How to Utilize Book Reviews to Increase Your Following

Kim Staflund: founder and publisher at Polished Publishing Group (PPG) and author of the PPG Publisher’s Blog

Kim Staflund: founder and publisher at Polished Publishing Group (PPG) and author of the PPG Publisher’s Blog

Different types of book reviews are available to help authors sell more books: unpaid traditional book reviews, and paid online book reviews. Each has its own unique pros and cons. Both are effective tools that can be used by authors to sell more of their books.


A common custom among trade publishers that really should be adopted by self-publishing authors is making sure to send out a few complimentary copies of your book to various relevant book reviewers in your area. This is a great way to generate some extra publicity for your book. The upside is that these reviews are free of charge in the sense that your only cost is the copy of your book and the postage to send it; however, the downside is that you’re not guaranteed a review after sending it. It’s at the discretion of the reviewer.

Two types of unpaid traditional book reviews are available: one is the review that you send out ahead of time, known as an advance reading copy (ARC), to stir up interest in the book before publication; the other is a published review copy of the actual, final edited version of your book.

  • Advance Reading Copies (ARCs): These unfinished review copies can be printed and mailed out as hard copy galleys or emailed as .PDF files. It is important to ensure they are stamped with the words “Advance Reading Copy (ARC)” on the front cover, and possibly also on every few pages of the interior, to ensure that the reviewer understands the copy is unedited so he or she takes that into account.
  • Published Review Copies: When sending a final published review copy to an editor, whether mailed as a hard copy or emailed as a .PDF, make sure to stamp “Review Copy” on the front cover of the book so it cannot be resold for profit. This also ensures that it will get to the right person at the newspaper or magazine to which you’re sending it for review.
A prize endorsement of How to Publish a Bestselling Book in the highly respected Midwest Book Review!

A prize endorsement of How to Publish a Bestselling Book in the highly respected Midwest Book Review!

A great book review written by a highly respected reviewer within the literary community can do wonders to help boost your book sales in much the same way as other forms of publicity can. When shared via social media, a prize endorsement such as this can catch on as quickly as wildfire. It’s definitely worth the cost of a complimentary book or two.

Additional book reviews for How to Publish a Bestselling Book ... and Sell it WORLDWIDE Based on Value, Not Price!

Additional book reviews for How to Publish a Bestselling Book … and Sell it WORLDWIDE Based on Value, Not Price!


Paid online book reviews are a fantastic advertising tool for authors. They can aid you in your efforts to direct traffic to the storefront where your book is currently for sale, thereby increasing the chance of a sale. They can also provide you with relevant content that you can share via social media to further promote your book to your followers.

The upside to these types of reviews is that whereas you’re not guaranteed a review when you send a book to a traditional book reviewer, you are guaranteed a review when you pay for one from a non-traditional book reviewer. The downside is that you must pay for it.

A prize endorsement of Successful Selling Tips for Introverted Authors in MBR's Jim Cox Report!

A prize endorsement of Successful Selling Tips for Introverted Authors in MBR’s Jim Cox Report!

When completed by a reputable organization, these paid reviews are still unbiased reviews—which may be good or bad. Once the review is complete, you are given an opportunity to decline or approve it to be published online for all to see. If you decline it, you won’t get your money back; it simply won’t be shared publicly at your request. But if you approve it, it might be posted to that reviewer’s high-traffic website, posted to your book online, and/or shared with various wholesalers and retailers all around your country (and possibly other parts of world, depending on where you have the book reviewed).

A complimentary paid book review can boost your sales in much the same way a traditional review can. It is definitely worth the investment.

Additional book reviews for How to Publish a Book in Canada ... and Sell Enough Copies to Make a Profit!

Additional book reviews for How to Publish a Book in Canada … and Sell Enough Copies to Make a Profit!

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Successful Selling Tips for Introverted Authors

Successful Selling Tips for Introverted Authors by Kim Staflund | Your Choice Between a Full-Day Intensive In-Person Workshop or a Two-Hour Basics Webinar

Successful Selling Tips for Introverted Authors by Kim Staflund | Your Choice Between a Full-Day Intensive In-Person Workshop or a Two-Hour Basics Webinar

Your Choice Between a Full-Day Intensive In-Person Workshop or a Two-Hour Basics Webinar

What if I told you it’s possible to successfully market and sell your book using nothing more than a comfortable chair in your favourite writing room, a laptop, an Internet connection, and your own God-given talent to write? There are some easy, effective ways to boost sales in only six hours per week!

