Choosing among the publishing, printing, and distribution companies

Authors have asked me about publishing, printing and distribution companies like iUniverse, Outskirts, Author House, Lightning Source, and CreateSpace.

It is important to understand that the companies mentioned do not all provide the same services and do not all have the same relationship to the author.

Lightning Source and CreateSpace are online digital printers with distribution services. These companies work with independent publishing companies that own their ISBNs and own all the rights to their books.

iUniverse, Outskirts, etc. are subsidy publishing companies that charge to edit and design the book and then apply their own ISBN to the book. As with traditional publishers, they own the rights to that version of the book. This means they own the cover design, interior design, and certain distribution rights. The author still owns the rights to the manuscript.

Here is a good FAQ that covers many of the aspects of publishing companies, distribution, and printing.

http://www.beaglebay.com/faq/

Always read the contracts carefully with any publishing, distribution, and printing companies.

Two Terrific DIY Marketing Strategies

Publishers often seek publicists to get into the print and broadcast media. Although there are many effective publicists for publishers, they are often out of many independent publisher’s budget. One truth of book publicity and marketing is that your best publicist is you.

If you have time to put into your marketing and publicity here are two terrific resources.

Brian Jud’s website has dozens of articles on running your own publicity campaign. He also writes about how to sell books outside the bookstores to target markets. His site is www.bookmarketingworks.com.

Another strategy that can work well with target markets is being a guest on radio talk shows. Publisher and author Joe Sabah has a reasonably priced Radio Talk Show System ($147). Joe is the founding president of the Colorado Independent Publishers Association and a truly great guy. Find Joe at www.joesabah.com.

Again, both of these strategies are “do it your self”. If you have time and limited money, selling outside the bookstore and radio are proven markeing techniques to sell lots of book.

How to Sell More by Giving It Away: The Profit in “Free”

By Scott Flora

Direct mail marketers and advertising copy writers have long known the most powerful word in the English language is “free”. Businesses continue to update the concept for the Internet Age.

While giving products away offers the possibility for great creativity, there are a few rules publishers would be wise to follow.

Give away quality products. You don’t have to give it all away. It is important that what you do give away is of high quality. You don’t have to give away all the secrets to How to Bake First Place Pies, but tips to show your expertise would whet a few appetites.

Capture contact information. You are giving things away to attract attention to your product line. This in itself is important. The next step is to capture contact information so you can be proactive in keeping in touch with your customers and prospects.

Keep in touch. After establishing yourself as an expert, send a free newsletter or blog to your readers to keep them engaged. This doesn’t have to take a lot of time. Research has shown that response is usually better for short newsletters and posts.

Generate new free stuff.  You are competing with thousands of pieces of information for your contacts attention. You have to keep new information coming to keep your readers’ interest.

With internet based services fairly inexpensive, publishers should already have the “Essential Toolkit” of website, e-mail newsletter, and mailing list needed to make the strategy giving things away work effectively. Keep the content coming and the power of “Free” will drive paying customers to your door.

See my article on The Essential Toolkit” here.

Inexpensive Mobile Apps for Publishers

By Scott Flora

May  2014

Increasingly, mobile apps are providing promotion and communication solutions for publishers. Here is the short tale of my search for an inexpensive app builder.

I was recently asked by a client to investigate developing mobile apps for adult education. I have some experience creating websites and figured there should be a reasonably priced online mobile app development service out there somewhere. With my first round of searches on Google, I found nothing.

I took my search a different direction and contacted two different types of custom app developers. The first was the AT&T app development division. My contact was very polite and we had a couple of phone calls. He asked if $25,000 to $30,000 was out of my range. I gulped and said I expected that neighborhood.

The second company was a small custom mobile app development company in Boulder, CO. My contact lives in my state and was even friendlier. She said they typically charge $30,000 to $35,000. She understood my client’s training needs a bit better than AT&T and suggested an online service, not connected to their company, which might meet our needs.

She suggested I look at Conduit Mobile (http://mobile.conduit.com). Starting at $33/billed annually, Conduit Mobile allows you to build unlimited mobile apps by plugging in different components. Choices include elements such as E-commerce, loyalty programs, catalogs, text pages, photos/videos, social media, and much more.

Although, I didn’t try anything too difficult, I worked with the free level found the system to be fairly easy and straight forward. Conduit Mobile also provides the ability to upload your app to the Apple App Store, Google Play (Android), and Amazon.

