Award-winning, Self-published Author Gisela Hausmann on Book Marketing

Authors, it’s time to get our book marketing in check, with advice courtesy of email expert and self-published author Gisela Hausmann.

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Gisela has written a branded series of “naked” (no-fluff) books for indie authors under her own publishing imprint, Educ-Easy Books. These are short, straightforward books—many of which I’ve read—that are designed to help authors with promotion, such as Naked News for Indie Authors: How NOT to Invest Your Marketing $$$NAKED TRUTHS About Getting Book Reviews, NAKED WORDS 2.0: The Effective 157-Word Email, and Naked News for Indie Authors: How to Get on TV.

Marketing doesn’t come naturally to most of us authors, but it’s a learnable skill. With a little guidance, it’s amazing what we’re capable of. With advice from Gisela’s books, I have managed to score quite a few more reviews for my travel memoir. She has also changed the way I write emails (tip: never start with “I”).

In the interview below, I asked Gisela Hausmann how to approach book reviewers and influencers, and of course, how feasible it really is to get a spot on the local news.

Here’s what she had to say:

What inspired you to start writing books?

That’s a great question. Sometimes I feel as if I have lived through the entire history of publishing, aside from the invention of the Gutenberg Press. I really started out designing and publishing two coffee-table books, in 1988 and 1992. Then, there was no print-on-demand, so I learned everything that needs to be learned about printing off-set and publishing hard-cover books.

When my son entered the public school system I began to publish educational books for preschoolers. Some of the easy teaching concepts that my own (European) teachers used were unknown in the US. I published four books; everything went well, and I loved what I did.

Then, in September 2000 my husband died unexpectedly. Suddenly being the only breadwinner, I had to look for “safe” employment.

This was a really tough time for me. Not only was I the only parent, who had to handle “everything,” on top of that the Great Recession struck, too. I had to change jobs often and needed to learn a lot.

The one talent that helped me the most during these immensely difficult years was my communication skills. So, I worked on perfecting them, analyzed 100,000+ emails for effectiveness and personal appeal, and became an expert in email communication.

When, finally, the Recession ended and my children graduated, I decided to publish the knowledge that had helped me so much, so I could help others to get ahead.

The other thing I had learned during my “desperate years” was that our most valuable commodity is time. When we are looking for information we don’t want to read through 300 pages; we are looking for essential knowledge we can apply immediately. That prompted me to publish my series of “naked (no-fluff) books.” All of them can be read in under two hours and readers can apply what they have learned instantly. Each of my books features “action steps”: what to do, step-by-step.

  • You’re a multi-award winning author. What advice do you have for authors who want to enter themselves in writing competitions?

Awards? Haha… Winning one is not as easy as it once was. Today, so many books are getting published. Authors need to know that, typically, about 1,500 to 2,000 books get entered in most awards, though, of course, there are more popular and less popular genres.

Still, entering a book in an award is an interesting learning experience because whether you win, or you don’t, you are going to learn a lot about your book, your book’s genre and the industry as a whole. We begin to think in terms of “How do we stack up against the competition?”

I would advise every author to enter at least one competition. However, authors should check really check out the award before they enter. How many categories are there? Which books did the judges appreciate in the past? You can find that out easily, by pulling the winners of the last few years, then go to Amazon and read the blurbs and maybe even a sample. Once authors engage in that kind of research, the experience will help them grow as writers.

  • I like that you start your books off with a story. In How NOT to Invest Your Marketing $$$, you discuss how you wasted effort pursuing someone who wasn’t interested, and provide information on how other authors can avoid doing the same. In How to Get on TV you describe a (very creative) way that you pitched Oprah. Though she never reached out, you’ve been featured on other networks many times. How feasible is it for unknown, indie authors to score a TV interview?

In the US, getting on local TV is relatively easy, even for an unknown author; you just have to pitch the station’s anchor correctly.  The important thing is that authors don’t just aim for “getting on TV” but make it a part of a planned media campaign.

Today, pretty much every station puts their news clips on the Internet. Therefore, authors should ask the anchor to give them the link. Then, the authors can pull off a screen-print and put it on their website. This works well, whether the author had a good show or not. Seeing that an author has been on TV impresses readers and they are more likely to buy this author’s book.

If an author’s guest appearance was a good one, they should link to the actual video and also “reuse” the appearance on social media platforms. Readers like to see authors on TV. It makes them feel as if they know the author better because they can see the author’s passion for their work. That implies that friends and fans can forward the video to their friends which helps to sell books.

Also, in general, statistics show that people who see an author on TV are more likely to buy paperback copies, which make more money for the author and also improve the book’s Nielsen BookScan rating. That’s very important because bookstores as well as libraries consult the Nielsen BookScan rating when making the decision to buy or stack up on books.

Getting featured on TV and in magazines has another very important effect. It is imperative that authors get their work noticed. Of course, everybody tries their luck on various social media platforms but wherever they go, they have to share the space with thousands of other authors.

In contrast, though not everybody in your hometown watches TV every day. Once you are on, many viewers will see you and watch you and what you have to say, specifically. Obviously, being on TV can be much more effective than posting 100 tweets.

Equally, if an author’s book is featured in a magazine, there won’t be more than half a dozen other books, so each book will receive more attention.

Lastly, speaking in public and pitching the media are useful skills for any author, but they have to be practiced. It is for this reason that every author should seek publicity.

  • You’re listed among Amazon’s top reviewers and you’ve also written a book to help authors land more reviews. Why should authors seek reviews from Amazon reviewers as well as book bloggers?

Firstly, Amazon top reviewers do not write negative reviews too often. To keep their rankings they have to read many books. If they don’t like a book they will simply put it away and take the next one.

Since I read a lot of nonfiction books, I do write negative reviews if I can see problems. The reason is obvious—I don’t want other readers to buy a book which may have serious flaws. However, like most other top reviewers, I put novels I don’t like aside and carry on.

