Tag Archives: marketing

Surprises

Sometimes success happens long after you’ve given up hope for a happy ending.

Let me explain.

Years ago I visited a retired executive to go over my business plan. I wanted to expand my art business through manufacturing and licensing, but the retired executive believed I could never accomplish my goals because I lacked the time.

“You need 80 hours a week to do what you want to do,” he said. “Anything less is certain failure.”

That experience dampened my exuberance. Instead of walking away with a strategy to transform my business, I was advised to give up.

I didn’t follow the advice, but I did scale back my dream. I stopped pursuing manufacturers for a contract and settled for keeping production in-house. I stopped courting companies to license my artwork for personal checks, calendars, books, and clip art and settled for producing limited edition prints instead. I stopped trying to expand my market to art galleries in New York and settled with art galleries in San Francisco.

This week I received a call from an art gallery owner I hadn’t heard from in a long time. “Are you still at the same address?” she asked.

“Yes, I am,” I said. “Why?”

My largest and most expensive painting had sold. The art gallery owner was calling to confirm where to send the check.

After the initial shock wore off, a warm glow of joy and satisfaction overcame me.

I sold a piece of artwork I had mentally written off.

I had given up just like the retired executive had advised.

And I was wrong.

I started wondering what would have happened if I had not listened to that retired executive and had continued to pursue my big dream.

Who’s keeping you from pursuing yours?


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5 Myths about Self Publishing

Signing Book

Because I chose to self publish my first novel, Legs, aspiring authors often approach me for advice on how to self publish.

Within minutes of our conversation, several preconceived ideas surface.

Here are the 5 most common misconceptions about self publishing and what you can do to make them work for you:

1. Self publishing is free.

Some self publishing companies do not require any upfront fees. However, these companies also don’t offer any free services. If you engage one of these companies, be prepared to:

a. Design your own cover
b. Edit your own book
c. Write a back copy blurb
d. Register a copyright
e. File with the Library of Congress
f. Write your own press release
g. Find book reviewers

If you are comfortable with these tasks, then you can truly say self publishing is free. If you aren’t, then you might incur some costs to hire professionals to help you.

2. It’s easy.

Going from being a writer to being a self publisher is a lot like going from being pregnant to being a parent. Writing requires a different set of skills than self publishing. Your love of being alone to pound out 80,000 words does not go well with negotiating the costs of a copy editor who will edit those 80,000 words.

That doesn’t mean you can’t learn new skills. It just means it won’t be as easy as you thought it would be.

3. It’s a fabulous story.

Unfortunately, a fabulous story isn’t enough to sell books if no one knows about your story.

Marketing a self published book requires tenacity and endurance. If you hate selling, you might want to re-think your position. Although you won’t necessarily be going door to door selling your book, you will be doing other things to get the world to take notice of your story, whether it be emailing your sphere of influence, developing a blog, going to speaking engagements, arranging book signings, or donating autographed copies for charitable events, you will need to let others know about your fabulous story before word of mouth spreads and book sales soar.

4. It will make it into bookstores.

Not all self published books make it into bookstores. Even locally owned bookstores have limited space to house books. Booksellers have to be selective with the amount of real estate they have to generate sales.

Additionally, most self published books are print on demand (POD). Print on demand books cannot be returned to the publisher if they do not sell unless the publishing company you are working with offers a booksellers return program. Without it, you will most likely have to go from bookstore to bookstore to ask for your book to be stocked on the shelves. Some booksellers will extend this courtesy to local authors through consignment, in which the bookseller retains a percentage of each sale in exchange for the author “renting” shelf space.

5. Everyone will buy it.

According to a 2012 report issued by Bowker, the number of self published books has escalated 287% since 2006. When I self published Legs in 2008, I enjoyed space in bookstores, plenty of book reviews, a local book tour, and enough royalties to recoup my initial investment. A Canadian publisher bought my second novel based on the successful sales of my first novel. Thinking I could repeat my initial success, I turned down a traditional publisher to self publish my third novel, Out of Balance. However, the self publishing climate had radically changed by 2011. I didn’t get shelf space at any bookstore, fought for the book to be reviewed, paid for an unconventional book tour (see my blog The Coffee Shop Book Tour), and lost money on the investment. Not wanting to repeat my self publishing fiasco, I decided to sell my collection of short stories to a small publisher. Currently, I am seeking representation by a literary agent for my novels.

Self publishing might be perfect for you and your book. Knowing the facts behind these 5 self publishing myths will help you enjoy the journey more.

Good luck!

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The Business Behind Another Coffee Shop Book Tour

Taking the Show on the Road

I am gearing up for the publication of my fourth book, The Human Act, a collection of short stories from All Things That Matter Press and am planning my sales and marketing strategy. From the results of my last encounter with bookstores such as Barnes and Noble, I do not even want to approach the marketing department to request a reading or book signing event. Some retail stores and gift shops, such as Best Wishes!, will host an event for me. But if I want to reach a nationwide audience, there is a lot of leg-work that needs to be done.

First, I have to get a seller’s permit for every city I travel to if I am going to be selling directly to the public. I have to collect sales tax based on the city’s rate, which can fluctuate between 7% and 9%, depending on the city or the county. That money has to be paid to the state either quarterly or yearly based on my sales volume. If I want to be able to avoid paying tax twice, I have to get a resale certificate, which will allow me to purchase my books without paying sales tax. Not all businesses accept resale certificates. That’s why historically a lot of authors purchased their books in volume through Amazon. But with recent legislation, most online retailers will be charging and collecting sales tax from all purchasers. That’s when a resale certificate comes in handy.

Second, I have to decide where I will be selling my books if I am going to finance my own book tour. If I am going to attend a book festival, I have to budget for the registration fees and other associated costs, such as booth and equipment rentals. Event costs can vary from a hundred dollars to thousands of dollars, depending on the venue and the amenities. But some costs are worth the investment, especially if a high volume of books are sold.

Next, I have to check with my accountant before making any marketing decisions to see whether or not the investment is tax deductible. Some things I can write-off; others I cannot. For example, if I store my books and other merchandise in a storage unit, I can write-off the monthly rental fee. But if I buy a “Human Act” T-shirt to wear to a book festival, the Internal Revenue Service considers that a uniform, which is not tax deductible.

Not all promotion costs money. Some of it costs time. From experience, I have had to learn how to value my time, which is not something all authors do. Posting on Facebook and Twitter and writing blogs are free, but they have an initial time investment. If I translate my time into dollars, I am spending money when I take time to complete any of these tasks. By learning how much my time is worth, I am able to calculate my true profit margin. Without knowing my profit margin, I cannot evaluate the most effective way to attract and increase sales.

Everyone is different. Some authors are better at blog tours. Others need to face an auditorium full of readers. Some authors have a loyal online following that results in tons of sales. Others rely on word-of-mouth. Some authors sell volumes online or through bookstores. Some authors find they make most of their sales out of the trunks of their cars.

From my experience, I sell best in person. That’s why readings, book signings, book festivals, author panels, and the coffee shop book tour worked well for me. My online presence has not resulted in as many sales. That’s why it is worth the extra upfront financial investment for me to purchase and resale books rather than rely on direct online sales. Other authors are more fortunate and have avoided the expense by honing their online presence as their best sales and marketing tool. Hopefully, you are one of those authors. If you are, please feel free to post a comment and let me know the secret of your success.