Summary of the niche publishing process

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In my book <a href=”http://www.nichepublishing.org”>Niche Publishing: Publish Profitably Every Time</a> I walk you through the concept and the steps that help you profitably put your words into specific buying hands that will also help you change that buyer’s world.

That sounds vain, of course, but every book has a purpose–I hope!

Patrick Lufkin gives a sharp, useful seven-paragraph review of my book that explains that process particularly well, and succinctly. It was in the just-released, superb <em>Technical Communications </em>magazine (the Journal of the Society of Technical Communications).

Let me give you a look at that review <a href=”http://www.nichepublishing.org/NParticles.htm”>here</a> since the STC journal isn’t easily available on your newsstand or in your library.

Gordon Burgett

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Query letters still needed for major article acceptance

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You can get digital articles fairly widely accepted by just writing them, keeping them to the point, and sending them to sources that provide digital copy to many seekers. A longtime friend from PMA, Ed Rigsbee ( at www.succeedinspeaking.com), whose niche is partnering strategies, recommends www.ezinearticles.com , and directs us to Google (search under “article bank”) to find others. The tighter and usually shorter the articles are, the more likely they are to be used. Avoid self-promotion.

But if you want an expertise-strengthening piece in a key publication near the heart of your core topic, you still need to write that sharp selling query letter to see if the editor is interested.

One page is enough, but don’t tell the editor that his/her readers need to read what you have to say. Ask rather than tell. (“Query” is from inquiry. In this case, “Would your readers be interested in…?”) Make the letter “jump” so the editor says, “I’d be a fool not to have this piece on my pages.”

Finally, write the query in the style of the article yet unwritten. If it’s straightforward facts with some quotes, that’s it. But if you want to inject humor, that must also go in the query in about the same quantity and form it will appear in the final submission.

And unless the editor says otherwise (the current Writer’s Market is a good guide), query by snail rather than e- mail.

How do I know? Beyond selling 1700+ freelance articles (mostly queried), I’ve been that editor (still am) who said/says yes or no. Do the above—and make sure the query is so tightly and clearly focused that the editor knows exactly what he/she is accepting—or rejecting.

[This blog is a modified excerpt from my 11/08 newsletter called "Writers, speakers, publishers, and product developers: How to Create Your Own Highly Profitable Empire!" Please check here for more information about the free monthly newsletter, plus the three free writing- and publishing-related reports that are immediately available with the no-charge subscription.]

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What makes readers vomit?

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Does that sound like a headline from one of those tabloids at the super market check-out stand?

Actually it was part of a reply I got back from an magazine editor some years back–that and the fact that my query was being featured in the DUMMY FRAME on the key operations board so all could pass by and laugh!

Just what every freelancer wants to hear!

Seems I had read of a new medicine that stopped motion sickness dead in its tracks–if the secondary effects didn’t do it to user first. So my mind wandered and I thought there was a good article on the newest motion sickness medications–plus anything I could find on how effective the earlier “cures” worked–waiting to be written and sold.

I spent several hours in the library (where was the Internet when I needed it?) digging up what was available, and made a couple of phone calls to see what else was around should I got a nibble (or several) from queries to the most likely publications. (I’d spin it off later to newspapers too.)

Mind you, I had more than potential sales in mind. I get seasick in bathtubs, and cruises and the like were out of the question. So I was in it for my own benefit as well.

I wrote up this dandy one-page query, found four angles (thus four different queries with unique slants should I hit pay dirt), and off they went.

The very first reply was that if he used my article it would make his readers vomit. And the guy hadn’t read a word I’d written! (Who told him?) The problem? He was the editor of one of the largest in-flight magazines!

Was he right! Imagine, slipping into a bouncy old DC-3 (I told you it was a while ago), strapping yourself in, lifting into the clouds, and trying to distract yourself from the dipping and yawing by reading the airline’s magazine–about motion sickness!

The point of all this? Put yourself into the reader’s shoes (or lap) and figure out what part of your idea they want and need and what is likely to get you in the dummy frame as author of the stupidest query they ever received.

I actually did sell the piece a couple of times, but I thought of that reply almost every time I got queries just as inappropriate or otherworldly when I was an editor…

Gordon Burgett

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Make a deal if they will publish your book

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There are lots of reasons to self-publish your own book–particularly if you’re selling to a niche market and/or creating your own empire around or near the book’s title.

But sometimes you can strike a deal with a big house that’s just too good to pass up.

