Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Why Is Your Book So Good?

When promoting a book one acts out of the assumption that they are pushing a great book.  It’s not up for debate.  You are telling others to read your book because there’s a real reason to do so.  If it’s non-fiction, the book must inform and benefit the reader.  If it’s fiction, it must stimulate, entertain, or challenge the reader.

But, the potential consumer-reader wants to be sold.  They work from the assumption that they don’t need your book unless you tell them why and do so convincingly.  The burden of the sale rests with you, not the consumer, so how will you convince another that:

·         Your book is better than competing titles within the genre?
·         You book is better than other books—period?
·         Your book is a better value than alternative solutions or forms of entertainment?
·         Your book is worth an investment of time by the reader?
·         They should make a leap of faith and believe in you?
·         They would want your book and actually desire it?
·         They really need your book even if they don’t realize it?
The truth is your book is likely not so great, or certainly it’s no better than comparable books or alternate sources of information or repositories of entertainment.  Your book may even be over-priced, not readily available, or packaged unattractively.  And the consumer knows this.  So what will propel them to buy?

1.      Speak to consumers on their terms:  What do they think they want?  Say things that will resonate with their stated concerns or desires.  You can never go wrong by appealing to one’s ego, vanity, and selfishness.

2.      Highlight your greatest selling points. Whatever they are state them with passion, unbridled enthusiasm, and uncontested conviction.

3.      Target those you seek to sell to.  Go after your reader demographics and find them where ever they tend to gather.  Appeal to making their life easier, happier, more satisfying, more rewarding.  Sell them on the idea that you can solve a problem, fill a need, or answer a question.

4.      Never acknowledge your competition by name and never sound desperate. 

5.      Test out a bunch of pitches and see what works best.  Provide discounts if that will clinch a sale but don’t try to sell based on price.

6.      Since people buy from those they like, those who are personable, and those they can relate to, find the words, facial expressions, and body gestures that make you seem friendly, nice, sincere, and honest.

7.      Witty ad copy and catchy headlines and a startling visual image sell more than a lengthy explanation of a book’s contents, so keep it short, interesting, and inviting.

8.      Give a brief sample of the book where your writing is at its finest.  Let a few good paragraphs sell the whole book.

Think about what others could possibly like about your book and highlight such things.  Anticipate their drawbacks or questions and mix an answer into your pitch.  But always act as if people should want your book because it’s soooo good and you may just get enough people to believe it.  And if it turns out to be a pretty good book, they’ll tell others and provide the best sales pitch possible.   

Interview With Andy McDermott, Director  of Self-Publishing Services, Publicious Pty Ltd,

  1. I used to chew on Bublicious gum. What is Publicious? Publicious (equally as delicious as Bublicious, I’m sure) is a company set up by self-published authors to assist their fellow authors to self-publish their books. Through our own experiences we can offer advise and a range of services including: editing, book formatting, cover design, ISBN’s, printing, ebooks, and global print on demand (POD) distribution. Our clients retain all copyrights, earn 100% royalties and enjoy complete control over their books.

  1. As the director, what do you do all day? I started the company from scratch, and in the early days did everything myself from building the Publicious website (http://www.publicious.com.au/) to perfecting the art of publishing and design. This allowed me to mould Publicious into the kind of company I would have wanted to deal with when I was first self-publishing. Our company motto is “Service, Quality and Affordability”. As well as making sure these principals are adhered to, my days are busy liasing with clients and printers etc, as well as designing book covers and interiors.

  1. How is an Australian going to help authors here get published? We offer good old-fashioned service, and with the benefit of the Internet it doesn’t matter where our clients are. We currently have clients in the US, Canada, Brazil, NZ as well as all over Australia. We’re not a huge company driven by profits; our clients enjoy the fact that they are dealing with real, like-minded people. We offer a fresh and honest approach to the sometimes-confusing world of publishing, and we maintain a presence in the US through our editors and printers that we use over there.

  1. What is the future of self-publishing? There’s never been a better time to self-publish and I think the trend is going to continue and grow. If your book is written, edited, designed and printed properly, it will be as good as anything that is in the shops. Then you need a platform to sell it from.

Here’s an example of how it used to be for the self-published author: You print a quantity of books, you haul them around the local bookstores with cap in hand asking if they’ll take a few to sell on consignment. You sell a few here and there at library talks and events. You send a couple of copies to Amazon and get them listed. When or if the books sell you replenish the stock.

