As distribution manager for Greenleaf Book Group, one of the questions I’m asked most frequently by authors is “How do I get my book in Barnes & Noble or my local grocery store or even my favorite indie bookstore”? It seems like there would be a simple answer, but there are many industry challenges to navigate before a book finds its way onto the shelves of a brick-and-mortar store and I’ll shed some light on those challenges today.
First and foremost, your book cannot be a Print On Demand (POD) book. Retailers do not carry POD books because they are usually non-returnable (retailers require all books be 100% returnable to the publisher at any time, for a full refund) and there is usually little, if any, PR and marketing support behind POD books. Corporate book buyers consider POD books to be high-risk products, meaning the books will likely have low sell-through to consumers because of the challenges in generating awareness and demand, so they typically won’t stock POD books in their stores.
Most retailers, including B&N, buy books from wholesalers. Retailers like using wholesalers because it allows them to get any book from any of the major publishers, like Penguin Random House, and smaller, but well-known, publishers like Greenleaf. By working with a wholesaler, retailers only have to deal with one organization, making ordering, accounting, and merchandising very simple and streamlined. The trick is getting retailers to carry your book.
Small publishers generally have a distribution arm that allows some flexibility to distribute books that the publisher did not print itself. Those publishers charge a small fee to distribute other books, giving those authors the distribution muscle of a large publishing house. These smaller publishers bring in “distribution only” titles in order to expand and promote their existing catalog of books. Finding a publisher to distribute your title is probably the best option for getting your book into a brick-and-mortar retail outlet.
Another option is working directly with a wholesaler. There are a few wholesalers (notably Ingram and Baker & Taylor) that will carry independently published books, but there are some strict requirements to be met. Often, a wholesaler will require that an author/publisher have at least 10 books in print or sometimes a wholesaler will demand a very high discount, either way the requirements can be hard to meet. If you can meet the requirements, it’s often a good strategy to work directly with wholesalers because they don’t usually charge a fee.
In a nutshell, most authors looking to have their books carried in brick-and-mortar stores have two options—working with a smaller publisher or directly with a wholesaler. Retailers will typically disclose which wholesaler they use, so authors may reach out to that wholesaler and ask for their requirements. Otherwise, find a small publisher with a strong distribution network. There are many out there, so do your research, interview the publisher, and pick the one that fits you best.
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All of us at Greenleaf Book Group send congratulations and best wishes to our authors who have books launching in March.
Predictable Success by Les McKeown
Hawaiian Tales by Lee A. Jacobus
Exonerated: A Brief and Dangerous Freedom by Joyce King
Give, Save, Spend with the Three Little Pigs by Clint Greenleaf
Be Cool & Confident: A Guide for Guys by Wynne Dalley
Be Cool & Confident: A Guide for Girls by Wynne Dalley
Your Mind is What Your Brain Does for a Living by Steven Jay Fogel
City of the Sun by Juliana Maio
Riding a Crocodile by Paul Komesaroff
Blindsided II by Tolman Geffs
Inception by Tolman Geffs
Just Say Yes by Bernard L. Schwartz
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South by Southwest (SXSW) is a two-week-long conference (March 3-16, this year, including SXSWedu) held here in Austin, TX, featuring cutting-edge innovations and innovators in technology, film, and music. The conference began in 1987 and has exploded in size and influence over the years, showcasing people and ideas that are revolutionizing everything from business and entertainment to sustainability and education.
Although the conference isn’t focused on the publishing industry, there are several valuable programs and speakers that authors, publishers, and other book industry professionals won’t want to miss. Below are just a few events that promise to be great educational and collaborative sessions for industry pros. Don't miss your opportunity to network with a group of influencers from around the country and across the globe!
Every year SXSW features the SX Bookstore, a space in the convention center where SXSW authors have book signings and meet with fans. This year, SXSW is featuring a long list of notable authors, including Gary Vaynerchuk, Austin Kleon, Randi Zuckerberg, and our favorite Portlandians, Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein. One of our featured experts is Greenleaf author Byron Reese, who will be signing copies of his book, Infinite Progress, on March 8.
Librarian Meet Up
This session offers attendees the chance to discuss and brainstorm on the importance of libraries, archives, and museums with the goal of making lasting connections and implementing ideas outside the conference. If you’re a member of the library community—or simply want to help spread awareness of the importance of libraries—be sure to join in on the conversation.
Ghostwriters Meet Up
Ghostwriters get a first-hand look into the minds of many of today’s great thinkers, innovators, and storytellers. Ghostwriters write bestsellers, yet rarely see their names on the bestseller list. They spend their days verbally poking and prodding authors in an attempt to get them to disclose everything they know, and some things they didn’t know they knew. A ghostwriter’s role can change daily, from translator to investigator, megaphone to sounding board, comrade-in-arms to confidant. They know they’ve done a good job when no one knows they’re there. At this March 8 Meet Up, ghostwriters are encouraged to emerge from the shadows to mix and mingle, share stories, and bond over drinks.
Copyright Termination Rules Have to Change
Section 203 of the Copyright Act gives authors a five-year window to reclaim the rights to their works by terminating transfers or licenses they executed in or after 1978, starting 35 years after they granted the licenses. These reclamation rights give the author a second bite at the apple: a chance to take his/her masters back, reevaluate how much they're really worth, and then decide whether to market them herself or negotiate again with a record label or other distributor. Join panelists Lita Rosario, KJ Greene, Owen Sloan, and George Clinton as they discuss the artistic and financial implications of these rules.