• The reputable Midwest Book Review endorses Successful Selling Tips for Introverted Authors as “a critically important instructional reference” and mandatory study material for every novice author.
• This book/workshop teaches authors how to advertise, market, sell, and publicize their own books.
• This is EASY! All it takes is six hours per week for authors to sell more copies of their books. With a reasonable time commitment such as this, anyone can do it.
• This book and its corresponding workshop/webinar sessions were created by a professional bestselling author, TESOL certified sales coach, and book publisher with over twenty years’ experience in the North American English book publishing industry. Add her substantial corporate sales and advertising background into the mix, and you have a serious mentor in front of you who can help you achieve better commercial success as an author.

Program Proposal: click on this link and turn the pages to view more information regarding each session along with pricing, itineraries, positive book reviews, and testimonials from past workshops. (Of course, each program is flexible and can be repurposed to meet your unique requirements.)

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As a user of this website, you are authorized only to view, copy, print, and distribute the documents on this website so long as: one (1) the document is used for informational purposes only; and two (2) any copy of the document (or portion thereof) includes the following copyright notice: Copyright © 2016 Polished Publishing Group (PPG). All rights reserved.

How The Secret Changed My Life … New Book Due Out October 4, 2016

Kim Staflund: founder and publisher at Polished Publishing Group (PPG) and author of the PPG Publisher’s Blog

Kim Staflund: founder and publisher at Polished Publishing Group (PPG) and author of the PPG Publisher’s Blog

A little under a year ago, I wrote a blog entry titled How Gratitude and Visualization Can Help Authors Sell More Books and announced that my personal story was being featured as the “Story of the Week” on website. Earlier this month, I was informed that this same story will also appear in Rhonda Byrne’s upcoming book titled How The Secret Changed My Life: Real People. Real Stories. which is due out on October 4, 2016.

I’ve been aware, for a while now, that my story may appear in this new book because I gave permission to The Secret team to publish it when we spoke about it last year. I was also aware that it would undergo some light editing (as it should!) if they decided to include it in their book. Since the lightly edited version is slightly different from the original version I sent them, I’ve decided to share the original with you here. Enjoy!

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My Three Greatest Dreams Came True … Plus A Few More!

I was a single parent for over 20 years. As a single parent, finances were always a stressful area of my life. I rarely traveled anywhere, nor was I a home-owner. I rented for a long time. One of my greatest desires and promises to myself was that one day I would travel to the UK. I’d never left North America before. I wanted my first trip abroad to be to London, UK. I also wanted to be a home-owner, and I wanted to feel a sense of financial comfort and ease in my life. But, for many years, I saw no way this could ever happen for me.

In addition to these common desires that many people share, it was also always my dream to become a bestselling author. I had self-published three books by the time my son finished grade twelve; but they weren’t selling as well as I had hoped they would.

I first came across The Secret in early 2007. I loved it because it inspired me and gave me hope that I could improve my situation once and for all. (It is also what inspired me to write my second book.) Following that, I bought The Power and then The Magic, and I began focusing on what I love and on practicing gratitude every single day. I started watching subliminal videos and listening to subliminal tapes to help me reach my very core, so that I could really infuse my subconscious thoughts and beliefs with these new messages of love and gratitude and personal empowerment. Another thing I did was watch Rhonda’s videos The Secret to Riches, The Secret to You, and Planet Earth Forever at least once daily for several weeks straight. I really wanted to saturate my body, mind, and spirit with love, gratitude, and the belief that I could improve my life. Something in me knew repetition was the key … just keep reading these books, keep practicing gratitude, keep watching these videos, keep strengthening my belief.

Long story short, it worked. It still brings me to tears, sometimes, when I think about just how well it worked for me.