Here’s the difference now with POD distribution: You submit your PDF cover and interior files to the POD distributor. Your files are placed into a digital worldwide database and made available to all online stores including Amazon (worldwide), Barnes and Noble, and The Book
Depository, just to name a few. Your title shows as always in stock, this is called virtual stock.

When a buyer purchases your book through say Barnes and Noble, that one book will be printed at a POD facility closest to the buyer’s address, and shipped out within twenty-four hours at the buyer’s expense. So the self-published author doesn’t have to worry about purchasing lots of stock and then having to add the price of postage to every sale.  Further more, they’ll receive a monthly statement telling them how many books they’ve sold the previous month, and royalty payments will be transferred directly into their bank account.

  1. There are over 50,000 books being released each week in America – too many? The worry here is the quality of the books that are flooding the market. There are a number of important issues that (unfortunately) many self-published authors ignore, and which some unscrupulous so called partner publishers disregard. Here are a few:

  • Editing. A manuscript (ms) must be edited and proofread, and I don’t mean by the retired schoolteacher down the street, I mean by a professional editor who specialises in the genre that the ms is written for! Editing can seem expensive but it is the only way to ensure that a book is right.

  • The design, layout, and print quality (depending on the type of book) must be produced to a bookstore standard. Some self-published authors will use a desktop publishing program to design a cover and to layout their book, then they’ll use the first printer they find whose speciality may not be printing books who will charge more for an inferior product. Unfortunately we see this all the time and it would be interesting to know how many of the 50,000 books fall into this category.

  • Price. Unrealistic recommended retail prices (RRPs). Just because a self-published author paid too much for their print and design, this doesn’t mean they can pass the cost on to their buyers. For an unknown author, buyers will usually buy on price. Self-published authors need to be realistic about how much money they hope to make per sale.

  1. What the heck is going on with the book industry these days? High street bookstores are struggling because of the ease and affordability of purchasing books via the Internet, and the increase in ebook readers and download sites. We’re seeing this in the closure of many of the large physical bookstores.  Due to self-publishing and POD distribution, publishers are also finding themselves in not such an important position as they used to be. We know that with a little know how anyone can produce a book, and distribute it worldwide. I think we’ll see publishers shift more into the role of marketing rather than production in the future.

  1. Which genres have the most growth potential? Sales wise: self-help, celebrity biographies, and branded fiction will continue to grow. This is the reason why it is important for first time authors to develop a brand. Unfortunately many authors think that once their book is published it will sell, which means there will continue to be thousands of new titles each year sitting on the virtual shelves of Amazon without any sales. The books that continue to sell will always be the ones that are marketed right.

Interview With Author Margot Finke

  1. What is your newest book about? Taconi and Claude-Double Trouble is a young teen adventure: a coming of age story, set on Coorparoo Cattle Station in the Aussie outback – circa 1950.  Young aboriginal boy, Taconi, fears his man ceremony, has one foot in the white man’s world and another in his tribal history.  His dad has crazy notions, and the Dreamtime Spirits have plans of their own for him. The magical blue feather he longs to own is elusive, and a demented emu makes him into a hero of sorts.  Claude, an elderly, chatty, sulfur crested cockatoo, offers wise and often funny one-liner advice and comfort.  A huge tribal gathering helps Taconi choose his way, with some awesome encouragement from sneaky Dreamtime Spirits.

  1. Where did your inspiration come from? I grew up in Queensland, Australia, on the eastern side of the Great Australian Divide.  This story takes place on the western side of that mountain range, in the Australian bush country and the far Outback.  I learned about the rough deal Aboriginals received from the Australian Government in the nineteen hundreds, and I felt great sympathy for their families. I wanted to write a fun adventure that would show some of the good things about tribal life in an authentic Aussie setting.  A fast paced tale that would appeal to boys and tomboys and HOOK them on reading.  I have a sequel coming out later this year, titled Survival by Walkabout.

  1. Why do you love to write? I have always scribbled stories.  To not write is unthinkable.  When we first came to the US, our kids were in grade school. I became a teacher’s aide.  I noticed some kids, especially boys, either had reading problems or were reluctant readers.  I told them stories about Australia and their weird and wonderful critters.  My teacher friend suggested I write them all down.  I did that, and the result was  “Wild and Wonderful,” my rhyming 7 book series.  Educational and fun, these 7 e-books tell about animals from the US and Australia. The series is  published in Australia by WritersExchange-ePublishing. I now have 11 published book for kids: http://www.margotfinke.com  Four others are with Guardian Angel Publishing – available in paper, Amazon, Kindle, Nook and eBook.

