Author of Self-Publishing Manual, Dan Poynter, has died...

The author of the best-selling Self-Publishing Manual, Dan Poynter, has died. We were “in the trenches” writing friends and I already miss him, in part because it was Dan’s turn to buy lunch. So will thousands more whose lives he touched and changed. He had been quite ill for a while, seemed to be improving, but, instead, Dan passed away a few days back.

Poynter wrote almost 100 books but he was best known for his Self-Publishing Manual, now in its 14th edition. Many of us exploring the hinterlands of “doing-it-ourselves” publishing, with our starter books (rarely sought, even more rarely bought), pounding away on clunky typewriters and wading in rubber cement, wandering through the last days of the past century, when up popped his how-to gift. The SPM was a light from heaven. It answered questions we didn’t even know we should ask. As Dan learned more, the book kept getting better and bigger. In short order his grateful fans, hat in hand, too often bruised by the titans from Gotham and other bookstore bulk buyers, turned his manual into a huge seller…

Dan was a close friend of mine for lots of decades. We’re a few weeks apart in age (he would never admit it), I lived about 20 miles away, and we seemed to wander into the same ersatz gatherings and adventures, befriending many of the same odd people, and we quietly joined the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA)—Dan helped birth it—and the National Speakers Association (NSA).

He was a tall, quiet fellow who gave freely of his knowledge. Many know that he was President of the Parachutists Assn as well. He joked that he married the thrill of descent (he was a life-long bachelor), and was faithful to the end.

In fact, rather than using his law training Dan set up and ran a loft in Oakland. His publishing career (and life) started when he couldn’t find a book about parachute knotting that his clientele needed, to get licensed. “I knew as much about publishing as some poor soul tapping rubber trees for a living,” he told me. So he contacted every company however involved with knotting and made copies of the diagrams and instructions they sent back, pulled them into a $40 three-ring instruction manual, wrote the conjunctive copy, then bought a dandy house near Goleta (Santa Barbara) from the profits. It overlooked the Pacific Ocean east of the UC Santa Barbara. From his front porch you could see the only American mainland target attacked by the Axis in World War II, an oil tank sighted by the misdirected Japanese Navy.

I first met him at a free lunch where Xerox was showing their brand new copiers to a bevy of hungry writers (becoming publishers). We passed on the street a couple of times but we didn’t really meet again until he tried to kill himself (inadvertently, he claims) by falling 100+ feet straight down and almost impaling himself on a volleyball net pole on East Beach. He had written (or was writing) a book about Parasailing (or was it Paragliding? He also wrote a pile of other weird books). There was a slack in the tow rope and he found himself stalled in midair! Alas, the pause was miraculously timed–a gaggle of bone doctors taking a break from a convention happened to be playing volleyball when he dropped in on them! He was nearly killed. A few days later, in the weakest voice hearable, he called and asked if I’d take his newest book to the ABA in Los Angeles the next week. I did (when I found out what the ABA was), and that started a long string of lunches, Gold Coast meetings (a sort-of branch of NSA), and so on…

Dan had a sense of humor, much of it hoarded internally. He didn’t have time (or much patience) for editing would-be books sent for his help by adoring fans. He threatened to farm them all off to me, and rarely he couldn’t help himself: I would get a DOA bundle (with a spine) in the mail with a note daring me to make sense and save the soul of the hapless scribe of the offending manuscript. The note usually mentioned that I was the only person who could get the author in print since the bundle was so much like my own books!

A final story. Dan gave weekend gatherings for book creators at his palace. The couple of times I spoke there he would hold up one of my early books and tell the attendees that it was certainly not how to design your own cover–and that he had bought a couple of copies of the book so he wouldn’t run out of such a pitiful display. I told him I was hunting for some hole in one of his books, the table of contents lost in the index, upside-down chapters, or something equally egregious for revenge. But I never found anything out of place–and now he’s left before me and the fun is gone.

Dan Poynter was a smart fellow and already is a much missed friend.