Therefore, if an author seeks top reviewers’ reviews early, they can weaken the effect of a potential negative review which might get posted in the future.

Secondly, it is no secret that Amazon deletes reviews which Amazon’s algorithm identifies as “friends’ reviews.” For instance, there are all kinds of “reviewer clubs” on Facebook. Though the authors who join these clubs don’t do review exchanges per se, the way how they go about getting reviews leads to many of these reviews getting identified as “reviews from friends.” That hardly ever happens with an Amazon top reviewer’s review. Amazon top reviewers’ rankings depend on the number of great reviews they write; consequently, they will make sure that they do everything perfect, so Amazon won’t delete their reviews.

Thirdly, authors whose books receive too many too short reviews are often looking for better/more elaborate/more in-depth reviews. Since Amazon top reviewers’ reviews have to be found “helpful” to score, they write very good and passionate reviews.

Lastly, getting a great review from a reviewer with a badge (Hall-of-Fame, Top-50, Top-100, etc.)  is considered to be a badge for the author, too.

  • You’re an email expert and you’ve written a book called the The Effective 157-Word Email. As writers, we’re always emailing strangers, whether they’re magazine editors, reviewers, or TV networks. Are there any email faux pas that authors should avoid when contacting influencers?

The #1 problem which I see over and again is emails that are really “me-mails.” Especially authors, who are “masters of the pen,” (not handymen who don’t write for a living) need to avoid using the words “I,” “my,” and “me.”

For instance, I receive many emails which include the following sentences: “I am looking for quality reviews on Amazon to get feedback from readers,” or “I would really value your opinion!” Of course, that’s true, but since most reviewers receive anywhere from a dozen to two hundred requests per month, reviewers can’t be concerned with what the authors are looking for or would value. There isn’t enough time in the day to read all books and help all authors, who all want the same thing.

In contrast, an author who focuses on the “you,” the reviewer, and writes something like “You won’t find a funnier book than my book …xyz…, because …” is bound to get the reviewer’s attention, because every reviewer is looking forward to reading the books they enjoy reading.

Obviously, that’s not all. Writing a really effective email is an art. Still, just focusing on “what will YOU (the recipient) be interested in” will help to improve any email, remarkably.

  • Why did you decide to publish under your own imprint, Educ-Easy Books? And do you recommend that other authors publish books under their own imprint, or look for a traditional publisher?

As mentioned before, I really started out writing educational books for preschoolers. My books were very popular with teachers. Of course, I guessed that when I set up my publishing company and therefore picked a name that would make clear, “I am writing books that will help others to teach/learn easily.” This is why I recommend that every author who wants to set up their own publishing company thinks about a company name that conveys a message.

I would never deter anybody from trying to publish with a traditional publisher. However, authors need to consider that it might take years until they find one who wants to publish their book. Even JK Rowling and Stephen King got rejected over and over again. Since there is lots of information how to publish books and everybody can hire experts like editors, cover designers, and formatters, in essence, the question boils down to, “How much time do I have?”

Also, an author who self-publishes their first book has an opportunity to gain a following and fans, and might have it easier to attract a great publisher for their second or third book, because any author with a following looks more attractive than an author who has only a manuscript.


Thanks Gisela Hausmann! For more on Gisela, you can check out her Amazon page, follow her on Twitter, or read her posts over at Gisela’s Straightforward Blog.

PS – I’ve also featured Gisela, as well as a couple of bestselling self-published authors, in this Entrepreneur article about how successful authors market their books.

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Happy New Year!

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Lauren Juliff: The Woman Who Traveled the World and Wrote a Book About It

As an overall memoir-junkie and the author of a travel memoir myself, I love to read about other people’s travel experiences—I’ve been obsessed with them since I read Eat, Pray, Love as a college student.

But my favourite travel memoir of all time is a book by first-time author Lauren Juliff called How Not to Travel the World: Adventures of a Disaster-Prone Backpacker. What makes her book so different from others within in the same genre is the candid way that she describes not only the places she has been (FYI: solo travel isn’t all bubblegum and roses) but also her inner thoughts.

In her early twenties, Lauren Juliff had already spent most of life battling an anxiety disorder that was so overwhelming, it forced her to live an exceptionally sheltered life. Always fearing the worst, she was even afraid to eat, just in case she was allergic to something she had never tried before. And while most twenty-somethings are inexperienced, Lauren had never even tasted rice or been on a bus trip.

But she was done letting her mental illness run her life. Once Lauren finished her studies, she decided to forgo the bus and hop straight on a plane, beginning her life of international travel while she blogged about pristine beaches and near-death experiences. Her description of brutal anxiety, contrasted against her descriptions of breathtaking scenery and interactions with those she met along the way made the book an emotional read interspersed with hilarity.

Here’s what she had to say when I asked her about dealing with anxiety on the road, future travel plans, book marketing, and the challenges of blogging vs. book writing.

Interview below:

When you first began your travels, you struggled with extreme anxiety. By the time you returned home, your family remarked at how much more relaxed and positive you seemed. I have also battled anxiety and know how challenging it can be. Did you use any techniques to cope with anxiety attacks while you were on the road, or did they diminish naturally as you encountered one dangerous situation after another?

I’m lucky to have not needed to use any techniques to combat my anxiety, as it faded away as soon as I started travelling. I stepped on the plane with my ticket in hand and didn’t really have a panic attack for the next several years.

When you consider that I was dealing with anxiety and having panic attacks at least once a week before I left, it’s miraculous that travel provided an immediate cure.

I’ve thought about this extensively to figure out why, exactly, this was the case, and my conclusion is that it’s all about leaving your comfort zone. I had little life experience when I first started travelling, so very minor things (like taking a bus) terrified me. From day one, I was challenging myself and doing the things I’d usually avoid, and most importantly of all, I was surviving them. From the moment my travels began, I was continuously proving to myself that everything I used to be anxious about wasn’t anything like a big deal.

