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 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 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  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 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.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

It's Saturday. Practice Saying YES to Yourself

It's the weekend, but if you're like most authors, you won't stop thinking about your book, your dreams, your interview with Oprah, or that one sentence that haunts you. But the work of publishing? Why ruin a good Saturday with all that reality? Publishing and marketing your book successfully, against all odds and against the mega publishing world, is possible -- I see it every day. I found this quote yesterday and was pondering it all evening:

"Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great." ~Mark Twain

The concept must be in the air. Just like every morning, I opened my email and went straight to Seth Godin's blog. If you don't read it, you should. He's the guru of building the modern "Tribe", and so many other thought-leading principles of our culture. (click here for Seth Godin's blog). His posts are what I call "consumable". He provides one nugget to digest all day. In his post today he said:

"There will always be someone telling you that you're not hip enough, famous enough, edgy enough or whatever enough. That's their agenda. What's yours?" ~Seth Godin

Two great thought leaders a century apart; one important message pushing its way into today's consciousness. Today, think about what "success" in publishing actually means to you in both dollars and "sense". Then start making a realistic plan -- set a goal, plan a strategy, develop a list of tactics, put together a team that understands your goals. Above all, don't let people who are not experts discourage you and put their own agendas in the way of yours.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Set Your Story Free, Starting Today.

If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn't seem so wonderful at all.

Every day, I hear from or experience writers who say they picked up a pen one day and let the ink flow, carving out a story that entertains, enlightens, engages, informs or educates another person -- mind you, even a whole civilization. Even though I see new writers day after day, hour after hour, I always have an internal dialogue running about the writers that paved the way for the one across my desk. 

You see, I've found that good writers read. They read a lot; and the more stories they read, the better writer they become themselves. I'll never harden to the truth that nearly everyone has a story, but it is a special gift to shape a story to share with others...not everyone can, or will, do that. Reading the works of other writers will help you write better, no doubt.

If you have a story inside you, set it free. To help others understand your story, though, work to master your craft, sharpen your tools, enrich your vocabulary, perfect your technique, get some coaching, and always keep learning. Then, one day when the ink begins to flow, your words will sculpt your story.