My search for an inexpensive app builder has only begun. Conduit Mobile looks like a service to explore if you are questing for a mobile app development service for promotion and communication, too.

Here is a good article about mobile app development for small businesses: http://www.zdnet.com/blog/small-business-matters/14-diy-mobile-app-development-resources-for-small-businesses/2288

Brainstorming: How to Generate Successful Ideas

By Scott Flora

Publishers and authors need to be creative in their writing and in their business. One of the foundations of creativity is the ability to generate lots of ideas.

One technique to produce ideas is brainstorming. Brainstorming was made popular by Alex Osborn’s 1953 book Applied Imagination. Osborn outlined four rules for an effective individual or group brainstorming session.

It is important to note that brainstorming is designed to only generate ideas. The decision-making process of choosing an idea comes later.

When you are looking for ideas, first be clear about what you are working to accomplish. Simply complete this sentence. I (we) want to generate ideas for _____________. You may be looking for ideas for a book title, a place to sell books, a marketing slogan, any of the dozens of creative decisions authors and publishers need to make.

To brainstorm, sit alone or with a group with lots of paper. Start writing down ideas, remembering Osborn’s four rules:

1. Focus on quantity – Write down every idea that comes up. A large quantity of ideas will lead to more creative and effective ideas.

2. Withhold criticism – Do not negatively judge any idea. A positive atmosphere will lead to the free flow of ideas. Judge and decide later.

3. Welcome unusual ideas – Brainstorming is about creativity not practicality. A wild idea may lead to a great idea later in the session.

4. Combine and tag onto other ideas – Especially in groups, listen to your colleagues and work to expand on their ideas.

Brainstorming takes a practice. Critical thinking and judging options are an important part of our daily lives. Using brainstorming will be worth the effort. Use Alex Osborn’s four rules and you will have a new tool and countless ideas for your writing and publishing.

The Price is Right: Two Easy Ways to Price Your Book

By Scott Flora

Pricing your print book correctly is critical. Price it too high and you won’t be in line with the competition. Price it too low and you won’t make adequate money.

There are two ways to determine the price on book. The first is to calculate a per-book printing cost and multiply times five. The second is to do some quick market research on the competition and learn what similar books cost. Let’s investigate these two techniques.

1. Calculate from printing cost – The “five times” rule-of-thumb was developed for selling books through bookstores. Physical bookstore distribution takes about 55% of the price of the book. If your nonfiction books sells for $15.00, your cost of printing each copy, including freight, should be about $3.00 or less. Book printers are happy to provide quotes. Ask them for the cost to print 1,000 2,500 and 5,000 books. Ask for shipping costs, too.

In this example, the distribution chain (distributor and bookstore) gets, about $8.25, printing costs $3.00, and you keep $3.75.

When you sell 10,000 books at this price, your gross income is $37,500. Remember to include costs like utilities, phones, and shipping books out to your customers in your calculations.

2. Market Research – There are plenty of places to do market research on the prices of competing books. Go online to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and specialty bookstores in your niche. Remember, with Amazon and B&N, make sure you look at the full retail price for comparison, not their discounted price.

For hands-on market research, go to a physical bookstore and find the shelves that hold your specialty. Libraries are also a great place to learn all about your competitor’s books. With libraries, check the publication date of the books if the price seems too low. They may have had the book a while.

Using these two research techniques, you can find the right price for your book. You’ll learn the perfect price that not too high to sell or too low to make money, but is just right to meet or beat the competition and make money, too.

 

What’s so special? Six Steps to Generating a Powerful Message

By Scott Flora

Every time customers see your book, they think, “What’s so special about this one?” We all do it and everyone else is doing it, too.

Creating a clear, powerful message about your book’s uniqueness is critical to its success. Your new message can be used in your sales pitches, your website, and every other communication with prospects, customers, friends, and colleagues.

The exercise below will help you write a message that motivates your customers to buy your book and everyone else to pass the word on about how special the book is.

Start with the Benefits

Almost always, the reason a person buys something is for their own benefit. Understanding your customer’s needs and your book’s benefits is critical in writing your message.

What is a benefit? The dictionary says a benefit is “something that enhances or promotes well-being.” In developing your list of benefits, you should consider your customers’ needs. When you understand these needs, you can better understand the benefits your book provides.

