A Board of Education that works well together, supports the mission of the district, respects and communicates positively with the superintendent, and comes to the table with no agenda other than to do what is best for kids in a reasonable and intelligent way is a Board to behold! Is it possible to find seven people who can do this? Of course, but it takes savvy and leadership from the top. Here are ten strategies that may help develop that A+ Board of Education. (Jim Burgett, author and speaker.)
1. Start the process before new Board members are elected. When a citizen takes out a petition, or indicates they are thinking about running for the Board, go to work! Do some invaluable pre-service prepping before they invest their time and money. Give them a free copy of The Art of School Boarding, a book that clearly and honestly outlines the job responsibilities and mindset they need before they get involved getting elected. Encourage them to read the book, and offer to answer any questions. Make sure they are aware of the necessary time commitments.
2. Continue the training as soon as they are chosen. Without delay invite the new members in for a session with you and possibly your cabinet. Give them a general review of the funding process, the budget outline, the procedures for developing board packets, and other communications they will need.
3. Introduce new Board members to the central office staff so they know who does what in the office. Offer to take them to school buildings. Answer all the questions they ask, and more. Be open and thoughtful.
4. Meet them for a one-on-one lunch (or early breakfast) and talk about families, past history, their relationship with the district, etc.
5. Train (or remind) all Board members about the importance of the chain of command. Review who reports to whom, what the organizational structure is, and how the entire system works. Include facilities, transportation, and food services. You can’t expect them to follow the chain if they don’t know it. You might even engage in some faux case studies so they see how the Board members know the staff and the chain.
6. Handling complaints will be one of the toughest tasks a Board member must do. Teach them the art of receiving a complaint and then handling it. (In The Art of School Boarding that’s called “catching” and “throwing” a complaint.) It is a process that shows every Board Member how to properly and effectively handle any random or planned complaint from phone calls at home to unexpected visits in the store. Sticking to the outlined process is a win-win-win for the complainer, the Board Member, and the school.
7. Remind the Board who does what whenever possible or when it may seem unclear. This helps keep everyone’s roles and responsibilities neat and clean. “That task falls to the building principal according to the policies you have established,” is a sample reminder of who does what.
8. Periodically, with all Board members, review the steps of routine processes. Examples of these processes might be how to change or write Board policy, set a tax levy, who and how staff are recommended for hire or dismissal, or how disciplinary hearings are held. Some of these events happen infrequently, some annually, some often, but an A+ Board must be aware of the specifics each time. A warm-up lesson before the tax levy meeting, or a handout listing the steps in a disciplinary hearing (before the event happens), for example, makes everyone a better participant. It also helps to guide those who will be experiencing the process for the first time. Even a private tutoring session for new members might be helpful.
9. Distribute the School Board Association’s Code of Ethics every month and read/review one item from the list. This is often done at the beginning of every meeting, to emphasize the importance of the Code and to help all follow it. It doesn’t hurt to read and review the District Mission Statement frequently too.
10. Don’t get so caught up with budgets, basketball, beans, and buses that talking about people is forgotten! Reminding the Board that they are really in session for kids might help, as might a reminder that most of the staff works very hard and a thank you to them for their personal service is always much appreciated.
by Jim Burgett
Jim Burgett’s new book, The Art of School Boarding, explains what a school board really is, what functions it must perform, how it does that best, what its members can (and can’t) legally do, and how every school boarder can be extraordinary every day they serve. (But some won’t be because they don’t know how—until now.) This book is written in plain (sometimes unconsciously humorous), jargon-free prose for school board rookies, veterans, superintendents, other administrators, and you. It should be mandatory reading for candidates seeking board election—read before they run and again before they serve.
But why accept what Jim Burgett says about boardsmanship, or the other 20 experts whose case studies the book includes? Because during his 40 years as an educator he has written five books for school leaders, provided hundreds of training sessions for aspiring and active school board members, and trained and/or consulted with dozens of school boards concerning internal issues, governance, and strategic planning. Jim was selected “Illinois Administrator of the Year” by the American Association of School Administrators and the Illinois Association of Educational Office Professionals. He is also in persistent demand to speak about K-12 education nationwide.
Being a school board member is not a political position, nor one of royalty. It’s held in modest esteem. Board members deal with families, law, curricula, finances, mandates, athletics, the fine arts—the list goes on. No pay, tough issues, lots of controversy, much reading… Oh yes, the future of the community it serves is in its hands.
