A Self-Publisher’s Take on Book Marketing

During a September 25th meeting of the Washington Book Publishers Association, quest speaker Shawn Welch, co-author and co-self-publisher of Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur, discussed how he and Guy Kawasaki approached co-authoring a book on self-publishing together and what he thinks traditional publishers can learn from self-publishers. One value-add segment that Welch covered in detail was marketing.

He spoke about how important it is to market your book at the onset of the writing process by engaging potential readers, rather than wait until the book is finished and then reach out to them. But Welch and Kawasaki, essentially playing with house money, are not great representations of the typical self-publisher looking to break into the field. Both authors had had books published before APE, all the traditional way. And Kawasaki had a built-in following, even before he chose to self-publish What the Plus! Google+ for the rest of us, with more than 1.4 million followers on Twitter and a staggering 5.1 million followers on Google+. Welch likely would have struggled to have a self-published book of his own reach the Wall Street Journal top 10 without Kawasaki. So for self-publishers starting without considerable popularity, cutting through the self-publishing noise requires some serious marketing.

Self-publishing represents a potential $52 billion market, according to a New Publisher House report, State of Independence 2014. If this figure is realized, it would be nearly twice that of traditional publishing. One would think this statistic would bode well for authors looking to make a career out self-publishing their book. But the report goes on to add that aspiring self-published authors now outnumber actual published authors 100 to 1 and that new self-published books outnumber traditionally published books 8 to 1. With self-publishing continuing to rise, thus making it even harder to get noticed, marketing your self-published novel effectively takes on added importance.

Welch covered basic social media in his marketing discussion, such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and others. But if the market is being flooded with self-published books and social media with authors self-promoting their books, how can authors make their books stand out, without the help of a traditional publishing house?

One effective, low-cost option is having your book reviewed. As Welch pointed out during the meeting, most readers do not look to the publisher to weigh the quality of a book to read. Many readers do, however, choose to buy a book based on the caliber of the writing, often by reading book reviews, browsing comments online, or scanning the back cover for blurbs. Thus, authors should have their book reviewed, and done so preferably by a professional, unbiased reviewer. There are many professional review companies available to self-publishing authors of all kinds. A quick Google search brings up BlueInk Review ($395–$495), Self-Publishing Review, ($75–$109), and Kirkus Reviews ($425–$575).

As self-publishers, Welch said he and Kawasaki had an alternative take on getting their book reviewed. They sent out their manuscript to anyone who wanted to review it, as a way not only market the book and receive a wide variety of opinions but also to build an engaged readership that they could call on to promote the book once it was finished.

Sources: “Publishing Gone APE: What Can Publishers Learn from Self-Publishing” Shawn Welch, September 25, 2013, Washington, DC.




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The Changing Nature of Publishing – The Growth of “Artisanal Publishers”

On Wednesday, September 25th, a group of publishers gathered at Funger Hall on George Washington University’s campus to listen to Shawn Welch discuss APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur – How to Publish a Book. Shawn was the coauthor of this book, working alongside of Guy Kawasaki, and strangely enough the audience was not there to string him up as a threat to their livelihoods. It was to find out what they could learn from this apparent publisher gone rogue, as Shawn had worked at a large publishing firm for several years until he started publishing on his own. The big question on the everyone’s mind? What is going to happen to our profession?

Self-publishing scares a lot of publishers. The stigma surrounding publishing your own work is rapidly eroding because consumers do not shop by publisher.  They shop by author or genre. Now that self-published book are looking and reading just like books produced by traditional publishers, reader reviews impact a consumer far more than whether or not a book was published by one of the big publishing houses. But one thing that Shawn made a point of saying is that publishers aren’t going away, it is simply the relationship that is changing. “Artisanal Publishers” – a term coined by Guy and Shawn – have a lot of options. The premise of their book is that the people writing books must be Authors, Publishers, and Entrepreneurs in order to be successful. Since so few people are all three of these things, it is possible to hire freelancers to cover the Publishing side. Entrepreneur and Author should really be done by oneself, but everything else can be done by a freelance editor, or even by your readers.

The main problem self-published authors always come up against is marketing. A video of a cat chasing a ball of string generates 2 million views on YouTube in a matter of days, while a performer may find their view count stagnating without the proper circulation. One thing APE talks about is the need to be generating interest while the book is being developed and written, not after. Authors need to be visible, be deemed credible by contributing to the online communities about their topics. Make it known they are writing a book on the topic. Build excitement for it. Guy and Shawn gave away thousands of copies of early editions APE for FREE and told their readers to review it and send it back with revisions. Typos, wrong content, additions, anything they felt the book needed. They made their readers invested in the book, which turned every single reader into an advocate for the book. The idea of giving away an unfinished book for free made the audience members stomachs turn at the thought of all of those lost sales. Even worse was the fear of piracy. Shawn’s response? “If someone else can write the book better than we can, we don’t deserve to be writing it.” Shawn is not the only one suggesting this method though. Peter Armstrong, the founder of Vancouver’s Leanpub makes the same argument. “You use lightweight tools and many iterations to get reader feedback…until you have the right book.”