Benefits are different from features. Features are a product’s characteristics. For example, the benefit of an automobile airbag is its safety. Features may be the speed of deployment or the composition of its fabric. People want cars with airbags because of the safety benefit.

List Your Benefits, USP and More

In the first part of this exercise, you will list target markets, customers’ needs and benefits, and your book’s Unique Selling Proposition (USP). Get a piece of paper and start writing.

1. List three target markets for your book (types of customers)?

2. List three different needs your book satisfies for these customers. Some needs might include financial security, safety, love, entertainment, or good health.

3. Describe three benefits your book provides to your customers. Benefits could be concepts like becoming richer, slimmer, happier, safer, or healthier.

4. What is your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)? What is the benefit or combination of benefits unique to your book? List three possible USPs that have high impact, and are influential motivators for your customers? This is your USP.

Write a Message – “What is so special about your book?”

In the second part of the exercise, you will write a three-sentence statement that addresses a target audience, states a need and a benefit, and states your book’s USP. It answers the question, “What is so special about your book?”

Here is an example for Parents’ Guide to Preventing Soccer Injuries (not a real book).

Soccer injuries for children (the need) have increased over the last ten years. Parents (the target market) want to keep their children safe during the soccer season (the benefit). Our book, Parents’ Guide to Preventing Soccer Injuries is the only resource available that provides exercises and tips for at-home training, practices, and games (USP).

5. Before you write the final message, summarize your target markets, needs, benefits, and USPs from the exercises above.

Here is an example using the soccer book:

  • Target Market – soccer dads, soccer moms, coaches
  • Need – child makes starting team, child stays healthy, etc.
  • Benefit – child increases self esteem, peace of mind, etc.
  • USP – our book is the best book for keeping your child healthy and on the field, etc.

6. Write your message. To finish the exercise, answer the question “What is so special about your book?” Write your message and include a combination of the four elements in Step 5. Keep your message to about 50 words. Plan on using the new message as the first paragraph of your book’s listing on your website or on Amazon. More details can follow in your promotional copy, but the first paragraph is the most important.

Now, get the word out there! It is imperative to use your new, powerful message ASAP. Put it on your website, Amazon listing, Bowker Books in Print listing, and everywhere else the book appears. Your book is needed. Customers are asking. Now you can tell them “Here is what’s so special about my book!”

 

Resources

Unique Selling Proposition

http://www.entrepreneur.com/encyclopedia/unique-selling-proposition-usp

Features vs. Benefits

http://bestcoachesinc.com/blog/features-vs-benefits%E2%80%94the-key-to-jolting-your-sales-now/

Target Market

http://www.inc.com/guides/2010/06/defining-your-target-market.html

Customer’s Needs

http://www.infoentrepreneurs.org/en/guides/know-your-customers–needs/

Stress Your Benefits – Three Questions

by Scott Flora

One of the most valuable lessons of business is “The most important thing your customers care about is benefits to themselves.” In promoting your book, highlighting the benefits to your customer will make all the difference.

What is a benefit? The dictionary says a benefit is “something that enhances or promotes well-being.”

This simple concept prompts three questions:

  • What benefits do my customers want?
  • What benefits does my book provide to my customers?
  • How do I use the benefits in my marketing message?

It is critical to separate features from benefits.  Features are your book or product’s actions or its characteristics. The color of your cover or the number of chapters are features. How your book will help your reader are benefits.

The feature of a new car may be its soft seats or low interior noise level. The benefit is increased comfort. People buy the comfort not the seats.

Publishers have to be specific about the benefits of their books. “Buy this nonfiction book and be happier, thinner, more successful, a better gardener.” “Read this novel and be entertained, moved, educated.”

Let’s do a practice exercise on this concept. Find a magazine around the house or office. Locate several ads for products you might buy. Examine the ads for the three message steps I just mentioned: List important benefits, communicate benefits, and deliver benefits. Do they talk about benefits important to you? Do they communicate them well? Does the ad copy keep your interest and make you want to have the product?

When I looked at a couple of magazines, I realize many ads are subtler than my simple three-step plan. Sony shows a stylized computer with a good-looking young person, and Ford shows the newest model driving fast down the open road. These exceptions prove the rule, especially for small businesses. Corporations are spending millions to reinforce their brands. The benefits are implied. We don’t have the deep pockets necessary to play this game. We have to communicate the benefits of our books clearly and concisely.