“School Boarding” is indeed an art. Boards have their own purpose, means, personality, process, and protocol. These pages help them define their mission, their governance, and the role of the board, its members, and the administration. Explained are ethical expectations and Codes of Conduct, and how the board handles community concerns and builds vital relationships. The Art of School Boarding’s straightforward common sense simply explains what present or future school board members have to know.
ISBN-13: 978-0989653046 (bound); 978-0989653053 (digital)
Category: Education/School Board
Price: $24.95 (bound), $20 (digital)
Formats: Bound (paperback) and digital
Trim: 6 x 9
Page Count: 168
Further information at (800) 563-1454 or at meetingk-12needs.com.
To Order: single copies at meetingk-12needs.com; in quantity: 8+ for discount and better mailing, email to firstname.lastname@example.org. The bound book is also available through Create Space. Ebook versions can be bought through Kindle, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.
Here are two typical newspaper releases I sent simultaneously to every newspaper within about 50 miles of the location, usually addressed to the city editor. They were sent about 2 1/2 weeks before the program. (I have altered some of the numbers.)
P.O. Box XXX, Novato, CA 94947
Web site www.gordonburgett.com
Release date: by Sept. 7
“How to Set Up and Market Your Own Seminar” will be given at the Sheraton Santa Barbara next Tuesday evening, Sept. 8, from 6-10 p.m. by Gordon Burgett, who presents 100+ seminars a year throughout California.
Gordon focuses on the key requirements for seminar success, marketing, pricing, scheduling, promotion, content, and follow-up. Program participants also receive a step-by-step, 26-page workbook. For specific registration information, call (800) XXX-1454.
“There’s still plenty of room for the beginner in the field,” says Burgett, a Novato writer and former university dean with 1,700+ articles and 43 books in print, “particularly if they can clearly present ‘how-to’ information that others need and want. In fact, it may be the only multibillion-dollar industry where the average man and woman can still get a firm, profitable toehold. Most just need to know how to get started.” Gordon has given 2,100+ paid public presentations.
– 30 –
I also included in the same envelope a short one-paragraph insertion for use in the daily or weekly activities section. Very often if Item 1 wasn’t used, Item 2 was—and many times both appeared.
Item 2: to use in the “Calendar of Coming Events” section:
“How to Set Up and Market Your Own Seminar,” by Gordon Burgett, Sheraton Santa Barbara, Sept. 8, 6-10 p.m. For specific registration information, call (800) XXX-1454.
Why did I use the name Harold Smith in the return address? A newspaper editor, and friend, told me early on if I sent the press releases in my name about my own programs they wouldn’t be used! So I invented a press agent, Harold Smith. The very rare times that someone from a publication called to speak to Harold Smith I just said, “Thank you…” and answered the questions. I guess Harold and I sound alike.
This 12-unit blog program is excerpted from “How to Set Up and Market Your Own Seminar,” an audio CD four-tape program with a digital workbook and an audio text summary. More details are here.
Gordon Burgett (or is it Harold Smith?)
Several years back my book Empire-Building by Writing and Speaking was published. It’s OP now (although Amazon probably has some dog-eared copies for a penny). Fortunately, I kept two copies on my shelf because some weeks back I was asked to update and share parts of that book for another publication.
Since I’m also about to end a blog series about seminaring here, this 5-step guide from that book might fit well in this series. So here it is in its slightly updated version:
Step 1. Your seminar subject must be appealing and clearly stated in both the title and description. It must also meet a need sufficiently strong that one will pay to attend.
That is, by the title, then reinforced and expanded in the description, the person must be attracted to the subject. He/She must see it as a way to meet a need. It must be clear why he should attend. The benefits must be stated or obvious: by attending the seminar, he will solve personal problems, get rich, learn a skill that will ultimately result in a raise or a more responsible position, find security, overcome frustrations, improve his sex life, and so on…
This is by far the most important guideline of the five. The best promotion, finest location, and most attractive fee will not sell a senseless title or a garbled, pointless description.
(2.) The seminar must be scheduled when and where the public will attend.
Naturally, you say. That’s obvious. But how many times have you seen seminars about personal safety given at nighttime—the very hours when those most worried about their safety won’t leave their homes? Or seminars that teach how to make one’s boss richer, by improving your skills or efficiency, during your nonworking hours?
