Want to sell your book(s) very profitably back-of-the-room?

I’ve given 2000+ paid speaking presentations and I offered my books and products “BOR” (back-of-the-room) from the moment my salable products emerged, about 1900 presentations ago! So I’m positively biased.

Here’s what I have learned (and continue to learn):

1. If you give a lousy presentation, nobody (or very few) will buy anything. They’re too busy running for the door.

2. Still, you can give a speech or seminar that rings, listeners clap and shout, and sometimes they still don’t buy anything or much. Usually, though, those are the best selling days/nights.

3. When don’t you sell BOR? At those rare locations where they simply won’t permit it. (Thus, always ask when you schedule, and if they say no, increase your speaking fee.)

4. What do you sell? Books, CDs, booklets, videos, reports, and software (sent digitally later). Or a combination of the most related items as a reduced-rate “bundle.” I lost lots of money unaware of the bundling idea. When I began it, some years back, my income increased about 40%!

5. Why do they buy? I remember Nido Qubein, a great speaker, saying “your audience wants more good things from a great source.” So match what you sell, in theme and quality, to your presentation.

6. What do they buy most? Since I usually speak to writers and publishers, printed paperback books win by a huge margin. Writers so seldom buy audio items, I no longer even bring them. (But when I speak to speakers, they want anything audio, like my CD program “How to Set Up and Market Your Own Seminar“—and they only buy about 1/5 as many of the printed products.)

7. Has anybody ever returned their purchases? Not from a BOR sale, that I recall. But usually one person a session buys and leaves (presumably forgets) the purchase. If it has their name on it, I call them the next day, and sometimes they contact me and I mail it too. But if it’s unclaimed a few weeks later, I resell it!

8. Do I spend a lot of the speaking presentation setting up the BOR sales? I so hate getting trapped having to listen to a speaker drum their products that I never talk more than one minute in a four-hour program. I explain the BOR sales before the first biology break, and I simply remind them in a sentence or two before I close the program.

9. How are they displayed? Since 95% of my presentations were/are extended education seminars (or workshops), my display is usually one or two tables side by side with the products displayed, one copy of each product and about 10 items on the table. The trick is to get to the site well in advance and “borrow” the tables from nearby rooms! (You have to take them back later.)

10. Do I have any display in front of the audience? Sort of. If I’m going to talk about a product, I keep it near me and hold it up when I mention it. Others can look at it during the two breaks. And if I have a “bundle special,” say a book and two reports, I usually stand those up on the chalk shelf of the “blackboard” and write on the board “TODAY’S SALE!” and the sale price. They can also look at those items during the break.

11. How do the listeners know what the products cost? I give every participant a straightforward one-page order form (contact me and I’ll send you a digital example) that lists all of the products I have available, their cost, plus tax (if a CA sale) and (if bought later) the shipping. The office order form has many more products than I sell BOR, and it also includes digital copies of the printed material that they can buy by computer later—which are downloaded in a few seconds through my shopping cart program.

12. What about the special, how do you list that? I have one line on the order form that says “SEMINAR SPECIAL,” and since I have only one special per program I ask them just to check that line and put the special price after it. I usually have another flyer that explains (sells) those “special items,” with the special price (showing the discounts).

I guess I have more to say about this than I thought! Let me continue this blog post on Friday, June 1.


Gordon Burgett

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Necessary pre-interview fact gathering

Articles (and books) are made of facts, quotes, anecdotes, and maybe artwork. Those are the basic elements of buyable text.

Interviews are almost always the life blood of articles. Read the first article you see in a magazine and newspaper and you’ll almost always find three or four people quoted, with one (the most authoritative or closest to the action or event) quoted several times.

The minimum information you need about each person quoted is their name; often their address or employer (and what they do); if they are to be a reliable information source, where that authority (or audacity) to speak comes from, and how they can be contacted. Nothing irks an editor quicker than misspelling any name. Just ask the interviewee, “ It is Brown, B-R-O-W-N?” If you don’t, it will be Browne and Braun.