On your travel website, you mention that you can’t even remember your last panic attack. Is there anything that you do nowadays to maintain your health and keep your anxiety at bay?

There are several things I now do.

I must confess here, though, that I have been struggling with my anxiety disorder for much of the past year. I found the writing process of my book to be tremendously stressful, due to tight deadlines (I had six months to write the manuscript and one month to edit it), and unfortunately, it didn’t do great things for my mental health. I began to have panic attacks once more.

This happened while I was travelling, so I couldn’t rely on that to provide a cure like I had before. Instead, I had to take a look at my lifestyle and make several changes to improve my mental health.

One thing that helped turn my life around was an elimination diet called the Whole 30, which reduced my daily panic attacks to zero. I now try to avoid gluten, dairy, and sugar, as I can link all three of these to the levels of anxiety I’m experiencing. Additionally, a morning meditation session always helps get my mornings off to a calm start, and regular exercise never fails to improve my mood.

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When you started your life as an international traveller, you were so sheltered that you had never before eaten rice or taken a bus (let alone boarded a plane or tried ethnic foods)! Your first stop was Croatia. What made you decide to dive right into Eastern Europe instead of starting closer to home in Britain?

I made the decision to start my trip in Europe because it was familiar, but still offered a challenge. I’d already spent family holidays in many countries in Western Europe and so that part of the world didn’t feel new or exciting anymore.

Eastern Europe was a region I had yet to explore, and one that sounded intimidating while still being close enough to home that I felt comfortable travelling there. I spotted a cheap flight to Dubrovnik and booked it immediately.

In your book you admitted that before you started travelling, you thought your ex-boyfriend was crazy for suggesting that you go to India, where you could get run over by a cow or catch dysentery. I laughed when I read that, but those scenarios are not beyond the realm of possibility. I have an ambivalent attitude toward the country because although it holds sentimental value for me, it’s very chaotic, and it’s a land where the laws of the universe cease to apply (not very conducive to healing anxiety). Even so, by the time I finished your book, I noticed your comfort zone widening considerably.  So, have you been to India yet?

I haven’t been yet, but I am planning on finally visiting next year.

I’ve planned (and even booked) several trips to India over the past few years, but something always came up (like a complicated, time-consuming, and expensive visa process) at the last minute to make me cancel it.

That scammer was a real piece of work and to be honest, I was glad that you punched her. Do you want to give China a do-over? And if so, when?lauren-in-china

I definitely do! China was my first experience of Asia and I was so out of my depth that I spent my time in the country freaking out about everything that was different. Now that I’ve been travelling for five years, I’d like to explore the country with a different mindset.

I’m not sure when I’ll get there, as I’m based in Portugal these days, and focusing on visiting the remaining countries I have left to see in Europe, as well as exploring more of Africa. I’m sure I’ll return within the next two or three years, though!

Were there any challenges that you faced writing a book when you were so used to blog writing, and if so how did you surmount them?

Making that transition was one of the biggest challenges I had to overcome. My degree is in physics, and at school, I always opted for mathematical courses over anything even remotely creative. My only experience with creative writing and storytelling, then, was through running my blog for three years.

When I got my publishing deal, I had no idea how to develop characters or build a plotline, or even how describe what a place looked like! I was so used to writing a travel blog where, if I wanted to talk about how beautiful somewhere was, I’d just post a photo of it.

I mentioned the tight deadline I had for writing my book above, and because of this, I didn’t have the time to research storytelling techniques or ask anyone for help. Instead, I forced myself to write every single day, even when I was feeling vulnerable or insecure. Somehow I managed to figure everything out along the way, even though I believed I had no idea what I was doing.

How Not to Travel the World was published by Summersdale. How did you come across this publisher, and did you use the services of a literary agent?

My publishing journey was a little unconventional.

I made an announcement on my travel blog that I was planning on self-publishing a book about my travel misadventures, and was contacted by an interested publisher several weeks later. They’d been reading my site for several years, loved my story, and thought it would make for a great read. I was in the process of putting together a book proposal for them when Summersdale got in touch.

It was a surreal experience. I had two publishers interested in working with me on my book and I hadn’t even been looking for a deal!

I immediately began contacting agents, because I didn’t know how the traditional publishing process worked and knew I’d need someone to help me negotiate contracts, etc. I was thrilled to sign with Adriann Ranta of Foundry Media.

What is the most creative thing that you did to market your book?

Well, I had a mental breakdown several weeks before the launch and spent the next three months in bed.

Unfortunately, that’s not a joke, and because of this, I didn’t market my book beyond announcing the launch on my site and sending a newsletter to my subscribers. The stress of writing and editing the book in such a short amount of time destroyed my mental health and I was too unwell to promote it.

Fortunately, I have fantastic readers who picked up the slack and passionately promoted my book to everyone they knew. It was because of this that I managed to sell out the first print run within three months, and it’s sold better than I ever could have expected since.

Having an engaged and committed readership is so important!

Are any more books on the horizon?

I don’t have plans for any right now!

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It’s too bad that Lauren doesn’t have any more books in the works at the moment, but if and when she does, I’ll be sure to read them. You can check out Lauren’s memoir, How Not to Travel the World, here, and her blog, Never Ending Footsteps, here.

On Vanity Presses vs. True Self-Publishing: The Case of Douglas Gardham

In the article “Meet Douglas Gardham, the hardest-working Canadian novelist you’ve never heard of,” Globe and Mail Books Editor Mark Medley features a Canadian author who has travelled every weekend for the last three years and driven over 115,000 kilometres to “hawk” his books to strangers.

In a nutshell, Medley admits that Gardham has sold a solid number of books over the years, but questions whether or not it was worth the effort. The entire piece is oozing with thinly veiled pity for Gardham, who hopes to someday catch the eye of an agency or traditional publishing company.

I don’t feel sorry for Gardham. I think his work ethic is admirable and with his determination, it’s a matter of time before an agency finds him. It’s just a shame that iUniverse found him first. After years of agency rejections, Gardham decided to take matters into his own hands.