If you are offering a seminar that shows how to turn marbles into rubies, you can charge a bundle, give it atop a mountain at 3 a.m., and throw in a hellacious rainstorm to test the participants’ mettle. The throngs would joyously haul their glass spheroids to wherever you are whenever you speak!
But most of us offer programs markedly less glittering. To us, the time and place are proportionately more important to our seminar’s success.
(3.) The cost must be in line with perceived benefits and other ways of realizing those benefits.
“Perceived” is the key word. The benefits can be there but if one doesn’t perceive them—why they are worth having or that they can be gained from your seminar—any cost will be too high.
Assuming that the benefits are not only perceived, they are desired, then your seminar must be affordable and in line with other means of getting those benefits. For example, if your seminar costs $100 and one virtually identical costs $35, where do you think the participants will go? On the other hand, if you are explaining a crucial “how-to” link absolutely necessary to securing $100,000+ contracts and yours is the only program focusing on that vital information, isn’t a fee of at least $500 or more worth the investment?
Your main competition is other seminars—and sometimes wildcat consultants. Rarely will taped programs have more appeal than a live presentation, and books, though they may cost only a fraction as much, will be a factor only when your seminar is considered marginal by the participants, when your audience is already book-oriented, or when it is highly price-conscious. (On the other hand, if you have a solid, professional-looking book that validates your expertise in the seminar’s topic, it will be a valuable selling tool.)
The length of your presentation is important too. If other seminars like yours last four hours, yours probably should last four hours too—or maybe three or three and a half hours. A longer program than your competition will be very hard to sell.
(4.) The participant must know of the seminar’s existence and be attracted to it.
If one has an idea that is salable as a seminar, promotion is usually the difference between success and failure. For though it may be the best idea imaginable, or a foolproof way to solve the most pressing need, if nobody knows about it, who will attend? Without promotion, who will read the title and description and rush to register?
Yet promotion is also the greatest financial risk. Self-promoted seminars often spend as much as two-thirds of their anticipated income to attract registrants before a penny is made. Promotion properly done can draw crowds to seminars that are promotable. But if the topic, title, description, timing, location, and all the rest aren’t right, that is, if the seminar isn’t promotable, all of the costs spent making your seminar known may be useless—or at least ultimately profitless.
So the dice are thrown and the gamble is made through your program’s promotion, content, and cost. Your seminar must be promotable—and promoted. The rest is risk.
(5.) The seminar’s content and your presentation are crucial for its long-term success.
If you are going to offer the seminar often—and why would you go to so much trouble if you weren’t?—what you say and how you say it will be its own best long-term promotion.
Neither the actual content nor your presentation will attract participants to your first seminar. They will register by what you tell them that you will say; why they should hear it; by the title, description and the promotional promises. Like a book, first-timers buy seminars by the cover. They don’t know if you’re a bumbler or have a tongue of honey. They buy on faith.
But if you are a bumbler or you don’t give what you promise, your future is limited, for nothing is more forceful or harder to erase than negative word-of-mouth.
Therefore, the first time out you must provide not only solid content and a professional presentation, particular attention must be paid to the first four steps of this guide so there are many bearers of positive word-of-mouth. Over time, solid content and excellent presentation will reduce the risk of promotion and will provide the desired cushion of profitability, as long as the first three steps in this guide are properly tended to.
In the business realm, content and presentation are particularly critical. The first question a potential programmer will ask is “Where did you give this seminar before?” Those references will then be asked, “Is he any good?” You will be booked primarily from the responses of those who heard you perform. Businesses don’t take the risks that the public must. Thus the first business booking is extremely hard to get. Later bookings are far easier when that reply is, “He’s super. The best money you’ll ever spend.” That’s why content and presentation, properly done, are money in the bank.
Another related item that should help participants decide whether to attend:
I was usually asked in my empire-building seminar if one’s expenses were tax deductible. I imagined so (I would deduct them) but it was really up to the attendees to make that decision. So I almost always inserted a box on my fliers and other promotional material called TAX DEDUCTION CLAUSE. They could then determine whether to deduct the expenses—and which ones.
A few years back this was what my box said:
Tax Deduction for Educational Expenses. Treasury regulation 1.162-5 permits an income tax deduction for educational expenses (registration fees and cost of travel, meals and lodging) undertaken to: (1) maintain or improve skills required in one’s employment or business, or (2) meet express requirements of an employer or a law imposed as a condition to retention of employment, job status or rate of compensation.
