How and why you should niche publish your book!

Niche_CoverThe rationale and process are explained in the 21 free blogs listed below. All are found at this site.

The first six blogs explain what “niche publishing” is and why every publisher (and every expert of any stripe) should be running to get in line before the others catch on!

So you can quickly pick the information that you most want to know about “niche publishing,” here is a concise summary of its benefits.

If you “niche publish” rather than publish “the regular way” you could…

* earn far more money, much faster, with nary a nick of risk!

* you’ll never have to compete with big-house publishers,

* you’ll never have to sell through bookstores, and

* from the topic you select you could create your own very profitable, life-long empire—with YOU the empress or emperor. By expanding your sphere of buyers, the benefits of your book and message will continue to multiply your appeal, which will continue to bring you more money even faster—

 

“Niche publishing” (and “niche marketing”) aren’t magic. But they bring two huge benefits that standard publishers can’t provide.

The first is pre-testability. That means that before you write or print a page of your book, you can pre-test it to see (1) if that book will sell enough copies (that is, the rough number of copies that will be bought and by whom), (2) if the title works, and (3) if you chose the right problem to solve or needs to be met, the right benefit(s) to promise, a persuasive table of contents, and the right author. If the test results yell “GO!”—go. If not, retest until you get the right pre-test response. Or write another book, then build your empire around that book. (The cost of the test? $500-600? Under $1,000. If you as a niche publisher using the self-publishing process expect to receive $100,000 gross from your book sale; $50,000 net; and the test may cost 1-2% of returns. If the test is no-go, that’s a 2% risk. Take that bet every time!)

The second benefit is that your niche book can be the core product of an empire that can triple your book income every year, and multiply that again from spin-off or related books, MP3s, videos, seminars, speeches, reports, consulting, and classes that you can offer or sponsor to your eager book buyers and their colleagues. Why? Because your book, targeted specifically to those buyers, proves that you’re an expert in their field, that you and your guidance can solve their problems and fix their frustrations. Why wouldn’t they rush to buy more good stuff from you in book #2 or through a dozen other empire-linked ways once you have proven that what you say or show works as promised?

So that’s where two elements linked to this blog play key roles.

In 2008 I published a book called Niche Publishing: Publish Profitably Every Time. See www.nichepublishing.org for full details and the book’s table of contents. That book has sold out in four different renditions, and the paperback issue is still unavailable (unless Amazon is selling old copies of it and keeping the royalties.)

Eureka! The original, last version is still alive in digital format. It’s available for $7. We offer it, instantly downloadable, at www.gordonburgett.com.order3.htm.

I’ve offered 100+ four-hour seminars about niche publishing and have had the opportunity to hear every question, challenge, and suggestion about the process. I still remain convinced that, done as suggested, it is still the best process (with the least risk, if any) and the fastest and safest way for self-publishers to enter the field and reap the rewards.

Alas, while here are many “empires,” as I call them, prospering today, it’s more difficult to tie them directly to the emergence of one book and one gutsy, hard-working emperor or empress drawing their buyers to the empirical central theme.

What I see more often is a speaker emerging from a topic field with a new idea or process and a following drawn from attendees at their seminars, keynote speeches, or breakout sessions. Somewhat less obvious is the leader’s book that serves as the central focus of the unique message the “leader” comes to represent. But what stays as the binding tool as that “empire” takes form is the book, and spin-offs from it, that continue to give substance and breadth to the person and their idea. The point: empires are usually built from a book’s foundation.

Final points.

If niche publishing seems to fit your path of development, the one element least discussed but most needed is likely shared as much by you as it was by me: we can build our niche empires faster, better, and surer if we take the time to create a solid strategy for growth. Then focus on one message, like the big tree, from which our modest forests will eventually grow. Make oneself “the” core of something that others in our orb need for their own development. Write “the” book that your colleagues must master to create (or at least establish) their own excellence. Focus there, spread your process and message until its name and your become synonymous. (The topic of self-publishing is synonymous with the name Dan Poynter. That began with his book The Self-Publishing Manual.)

That’s where the remaining 21 blogs fit in. They answer the questions a “niche publisher” must ask. They are trees in our forest. Combine them with Niche Publishing: Publish Profitably Every Time!

 

Where are those other 15 “magic” blogs?

Go to blog.gordonburgett.com (if you’re not reading this blog at that site) and all 21 blogs are there waiting for you! When a blog opens up, go to the search box in its upper right corner. Then select and type some key words from a selected blog title, open it with your mouse, and that chosen blog will rather miraculously appear. Hiding the same way is where you’ll also find the 20 more niche-related blogs.

Even if you just type “niche,” about 10 assorted niche-related blogs will appear, and if the sought blog isn’t there, continue downward to the end of that blog chain to where it says “older” or “newer,” and in the subsequent lists of “niche” blogs you will find what you are seeking…

Here are the titles of the 21 blogs that help explain “niche publishing”:

Niche Authors and Publishers:

* Make a bundle almost risk-free by publishing niche books.
* Why niche publishing is a much better deal…
* Ten advantages to niche publishing.
* How niche authors and niche publishers share the gold.
* Niche books are very profitable. How are their authors chosen?
* Why you may not want to niche publish.

