs -- they only search text.
  3. Pay particular attention to the navigation of your site. Your user has to be able to find what is relevant to them easily and quickly.
  4. Would some type of interactivity be important to your audience? What other things can you include in your site to make it a place people will visit and be comfortable?
Ensure that your site is written specifically to your Target Market. 
  1. Ask yourself if the content on your site is relevant. Is every word well thought-out and used correctly? 
  2. Does it address the needs of your audience and tie it to your product by how it solves their problem/need?
  3. Does the design create a mood that will attract your audience? Color, graphics, icons?
  4. Are you talking their language? Using terminology that is important to them?  
Make sure your site is Search Engine Friendly.
  1. Ping your site to let search engines know there is new or revised content.   
  2. Make sure your website doesn't have any speed or download problems. 
  3. Have colleagues test your site on Safari, Firefox, Internet Explorer, etc. Websites look different using different browsers.
There are, of course, a lot more issues with building a website and tons of great resources. Bottom line, you need to have a website to act as your salesforce when you are doing the things that you want to or have to do out in the real world.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Self Publishing Contracts - What's the story?

When it comes to publishing contracts, be careful before you jump in with a self publishing company. Read any and all contracts and know what you are signing and who you are dealing with. I have been watching as new consultants sprout up everywhere, with people who have done one book -- their own -- and then suddenly they are doling out publishing advice. I've also seen several people who have been laid off or fired from the traditional publishing world, where they performed one part of publishing, who are now opening up their own consulting firms. So dangerous for you! They often don't understand the whole-picture hurdles and, conversely, the special opportunities in the self publishing world.

If you are considering working with a self publishing company, read the contract, look at the books they have already done, request a detailed proposal or scope of work; also check references. If any vendor holds any rights to any aspect of your book, question it and make darn sure you understand the answer! Don't settle for commonly found lines like "You own 100% of the rights to your work."  You want to know who owns the layout and design of the book when it's done.  That's a good place to start questioning. 

CAUTION:  A check or payment is an implied contract. If you don't sign a specific contract, but you gave them a check or paid them anything, you now have a contract with them anyway. One additional note regarding contracts, don't rely on your regular attorney to know what the terminology means either...you need an intellectual property lawyer (and you want to make sure you know what the terms mean before you talk to them, too.)

Protect yourself by arming yourself with lots of information -- and make sure you really UNDERSTAND everything.