I really increased the intensity of my gratitude and visualization exercises in September 2013, around the time I published my fourth book. I began doing my exercises twice a day, first thing when I woke up every morning and last thing before I fell asleep every night for 30 days straight. The result? From November 2013 through to July 2014, the following amazing improvements happened in my life:

  • My fourth book was listed as a bestseller on in November 2013.
  • In December 2013, that same book was also listed as a bestseller in the Calgary Herald online.
  • My son graduated from university that December, got the job he wanted at the company he wanted to work for, and moved into his own home. What a wonderful additional reward to see him so healthy, happy, and successful in his own life.
  • The annual income at my full-time job increased by $35,000 that year, and I also earned additional income through my sideline business as a book publisher and author.
  • I was approved for a mortgage in December, bought myself a brand new condo with many luxuries (safe and secure underground parking being one of them), and moved in.
  • I booked myself a trip to visit London and Paris which was on credit card and would be paid off within six months due to my increase in income.
  • I gave my son all my old furniture and was able to easily afford to buy myself new furniture for my new condo which was to be financed over three years.
  • I bought myself a new jeep which was to be financed over six years.
  • I was also FINALLY able to afford to pay back my two brothers and one of my cousins for money they had lent to me years ago when I’d been in a rough financial spot. (GOD, that felt good—to hand them each a cheque along with a heartfelt THANK YOU. I was finally free of the emotional burden of this personal debt that I had carried in my heart for years! It’s not that they had ever made me feel bad about it. Quite the contrary. But it felt like a burden to me. I had always planned to pay them back.)

Needless to say, things were going so well for me on so many fronts. I was overwhelmed with gratitude and joy … which seemed to attract even more things to feel grateful and joyful about. More good news followed. More money followed. It was absolutely amazing.

In March 2014, my mother won $1.15 million in a lottery! I was so excited for her! All of us were! Of course, my very generous mother shared part of her earnings with her children and other family members which completely paid off my remaining debts including the trip to London and Paris, the new jeep, the new furniture, everything! I was completely debt free (other than the mortgage on my new condo) with additional savings put away and even more spending money at my disposal than I already had due to the salary increase. So, I decided to also take a long-desired trip to New York City in July, too!

Not only did my mother win $1.15 million dollars in a casino lottery in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, that year … which is, you would think, a once in a lifetime event that we were all thrilled about. But then, around two months later, my uncle (who happens to be my God father) then also won $1.4 million is a separate casino lottery in Medicine Hat, Alberta! (I enjoyed teasing my cousins that their dad seemed to be trying to one-up my mom. We all had a great laugh out of that.)

What an amazing few months for me between November 2013 and July 2014! Not only did pretty much every single wish I had for myself come true, but even more wonderful things came my way than I could ever have expected. And the best part of it was that I got to see my son, my mom, and my uncle enjoy success and joy in their own lives, too. That was the icing on the cake, for sure!

My life continues to be so fulfilling to this day. I continue to earn a great living and travel. I continue to have a wonderful relationship with my son and watch him have success in his own life, too. It’s wonderful. I also continue to have increased success as a bestselling author, book publisher, and sales coach for authors. Life is sweet.

I’m a firm believer in the power of gratitude, the power of love, and the truth of Rhonda’s messages in each of her books. I’m so grateful to you, Rhonda. You have helped me to change my life for the better. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

New Age Fiction by Kim S.

New Age Fiction by Kim S.

Include a “Call to Action” in Your Marketing Materials. Ask For The Sale.

Kim Staflund: founder and publisher at Polished Publishing Group (PPG) and author of the PPG Publisher’s Blog

Kim Staflund: founder and publisher at Polished Publishing Group (PPG) and author of the PPG Publisher’s Blog

I’ve received several emails via LinkedIn and other social media sites, over the years, from newly self-published “indie” authors who were advertising their books, trying to convince me to buy them. If you’re one of these authors, I genuinely applaud you for taking that important step toward self-promotion. Good for you! But now I’m going to tell you why I (and probably most of the other people you sent that email to) never bought your book … and my answer may surprise you.

MYTH: It’s wrong or rude to outwardly ask people to buy your book.

FACT: It’s okay to ask for the sale. The most successful sales people always do.

One of the most obvious, yet least utilized, components of every successful sales campaign is known as the “call to action.” Simply stated, a call to action is your very clear request to consumers to buy your book TODAY! Right now!

Sometimes, salespeople do an amazing job of convincing buyers that whatever they’re selling is a wonderful thing, but then they let those buyers walk away without actually asking for the sale while the opportunity is still hot. Don’t let that opportunity get cold! Come right out and ask for the sale right in the moment. It doesn’t work all the time, but it works a lot better than never asking—that much I can promise. If you get used to doing this, you’ll sell way more books over time.

Now to clarify…

There are special nuances and techniques to effectively asking for a sale that every author needs to understand. There’s more to it than simply sending someone an email that says, “I’ve just published a new book! Buy it today!” You need to communicate with your potential customers in such a way that creates both an emotional and intellectual response in their brains, and you need to speak to them in their preferred marketing language.

