Book Publishing Specialists
When you publish a nonfiction book, you are delivering your expertise on a subject in a specific form, book form. As you go forth and market, it’s important to remember that your expertise (the content), not the form (the book), is what’s of real value to your audience. Your expertise can be delivered in many other forms: speeches, seminars, training services, consulting services, eBooks, videos, audio books, blogs entries ... and on and on. Delivering your expertise in more than just one medium can dramatically enhance the sales of your book by helping build your all-important author platform.
A case in point is Wheatmark author Kelly E. Middleton, who uses speeches and presentations (and training sessions) to promote the book he coauthored with Elizabeth A. Petitt, Who Cares? Improving Public Schools Through Relationships and Customer Service. The book is a call to arms for all proponents of public schools—administrators, teachers, support staff, and unions—and encourages schools to focus on the most important “R” of all: relationships. Who Cares? has sold over 7,000 copies since its release in 2007, primarily as a direct result of speeches and presentations Kelly has made to educators.
“I speak at a lot of conferences,” writes Kelly, “and I do a lot of presentations and trainings.”
Wheatmark recommends that all authors make speeches and presentations a part of their platform building and book marketing strategy. Here are some things to learn from Kelly’s experience:
Do lots of them. I took a peek at Kelly’s speaking schedule for 2009 and found 71 events listed ... so far!
Stick to your target audience. Kelly gives speeches and presentations at education conferences and schools, where everyone in the audience is involved in education in some way or another. Kelly doesn’t spend time doing book signings at bookstores. (Book signings at bookstores are generally not worth the effort unless you are famous, like Sarah Palin.)
Sell or give away books at your events. Kelly gives them away: “I especially like to give books to decision makers in public schools who, more often than not, come back later and purchase more books. Many school districts purchase a copy of the book for every staff member. Some conferences have purchased one for every person in attendance, some for the first 100 attendees. This can be part of the negotiation when you are asked to present.”
Promote your appearances. “I keep every email address and send updates on my speaking engagements.”
Your speaking gigs can sell books. Your book can get you speaking gigs. It’s a beautiful synergistic platform-building circle. Just think what will happen when you add consulting services!
We've heard this refrain at Wheatmark many times, usually when the subject of copyediting comes up. Whether the author hasn't budgeted for an edit or simply believes it's unnecessary, his first line of defense is often the opinions of the friends and family members who have seen his manuscript.
When an editorial analysis comes back with suggestions for improvement, the reaction may include a dash of defensiveness. "I had some friends read my book, and THEY thought it was GOOD!"
Despite said praise, these unedited works generally aren't ready for prime time. Some contain a lot of spelling errors, some aren't organized clearly, some are difficult to follow, etc.
Whenever an author's friends have given a manuscript high marks despite what I would consider obvious problems, I've wondered why.
Maybe they didn't want to hurt the author's feelings.
But a recent experience gave me new insight into the friends-and-family bias. While visiting my parents for Thanksgiving, a close friend asked me to read the novel he'd started and tell him what I thought. My friend is a good writer, so I was happy to do it.
Sure enough, it was brilliant. The unique premise! The well-worded descriptions! The clever turns of phrase!
Then came the aha moment.
I wasn't evaluating his work in the same way I would if I picked it up in a bookstore.
Instead, my thought processes went something like, I couldn't write fiction in a million years. How does he come up with these ideas for his plot and his characters? It's like magic.
So I took a step back and forced myself to read the pages again. I pretended I was in a bookstore, scanning the content to see if it was worth my time and money, expecting a certain level of quality.
I still found the story highly entertaining. But I also realized it wasn't ready for print yet. After a great, hooky first sentence, many paragraphs of description and backstory followed. They were very well-written paragraphs—which is why I didn't notice a problem at first—but if I were skimming the first chapter in a bookstore, I'm not sure I'd have enough patience to wade through all the telling to get to the action.
The lesson? Even your most brutally honest friends and family members aren't the best people to screen your work. They may be too dazzled by the fact that you could write a book at all to notice its flaws.