Examples: …” said Elmer Ilk, marketing manager at Benny’s Pet Shop in Old River, Idaho, or …” according to witness Andi Mulk, a 23-year-old junior at Lincoln State. Editors won’t accept “unidentified source,” though they may hide the name and info if it puts anybody in danger.

The contact link is particularly important for information that needs vetting or second-checking. A phone or email address is the minimum you need and the editor may request. The more you know factually about the person, the more likely the editor will keep their words in the copy.

The best deal is knowing in advance who you will interview—and why.

If there’s a brouhaha about, say, cigar smoking during Chamber meetings, find out who the pro and con leaders are, plus the indignant, gasping citizen who is leading the objection. Here, you don’t need hours of pre-asking prep. Get the info above, and ask “Why do you object to…” or “Why is cigar smoking in the Chamber meetings a good idea?” And ask the citizen his/her complaint. If you don’t know who champions the pro position, ask the con leader–and vice versa.

But if the to-be interviewed are higher profile, try the Google search first to see what it reveals: check the protagonists, the topic, and other publications that have addressed it. If the folks work for a larger firm, an university, the military, or any other group that has a p.r. or personnel branch, they will often email you background sheets. Read anything else written about the controversy; your reference librarian can help there, sometimes plucking the less obvious copy from Nexus-Lexis or other files to which they have access. Also read anything else about the people you wish to interview.

It’s fair game, at the end of the interview, to ask who else also feels strongly about the same position, and how you might contact them. (That gives you another strong source, if needed to strengthen the article.) But get the interview first before you ask for this information or any of the earlier bio or contact material. That’s when I ask for their phone or email address should the editor wish to recheck or expand on anything said.

A final suggestion. Most new interviewers have two misconceptions: (1) that the person interviewed wants to know anything about them, other than what rag they work for, and (2) a good interview takes a lot of time.

For (1), figure out what you need, and pretty much just ask the most important question first, a follow-up question second, and maybe #3 third. That takes (2) usually far less than 15 minutes, and far more likely about five. (Several of my best interviews were one question, a succinct answer, and a follow-up “why…?” Two or three minutes, a sincere thank you, and adios.) No time to talk about me, as enchanting or illuminating as that might be. If it comes to that, I’ll just have to wait (probably a very long time) for some other interviewer to find me and ask!

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

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Using social media to increase your publishing and speaking presence and income

“Webify Your Book Marketing” was the title of Karen Clark’s excellent 90-minute how-to program to about 80 book publishers at the 5/12/12 meeting of BAIPA (Bay Area Independent Publishers), in San Rafael, California.

The most pressing questions that Karen answered, with humor and clarity, were (1) what were the most effective social media for promotion, (2) how did each enhance book sale, (3) how to get the media integrated, and (4) how much time was needed per day to make this approach worth doing?

An N.S.A. (National Speakers Association) professional who has offered similar programs for several years, Clark divided her program into six segments: website, blog, Facebook, Twitter, email marketing, YouTube, and Linkedin. She also mentioned that Pinterest, while fast growing, is only marginally valuable for product promotion right now. (You can post your book covers there, with a link back to the book’s website info.)

Here are the key points in each category that I found particularly valuable.

Website: (1) Be sure to have links from your website to every marketing piece (and on every marketing piece too); (2) explore and use the mysterious (yet free) QR codes that point to your website, shopping cart, or sales page—you can even put them in every chapter, adding more specific information or resource directions. See If your buyers are Luddites or immobile, hold off. I understand the QR codes only work on mobile devices, and (3) you can create your own Website rather quickly and simply (and also use Word for direct corrections) through Web Press.

Blog: (1) Create blogs from you own book excerpts, with additional commentary; (2) write guest blogs for other bloggers in your market, and (3) Word Press is also great for creating blogs (see this blog), although Go Daddy, as a host, isn’t W-P friendly.