WIIFM: What’s In It for Me?

One of the very first acronyms I learned when I entered the world of sales was WIIFM, which stands for “What’s In It for Me?”. My sales coach told me this is what all our customers are asking themselves, whether consciously or unconsciously, whenever they consider making a purchase. As salespeople, we need to be aware of this acronym and be sure we’re answering that question for customers, in all our marketing materials, in a clear and concise manner that speaks to them in their language.

When I say “clear” I mean tell them what’s in it for them in a manner that addresses their needs directly. Will your book increase their joy? If yes, how? Will your book decrease their pain? If yes, how? (When you clearly address someone’s joy and/or pain, you are appealing to their emotional limbic brains more effectively.)

When I say “concise” I mean tell them what’s in it for them in as few words as possible. We live in an “instant soup” society, filled with customers that want quick and easy solutions to their problems. The only instance when anyone will take the time to read through paragraph after detailed paragraph of promotional material will be if they’ve picked up that material to read it by their own choice—not if they’ve been “interrupted” by it in an unsolicited email message. Fair enough? (When you are concise in your messaging, you are appealing to their logical neocortex more effectively.)

When I say speak to them in their language, I mean tell them what’s in it for them in a manner that they will understand and appreciate most. There are two different marketing “languages” you might choose from to communicate with your prospective customers in all your marketing materials (e.g. your blog, the back cover copy of your book, et cetera): price-based marketing and value-based marketing. Both have their time and their place, no matter what it is that you’re selling.

Price-Based Marketing

Walmart is one of the most common North American examples of a retailer that uses price-based marketing, also sometimes referred to as the “Everyday Low Price” pricing strategy, to sell its products. As soon as I use that retail name, most people understand what I mean without much further explanation. Price based marketing revolves around selling things for the cheapest price. It appeals to the audience that wants “the best deal” at the lowest possible price, regardless of its brand name or quality.

You speak to a price-based audience with phrases such as “Have what you want for less” and “The affordable solution for thrifty consumers.”

Value-Based Marketing

Prada, by contrast, is an example of a worldwide luxury retailer that uses value-based marketing to sell its products. As soon as I use that brand name, the concept is once again clear to most people. Value-based marketing revolves around selling things at prices commensurate with the highest quality. It appeals to the audience most concerned with workmanship, expertise, long-term durability, and image—and who can, and will, willingly pay more for it.

You speak to a value-based audience with phrases such as “Sophistication and classical style for discerning women” and “Crafted with care for the distinguished gentleman.”

These are two extreme examples, taken from one end of the spectrum to the next, to illustrate the differences between these two marketing languages. Not all price-based marketers will price things as low as Walmart does; nor will all value-based marketers price things as high as Prada does. In fact, the same concepts are used to sell many other things all along that spectrum, including coffee (Dunkin’ Donuts versus Starbucks), food (McDonalds versus Fatburger), and cars (Honda Civic versus BMW 3 Series Sedan). The main point here is that the wording you use to speak to a price-conscious audience will be very different from the wording you use when you speak to a value-conscious audience. The other point is that you can apply either price-based marketing or value-based marketing to everything and anything you’re selling—including all types and formats of books. It all depends on your customers’ wants and needs.

All Authors Should Create an “Elevator Pitch” for Their Books

What is an elevator pitch, and why should every author have one memorized and ready to recite at a moment’s notice? In short, it is a brief sales pitch that will help you to sell more books both in person and online. According to the Free Dictionary, “the name ‘elevator pitch’ reflects the idea that it should be possible to deliver the summary in the time span of an elevator ride, or approximately thirty seconds to two minutes.”

When delivered correctly and confidently, it often results in a sale right on the spot. At the very least, it will pique the interest of your audience for future reference so they will think of your book first when they are in the market to buy one on your topic.

An Effective Elevator Pitch Includes a Call to Action

An effective elevator pitch should encapsulate everything we’ve discussed up to this point: it needs to be clear and concise; it needs to answer the question “what’s in it for me?” in a marketing language your customers will understand and appreciate most; and it should confidently call your customers to action to buy your book immediately. Your call to action should be customized to match the format and audience of your book.

Authors are entrepreneurs. If you want commercial success, then you have to be an active participant in the sales process. It’s always been that way. And an effective “call to action” is a necessary part of that sales process.

