article selling, article writing, articles, blog, cover notes, digital publishing, e-publishing, editing, empire building, fiction, freelance articles, iBook, iPad, Kindle, Kindle, Lightning Source, LSI, magazine articles, newsletter writing, niche marketing, niche publishing, Nook, novel writing, open publishing, pre-testing, proofreading, publishing, query letters for humor writing, querying for article sales, reprint of a rewrite, reprints, rewrites, self-publishing, seminar income, simultaneous submissions, small publishers, Smashwords, webmarketing, writing
If you are sponsoring or giving seminars you want to know what the attendees think of the presenter’s presentation skills, the worth of the information offered, and how that topic might be offered better.
The speakers want to know the same thing. (I have given 2100+ paid programs so I think I have distributed and reviewed almost every kind of evaluation imaginable. The worst (least informative, at least to me) were those that just fished for praise for the sponsor.
Actually, the simplest evaluations were the most informative, in part because they were most often completed before the attendees left. Let me offer a sample of this evaluation. But note that it is designed to capture the two prevalent kinds of responders: (1) those who just want to check boxes and flee!, and (2) those for whom the choices were never quite right and they felt compelled to add commentary as well. Two of the most important points simply had to be answered in written responses: “What did you find most valuable?” and “Suggested improvements…” They are wisely scattered in the middle of the questionnaire.
The last two items also require prose responses. I put them last because many leave them blank and I wouldn’t want that to set a precedent. Anyway, I suspect they don’t know what else the speaker can talk about or can’t think of what wasn’t said–probably because it wasn’t said. Still, if they do respond to them what they share is often very helpful.
I recall speaking one sultry day to about 40 dripping listeners. Three people made the same suggestion: in essence, “get your glasses fixed. It drove me nuts when you kept sliding them back into place.” Who knew? But that would have driven me batty too, so the next morning I went to the glasses booth at a mall megastore and asked the helper if there was any way I could stop my glasses from sliding down my nose all the time. It took her about 20 seconds to make the free repair! A wee thing but not to listeners who had to witness the sliding glasses for minutes or hours.
Here’s the model sheet that I think works best.
Title of the program: ________
(City or School) ________
We very much appreciate your responses. They help us determine whether this program meets your needs and interests–and what we can do to make it better!
(1) Your evaluation of the SUBJECT:
_____ very good
(2) Your evaluation of the SPEAKER:
_____ very good
(3) What did you find most valuable?
(4) Your reaction to the COST:
The cost of the seminar was…
_____ about right
_____ too high
_____ too low
(5) Suggested improvements?
(6) Regarding LENGTH, the seminar was…
_____ the right length
_____ too short
_____ too long
(7) How did you hear about this seminar?
_____ flyer sent by us
_____ told by another person
_____ other: ___________________
_____ other: ___________________
(8) What other program(s) would you like (the speaker) to offer?
(9) What haven’t we asked here, and how do you feel about it?
Adjust this evaluation as you wish, of course. It’s a good starter form to build from.
P.S. If you want to read more about this topic, my program “How to Set Up and Market Your Own Seminar” might also interest you. (The evaluation form is excerpted, and modified a bit, from that program.)
“Is it worthwhile selling your book through Amazon or Lightning Source?” has to be an early question that a niche publisher must ask. “And how much worthwhile?”
That’s important because my niche publishing firm already sells 85% of our products directly to our target niche, much of that through its associations.
A pinch of background: Our authors are experts in that niche field. They receive a royalty of 10% of the net price of the book (or product) when it is sold. (If they are co-authors, it is 10% divided by the number of authors.) The cost of five of our niche books is $24.95 a book, another of our books sells for $19.95, and a third, $17.95. If the books sell at less than 50% of list, the authors get a 5% royalty of those books.
We also have digital versions of each book, priced at $20, $16, and $14. We directly sell the digital books (ebooks) in pdf format; “open” publishers like Kindle, Nook, Smashwords, and so on sell it in .epub or the equivalent. (We sell only about 7% of our books in digital format.)
More often I’m asked about the sale of our niche paperbacks through Amazon and LSI (Lightning Source), which is also Ingram. The volume of sales is very modest for both because our niche books are written to professionals who don’t expect to find their books in libraries and through general book outlets.
Also, selling through other publishers and booksellers means that our payment will be modest, and the authors’ reward at royalty time, even moreso.
Let me share a couple of (almost) current examples to help answer that question:
At Amazon we sell through Amazon Advantage or Create Space.
Of the two, Create Space is a far better earner for us. We post the paperback version free, add a cover, and provide the descriptive selling copy. If a person buys from CS, they print a POD (pay-on-demand) copy from the master book text and cover that we sent them and they mail it to the buyer. It’s hands-free to us. We don’t print, stock books, or ship Create Space sales. They tell us how many copies of which book they sold (they pay 45-60 days later) and how much they will put in our bank account near the end of that month.