DIY App and eBook Publishing: A Live Demonstration
Technology is beginning to democratize book publishing by giving authors control over the entire process—from content and distribution to marketing and sales. This session goes beyond just discussion to demonstrate (live and in real-time) some of the latest DIY publishing technology. Attendees will participate with other members of the SXSW community to create a crowdsourced cookbook available to all for free download at the conclusion of the session as both an online eBook and iPad app. If you're interested in helping author the crowdsourced cookbook, please visit http://bit.ly/MxVXDB to add your recipe!
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So, you’ve finally got your printed book in your hands after months (if not years) of painstakingly pouring yourself into it. Want people to like your work and give it positive reviews, but aren’t sure how to go about getting them? Here are a few key tips for getting readers to review your book.
You could always try the simplest and most effective, yet often overlooked, option of just asking for reviews. If you’re giving away copies of your book, directly selling your book to readers at conferences, or connecting with them at book signings, why not simply ask readers for a review? All it takes is saying, “If you enjoy reading my book, I hope you will take the time to post a brief review online at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.” By just planting that seed at the outset, you’ll have a much better chance of readers taking the time to write a review upon finishing your book.
Include a Note
If you are not directly meeting your readers, you can always include a handwritten note to giveaway contest winners or to the recipients of your Advance Review Copies (aka ARCs or galleys). This simple act creates a connection with the reader that will make them more apt to review your book.
Email Your Subscriber List
If you’ve built a great base of readers by sending out a regular newsletter, those readers and fans are already invested in your content as a writer so reaching out to them when publishing a new book is a definite must. By tapping into an engaged and loyal fan base of readers you greatly maximize your potential for reviews.
Utilize Social Media
Never underestimate the power of a tweet or Facebook post in reaching readers. This is another great avenue to reach new readers as well as fans who are already engaged in your content. A tweet or post letting your social media communities know that you have a new book and would love online reviews is an excellent idea as long as you don’t make your profiles a sales platform. A well-balanced social media presence in which you create a conversation with your readers and provide value for them is the key to effective online communications. As long as you maintain a good balance between information and promotion, then readers will be excited to read and review your upcoming book.
Give in Order to Receive
Another great way to garner reviews is to write reviews for other authors of books within your niche. Doing so will help build goodwill with fellow authors in your space and credibility amongst your readers as an expert in the field. Providing honest, sincere, and thoughtful reviews often elicits the same kind of reviews in return.
Consider Key Messaging
The message that you want to convey to readers when asking for reviews is that you are eager for their honest feedback, as opposed to simply seeking praise for your book. The great importance of clearly articulating this message is that it shows you genuinely care about your readers and are invested in their reading experience.
Of course, it bears repeating that you must be prepared to thoughtfully accept all the reviews you receive—good, bad, and indifferent. As the old saying goes, “any publicity is good publicity,” and that is true even of lukewarm reviews, since each one can be taken as insight into the minds of your readers. If you reflect upon your reviews and take stock of what readers are saying, that feedback will ultimately help in developing your skills as a writer. Listen to your readers—they will tell you what they want more (and less) of.
There are myriad strategies for authors to use when seeking book reviews. If you’re interested in learning more about paid review opportunities, check out Greenleaf’s great post on professional review options.
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This month we're looking at another way that authors can improve their online platforms and get a fresh start in the new year. Today, our focus is on streamlining the many online bios we all have.
Over the holidays, my wife and I went to a party where there were a lot of kids. At one point, a man dressed as Santa came out and surprised the kids with gifts. Half an hour later, I was getting a cookie at the snack table, and a man I'd met earlier with glasses and black hair grabbed a cookie of his own and said, "Wow, that was great fun!" I blinked at him for a few seconds before I realized what he meant…he had been dressed as Santa Claus, but I didn't recognize him and make the connection.
Does this ever happen to you on social media? If you're like a lot of authors, you've got a personal website, a Twitter profile, a Facebook fan page, an Amazon author page, and who knows how many other profiles on sites like Goodreads, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, etc. If you're even more like a lot of those authors, the photos and descriptions on those different sites are not all the same—but they should be!
In a fragmented online environment, it's important to present the same personal brand across networks.
Streamlining Your Online Bios
- Research. Figure out which photos and bio text you have on which sites. Create a simple spreadsheet to track which bio photo you use on each profile, then copy/paste the bio text from each profile into the spreadsheet. It will be tempting to start replacing photos or retyping bios as you go, but don't do it. It's too easy to get bogged down rewriting that bio on the spot or getting frustrated by the photo upload process. Just log them all first, then come back and change them once you've decided on which photo and bio version you want to use.
- Photos. Now that you know what you have, it's time to choose what you want. Select one bio photo that you want to use on all of your social networks. For some tips on what makes a good online bio photo, read this ClickinMoms article and make sure all of your online profiles use the same image. It's normal to have some old photos floating around on networks you don't use much, or attached to an old email account. It's worth it to dig in and make sure you consistently use the same photo on every network.
- Bio Text. This may take a little longer, but it's well worth it. Readers could first encounter you via any of your online profiles, and you want those readers to get the same impression of you no matter which site they’re on. Distill your online bio into 2 or 3 sentences and use it consistently across all networks, then go back to each network and paste in your new master bio. When there is a constraint on how much you can write, for example on Twitter, choose keywords that convey what is most important to your personal brand.
(This post is the second in a series of three devoted to platform development in the new year. Look for the next installment in March!)