An Effective Alternative to Returnability Where Everybody Wins

Kim Staflund: founder and publisher at Polished Publishing Group (PPG) and author of the PPG Publisher’s Blog

Kim Staflund: founder and publisher at Polished Publishing Group (PPG) and author of the PPG Publisher’s Blog

My last blog entry, Let’s Start a Revolution to End Returnability!, ignited a passionate debate over this decades-old book distribution model. Within the various industry LinkedIn groups where I shared it, fifty percent of people appeared to agree with my stance while another fifty percent steadfastly defended the practice no matter how many articles or books I cited showing other reputable publishers, authors, and even booksellers who view it as outdated, costly, inefficient, and environmentally unfriendly.

I asked myself, “Why?” And the only answer I could come up with is that change is often uncomfortable and sometimes causes fear—especially if the people promoting that change have neglected to provide a reasonable answer as to what we could possibly change TO that could be viewed as a better alternative for us all … and fair enough. So, the purpose of this blog entry is twofold: first, to further explain some of the intricacies of English language trade publishing that are at the core of my beliefs and business philosophies; and second, to provide an alternative to the current system that all of us could benefit from.


Bookstores don’t sell your books for you, authors. You do. In my 2014 book on publishing, I went so far as to share the not-so-popular viewpoint that even your publisher doesn’t sell your book for you over the long-term. You do.

One of the biggest myths about trade publishers is that all of them are out there actively selling all of their authors’ books for them on a regular basis. Nothing could be further from the truth. Trade publishers focus primarily on their front list titles; and, once those books fall to the back list, the responsibility of continued promotion falls to the author. Based on the common twice-yearly publishing schedule followed by most traditional publishers (spring and autumn), I figured that the average book would be considered a front list title for only six months which means it has a shelf life of only six months. After that, it’s up to the author to continue actively selling it. It’s always been that way, contrary to popular belief.

I’ve since learned that my six-month guesstimate was actually quite idealistic. This past year, I picked up a well-researched book by John B. Thompson titled Merchants of Culture: The Publishing Business in the Twenty-First Century where a trade publisher’s publicity, sales, and marketing budgets are discussed in more detail than in my own book:

“Today more than ever, a writer’s career is always hanging in the balance, rising and falling with the sales of their most recent books and always at risk of being curtailed by a disappointing track. Careers cut short and writers cut loose are among the prices to be paid for the logic of the field. They are the human costs of an industry where numbers rule in the end and where short-term growth and bottom-line profitability have come to assume more and more importance in the practical calculations of the major houses.”

You would think that the major publishing houses with the larger budgets would be able to spend more money on promoting and selling all their books; but, the fact is, they are under even greater pressure from their parent corporations to watch their spend and focus primarily on what they consider the “big books” that can generate the most profit for them. The result, according to Thompson’s research, is an even shorter shelf life for the majority of books by the majority of authors:

“As soon as a book shows signs that it’s going to take off, the sales, marketing and publicity operations mobilize behind it and look for ways to support it with extra advertising, trying to get more radio and TV appearances, extending the author’s tour or putting together a new tour to cities where the book is doing particularly well, and so on. … the sales, marketing and publicity operations are geared and resourced in such a way that, when they see that a fire is starting to ignite, they are able to pour generous quantities of fuel on the flames. … But if further appeals fall on deaf ears and sales fail to pick up, then the marketing and publicity effort will be wound up pretty quickly – ‘In two to three weeks we might pull the plug,’ … So how long does a book have out there in the marketplace to show signs of life? How many weeks before it becomes a dead fish that will be left to float downstream? … I would say the life of a book today is about six weeks. And quite frankly it’s even shorter than that, but you probably have six weeks and that’s it.

So we’ve gone from a six-month shelf life to a six-week shelf life with the larger, corporate publishers. Yikes! Scary stuff. There has to be a better way, right? I believe there is.


As I mentioned earlier, bookstores don’t sell your books for you, authors. You do. They simply display them. And if you want prime real estate in a traditional chain bookstore, thus allowing you to benefit from impulse purchasing, it’s going to cost a lot more than you may realize. Thompson provided details on this in his book, too:

“The front-of-store area that is in your field of vision is a thoroughly commodified space: most of the books you see will be there by virtue of the fact that the publisher has paid for placement, either directly by means of a placement fee (that is, co-op advertising) or indirectly by means of extra discount. Roughly speaking, it costs around a dollar a book to put a new hardback on the front-of-store table in a major chain, and around $10,000 to put a new title on front-of-store tables in all the chain’s stores for two weeks (typically the minimum period). … Visibility does not come cheap. … As one publisher succinctly put it, ‘It’s become easier to publish and harder to sell – that’s the paradox. Any old sod can publish a book now, but actually getting it out to the public has become much trickier.’”