“Finally, after a decade of frustration, he turned to iUniverse, the Indiana-based publishing service that has released some eventual bestsellers,” Medley writes of the resolute author.

To call iUniverse (or any of its ilk) a “publishing service” would be to use a great euphemism, and Medley is surprisingly out of touch with the industry he writes about. He also admitted that when Gardham approached him several years ago, he had no intention of featuring him or any of his books in the newspaper, stating, “As a rule, I rarely write about self-published books—there are too many, they are largely terrible and most of them are not readily available in bookstores.”

There are a couple of major things wrong with Medley’s piece (aside from its supercilious tone). First, the dismissal of self-published books in a grand sweeping statement is irresponsible of a modern newspaper editor. It is fine not to consider most self-published books, but this shouldn’t be because they’re self-published, and if it is, at least have the good sense not to admit this to your audience.

Self-publishing is on the rise, and it’s here to stay, with even major publishers like Penguin-Random House formerly owning Author Solutions, the vanity press giant under which iUniverse and other so-called “self-publishing” companies operate. Many self-published books have gone on to become bestsellers, and many traditionally published books have faded into oblivion. If the author has an audience they know how to tap into, the book should sell relatively well regardless of where it’s published. This is all the more likely if the book is well-written, carefully edited, and presented professionally.

For example, as the author of a travel memoir and overall memoir junkie, I often look for books written by other authors in my niche. I recently picked up How Not to Travel the World by Lauren Juliff, a book that’s highly ranked on Amazon and has received dozens of reviews. Thoroughly enjoying it, it was only when I was about halfway through that I became curious about the publisher.

There is a difference between publishing with a vanity press or so-called “self-publishing service” and true self-publishing. True self-publishing means being the owner of your own ISBN. Self-publishers register their ISBN under their own publishing imprint, or their own name. They hire independent editors and cover designers, and upload their manuscripts directly to bookseller websites, such as Amazon, Smashwords, and iTunes. Self-publishers maintain maximum creative control over their work, and receive much higher profits from sales.

Unlike true self-publishing, if the author uses a vanity press, the publisher will remain the owner of the book’s ISBN. The author will also have to pay hefty upfront fees for the book’s production, and to top it all off, authors will receive low royalty rates even though the publisher has not invested in the book whatsoever. This backwards business model is how vanity presses make their money. This is why vanity presses aren’t picky; so long as it’s not hate speech or pornography, anything goes.

Whereas traditional publishers pay authors for the rights to their book and consider the readers to be their customers, and self-published authors also consider the readers to be their customers, vanity press customers are authors, not readers. I have yet to meet an author that has turned a profit from publishing with a vanity press. There are very few exceptions.

There’s no doubt that iUniverse is very happy that they signed an author like Gardham. But what is he getting out of the deal?

By registering an imprint and truly self-publishing their work, self-published authors can compete with traditionally published authors for the attention of readers. The unethical vanity press “middle man” should have no place in this industry.

For instance, The New York Times recently ran an article about Meredith Wild, a self-published author who turned her imprint into a sought-after business. After being bombarded with offers from traditional publishers, she settled on a book deal with a healthy seven-figure advance in 2014, while she continues to write and grow her own imprint today.

Could this be the future for Gardham?

Gardham could still release new editions of his books under his own ISBNs, and collect greater royalties while he waits for that publishing deal. I wish him the best of luck in the future.

*Note: I first published this piece on The Huffington Post.

Vanity Presses: Avoid These Publishing Rip-Offs

Publishing is a risky business.

Whether you opt for self-publishing or score a deal with a Big Five publisher, there is no guarantee that you will win lots of sales in the end. In an industry where going it all alone can be overwhelming and yet finding a publisher can be complicated, many unsuspecting first-time authors are easy prey for duplicitous companies.

Cue the rise of the vanity press.

Why Vanity Presses Are Publishing Industry Sharks

Vanity presses are “self-publishing” companies that charge for their services, such as editing and book design, but also take a portion of your book’s profits, and are the registered owner of your book’s ISBN.

Whereas traditional publishers invest in the book, ask for no money upfront, and consider their readers to be their customers, the customers of self-publishing companies are authors; their interest is in selling you services, not helping you sell books. On the other hand, when you self-publish a book without using a third party company, the business model is restored and the customer is once again the reader.

Because they charge exorbitant upfront fees for the book’s production, tie up authors in messy contracts, and also give out low royalty payments, it is virtually impossible for authors to turn a profit. Still, first-time authors fall for these tricks for the novelty of seeing their books in print and the hope of getting picked up by a traditional publisher someday.

Killer Contracts: The Vanity Press Undertow

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Although you’ve paid through the nose, a vanity’s lengthy, messy contracts put little onus on their responsibilities.

In his invaluable e-book Writing Tips, author E. Van Johnson dissected a vanity contract he received (and smartly rejected). Below are a couple of its many clauses that were exceedingly unfair to the writer:

  • SPECIFICATIONS PRINTING/BINDING

The PUBLISHER shall cause the WORK to be set out in clear modern type and shall have absolute discretion as to the format, typeface, style, binding and printing of the work and the number of copies from time to time to be printed and bound.

(This clause is problematic because the publisher does not need to consult the author on design and print run.)

  • REVIEW COPIES

The PUBLISHER reserves the right to distribute copies of the paperback and digital copies of said WORK, free of charge, to [media outlets]. …All matters concerning promotion and publicity in respect of the WORK shall be at the discretion of the PUBLISHER.

(All matters concerning promotion, etc. should be clear. Otherwise, this clause allows them to do absolutely nothing and keep your money.)

Johnson’s contract isn’t a one-off. Below, I’ve included some troubling clauses from my own contract with a vanity publisher.

  • TIMING OF SERVICES

We will use commercially reasonable efforts to deliver Services in a timely manner; however, We cannot guarantee that We can provide any Service by any desired deadline, as there may be circumstances beyond Our control.

