Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Evolving Publishing Ecosystem

Some tips and tricks from the BlogHer ’10 session with Kamy Wicoff, http://www.shewrites.com/; Florinda Pendley Vasquez, http://www.3rsblog.com/; Penny Sansevieri, http://www.amarketingexpert.com/ and Carleen Brice, http://welcomewhitefolks.blogspot.com/.


Publishing is continually evolving, and the biggest change in the past 3-5 years has been the explosion in publishing methods, including self publishing. The stigma is largely gone as some self published books – such as Legally Blonde, The Lace Reader and The Shack – have become mainstream successes. Agents will pick up a self-published book that is selling, but self-published authors need to know their audience and sell to them. It is also important for self-published books to look professional – as good as any traditionally published book – so don’t skimp on editing or the book cover design.
In addition, there has been a huge growth online of book bloggers, who have become like a giant online book club. Many of its members have formed relationships with each other as well as the big New York publishers, Florinda said. This has all happened as the number of review pages in traditional outlets such as newspapers and magazines has dwindled, with book bloggers picking up some of the slack. Given the strong online presence of book bloggers online, it’s now easier than ever for authors and publishers to connect with potential reviewers.

Even with the advantages of having a traditional publisher, one reality of today’s publishing environment is the fact that authors really need to do a lot of their own promotion. Carleen noted that author Rebecca Skloot starting making connections she could use for her book tour long before her book was published. For her tour, she visited more than 70 cities, speaking at universities and other venues where her travel expenses were covered, and once she was set to visit a specific city, she would contact local bookstores to let them know she’d be in town and tried to arrange a signing.
The Importance of Marketing Plans
Each new book is like launching a new business, and authors need a marketing plan. Kamy’s site SheWrites is meant to be a resource to help authors understand these aspects of writing, publishing and marketing. A good resource is How to Write a Book Proposal by Michael Larson.
Authors need to network, build connections and have as much as they can in place before the book comes out. Blog five to six days a week, get on Twitter, support other writers so they can support you in turn – Tweet about each other’s books, do blog tours with each other. Think about everything you would do if you had a traditional book contract – get to know book bloggers in your area (before your book is out) and get to know other writers in your area, too.
Pay attention to who is listening to what you say; publishers need to know there’s an audience before they take on a book, said Carleen. If you are self-publishing, you need to know going in that there are buyers for your book.
Penny said authors need to do their research – know your competition, the landscape for your book. Publishing is a business, you would never open a store without doing research first and the same applies to publishing. The promotion for your book should start two years out; marketing guru Seth Godin made this point on Penny’s Publishing Insiders podcast recently. Bestselling author Marci Shimoff, featured in The Secret, still worked like crazy when her own book, Happy for No Reason came out. Newsletters, Twitter and Facebook are good tools to use to build your platform.

Genre/Form
One way authors can keep marketing themselves while in between books is to post short stories and excerpts to sell on Amazon.com or their websites so readers can get a taste of their writing. A great resource for digital book publishing issues is J.A. Konrath. His blog is titled A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing, http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/. Konrath sells some of his books exclusively as e-books and is making good money. Some of the books had been traditionally published but didn’t sell well in that format. Once e-books became available Konrath began to experiment with his books, discovering that $2.99 and under was a great price point for his books – and yet enough for him to make money.

Platform
An online presence is really critical for authors. Kamy recalled a publisher who received a manuscript, Googled the author’s name for more information and found nothing, so she passed on the book. In addition, reviewers like to include a link to the author’s blog, said Florinda.

Creative Publicity Ideas

Hold events in non-bookstore venues; pet stores, gyms, spas, coffee shops, flea markets … more books are sold at those venues than in book stores. Either order them yourself or seek a partnership with a local bookstore to bring them so that you can get the best royalty rate; without the bookstore, publishers consider such events specialty sales and they sell the books very cheaply. Take video of the event and share it on YouTube.
What’s the Cost?
How can authors afford the time, hours and cost of promotion? In reality, if they want someone to read their books they have to put in the time and money. Authors have to invest in their success. Carleen said if your book is traditionally published it’s difficult to get your next book published if the first fails.
Measuring Success

Book sales are not an indicator of success, said Penny, referring to her piece on Huffington Post, Why Some Authors Fail, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/penny-c-sansevieri/why-some-authors-fail_b_534629.html. For a traditionally published author, “success” depends on the advance, and the amount of the advance signals the publisher’s expectations for the book. Publishers don’t wait long for a return on investment; after six weeks they’re on to the next thing.
Publishing is moving into niche markets now, and that’s how audiences and readers will find each other – by becoming part of that niche where they share interests. All the tools are there, it’s just a matter of taking advantage of them.

*excerpt from an article on Author Marketing Expert. To read more click here.
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