Gordon Burgett




The most important / most profitable reason to self-publish

I enjoy and learn a lot from Bob Bly’s frequent missives. (See www.bly.com). We sort of walk and work the same side of the street regarding professional writing and publishing, and we both agree on the importance of strategizing first, then following up with processes that work.

So the other day when Bob offered five reasons or situations where self-publishing should seriously be considered, I found myself nodding and uttered an aging “yep” at every point.

Alas, I had an extra “yep” unuttered, so I thought it fair in this blog to add number six to the list. We agree that self-publishing (1) can be a means of getting your words in print, (2) it will let you can control your tome’s contents and design, (3) if you can market well, by self-publishing you can sidestep the big-house foot-dragging, (4) when your book is complementary to your greater purpose of displaying your expertise (as, for example, using your book to secure related speaking engagements), or (5) when self-publishing is the best (and perhaps only) way to get your words and ideas past the older, established houses so potential readers and buyers have a chance to see and decide about the merits of your independent offering.

The missing reason–the unuttered “yep”–for me trumps the other five. I think that self-publishing and niche publishing are potentially the two halves of a golden egg.

In fact, they have walked hand in hand long before “open” publishing made it possible for any writer to ignore the major houses and see their work in print. Many did  profitably self-publish long ago, like Dickens, Twain, and General Roberts (of Roberts’ Rules of Order). But when the focus swung from books for general markets (risky indeed) to tightly targeted or niche markets, and pre-testing (usually through direct mail testing) allowed the publisher to define the specific buyer demand, then self-publishing let the niche publisher create publications with finely honed titles tailored to pin-point targets. It became a potentially risk-free investment since the publisher would then be able to print the number of books needed to satisfy that predetermined need.

We’re not in disagreement here since Bob sells solid products about niche publishing and my Niche Publishing–Publish Profitably Every Time also extols (and explains) the “how’s” of niching and pre-testing. I simply wanted to remind my readers that niche publishing continues to be a lucrative path (I think the most lucrative) in the grove of self-publishing.

Incidentally, blogs being structured as they are, I probably have 40 or 50 related blogs about “niche publishing” hiding right behind these words for further perusal, if interested. Just type “niche” or “niche publishing” (no quote marks) in the SEARCH box above and Word Press will kindly stack them up for you to read. (Since in my mind niche publishing and empire building can be almost synonymous, you are invited to check “empire building” too!)

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett




Trees and Kids (from Teachers Change Lives 24/7)

Teachers Change Lives 24/7

Teachers Change Lives 24/7

[I’m a publisher and I read all the mail that our readers send. Sometimes (not very often) we have a story or a section of a book that brings lots of spontaneous letters of joy and praise from readers. “Trees and Kids” is the hands-down winner. It’s by Jim Burgett in his 2007 book (in its fifth printing) called 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.




Find a new, streamlined website domain among 600 choices!

Trying to find a grabber website domain ending in “.com” that contains less than an arm’s length of letters is a near-fruitless treasure hunt. You probably can’t use “.org” and will anybody come if it ends in “.net”?

The hunt is over. Last February, the ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), an international non-profit charged with overseeing the Internet’s infrastructure, modestly opened the namegates for website owners. Its 600-some new web domains are dramatically changing the face of the Internet by providing more tailored domains beyond examples like “.com” and “.net”.

I’ll give some examples below. According to Ray King, CEO of Top Level Design, in bookbusinessmagazine.com, publishers (or anybody) can capitalize on the domain expansion to make their websites and products more accessible to readers (by adapting) secure, short, and succinct web URLs that are specific to their work or aims.

These new gTLDs are not limited to publishers. Any person or firm can get one of these new URLs.

Instead of best businesspracticesinorthopedicdentistry.com, a mouthful, I might try bestorthopedicbusinesspractices.dentistry—which, as I read it, is about as bad. Here are much better examples. Children Slay Monsters.com might be ChildrenSlayMonsters.book or ChildrenSlayMonsters.fiction.
Or perhaps Boiseflower.shop or stepmother.consulting?

You can check out the 600 new gTLDs at Go Daddy, enom, and Network Soultions. I used marcaria.com where you can also see a long list of choices, with annual costs. It’s first-come, first-served. Registrars will also “hold” a name for a yet-to-released extension so it’s yours when that happens.