The second part of your exercise is to write out answers to the questions above. Spend some time researching your customers. What do they need and want? How does your book satisfy that desire? What message will motivate the customer to action?

Your readers want benefits from your book. Your job is to figure out what benefits your readers want, determine what benefits your book provides to them, and describe those benefits in your marketing message. With a benefits-oriented marketing message, you will have created the best way possible to promote and sell your books.

The Greatest Salesman in the World

by Scott Flora

Learn to sell! Easy to say and hard to do. “Salesman” has a bit of an onerous ring to it in some circles. On top of its “gender incorrectness,” the idea of “the salesman” or even “salesperson” brings images of used car mistrust, door-to-door intrusions, telephone sales calls, and pushy tactics.

Recently, I revisited a favorite book that wraps selling in a different context, one of love, persistence, and integrity. The Greatest Salesman in the World, written in 1968 by the late Og Mandino, creates a fictional account of Hafid, a merchant in the eastern Mediterranean at the time of Jesus. At the end of his life, Hafid is seeking a person to whom he can pass along the ten secret scrolls. A certain traveler visits Hafid and the secrets of the scrolls are revealed.

Here are several of the scroll affirmations that may help take sales from tacky persuasion to an activity that provides service and connects people in a deeper manner:

  • I will greet this day with love in my heart.
  • I will persist until I succeed.
  • Today, I will be master of my emotions.
  • I will laugh at the world.
  • I will act now.

Reviews by readers on Amazon.com include praise like “the greatest spiritual experience of my life,” “I will continue to read all 10 Scrolls every morning for the rest of my life,” and “This book changed my life.”

Most authors are interested in communicating something they believe in. Og Mandino’s simple words of wisdom are especially valuable for publishers who have a great message and a desire to have the world know about it. The Greatest Salesman in the World may not change your life, but it will change the way you think about yourself as a salesperson.

Og Mandino’s work continues at www.ogmandino.com.

Embrace the Fundamentals: The Path is Easy to Follow

by Scott Flora, 10-1-13apple-books

“The path is easy to follow, but people love to get sidetracked,” said the guru.

Boy, do I love to get sidetracked. Interesting ideas, interesting people, interesting software come into my field of vision and grab my time and energy. These can spark creativity, but on the whole I know I have to stick with the fundamentals.

In soccer, the fundamentals are running and kicking. In baseball, they are throwing and hitting. In relationships they translate to listening and having patience.

What are the fundamentals in publishing? How about those basics passed down from one-room schoolteachers everywhere: Readin’, Ritin’, and Rithmetic?

Of course, it’s a schoolyard jingle, but as a model it can be powerful for covering the fundamentals of a publishing business. Reading is information in, writing is information out from your business, and arithmetic is the accounting and decision making to be financially successful.

Reading

 Reading is research, trend watching, and learning about all the ways to run your business. Where can you find things to read? Writers are by nature readers so you probably have no lack of material. Here are some valuable resources.

Consider joining one of the national publishing associations like the Independent Book Publishers Association (www.IBPA-online.org) or the Association for Publishers for Special Sales (formerly SPAN at www.apss.org). Also search out local and regional writers and publishers’ groups in your area.

 Publishers Weekly is the source to learn about the bigger world of publishing. You can get free subscriptions to eight different PW newsletters at this web page: http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/email-subscriptions/index.html

Writing

 Writing is the message you put out about your publishing company, whether in the books you publish or the e-mails you send. Everything you write is critically important in this Internet age. What people read about you is what they think about you.

The number one rule of is that the first thing your audience and customers care about is themselves. When you write about your book and publishing company, always include points about the benefits to your customers.

Arithmetic

 Writers and publishers are running businesses. We are not creating art and waiting for the world to discover us. The experienced publishers who read this will say, “Well, of course what else is new?” Many novices will say, “Not me. I will not compromise my art with commerce.”

All small business people need to be good at the financial analysis and decision making necessary to run a business. How do you do this? If you have the time, take an accounting or small business course at your local junior college or other organization that supports small business. If you don’t have the time for a class, go to the Small Business Administration website (http://www.sba.gov) and read their many articles on accounting and financial analysis.

Remember the fundamentals! Do your homework and stick to your Readin’, Ritin’, and Rithmetic. The path is easy to follow.