(This permits the publisher to work without a deadline—a clause that can and will be abused. I waited months with no work at all done on my manuscript before I terminated the agreement.)

  • IF FOR ANY REASON A CLAIM PROCEEDS IN COURT, RATHER THAN IN ARBITRATION, YOU AND WE EACH WAIVE ANY RIGHT TO A JURY TRIAL. YOU OR WE MAY BRING SUIT IN COURT ON AN INDIVIDUAL BASIS ONLY, AND NOT IN A CLASS, CONSOLIDATED OR REPRESENTATIVE ACTION, TO APPLY FOR INJUNCTIVE REMEDIES.

(This ominous clause prevents authors from filing class action suits against the vanity, likely instated in wake of Author Solutions’ previous lawsuit.)

Escaping the Jaws of a Vanity Press

Once I had signed with a vanity press, while I did hear from them quite often, it was never about the status of my book. It was about selling me more and more services. At my wit’s end, I went on Google and typed “vanity press name” + “scam” and spent an entire evening reading horror stories about the press I had signed with, and others.

I knew I had to get out, and here are the steps I took to do it:

  • Email the vanity and tell them you wish to cancel your agreement. Many vanity press contracts require that if you terminate, you have to do so in writing.
  • When your email is ignored, phone the vanity to get their response. Credit card companies prefer to intervene only after you have failed to resolve the issue on your own, so try your best to get some sort of reply.
  • When the vanity refuses to honour your request, call your credit card company right away and file a complaint on the Better Business Bureau (BBB) website.
  • Although your card company may issue you a temporary credit while the dispute is in process, know that vanity press contracts may have clauses that prevent you from seeking third-party help until a set number of days. The credit card company may have to wait before formally disputing charges.

Two months after I sent my initial termination email, I received a response through BBB, wherein the vanity shark denied my complaints but implied it wasn’t going to pursue me further. I was free.

What to do if you’ve already signed a contract and your book is post-production? While you retain ownership of the copyright, self-publishing contracts are messy. You do not own your ISBN, cover design, or typesetting, and upon termination, you’ll have to start from scratch with nothing but your manuscript. Still, it may be worth it for the greater royalty rate and control over your book down the road.

Once your book makes a splash and publishers begin approaching you, there are measures you can take to determine their legitimacy.

Is My Publisher Legitimate?

  • Make a hard-and-fast rule to never choose a publisher who demands both fees for publishing services and a percentage of royalties.
  • Be wary of any publisher that asks you to sign on the spot to qualify for a “special.”
  • Back out immediately if the publisher asks you how many of your own books you want to order. The reader is the customer. Not you.
  • Never use the services of any publisher addressed at Liberty Drive, Bloomington, Indiana. This is Author Solutions’ address (a vanity giant once owned by Penguin), and is used by all of their imprints.

For more information on self-publishing and assessing publishing contracts, you can pick up my free e-book. But in a nutshell, writers just need to remember Yog’s Law: “Money should flow toward the author.”

If you feel you’ve got a book in you, but the publishing process seems overwhelming, don’t be alarmed. Writers do not need the “help” of a vanity press; true self-publishing is done through owning your own ISBN under your name or your publisher’s imprint, contracting out much-needed services, such as design and editing, and uploading directly to bookseller websites such as Amazon and iTunes. This is the best way for self-published authors to maintain maximum creative control.

It may take longer than expected, but it will all be worth it in the end. It certainly was for me.

Author April Klasen: How Thinking Like A Reader Transformed My Marketing

Today’s post features self-published author (and savvy book marketer) April Klasen. Over to you, April!


Marketing when you self-publish is a bitch. You have a good story wearing a nice cover and it’s available from all major online retailers. So all you have to do is tell people about it and watch the money roll in. Not that hard, right?

The problem: no one trusts you.

With an author the reader already loves, they know what to expect when they buy another book. There is trust that they’ll get their money’s worth and have a good read.

New authors have to build that trust, and unless you have spare cash to hire an assistant, you should be prepared to do the hard work yourself. Writing the story will seem like a walk in the park once you get started with shouting out your book.

How do you do it without being too pushy? Think like a reader.

Guess what I forgot two years ago when I first self-published? That I am above all else, a reader. It took me two years and seven books to realise I’ve been doing everything wrong, because I’ve been thinking like a writer and getting frustrated that nothing I did had worked.

Two years. Yeah, I’m an idiot.

So what do I like to see as a reader?

Free Shit

I love free stuff. It’s great. When someone gives me something, I’m already half in love with whatever it is, because it’s free. And then when it turns out to be a great story… oh my God! Then I have to tell people about it and go find the rest of the author’s books.

As a writer, free is frustrating. It costs both money and time to produce a book and I want to make a living from my pen. How do I do that if I’m giving it away for free? Look at it this way: if your book hasn’t been purchased for months and there are few to no reviews, what is the likelihood of a reader stumbling across your story and taking the risk on you? It’s extremely low.

Trust me, after two years of nothing, I am bowing down to free shit.

The theory behind giving an ebook away is to draw attention to yourself and get people reading. The risk is having people download because they only ever download free books and then forget they have it and never read it.

They’re the book hoarders. They’re always going to be there, you just have to accept that some people will have your book and never read it. Just look at your own to-be-read shelf. How many books do you have that you’re getting around to reading?

Back to those who will read. Because it is free, the risk is lower; all they can lose is time.

Like I said, after two years I hadn’t sold my books even though they were priced at $0.99. When I decided to upload a revised copy with a message inside asking for reviews, I made them free. My books’ page views skyrocketed (going from zero to forty over night was amazing) and the downloads were about half that. So those who liked what they read of my blurb took the risk because it was free. Those who weren’t awe-inspired moved on to something else.

So now I was taking the risk on the readers. Will they like my story? Will they want to read more? Will they leave a review and encourage others to give my books a try?