Is anybody “big” doing this? Google itself applied to manage 101 new gTLDs.

Do annual fees vary? Of course. In my niche:

K-12schoolboard.expert costs $50
K-12schoolboardexpert.com is $13
K-12schoolboardexpert.us is $5.

Service might vary too. At least you want to use ICAAN-accredited domain registrars. According to Ray King in his recent blog “Publishers Can Boost Discoverability with Newly Released Web Domains,” you can also use other non-Latin script, like Arabic and Chinese.

Here are a few extensions already available that might interest self- or giant publishers: guide, report, institute, consulting, education, reviews, training, university, services, and book.

Will this distinguish your firm or improve your online outreach? Can you target your title better? Or can you reassure your clientele that you are almost kin in their niche? Check the list and play around with new combinations. A more streamlined, simpler name might be the key to the new you!

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett




The new Nook Press isn't an "open" publisher

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.




14 key ebook publishing tips

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




Submitting a final first draft manuscript to an editor…

Let’s say you have a super book, a novel or a dandy nonfiction winner, that you have shopped to a publisher—and to your horror they said “yes, get it in final form and send it to us.”

Or you have a book in final first draft form and you are having a firm prep the edition that you [or they] will publish.

In both cases, what do you do next?

I’m a niche publisher (and first-draft editor) and I’m often (including right now!) on the recipient side of this exchange (for nonfiction). To make this process as fast, amicable, and smooth as possible, here are some tips. They are what I tell/ask the writer to do—so we can all get to the pay line quicker!

1. I’ve already read all of your correspondence with our staff and I’ve seen all the writing you submitted, plus any advice or direction your particular editor sent to you, so please follow the suggestions you were sent. I will assume that will be the case unless you tell me otherwise.

2. We will exchange text in Word (though we will convert it to other software to print). So please send your work in .doc or .docx and also do all of your formatting in Word. Don’t convert to .pdf. Send your submissions to me as attachments, please. That will be chapters, the full book, or specific segments you are working on. Please use Times New Roman 12-point for all text, including titles, headings, or sub-heads. Indent every paragraph two marks (we will adjust that later). If you are using em dashes, no space before or after the em dashes. I will do the final layout after I have all of the first-draft text and artwork.

3. I am sending you a sample code list of how we want every mailing titled, so we can keep track as we go along. I will respond using the same title you send me.

4. Please insert a page number bottom center on every page beginning with the table of contents. The numbers should be consecutive. No headers or footers, and simply put “Chapter __” and its title below, then begin the copy in that chapter. Do not insert any artwork (charts, photos, anything) in the running text. Rather, insert a short description (like *** CHART ABOUT TEMPERATURE IN TIBET ***) about where it would most likely be in the book, with a space before and after the description. Continue with the book text.

5. I will send instructions soon about all artwork and photography. Focus now on submitting the text in final first-draft form.

6. Please submit your copy to me at the address above. While we are creating the final copy, if you wish to speak with other staff members during the time we are working together, email them directly and cc: me a copy. They will do the same with their response so I know what is happening as it’s happening.

7. Your copy to me will be clean (no tracking) and will be in page order. If there is missing text, write all of the copy that will appear in the book, then insert a missing-text explanation, like *** MISSING COPY CONTAINING ABOUT-TO-BE-RELEASED POLICE REPORT ***.

8. Remember, I am compiling your first draft text, not editing it at this stage (though, if the book is acceptable, it will be returned to you edited, with tracking. You will have an opportunity to make changes then with your content editor.

So your task now is to get your book written and in as final a form as your can make it. Nothing more will done to/with the book until we see the full text and know what artwork is needed and available.

If you have questions, please email me. (No calls, please, unless you have an emergency.) Ours is a print media (at least at this stage) and it works best for us to see the copy in print form. If what I’ve written above is understood and acceptable, just drop me an email OK—and get writing! We’re all eager to see your final words being sold by the pound. Better, by the ton!




