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.
By Scott Flora
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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 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 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.
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.
Once upon a time, my car broke down in Lebanon Kansas, the exact geographical center of the U.S. A big storm was coming, the sky was dark, and the air was perfectly still. As in a fantasy story, a mechanic showed up in an old jeep, carrying a toolbox with just a hammer and a wrench.
He told me that he couldn’t fix my car. I asked why not and he said, “I don’t have the tools.”
Astonishingly, a second mechanic drove up in a big pickup truck with locking tool cabinets all over the outside. He diagnosed my problem, fixed my carburetor throttle lever and sent me out of the vortex of the continent and the storm. The right tools made the difference.
Do you have the right tools?
Do you have the right tools to sell the most books possible? I recently looked at a group of independent publishers’ web sites to survey their tools. In an admittedly small sampling, I examined 10 randomly chosen independent publishers’ website.
The surveyed Web sites used these tools:
Free excerpts/articles 80%
Provided shopping cart to purchase books 100%
E-mail signup and e-newsletter 30%
The Essential Tools Are Easy
My survey indicates publishers are very good at the basics of providing both information about their books and expertise and pointing to a way to buy them. The survey also shows a trend toward a significant lack of the use of more powerful tools such as newsletters, mailing lists, and blogs.
Creating vital community with real benefits to your prospects is critical for selling more books and services. Newsletters and blogs that encourage two way communication and user generated content are the means to produce interaction within your community.
The essential tools don’t have to be complicated. A consistent newsletter, a mailing list, and a blog are all you need to increase the vitality of your community.
One important concept is that the communication should be two way and efficient. You can communicate with your community one at a time via e-mail, but the power of a mailing list will sell more books.
A Few Resources for the Essential Toolkit
Blogging: A free and simple blog service is Blogger.com. This is great place to get started.
A more powerful and more complicated free system is WordPress.com. Many publishers use WordPress as their total website system.
Newsletter mailing list systems: Three popular newsletter and mailing list systems are ConstantContact.com, MailChimp.com, and aweber.com.
The solution to success as an independent publisher and author is so powerful and simple that it could fit on a bumper sticker. It says, “The best way for an independent publisher to succeed is to develop a community around your expertise.” The best way to develop a community around your publishing company is through using the essentials tools of a well written website, a newsletter, a mailing list, and a blog.
Don’t get caught with an empty toolbox when the competition has the essential tools.