The regulation might need updating. If so, just tell your potential attendees of the pertinent regulation and what it says. (You can Google that clause.)
Much of the above comes from my “How to Set Up and Market Your Own Seminar” (a four-tape audio CD version of a four-hour seminar of the same name. It includes a 26-page digital workbook and audio text summary.)
Program developers and coordinators almost always need brochure copy that “sells” their programs. Since not everyone is well versed in the task of writing and organizing brochure copy, the following will provide you with some easy-to-use, helpful hints. It’s also a ready-reference checklist of items that are a must for every brochure designed to be mailed, digitally or snail mail, to attract people to a workshop, seminar, conference, short course—any type of educational activity of usually one-session duration.
There are six major components in all successful brochures. By making sure you use all of them in one way or another, you can create copy for your own brochure that will sell your program to its best advantage.
You can explain the information in an easy-to-follow format that leads your reader from one important point to another, which is equally important to the reader and to you. Your copy becomes a sort of roadmap that leads the reader from the mailing panel and cover of the brochure, inside to the descriptive material on program content, audience, speaker credentials, registration and lodging information, and on to an enrollment form that makes signing up easy.
The six components are the 5 W’s + H—Who, What, Where, When, Why + How. The answers to these questions provide the solid ground in which your copy is developed. It’s easiest to think of a brochure as a basket into which a lot of eggs have been very carefully and deliberately placed. Each “egg” is a copy component that answers one of the six questions.
H, the Easy One
H is the easiest component of your brochure to develop because it deals with clearly established facts. The H, or HOW, egg in your basket provides information on location of program, registration procedures, fee schedule, lodging and meal details, parking availability, and other nitty-gritty details.
The majority of this information is often grouped in a separate section headed “Registration Information.” The details are in one place, making it easy for the reader to find and check through. You can adapt the following HOW components to your particular circumstances:
Location: Be specific and include an address and directions to the program site (or note that a map will be sent with acknowledgment of advance registrations).
Registration Procedures: Include the cut-off date for advance registrations; the link, address, or phone number to call for registering by email, shopping cart, or phone; where to mail the registration form; when and where to report on-site to pick up name badges and other materials, and a reminder to sign up for limited or concurrent activities.
Fees: Clear listing of all fees/advance deposits; what they are for; what they include; how fees are to be paid (check, money order, charge card [what kind], or organizational billing); if U.S. funds are the requisite; when fees are due; if CODs are acceptable.
Cancellation/Refund Policy: Date/time when any notification of cancellation must be received for refund; how it can be made (in writing, email, by phone), and information about any service charge for cancellation, if applicable.
Meals: Listing of the refreshments included as part of fees; listing of those optionally available for purchase and their cost; where those “on your own” meals are available.
Lodging: Where it’s available, its proximity to the program site, and the needed link or phone number to call; outline of rates; reservations deadline; notation if special rates for those attending your program are available.
Transportation: General directions on how to reach your program site by car–or how it can be reached my any other means of transportation.
Availability of CEUs or other accreditation.
Issuance of certificates.
Tax Deductibility of Fees.
Affirmative Action/Non-Discrimination Statement, if required by your organization.
Address, website link, phone number for Additional Information: Include hours of operation, highlight if the phone number is free.
Registration/Enrollment Response Form: This should be tear-off if your brochure is a self-mailer or it can be a separate piece if your brochure will be mailed in an envelope. If it’s a tear-off, make sure the reverse side doesn’t contain information the registrant must have. Try to design the brochure so that the mailing label is automatically returned with the registration form. This label that “worked” can help you plan strategy next time. If the response is digital, it should be downloadable, to be faxed or mailed back. The easiest are the writing forms where they can return it completed, with a credit card and the necessary additional information. If you will acknowledge their registration completion and payment, tell them that and how the “receipt” will be sent–and roughly when.
The Five W’s
The other five eggs in your basket are the 5 W’s. Each one—Who, What, When, Where, and Why—is answered in several ways in several places within your brochure. In general, the 5 W’s address the following areas:
title (and subtitle) of program
schedule of activities
titles of presentations
description of presentations
date(s) and time(s) of program
location of program
On the cover of your brochure, include four of the five W’s. WHAT will be the title (and subtitle, if there is one) of your program, prominently displayed. WHEN will be the date(s) of your program—be sure to include the year. WHERE will be the general location, at least city and state; you can be more specific if the actual site would serve as a major “drawing card.” WHO will be the sponsors of the program, an identification tool that serves to build credibility for the program in the minds of potential audience members.