For example, in January, 2015, they sold 21 copies of a $24.95 book and one of a $9.95 book, paying us $12.13 (48.6%) and $3.54 (36%) respectively, for a total of $258.27. Because the price they charge is less than 50% of the net price, the authors will receive, total, $25.82.
Amazon Advantage, for us, is scarcely worth pursuing. We always lose money on single sale orders because we must print the paperback, shrinkwrap it, pay the mailing, and then wait at least 60 days for the money to reach our account. When they order about six books, despite the 55% discount and shipping, it gets profitable. In addition, the orders have become hard to understand—and, typically Amazon, if you have questions there is nobody to ask beyond what must be an email robot that always seems to respond to the wrong question!
An example. Today we sent an order for six $17.95 books. We will be paid $48.48, or $8.08 each—(45%). But a single order for a $17.95 book, which is very common, earns us the same $8.08—for a book that costs us about $5.80 to produce, shrinkwrapped; 15 cents for a mailing container, and $2.69 to ship media mail, their least preferred mailing means. That puts us 56 cents in the hole and doesn’t include the time to decipher the order, print out the mailing label and order info, wrap, and mail.
Why stay at Advantage? Inertia, I guess. I also stay there because folks see that our products exist at their webpage. And the hope that the ordering quantities of yesteryear might return, although even then it was cryptic and slow. We give everything a hard look in June and it may be eliminated at that time. But we will remain at Kindle and Create Space.
The other paperback giant is Lightning Source. It too starts with a 55% discount. You can offer to discount less but your books probably won’t reach many retailers, which is the LSI selling target. I think of it as 5% for listing, 10% for LSI, and 40% for the bookstore or selling intermediary. In addition, a $12/book annual fee is charged. But there is a big advantage here with paperbacks: I needn’t ship printed books. LSI will print the ordered books POD. (And I can order them to print books in quantity and ship them to me! That’s great if you are only stocking small in-house quantities.) Plus, there are human contacts who will guide you through the labyrinthine website and ordering/listing process.
Here are some fresh numbers from LSI, where one $24.95 book was listed for commercial sale two months back and another, at the same price, is a few days old. Here are some facts for the first book’s sales (in January, 2015): list price $24.95; discount 55%; wholesale price (what LSI charges the retail seller) $11.23; and the print charge, $4.46 a book. What is left is the publisher’s net comp: $6.77. That is, for every $24.95 book sold POD through LSI I receive $6.77. (Here’s how that is calculated: $24.95 minus 55%=$11.23 times quantity (13) times the book POD print charge ($4.46) equals $6.77 a book ($88.01 total net pub comp for January).
It’s worse for the author: My LSI net is $6.77, their royalty is 5% (since our return is under 50%) of $6.77, or 35 cents each (times 13= $1.69). Which is why we encourage niche sales to go through us so the author earns at least 10% of the net, but also can keep or use a 40% deduction ($9.98) per book that they sell.
I’m trying to answer the questions most frequently asked at my publishing seminars. I hope this is helpful. There is much more about niche publishing at Niche Publishing: Publish Profitably Every Time!
I’m a publisher with a stable of six gifted authors, so knowing how many books each of them have sold at any particular time is a pesky problem. Especially if they want to know their Smashwords sales, where we had to wade through a mind-boggling list to make even an approximate tally.
Until now it was almost impossible to nail down the sales by item within a needed time frame, other than the quarterly checks that told the income earned for that quarter—but for what? Good news: that appears to be over. The headache at Smashwords has been fixed with a nifty, simple “Sales and Payment Report.”
Go to Smashwords, to the dashboard, to the “Sales and Payment Report,” find the respective year you want to check, and open the “Quarterly Earnings Mapping Report.”
There, you will see a pick-the-buttons sort of keyboard where you will find four categories: (1) an author button, (2) ghost author buttons (like our six), (3) the book titles of  and  that are currently handled by Smashwords, and the (4) 15 channels (distributors)—Smashwords, Sony, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Amazon, Apple, Diesel, Page Foundry, Baker & Taylor, txtr, Library Direct, OverDrive, Flipkart, Oyster, and Scribd. (You may have to use the Control key to open more than one item per category. Hold it down as you add more information to the lists.)
You punch all of the keys you are researching (I hit “all” in each category) and out will come your quarterly earnings total, in Excel. You can sort the information in an Author or Title format. (The Title list tells which specific channel bought which books, and seems a bit more useful than the Author choice.)
It’s a godsend, and is actually quite clever. It’s also fun to see Oyster and Scribd subscribers pecking at your offerings. One soul looked at one of my 99-cent reports—but only at 6 cents worth! This person was either an extraordinary speed reader or particularly discriminating.
P.S. If this is helpful, use the search button on any of my blog reports to find other comments about Kindle, Nook, BookBaby, Create Space, LSI, and other “open” publishers.
Rarely, but always surprisingly, a reader of my blog asks me how they can read everything I’ve shared about a particular topic. (I bite my tongue not to ask, “Really? Why?”)
Yet rather than grill them why, or suggest that they have far too much loose time on their hands, this is what I do, by way of an example:
A few days back a fellow BAIPA (Bay Area Independent Publishers Assn) member asked me what I have in print about niching and niche publishing. Heavens, that’s mother’s milk—my primary niche!
So this morning I called up my current blog post, at Word Press, and I typed the word niche in the SEARCH box in the upper right corner of the post.
Up popped 17 related posts with that word (or derivations) in its title. Replacing my current post was one from 10/10/14, with the rest in line, one by one, below the first. (After 10 posts I had to hit the more link to reach 17.) Two titles struck me as particularly pertinent to her interests as I quickly read down, so I told her about them. (Alas, she would have discovered them anyway.)
I suspect the process is probably the same for other bloggers and writers who, frankly, pride aside, should, like me, be writing rather than listing—that or counting and spending their invisible blog royalties! But how can you turn down a person wise enough to read your words?
I hope this helps if you are stuck by the affliction of need described. Or if you’re a writer slightly terror-stricken when being asked the same question. A helpful time-saver for all involved.
Teachers Change Lives 24-7: 150 Ways to Do It Right. I thought my blog readers might enjoy it too.]
TREES AND KIDS
There is an unusual tree commonly known as the Chinese Bamboo Tree. It is real. Years ago I heard a speaker talk about it, using it to make a point. It stuck in my head. I even did some research to find out if the speaker was blowing smoke and made up the tree. He didn’t.
The story goes like this. You prepare the soil, pick the right spot, then plant the Chinese Bamboo Tree. You water it and wait. But you wait an entire year and nothing appears. No bud, no twig, nothing. So you keep watering and protecting the area and taking care of the future plant, and you wait some more. You wait another year and nothing still happens. Okay, you are a persistent person not prone to giving up, so you keep on watering. You water, check the soil, start talking to the ground, maybe even click your heels in some kind of growing dance you read about in the National Geographic. Another year passes and still no sign of growth.
It has been three years. Should you give up? Someone told you that it might take a while to really see the fruits of your efforts, so you keep on keeping on. More water, more talk, more dancing. The neighbors are wondering. And another year passes. No tree.
You now make a decision. If there is no tree on this date one year from now you will stop watering. Period. So you begin year number five with the same passion as day number one. You water, you wait. You keep watering and keep waiting. You water some more and then, could it be? Is it really? Yep, there it is, something sticking out of the dirt. You come back the next day and WOW it has really grown! In fact you come back each day for about six weeks and finally the Chinese Bamboo tree stops growing—but it is over 80 feet tall! Yes, 80 feet in six weeks! Well, not really. It is 80 feet in five years.
The point is simple. If you had given up for even the shortest period of time, there would be no tree. It took almost impossible persistence. The Chinese Bamboo tree is there for one reason and one reason only—because you never gave up on it.
When I talk to teachers at workshops or institutes I find one who teaches first grade and I ask that person to mentally think of a student who they wouldn’t mind see moving to another district. You get the drift, a student who is a real challenge. Let’s give the student a name. I’ll use my own name to be politically correct. The kid is named Jim. I ask the teacher if they ever had a student like Jim that they really worked hard with, tried every trick in the book, searched for new ways to meet the child’s learning needs, and so on, but still felt that at the end of the year that Jim had not learned. That Jim was still a challenge, and although he met the minimum standards to pass, he was not on the teacher’s list of proudest achievements. Most teachers usually agree that they have, or had, a Jim in their class.
Now we move to a second grade teacher and we pretend that they get Jim in the fall, work with him all year, watch their hair turn from brunette to shades of stressful gray, and by the end of the year feel they did their best, but it wasn’t good enough.
Now, for a minute, let’s talk about little Jimmy. He’s not in special ed. Jimmy is just a jerk. Don’t fall off your chair and gasp, “Did he call that kid a jerk?” I did, but not the jerk you are thinking of. My JERK is an acronym for Just Educationally Resistive Kid. He doesn’t have ADD or any other alphabetized condition. He just doesn’t like to learn and he resists it. He isn’t a bad kid or a troublemaker. “Jimmys” exist in all sizes and shapes and even come in girl forms.
Let’s jump to grade three. We have the same conversation all over again. Jim is passed on but he is a disappointment to every teacher so far, and they all worry that if things don’t turn around Jim could become a troublemaker or an academic disgrace.