Facebook: Karen was particularly enthusiastic about Facebook, and suggested to (1) focus on the business (fan) segment; (2) fill in the About (profile) page fully; (3) add info every day, mostly tips and advice; (4) if you just plug products, particularly your own, even your friends will go elsewhere, (5) check into selling through Payvment at Facebook, and (6) don’t post at Twitter and have it sent to Facebook—do it the other way around.

Twitter: Clark was a booster here too, suggesting that you (1) set up daily tweets (book quotes or part of your story line) and how they can read more; (2) find folks like yourself and follow them, so they might follow you back; (3) set up a month (or a year) of posts in advance to come out three times a day, through; (4) drive tweeters to your blog, and (5) check and respond to commentaries from others.

E-mail marketing: Here, (1) you create a monthly newsletter, short and full of value; (2) offer some free .pdf reports or a free chapter if they will send back your opt-in free subscription box to your auto responder; (3) put that same sign-up info box at your website, blog, and Facebook page; (4) include information in the newsletter regularly about your products and related knowledge—the purpose is to fill up a long e-list with the names of (buying) fans, and (5) draw Twitter and Facebook folk to your free newsletter.

YouTube: (1) Owned by Google, a great way to get “found,” (2) but you need your YouTube channel customized with your own info (fully fill out the description of the video, then tell how to get your products); (3) think 1-3 minute videos—a “talking head” video with you holding your book is OK; (4) be sure you add lots of info under the video: description and tags/keywords, and (5) mention your videos at Twitter, Facebook, your blog, and your webpage.

Linkedin: The most enigmatic, best used (1) by filling in your profile completely, with keywords throughout; (2) taking part in groups, and (3) answering questions. In your profile, your most recent job (or what you’re doing now) can be your most recent book!

As for how much time you might have to spend for social networking to pay off, Karen Clark’s answer is 10 minutes a day. That brought a collective laugh from her listeners. But she held to it. I assume she meant 10 minutes a day after you were all linked up to the many networks and you’d filled in the profiles and formats. Karen said that she uses a timer to make sure she doesn’t exceed that time limit.

There didn’t seem to be a distinction on whether social networking worked better to sell your products or yourself, to speak. (Often when you do one you soon do the other.) Her talk was aimed at displaying you, helping you establish and share your expert knowledge (or experience), and driving the reader to a link that led to you, your e-list, or your order form. Or all three! The end result of using the social network well was to attract others sympathetic (or at least attuned) to your cause, to speak with you, to book you to speak, or to buy your product. Best yet, again, or all three!

That’s it. For direct information from Karen Clark, see

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

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A surefire way to jump to the top of your field…

If, of course, you dare to jump to the top of your field!

What does that mean? To a grizzled old empire builder, it means that you will write the article most read each year, you will annually speak at your group’s convention, you’ll offer breakout sessions regularly, you’ll be sent new products to try and test, and you will quickly become one of the group’s top (or at least better known) leaders.

It also means that “your group” is a niche group, though it might work in broader fields too.

The surefire way? Become the person who gives the “state-of-the-art” summary every year. (To be even more effective, if not clairvoyant, you would also provide the vision of where the group will be a year from now, or two years, or even five years.)

Yet to do that you must know where the group was 50 years ago, 25, 10, five, and just two years ago. Your purpose, then, is to provide historical objectivity so your colleagues have a renewed, fact-based perspective about the niche on a regular basis, against which they can measure where they are, were, and might be. And how and why they have changed.

Is this important? It is on many levels.

For newcomers, it provides an insight (and direction) into the heart of your field or topic. A set of guidelines they can use as their own baselines and from which they can create future paths of distinction.

For veterans, a click-off list of changes in which they have participated, or seen happening. A notch stick of pride, to value their own change and growth.

For all in the field it provides a commonly understood view against which to measure and plan their actions, individually and collectively.

But how can you just do this, particularly if you are new to the field or are unknown? What are your credentials? Why would others believe you now, and ask for more later?

I mentioned daring. That’s how: you just dare to do it, and you do it. You spend the needed months doing every inch of research, finding facts and earlier summaries, interviewing the founders and innovators and visionary doers, reading all of the articles and books, all with the purpose of writing a “state-of-the-art” article to be shared on X date (this year, and updated on that date in the years to come).