The fact is, if you want to sell more books, you need to create top-of-mind awareness for your book. You need to keep that book in front of people’s eyeballs so that, when they’re in the market to purchase a book such as yours, they will think of your book first. Very few authors (also very few of the small- and medium-size publishers, for that matter) can afford prime real estate within these traditional chain bookstores … which leads to an increase in returnability (if no one can find your book then no one will buy it, so the bookstore will return it to you for a full credit) … which leads to lost profits for those authors and publishers. It’s a vicious cycle. There must be a better way!


A gentleman commented on my last blog entry with a legitimate commentary and question for me regarding my motives in writing it. He said, …Your intro line depicts you as an author (‘best-selling’ even. Well done!), a publisher and as a sales coach for authors. Traditionally, these are all roles with a stack of ‘conflicts of interest’ in the broader publishing industry. Can you trust each other when the business agenda of each role works in competition for its rightful share in a finite commercial pie? Which character is promoting its own agenda when you offer comment, criticism or recommendation?

I told him I began my career as a writer with a personal goal of becoming a bestselling author. Along that road, I worked (as both a service provider and client) with various trade publishers and vanity publishers, and I saw many road blocks to my goal within both publishing models. So, that led to me becoming a book publisher over six years ago. I created a hybrid publishing company that combines (in my opinion) the best of both worlds: professional quality; non-returnability; retained copyright ownership for our authors of both their words and artwork we create for them; et cetera. As time went on, I learned more and more. My company’s service offering evolved further into me teaching authors how to sell audiobooks, ebooks, paperbacks, and even hardcover books for themselves so they can better control their net profits and have the best chance of commercial success. In other words, my three roles combined (author, publisher, and sales coach) all passionately believe that we need to end returnability once and for all. It hurts authors, it hurts publishers, and it is equally inefficient and time-consuming for booksellers.


Authors, can you imagine how much more profit you would earn if you knew how to effectively sell your own books? They would always be front list titles! Publishers, can you imagine how much more profit you would earn if your authors were out there actively selling their own books along side your own in-house publicity, sales, and marketing efforts? Booksellers, can you imagine how much more profit you would earn if you were using your co-op advertising dollars to support in-store book signings and book launches for the authors who are actively selling their own books and bringing that traffic straight to your store?

If we all work together, we can all make more money. But this is going to require a change because the current system works against authors and publishers. And the direct result is that more of us are moving online, trying to sell our books elsewhere, which could very well render our traditional booksellers obsolete sooner than later unless things change.

Let’s help each other. It’s in all our best interests to do so. Let’s start a revolution to end returnability … and teach our authors how to sell!

Let’s Start a Revolution to End Returnability!

Kim Staflund: founder and publisher at Polished Publishing Group (PPG) and author of the PPG Publisher’s Blog

Kim Staflund: founder and publisher at Polished Publishing Group (PPG) and author of the PPG Publisher’s Blog

Through this blog post, it is my goal to open up a sincere dialogue between everyone involved in the book supply chain from authors, agents, and publishers of all kinds (trade, vanity, hybrid … from the smallest independents to the corporate giants) to the printers, distributors, wholesalers, and retailers that help us create, move, and sell our books to the masses. I want to talk specifically about book returns.


One of the most costly and troublesome practices in the world of book publishing is an archaic book return policy that detrimentally affects net profits for both publishers and authors alike. When a publisher marks its books as “returnable” for wholesalers and retailers, it is giving them the right to return those books, at any given time, for a full refund if they’re unable to sell them—regardless of whether those books are stickered with price tags or a bit scuffed from being handled by various people. 