12 little things that publishers should know

These are question answers from grizzled veterans during the opening Q-A part of the BAIPA meeting in Novato (near San Francisco) on 7/12. BAIPA is the Bay Area Independent Publishers Association, meeting in Novato the second Saturday of every month. Unfortunately, I didn’t write down who said what, so there goes the source! (But I’ve been a publisher since Franklin, B., and I think they are all true.)

1. How much text change do you need in an update or rewrite to require a new ISBN? 10%

2. How many profiles should you prepare for different media outlets? At least three: 140, 250, and 700 words

3. Must you get a licensing agreement if you use others’ photos in your published works? Probably. If they have appeared in other copyrighted venues, almost certainly. But not if it’s a selfie.

4. If you get a license to use a photo cover, what will that cover? Usually the first edition, US only, all formats (bound, digital, etc.). [Consider using www.fotolia.com]

5. If another person provides artwork or text for your book, how do you avoid the licensing problem? Hire them on a “work-for-hire” basis, stipulate that in the agreement, and pay them a fee. (See free forms on Google.)

5. If you use others’ printed text (from another copyrighted publication), how much can you use without getting their permission? You can use an extended quote, maybe 60 words. But if the words are from a song or poetry, four words. Titles excluded; they can’t be copyrighted. (Sometimes, rarely, they can be trademarked so look for the symbol.) Joel Friedlander (jfbookman@gmail.com) has a great book about Fair Use.

7. If you co-author, how much legal responsibility do you each have if you split the book’s worth and work? Duh, half.

(From here on, I think these came from Shari Weiss (at sharisax.com), the presenter, about social media.)

8. What’s a good balance for a visual/text presentation? 10 slides, 20 minutes, 30-point type.

9. What social media format gets seen most by other Internet users? Blogs.

10. What’s a good blog length? 250+ words.

11. How many blogs do you shoot for? At least 400. (Not one rewritten 400 times.)

12. What gets a lot more attention if added to each blog? (An image.)

Best wishes,

Godon Burgett




Are you selling your ebooks to libraries?

Last week this blog was the core item in my newsletter. I had so much response from it I’m sharing it as a (long) blog too.

Two questions: (1) Why would you even care about selling your books to libraries, much less their lower-priced digital versions? (2) And what’s so different about it anyway? Don’t you pretty much do the same thing you do to sell paperbacks (or even hardbacks)?

Let me touch first on (2), then explain the “why” of the problems later.

Selling bound books to libraries is easy enough because until now bound books have been their stock in trade. That’s what you see on the shelves, catalogued, labeled, checked out, and so on. If you have a professional looking book; it has a specific ISBN for the bound version; you look or approach them like you are serious; the book has substance, some purpose, maybe even some research) in it, and the acquisitions folk think their readership would (or should) at least check it out, they may buy it. (I deal in nonfiction books. I’m told that it is more difficult—sometimes impossible—to sell self-published fiction to libraries.)

But there are two markets where you usually have huge selling difficulties: schools (for anything) and the library if the book is in digital format (an ebook). And both are much harder yet if you are a one-book beginner band, or very small, or unknown, or new.

Let’s go back to (1) and focus on libraries.

Why do you want to sell to libraries? Because selling bound books to them, particularly now, can substantially help you keep your firm alive and growing. There are lots of libraries, they can be approached directly, and the discount they expect is modest or nil. (A sweetener to get the direct sale is to provide free shipping; then mail at the library rate, if you can figure it out and it still exists at sale time.)

We have used the IBPA (Independent Book Publishers Assn) public library mailing list for years. (They are the largest group of its kind in the U.S.) Alas, it’s now the Library Market E-Blast, but the targets are the same: 6 times a year they contact 5,000 qualified collection development librarians, and three times each year they contact the same number of (1) K-12 Libraries and (2) College Libraries. In each blast 15 titles are sent containing the book’s image (or cover), a description or key review, wholesale info, and a unique lead-generating link, plus another link to your website (where you can draw them to other publications you are selling).