Extra thoughts when creating your seminar brochure:
* Avoid clichés and the newest buzzwords. They can trivialize or mask what you are really trying to say.
* Avoid $120 words. Don’t use a word that you yourself don’t understand or can’t correctly pronounce.
* Write your copy in plain, easy readable English.
* Use the present tense and active verbs.
* Break up long segments of copy with headlines and subheads–or write in outline format.
* Create little sections within the brochure for your various copy components (5 W’s + H) and give each a bold headline that “sells.”
* Format your copy so that your readers start at the cover and continue through the material in roadmap fashion to the registration form at the end.
* Write copy that involves your readers. Give them a sense of participation just by reading your brochure (since involvement in your program is your final objective in this project anyway).
* As a general rule, keep your copy short. Simple, easy-to-read text is more likely to get read and then acted upon, to your advantage.
* Make sure the reader immediately understands the program’s major benefits. What will they get out of it? How can they apply what they will learn?
Some of this blog comes from a brochure used with the permission of Hugo Dunhill Mailing Lists, Inc., 630 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017.
For more details, hear my four-DVD program called “How to Set Up and Market Your Own Seminar.” See www.gordonburgett.com. The program includes a downloadable 26-page digital workbook.
www.gordonburgett.com / Communication Unlimited, 185 Shevelin Rd., Novato, CA 94947/ (800) 563-1454.
Let’s say you have a super book, a novel or a dandy nonfiction winner, that you have shopped to a publisher—and to your horror they said “yes, get it in final form and send it to us.”
Or you have a book in final first draft form and you are having a firm prep the edition that you [or they] will publish.
In both cases, what do you do next?
I’m a niche publisher (and first-draft editor) and I’m often (including right now!) on the recipient side of this exchange (for nonfiction). To make this process as fast, amicable, and smooth as possible, here are some tips. They are what I tell/ask the writer to do—so we can all get to the pay line quicker!
1. I’ve already read all of your correspondence with our staff and I’ve seen all the writing you submitted, plus any advice or direction your particular editor sent to you, so please follow the suggestions you were sent. I will assume that will be the case unless you tell me otherwise.
2. We will exchange text in Word (though we will convert it to other software to print). So please send your work in .doc or .docx and also do all of your formatting in Word. Don’t convert to .pdf. Send your submissions to me as attachments, please. That will be chapters, the full book, or specific segments you are working on. Please use Times New Roman 12-point for all text, including titles, headings, or sub-heads. Indent every paragraph two marks (we will adjust that later). If you are using em dashes, no space before or after the em dashes. I will do the final layout after I have all of the first-draft text and artwork.
3. I am sending you a sample code list of how we want every mailing titled, so we can keep track as we go along. I will respond using the same title you send me.
4. Please insert a page number bottom center on every page beginning with the table of contents. The numbers should be consecutive. No headers or footers, and simply put “Chapter __” and its title below, then begin the copy in that chapter. Do not insert any artwork (charts, photos, anything) in the running text. Rather, insert a short description (like *** CHART ABOUT TEMPERATURE IN TIBET ***) about where it would most likely be in the book, with a space before and after the description. Continue with the book text.
5. I will send instructions soon about all artwork and photography. Focus now on submitting the text in final first-draft form.
6. Please submit your copy to me at the address above. While we are creating the final copy, if you wish to speak with other staff members during the time we are working together, email them directly and cc: me a copy. They will do the same with their response so I know what is happening as it’s happening.
7. Your copy to me will be clean (no tracking) and will be in page order. If there is missing text, write all of the copy that will appear in the book, then insert a missing-text explanation, like *** MISSING COPY CONTAINING ABOUT-TO-BE-RELEASED POLICE REPORT ***.
8. Remember, I am compiling your first draft text, not editing it at this stage (though, if the book is acceptable, it will be returned to you edited, with tracking. You will have an opportunity to make changes then with your content editor.
So your task now is to get your book written and in as final a form as your can make it. Nothing more will done to/with the book until we see the full text and know what artwork is needed and available.