An example, many years ago a new, well-financed publisher appeared (that was bought out by a much larger house about five years later) that liked one of my writing books, The Travel Writer’s Guide. He wanted a strong back-list item in that field and my book (then in its second edition; it’s still out in edition #3) had been a Writer’s Digest book club favorite.

So the deal was this: (1) the publisher would also put out another book I had about query and cover letters, (2) they would do all the editing and text prep for printing, (3) I would retain book club rights, (4) I could sell back-of-the-room at my seminars, which were nearly 100 a year, (5) they would have library and bookstore rights, and most of the rest as I recall, (6) I would get a 50% discount on all books bought from them, plus (7) on the first printing I would add 2,000 more copies to the run and buy those books at about 25% of the per-book print cost, in lieu of an advance.

It worked very well for both of us, and it freed me up from the printing/marketing hassle to write more books (which I did publish myself).

I share this only because there are lots of ways that big-house publishing can be made profitable and beneficial, even if it takes that big house months (figure eighteen) to actually produce the book and they keep a huge percentage, usually for awful marketing–but the book itself usually looks great.

Let me suggest a different pose when making this decision. Do all of the math assuming you are self-publishing (including the pre-testing I show in Niche Publishing if it’s for a niche market), then look at the big house offer (which you must solicit) and see how they can make it even more attractive (than you can do on your own) before you are lured by the advance and the puff of big publisher acceptance.

Gordon Burgett

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How Do Empire Builders Share Their Expertise?

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Like a hub and the spokes on a wheel, you need at least two critical elements to empire build: (1) a core topic, the hub, and (2) some or many information dissemination means (IDMs). Through the latter, the spokes, you establish, market, and share your knowledge and expertise.

Once you have the core topic, by which means can you best disseminate your information? Let me list 30+ below from which you can select those that work best for you and your clientele. But don’t panic. No empire I know of uses all of them. Most start with one or two and end up fully using 8-10.

IDMs: academic paper, article, audio cassette, audio CD, book, booklet, brochure, bulletin, case study, certification program, class, coaching, consulting, directory, fact guide, manual, newslet-ter, newspaper, online course, podcast, press release, product, radio or TV, release, report, re-source guide, script, seminar (workshop, breakout), speech, study group, talk, training session, video, visual podcast, webcast, website, white paper.

[This blog is a modified excerpt from my 11/08 newsletter called "Writers, speakers, publishers, and product developers: How to Create Your Own Highly Profitable Empire!" Please check here for more information about the free monthly newsletter, plus the three free writing- and publishing-related reports that are immediately available with the no-charge subscription.]

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Should you print your book 1000+ or a few at a time (POD)?

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Here’s a question I get at almost every niche or self-publishing seminar that I give: “How do we determine whether we have our books printed in a full press run (say 1000+) or print-on-demand (one, a few, or maybe 100 at a time)?”

We use these very rough guidelines.

FULL PRESS RUN when (1) we’ve pre-tested a niche book and we can quickly and easily sell 1000+, (2) we can easily guesstimate a 1000+ sale of a general (non-niche) book to libraries and bookstores, (3) we can comfortably predict 1000 sales back of the room at speeches or seminars in the next 12 months, (4) we have orders from commercial clients for 1000+ books, (5) any 1000+ combination of (1)-(4).

P.O.D. when we need (1) a few backlist books that are well past their selling prime, (2) LARGE PRINT editions of our current books, (3) special short runs for commercial orders, (4) short runs that require special inserts or imprints like logos, welcome letters, or customized contents, (5) some bound copies of e-books, to sell or for a rare printed packet, (6) customized book handouts, usually for workshops or breakout sessions, and (7) sample copies for peer and book reviews—but not for galley copies. We usually use P.O.D. for reprints or replacement copies of (1)-(7) as well. I usually stop P.O.D. copies at about 100-150.

The harder decision is from 100-1000. I bid both kinds of printers at my target volume and let the full price (print, shipping, anything else) and the delivery date determine who gets the print contract. We used to over-estimate, then let the stock slowly sell out. We are going with smaller runs now on bound books as the demand for digital copies increases—and the P.O.D. printers are able to fill an unexpected, quick demand for a short print run (1-8 in P.O.D.)

Not mentioned but part of the equation is how many of the same items we will sell digitally, as a slightly modified download of the same printed book, a significantly restyled e-book, or in some other digital format. Oddly, the more copies were have in paper print of some of our books, the more we will sell in digital form, presumably from recommendations of the paper print readers. I doubt it happens much in the reverse.

[This blog is a slightly modified excerpt from my 11/08 newsletter called "Writers, speakers, publishers, and product developers: How to Create Your Own Highly Profitable Empire!" Please check here for more information about the free monthly newsletter, plus the three free writing- and publishing-related reports that are immediately available with the no-charge subscription.]