Where, then, should you go for unbiased feedback? Here are a few ideas.
- Get a Wheatmark Editorial Analysis
We always recommend the Wheatmark Editorial Analysis, which evaluates your manuscript in terms of mechanical issues (spelling, grammar, punctuation), organization, clarity, and style. However, you should be looking for critiques elsewhere as well.
- Take a writing class
Are you new to the publishing biz? Try a writing class at your local community college. Your teacher will be willing to provide real constructive criticism. Even better, she will be able to articulate it more clearly than the average reader.
- Join a writing group
The quality of feedback in writing groups may vary, but the potential rewards are great. In the right group, you'll get reactions from writers who want to help you improve. Just as importantly, you can learn a great deal by critiquing other people's work. When you discover what bores you, confuses you, or compels you to read further, you can apply this knowledge to your own writing.
Eventually you will get your book into print. At that point, your target audience will decide whether it's worth a read. If you've done your homework, sought out criticism from people outside your immediate circle, and eliminated the flaws based on that criticism, the rest of the world will be much more likely to judge it favorably.
We’ve all heard of the concept of using “other people’s money” to build your wealth. There’s a book marketing strategy, called article marketing, that employs a similar concept—using “other people’s websites” to build your book sales. Specifically: Write articles on topics related to your book and submit them for posting on websites that get heavy traffic from your target audience. At the end of each article, make sure your byline includes a link to a web page where the reader can get more information about you and your book. This way you can leverage the traffic that “other people’s websites” have to increase your book sales.
Here’s how to do it:
Write relevant articles
The articles you write should be of great interest to your target audience—that is, those people who would be most likely to buy your book.
Submit your articles to an article submission website
There are quite a number of sites these days that offer free content, especially articles, to webmasters, ezine editors, and bloggers. The five of the most popular are:
Articles Base (http://www.articlesbase.com)
Article Alley (http://www.articlealley.com)
Article Dashboard (http://www.articledashboard.com)
Submit your articles to websites that your target audience frequents
If you don’t already have a list of sites that your target audience visits, then you’ll want to make one. Use a search engine like Google, and some choice keywords to track these sites down.
Create an article tagline that sells your book
On the Internet, a tagline is usually placed at the end of an article and is no more than five or six lines long.
Your tagline, sometimes called a byline, should, at minimum, contain essential information about you, along with the title and ISBN of your book.
If the website you are posting on allows it, then also include a live link directly to your web page.
Or, you can include a link to a web page at which the book can be ordered, whether it is your site or an online bookstore like Amazon.com.
While the best place for your articles is on “other people’s websites,” you should also put your articles on your own website.
Post a message letting visitors to your website know if it is OK to reuse your articles on their websites.
Maybe Larry the Liquidator (Other People’s Money by Jerry Sterner, 1988) had it wrong, and there are actually four things in this life that offer unconditional acceptance: dogs, doughnuts, money, AND websites.
What can you do when your book marketing budget is $0?
Lots, it turns out.
In 2008 Nadine M. Rosin published The Healing Art of Pet Parenthood, a true story about the human-animal bond, healing cancer holistically, senior canine care, and an empowering new take on the grieving process when a beloved animal passes away.
Since its release, this Wheatmark-published book has sold hundreds of copies and its sales continue to grow—without the author having spent a single penny on marketing. Here are some of the most effective no-cost marketing strategies that Nadine used:
- She started following a targeted audience on Twitter—one that included pet parents, pet-sitting businesses, animal nonprofits, shelters and rescues, book lovers, cancer survivors, veterinarians, and the holistic community.
- She built relationships with these tweeters, which not only led to book sales, but also to numerous radio, podcast, and online interviews all over the U.S., England, and Australia. One natural pet food distributor she connected with on Twitter has copies of the book shipped to Nadine directly from Amazon.
- Whenever the pet of one of the distributor’s customers passes away, the distributor emails Nadine a printable FedEx shipping label so she can personally inscribe and send a copy to the customer at no expense to her.
- She created profiles on pet social media sites, including Dogster.com and Doggyspace.com.
