Nov
19
2014

Where self-publishing and ebooks stand in late 2014

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(1) “Ebooks have grown exponentially and reached a healthy balance by 11/14,” says Mark Coker, head of Smashwords in a no-nonsense delivery at BAIPA (Bay Area Independent Publishers Assn) on Nov. 8. Here is a much-abbreviated summary of Mark’s very enjoyable 10-point presentation. When Mark began Smashwords, about it 8 years ago, ebooks accounted for .5% of the books published. Today they are 35% of the U.S. total. But in the last year that growth has held steady at about 35%. That may represent a rough new balance between bound books and ebooks in the future.

(2) “The stigma of self-publishing is disappearing,” Mark feels. It’s no longer a sign of failure, a last resort, or a desperate “inch from evil.” The growth was led by romance writers, with Amanda Hawkins the pivotal figure, who first cracked the million-copy ebook threshold. “It’s best for all publishers if there’s a healthy selection of traditional and self-published books available for choice.” But Coker assured the audience that the indies have the flexibility to outsell, outcompete, and underprice the big traditional producers.

(3) Writers earn a much healthier bite of the royalties by indie publishing, 60-80% of the list price, versus about 25% net royalties (12-17% of the price) of the traditional houses.

(4) “The big (traditional houses) just don’t understand self-publishing.” They couldn’t make money from writers, so they had to fleece them. They turned to vanity press, like Author Solutions (bought by Penguin), and then give bad, over-priced service to those they otherwise wouldn’t let publish at the top level. “They should just abandon the vanity approach,” say Coker.

(5) The democratization of the publishing tools is what freed the indies from having to use the overpriced, underpaid, and tortugian-produced big-press book process. Indies today have full access to presses, have much freer and faster promotion venues, can change prices in minutes, and can play with pre-ordering, free copies, two-for-one, and many more means to put their printed products in others’ hands.

(6) “Keep your eye on the ebook subscription services,” Mark advised, “like Oyster and Scribd where anybody can pay $10 or so to read any book in their catalog—and those book publishers with the catalog products are paid as if the whole book was sold if a small percentage is actually read. Amazon also has a form of this through Kindle Unlimited but the model isn’t very friendly because you must give them exclusivity of use and Kindle pays a much smaller percentage from a pool, which seems to be about $1.50 a read.

(7) Mark discussed the new court decision between Amazon and Hachette. The decision revolves around the agency model. Let me pass on this because the decision is so new that the dust hasn’t cleared sufficiently to see who won, who lost, and how it will affect indies (like us). See future blogs here and elsewhere for emerging clarifications.

(8) Ebooks are going mobile. Lots of selling abroad. Apple iBooks sell 45% of their eproducts overseas.

(9) Mark got a laugh when he said that he had read that “self-publishing creates a tsunami of dreck.” He agreed that lots of self-publishing books are mediocre in appearance but he felt, overall, there is “more high quality content in books than ever before.”

(10) Yet selling books is getting harder. Now there’s a glut of high quality print and it is harder to reach readers. Add to that that the growth in books is outstripping the readership, and folks read less in part because of the many other was to learn and be entertained. There are fewer major publishers, fewer agents, and lower advances in the traditional arena. “But don’t despair: ebooks are immortal, they sit there waiting to be found forever. And right now there has never been a better time to publish, when there are more world readers than ever before.”

———-

I must remind blog readers about an overlooked element of self-publishing that largely circumvents the usual paths but uses all the now-available presses—and can be pre-tested for title, author, theme, price, and format before a word is written or a page published. That is the niche field, which is always begging for more tightly-focused books and where the selling price is largely determined by how well the book answers one critical question or defines a new process (or an old process done in a new way). As many of you know, this is my area of specialization so let me send you to a list of related products that might help you explore this indie and traditional field.

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

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Nov
12
2014

The new Nook Press isn’t an “open” publisher

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Nook Press just announced its new paperback and hardback print service. Its features look similar to those of “open” publishers, like Create Space, Kindle, Smashwords, and others (including Nook ebooks). But here you simply build your book, prep the files, and upload the print-ready PDFs for the interior and cover. They print the book and can have it in your hands in a week. (Maximum order is 125 copies, but you can get many orders simultaneously.) A 200-page paperback (black/white interior, 6×9, on white paper) will cost $4 apiece, plus tax and shipping. But that’s it. They don’t sell it to others. What you do with the printed book is up to you. (Nor is there a discount for larger orders. “We hope to offer it in the future.”)