The Niche Blog Bundle:

#1. What’s so good about niche publishing?
#2. The goals and assumptions of pre-test publishing.
#3. How do you define (or find) a profitable niche for your book?
#5. Are you a niche writer, a niche publisher, or both?
#6. How much should you charge for your book?
#7. How much does it cost to pre-test your niche book?
#8. Get a free mailing list for your niche book pre-test.
#9. Two sample notes to pre-test a niche book.
#10. A sample flyer like those used in niche book pre-testing.
#11. A postcard to know your niche pre-test book results!
#12. It’s time to actually test your niche book!

More about Niche Pre-Testing:

* 25 key steps about pre-testing your niche book.

Niche Speaking:

* Niche Speaking: Cash in with fewer (but more devoted) listeners.

Niche Book Marketing:

* 101 niche marketing topics.
* Can we sell two new books by using 12,200 jumbo postcards?

(Incidentally, there are 400+ writing-, speaking-, and publishing-related blogs also lurking on this page quietly awaiting your visitation!)

That’s it. Best wishes to you with your “niche publishing.” I do consult in this area so if I can be of assistance, please contact me at glburgett@aol.com.

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett




A very new format for a seminar workbook...

In a now very long past—decades—I must have literally copied and carted 40,000 seminar workbooks (sometimes a half mile, too often up stairs). Most of those workbooks were 12-20 pages long! Too late to complain: that was the way it was done. But yesterday technology finally removed my shackles—and perhaps my blinders!

Some fact-setting now, then a detailed explanation copy of the new format that you may be interested in modifying and using. Explaining the 40,000: I have given more than 2,000 four-hour seminars, most as college/university extended ed offerings, almost all in California. They rarely had less than 20 participants, which meant 24 or so workbooks in case last minute registrants were waiting at the door. Ugh.

But yesterday a different request opened my eyes. I spoke to the NSNC (National Society of Newspaper Columnists) in L.A. about “Publishing for Profit” and, even though I myself had been a columnist several times, I had no way of knowing what other writing experiences the veteran audience had nor which of the dozen or so suggestions I would offer and expand upon they might wish to pursue.

Nor did I want to schlep any workbooks nor published books to sell BOR. (The airlines made that impossible anyway by charging for baggage—and rubbing in more salt by starving me en route!) But I did slip a copy of eight different books into my suitcase to display on a side table so they could see that they actually existed!

I know, I could have run copies off of the workbooks once I reached L.A. But I’m doubly convinced now, the day after, that the new format is many times better and smarter for the future, it gives the audience more options, and it reduces or eliminates the burdensome task of hauling products for sale. That’s why I’m sharing it now, while the fire burns, in case it would help you too. (If you have already discovered this “new” workbook process, congratulations! I’m sure you double agree! Why didn’t you tell me?)

The rationale: I knew that all of my attendees were writers, they used computers daily, understood how to find websites, blogs, and could figure out the free-book code. Therefore all I had to do was explain the media or means needed, where the items could be found, the links or addresses for each, and what the resource references referred to. I gave them the instructions needed in the first two paragraphs, where the program was going in the next two, and the broadest of explanations of what the four sections to be covered in the text that followed.

That took a minute or two to re-explain at the beginning of the presentation, but then I could focus on the most important ways columnists might earn more and live happier. When appropriate, I could direct them to one or several of the references and, in some cases, tell them the best subtitles to the critical step-by-step details. There must be 600+ printed pages in the three free books and 200+ in the other items. Thus, by knowing where the information is at hand, almost immediately, they can pick, select, or reject it as they wish—or go back later, if they change their minds.

The workbook: The two-sided page is the workbook. In this case the program was designed to show U.S. columnists how else they can share, market, and expand their written gems (now or later) into other lucrative venues or ventures. That is what I talked about. If they need the application guidance, the resources would then send them to the “how-to” support material.

Enough explanation. What follows is the “workbook” they received.


Workbook as delivered to the NSNC presentation:

 

Welcome!

I’m Gordon Burgett. It’s 2016, we’re all experienced writers, and the airlines won’t let me schlep boxes of handouts as baggage anymore, so I’m going to use the Internet to let you pick what specific information you think will be useful to you later. At that point, you can download what you want or need, if anything. The most important material is free, there’s no shipping or tax, and it’ll be in your hands almost immediately!

Thus you have no workbook or piles of paper to lumber through. Just sit back for the first hour and let me explain a sort of strategy and ways that should help you considerably increase your writing income, then I’ll answer any questions you have during the remaining 15 minutes. If you have more questions later, please email me at glburgett@aol.com.

My task is to help you fill your coin bags and increase your second-life options by doing more of what you already do very well—and make even more money (heavens!) by doing it.

I think the more-mullah quest starts with you strategizing at whatever point you are along your moneymaking-by-writing trail. I’ll address that.

The rest of our oral trek today roughly follows the other four sections on these pages. I’ve posted lots of backup resources here that you can download if/when you want or need them. The most important material is free—three full core books, three helper reports, four website articles, and 400+ blogs to pluck from. To download most of that information, use our order page at www.gordonburgett.com/order3.htm

 

Here’s how to download or see the resources: (1) find and separately order each free book on the order form—but before you submit each order write the coupon number [      ] in the coupon code box on that order form. Then submit the form, the price will drop to zero, and follow the download instructions that follow! (The freebies expire on 8/20/16.) Other items, unless noted, are from the order form and can be ordered separately or together at any time. They are also available from Amazon but if you want the three books free you must follow the instruction in (1). How to get the three free reports is explained below. See blog.gordonburgett.com for the blogs listed. Once there, find the SEARCH box, upper right corner under the Twitter logo. In that box enter either the topic you want to see more about (like query letters or niche) or the word I will give you. The website articles are from the direct website link location.