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Step Four in Empire Building

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Research time! Those words are enough to get any blog instantly erased!

In step one, you listed the things that you know (or could know) better that others, and from which you’d like to build an empire that would help the beneficiaries and would make you singular and rich.

Step two, you subjected those topics to the “If you had…” question. And step three, the paso de pasión: which choice most lights your life fire? Where specifically do you want to put your energy and flame? You picked número uno!

Now, in step four, you have to begin a lifetime of research, contemporary investigation, and future “keeping up.” If that doesn’t sound like much fun, you probably have the wrong empire topic. Because if you don’t care more than anybody else what is going in your field, how it started and got to where it is now, and how it will change in your lifetime, then you’re either going to get bored or burned out before you can do much good or get many rewards.

That’s not fatal. I guess 90% of the people don’t have the needed burning passion and a vigorous curiosity about any one topic or field that will lift them into its very top echelon—and they don’t expire from its absence!

But they’re not building an empire from excellence. They don’t claim expertise. (And, of course, except by chance, they don’t get the money and rewards you can.)

Your cure? Go back to the first three steps until you find that something that shouts lovingly in your mind even at the odd hour. That one thing that you will pick up and read anything about, or will type repeatedly into Google, or drive an hour or two to do or hear or see more about, or that sends you to the back issues of its association journal.

Let’s presume that you have in fact chosen a topic that begs for your expert touch. Since it’s easier to explain by using examples, let’s say that burning subject is our already-mentioned ultramarathoning. You want to know everything possible about it, and you want to be everybody’s guide.

Ultimately, you’d also like to sell ultramarathoners their training programs, shoes, clothes, special supplies, and registrations, as well as provide their monthly magazine, run clinics, help organize and support events, and be the activity’s top voice.

So your research is simply learning absolutely everything about ultramarathoning in the past, present, and the future (as it happens and for years to come).

Comb the web. Find any associations that include your folk. Go back as many years as you can, and learn anything you can about its history, its champions, where ultramarathons were and are held, coming events, and who were its leaders before and who are the top 20 in the field today.

Study all of the overlap groups that include ultramarathoners, like running, endurance, and medicine. Create lists, fact sheets, biographies, calendars. Develop a contact management system (like ACT) that includes everybody of significance, with contact information and notes about their involvement.

Remember the library? It’s chuck full of information, most of it dated but some of it just arrived. Go to the reference librarian and explain precisely what you want: to know how to find anything and everything about your topic. Then check beyond the town library and continue building your base with the help of the reference librarians at the regional, county, college, and specialty libraries within driving distance.

Check the serial and magazine search tools at the libraries to see what appears regularly in print (to read when it arrives) or what has been in print in, say, the last 15 years. Read (better, copy) those articles; store them in your archives.

Since ultramarathoning is an on-going activity, attend all of them that you can, as a participant or helper. Meet all of the chiefs at the runs; add them to your lists. Ask questions, make contacts, keep notes of the events. Write articles about the activity: start getting your name and your writing skills in print and in circulation. Do they need a local speaker to share the good word about a meeting or coming events?

You get the idea—and you know your subject far better than I do. The trick is to know it far better than anybody else!

Let me give you a vision that will keep you on track. Think of you writing the definitive book about ultramarathoning in about three years: its definition and history, the research it has provoked, the heroes, the funny events and odd happenings, how it is structured—absolutely everything of importance, as if it were your historical contribution to be read then and through the ages. So what you are doing now is an act of love: chronicling and gathering the heart of that book, whether or not it sees print under your authorship.

None of this research is instant, and it makes huge sense to present a respectful and understated presence while you gather your information and quietly moving into and up the structure (mostly by doing things that others usually abhor, like writing articles, doing p.r., and keeping records and minutes).

Don’t tell those you meet that you will be the expert that all ultramarathoners will want to know in a couple of years or that you will be the person who preserves them all in print forever. In fact, keep your vision and your dreams to yourself. Yet, if you don’t feel that way and those aren’t at least close to your intentions, then you must look once again at why you are researching and actively engaged at all.

Nothing more today. You will find a dozen more ways to gather what you need to know.

Will it pay off? It can, a dozen ways. But now you are paying it, in time, your costs, concentration, and stockpiling knowledge and personal links.

That is step four. A giant step!

—————-

Incidentally, my February free newsletter just came out. It’s free and for new subscribers it includes three complete reports related to empire building that are instantly downloadable. (You can even unsubscribe at any time!) Link it here!

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