Even though I had confidence in my writing and the story had been edited and most of the gremlins had been caught (how could I miss “goof” when I meant “good”?), I still needed that validation from readers.

Reviews

Once a book has x amount of reviews, the algorithm the system is using will recommend the book based upon a reader’s browsing/purchasing history. The more reviews, the more likely your book will pop up. So numbers matter.

If the reader likes the look of the book that has popped up, then they go to see what other people have to say about the book. This is the most important thing for new authors. Short reviews are great to get the numbers, but it will be that long paragraph that will sell it because it’s like a friend recommending a story.

Here’s how to do it:

  • You can get reviews from family and friends. Ask and get that first review up quickly. If you have writer friends, you could do a review swap. But be careful; Amazon doesn’t like it when people close to the writer leave a review, the system is suspicious and thinks it won’t be an unbiased view.
  • Contact book bloggers in your genre. There are a couple of ways of collecting contact information and all it should cost is time and effort (avoid the places that say “pay us and we’ll give you 100 contacts”).
  • On Amazon, go to the reviews for a book that is similar to your own and click on the name of a reviewer. If it comes up with little information, move on to the next. If it comes up with a website, follow the link. Most likely they will be bloggers and you can contact them with a request to read your book. The same method works for Goodreads.
  • Alternatively, google “book review bloggers.” If you keep it vague enough, there is the possibility of coming across an updated directory. This list can be easy to go through to find those looking to read and review books.
  • Ask on Facebook. Join some relevant groups, find out the day or the thread to ask for help, and just ask for reviews.
  • Add a message inside your book asking the reader to leave an honest review. Make it easy for them by providing the link to your review site of choice.
  • Speak to your local library; they might help you in surprising ways. If the library has a book club, they might like to read your book and put up a review.

A Fan Club

Inside your book, have contact links for the readers to follow if they want to know more, such as your website where you’re constantly putting up good content that people want to read.

You should also be encouraging them to sign up for a newsletter or to join a Facebook group.

Why?

So they can talk to you, score awesome stuff, stay up-to-date on new releases, and feel special because their favourite author is taking the time to interact with them.

Once you have a fan club, the next time you release a book, you can send them a message and ask for them to download it and leave an honest review, and the system starts to work for you again.

In Conclusion…

It’s only recently (after doing a lot of reading about what other authors are doing for marketing) that I have figured out how to get noticed by readers. My books are up for free, I’m looking for reviewers, and I’m trying to grow my email list.

If you would like, jump over to my website www.aprilklasenauthor.com, fill in the form, and we can exchange books. If you read mine and review it on Goodreads.com, I’ll read and review yours.

self-published author april klasen

April Klasen lives in rural NSW, Australia. She is a blogger, a plotter for total world domination, and an independently published author of seven books (Pure Pop Asia, the Blair series, The Annual). One day she will travel to Japan. To read more from the J-pop and K-pop influenced grey matter of this writer, please visit www.aprilklasenauthor.com, or follow her on Facebook and Goodreads.

How to Market Your Self-Published Book without a Budget or Audience (Yet)

When I first began my book publishing journey, even writing a book seemed like such a lofty goal. But publishing, and then marketing it on my own? An insurmountable feat.

Once I had finished penning I Am the Ocean, my travel memoir about a solo backpacking trip I had taken along the east coast of the United States, what had once seemed impossible now seemed like a fun learning process after a mindset shift spurred by a harsh lesson: if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. This is true of book publishing, and especially true of book marketing.

After all, we already have one of the best possible marketing tools at our disposal: our own writing skills. Here are five tips for using the power of the pen to market your book, even as an unknown, self-published author.

1. Seek Book Blogger Reviews—but Don’t Rely on Them

I began my marketing journey by writing to book bloggers who reviewed nonfiction. In most cases, I was met with no response. Generally speaking, book bloggers are bombarded with review requests, and even if your book fits their requirements, you’re following each other on social media, and you’ve written a personalized request to them, they simply don’t have the time.

I’m not suggesting that you not approach book bloggers, just that you don’t rely on blog reviews in your marketing plan. Understand that getting reviews from book bloggers will take a lot of work and a thick skin.

2. Connect with Other Readers

That’s when I realized that reviewers don’t have to be bloggers; they just have to be readers.

What’s the best social platform for connecting with other readers? Goodreads.

A few months earlier, I had made a Goodreads account and imported my Twitter followers, so I already had a decent sized network on the platform. Over the next few days, I started sending messages to my Goodreads friends, thanking them for connecting, pointing out if we had read any books in common or had any other similarities (such as in location or hobbies), and asking them if they would be interested in reviewing a new travelogue. Many Goodreads members are also authors or bloggers, even if they aren’t specifically book bloggers. Using my Goodreads network yielded better results than approaching book bloggers, and I was able to form some meaningful online relationships with other readers around the world.

Still, I wanted to go bigger.

3. Find Your Niche

It’s easy for disgruntled first-time authors to throw in the towel and convince ourselves that people just don’t read like they used to. But that’s far from the truth. People consume more media now than ever before, but in the online world, we can tailor this media to suit our interests. What a musician consumes is very different from the media that a professional skateboarder chooses to be exposed to.

What this means for self-published authors is that we need to find people who are already interested in the book’s subject, even if they read infrequently. Once you find these people, they are an easy sell. In the age of information, finding them is easier than previous generations could even dream about.

I was able to find entire groups on Facebook devoted to travel, and even, more specifically, solo female travel. I made sure I wasn’t violating group policies, and then I selectively posted messages in a handful of groups asking if anyone would like to review a travelogue.

Within a couple of days, I received dozens of responses. I was completely floored by all of the people who wanted to read my book. This was the least amount of effort I had put into a marketing endeavour, and yet this is what produced the best results.

Other authors can tailor this tip to suit their individual book. Perhaps you don’t use Facebook groups, but rely on other online forums, such as this massively successful, previously unknown author who used Reddit to promote his book. Perhaps you don’t approach solo female travellers, but you approach baking bloggers or vegetarian foodies to promote your cookbook on eggless cakes. You don’t need to write a YA novel with mass appeal. Use your niche to your advantage.