 

(I) WRITINGTravel Writer’s Guide (free ebook)

Explains how to sell 75%+ of your freelance writing (mostly newspaper and magazine articles), how to triple your income by topic-spoking, how to earn more with sidebars, and how to organize profit-packed copy-, quote-, and anecdote-gathering trips…

Related resources:

“4 Proven Ways to Sell 75% of Your Freelance Writing” Go to blog, enter 4 proven ways

“How to Sell 75% of Your Travel Writing” (2 cassette program), $20 + shipping

“25 Professional Query and Cover Letters” (ebook), $4.99

“Reprints, Rewrites, Reprints of Rewrites, and Resales” (ebook), $4.99

“The magic of topic spoking.” Go to blog, enter topic spoking

 

(II) PUBLISHINGNiche Publishing: Publish Profitably Every Time (free ebook)

A huge percentage of the risk-free, market-guaranteed book money is found here. We made $2 million from dentists and are now following the same path from K-12 school administrators, supers, principals, and school boards. That process and business plan is explained in this book. If you write and publish, almost all the niche profits are yours. If you find experts in the field, you direct/edit, they write, and you publish, most of the profits are still yours but the fame is theirs.

Related resources:

“12-Step Pre-Test for Niche Publications” (ebook), $4.99

“How to Test Your Niche Book before Writing or Publishing” (ebook), $9.99

“How to Get Niche Articles in Print 75% of the Time” (ebook), $2.99

(III) PUBLISHINGHow to Get Your Book Published in Minutes and Marketed Worldwide in Days (free ebook). If you’re not niching, use the “open press” revolution plus Create Space/Kindle [Amazon] and Lightning Source as your first or major paths to building your own empire. Publish here, then (perhaps) try the major publishers.

 

Related resources:

“Open Book Publishing: Almost a Miracle! (ebook), $3.10

“When Would I Always (or Never) Self-Publish My Book?” Go to blog, enter self-publish

“12 More Ways to Turn Your Book into Many More…” Go to blog, enter more ways

“Focus books and Selling a Book by its Parts” Go to the blog, enter focus

“Sample Focus Book: Rights and Responsibilities of School Principals” (ebook), $3.99

“Sample Focus Book: How to Create the Best Staff Possible” (ebook), $3.99

 

(IV) BRINGING IT ALL TOGETHEREmpire Building (O.P., no replacement book yet.) Ultimately, for big money, expand the perception of your expertise through related information dissemination means, like speaking, seminaring, giving workshops or retreats, audiobooks, classes, consulting, social media venues, radio-TV, guest performances, and so on. Or create/sell little empires along the way. Or align your writing, researching, interviewing, and publishing skills with others’ empires. Or do it all.

 

Related resources:

“How to Set Up and Market Your Own Seminar” (4-cassette seminar), $40+shipping

“Six Special Tools That Get Speakers Booked First” (ebook), $9.99

MORE FREE REPORTS:

Lifelong Wealth by Being Indispensable

Finding Indispensable Article Topics

101 Niche Marketing Topics

Just subscribe to my newsletter (seldom sent) at http://www.gordonburgett.com/free-reports and all three reports are immediately downloaded. Nobody else ever sees your address. Then if you want to escape my elist, just email me to be removed. I’m not offended—I forget names instantaneously.


That’s it. If it helps, go to it.

Best wishes,

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




How can I make my self-published memoir a big seller?

It’s doable but very hard. It takes a combination of good things, some not much in your control.

A starting definition is required: what is a “big seller”? Almost everybody will agree that if your book has “many, many thousands of sales; royalties in six-plus figures; a book-based movie, and spin-offs of book fame like Charlie Rose, the morning shows, and widespread name recognition, that’s a big seller.

All of that can happen, despite the self-publishing (which too often is linked to poor production and artwork, weak marketing, little or no selling pre-prep, and reluctance by book distributors to keep the book in stock and sight).

Your book is most likely to break out big if you are well known or you say things that lots of book buyers want to read—and repeat to their friends. Those sales can be quickly magnified if the timing is right—the topic excites readers eager to know more about what you are saying. (I’m presuming your prose is tight, true, and flawlessly professional.)

I think I heard you say, “Fat chance! No way my message will hit the headlines—and what would Charlie Rose, or even Tokyo Rose, ask me even if they could find me?”

Yet there are self-publishers who define being a “big seller” differently, though they’d be happy to be “found” if the world started spinning in reverse. They have already sold a few thousand copies, pushed through Kindle and CreateSpace. One suspects they are about as happy as they’d be if they’d won a Noble and Pulitzer Prize and Miss Spenser, the senior literature class teacher, had given them a posthumous “A.” Their books are well written, to the point, and spotlessly proofed. But the covers aren’t bookstore stuff: free artwork, Arial type, more cartoonish than befitting a true big-house tome.

They all did pretty much the same thing. They told stories, about themselves, their families, some friends. One book was sad. It was a true story. It was patched together with such gentleness and determination that it was hard to put down. A book you gave your spouse or your aunt even though none of you know the author. Or like your friend who told you to buy it—“you’ve got to read this.”

