Archives: Publishing

It’s expensive to launch a “successful” book, whether the investment is the publisher’s, yours, or a combination of both. And by successful, I’m not even talking about New York Times bestsellers, whose successes seem as much the result of a quantifiable financial investment as they are the result of unquantifiable variables like reader enthusiasm and sheer serendipity. By successful, I’m referring to any book that earns out its publisher’s investment and sells through its first printing. Any author who’s gotten that far should be immensely proud.

Here are some of the most critical costs I’ve seen responsible for creating a successful book:

*Print run (the number of books printed)
*Co-op (exhibition or shelf space the publisher is buying, whether at Barnes and Noble or Amazon.com, to offer your book exposure to browsers. Involved explanation here.)
*Marketing & publicity (ranging from advertising to a freelance publicist)
*Buying back books (for events or giveaway/review purposes)

For authors who receive an advance in the tens of thousands of dollars, a robust first print run, co-op, or hefty publicity/events support isn’t likely. And even the rare, proactive publicist who works with you at your publishing house…his/her efforts may simply not translate. If your hope is to exceed expectations and give your book a real shot on the market, you will need to find ways to supplement what’s lacking in the publisher’s investment.

Here are some ways to properly prioritize your time and energy that won’t cost you a dime, excluding gas money.
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“The sport of book promotion is more of a relay race than a sprint.”

It’s almost a cliché to hear an author complain about his or her publicity team. But the fact of the matter is that celebrity has become as important as literary merit, with more titles competing for consumers’ attention than ever before, so authors need to work just as hard as their publicists to promote their work.

That can be frustrating, unless you’re able to “rewire” the way you approach publicity. It begins with remembering that you and your publicist are on the same team, and that the sport of book promotion is more of a relay race than a sprint. There’s no recipe for guaranteed attention, but with the right partner, you can at least have a hand in orchestrating your book’s destiny. As an author and a publicist, here are a few things we’ve learned.

1) Rewire the way you think about publicity.

What does publicity “success” mean to you? If it’s getting an interview on NPR or a book review in the New York Times, you should be plugged into those outlets, knowing the kinds of authors and subjects they cover. While it’s always difficult to attract national media attention, if you can convince your publicist that your book should make the cut—e.g., based on the success of comparable titles, or news trends—you’re giving her the artillery she needs to make the case for you.

If national media isn’t available to you, it’s time to rewire. Coverage by a wide network of bloggers, a Facebook post by a celebrity author, or a viral op-ed in Huffington Post gives you a lot of exposure and often translates to sales. Website analytics yield more data than offline media. We can’t recommend enough that authors follow their traffic, experiment with posting online, and actively engage with reader communities to exploit the loudspeakers of social media.

For Bianca’s book launch, a series about a vintage-obsessed 12-year-old girl who’s carried away to different historical eras, we found immense support from YA and style bloggers, who hosted Bianca on a blog tour and posted images of her book on Instagram. When drumming up book reviews proved difficult, we placed larger profiles about Bianca in adult fashion outlets.

Read the full essay with Bianca Turetsky at PublishersWeekly.com 

Marketing begins with an immediately accessible concept. As more books go digital and jacket art becomes a less important draw to readers, your title becomes your best (or worst) marketer. Look at the New York Times Bestsellers list each week: you’ll see common words repeating almost formulaically by category. How can one tap this formula? Simply by paying careful attention, even just looking at your own bookshelf or Kindle queue. Here are some of the top-selling titles we found to guide you in the right direction. Some might surprise you!

1. Guide to, Ways to, How to: 1,638,764 / 194,230/ 584,472

Practical titles caught us as the most prevalent: promising to fulfill something you need. But you don’t necessarily need to have written a self-help book to use these phrases.  Toby Young’s memoir How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, a spin-off of the famous prescriptive business title: How to Win Friends and Influence People picks up on these buzzwords. Even fiction authors can take advantage: think of Melissa Bank’s breakout book, The Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing.