Just don’t confuse this with the “open” publishing full services where the book is produced, then sold by the publisher and/or through other distributors, as Nook itself does for ebooks. This new Nook Press service ends with the printing, period. According to Amanda at NOOK Press, “The NOOK Press print platform creates print books for personal use. The eBook platform creates digital books to put on sale through NOOK and BN.com. The NOOK Press print platform program is for you to print books for your personal use, and does not include selling those books through Barnes & Noble stores or BN.com. You may sell the books you print on your own, however.”

If interested, check the details. Looks straightforward enough. I’m eager to see the end product.

But I am also a bit bewildered why I would have my book just printed if I could get it printed by the “open” publishers at (about) the same cost and put on the market for sale, and then they would send me royalties (even if they are modest and arrive slowly). Maybe the print-only folks don’t want others to see or have their book. I suppose there’s nothing wrong with that, though it seems a hard way to share your genius or be rewarded for the sharing.

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

P.S. I explain the “open” publishing process, mostly the prep and submission procedures, in How to Get Your Book Published Free in Minutes and Marketed Worldwide in Days.

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Nov
11
2014

14 key ebook publishing tips

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Mark Coker started Smashwords when a quarter of 1% of U.S. books sold were ebooks. Now it’s 35% of the total, and he’s a top spokesman in the field. Last year Smashwords authors sold ebooks worth $30-million at retail.

Last Saturday (11/8/14) Coker spoke to BAIPA (Bay Area Independent Publisher Association) in Novato, CA (near and north of San Francisco). It was the third time I’ve heard Mark. He’s honest, straightforward, and current—and, blessedly, a good speaker. So let me summarize the 14 steps he shared with the large gathering. Incidentally, I too distribute ebooks through Smashwords (plus Kindle, Nook, Book Baby, and others).

Mark also mentioned a free book that gives greater details about these tips and ebook marketing in general, so I read it this morning. Excellent. Go to Smashwords and look for Mark’s free books in the opening dashboard page, left column where it says Publish Secrets Ebook… Download The Secrets to Ebook Success, with the 30 best practices–then ignore it at peril!

Here’s the summary:

1. WOW your readers with super awesome books. Become evangelists of your subject; make your writing unlimited excellence.

2. Write more books, better each time.

3. For incremental advantage, use “best practices.” Do 100 things right, including professional editing, professional cover design (“the highest impact you can get for the lowest cost”), and pre-orders. (See the free book above.)

4. Connect with community partners.

5. Whether you publish traditionally, are a hybrid, or self-publish, be the best person you can: nice (respect and integrity), honest (trustworthy), ethical, humble, in charge of your own future.

6. Time is all you have—spend more of it writing and imagining. Focus on what’s unique about you. And get helpers for non-strategic actions.

7. Take lots of little risks, experiment, fail often (using each failure as a teaching moment).

8. Be delusional, think too grand, be out of touch.

9. Embrace those who doubt you and have no idea what you do. They are simply clueless.

10. Help others and celebrate other authors’ success.

11. Past success doesn’t equate future success. Bank your profits.

12. Never quit.

13. Dream big. Aim high. You must believe in yourself.

14. Know that your writing is important. It’s your contribution to humanity.

Good stuff. No puffery. (I’ll summarize the rest of Coker’s presentation in another blog here later this week.)

I also explain the submission process at Smashwords (and at other open publishers) in How to Get Your Book Published Free in Minutes and Sold Worldwide in Days.)

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

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Oct
31
2014

An extraordinary school principal? Follow these 20 steps…

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Administrative Priorities: Be Visible

If I were to list the things that make the biggest difference between an adequate administrator and an excellent one, visibility would be near the top of the list. But it must be positive and meaningful visibility. The principal or administrator that works behind a desk, hides from human contact, and runs the ship from the bridge, seldom to be seen by the sailors, is far less supported or appreciated than the captain who knows the names of the crew members and knows how hard they work… because their captain is with them.

Want to be appreciated? Then appreciate. Want people to work for you? Then work for them. When they see your car in the lot when they get to work and they see you in the halls greeting, meeting, steering, advising, and helping, you become someone to admire and appreciate. Not everyone’s job description allows them to do the things that I am suggesting but if you can relate to any of the following, then consider implementing them, if you don’t already.

1.   Speak to everyone on your staff at least three times a week—more if you can.

2.  Walk through classrooms as frequently as possible. Try for every other day. Greet and speak to staff and students but try not to be disruptive.

3.  Eat with staff members or students. If this isn’t possible, visit them during lunch for a minute or two.

4.  Keep a book with a separate page for every employee. Keep it updated with data such as family members, events in their lives, home addresses, and notes from your last visit. This keeps you up-to-the-minute with things you should remember, plus things they will appreciate.