It costs $199 and you must be an association member to participate, but the membership is an excellent investment and the ISBA publication, the Independent, is worth the cost alone. The blast goes to the largest, best buying libraries in the U.S. (many of which buy many dozens of copies for their branches). A general response rate is hard to evaluate but the mailing usually draws a 7-14% response (400-700 titles). They say that it is the most effective means currently used. They will gladly give you more details about the blast mailing.

We increase our sales by contacting library distributors, particularly Quality Books, and we also make the book available through Lightning Source (or Spark) and Barnes and Noble. The discount you give to distributors is much higher (about 55%). We post the names of all of our distributors on the IBPA flyer (and in-house fliers) so that libraries (or others) that prefer to buy from large distributors will place their orders there. (The distributors also do the one-by-one shipping!)

(An important aside: Don’t include fill-in lines or spaces in your library book, or ask the reader to somehow deface the book [like coloring or connecting the dots]. Once the lines or spaces are filled in, there’s nothing to do for subsequent users, so libraries won’t buy it. How do I know? After I had printed a fat batch of my How to Plan a Great Second Life masterpiece and sent copies to library distributors for a blessing and many sales, I was rather rudely informed that the book as is was unsalable to any library! Gulp. What did we do? Sold those printed books to bookstores and redesigned and reprinted a library edition, with its own ISBN, where we included some 15 pages of charts and fill-in plans, too small to fill in directly but each with a website link where the forms could be digitally copied at home, as often as they wished, and completed then.

Why is it almost impossible to even check out ebooks at libraries, much less get them to buy yours? Because the Big Six (or whatever the number is now in the current buyout flurry) just won’t sell or even rent them to libraries, thus they have nothing to lend to you. (Oddly, if you don’t sell through the huge houses you may still be able to strike up a local library deal. But don’t count on it.)

Here’s the best explanation that I’ve read about the mess. It’s from an E-Content Supplement (twice a year, this dated June 2014) from the American Library Assn (ALA).

** For starters, libraries have had lots of information in digital form for years, but when their users started asking to borrow ebooks they found that the ebooks weren’t available for purchase and lending. There was a business model muddle. Simply, five of the six largest publishers weren’t making their ebooks available to libraries under any terms. Until autumn 2011 only Random House and Penguin were making their ebooks available under the same terms as bound publications (perpetual ownership and reasonably priced). HarperCollins had just shocked all publishers when they changed their acquisition ebook terms by limiting the ebooks use to 26 circulations before the books had to be repurchased. Then all six pulled out, and most of the best sellers weren’t available under any terms at all!

The leaders of the ALA (and the AAP) met with the key publishers and found out that libraries and publishers lived in two different worlds. Much of the confusion centered on anti-trust laws. “As library leaders, we came from a world that generously shared success with one another. In the publishing world, sharing was at worst illegal and at best not a wise business practice,” said Molly Raphael in “EBooks” Getting There…But Not There Yet.” A small break came in the impasse when other groups besides publishers and aggregators began making ebooks available to libraries, like authors, author groups, agents, booksellers, and smaller publishers.

** It’s not as hard to sell ebooks in the school library market is the point of “School Library EBook Business Models.” The library/publisher relationship is more congenial too. The market is much more diverse, more centered (most items are bought for K-12 educational uses), much larger in sales than the library market, and the K-12 publishers aren’t the Big Six but rather smaller independent firms that work far closer with the school systems to survive. (My Education Communication Unlimited imprint is one of those K-12 niche specialists.)

I’m certain that most of you don’t sell in this venue, so rather than bore you, let me share the five different business models that make our marketing much stronger here: (1) unlimited simultaneous access, (2) one-to-one licenses, (3) pay-per-use rentals, (4) subscription services, and (5) online retailer platform models. Two more things are also involved in selling to K-12 buyers. Most of the successes are based on nonfiction books and there is more use of DRM.

** In Laura Clark’s “EBook Discovery: The library/publisher “sweet spot,” she talks more about libraries, publishers, and others in the ecosystem teaming up to find the best fit for their tastes.