The other two popped with humor. Both worked because the dialog sounded true–and was funny; it was how men, the key protagonists, talk—one book, three brothers and an older sister in a tense, disintegrating family all sliding apart on strings of love; the other, a loose tale of a not-so-good magician working the subway, the bus station, and a bewildering corporate bachelor party, realizing that the weaker his magic was, the funnier was his patter.

Those are also paths to “best sellerdom” for the unchosen. There are as many, or more, winning paths in non-fiction too. I suspect there are thousands of writers of wee books who are puffing with pride just having the best they can do available digitally or in paperback. They’d take the fame and chat with Charlie but in the meantime they can scarcely hide their smile when somebody whispers, “I read your book. It was great.”

And what happens if only a handful of people buy or read your book. Don’t brag too loudly about your fan club. There’s no reason to say anything. Keep that book in your goods box to give your grandkids. You wrote and published a book. How many others in your family are in print? Or your friends? You count.

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett




4 proven ways to sell 75%+ of your freelance writing

MAGAZINES and NEWSPAPERS

 

1. Here is the two-item formula for selling nonfiction copy to magazines and newspapers: (a) You sell more than 75% of your freelance writing by writing only when you have better than a 50% chance of a sale, and (b) You have better than a 50% chance of a sale by either querying your prospective market, and writing after you receive a positive reply, or by writing to markets where you can simultaneously submit the same manuscript.

2. You can also increase your sales percentage and income by simultaneously selling reprints or rewrites of the published material—or reprints of the rewrites[Reprints, Rewrites, Reprints of Rewrites, and Resales].

3. Fiction is excluded from this 75% claim in magazines, newspapers, and books. Nonetheless, if points made on these pages seem appropriate to selling your fiction, try them, but know that the selling ratio in fiction is very low.

4. The most important tool for selling to magazines is the query letter. [25 Professional Query and Cover Letters] You do not query to newspapers (except to their magazines); you need cover letters to sell to them. If you are selling to big-house book publishers, at least a query letter is required. If you are niche publishing and pre-testing, you will need a sales letter, a small note, and a prepaid response mailer.

———-

Items in orange are explained in far greater detail in blogs from blog.gordonburgett.com. Go to the blog and insert the highlighted word in the search box, upper right, title page. Often the search will bring up many blogs related to the topic or word you seek. For example, if  you are looking for more information about “query letter” (a good thing to know about) and you type “query letter” in the box, it will probably bring up a five or ten full blogs, one after the other. Please use all of the information that applies.)

Items in magenta are the subject(s) of related products. The product title is in brackets after the reference. There is more information at www.gordonburgett.com/order3.htm.

For more assistance, see www.gordonburgett.com and glburgett@aol.com.

———-

NEWSPAPERS

 

5. Usually the copy (and accompanying photos) sold to newspapers will be about travel [How to Sell 75% of Your Travel Writing, editorial commentary, food, reviews, and (very rarely) columns. That’s about all newspapers buy from freelancers. Mostly they buy travel.

6. You are more likely to sell to newspapers (particularly in travel) if your piece is short (600-1500 words; 1200 words is a good target) rather than long (to about 3000 words). The longer feature articles are usually written by the section editor, or one from another publication.

7. You can simultaneously submit the same material (copy and photos) to newspapers (unless they tell you no) if they are not “national” newspapers—like the New York Times, Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, and Newsday, where you submit to them one at a time—or where the newspapers overlap in prime circulation (usually within 100 miles of each other), where you submit to only one newspaper at a time in the circulation radius.

8. Study others’ in-print newspaper articles in your target selections and write (and punctuate) like the original writers did to get in print. Focus on the topics [Finding Topics That Make Your Articles Indispensable], conciseness, quotes, timeliness, length of paragraphs, and the writing voice of the articles. The voice means: first person, I; second person, you; third person, he/she/it. (You mostly write salable copy in third person.)

9. Send your newspaper copy, ready to use, to the respective section editor with a cover note/page that tells the unique features in the copy, its timeliness, your credits (in a phrase: “I’ve sold 600 newspaper travel pieces”—don’t lie, say nothing if it’s nothing or very modest), any exceptional photos, how to get back to you—email and phone, and that you are marketing simultaneously (no nationals; to you solely within a 100-mile radius). If you are sending to a national newspaper, submit to one at a time (until bought). To national newspapers (or those few that insist), you are selling first rights to them only.

10. If you have the respective section editor’s newspaper email address, send your submission digitally—the cover note/page, text, and sample photos or link to a sample photo page. If you don’t, snail mail your submission to that editor, and include an SASE (stamped, self-address envelope). If that editor replies by email, you then have their email address. Remember to write out the full address to the photo links.

11. Assuming your salable photos are .jpegs, in your cover note (a) offer to send them if they want to review them, but you can briefly describe one or two extraordinary shot(s) in the note, (b) include a b/w or color page with samples of the best 6 or so with the note, or (c) post the best you have, very best first, on a cloud or website page where they can link and peruse. Let them pluck what they want to use and pay as the piece and art are published.

12. There is no firm photo submission protocol, so use the publication’s guidelines—or common sense. (Sometimes the guidelines are listed in Google—or the editor will tell you if you ask.) Let the editors decide if they will use the shot(s) in b/w or color. With the camera, seek clarity, get bright colors, focus on key items you wrote about. Remember, in newspapers, particularly for shorter submissions, the text is what they buy. (They might buy photo-first if you have an original shot of Napoleon—or something like that, or older.)

13. Newspapers pay from about $100-225 for short items, $200-500 for longer pieces. They pay after the submission is published. For photos, it may range from $35-150. But some may pay less for the items above and some of the larger newspapers will pay more. You have no bargaining power here but if you sell often to the same newspaper, the editor sometimes increases the pay as your value to them increases.

14. Do you see how selling simultaneously to newspapers lifts you well above the 75%+ goal? If you send a sharp article to six cities all distant from each other and four buy it (some with photos), you have sold the article 400%! It’s hard to top that sales ratio. What a shame that the articles themselves don’t pay much more…

 

MAGAZINES

15. Magazines do pay more. You usually know their pay range (several hundred to a thousand dollars and up) and the size articles they seek because most of the magazines that you will write for are found in the current-year Writer’s Market (in print or online version). That and a ton more information is explained in WM, so you should have that source accessible where you write. Also, if you check Writer’s Digest Magazine (in the library) it lists new markets every month—and updates current listings.

16. To get on the 75% magazine path find an idea you want to write about, then create a feasibility study. Think of the study as two boxes next to each other, both sharing the same idea. In one box you answer, “Is this topic feasible to write for X magazine?” In box two you answer “Is it feasible to sell an article about this topic?” If it’s a “yes” to both, you will write a query letter to the #1 market. (See “How to Prepare and Market Magazine Articles That Sell.”)  [Travel Writer’s Guide, ebook edition]

17. There is no need for a feasibility study for newspaper direct submissions because you will know if it’s feasible to write because you will, in fact, write it and send the prose to one or many markets simultaneously. And if it sells, that’s your answer to the second box.

18. To answer box 1, see if and where magazine articles appeared in print about your topic. Find copies of those articles and study what they contain. (See “How to Study a Printed Magazine Article.”) [Travel Writer’s Guide, ebook editionYou will likely need updated information, new quotes, or new examples to add to the information already in print. See if you have or can get access to that new information. If nothing has been in print, study the topic and list what readers would want to read about it. This should take several hours, not weeks or years. If you have a strong sense that if you queried an editor about that topic knowing what you can provide that he/she would say “yes, then move on to box 2.

19. “Who would buy an article about this topic?” is the focus of box 2. See the many categories of publications in the WM table of contents and list those where your topic might appeal to its readers. Let’s say there are six such categories; list all of them. Then go to the listed publications in each category and write down the magazine titles in that category where you think the reader’s interest would be greatest. Let’s say there are two magazines in each category, so you would end up with 12 possible magazines to query before you write.

20. Because you can only query one magazine at a time from your 12 possible candidates, you must prioritize the 12. Put the most likely first and the least likely last, and sort the rest in between. What criteria do you use to prioritize the list?

21. If you want to top a 75% sales plateau, then when the editors of those magazines pay for articles is the most important criterion. So put all of those that “pay on acceptance” (this information is in the WM) at the top of the list. Paid freelancers only query editors who pay on acceptance since that means if they accept your manuscript, you will be paid right away or within a month (when they churn that month’s checks). The other editors “pay on publication,” which means your finished manuscript (and photos) will sit in that editor’s “to use” pile until it fits, and then you will be paid after it sees print, which means another additional 60 days to get your reward. Even worse, those that pay on publication usually pay less, and a rare few forget to pay at all.

22. So once you know when your 12 possible markets pay, list the pay on acceptance publications on top (say six of them), with the remaining six that pay on publication on the bottom. Now ask the second question, “How much do they pay?” The highest payer of the first six candidates goes to the top of the list, the lowest payer is #6. (Don’t worry about the last six on the list right now.)

23. There are two more criteria that could move your target markets up or down. One asks, “What percent of freelance material do they buy?” The other, “How many issues do they publish a year?” Clearly, you’d rather be considered by an editor that uses 95% freelance copy than, say, 5%. The same with a magazine that comes out weekly rather than annually—it buys 52 times more copy! Resort the top six into their most desirable order—for you.

24. Now you are ready to query. You will write a full-page letter asking the editor of the top magazine on your prioritized list if she would be interested in an article about ______. (The query letter will make the topic jump with excitement and the editor jump with hope to get your writing genius on her pages.) If, in truth, the editor says “yes, let me see it,” that’s almost as good as putting the money in your bank because the “go-ahead (and write it)” is given seriously, with the expectation that you will provide ready-to-go copy that fits in the slot saved for you. But if the editor says “no,” however kindly, you will move to #2 on your list, read its write-up in the WM, and send its editor a query letter (often adjusted some to meet that new readership’s needs). You keep moving down the top six until you are out of “pay on acceptance” rejecters.

25. Why not just continue down the list of publication editors for this new article? It’s not worth the time for the risk involved. You will sell your reprints (or reprints of rewrites) to the bottom six. That’s what they often, sometimes only, buy. Better yet, you can sell reprints (or second rights) simultaneously as long as you tell the others that yours is a second rights sale.

26. A couple more points. Let’s say the first “acceptance” editor wants your article. Have you lost the buying potential of markets 2-6? No, just approach the topic from another slant or create another article idea from that topic, and query about that possible article. In other words, you can rewrite that first topic and query letter and start it down the selling ladder to those “pay on acceptance” editors that are still uncontacted. And what if you do that all six times and all six editors buy their own unique articles? Bingo, you just sold the same stretched idea 600%, rather than 75%. (And you’re still not done because each of those six articles can be sold as reprints of the rewrites! Heavens, you may get rich with just five or six different, fecund ideas!

27. But we are getting the cart in front of the horses. All we have done is have a kindly editor say that he/she wants to see our article—on speculation, which means, no obligation. So we still have to write one or many excellent articles that the editor(s) must embrace, buy, and use. Still, a “go-ahead” from most editors means a sale as long as you provide (in the article) what you promised by the date agreed, and perhaps also with the promised photos.

28.. Which means enough late-night oil, interviews, facts found and verified, anecdotes generously inserted—whatever is needed to make the article hum in print. It also means close scrutiny of the target magazine to see what that editor wants on his/her pages before you write. Thus, if this query-led system is followed, almost all magazine articles suggested and written will be sold since you will not write them without a prior ”go-ahead.” And with the reprint and rewrite fall-back sales, you should be far ahead of your 75% goal.

 

BOOKS

 

29. It used to be that selling any percent of your freelance writing through book publishing was as likely as having your books come out of a cloud. Guess what? Now it’s simple to publish 100% of your freelance book writing—you can just do it yourself. And it can sit in a cloud to sell once it’s written and prepped. Who knew?

30. Less than a decade back the chances of the Big 8 or 5 or whatever the number was of the big-house publishing firms picking up a random freelance book was like 1:1000. Even with agents or even with a solid writing reputation. Then you sent query letters with attachments.. You may as well have been sending pick-up laundry chits.

31. These days it’s hard to figure any strong case for going first to the big houses (which simply aren’t so big anymore nor are they so appealing). They pay poorly, it can take months or years for the book to appear, and their bookstore allure has faded as the bookstores themselves have disappeared. It’s kind of upside down now. Freelancers publish the book themselves [How to Get Your Book Published in Minutes and Marketed Worldwide in Days]  and they earn a fast and decent return. Then if it smells of success the big houses will get in line to pay for the product—and often all the additional products that writer/publisher can create. So why would a freelancer go back to the earlier days when a big-house sale meant a meager royalty, poor sales, payment a couple of times a year, and no control?

32. If we are talking sheer percentages, you write a book that others want to buy; get it proofread; hire artwork and covers and some selling postcards; get the book designed; print some in-house stock to sell directly; save the final copy in .pdf, and send it to Create Space and LSI to get it POD printed and sold commercially through their giant selling machines, like Amazon and Ingram. In the meantime, you convert the original text into .epub, modify the covers a bit, and you create an ebook to sell yourself, at Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Smashwords, and elsewhere. And all the while you worm your way into the social media world to churn up some fan interest.

33. There are two ways to sell 75%+ in the regular book world now. The new open publishing world I described in 29-32. And you can do it the old way too. You sell the book to the big houses or other publishers pretty much the old way: you send queries and packages and proposals, alone or agent-aided, and you don’t write the final book until you are contract-protected, then you wait for the book to appear. That’s a 75%+ approach. Hard to imagine 25% of the publishers wouldn’t honor your contract.

34. But here’s the problem, even if you freelance and produce one book and you have another produced by an established publisher under contract (which is 75%+ twice), there’s no guarantee that any of that will make enough money to keep you fed, much less famous and prospering. So despite the fact that you bat 100% selling the copy that you create, and you do it many times with paperback and digital versions, all sold by six different publishers (plus you), most of the self-published general market books don’t make much money. They don’t even do much to imprint a perception of your expertise. Stir in platform-building, branding, You-Tube, Facebook, and all the rest and can still be a big disappointment.

 

NICHE (BOOK) PUBLISHING

and EMPIRE-BUILDING

 

35. Let me share the best way to sell 100% of your freelance book writing and make reliable money while you simultaneously build an empire that will feed, clothe, and support you very well for a long time. It can be built around your book or books—or you may not have to write much copy at all. You might use others’ expertise and writing, plus your editing, managing, and publishing skills, as the core of his niche publishing. [Niche Publishing: Publish Profitably Every Time]

36. It’s not the writing or publishing, per se, that distinguish niche publishing. It’s the existence of a niche, or tightly-linked group of people, that share common needs, interests, and lifestyle. For example, Chicago Cubs fans are a long-suffering niche. So are dentists, Norwegian ancestors in Wisconsin, and meat cutters. The niche often has a vocation, hobby, focus of interest, ethnic bond, social communality (like octogenarians or octogenarians in Tulsa), an ailment or cure (like prostate cancer survivors), or membership (in the Moose or in almost any thing or group.)

37. This might be easier to envision by using an example. To keep it simple, let’s use ultramarathoners, and let’s make that nationwide. And let me invent typical components of a niche and ascribe them to the poor sore-legged ultramarathoners (who share in common long-distance running, longer than a marathon, often 50-mile or 100-mile runs). They can be done by either sex and any age, though it’s not likely they are teens or under or very rarely 65 or older.

38. What makes niche publishing profitable is that members of the niche and supporters about the niche topic can be easily contacted. Core ultras, let’s say, are members of a national association (UOA, Ultramarathoners of America) and smaller associations in, say, 40 states (Minnesota UOA, etc.) The associations have a national convention, 18 have state conferences, and they informally gather at the dozen major races a year. They also have a national newsletter, office holders in the larger units, a membership address list (digital and standard direct mail) and a surprisingly large group of ultra aficionados and supporters who sell products and services (like special shoes, attire, diet and health additive programs, insurance, and much more. And as long as I am creating a model group, let’s say there are 25,000 members and possibly 2,000 others who sell products and services to ultras, plus many thousands of marathoners who regularly show interest in expanding their own running challenge.

39. To show you what a niche published book might be like in this niched setting, let’s say Bob has been an UOA member for 10 years—and, in vocation, he’s a life-style nutritionist. Over the years he has created an ideal diet-supplement-training program that has been very enthusiastically used by a dozen of his local group members, plus it has become widely applied by marathoners in his region. Let’s just call it the DST for Ultramarathoners (or DSTU).

40. Bob wants to write a book, sell it to ultras and marathoners nationwide (he calls it DSTM for marathoners), and he’d like to expand the book into classes, perhaps podcast/video components, a practice logbook and workshops, speeches, and breakout sessions. He would also like to expand his product base to include distance-running shoes, attire, special caps, and related diet and supplement components.

41. His strategy is to create the book first, and in its distribution (and early promotion) he will quickly expand into making his video/podcast programs and logbooks available. From his niche book he will roll out his empire to include speaking widely once the book is printed and promoted, and from speaking spread into workshops and classes. As he creates his buyer contact base (mostly through free subscriptions to a bi-monthly ultra newsletter) he will promote his product base. His long-range goal is to expand these activities into the DSTM group, for marathoners nationwide (even perhaps worldwide).

42. An aside here. Bob in our example can both be the expert writing the key book that helps practitioners meet important needs or solve frustrations and then build his own empire from the expertise recognition that his book brings him. Or if Bob wants to create his own empire doing the other activities we’ve mentioned, including publishing the book, he can hire an expert to write the book (that Bob might also edit and distribute) that his new ultramarathoning publishing and product company can grow from. Thus Bob wouldn’t really be using his running expertise—freeing any niche publisher to do the same about any topic. In fact, Bob could publish a string of ultra books using as many experts as members of his publishing family. How would the experts earn money? They would receive royalties (often 10% of the net received) plus they would get the speaking fees, and perhaps a special discount on their own books (or all the firm’s ultra books) sold back-of-the-room at the programs. A last thought, he could run parallel publishing programs in the ultra and marathoning fields, allowing him to double or multiply his empire-building base while the experts create the core books.

43. But the most appealing element of a niche publishing book is that it can be pre-tested (the format, price, contents, author, and purpose) on a sample list to guarantee its financial viability before any part of it is written or major production expenses are incurred. [How to Test Your Niche (Publishing) Market First]

44. Bob sees that the size of the ultra market (its contactable members) is 25,000, and that the three other ultra books have cost $19.95, $24.95, and $49. He decides to conduct a direct mail pre-test with 210 Nth-selection addresses from the ultra association mailing list. He figures that the entire pre-test might cost him a maximum of $700.

45. For the pre-test he needs a clean-looking one-page information sheet (with a reduced book cover on it) that includes the book’s title, subtitle, table of contents, a small photo to accompany Bob’s bio, an fact box (with ISBN, format [cloth bound], and the estimated number of pages and cost), and selling content copy that explains the book’s purpose and its benefits to readers/users. He also prepares a one-third page greeting note and a return postcard with two key questions, each followed by yes or no: would the card receiver be interested in purchasing a book about… and if so, would he pay $ X for the book. In this case X would be three different prices: 70 packets would have $19.95 on their info sheet and on its mail-back postcard, 70 would say $24.95, and 70 would say $29.95). The postcards would be addressed back either to Bob or (better) the name of his new niche publishing firm (like Ultramarathoning Publishers of America). Bob would also prepare a #10 envelope for each packet, stamp them, and adhere the direct mail address to the outside of the packet.

46. So Bob mails all 210 packets and in 20 days he has almost all of the replies he will receive. By day 20 he has received the following responses from each of the three price levels sent 70 recipients: 13, 10, and 7. So the potential buy income would be, respectively: $92,768, $81,196, and $74,875. (The calculating example in the 10-buyer case would be 10/70=14.3%x$24.95×25,000=$81,196).

47. The most profitable rate would be $19.95 which would bring in $92,768. Thus, if the preparation of the book and the mailing of the full 25,000 packets cost 50% of the gross income (here, $92,768) this book would result in a profit of $46,384.

48. It would be a modest empire with a kitty of $40,000 or so. But remember that Bob intends to expand into classes, videos, logbooks, workshops and speeches, ultra accoutrement, and diet and health additive programs. Plus a free digital newsletter to control his customer list and for bi-monthly promotion.

49. But what isn’t visible here is a huge market sitting right below the ultras: the U.S. marathon market, where indeed his book might apply as is or rewritten, and the other items should also be salable. How big is the marathon market? There were 541,000 finishers in US marathons in 2013 (despite the terror attack at the Boston Marathon). And the average entry cost is $75, but trending up to $100. A determined niche publisher might tooth on the ultramarathoners to test the market and response, then quickly back into the marathon world—and keep both going if there are common themes.

50. That’s it. How you can sell 75%+ of your freelance writing. At least three systems (or four, depending on how you count them) that will keep you off the no-income paths and close to where money can be earned and multiplied by wordsmithing. All of this stuff works–if you do!

 

My best wishes,

 

Gordon Burgett




How much money do you actually earn selling through Amazon and LSI?

Niche_Cover

“Is it worthwhile selling your book through Amazon or Lightning Source?” has to be an early question that a niche publisher must ask. “And how much worthwhile?”

That’s important because my niche publishing firm already sells 85% of our products directly to our target niche, much of that through its associations.

———-

A pinch of background: Our authors are experts in that niche field. They receive a royalty of 10% of the net price of the book (or product) when it is sold. (If they are co-authors, it is 10% divided by the number of authors.) The cost of five of our niche books is $24.95 a book, another of our books sells for $19.95, and a third, $17.95. If the books sell at less than 50% of list, the authors get a 5% royalty of those books.

We also have digital versions of each book, priced at $20, $16, and $14. We directly sell the digital books (ebooks) in pdf format; “open” publishers like Kindle, Nook, Smashwords, and so on sell it in .epub or the equivalent. (We sell only about 7% of our books in digital format.)

———-

More often I’m asked about the sale of our niche paperbacks through Amazon and LSI (Lightning Source), which is also Ingram. The volume of sales is very modest for both because our niche books are written to professionals who don’t expect to find their books in libraries and through general book outlets.

Also, selling through other publishers and booksellers means that our payment will be modest, and the authors’ reward at royalty time, even moreso.

Let me share a couple of (almost) current examples to help answer that question:

At Amazon we sell through Amazon Advantage or Create Space.

Of the two, Create Space is a far better earner for us. We post the paperback version free, add a cover, and provide the descriptive selling copy. If a person buys from CS, they print a POD (pay-on-demand) copy from the master book text and cover that we sent them and they mail it to the buyer. It’s hands-free to us. We don’t print, stock books, or ship Create Space sales. They tell us how many copies of which book they sold (they pay 45-60 days later) and how much they will put in our bank account near the end of that month.

For example, in January, 2015, they sold 21 copies of a $24.95 book and one of a $9.95 book, paying us $12.13 (48.6%) and $3.54 (36%) respectively, for a total of $258.27. Because the price they charge is less than 50% of the net price, the authors will receive, total, $25.82.

Amazon Advantage, for us, is scarcely worth pursuing. We always lose money on single sale orders because we must print the paperback, shrinkwrap it, pay the mailing, and then wait at least 60 days for the money to reach our account. When they order about six books, despite the 55% discount and shipping, it gets profitable. In addition, the orders have become hard to understand—and, typically Amazon, if you have questions there is nobody to ask beyond what must be an email robot that always seems to respond to the wrong question!

An example. Today we sent an order for six $17.95 books. We will be paid $48.48, or $8.08 each—(45%). But a single order for a $17.95 book, which is very common, earns us the same $8.08—for a book that costs us about $5.80 to produce, shrinkwrapped; 15 cents for a mailing container, and $2.69 to ship media mail, their least preferred mailing means. That puts us 56 cents in the hole and doesn’t include the time to decipher the order, print out the mailing label and order info, wrap, and mail.

Why stay at Advantage? Inertia, I guess. I also stay there because folks see that our products exist at their webpage. And the hope that the ordering quantities of yesteryear might return, although even then it was cryptic and slow. We give everything a hard look in June and it may be eliminated at that time. But we will remain at Kindle and Create Space.

The other paperback giant is Lightning Source. It too starts with a 55% discount. You can offer to discount less but your books probably won’t reach many retailers, which is the LSI selling target. I think of it as 5% for listing, 10% for LSI, and 40% for the bookstore or selling intermediary. In addition, a $12/book annual fee is charged. But there is a big advantage here with paperbacks: I needn’t ship printed books. LSI will print the ordered books POD. (And I can order them to print books in quantity and ship them to me! That’s great if you are only stocking small in-house quantities.) Plus, there are human contacts who will guide you through the labyrinthine website and ordering/listing process.

Here are some fresh numbers from LSI, where one $24.95 book was listed for commercial sale two months back and another, at the same price, is a few days old. Here are some facts for the first book’s sales (in January, 2015): list price $24.95; discount 55%; wholesale price (what LSI charges the retail seller) $11.23; and the print charge, $4.46 a book. What is left is the publisher’s net comp: $6.77. That is, for every $24.95 book sold POD through LSI I receive $6.77. (Here’s how that is calculated: $24.95 minus 55%=$11.23 times quantity (13) times the book POD print charge ($4.46) equals $6.77 a book ($88.01 total net pub comp for January).

It’s worse for the author: My LSI net is $6.77, their royalty is 5% (since our return is under 50%) of $6.77, or 35 cents each (times 13= $1.69). Which is why we encourage niche sales to go through us so the author earns at least 10% of the net, but also can keep or use a 40% deduction ($9.98) per book that they sell.

I’m trying to answer the questions most frequently asked at my publishing seminars. I hope this is helpful. There is much more about niche publishing at Niche Publishing: Publish Profitably Every Time!

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett




Where self-publishing and ebooks stand in late 2014

(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




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

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




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