Get creative with nonfiction help titles too by remixing classics like “What to Do When…” (119,112 in Search Results on Amazon) or calls to action, like: “How to Start…” (107,615 in Search). Readers browsing for particular information, whether for personal or professional interest, will respond to both the authority of a “How to” title and the originality of your spin on it.

2. Lives/Life: 1,665,413/1,665,455

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry: A Novel, Life Beyond Words, My Horizontal Life, The Secret Life of Violet Grant… We were surprised by the number of books on bestseller lists containing these words. Three possible reasons: the word “life” implicitly suggests an arc, or progression, or wholeness to a story; it caters to voyeurism, an intimate look at someone else’s life; and finally, it brings a kind of drama through that voyeuristic lens. Many readers appear to respond to a title that feels both honest and sensational.

3. Children: 1,649,100

Everyone love talking about kids: Their kids, other kids, genius kids, and “those darn kids!” So it’s no surprise “children” is a popular search title. There are plenty of self-help books on how to raise a child (The Conscious Parent: Transforming Ourselves, Empowering Our Children). However, other popular fiction writers are also quick to play to our parenting sensibilities, like bestselling YA author Ransom Riggs’ novel Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children, or Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children.

4. House/Home: 1,124,405/481,749

A house: one of the most basic units of life. Houses and homes are close to our hearts as well as our wallets. A self-help or style book focused on the house or home would do well to include these keywords, but even fiction books like House of Leaves by  Mark Z. Danielewski and Summer House With Swimming Pool by Herman Koch can capitalize on the ubiquitous and comforting nature of these words.

5. Perfect: 1,057,687

Are we more perfectionist than ever? Apparently so! Popular book titles reveal a lot about human psychology. Using the word “perfect” seems to automatically guarantee a better shot at bestsellerdom, from the book-to-film, A Perfect Storm, to self-help (and in this case self-published) bestsellers, like Creating Your Perfect Lifestyle.

5. You/Your: 776,534  / 486,158

Frame the topic of your book around a well-placed “you” or “your” and you have immediately established a connection with potential readers. You can go the more traditional route: Seeing the Big Picture: Business Acumen to Build Your Credibility, Career, and Company, or… Welcome to Your Brain and Don’t Look Behind You are playful takes on this tactic.

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I remember meeting two years ago with an internationally published author who came to me with this perspective: “If I could find a major publisher in the U.S., I wouldn’t even require a book advance.”

When I asked writers if they would take a “free” book deal on Facebook, I got several immediate “Yes! Yes!” responses. The logic makes sense: if you have already written a book just lying on a shelf somewhere or in an agent’s slush pile and you’ve spent years writing this thing, would the offer to see your book to market, in print and in stores, not be somewhat compelling?

E-book publishers like Amazon, Diversion, Vook, Thought Catalog and many others are already offering writers the opportunity to publish using their resources – different from the go-at-it-alone approach of self-publishing – and given demand, these publishers are getting more selective. But when the author I spoke with prompted me to look into print publishers who might consider a free book deal, I found only a few paperback romance and/or smaller vanity publishers, none of which I’d heard of before.

In publishing, like other industries governed by people, not products, herd mentality still reigns. Just consider the premise of book auctions, perhaps spurred more by competitive interest than merit, often placing false value on books that more often than not lose money. And yet, even while low-cost equations like Amazon and smaller startups like Storyville or Wattpad push us toward Anderson’s prediction of “economic gravity,” print publishing remains the celebrated, curated system in which only those books deemed promising have a shot. And the fee paid for the material symbolizes that internal enthusiasm and support.

There are plenty of writers who couldn’t, or shouldn’t, in today’s publishing landscape, make the free book deal. If you need an advance to travel and research your book, how could you? If you have a competitive offer, why would you? But for the vast majority, the benefits are worth considering: the advance may be zilch, but the royalties and creative control are more advantageous than any standard book contract. (You can find a short overview of e-publishing options and pros and cons here.)

Forward-thinking authors like the person I spoke with also realize that nothing in this world is actually free. You, too, will be “charged” with promoting your book—that’s after the uncompensated work you’ve already done writing it. And your publisher will theoretically be investing in your book’s production, design, marketing and distribution — with or without the added book advance.