If you have questions, please email me. (No calls, please, unless you have an emergency.) Ours is a print media (at least at this stage) and it works best for us to see the copy in print form. If what I’ve written above is understood and acceptable, just drop me an email OK—and get writing! We’re all eager to see your final words being sold by the pound. Better, by the ton!
Since we’ve received many requests for completed Barbershop scripts, as formats or models for similar club or organization presentations, here is the July 4, 2014, program at the Marin County (California) Fair.
(The live rendition is on You Tube, though the sound capture is fairly poor, being an outside show [in a tent] and surrounded by other live activities, including a giant, musical Ferris Wheel about 150 feet away.)
4th of JULY SCRIPT (2014)
To start the program the group sang “AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL.”
Welcome to our country’s birthday party, Marin County style!
We are the Marin Golden Gate Barbershop Chorus, our director today is Mr. Paul Wren, and I’m Gordon Burgett.
It’s an honor to be invited back, for many years now, to the Ben and Jerry’s Stage on the festive Fourth. We are delighted to see so many of you here today. We’re going to offer a wide selection of American music this sunny Friday, much of it patriotic, plus folk songs and Broadway classics.
Let’s start with a 1957 song by Ricky Nelson: “HELLO, MARY LOU”:
Since we’re on a love-song roll, how about two more songs that have survived the ages.? The first is “I’M GONNA SIT RIGHT DOWN AND WRITE MYSELF A LETTER,” followed by “I DON’T KNOW WHY I LOVE YOU LIKE I DO…”
If you don’t mind, let me point out something sort of odd. (Point at a kid in the audience.) Would you do me a favor? Your name? Would you stand up and look at the audience. Can it be a coincidence that, in our audience today, ____ is wearing the very same thing that the colonists wore at the Boston Tea Party… a t-shirt. Thank you, _____.
Let’s hear a patriotic favorite written three or four times by Irving Berlin, who died a short while ago at the age of 101. He wrote the first version of this song in 1918 when he was serving in WWI, and he rewrote it again in 1938. Here’s the rendition sung for years by Kate Smith: “GOD BLESS AMERICA!”
Our next song was made popular by Nat King Cole, the Mills Brothers, Frank Sinatra, Rod Stewart, and maybe a dozen more. It’s called “NEVERTHELESS.”
You’re a great audience. Would you like to know how barbershopping differs from other chorale or group singing? Let’s ask Paul, who flew in all the way from England to make us sing, how that works. Then Paul will show how the 4-part melodic blend sounds in another favorite oldie, “CONEY ISLAND BABE….”
[The demonstration, involving four soloists and the chorus, used the song "MY WILD IRISH ROSE."]
There’s also the less frolicksome side of the Fourth of July. Of course we remember and hail our country’s independence, but also we can’t forget, sadly, the many lives lost to win and preserve a more just and a better way of life. It’s somewhat paradoxical that three famous Americans who symbolize and helped define that freedom actually died on the Fourth of July: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson (on the same day) and James Monroe. For them, and for the thousands more lost on battlefields and at home protecting our liberty, and for all of you too who have also lost a loved one recently, here’s a beautiful, heart-felt song that conveys our condolences: “I BELIEVE.”
The singers are going to take a short glottal break. It’s my privilege to present Paul Wren again. Paul’s going to share a funny story. If you listen carefully you might detect a slight Oxford accent!
Thank you, Paul.
It’d be hard to find two songs more American than our next offerings: first, “TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALL GAME”—baseball buffs are invited to sing along!—followed by the song “TODAY.”
I see a lot of you guys out there humming and moving your lips. If you’ve enjoyed our musical foray and wish you were up here singing, come and join us on Monday nights from 7:30-10 at the First Presbyterian Church at Ross and Kensington in San Anselmo. We’d like to have you on stage with us next year. And if you hurry, we’d love to have you with us on November 2, always the first Sunday in November, in our annual Fall Show at 2 p.m. in the last building back there. That’s the Showcase Theater. There will be information fliers on the stage when we finish. And yes, it’s true: if you join us you too can have your own stunning red shirt!
Three more songs!
You probably can’t believe it to look at us, but we’re almost all married (some of us often), so we want to sing a sweet love song to our long-suffering wives, who let us loose every Monday night to practice—and, of course, for all of you other sweethearts here today…
Here’s “WHEN THERE’S LOVE AT HOME,” followed by a national home song we all share: “HOME ON THE RANGE.”