5.  When a tragedy happens to employees (the loss of a spouse, a house fire, the death of close relative, an accident, or the like), write it in your book and put it on your calendar one year from the time it happened. Put a card on their desk before school starts on the anniversary that simply states you are thinking about them.

6.  Greet visitors personally. Ask the office to buzz you when a new parent arrives or a new citizen comes for a visit. A personal greeting means a lot. Follow it up with a thank-you note.

7.  Be at a door at special events to welcome folks, but never “post” yourself at the same door for the same length of time. Why? Because people will expect you to be there and if you aren’t they will think you are absent.

8.  Send lots of notes, emails, or texts to staff members for a job well done. An example would be to the cook for great lasagna at lunch, or to the coach after a tough loss at a well-played game with good sportsmanship, or to a teacher when you saw kids engaged and learning. Short notes, not evaluations, make a difference.

9.  If you see someone who needs correction, do it, but if it requires a discussion, make it personal and private.

10. Congratulate whomever deserves it whenever you can.

11.  Carry a digital camera in your pocket and take pictures, then share them.

12.  Smile a lot. Be positive.

13.  Discipline when needed.

14.  Carry a clipboard or something visible like a cell phone, to take notes when people ask you questions or want an answer.

15.  Follow up on questions. Provide answers ASAP. Keep a record.

16.  Go to see someone rather than sending an email, text, or message.

17.  Pick up trash, wipe off marks, be a visible owner and protector of the property.

18.  Pat kids on the back; staff too. Shake hands. Be friendly.

19.  Have fun. Be fun. Make school fun.

20.  Love your job and show everyone how much.

From The School Principal’s Workbook by Jim Burgett. See Chapter 2, “Setting Priorities.”

Details at www.meetingk-12needs.com.

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Oct
20
2014

Top Ten Strategies for Developing an A+ Board of Education

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The Art of School Boarding

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.

—————————-

Information about The Art of School Boarding: What Every School Board Member Needs to Know

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 gordonlee10@aol.com. The bound book is also available through Create Space. Ebook versions can be bought through Kindle, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.

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Oct
10
2014

Niche books are very profitable. How are their authors chosen?

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I publish to niche markets, in my case to K-12 school administrators. All of those who write books for my firm must have a specific field of expertise of interest (and meet needs of) K-12 school administrators. Two examples, our two latest books, are The Art of School Boarding: What Every School Board Member Needs to Know and The School Principal’s Toolbook. Our book titles tell the kind of knowledge (and expertise) the author is sharing.

Before we ask an author to publish with us we know that they are the best expert we can find about their topic. The author tells us what of their expertise our niche members will pay to read about; that is, what buyers’ needs their book will help the buyer meet. Together, we write a title that tells in one short line what their book is about, and from it we create a book description that explains more fully what the book will cover and what benefits they will receive from buying (and applying) the book’s message and processes. Finally, we develop a tentative table of contents so that everything important is covered in a sensible order.

The writer then writes their book, we edit it (in collaboration with them), they rewrite what needs redoing, we have it proofed, we edit a last time, and out comes the book.

I mention the process because we have a second and equally important selection criterion for the writer: that they have experience speaking to the niche, are an association member, and expect to regularly offer major presentations built around the book and their expertise to the niche. A logical extension is that their listeners will want to buy their book after hearing their presentations. (We also encourage them to write articles based on their book for association newsletters, journals, or related venues.)

We want to help our authors build their own expertise “empires,” and we hope that the book that we jointly create is the foundation of that growth.

The reason for this blog? How do we select or reject authors is a frequent question asked when I speak about niche publishing, so I hope the information above shares some insight into our firm’s procedure.

We also pre-test our niche books so we know, before the books are written and printed, an approximate number of bound books we will sell, the price (or range) that buyers will pay, and if the title is acceptable. How that’s done requires much more detail and examples. The best source is my Niche Publishing: Publishing Profitably Every Time. Other related material can be found here.

Best wishes,

Gordon BurgettThe Art of School Boarding

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Sep
26
2014

Sample newspaper releases for a public seminar (#12 of 12)

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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.)

Item 1:

NEWS RELEASE

HAROLD SMITH
Communication Unlimited
P.O. Box XXX, Novato, CA 94947
Email gordon@gordonburgett.com
Web site www.gordonburgett.com
(800) XXX-1454

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:

NEWS RELEASE

“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.

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett (or is it Harold Smith?)

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Sep
14
2014

5-step guide to seminar speaking success (#11 of 12)

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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.)