- She commented, commented, and commented again on other people’s blogs and pet profiles. Engaging with people in this way, offering to help with pet, health, and grief issues related to her book and experience, has led to strong online relationships with readers, bloggers, and social media pros. This has resulted in even more interviews, sales, speaking engagements, and book signings; a fan base of reposters and retweeters; and valuable personal correspondence, support, and endorsement from such fellow tweeters as Guy Kawasaki (Apple & Alltop) and Yvonne DiVita (blogger for Purina and LipSticking).
- She wrote blog posts for other pet businesses’ blogs.
- She wrote blog posts about other pet businesses for her own blog.
- She volunteered to write magazine articles, always including her book’s purchasing information and URL in her signature/credentials.
Nadine is passionately committed to marketing her book, and no ingredient (not even a big budget) is more important than that!
In a world of instant access—movies, music, email, and even overnight shipping—the pace of publishing can often seem sluggish.
With print-on-demand technology rising in public awareness, more new authors are experiencing the excitement of seeing their manuscripts in print.
A quality book, however, isn’t built in a day, a week, or even a month.
Many of our authors just getting started aren’t aware of how much time it takes to make their book a professional one.
On the other hand, it’s still faster than traditional publishing by leaps and bounds.
Wheatmark account manager Lori Sellstrom recently spoke with Betty Jo Tucker, author of Susan Sarandon: A True Maverick and Confessions of a Movie Addict.
According to Betty Jo, in both cases, a traditional publisher initially requested that she write the books. However, this same publisher could not deliver the fast turnaround time she wanted.
“At my age, you just can’t wait around for the traditional publishing schedule,” said Tucker, a retired college dean. “I wanted to find a way to get my books out quickly so that the movies I was writing about would still be fresh in people’s minds. I started to look into how to do this faster and that’s when I found your wonderful company.”
So how long does it take exactly? That depends on each book, as different components of the publishing project affect the publishing timeline. Editing, for instance, will add another two to four weeks to the schedule. Editing is also an essential way to make your book even better, so it’s a worthwhile delay.
If you have a deadline in mind, make sure you discuss it with your account manager during your initial meeting. Although they can’t make your book happen overnight, they will help you set deadlines to reach goals that are within reason.
"Oh, sorry!" she says. "I've been completely engrossed in this novel. It's really good!"
"Cool. What's it about?" you ask.
"It starts out in Baltimore, when Lisel—that's the main character—is fourteen. Her parents pretty much ignore her because they're so focused on her older brother. The brother's name is Carl, and he's really smart. All he's ever wanted to do when he grows up is become a doctor. The parents are immigrants, and they've done okay given that their English isn't great, but they really want Carl to achieve the American dream.
"Lisel resents this a little, but it's the way it's always been, right? So she doesn't think about it much. But then the whole family takes a trip to Boston so Carl can do a college interview, and while they're driving there they get blindsided by an out-of-control driver. Carl ends up with permanent brain damage. He has to relearn how to tie his shoes."
You nod, grateful that Julie has gotten to the point. "So it's about how the family copes with this."
"Well, not exactly. The book skips ahead to when Lisel is in medical school. See, her parents transfer all their ambitions for Carl onto her, and she doesn't want to disappoint them. She gets into Harvard, and she meets this guy who seems perfect ..."
Your friend tells of Lisel's struggles to get through medical school, her painful breakup with the aforementioned guy after she discovers he's been cheating, and the challenges of building a practice. Your mind begins to wander as she describes, in intricate detail, Lisel's attempts at a love life.
"So she agrees to a blind date set up by her mom, and she totally doesn't want to go," says Julie. "But he actually turns out to be really cool, maybe someone she can trust. She tells him she used to like acting in high school, before the thing with her brother, and he convinces her to audition for this theater group really close to where she lives—"
"Okay, okay," you say, waving your hands desperately. "But what is the book ABOUT?"
"That's what I've been telling you for the last seven minutes." She blinks a few times, clearly mystified. "Hey, I've gotta use the restroom. Could you watch my stuff?"