I am not arguing that publishers become the sort of “anyone and everyone” aggregator model established by Amazon. What I’m suggesting is that there are many proposals and manuscripts that come so close to making the cut…so what if there were more leeway in making “buying” decisions? With allowances for greater risk-taking, open-mindedness and creativity, the realization that successful marketing lies in both the estimable (promotional costs) and the inestimable (word of mouth), traditional print publishers like their e-counterparts, may soon find value in the model of the free book deal.

 

*A version of this essay was originally published May 30th, 2012. Since then, several of the bigger publishers are experimenting with new digital imprints that offer no or near-to-nothing advances.  Slowly, perception may be shifting…

Alpha Woman Meets Her Match CoverToday, we’re especially excited to talk to Dr. Sonya Rhodes, Ph.D and Susan Schneider, coauthors of  The Alpha Woman Meets Her Match: How Today’s Woman Can Find Love and Happiness Without Settling, just published with WilliamMorrow.
The Alpha Woman, is a nonfiction guide to dating and relationships for modern “Alpha” women, but also a larger commentary on the way new gender roles are shaping the way we live, work, and choose our partners. Based upon her experience as a marital counselor, Dr. Rhodes describes the “alpha” (dominant, assertive) and “beta” (supportive, nurturing) traits that contribute to our individual personalities and how they influence our relationships, at work and at home.  In the spirit of Sheryl Sandberg’s call for women to take charge of their careers in Lean In, Dr. Rhodes calls on all women to own their “Alpha,” and refuse to believe in today’s negative messaging toward women, or tone down, for the sake of getting married or having a child.
We asked Dr. Rhodes and her coauthor, Susan Schneider, how they think women (and men) will receive this brave new way of approaching relationships, why the school of “settling” is so detrimental to positive relationships, and of course, what it’s like to write and publish as a team. 
Dr. Sonya Rhodes, Ph.D

dr-sonya-rhodesIn writing The Alpha Woman Meets Her Match, you’ve drawn from years of experience as a marital expert and couples therapist. What inspired you to write this book? Why now?

 About a decade ago I started seeing more and more women who were expressing Alpha qualities. They were assertive, confident, competitive women who took pride in their achievements. At the same time, they were sharing their frustrations in finding a partner who would be loving, supportive and respectful. Many therapists were telling them that they were “scary” to men, too aggressive, too confident. This negative approach shamed women for their strengths and talents.  I intuitively knew that these fantastic women were a whole new generation of women who needed support, not criticism.

 Since you started your psychology practice more than 30 years ago, have you noticed any significant changes in the attitudes of women as they approach challenges in the workplace and in relationships?

There has never been a better time for women. As evidenced by Lean In and books like mine, women’s roles in relationships and at work are dramatically changing. We are not talking here of itty-bitty changes — we are seeing a revolution in the culture towards greater equality and gender-neutral relationships. Women are taking their place at the table at home and at work.

What do you have to say to advocates of “settling,” such as Lori Gottlieb, or those who say that after 30 you’re doomed, like Susan Patton?

As you can imagine, I think this is the fear mongering of small minds. No woman should settle for less than what she deserves. Taking time to develop her independence and career will provide a stable identity throughout her life. Furthermore, women who marry later (in their 30’s and 40’s) marry better. They are least likely to divorce because they are more mature when they pick their partners.

Many women abhor the identity of “Alpha.” In your book, you’re trying to de-stigmatize that identification. What does the term “Alpha Woman” mean to you?

Alpha comes with a lot of baggage that has been part of the rigid social norms around gender. Keeping people in  “gender boxes” does not play anymore. The negativity surrounding Alpha traits is dramatically shifting because women realize that there is nothing wrong and everything right about excelling and being strong.

But your book is equally about celebrating Betas. Can you tell us a few characteristics of Beta women (and men) that we might not immediately associate with the stereotype?