Jim holds his own in grade four. No big changes. He surely doesn’t love school, but he isn’t failing anything. He exhibits no passion for anything at the schoolhouse. And no signs of any real change either.
Grade five. Jim has a new teacher and all the other teachers try to warn her that Jim is, well, how do we say it? Jim is special, but not special ed. He exists, but barely. He will continue to be a challenge, but he’s not a threat to safety. Jim is Jim. Try anything, but nothing will probably work. If you don’t believe me, ask all of his previous teachers.
At semester break the new teacher makes a comment about Jim at a teachers meeting. With anticipated sadness, everyone listens. Here is what she says…
“Jim is quite a writer. He turned in a couple of stories and I told him he was very creative. He is now writing a mystery story and it is good! And he’s also showing some talent in basketball. He’s really growing too. I love his passion to play ball and write. He seems to thrive on the success of his hook shot and his imagination. I really enjoy that kid.” Jim has arrived!
Was it the new teacher who pulled out Jim’s hidden talents and secret love for learning? Was it some biological change that caused Jim to mature and become a better learner, a more serious student? Was it his physical abilities that expanded his self-esteem and made it easier for him to write?
Maybe it was a little of all these things, but it was also what I call the Chinese Bamboo Factor. Every teacher Jim had since he entered school worked hard providing opportunities for Jim to learn, to grow, and to become. Every teacher watered, fertilized, and cared for Jim. Even when the year ended and they were sometimes glad to pass him on to another teacher, they still knew that they had done their best to give him the best.
Oh, by the way, my story could stop and start at any grade. And Jim could be Janet, and the teacher could be a he rather than a she. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is the Chinese Bamboo Factor—never, ever quit on a student. Even when you see no progress, it doesn’t mean that the kid isn’t processing something somehow somewhere.
One more thing, a big thing: the Chinese Bamboo Tree did start to grow very shortly after the seed was planted. The roots grew deep and strong for many years before there was any sign of a plant above ground. Sometimes that same thing happens with kids. They develop a foundation of learning. They learn to learn. They creep along doing the minimum, building their strengths (or finding them), and sometimes they just wait for the right combination of factors before they bloom. It may be the motivation of a certain teacher or a new found confidence or skill. It may be that all of a sudden “they get it” and learning becomes exciting. If we knew exactly what the formula was and how it worked for everyone, we could probably cure the ills of the world.
So what do we learn from the Chinese Bamboo Tree? I’d suggest the following:
* It takes patience to teach some, even most, kids.
* When you give up on a kid, you give up on a human being.
* Even when you don’t see progress, if you do your best, it is probably happening.
* If something doesn’t work with a kid, try something else—but never quit trying.
* Some of our best teaching doesn’t “break soil” until all conditions are right.
* When you think you are growing a tree, you may be growing a root.
* Strong roots support strong trees.
* Sometimes it takes a lot of patience to change a life.
Jim Burgett is a veteran educator, nationally recognized education speaker, and consultant. He was named the “Illinois Superintendent of the Year”by the American Association of School Administrators and “Administrator of the Year” by the Illinois Association for Educational Office Professionals. Burgett has received numerous honors and recognition for his leadership and skills as a motivator. Jim serves on many boards for the State of Illinois, various professional organizations, the Editorial Board for an educational publisher, and several community organizations. He is the recipient of the Award of Excellence from the Illinois State Board of Education, was named a Paul Harris Fellow by Rotary International, and was a finalist for Teacher of the Year in Illinois.
Education has been the cornerstone of his career. Jim has been a teacher of grades five through twelve and a principal of elementary, middle school, and high school. During his 38-year tenure, Jim has served as the Superintendent of the Elizabeth Community Unit School District, the River Ridge Community Unit School District, and the Highland Community Unit School District, all in Illinois. Jim retired from the Blue-Ribbon Highland District in 2004.
He has frequently published in professional journals, speaks across the country to a variety of organizations, and has keynoted most major educational conferences nationwide. Jim Burgett is known for his practical leadership. He consults many districts, leads strategic planning sessions, and has been a leader in such areas as school construction, administrative standards, and effective teaching strategies.
In addition to writing Teachers Change Lives 24/7, Jim’s most recent books are The Art of School Boarding: What Every School Board Member Needs to Know and The School Principal’s Toolbook. Burgett also co-authored Finding Middle Ground in K-12 Education with Brian Schwartz and both What Every Superintendent and Principal Needs to Know and The Perfect School with Jim Rosborg and Max McGee. Jim also wrote “How to Handle the Death of a Student, Faculty, or Staff Member” as part of the “Excellence in Education for Superintendents and Principals”report series.