Where will it be read by all in your niche? I’d write a query letter to the editor of the association magazine or newsletter (the key publication) about providing this piece to them at that time. A clear, humble request for permission to write that article, weaving in some of the information you have gathered, plus a rough outline or description of what the article would contain. Don’t ask for an annual article. Either do that after the article appears and is a roaring success, or six months later so it appears at a 12-month interval.

In the meantime, you have information for perhaps another eight articles, focusing on specific elements of change or trends in the future, each supported or expanded upon by other leaders in the field, mostly through interviews and examples.

If you add to the historical theme an article about “new products of the year,” you could pass judgment on or tell about, in depth, the most significant new tools, guides, ideas, or whatever affecting your subject during the past 12 months. That could be expanded to a presentation of how-to or step-by-step explanations comprising a breakout session at the convention (or conferences). And that too could be done every year, with you receiving an example or copy of the new products during that year for evaluation. (You might raffle them off, for a good cause, to the attendees at the gathering.

The purposes here are two-fold: (1) to bring valuable new information and perspective annually to your colleagues in the niche, and (2) to make you a new “star” in your field, the purveyor of that eagerly-awaited and indispensable new information.

In turn, that core information and you as the expert about it could be the core of your new writing, speaking, and product-creating empire.

(See more about empire building at my free monthly newsletter.)

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

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To see which of your Smashwords books sold–and where!

If you are publishing by the ancillary path (Kindle, Nook, Lulu, Smashwords, or Blurb), you wonder who is buying your digital posted gems and where those distinguished yet singular souls live.

If you’re a publisher of others’ books, that buying knowledge is even more important because you have to send your authors their royalties!

Smashwords has been the most enigmatic to figure out. But I think I have it nailed, and I’ll share that with you if you too are smitten by curiosity or obligation.

Presuming you have an account there, and books to sell, you can start by completing your login and heading to the dashboard page (choices are on the top horizontal line). The dashboard gives you the list of your products for sale through Smashwords. Look in the blue box to the left for “Select and Payment Record,” and open that. Voilá: in that box are links to open the last quarter sales report and/or the quarterly earnings mapping report. Just poke around in both to get a look at current and earlier sales.

What makes it more fun to review purchases from Smashwords is that it sells through many key distributors in North America, Europe, and Australia, and more… (So does Kindle.)

The spreadsheet tells all. Who bought what and when, and whether the sale was through Smashwords, Apple, Sony, Kobo, Diesel, or Barnes and Noble. The spreadsheet is divided into columns headed by author, price, quantity, amount (that you charge, retail), coupons, three discount cuts, an affiliate cut, transFee, vat (taxes), currency, the final amount you receive is US dollars, and the recording date. If your book sells in euros or Canadian dollars, those are also converted into USD before you receive your quarterly PayPal deposit.

I was surprised to see how widely our sales were distributed, and particularly pleased that through the Premium Catalog we were selling a lot to Apple, Sony, and Kobo. I think we compete with ourselves at Barnes and Noble (since we post at Pubit!—Nook), and we have sold only four items directly by Smashwords (where all earn 85% of the royalty). I was pleased to see that the extra work you must do to get your books up-graded to make that catalog (which is free) does in fact pay off with sales.

I also like that Smashwords doesn’t list a sale until the money is actually collected. Most of the other like publishers announce a sale but often pay it a month (or two) later. Confusing. What I don’t like is that it takes several months for the most recent sales reports to be broken down into buyers and titles. I know what I will receive for the first quarter of 2012 (the global amount was just deposited in my account) but I must wait for the details before I can assign that income to the royalty charts.

Who likes this seller/currency/foreign intrigue the most? My authors, when I share the distribution with them. I suspect that some of the five are already working on an accent for when they travel, hoping to find their tomes in bookstores abroad!

Nothing profound here, just an improved reporting process by Smashwords that almost puts flesh on our book buyers. I hope this makes your hunt, for royalty designation or just curiosity, easier to do.

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

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