As Julie cheerfully makes her way to the other side of the coffeehouse, you pick up the book, flip to the back cover, and read this:
Most of Lisel's childhood was spent in the shadow of her brilliant and ambitious older brother, Carl. When a car accident left Carl severely brain damaged at the age of seventeen, she quietly took on the dreams he would never fulfill in an attempt to ease her parents' grief. She went to medical school, graduated with honors, and now maintains a thriving practice.
But cracks appear in Lisel's seemingly perfect life. The only human beings she interacts with on a regular basis are her patients and the men she meets on disastrous Match.com dates. When she joins a community theater group, she finds that rekindling her interest in acting only magnifies her dissatisfaction with everything else.
Should the choices we make in high school determine the course of our entire life? Are parental approval and the trappings of success enough to sustain us? In turns heartbreaking and hilarious, A Hand-Me-Down Life is a deeply satisfying story about one woman's quest to find her own path.
Here's the million dollar question. Assuming this is the kind of book you might enjoy, which description is more likely to make you want to read it: the blurb on the back cover, or the blurb as Julie might have written it?
At Wheatmark, we've encountered many authors who are capable of penning interesting books, but become absolutely lost when it comes time to create the promotional copy for those books. Too close to their own work to know how to sell it, they often fall back on Julie's rambling monologue approach to plot summary.
If you've run into the same problem, take a few deep breaths and relax. We're here to help.
The key thing is to keep it simple. Pare it down. Don't tell the entire story in your blurb.
That's great, you say, but how do I know what to leave out?
Good question. There are actually many ways to summarize any given plot, and the one you choose should depend on who you think will read it.
For instance, the Hand-Me-Down Life blurb is geared toward readers who like stories about quarter-life or mid-life crises. If we wanted to hook people who are into family dramas, we could play up the pressure Lisel's parents put on her to fill her brother's shoes. If the overall tone of the book is light and humorous despite the serious subject matter, we might emphasize the romantic interests—neither of whom even get a mention in the current blurb.
Obviously, you shouldn't make your book out to be something it's not. You just need to focus on certain elements of what it is so you can present a coherent narrative.
Still don't know which plot points to highlight? Try writing different versions of the blurb. Put the samples up on your blog (if you don't have one, you should) and show them to friends. Which version makes people want to flip open to the first page?
If you've done your job, then readers will want to know the whole story. And to find out, they'll read the whole story!
“At my age, you just can’t wait around for the traditional publishing schedule,” said Tucker, a retired college dean. “I wanted to find a way to get my books out quickly so that the movies I was writing about would still be fresh in peoples’ minds. I started to look into how to do this faster and that’s when I found your wonderful company. You were able to put both of my books on the fast track, and yet gave me such a nice product.”
Tucker has published two books with Wheatmark: Confessions of a Movie Addict and Susan Sarandon: A True Maverick. In both cases, a traditional publisher initially requested that she write the books. However, this same publisher could not deliver the fast turn-around time Betty Jo wanted.
“Traditional publishing just takes too long,” Betty Jo said. “If I were younger, I may have decided to go that route. But at my age, I just feel as though I don’t have the time.”
Tucker’s first book with Wheatmark, Confessions of a Movie Addict, was actually her second published work. Her first book, It Had To Be Us, was the inaugural offering from a new traditional publisher who became interested in her book after reading portions of it on a website that featured novellas and short stories. It Had To Be Us is a romantic memoir written by Tucker and her husband Larry (using the pseudonyms of Harry and Elizabeth Lawrence), telling the story from both their viewpoints about their marriage of twenty-six years, their divorce, and the reignited spark of romance that caused them to remarry after twenty years of separation.
“The publisher liked the book so well they asked us to write another one,” Tucker explained. “Well, needless to say, Larry declined. So I decided to write about my experiences with movies and about the many movie actors and directors I’ve met.”
The result was Confessions of a Movie Addict, what Tucker describes as, “pure fun to write from cover to cover.”
“It just flowed and pretty much wrote itself,” she said. “People have told me that they have laughed out loud while reading the book.”