Publishing is changing, no one will deny that. It’s more than just the digitization of content though. As more and more self published books make it on the best seller charts, APE was number 9 on the Wall Street Journal Bestseller list for nonfiction e-books back in February, alongside the big league players we are going to see more and more authors trying to promote their books through Facebook, Twitter, Pintrest, and Blogs. Here will be where publishers will be able to bring their power to bear. Not in deterring self publishing, but in lending some marketing muscle to the Entrepreneur side.


“Publishing Gone APE: What Can Publishers Learn from Self-Publishing” Shawn Welch, September 25, 2013, Washington, DC.




Suggested Reading:

“34 Strategic Ways You Can Use Pinterest to Market Your Book and Your Author Brand” Kimberley Grabas http://www.yourwriterplatform.com/use-pinterest-to-market-book-and-author-brand/

“4 Time Saving Social Media Tips for Authors” Joel Friedlander http://www.thebookdesigner.com/2013/09/frances-caballo-2/

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To Self Publish or Not To Self Publish? That Is the Question

With so many changes occurring in the publishing industry, there is a lot of talk about whether or not traditional publishing is still the best way to go for new authors. Of course a plus to self publishing is having complete creative control over your product, but does one just wake up and decide to self publish over taking the traditional route? And what factors go into making that decision? Well according to an article entitled “DIY Book Publishing: Is It Worth It To Self-Publish” Michelle Alerte explores those very questions with three different authors and the overall consensus was that self-publishing was done out of necessity and not as a first choice.

Song of the Shaman author, Annette Leach, turned to self publishing due to the inability to find a publishing company that was willing to not only take a chance on a new author, but one with a book that she categorized as a metaphysical historical fiction. Leach started her own publishing company, MindPress Media, hired editors to review her work, utilized the services of TheBookDesigner.com and BookBaby for cover art and e-book distribution and turned to Ingram Spark, a reputable printing company, to print her books on demand. Over a ten month period, she spent no more than $5,000 which included the cost of starting her own company.

Marlen Suyapa Bodden, author of The Wedding Gift, wanted to take the traditional publishing route mainly for access to superior editors, but after being turned down close to one hundred times due to publishers stating that they “could not sell a book about slavery”, self publishing was the only way to go. Bodden published her book through Amazon.com’s Create Space (previously called Book Surge) in 2009, hired a PR company to help with marketing and put in the leg work of promoting her book for about two to three years. By 2012, her book had made it onto the Wall Street Journal bestseller list which definitely proved those one hundred publishers who turned her down were sadly mistaken about her books selling potential.

Nana Salone’s Game, Set, Match was published through Wild Rose Press in 2010, but due to creative differences on the cover art and little to no marketing support, the book only generated $52 in its first quarter. Such low sales are completely unexpected and unacceptable when taking the traditional publishing route. Salone chose to re-release the self published version of her book with a cover of her choosing in 2012 and made that same amount within two hours as she had with Wild Rose Press and has been hooked on the idea of self publishing ever since. Her Hot In Stilettos book, which is the first in a three book Stiletto series, made it onto the USA Today bestselling list.

Each of these authors were drawn to traditional publishing companies for different reasons, but it is important to note that they all saw value in taking the traditional publishing route. The problem appears to be that these authors were willing to step outside of their comfort zone to produce their work and publishing companies were not. It makes me wonder how many books these companies will miss out on publishing in the future simply because the book concepts do not fit within a cookie cutter image. By taking risks, these authors were able to see first hand on which areas of publishing they should focus in order to reach the most readers and generate decent sales. Publishing companies should use examples such as these to build their relationships with new authors and learn that it okay for them to take such risks as well.

Source: http://madamenoire.com/305431/rules-publishing-changed/

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Issue 1: Publishers Adapting to the Changing Market

“Penguin Random House Makes Moves to Improve Bookseller and Reader Relations”

Since the July merger of Penguin and Random House, those in the publishing industry have been interested to see how the new publishing house will integrate the two companies and how they will fare in the face of internet giants like Amazon and Google. Penguin Random House was formed around the belief that fewer large publishers are better than many smaller publishers in such a competitive market. Now the largest consumer book publisher, Penguin Random House controls more than 25 percent of trade publishing. Of course, size isn’t everything, and some recent moves from Penguin Random House show how the company is working to improve their interaction with booksellers and engage their readership in innovative ways.

