At 11” x 6,” the postcards are big enough to cover other books already on the potential buyer’s desk. But the real issue is, are the cards clever enough to lovingly pick the buyers’ pocket?
Said another way, it will cost us about $6500 to get the sales missive done right and delivered on time. But will the returns grossly exceed that cost while we are still in the same flesh? (Three months will tell the tale, hoping for a third of that in three weeks.)
I’m a niche publisher. A few years back my firm hit a bulls-eye designing, creating, and selling standard operating procedures manuals for dentists. Now we create and sell books to K-12 administrators: mostly principals, superintendents, school board members, and teachers. Flossing was pretty much what I knew about dentistry at the earlier incarnation, and avoiding the grumpy old dudes who ran schools was my gift as a kid. How the niche publishing came about is another blog, or several—go to the search box on this blog and write “niche publishing” and you can read what I’ve said so far. Or read my book: Niche Publishing: Publish Profitably Every Time.
The bottom line is that I don’t write education (or dental) books: I get first-rate leaders (preferably already speaking widely in their field) who are experts about the target topics. They are the heroes. They share their hard-earned well of knowledge—in writing. (I have had 46 books published that I did write, but that’s a different, and concurrent, life!)
Here the expert is my younger brother, Jim, and these are his fifth and sixth books for me. Why him? I can’t find anybody else with more experience, ideas, and recognition among other superintendents, principals, and teachers, nor anybody who has also given so many key speeches to conferences, conventions, academies, … Anyway, he’s a lot of fun, disciplined, and full of reliable genes, good ideas, and true stories…
But here’s what’s up now. Jim wrote two books that I want to sell simultaneously: The Art of School Boarding: What Every School Board Member Needs to Know and The School Principal’s Toolbook. (We try to make our titles so clear that a buyer knows what’s inside before lifting the cover, so I hope these too are self-explanatory.) They are dynamite books but running two separate selling campaigns costs money—and we think one campaign makes giant sense.
Here’s the most important item on the card:
Our buying target is the SUPERINTENDENT, who is chosen by the Board and chooses the principals! If the other two don’t work, he or she doesn’t either, at least for long. The rest of the postcard explains the books, shows the covers, summarizes the tables of contents in key words, soothes the super’s soul in three paragraphs each of selling prose, all leading to four wee questions, “(Do you) want to review a free ebook copy (of one or both books)? … read testimonials? … check the author’s credentials? … or order copies, with the usual discounts?” Then it politely sends the mesmerized 12,200 superintendents (a large percentage of all of them in the U.S.) to www.meetingk-12needs.com for the rest, to decide and close the deal. (Go ahead: you needn’t be a superintendent to be curious—although admittedly there are a lot of curious superintendents!)
So that’s why I asked in the headline, “Can we sell two new books by using 12,200 jumbo postcards?
Here are the images on the (two) sides of the postcard:
We don’t know. The cards hit the mail yesterday. Here’s what it looked like, scanned to blog size. I’ll report back right here every three weeks or so. It might be a pinch slow at first because the dust is still settling from the Easter break. The honchos are probably still trying to find their stray kids.
But I can share one thing now: what I had to do to put the jumbo postcard together and get the offer in flow.
1. Think up a way to sell two very different books to three school chiefs at once. Does it make sense? Was the superintendent the right target? Will I starve my wife, kids, and myself to death?
2. Find a reliable, current, affordable mailing list of superintendents. Google first, limit it to four, and call and let them (quickly) sell their wares and virtues to me.
3. Find a fast, reliable printer who is comfortable with jumbo cards and can also sync the mailing (I send the list) and provide inexpensive small adjustment art tweaks, if necessary.
4. Find a card (or graphics art) designer (or design it yourself if you are experienced) and get the copy, changes, colors, and the rest pulled together on time.
5. Find the money and distribute it gratefully when everybody does what you want—preferably, far better than you imagined.
6. Get my website up-to-date, and go through the link lines the buyers will visit so it’s all current, easy to follow, and delay-free. Like the supermarket, don’t slow the buyer down but be sure he/she at least sees your other products and services along the way.
7. Plan the fulfillment. Get the free ebook email ready; write thank-you model replies to your lucky customers; find envelopes, bags, or boxes for shipping; set up a meter mail system with the post office; get tape and all the incidentals; listen to your phone message and make it clear and relevant; set up an invoicing system for direct purchases (usually for purchase orders); double-check your shopping cart process (if used); line up helpers if needed, and lay in enough book stock to cover the initial surge, with a fall-back five-day POD replenishment lever ready to pull if good fortune gushes in.