In Confessions, Tucker starts with her first movie experience and takes her readers through her after-retirement career working as a movie critic for several newspapers and for two reputable online sites: ReelTalkReviews.com and News First Online. Being a bona fide film critic, she tells her readers about her experiences at free screenings and about her many interviews with movie stars, directors, and screenwriters. Her book includes some of her encounters with famous people such as Angelina Jolie, Ben Kingsley, Guy Pearce, film director M. Night Shyamalan, Charlton Heston, Mickey Rooney, Emilio Estevez, and Matthew Broderick.
Tucker has received great acclaim for Confessions, including a quote from James Colt Harrison, editor of National PreVue Film Magazine, that is often used to promote her book: “If Oscars were given for the funniest book of the year, Confessions of a Movie Addict would win hands down.”
Although Tucker elected to publish with Wheatmark instead of the traditional publisher who originally asked her to write the book, she was again asked by this same publisher to write another book—this time about a famous movie star. Tucker said she chose to write about Susan Sarandon due to Sarandon’s long, successful career, her dedication in promoting certain causes, and the fact that she had interviewed Sarandon in the past and had already written a few articles about her.
“Writing Susan Sarandon: A True Maverick was a lot of hard work,” Tucker admitted. “I think I lived in cyberspace and on the phone for about nine months, making sure that I read everything I possibly could about her. It was much harder than the other two books I wrote.”
Although Maverick started at the request of a traditional publisher, Tucker again chose instead to publish with Wheatmark, citing the wonderful experience she had with Confessions of a Movie Addict. According to Tucker, Wheatmark not only gave her an exceptional product in a timely manner, but also provided her with marketing tools that helped her to successfully promote both of her books.
“Promoting your book is definitely the hardest part of the publishing process,” Tucker said. “Although I don’t like to promote my own work, I realize that I have to if I want to sell books. I can’t thank Wheatmark enough for nominating my book for the Colorado Book Awards. Even if I don’t win, just being nominated has helped to promote my book.
“Wheatmark helped me to develop a marking plan, which was very helpful and is something I really appreciate,” Tucker continued. “I also loved the postcards that you developed for me. I sent them to everyone I knew and to everyone I mentioned in the book. I really appreciated the way your company helped me with my press releases and the information you gave me for radio interviews. You even made it easy to order books for book signings.”
Through her book promotion experience, Tucker has successfully branched into more focused marketing techniques. For example, instead of limiting her book signings to bookstores, she has taken her book straight to her audience—moviegoers—by having book signings at the Cinemark Tinseltown movie complex near her home in Pueblo, Colorado. Because of her reputation as a published movie critic, she continues to be a guest on several radio programs, and is also promoting her books on several movie related websites, including the unofficial Susan Sarandon site. Perhaps one of her most important and heartfelt marketing strategies was to donate her author’s royalties for Maverick to The Myelin Project, one of Sarandon’s favorite causes.
Tucker’s advice to aspiring writers?
“Don’t give up. If you’ve written a book, don’t give up if your book gets turned down by a traditional publisher. Don’t be afraid to publish it with a publisher like Wheatmark so that you can get your writing out there for others to read. With Internet access and print on demand publishing, there is no reason why authors can’t see their books published.
“I certainly have loved working with you people at Wheatmark,” she added. “You are all so courteous, friendly, and very professional.”
Photo courtesy of The Pueblo Chieftain
But then it dawned on me. That's the best time to have them read it! When they comment on the different stories I've posted, it not only gives me a feel for what people may be interested in, but it also gives me some feedback on what needs to be fixed, changed, deleated, etc. If they like it, they may become hooked and want to read the entire book once it's published. Who knows? It may be generating a potential market for my book before the book is even completed.
Best of all, it's motivating me to stay on task and to be more dilligent in completing the project.
So far I've just been announcing the blog posts on my Facebook profile; I still need to gain followers and start linking to other blogs.
Am I afraid of losing my content to someone else who may try to steal it and publish it under their own name? Nah! Being an author is not a get-rich-quick scheme. It takes money, time, and effort to become published and successful--even when you're great. Who would want that headache?