Forsyth Park - indie author travel memoir picture

I marketed my travel memoir to other solo female travellers.

4. Make It Easy for Others to Help You

Next, I went through Facebook groups and found posts from more travel bloggers who were seeking either guest bloggers or other nomadic writers to interview with a set series of questions. I visited their blogs to make sure that my story was similar to others they had already featured, and then I emailed them and told them about my travel experience and of course, my book.

I reached out to eleven travel bloggers one evening, and was met with five yeses in my inbox when I woke up the next morning.

When you ask someone to write a blog post about you, or even to write you a book review on Goodreads or Amazon, you are asking a lot of them. Not only do they have to take a few minutes to a few hours to write about you, but they have to take a few days to a few weeks to read your book. Your book is valuable, but so is their time, and this experience taught me how important it is to make it easy for those who are interested in helping you. For every blogger willing to write about you, there are ten who are willing to feature your writing.

In the future, I plan to use this strategy to contact media outlets, and I recommend that other authors do the same. Sure, you may be able to get a journalist from a major newspaper to interview you if your book’s topic is linked to their column, but how much easier would it be for a major publication to say yes to you if you’ve already done the legwork and written the article? Authors are wordsmiths, and we can use this to our advantage when we market ourselves.

5. Keep Writing

I will spend the rest of my life marketing my book, and I’ve really only just begun. I have an endless amount of writing ahead of me. Writing is the best way to get ongoing publicity for your book. Now that the sequel to my first travel memoir is in the works, I intend to implement what I’ve learned as I market my second book.

Authors will always need to write, which is what we do best. We must write to bloggers and other media influencers, write on our own blogs to grow our audience, and write more books. It might seem difficult at first, but as our platform grows, book marketing gets easier with a little time and effort—and a lot of writing.

*Note: This post also appears in longer form on aeroplanemedia.com, a book coaching website for entrepreneurs. Click here to check out original the post.

5 Things All Authors Must Know About Book Publishing in the Digital Age

I always knew that the book world was a tough one, but it is one that I’ve immersed myself in since I was a girl. I loved escaping into a good book. I always knew that I was going to be a writer. I didn’t know what kind of writer, but I knew that this was the industry I belonged in. I couldn’t even fathom doing anything else.

But when you’re a writer, you’re not just a writer. You’re a marketer. You’re an accountant. You’re an administrative assistant. You’re a web developer. And with the rise of new technology, what these jobs entail changes almost every year. The kicker is that you cannot take courses about these subjects. At least, not courses that will fully prepare you for the workforce. Businesses are advancing so rapidly that you need to stay with the times, take risks, and learn on the job, or you will risk becoming outdated and irrelevant.

I already kind of knew this about the book industry, and the new economy in general—the one that didn’t so much recover from the recession, as it did completely transform and reinvent itself. But it didn’t fully hit home until I stood side-by-side with an author friend while he looked for a publisher for his first novel, then looked into ways to market it, and then searched for a distributor. Getting your book out there into the world and into the hands of readers is a long (and exciting!) process. It definitely isn’t the same process it was ten years ago. Or five. Or one.

Here’s what his experience has taught me so far:

1) Whether you find a publishing company or decide to be your own publisher, the same rules apply.

Finding a publisher makes some things easier on the author. You don’t have to layout your book. You don’t have to design the cover. You don’t have to get an ISBN and worry about getting into online stores like Amazon. Most publishers will take care of these things for you. Basically, aside from writing the content, you don’t have to stress over the compilation of the book. In exchange, you relinquish a greater percentage of the profits than you would if you had self-published.

Weigh the pros and cons before deciding which publishing method is right for you. Do not feel set on going through a publisher just to avoid any “self-publishing stigma.” Self-publishing is swiftly gaining popularity, and many self-published books go on to become bestsellers. Frankly, I think self-publishing is the way of the future, as even more and more traditional publishing companies are starting to offer different packages for authors depending on how involved they want the publishing company to be. With the onus to make the book succeed less on the publisher and more on the author, it’s just a different playing field altogether than it was a generation ago.

That being said, whether you go through a publishing company or publish your own book, you will still have to consider how to market the book and whether you want to sell in-store, online, or both.

2) You are your own marketing team.

According to 111Publishing’s Savvy Book Writers blog (which is an absolutely amazing resource for writers), 95% of authors have to do their own marketing, even if they secure a deal with a major publisher.

The exception to this rule? Celebrities.

Basically, if you aren’t already famous, you have a choice between doing your own marketing or hiring a marketing company. Some publishers know of book promoters that they can recommend to you, but it’s up to you whether or not you want to use their services. Either way, you’d better get comfortable with social media and building an online presence.

3) Bookstores won’t touch print-on-demand books.

Getting a physical copy of your book on a shelf at Indigo should be no problem, right? You can just pre-order 50 copies and ask the manager if they wouldn’t mind stocking a couple for you.

Wrong. If you’ve published a book on a print-on-demand (POD) basis, it’s unlikely that any bookstore will go near it, particularly big chains. Stores don’t want to risk stocking books that won’t sell. This is because bookstores demand all the authors they carry to be secured with the Booksellers Return Program, so that the books the store buys can be refunded (and destroyed) if they do not sell—kind of an archaic procedure. The Booksellers Return Program is acquired through your distributor, or your publisher who has distribution connections.

Even with the Booksellers Return Program, individual bookstores (including chain locations) may turn your book away, or at least ask you to sign a consignment agreement entailing that the store does not have to pay for the books unless and until they are sold. Author Stephanie Chandler offers a free consignment agreement for authors interested in approaching bookstores, which in her experience can be successful at indie bookstores, even without a distributor.

4) Finding a distributor will be your biggest challenge.