That’s it. “Cross” is the word of the day. My fingers are crossed—or my banker will be cross. See you soon.
Here’s how that works.
Let’s say that you have written a book that is 240 body-copy pages long, excluding the front matter, table of contents, bio, and index.
Let’s also say that before you wrote the book you created an outline. That outline included an intro/explanation chapter, four systems chapters (each including a different concept and example), and a roll-out chapter that took the four concepts and told how they would work with other information dissemination means, either individually or by working together.
That sounds kind of vague, doesn’t it? Here’s an example that might be easier to envision. (I plan my books first, then write.) Its title is How to Sell 75+ of Your Freelance Writing Almost All of the Time.
While the book’s contents aren’t related to this blog, its Table of Contents below shows where the six ebooks might come from. It also shows how all of the book(s)—a major paperback of 240+ pages and six ebooks, each from a chapter or section of that paperback—should multiply your total earning power with only about 50-75% more time spent in the ebooks’ preparation, rather than 600% that six books might suggest.
Here’s a tentative Table of Contents of my coming book:
How to Sell 75+ of Your Freelance Writing Almost All of the Time
1. Why just sell your writing (idea) once? Why not sell it again and again, then once more—and once again…?
2. Magazines and Newspapers: two magic systems with lots of sales in each
3. Books: sell the original in 11 different formats and each of those in six ebooks
4. Niche Publishing: where the gold is hiding in book publishing
5. Topic-spoking: one idea exploded, then filtered through the hungriest buyers
6. The roll-out: once the copy exists, why not make a lot more money from the idea by six other non-print information dissemination means?
It never happens that the 240 pages of your paperback’s content are evenly divided into six equal sections of 40 pages each. But my first thought is six books of 40 pages each. (I call these shorties wee ebooks.)
Still, 40 pages to me seems small, and once the six topics are separated from each other and pulled apart, they could easily be expanded into 50 or 60 pages apiece (perhaps by adding an additional example or two in each book). It’s your choice. You can make your wee ebooks as long as you want; they are your books and length isn’t anti-environmental or anti-anything, as long as the copy and concepts are tight and professional.
You might take the six chapters in my book above, extract each, and massage it into a stand-alone small book. It can include the same examples (or different ones) and almost the same prose as the original book. Just prune out links, references, and extraneous resources if they aren’t about this specific topic. Refer to the big book a couple of times, where appropriate, just as you would other books or support data. Also, include information about the big book and all of the other five wee ebooks on a page or so in or near the resources in the back.
After all, you’re publishing this wee ebook in part to direct its readers to good, related information and guidance in your big (or mother) book. So make its existence obvious, but don’t overdo it. The other reasons you are making it available are that (1) it confines itself to a specific subject offered in an easy-to-use, inexpensive edition, (2) it puts more published books in your featherchest, which can be very important if you wish to display your expertise in the topic and to speak about it, (3) it pays you additional money for your having shared clear, usable information—without huge amounts of energy and for very little additional expense.
How might this multiply your earnings? You will promote the big book, so it will bring in an usual book’s expected sales income. You can also promote the other five wee ebooks at the same time (since each book’s title must be different or you will drive sellers and buyers nuts), and that will pick up more buyers. The two books will excite different clientele at different buy levels.
Let’s say that you will sell your paperback at $17.95 (also test $19.95 and $24.95). And that you will sell each of the six wee ebooks at $3.99 each (though run it as a special now and then at $2.99). And, as mentioned, you will also promote the other six books in each of these books. So, for example, if you sell the wee ebook about Magazine and Newspaper selling, its readers may also be interested in another wee ebook, say about Books. And if they see that they now have a third (two slightly modified chapters) of the big book, they may well then buy the big book too—or recommend it to friends based on the solid content and writing quality of the wee books they have already read.
Another point: consider issuing the wee book as both an ebook and a paperback. Or test just one in both formats to see if there is more interest in having it in one form or the other. (In my field I find that writers usually want print-on-paper books rather than ebooks, so it would indeed be worth my testing both formats.)
And also that you will focus on the social media to promote the wee ebooks as much as the big book, plus of course list all of the books as widely as you can through the “open” publishers.
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.