I'll keep you posted on my progress as it unfolds.Here's my blog if you would like to read it and make comments.
Like most niches of the creative world, there is a learning curve to joining that community. The language book people speak is often one that can befuddle the new author. Here is a quick rundown of some important terms publishing professionals may say, ask your opinion about, or need you to understand.
Manuscript - The manuscript is the document that is your writing. It can be printed on paper, sketched on a napkin, or better yet, typed up in a Word document. When book people talk about a manuscript, they mean the work that will be transformed into a book.
Paginated interior - After your final manuscript is accepted, the next step in the publishing process is layout. The paginated interior is the end product of layout. All of the formatting choices the designer makes to mold your manuscript into a book is part of this. What the author receives to review after the layout process is the paginated interior. At this time, there shouldn’t be any major changes, just minor tweaks to make sentences correct.
Trim size - The trim size of a book is the physical footprint of the book when you look at it straight on. For example, some books are 5 inches wide and 8 inches tall, giving them a trim size of 5x8.
Chicago Manual of Style - The Chicago Manual of Style (CMS) is the industry standard for guidelines on how to present text within books. From formatting footnotes to how to write the name of a film to using commas, the CMS is the book industry’s rule book.
DPI - The dpi of a digital image has to do with the quality of the image. DPI stands for dots per inch and corresponds with how much ink a printer releases. The higher the dpi (that is, the more dots), the better the quality of the printed image, and the better your book will look. When images are going to be used on the cover or interior of a book, the standard dpi required is 300.
Verso and recto - When you open a book, the page on the left is the verso and the page on the right is the recto. This helps book designers determine placement.
Front matter - The front matter of a book consists of the parts, designated by CMS, that go at the beginning. The options are, in order, half-title page, verso of half-title page (blank), title page, copyright page, dedication, epigraph (the little poem or quote at the beginning of some books), table of contents, foreword, preface, acknowledgments, and sometimes the introduction.
Back matter - The back matter of a book is additional content beyond the chaptered sections that add to the reader’s understanding of the material. These sections can include the appendix, notes, glossary, bibliography, and index.
These are just a few terms the beginning author should learn in order to communicate with editors, designers, and other book people!
One of the services that Wheatmark offers is Kindle formatting for our titles.
For those not familiar with Kindle, it is an electronic reading device sold by Amazon that wirelessly transfers content for books, newspapers, and other reading materials to itself.
I often hear grumblings about the Kindle by paper enthusiasts: they don’t want to read on a screen, “youth” today are ruining things, and technology is going way too far.
I, too, wasn’t completely sold on electronic readers until I recently went on a long trip.
On airplanes, I read what I call “junk food” books. Generally paperbacks with detectives, serial killers, and maybe a good love scene-they are a fast read and I can get through two of them in just one flight across the country. That’s two 400-page books I have in my carry-on.
If I’d had a Kindle, I could have loaded the books on the device before I left from the airport or even from the cruise ship I was on. A typical John Sanford “Prey” series novel is about 10.4 oz. The Kindle is 10.2 oz. The Kindle is a great way to pack light.
In fact, on the cruise ship I saw Kindles everywhere! I witnessed passengers demonstrating them excitedly to other passengers in the elevators, and one gentleman surreptitiously reading his under the table at dinner. On a lazy day at sea while reading on the sundeck I counted 20 Kindles in use.
I was surprised. Most of the passengers on the ship were retirees (or older) who were spending their free time traveling. This was a demographic that, in my experience, doesn’t always warm to technology.
I asked one lady how she liked her Kindle and she couldn’t stop raving about how easy it was to have all her books on it and how it was such a pleasure to use.
There is a market out there for Kindle-formatted books and it will continue to be a factor in book sales. Yes, there are other electronic reading devices out there, and some of them, like the Sony, come in tempting colors, but the Kindle is setting the standard with more than 350,000 titles available for it.
Many Wheatmark authors have elected to have their books formatted for Kindle and they are seeing the results in their books sales.
If you are interested in having your book formatted for the Kindle, ask your account manager about it!
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