This practice has always bothered me, right back to the days when I worked for a small literary publisher in Canada over twenty years ago. I’ve never understood why things were (and still are) done this way, so I went in search of an answer and came across a well-researched book by John B. Thompson titled Merchants of Culture: The Publishing Business in the Twenty-First Century that provided an answer. Here is what John’s research found:

“The practice of allowing booksellers to return stock for full credit has a long history in Europe but was used rarely and half-heartedly by American publishers until the Great Depression of the 1930s, when publishers began experimenting seriously with returns policies as a way of stimulating sales and encouraging booksellers to increase stockholdings. In spring 1930, Putnam, Norton and Knopf all introduced schemes to allow booksellers to return stock for credit or exchange under certain conditions, and in 1932 Viking Press announced that orders for new books would be returnable for a credit of 90 per cent of the billed cost. …The practice of returns subsequently became a settled feature of the book trade and marks it out as somewhat unusual among retail sectors.

For decades, by continuing on with this practice, we’ve inadvertently trained the traditional wholesalers and retailers that they call the shots with regard to how (and at what price, in some instances) we should sell our books. As a result, it is next to impossible to convince any bookseller to carry even a small physical inventory of our books in their stores unless those books are marked as returnable and/or priced ridiculously low.


To be blunt, I won’t play this game. I mark all of PPG’s authors’ books as non-returnable (my own included) to protect them from the crippling financial repercussions that are caused by returns; and, instead, I now teach authors how to sell audiobooks, ebooks, paperbacks, and even hardcover books online so they can better control their net profits. As I read more of Thompson’s book, my own views and policies in this regard were vindicated by the realization that other English language trade publishers, both large and small, in both the UK and the US, share my frustrations:

“…even if the book sells well, they are likely to be faced with high returns, at least 20 per cent, possibly as high as 50 per cent, which will be credited to the retailer and deducted from their receivables by their distributor, though they still have to pay the printer’s bills. ‘We call it “feeding the beast”. You have to feed the goddam beast and it just doesn’t work.’ As the returns come back they undo much of the gain they thought they had achieved with a book that seemed to be selling well… High returns are costly for publishers. Not only is a great deal of time and money wasted in packing up and shipping books that are never sold, and then packing up and returning them to the publisher’s warehouse, but printing books that are eventually pulped is wasteful and expensive, and the cost of writing off unsold stock goes directly to the publisher’s bottom line, depressing still further a profit margin already under pressure. …high returns which put downward pressure on margins is the price paid for adhering to this traditional distribution model. Improving supply chain capabilities and the ability to forecast consumer demand are important steps forward in the struggle to deal with the problem of returns, but they are really tinkering at the edges. ‘The physical side of the business is as broken and inefficient today as it was 15 years ago,’ commented one COO who joined a large house in the mid-1990s and has spent much of his time since then trying to deal with this problem. …there is much about this dynamic that could be regarded as illogical, irrational and inefficient, not to mention wasteful.” 

If so many publishers feel the same way as I do about this antiquated book return policy, then why are they still playing the game? Isn’t it time to stop?


Booksellers, we as publishers and authors need you. And you need us, too. We’re all essential components of this evolving book supply chain that is increasingly influenced by digitization. Thompson discusses this in his book, as well:

“…the same trade house that had seen ebook sales grow by 50 per cent in 2007 now saw its ebook sales leap by 400 per cent in 2008. This was a sudden and dramatic change. … The upward surge in ebook sales both continued and accelerated throughout 2009 and 2010. …Will ebooks become 30 per cent, 50 per cent, even 90 per cent of publishers’ total sales in the next few years? The truth is, no one knows. Most people have an opinion but no one knows a thing. ‘I wish I could give you wisdom,’ said one CEO in 2011, speaking with unusual frankness, ‘but I have no idea. The consumer will act to define this – it won’t be defined by Amazon or Barnes & Noble or Apple or us…” 

It is possible that, one day, ebook sales will dominate over paperback and hardcover sales. But it is important to understand that “digitization” refers to much more than simply ebooks … and this will affect traditional wholesalers and retailers just as much as it affects publishers and authors.

The truth is, with the advent of short-run digital printing (SRDP) and print-on-demand (POD) technology, it is less and less necessary for publishers/self-publishers to print large runs of books or carry any physical inventory whatsoever. We can simply offer a link to the digital files of our paperbacks and hardcovers on various ecommerce sites around the world so that, when a consumer clicks on that link to purchase the book in whatever quantity, that triggers the site’s digital printer to print, bind, and ship that exact number of copies straight to the consumer’s designated ship-to address.

Times have definitely changed in the book business, and they continue to change at a rapid rate. Perhaps now is the time to start a revolution to end returnability once and for all by asking our traditional wholesalers and retailers to partner with us in different ways. Change your incentives! Adjust your current co-op programs to encourage consignment book signings and launches for authors inside your stores rather than using these programs for in-store placement of returnable books. Improve your ecommerce sites! Help us sell more of our books through your stores’ websites rather than forcing us to look for other online solutions due to unreasonable return policies. 