We’re about sung out, and we want to come down and shake your hands, so our favorite closer is next. First, let’s give a hand to a merciless, imported taskmaster, Paul Wren. And also to the singers of the Marin Golden Gate Barbershop Chorus…
You’ve been a fun audience. We hope we have helped you have a fun fair.
Our closing song always brings our listeners to their feet! Please join us in singing the well known closing stanzas of “THE STAR-SPANGLED BANNER!”
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Last week this blog was the core item in my newsletter. I had so much response from it I’m sharing it as a (long) blog too.
Two questions: (1) Why would you even care about selling your books to libraries, much less their lower-priced digital versions? (2) And what’s so different about it anyway? Don’t you pretty much do the same thing you do to sell paperbacks (or even hardbacks)?
Let me touch first on (2), then explain the “why” of the problems later.
Selling bound books to libraries is easy enough because until now bound books have been their stock in trade. That’s what you see on the shelves, catalogued, labeled, checked out, and so on. If you have a professional looking book; it has a specific ISBN for the bound version; you look or approach them like you are serious; the book has substance, some purpose, maybe even some research) in it, and the acquisitions folk think their readership would (or should) at least check it out, they may buy it. (I deal in nonfiction books. I’m told that it is more difficult—sometimes impossible—to sell self-published fiction to libraries.)
But there are two markets where you usually have huge selling difficulties: schools (for anything) and the library if the book is in digital format (an ebook). And both are much harder yet if you are a one-book beginner band, or very small, or unknown, or new.
Let’s go back to (1) and focus on libraries.
Why do you want to sell to libraries? Because selling bound books to them, particularly now, can substantially help you keep your firm alive and growing. There are lots of libraries, they can be approached directly, and the discount they expect is modest or nil. (A sweetener to get the direct sale is to provide free shipping; then mail at the library rate, if you can figure it out and it still exists at sale time.)
We have used the IBPA (Independent Book Publishers Assn) public library mailing list for years. (They are the largest group of its kind in the U.S.) Alas, it’s now the Library Market E-Blast, but the targets are the same: 6 times a year they contact 5,000 qualified collection development librarians, and three times each year they contact the same number of (1) K-12 Libraries and (2) College Libraries. In each blast 15 titles are sent containing the book’s image (or cover), a description or key review, wholesale info, and a unique lead-generating link, plus another link to your website (where you can draw them to other publications you are selling).
It costs $199 and you must be an association member to participate, but the membership is an excellent investment and the ISBA publication, the Independent, is worth the cost alone. The blast goes to the largest, best buying libraries in the U.S. (many of which buy many dozens of copies for their branches). A general response rate is hard to evaluate but the mailing usually draws a 7-14% response (400-700 titles). They say that it is the most effective means currently used. They will gladly give you more details about the blast mailing.
We increase our sales by contacting library distributors, particularly Quality Books, and we also make the book available through Lightning Source (or Spark) and Barnes and Noble. The discount you give to distributors is much higher (about 55%). We post the names of all of our distributors on the IBPA flyer (and in-house fliers) so that libraries (or others) that prefer to buy from large distributors will place their orders there. (The distributors also do the one-by-one shipping!)
(An important aside: Don’t include fill-in lines or spaces in your library book, or ask the reader to somehow deface the book [like coloring or connecting the dots]. Once the lines or spaces are filled in, there’s nothing to do for subsequent users, so libraries won’t buy it. How do I know? After I had printed a fat batch of my How to Plan a Great Second Life masterpiece and sent copies to library distributors for a blessing and many sales, I was rather rudely informed that the book as is was unsalable to any library! Gulp. What did we do? Sold those printed books to bookstores and redesigned and reprinted a library edition, with its own ISBN, where we included some 15 pages of charts and fill-in plans, too small to fill in directly but each with a website link where the forms could be digitally copied at home, as often as they wished, and completed then.
Why is it almost impossible to even check out ebooks at libraries, much less get them to buy yours? Because the Big Six (or whatever the number is now in the current buyout flurry) just won’t sell or even rent them to libraries, thus they have nothing to lend to you. (Oddly, if you don’t sell through the huge houses you may still be able to strike up a local library deal. But don’t count on it.)