This is something you probably haven’t even thought about. If your book is POD, you can try to make your own distribution contacts, although generally speaking distributors want books that have already sold well online (books that gross $500,000 to $1,000,000 in sales per year). If you’ve got a new book and you aren’t yet a millionaire, you can try distribution groups that specialize in distributing books from smaller publishers, but you’ll still need a high sales number. Once you’ve sold thousands of copies of your book online, don’t be afraid to phone up a distributor and ask them if they’re interested in your book. This brings me to my final point.

5) You can’t be afraid to make a pitch.

All authors need to get used to making pitches. You will have to pitch to publishers, then reviewers, bookstore owners, and finally, even after your book has sold incredibly well, you will have to pitch to distributors. Who knows? You may even have to pitch to film agents. You will need to get comfortable talking about your book.

I spoke on the phone with a distributor the other day and he told me that there are exceptions to every rule. Want to get into major retailers without a distributor? Pitch to the Director of Vendor Relations, and they may take a risk on you if your book seems compelling.

It’s a tough industry, but it’s also a kind one.

Bethany Chase on Finding Her Writing Style, Her Agent, and the Authors Who Inspire Her

cover1.1I had the pleasure of coming across Bethany Chase’s debut women’s fiction, The One that Got Away, a couple of months ago when I was looking for a de-stresser. I saw her book on the shelf with an Emily Giffin blurb, and I was sold.

Easy-to-read and well-written with a captivating first line that will draw you in, once I finished it, I was left wanting to know more about the talented woman behind the pen…so I decided to interview her!

Read on to find out how this bestselling author developed her craft, found an agent, and connected with Emily Giffin—as well as how her writing has changed between her first and newly released second book.

  • One of my favourite things about your first book is that it used very unique descriptions and similes. (I still remember that you wrote that Noah’s eyes were like “oxidized copper”—loved that!) How did you develop your writing style?

Thank you for the compliment! I think my style is a combination of my personal voicewhen people close to me in real life read my books, they say it’s like hearing my voice in their headand a lot of work and practice. I particularly love description and metaphor, so that is an area where I always work hard to push for a fresh idea or an unexpected turn of phrase.
  • What advice do you have for others who want to write and publish a novel?

Develop a thick skin, and never give up. From a technical point of view, I’d say to work hard to hone your craft, but also develop a filter for writing craft advice. This is something that just takes time and experience to learn to do, but there is a balance that has to be struck. If all writers followed all writing craft advice, we’d all sound exactly the same. There are basic rules of grammar and structure that must be obeyed for the sake of clarity, and there are a lot of well-worn guidelines that are well-worn for good reason (“Kill your darlings,” etc). But some of the advice you’ll see is purely about style, and that can and should be accepted or rejected individually.
  • You mentioned on your website that you’re represented by Meredith Kaffel of DeFiore & Co. How did you find your agent, and what advice do you have for other writers who are looking for agents?

I’m a perfect example in proof of the fact that you don’t need connections to get an agent. I actually had a connection when I was queryinga close friend of mine was a Big Five editor for a long time, and she knew several agents I was interested inbut while dropping my friend’s name in my query letter got my work requested quickly, it did not get me an agent. I wrote to Meredith cold, because I saw her interests listed women’s fiction and also non-fiction related to art and design. I told her I had a women’s fic novel set in the design/architecture industry, and indeed she was interested! I can’t underscore enough how essential the right fit of personality and work style is, when taking on an agent. It is in many, many ways comparable to finding the right romantic partner. From day one, Meredith has understood and supported not just the book I queried her with, but who I am as a writer, what position I want to find in the marketplace, and how I want to grow my career. I’m incredibly grateful every day to have her on my team, and I can’t imagine doing this without her.
  • I enjoyed the character development and pacing of The One that Got Away (for example, how what’s really going on with Sarina’s wonderful stepfather John is hinted at throughout, but not revealed until close to the end). Once you had your story idea, how did you get your manuscript ready? Do you have any “methods” that you use, such as creating character analyses or plot diagrams?

The One That Got Away was odd in that, when I started it, I had no specific intention of writing a book. I was just writing a scene sketch that amused me. And then I kept adding to it and adding to it, and when I eventually realized that what I’d written amounted to about a quarter of a full-length novel, I decided to finish it and see what happened! Now that I’m farther along as a writer, I am much more methodicalI outline the whole story (although obviously it can change along the way), and I do in-depth character sketches beforehand as well. I also always write a few sentences along the lines of the “meat” part of a query letter, or the back jacket copyI find it’s a very helpful exercise to force myself to identify the most interesting aspects of the story in a micro format.
  • What was the most challenging part of writing your first book, The One that Got Away?

Editing! And that’s been true for every book since.
  • Which author most inspires your writing?

I am drawn to writers with extremely strong voices. Joshilyn Jackson is basically my idol, and another discovery over the last year or so has been Deb Caletti. Deb is one of the most gifted writers I’ve ever read. I’ve also been evangelizing for Melissa DeCarlo since reading her debut, The Art of Crash Landing, earlier this year. She is incredible.
  • On the cover of The One that Got Away, bestselling women’s fiction author Emily Giffin wrote you a great testimonial! How did you connect with her?

Emily has been incredibly generous with her time and support of my work. She’s been one of my favorite writers since The One That Got Away was just a glimmer in my eyein fact reading Emily’s debut, Something Borrowed, on my way to Virginia to say goodbye to my beloved grandmother helped inspire me to write TOTGAand so I wrote her to tell her how much she’d influenced and inspired me.
  • Your second book, Results May Vary, was just released. How has your writing changed between your first and second book?

I like to think I’ve gotten better! As I mentioned, I’ve definitely become more deliberate in my plotting and decisions with my subsequent books, and I’ve continued working hard to elevate my language, as well. I will always keep learning and growing and practicing.
Thanks for your time, Bethany! I can’t wait to read your next book.
Results May Vary
Click here to check out Bethany’s latest novel, Results May Vary.