This past Wednesday, Penguin Random House announced their effort to make its supply chain for print text more effective. They created the United Fulfillment Group, which will be responsible for distributing over two million print texts to booksellers daily. The goal of this group is to combat the problem between bookstores and their distribution centers. Currently, when a bookseller sells one of their books, the title becomes out of stock simply because most only have one copy available on shelves and reorders only occur once per week. This means that the title wouldn’t be available at that bookstore for anywhere from one week to two weeks, with the consideration of how long it takes distributors to ship. Penguin Random House will now focus their attention on reestablishing their print vendor agreements and making the process more cost effective.

Penguin Random House has also set the bar high in terms of reader engagement; they recently teamed up with Flipboard to curate content for the social-network application. This partnership is kind of a big deal, because they are the first book publishers to do something of the sort. Flipboard has a whopping 85 million users, which means that the publishing house was on a mission to go above and beyond their norm to really grasp the attention of readers. But it gets better—the collaboration includes two digital magazines from Penguin Random House’s best-selling authors, Margaret Atwood and George R. R. Martin. Atwood’s magazine will be based on MaddAddam, her new novel, and will offer readers insight on unique information that wouldn’t be found elsewhere. The World of Ice and Fire will be Martin’s magazine, which will offer in-depth information on the infamous series, as well as current news, excerpts, and vast array of theories. Both magazines are set to drive traffic and get readers talking and engaging. It’s safe to say this was a smart move on Penguin Random House’s part.

Robert Ennis

Bridget Jackson

Beverly Vandenburg


“Penguin and Random House Merge, Saying Change Will Come Slowly”

“Penguin Random House Creates United Fulfillment Group”

“Supply Chain News: Theory of Constraints Working in Random House Distribution Center, as Publisher Uses Dynamic Buffer Management”

“Random House LLC Launches Curated Magazine on Flipboard; Margaret Atwood and George R.R. Martin Magazines Mark First Book Publisher’s Entry in Social Magazine Space”

“Margaret Atwood & George R.R. Martin Fansite Curate Flipbard Magazines”


“To Self-Publish, or Not To Self-Publish, That is A Trade Publisher’s Question”

To be described as a “legacy” in today’s publishing industry may sound more like mockery than a compliment, because it creates an image that predates the digital revolution and casts its mark in the past–and that’s not the impression long established publishers want to give. They want to be a viable force in this industry today. In an effort to compete, a few publishers have decided to not only add a self-publishing platform to their list of services, but to also vie for favors with authors by offering new features and lower prices.  The Penguin Group has done something similar, by cornering the market with the launch of their self-publishing platform Book Country and with the purchase of Author Solutions in 2012. Following in their footsteps, Simon & Schuster has also added Archway Publishing in an effort to broaden its list of services. While many see this as an attempt by large publishers to establish a new relationship with their authors, others see this as a way for publishers to adopt a new business model.

Truth be told, economically, maintaining conventional publishing models has exacerbated the industry’s financial woes when it comes to both authors and publishers profiting from such a small pools of readers, even if readers are loyal. On the other hand, self-publishing makes for a good construct because authors can keep a larger percentage of their royalties and publishers can provide print options that can successfully reduce their overhead. This means that publishing services are now scalable and less of a financial imposition, and that publishers have more opportunities to partner with indie publishers in an effort to find ways to deliver the same value in smaller creative and marketing units. Additionally, this construct has brought more opportunities for the publishers to connect and maintain open communication with their authors, and subsequently their customers, instead of focusing solely on their products and services, which at times can exclude potential publishing markets.

There is evidence that other publishers are thinking along the self-publishing lines. Penguin and Simon & Schuster have tools that very few publishing companies have, and now there is the opportunity to explore where these services for their authors can provide efficiencies and how the expertise of these authors can add value in the long run.

Bakara Yakub


“Penguin Buys Self-Publishing Platform Author Solutions for $116 Million”

Archway Publishing From Simon & Schuster

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World Book, Inc. Launches New E-book Platform

World Book, Inc., a long-established educational publishing firm (responsible for home/office bookshelf staples such as the World Book Encyclopedia (now the World Book Encyclopedia Online)) is taking a cue from some other big players across the publishing community and recently announced that it will launch its first subscription-based e-book platform, World Book eBooks, this fall. As its name (unintentionally) implies, this new platform will be globally accessible to subscribers using any internet-ready device thanks to World Book, Inc.’s decision to have all content support the EPUB3 standard (global distribution format developed by the International Digital Publishing Forum). Content published on this new platform will consist of e-book versions of existing titles from several series in the World Book, Inc., library, and includes an online viewer (rather than digital reprints) of these books that was developed through researching the primary needs of students, teachers, librarians, and other key audiences who would be using the digital publications. According to a Digital Book World (DBW) press release posted to the DBW website today, the “collection includes beautifully illustrated, engaging titles that contain such multimedia features as videos, audio, and games.”