Beta men and women are accommodating but not compliant, assertive but not confrontational, work hard but are not work-obsessed. They match up very well with Alpha partners who will take the lead. I believe the new guy on the street is the Beta male who is not a wimp anymore than the Alpha woman is a bitch. He is really the new “catch” for the Alpha woman because he will partner, parent and participate!

Getting right down to it…in your opinion, what are some relationship “deal breakers?”

I have seen Alphas, both male and female, who take the attitude “it’s my way or the highway.” Outside of physically abusive relationships, I think this is the biggest deal breaker of all. If you can’t negotiate and share power the relationship is doomed. Partnership trumps power.

“You were a “child bride” now approaching your 50th wedding anniversary. As one of the premiere Alpha women, was your marriage always smooth sailing?
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Marketing your book is almost as vital to your success as writing it. Unfortunately, adequate marketing practices often come at an unfriendly price if not backed by a publishing house with a big budget.  Luckily, an industrious few have begun to investigate new ways to spread the word about their work and reduce personal expenses.

PubSlush, a startup modeled after Kickstarter (but for books only), aims to help self-published authors achieve the financial resources to get their projects off the ground. (Another up-and-comer to watch is Publishizer.) Today, Pubslush’s Development Director, Justine Schofield, shares a few star examples of crowdfunding campaigns, with some takeaways for how other writers can use the model successfully.

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Trying to publicize a book, particularly by way of newspapers and magazines, can be so challenging for already published or just publishing titles that authors in this position are often turned down by publicity firms. Finding the right publicist has become a bit like finding an agent.

There is enormous value to be had in the months until publication, and when consulting with writers, this has become the starting point of any conversation. Carving out ample lead time to promote or think about promotion can make the difference between a book published proactively and a book published reactively. With 3-6 or even 8 months to plan what you want your publication to look like, the reading world is your oyster. You can begin to craft a marketing strategy including those blue sky ideas that, when you’re publicizing a book retroactively, will be near impossible to achieve. With 3-8 months ahead, you can do a lot by way of networking, social or otherwise, and have a much better shot at mainstream publicity.

But for lack of knowledge or budget, or for relying too heavily on their publishers, many authors find themselves in the retroactive position. Instead of tossing in the towel come what may, I think there are avenues to market or publicize your book in a way that builds an audience perhaps slowly, but also more meaningfully and permanently. Before you begin, it’s crucial to shift your objective from ‘buy my book!’ to ‘learn about my book and see if you like it.’ Don’t fall prey to algorithms and popularity contests. What good are those thousands of followers and friends, those form letters to no one in particular, if these are not people who would realistically enjoy your book?

Here are a few ways to use free social platforms available to everyone to genuinely connect with readers at an individual level:
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For authors promoting their books, there are so many methods of marketing online that one can often overlook the most essential platform second to your website: your Amazon book page. Much like your website, this is your showcase—but unlike your website, you’re not allowed the same freedom to design beyond Amazon’s basic infrastructure. So, if your page will appear at least superficially like everyone else’s, how will you hook a potential reader in those very first seconds he or she is scanning your page? How will you stand out? Here are our top 6 hints.

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A guest post by Dianna Huff

typewriterDid you know that many of the business and self-help books you see on store shelves – or at your iTunes or Kindle store – are written by ghostwriters? Sometimes referred to as “copywriters,” ghostwriters are the voice behind CEOs, politicians, celebrities, gurus – anyone who needs something written. In addition to books, ghostwriters will often write articles, reports, speeches, and blog posts for individuals. A ghostwriter can specialize in a niche, such as a highly scientific or technical area, or generalize and tackle just about any topic.
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It’s the best of times and the worst of times. A great time to be a thriller writer, and a not-so-hot time to be a literary novelist. At least that’s the conclusion one draws in reading this article on the 15 highest paid authors of 2012. Taking aside luck, timing, and arguably talent, why are these 15 authors as successful as they are? What, as an author or aspiring one, can be gleaned from this “data” to guide one’s work toward saleability?

The authors chosen for this list, not listed in order of wealth are:

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