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

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Aug
30
2014

Querying magazine editors in late 2014

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Here’s the scenario. You have a great idea that you think X magazine’s readers would love to read about on its pages. But you don’t know the editor and you don’t know how to break the ice or make the suggestion. What do you do in what order?

Things haven’t changed much in the past decade–and everything has changed! I’ve had way more than 1,700 articles in print, maybe half in magazines, scattered over the past 40+ years, including recently, so here’s what I’d do (and do) right now.

There’s a gatekeeper for every magazine. It’s usually the managing editor (or for smaller publications, the editor). Go to Writer’s Market 2014 (it’s an annual so find the newest edition). Check your library; since it’s a reserved book you will have to use it there. If the magazine is listed, it will tell you to whom you query: name, title, address. Unless it says to query by email (and gives that address), you will have to snail mail the first time.

While you are there, read everything it says about the publication: its wants or hates, article length, slant, lead time. Those are the parameters within which you will query–and write. If you want to write about skiing in Saudi Arabia and it says it only circulates in the United States, don’t try to set new paths. Query elsewhere, I guess.

What if the Writer’s Market doesn’t include your target magazine? Go to Google and see if the publication has a website that gives you roughly the same information. If that’s a no-go, you might write or call the magazine and explain that you’d like to query the articles editor and do they have a format or information sheet about how that’s done that you can read or they might mail? If all else fails, get a couple of recent copies of the magazine (see if the library can get them through interlibrary loan), find the articles closest to your idea, and do the best you can to ferret out what you think the editor may use…

Then you need to send a query letter, preferably a page long but two maximum, that introduces you (very briefly) and asks the editor if he/she would be interested in an article about… Don’t beg, don’t plead. The best frame of mind is that the editor has only one need you can help meet: providing accurate, interesting, exciting, and tightly written copy to delightfully fill his/her pages (soon). Write at least two dynamite paragraphs about the topic that make it obvious why the magazine’s readers would shriek with delight if your whole article was on its pages. In your query, in a few sentences, also tell about your publishing background. If none, say nothing. Or list articles in publications as close to the same topic or theme as the target editor’s publication.

Don’t forget that the editor can tell a lot about your writing skill and savvy by the very way you write the query letter. If words are missppelled, you sound goofy, your topic paragraphs are flatter and duller than a brown lawn, or you tell the editor exactly how long the piece will be or how much you expect to be paid (and when), you aren’t getting through that publisher’s gate. (The average article length is usually in the WD write-up, as is a payment range; let the editor address both in the response if they will differ much. Don’t worry about digital use or copyright here, or much at all.

Also, don’t tell the editor what his/her readers want or need or what you would include if you were the editor. Surprisingly, editors have a survivor’s grasp of their readers’ wants and needs. And you aren’t the editor. Rather, a solicitor with hat in hand.

Write a letter like one you would want to receive, tight, pleasant, suggesting an article idea that will make the editor’s task better performed, and one that answers all of the immediate questions that the editor has: are you sane, how do you know about the topic, were you there or part of it, do you bring special insight to the field, who will you interview, are you yet to visit the locale (and when can you have the copy in the editor’s hands–figure six weeks after you are back), and so on.

Be sure to include your name, address, email link, and phone number. If you snail mail, include a stamped, self-addressed envelope for a reply. Yes, I know it’s old fashioned and the editor will probably return the envelope, stamps unused, and email you, but protocol is important.

Make your idea so appealing and clearly explained it would be hard for the editor to say no. (Alas, they often figure out how to do it anyway.) Be an articulate nice guy or gal eager to help. Also look at and follow the explanation about query letters in the Writer’s Market.

Finally, query one editor at a time about each idea. You can find half a dozen other, distinct ideas in the same realm and query other magazines, one each, simultaneously. And when one or several editors are so enraptured with your writing and subject that, in a mad moment, they say “yes, let me see it,” write each what your query to them promised. (Then sell second rights, and rewrites too. But those are other blogs.)

Keep at it.

Gordon Burgett

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Aug
15
2014

Creating successful seminar brochures (#10 of 15)

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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:

WHO:
program sponsors
audience definition
speaker identification
planning/advisory committee

WHAT:
title (and subtitle) of program
overview
schedule of activities
titles of presentations
description of presentations

WHEN:
date(s) and time(s) of program

WHERE:
location of program

WHY:
program benefits
special features

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.

Best wishes,

Gordon BUrgett

www.gordonburgett.com / Communication Unlimited, 185 Shevelin Rd., Novato, CA 94947/ (800) 563-1454.

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