4.  You also run a manuscript critique service. How challenging is it to guide others on their writings? Loving to write does not mean that you write well.  I had to learn the craft of spinning tales that were good enough to be published.  I joined an online writing list, and was lucky enough to be taken under the collective wing of several wonderful children’s writers. They were tough, supportive, and able to teach me the writing ropes.  Long hours, lots of rewrites,  strained patience, and enough rejection letters to paper our bathroom.  Then success!  I became a published writer of books for kids. 

These generous hearted writers spent time helping me reach my goal.  So now I try to return the favor.  For years I critiqued for free.  One day, a friend who did professional critiques, told me I should charge for all my time and effort.  I decided to take her advice.  By that time, I was well known in writing circles, and I also had a website that listed my books.  It now offers many pages of helpful advice to beginning writers + my Manuscript Critique Service.  Thanks to the reach of the Internet, my clients come from the far flung corners of the earth: China, Australia, Europe, England, Wales, Pacific Islands, The Caribbean and of course the US and more.
I have helped many people write tight and terrific pages.  And my two mantras, “Tight as your Granny’s new girdle,” and, “Keep your waffles in the kitchen, with the coffee and the maple syrup, where they belong,” is now well known.  I always get a thrill when I hear that a book I helped polish is published – a YEA moment indeed!

  1. Any advice for a struggling writer? I guess the best advice is to learn the basics first, before you begin to write, and then stick with it .  It takes time to learn the writing ropes.  Write, write, write.  Rewrite. Join a good critique group and pick the brains of the advanced and published members.  Their support and advice will be of enormous help. Go to writing conferences in your state.  SCBWI (Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators) is a great place to network with other writers, find critique groups, and meet editors.  READ lots of books in the same genre you plan to write.  Cultivate patience, and the passion to keep writing, no matter how high your pile of rejection letters.  Writers who stick with it are the ones who become published.  And a little luck is always welcome.

  1. Margot, what insights does an Aussie have for the American market? And what do you make of the book publishing industry these days? Though I have lived in Oregon for many years now, I still have writing contacts Down-under.  And it seems to me, that although Aussies have embraced the cell phone, the Internet and its attendant social networking, blogging etc is running a bit behind the US mania for it.  I know business is on the ball in Australia, but private people are not so Blog, Facebook, and Twitter happy as those in the US. 

Over here, small bookstores are like the Do-Do, and the depressed state of the economy has affected book sales, publishing of new authors, and new ideas.  Publishing is in a state of flux, so many publishers are going with back issuing, and trying to keep a smile on their corporate faces.  Small publishers seem to be willing to take more risks.  But only publish a few books yearly – bummer that!!

Of course self-publishing is the NOW thing.  This is a mixed blessing.  It is terrific for established or experienced writers, who know how to edit well, or have a critics group, or the money to have editing done for them.  However, the average Joe writer, very eager to get into print with that story they wrote last week, is a fly in the self-pub ointment.  Their mass of unedited and sub standard books flood the market.  Many self publishing scammers will put assorted jam jar labels between covers if you pay their fee.  Unfortunately, a lot of the newly self-published have no idea about writing, editing, or how to tell a good publisher from a bad one.  So this is a rather large problem that needs to be solved – but how?

As for the future of legitimate book publishing: I have no doubt it will rise from the ashes of its current muddle, bigger and better than ever.  Big publishing abhors change. They love the status quo.  Unfortunately, the eBook and the eReader has put a huge dint in their status quo.  When they truly embrace the digital future things will be oh so sweet once more.

Paper books will be around for a long time to come, and animated eBooks will become the norm.  There are benefits and drawbacks with both.  EReaders will get rid of the giant back-packs kids slogged to school carrying – the same for university students.  Back pain will mysteriously disappear from future generations.  The ease of carrying many books in a small reader can’t be denied + the attendant apps.
And those who live for the smell of new paper and print, or a snuggle in bed, reading a “real” book to their child, will still have that choice.

Time and common sense will iron it out, and people will get to CHOOSE their reading style.
“Paper or ebook, madam?”

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person.


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