Here’s the best explanation that I’ve read about the mess. It’s from an E-Content Supplement (twice a year, this dated June 2014) from the American Library Assn (ALA).
** For starters, libraries have had lots of information in digital form for years, but when their users started asking to borrow ebooks they found that the ebooks weren’t available for purchase and lending. There was a business model muddle. Simply, five of the six largest publishers weren’t making their ebooks available to libraries under any terms. Until autumn 2011 only Random House and Penguin were making their ebooks available under the same terms as bound publications (perpetual ownership and reasonably priced). HarperCollins had just shocked all publishers when they changed their acquisition ebook terms by limiting the ebooks use to 26 circulations before the books had to be repurchased. Then all six pulled out, and most of the best sellers weren’t available under any terms at all!
The leaders of the ALA (and the AAP) met with the key publishers and found out that libraries and publishers lived in two different worlds. Much of the confusion centered on anti-trust laws. “As library leaders, we came from a world that generously shared success with one another. In the publishing world, sharing was at worst illegal and at best not a wise business practice,” said Molly Raphael in “EBooks” Getting There…But Not There Yet.” A small break came in the impasse when other groups besides publishers and aggregators began making ebooks available to libraries, like authors, author groups, agents, booksellers, and smaller publishers.
** It’s not as hard to sell ebooks in the school library market is the point of “School Library EBook Business Models.” The library/publisher relationship is more congenial too. The market is much more diverse, more centered (most items are bought for K-12 educational uses), much larger in sales than the library market, and the K-12 publishers aren’t the Big Six but rather smaller independent firms that work far closer with the school systems to survive. (My Education Communication Unlimited imprint is one of those K-12 niche specialists.)
I’m certain that most of you don’t sell in this venue, so rather than bore you, let me share the five different business models that make our marketing much stronger here: (1) unlimited simultaneous access, (2) one-to-one licenses, (3) pay-per-use rentals, (4) subscription services, and (5) online retailer platform models. Two more things are also involved in selling to K-12 buyers. Most of the successes are based on nonfiction books and there is more use of DRM.
** In Laura Clark’s “EBook Discovery: The library/publisher “sweet spot,” she talks more about libraries, publishers, and others in the ecosystem teaming up to find the best fit for their tastes.
Hers is a first-rate article that focuses on using the strengths of libraries themselves to determine and meet their own needs. That as brick-and-mortar stores disappear, the library becomes a physical space for discovery beyond the home and workplace. The library can be a magnet for ebook discovery and a distribution platform for helping authors self-publish… The article mostly broadens our awareness of how a library and its expert staff can help ensure that the right title finds the right reader at the right time—and how the considerable research expertise can help deepen and strengthen the research in the book.
** In “Beating the Odds: Building a Publishing Maker Culture,” Peter Brantley sees the library’s ebook position as improving, through persistence, p.r., and hard negotiating. But he sees the tremendous centralization of consumer traffic to platforms that want to monopolize the user ebook buying, like Apple, Google, and Amazon. He also sees strong selling from those who directly buy ebooks from niche vendors. “But integrating (your ebook selling) into library(ies) is not for the fainthearted.”
Brantley says our selling our bound wares is much harder because of the increasing trend to purchase goods online. If the physical bookstores fold (probably including Barnes & Noble) and the Big Six consolidate into a Big Two-and-a-Half, where will books get the number of visual impressions needed to create bestsellers?
On the other hand, our ability to ride the “open publishers” into free publishing and to emerge on Twitter, You Tube, and the rest opens huge opportunities for us. He stresses that big books can be restructured into shorter and probably more profitable novels, and those into novellas, and/or into serial segments. And that libraries can assume a pivotal role of local publisher-guide by creating community publishing initiatives that can integrate all book formats, bound and digital, into the larger library world.
Conclusion? We’re not selling our ebooks to libraries right now, particularly if we are being published by the big houses. But smaller publishers can get on library shelves, and my thought is that soon there will be grouping units that will do the linkage for us. If we rented our books by contract at $1/week or $1/borrower, a digital text widely used might zoom to the top of our income stream, without the books wearing out or having to be handled or shipped. So while a lot of what these articles suggest is discouraging right now, it’s likely that our ebooks will prevail. It gets back to marketing: we have to let libraries know that we have published something they need or want to know that is well written, looks professional, and is easy (and perhaps fun) to read. Library ebooks might ultimately (in a few years) become gilded providers.