This announcement is one of the first of many like it that the publishing community will see over the next few years. Based on the boom in e-book usage in just the past few years, it should come as no surprise that large and long-established publishers are trying to get into the e-book market without totally scrapping their current publishing business model by offering revamped or digital reprint versions of their current libraries on a subscription basis. This seems to ring especially true for educational publishers, who are more likely to find large subscriber groups such as libraries and schools to support this delivery model. Although this e-book platform is not available yet, so a review of its capabilities is not yet possible, educational texts have a lot to offer the consumer in an e-book format, such as more streamlined access to content, less of a load  for students to carry (literally), ever-advancing digital imaging possibilities, etc.,  and I expect World Book, Inc. will capitalize on that.


DigitalBookWorld.com (September 17, 2013), “Educational Ebook Publisher World Book Goes Direct to Consumer With New Platform”


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Will Smartphones Soon Be the Preferred Ereader Format?

With the freshly manufactured Kobo Aura costing up to $149.99 and the HD version up to $169.99, is it possible that readers would someday soon bypass the ereader format and read straight from their smartphones? It’s a concept that all ereader producers, including Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Samsung, and Kobo, have to consider.

More people than ever are surfing the web with the smartphone, according to a research by the Pew Internet and American Life Project. Some 60% of U.S. adults use a smartphone to access the Internet, double that since 2009, and about 20% claim their phones to be their primary source for the Web. And if you’re already surfing the web on your phone, while also tweeting, Facebooking, instagramming, why waste the time going back and forth between your devices? Why carry an ereader no matter how light when you already have a viable, dynamic ereader in your pocket, especially when you could download the Kindle app and the Nook app to access your ebooks?

In addition to losing precious seconds in a social media climate of instantaneous reaction swapping devices, there’s also the cost issue. Ereaders can range from around $69.99 for the basic models to the $200 range for HD models with WIFI and to at least $500 for an iPad. They certainly do not have to be expensive. But smartphone ownership continues to rise among U.S. adults, from 35% in 2011 to 56% in 2013. Compare this with 18% in 2011 and 33% in 2012 for ereaders. And if readers are spending $700 in retail on a phone, or less with a two-year service contract and upgrade eligibility, how many people are also willing to shell out the additional cash to buy an ereader?

Despite Amazon denying that it will release a smartphone this year–and certainly not a free one–it seems only a matter of time that the ebook giant (tyrant?) will enter the smartphone market and try to connect even more directly with its consumers.

Sources: http://www.kobo.com/kobo-aurahd.html




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Library E-Books’ Privacy Rights

Internet privacy is almost non-existent: Google keeps tabs on your browsing history and sneaks in ads related to what you’ve been searching, Amazon keeps a permanent history of your orders, and the paranoia of digital surveillance is not so baseless after all. It should come as no surprise that any e-books you purchase are recorded by the e-reader companies that you buy from, but what about e-books you check out from your library?

The majority of American libraries elect to follow the high standards that are set forth by the American Library Association (ALA). One of the most important standards the ALA upholds is intellectual freedom. All libraries strive to create an environment where patrons never fear surveillance. Libraries do not record the histories of their patrons.

Having worked at a library, I’ve seen law enforcement denied access to library computer sign up stations to uphold these standards. I’ve had to say “no” to parents who want to view what their teens have been checking out. Intellectual freedom in American libraries is that serious. Libraries want customers to feel safe to check out any book and conduct any research within their walls, but how is this done outside of their walls? How are library e-books kept from being recorded? . . . They aren’t.

Distributors of digital media, such as OverDrive, OneClickdigital, and EBSCOhost, reserve the rights to track and record your searches and your checkout history. How can they do this if even law enforcements respect Libraries’ sacred standards of intellectual freedom? Local and state authorities understand the need for intellectual freedom within libraries and write privacy laws to check themselves and protect the free and open exchange of knowledge and information. Distributors of digital media might agree with intellectual freedom but they understand they will make much more of a profit if they can track your browsing history for future ads and sell your records to third entities. Digital distributors do not write laws for themselves to ensure their customers’ privacy rights—this is broken.

The article below shows how Arizona is the third state to expand their library privacy laws to include e-books. Digital distributors for libraries within the states of New Jersey, California and, now, Arizona will be charged with a misdemeanor should they ever release information about a user’s library activities. Unfortunately, the distributors are still allowed to keep records of checkout histories. It is not just the library e-book distributors that are broken when it comes to privacy rights but the entire Internet. 

Expanding Privacy Legislation to Include Ebooks

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