Hers is a first-rate article that focuses on using the strengths of libraries themselves to determine and meet their own needs. That as brick-and-mortar stores disappear, the library becomes a physical space for discovery beyond the home and workplace. The library can be a magnet for ebook discovery and a distribution platform for helping authors self-publish… The article mostly broadens our awareness of how a library and its expert staff can help ensure that the right title finds the right reader at the right time—and how the considerable research expertise can help deepen and strengthen the research in the book.

** In “Beating the Odds: Building a Publishing Maker Culture,” Peter Brantley sees the library’s ebook position as improving, through persistence, p.r., and hard negotiating. But he sees the tremendous centralization of consumer traffic to platforms that want to monopolize the user ebook buying, like Apple, Google, and Amazon. He also sees strong selling from those who directly buy ebooks from niche vendors. “But integrating (your ebook selling) into library(ies) is not for the fainthearted.”

Brantley says our selling our bound wares is much harder because of the increasing trend to purchase goods online. If the physical bookstores fold (probably including Barnes & Noble) and the Big Six consolidate into a Big Two-and-a-Half, where will books get the number of visual impressions needed to create bestsellers?

On the other hand, our ability to ride the “open publishers” into free publishing and to emerge on Twitter, You Tube, and the rest opens huge opportunities for us. He stresses that big books can be restructured into shorter and probably more profitable novels, and those into novellas, and/or into serial segments. And that libraries can assume a pivotal role of local publisher-guide by creating community publishing initiatives that can integrate all book formats, bound and digital, into the larger library world.

Conclusion? We’re not selling our ebooks to libraries right now, particularly if we are being published by the big houses. But smaller publishers can get on library shelves, and my thought is that soon there will be grouping units that will do the linkage for us. If we rented our books by contract at $1/week or $1/borrower, a digital text widely used might zoom to the top of our income stream, without the books wearing out or having to be handled or shipped. So while a lot of what these articles suggest is discouraging right now, it’s likely that our ebooks will prevail. It gets back to marketing: we have to let libraries know that we have published something they need or want to know that is well written, looks professional, and is easy (and perhaps fun) to read. Library ebooks might ultimately (in a few years) become gilded providers.

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett




5 kinds of consulting (and mentoring) for nonfiction writers and publishers

I’ve been an editor and nonfiction consultant for writers and publishers for at least 20 years, so I was grateful when an association client asked me to break down in greater detail the kinds of consulting I do. I guess it was much clearer in my head than on my services data!

Then when I shared the result with some other writing consultant friends, they suggested that I share it as a blog. (I’m being blown by outside forces!) So here it is:

1. PRE-BOOK/PROJECT STRATEGIZING

With the author, I help identify the book’s purpose; create a full-range plan to guide its realization; decide the means of publishing; define the book’s benefits; design, construct, and help name the book, and let specific others (and the public) know that it exists, what it says differently, and why they must have it.

2. MID-BOOK MENTORING

With the author, I help guide the creation of a clear and logical book-building plan; find exceptional models; mold the facts, stories, and graphics to meet the book’s intentions and needs; stay on schedule; advise about the organization, style, layout, and cover, and oversee its legality, proofreading, and printing.

3. “COURT OF LAST RESORT” (Pre-Print) EDITING

After the last proof, just before the book is ready to print, I conduct a full-book review to see if or where specific attention (and modification) may be needed in the book’s design, layout, content, accuracy, adherence to its original purpose and plan, salability, integrity, clarity, reasoning, legal permissions, artwork, or other components vital to a professional publication.

4. POST-PRINT EXPANSION (From Book to Empire)

With the author, I help create a comprehensive plan to expand the content and related values of the book and its unique message and/or process(es) through other information dissemination means such as other books, booklets, white papers, audio and video formats, speaking, teaching, and consulting. Also, I help guide the creation and use of integrated marketing means now possible for fast, far-reaching transmission of the book’s contents.

5. SPOT MENTORING FOR NICHE BOOKS AND PRODUCTS

I assist the writers or producers of niche books and products at any phase of their niche publishing (including those above)–or through the entire project, from inception and pre-testing to completion. The niche process is fully explained in Niche Publishing: Publish Profitably Every Time!

For more details, call (800) 563-1454, check my website , or email me at glburgett@aol.com

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett