It’s no secret that the number of books being published each year has skyrocketed. As a result, publishers, distributors, booksellers, and consumers are bombarded with a sea of choices. One way to ensure that your book swims and doesn’t sink is to gather powerful, moving endorsements.
Ideally, your endorsements will come from celebrity voices—authors, business leaders, or other notable figures working in your field or industry. Unfortunately, not all of us are on Oprah’s speed dial. But pay attention to the following tips, and you’ll be well on your way to an awesome cover blurb.
One of the best ways to maximize your chances of receiving a great endorsement is to start many months before your pub date. The popular authors and thought leaders you’re reaching out to aren’t typically the type of people who lounge around reading all day. Starting early will give them more time to consider your proposal and read your work. It will also give you more time to brainstorm backup endorsers and write follow-up emails and letters. Makes sense, right? You’d be surprised how many authors wait until the last moment to contact potential endorsers. Don’t procrastinate on gathering great endorsements.
Take Time Building a List
Scribbling down the first five people that come to mind isn’t going to do you any favors. Do your research. Take time looking up the top sellers in your genre, the exciting new faces in your field, the movers and shakers of your niche. But don’t stop there. Think of authors whose books you respect, colleagues whose ideals you admire, bloggers whose pages you visit often, and people you just plain like. A list of ten to twenty potential endorsers is a great place to start. You’ll want a mix of easily recognizable names and less well-known but very relevant professionals. Additionally, make sure you have a valid way to contact them directly (not through a Facebook message or publisher address if you can help it). Make Google, Amazon, Goodreads, and bestseller lists your best friends at this stage.
Strut Your Stuff
In your initial email or snail-mail letter to your list of potential endorsers, don’t be afraid to toot your own horn a little bit. Be proud of your work and highlight any professional or personal accomplishments you’re particularly proud of. Know that you deserve great endorsements. Mentioning any other endorsements you’ve received or blurbs from press will get your endorser’s attention. Be sure to include the first few chapters of your book and even your cover art if you’d like.
Do you know who, besides booksellers and consumers, are swamped with books? Other authors. In order to stand out amid the spam mail, fan mail, and other endorsement requests, you need to get personal. Tell them why you like them and which book(s) of theirs you’ve read. Share a few lines from your upcoming book or write a killer summary. Why not even go ahead and share your favorite ice cream flavor and yoga pose if you feel so inclined?
Being specific and adding a little color to your email will certainly work in your favor. And while we’re on the subject, adding actual color to your email in the form of a funny design or image could work as well, depending on your subject matter.
Another great way to stand out is to have your publisher handle your endorsement outreach if it’s an option for you. This will add credibility and expertise to your request, and will likely provide you with better access to more popular names and more professional insight into potential endorser lists.
Look Beyond the Endorsement
One important thing to remember while you’re searching for endorsers is that the really important part of this process isn’t actually all about the endorsements. Making endorsement lists will expose you to popular and innovative topics in your field, which will be good news for you when it comes time to draft marketing materials and publicity plans for your piece. Reaching out to those on your list will not only get your name out there, it will give you a personal contact for any future correspondence. Recognize that the entire process is a connections builder, and you can’t lose.
Alright, now it’s time to get researching and writing! Not sure how to word your email or letter? For an example endorsement letter check out our previous blog post on getting great endorsements for your book.
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A big question for many authors is how to determine the retail price of their book. In some businesses, conventional wisdom says to set the price of a product by at least doubling your cost. Since that’s the case, if it cost you $10 to print your 150-page book, you should charge $20, right? Wrong! The book industry is not conventional, and the conventional wisdom thus does not apply.
There are many different factors that impact the price of your book: genre, page count, binding (hardcover/paperback), and competition all dictate the best price for the retail market.
There are three things you need to do to find your book’s retail price:
1. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. What would you pay for a title by an unknown author in the same category as your book?
2. Visit your local bookstore or go online to Amazon or BN.com and look up recent books in your genre. For books with the same binding as yours and with page counts and trim sizes close to yours, what is the general price point?
3. Determine your production costs and if the retail price determined by the above factors does not allow you to at least break even on a per-unit-sold basis, you may need to go up one dollar—but no more than two dollars. Believe it or not, due to increasingly tight budgets at the chains, a two-dollar price increase can easily cause a corporate chain buyer to pass on your book. However, if you’re anticipating mostly online sales (or are in a strong niche market), you can probably get away with it. (Be sure to check out this post on how to compete with Amazon)
One of the biggest mistakes some authors make is pricing their product out of the market. In a hyper-competitive market, you have to give yourself every advantage when it comes to selling books, and that includes having a price point that appeals to bookstores and readers. To make up for a margin that may be slimmer than you hoped for, push demand and sales as much as you can and build your audience.
Better yet, focus on how to use your book to drive other revenue-generating programs like coaching, speaking, and memberships. With tight margins, you may not make much money on the first title, but it may very well come back to you on additional print runs or new titles down the line.
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It’s a question for authors and interested readers alike: When it comes down to it, what do people like to read most? What types of books sell best?
The answer is never clear-cut, as there are lots of variables involved (fiction or nonfiction, ebook or print book, etc.), but here is a look at some research that may help solve the mystery.
According to a recent reader’s poll performed by Harris Interactive, when considering the choice between fiction and nonfiction, there appears to be little favoritism for readers across America. In other words, people seem to read these categories in equal amounts. This may be due to the wide variety of subgenres included in these two very broad categories.
Under fiction, the top three most favored genres were mystery/thriller/crime, science fiction, and literature. In the nonfiction category, readers favored history, biographies, and religious/spirituality books. However, business books made an impression on the polls as well.
An article by Publishers Weekly goes a step further and looks at the influence of ebooks versus print books on today’s most popular genres. Among the top ebook genres were mystery/detective, espionage/thriller, and romance. Interestingly, all three of these genres fall under the umbrella of fiction.
For authors, insights like these about important trends in the book industry are valuable. In a constantly changing industry, it’s always best to stay ahead of the curve, and know what people like to read.
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When you first become a published author there is much to learn about the ins and outs of this sometimes difficult to understand industry. There are some aspects that seem just plain backwards, particularly for those entering the industry from a business background. One of the hardest elements to come to grips with is the concept that a sale is not really a sale until it goes through two or three transactions. This makes calculating expected revenue difficult, to say the least. Add to that the returns factor (discussed here) and you are left with some confusing data to sort through.
If you’re working with a distributor, your distributor is going to sell your book to wholesalers and to retailers. Wholesalers play a very big role in all of this and it’s not uncommon for the majority of your books to first be sold to the myriad of wholesalers out there, big and small. (Learn about the difference between a wholesaler and a distributor here).Your distributor will report this is a sale to you and you will be paid for that sale (minus returns and reserves against future returns) but in the more explicit sense of the word, it’s not quite a sale yet. At this point, your book has been stocked in a wholesaler’s warehouse with the hopes that their customers (retailers and libraries) will purchase it from them.
Now the retailers and library customers of the wholesaler begin placing their orders for your book through the wholesalers. The wholesaler considers each order of your book a sale and will be paid for the books by their retail or library customer for those purchases. If the purchaser is a library, the cycle is done and you can safely call that sale an actual sale since the book is unlikely to be returned. If the purchaser is a retailer, however, it’s not quite a sale yet. Your book is one step closer to really being sold, but at this point, your book has now been given shelf space in a retailer’s warehouse and stores with the hopes that their customers, actual book-purchasing and reading consumers, will purchase it from them.
When an actual consumer picks up your book from a shelf and buys it, it is finally sold. Your distributor will differentiate between the sales to the wholesalers and retailers and the actual consumer sales as “sold in” versus “sold through”. The sold-through number is what you are both going to want to monitor, especially as it relates to the sold-in number. A large discrepancy can spell trouble around the bend in regard to returns. Consumer sell through is reported weekly by Nielsen BookScan and can be obtained through your distributor’s account or through your Amazon Author Central Account.
Until a consumer actually buys your book, it is subject to being returned by the retailer or the wholesaler, so keep in mind that the act of being placed on shelves is certainly not a guarantee of sales. You have two or three more “sales” to make before your book is actually sold through. Focus on creating demand so those books stay sold.
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In case all of the Christmas music, blinking lights, gingerbread-spiced coffee, and secret Santa exchanges didn’t alert you, the holiday season is upon us. Marketing your book might sound like just an additional stressor in an already stressful season, but December can be a great time to build sales if you use the holidays to your advantage. Though the market can be crowded this time of year, the easy holiday marketing tips below will help you jingle all the way to the bank.
Focus on ebooks.
Sales of Kindle products on Black Friday increased by a whopping 400 percent from last year, reports the Financial Post, and Amazon is predicted to sell twelve million Kindle Fires by the end of the year. If you haven’t converted your book to a digital format yet, now is the time to do so (check out our blog post on digital conversion). Not only will an ebook be easier to market, they also offer more flexibility in terms of pricing and content tweaks.
Offer limited-time sales.
Although many believe that Black Friday and Cyber Monday are the best times to drop prices to encourage sales, people will be buying books as gifts throughout December. Market your sale as a “last-minute deal,” and offer special coupons to followers of your Twitter, Facebook, newsletter, and blog. Marking down prices on December 26 is also a good idea, as people around the world will be logging on to populate their new ereaders.
Make nice with Amazon.
Booksellers and self-published authors (understandably) spend a lot of time thinking of ways to drive consumers to their personal websites to purchase books, but now may not be the time to completely boycott the Internet’s biggest “etailer.” Carolyn McCray at Digital Book World makes the point that many customers will be buying other gifts on Amazon, and buyers will be more likely to add your book to their already stuffed cart than to buy directly from your site. “This is a sales platform they’re familiar with,” says McCray. “It’s just one click for them to buy your book.” Link your ads to your book’s Amazon page for the next few weeks, and make sure to optimize your account for the best search ranking possible.
Offer freebies to build trust and drive sales.
It may seem counterintuitive to offer your highly valuable content for free, but ’tis the season of giving! Plus, free content can be an excellent way to build backlist sales and name recognition. If you’re a nonfiction author, offer a shortened, teaser version of your ebook for free. Fiction authors can offer a free short story or a preview of their latest novel. Not willing to give away part of your book free of charge? Ramp up your blog posting and seek blog swaps over the next few weeks. Writing articles for online magazines can also be a good way to get your name and your holiday sale out there. All these tactics will familiarize consumers with your name, your message, and your expertise—and ultimately prove to them why they should buy your book.
Engage with consumers.
Showing others that you’ve got the holiday spirit is a great way to differentiate yourself from other sellers hoping that their products will make the gift list. Be sure to tweet, Facebook post, and blog about the holiday season with occasional links to your sale. Ask your fans questions, and respond to any comments quickly. Community-driven engagement is also a fun way to gain some sales. Author Miranda Parker suggests reaching out to local businesses to be included in their gift baskets, hosting a holiday children’s book drive at your local library, or sponsoring a float in your community parade.
Book marketing is a time-consuming and detailed task the whole year round, but it can be made especially tricky in the cluttered holiday market. Differentiating yourself with discounted prices, free content, superior engagement, and a personalized experience can help put your book under the tree. If all else fails, you can always bake amazing Christmas cookies and give them away to customers.
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Today's post is by Lynne Klippel, a best-selling author, publisher, and book shepherd. Since 2004, she's been working with coaches, speakers, and entrepreneurs who want to write a nonfiction book to showcase their expertise and build their business. Her business, Business Building Books, focuses on the marriage of Internet marketing and publishing and has helped clients from six of the seven continents. An avid reader, Lynne used to get in loads of trouble as a kid for reading books instead of doing her chores. Lynne lives in Missouri with her husband, three sons, a bunch of pets and tons of books.
In the business world, a service line is a grouping of all the products and services related to one particular division of that business. For example, a hospital may have a service line devoted to pediatrics and another service line for oncology. Apple has a service line for telephones and another one for personal computers.
It is helpful to think of your book as a service line in your business. Let’s say you are a corporate coach who is writing a book on finding a job after age fifty. While you may have coaching clients who are younger than fifty, your book will generate a group of related products and services especially for the older job seeker.
Creating a service line gives you the freedom to serve many people in your business and the ability to focus in on one particular group of people with common needs. Freedom and focus are an unbeatable combination for any entrepreneur but especially for those who are highly creative and enjoy working with many different types of people.
So how do you start to develop your service line?
The first step is to identify your perfect reader. Then, do some brainstorming. Consider these questions:
- How many of these types of people are you currently serving in your business?
- What do they buy from you now?
- What do you like about serving this group?
- Can you list the five biggest challenges this group faces?
- What products or services do you have that can be adapted to service this group in a perfect way?
Next, dream a bit. Grab some paper and imagine yourself five years from now. Your book has been published and it is selling successfully. You have a fully developed service line of seminars, audio programs, group coaching, workshops, and information products that follow your book.
- What does that look like?
- How do readers engage with you in your service line before, during and after reading your book?
- What products or services bring you the most joy?
- How does your service line produce income to support you?
- Is this your only service line or do you have additional lines?
Capture your dream and future vision on paper. This is the beginning of your book’s service line. Give yourself permission to dream big and to start small, knowing that your service line will develop over time. It does not have to be built in a day but will evolve as you interact with your perfect readers and find new ways to serve them.
When you focus on building one service line at a time, while continuing to enjoy the freedom to serve individual clients outside of that service line, you’ll be less stressed and overwhelmed. You make more progress, and stop running around trying to be all things to all people.
Your book becomes the beginning of your service line. Hmmm, I can see you with multiple books and multiple service lines in the future. Can you see it too?
If you are ready to become a successful author, capitalize on your strengths and build from there. To identify your author strengths complete the free Author Assessment at www.BusinessBuildingBooks.com.
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Today's post is by Lynne Klippel, a best-selling author, publisher, and book shepherd. Since 2004, she's been working with coaches, speakers, and entrepreneurs who want to write a nonfiction book to showcase their expertise and build their business. Her business, Business Building Books, focuses on the marriage of internet marketing and publishing and has helped clients from 6 of the 7 continents. An avid reader, Lynne used to get in loads of trouble as a kid for reading books instead of doing her chores. Lynne lives in Missouri with her husband, three sons, a bunch of pets and tons of books.
One of the first questions you’ll hear from a publisher, writing coach, or interviewer is “Who should read your book?”
Most of us want to say, “Everyone!”
While you probably do have information in your book that will help many people, it is highly unlikely that everyone in the world will need to read it. Drat!
When you take time to get very clear on the characteristics, needs, and desires of a specific group of readers, you’ll be able to write your book faster and more effectively. Plus, you’ll be much more successful in your book marketing efforts.
Let’s start with a few examples of clear descriptions of perfect readers:
- Women aged 40 to 60 who have children and aging parents
- Divorced fathers who share custody of their children
- High school students who want to get into an Ivy League university
- Young adults aged 20 to 30 who left organized religion but still seek spiritual connection
- Corporate presidents or vice presidents who plan to retire in the next five years
- Women in their twenties with an eating disorder
- Parents whose grade school children act out in school
Each description brings a specific person to your mind, right? You may have pictured a friend, relative, or acquaintance who fit that description perfectly.
Now, it’s your turn to describe your perfect reader. Consider these key areas:
- Demographics: age, gender, marital status, profession, and socioeconomic status
- Challenges and stressors your reader faces that cause her to worry or look for help in a book
- Hopes, dreams, and goals
- Personality style—does he like facts and statistics or stories and humor?
- Time management—is she too busy to read long chapters?
- Current information-gathering practices—does he read, look online, go to seminars, take classes, or depend on others for new information?
- Fears—this is one the most important area to look at. Your book must provide a solution to a fear or group of fears if it’s really going to help your readers thrive.
You will continue to refine the definition of your perfect reader as you write your book. One of the best ways to do this is to teach some classes and see what kinds of people attend and resonate with your material. If you don’t enjoy teaching, notice the kinds of people who visit your website or comment on your blog.
The more you study and learn about your ideal reader, the more targeted you can make your book. Real people read books. When you can capture the essence of the perfect reader for your book, you are one step closer to becoming a successful author!
If you are ready to become a successful author, capitalize on your strengths and build from there. To identify your author strengths, complete the free Author Assessment at www.BusinessBuildingBooks.com.
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Writers dream of plastering the words “Bestselling Author” next to their name on business cards, resumes, books, blog posts, photos, and virtually every other place their moniker appears. And they can’t be blamed—that phrase counts for a lot, especially for authors hoping to attract customers with a “national bestseller” banner on their cover. But what exactly does it mean to be a bestseller? And how much does it really matter?
Books are traditionally considered bestsellers when they meet one of three unofficial requirements: (1) placement on the New York Times bestseller list; (2) placement on the Wall Street Journal bestseller list; or (3) placement on the USA Today bestseller list. And, if we’re being frank, the biggest prestige comes in making the illustrious New York Times list.
So what does it take to get on one of these things? The number of sold books required to achieve bestseller status is virtually indefinable. The numbers necessary are relative to which other books are in the market the same week as yours. Books on the very same bestseller list can have drastically different sales counts. In his blog post “Bestseller: How Many Copies Do You Have to Sell to Become a Bestseller?” Jeffrey Krames sites a week in August 2010 in which Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love topped the lists, selling 140,000 copies. The fifth bestselling book that same week sold less than 11,000 copies—a 129,000 difference from the first-place seller.
Genre lists are an entirely different ballgame. The New York Times separates books into categories, and the number of books sold required to hit each of those genre categories is immensely different. For that same week in 2010 Krames discussed, Tom Rath’s StrengthsFinder 2.0 topped the business category, selling just over 9,000 copies. Number two on the list, The Big Short by Michael Lewis, measured in at 4,200.
It’s also important to note that bestseller lists only reflect velocity of sales—not overall success of a book. A title could be a “tortoise seller,” moving eight hundred books per week for an entire year but never making any of the lists. Not all sales are reported to the lists, either. Each list has its own way of determining quantity, usually through a catalog of sales reported to them by selected bookstores, and none of the lists are comprehensive. In fact, sales through specialty stores like Walmart, Target, and Christian bookstores are usually not collected, and for some authors, those can be the locations of the majority of their sales.
In some ways, bestseller status is becoming less relevant in this age of ebooks, apps, and digital downloads. Can a free ebook downloaded 100,000 times in a week be considered a bestseller? Not according to the New York Times, but it certainly must have been one of the most-read books of the week. In the long run, that will matter a lot more.
The Times only recently started including ebook sales on their list, and ebook sales for advice books, how-to books, children’s books, and graphic books are not captured at all. Although ebooks only account for about five percent of overall book sales right now, that number is sure to rise.
The Times list is also backlogged by several weeks. Sales for the week ending August 6 won’t appear in the print edition of the Times until August 21. In our digital world, trends can rise and fall with almost terrifying rapidity (silly bands, anyone?); sometimes what was selling three weeks ago has no bearing on today.
Amazon, on the other hand, does update its list hourly, and the site recently separated free ebook lists from paid. This likely reflects actual popularity a little more closely than the Times list, but being an “Amazon bestseller” doesn’t exactly have the same ring to it. But will it eventually? Or are bestseller lists on their way to obsolescence?
Being on the New York Times bestseller list is still a great way to build sales and does hold a lot of cachet—we can’t deny that. But in the end, authors should concentrate on the longevity of their book and its cross-revenue potential.
Our advice? Don’t measure your success solely in book sales. Keep in mind the long-term strategy for your book—increased exposure for yourself and your company. If you only sell three thousand books but those books translated into more clients and, ultimately, more profits for you, then “Bestseller shmestseller!” we say. Slow and steady can and will win the race.
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Originally posted on March 31, 2009.
One of the most common questions we hear from authors is "Why does Ingram return my books only to order more the next day?" And it’s true: Ingram, the biggest player in the book wholesaling game, will frequently send books back to a publisher’s doorstep only to turn around an place an order a few days later. Why on earth didn’t they just keep them?
All books that bookstores ship back to Ingram are sent to their Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, warehouse for processing and then are directly returned to publisher or distributor of the title. Unfortunately, Ingram does not restock returned inventory. (You can imagine that tracking, inspecting, and restocking undamged returns would be a time-consuming endeavor for an operation of that size.) At the same time, Ingram has to bring in new stock to cover ongoing demand.
Another scenario that creates returns followed by more orders is a shift in regional demand. Ingram has four warehouses serving the country by region (in Pennsylvania, Oregon, Indiana, and Tennessee). If your cookbook is overstocked in Seattle bookstores, but you just did a great local radio tour in the Chicago area, Ingram’s going send the Seattle books back to you while simultaneously asking you for more to cover the new demand in Chicago—no matter how inefficient that seems.
The best way to minimize returns is to balance supply with demand by trying to maintain supply at a level that will sell in less than three months. So, as we’ve told you before, avoid overstocking and subsequent returns by always communicating your marketing and publicity activities to your publisher or distributor.
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Amazon sells a boatload of books, and a shipload of other stuff. In their quest to become the Walmart of the Internet, they offer a huge range of products and often discount them steeply to get your shopping cart started—and books in particular seem to frequently become loss leaders. This sometimes alarms authors just entering the world of retail book distribution, who suddenly realize that the customer who once bought on the author’s website can now buy the same book faster and cheaper on Amazon.
The discount Amazon places on titles does not affect what an author is paid through his or her publisher, of course, but it can impact how effectively that author can sell product on his or her website. It’s important to remember, however, that there are at least two types of buyers—those who will just buy the book, and those who are looking for a deeper experience. The buyer who just wants the book will probably not buy it from your author website if it is also available on Amazon. It is definitely difficult to compete with Amazon (or BN.com) for this customer—one-click purchasing, free shipping, and familiarity stack the cards in favor of the online retailers.
Frustrated by Amazon’s dominance, some authors eschew Amazon, trying to keep a product monopoly limited to their website. This is a mistake—you’ll never be able to attract the volume of users or offer the ease of purchase that Amazon does. As the saying goes, it’s better to have 10% of the gold than 100% of the shaft.
However, the buyer seeking a more immersive experience is another story. It’s for this type of buyer that you should sell product on your website—product that offers a deeper experience than just a cheap copy of the book. For example, bundle the book with an audio supplement. Offer a self-assessment or workbook to accompany the book. Consider offering coaching or, better yet, a community where your readers can collaborate and support one another. Use access to assets like podcasts, sample chapters, and exclusive supplementary content as an incentive for newsletter signups. And by all means, put a mention of these available website features at the back of your book. Ultimately, the goal is to capture and stay in front of your reader in a way that enhances their connection with you (read: no spam!) and builds allegiance. Successfully doing so will help you compete not just with Amazon but also with every other author vying for attention (a far more formidable opponent!).