There are so many things we could do to help each other survive (preferably THRIVE!) in these turbulent times. Because, at the end of the day, the survival and future success of the traditional wholesalers and retailers depends as much upon us as we have always depended upon them. 

Related reading (even some traditional booksellers agree that “…Any rational business person looking at this practice would think the industry has gone mad.”): Quest for best seller means lots of returned books (2005)

Related reading: Why All Books Should Be Non-Returnable – By Angela Hoy (2005)

Related reading: Why All Books Should Be Non-Returnable – By Angela Hoy (2015)

Related reading: How to Price an Ebook

What Could Surrendering Your Copyright Potentially Cost You?

Kim Staflund: founder and publisher at Polished Publishing Group (PPG) and author of the PPG Publisher’s Blog

Kim Staflund: founder and publisher at Polished Publishing Group (PPG) and author of the PPG Publisher’s Blog

The CEO Magazine recently published a piece I wrote for their 8020 Blog titled Your Book is an Asset … if You Own the Copyright, and it generated many comments from both authors and publishers alike … some more passionate than others. The consensus was that it was too simplified, as though a more complicated explanation of copyright is somehow more acceptable to the masses. I disagree, hence this additional blog post on the topic.

Here is my personal belief: when people are unable to explain their topic matter to others in layman’s terms with ease, then they are either hiding something or they don’t fully understand it themselves. This is why I’m cautious when it comes to publishing contracts that are filled with complicated legalese. It is also why I challenge those who try to defend such contracts by saying, “It’s not that simple. There are different types of licenses. There are several factors to consider. Authors may be relinquishing some of their control, but not necessarily their copyright; or, if they are giving up their copyright, it may be only temporarily, not permanently.” And on and on.

Semantics. Legalese is confusing by design. I could utilize immoderately byzantine phraseology and labyrinthine reasoning with the best of them if I chose to, but that rather defeats the purpose of communication, don’t you think? 

I’d rather be clear and helpful. So, let’s keep it simple. Because, at the end of the day, it’s unnecessary to complicate this.



noun: copyright; plural noun: copyrights
1. the exclusive legal right, given to an originator or an assignee to print, publish, perform, film,   or record literary, artistic, or musical material, and to authorize others to do the same.
“he issued a writ for breach of copyright”
* a particular literary, artistic, or musical work that is covered by copyright.

adjective: copyright
1. protected by copyright.
“permission to reproduce photographs and other copyright material”

verb: copyright; 3rd person present: copyrights; past tense: copyrighted; past participle:
copyrighted; gerund or present participle: copyrighting
1. secure copyright for (material).

As the original creator of your manuscript, you own 100 percent of all of the rights to reproduce, publish, sell, and distribute your words in whatever manner you see fit. Your manuscript belongs to you and you alone—from the moment you write it. It is only when you decide that you want to publish your manuscript into book format with the hopes that you’ll earn some money (or educate people, or entertain people, or whatever your personal reasoning is for publishing it) that some or all of the copyright ownership of that work might shift to someone else, depending on which publication method you choose. In other words, you might take a few different routes toward having your book published, and each of these book publishing methods affects your copyright ownership a little differently.

It is vitally important that you review a publishing contract in full before you ever sign it; and, if the contract before you is filled with a bunch of hard-to-understand language, then ask the questions you need to ask to ensure that you fully understand the agreement you’re about to enter into. Hold the company accountable for explaining it to you and putting you at ease. You have that right as one of their clients.


Some authors will submit their manuscripts to a traditional (trade) publisher for consideration in the hopes that it will be published free of charge to them. What they might not realize is that whoever is paying for the publication of a book is the one who ends up with primary control over that book. Trade publishers don’t pick up the bill simply out of the kindness of their hearts. They are business people who are buying a product to try to turn a profit for themselves, and that “product” is the copyright ownership of your manuscript (whether permanent or temporary, whether full or partial—it varies with each contract and each publisher).

And fair enough! If I was paying for the whole thing, assuming all financial risk and responsibility for the project myself, then I would want majority control and ownership, too. That’s the only way I would be able to earn a decent return on my investment. So, this isn’t a criticism of the publishing model itself. It’s simply intended to educate authors about the true implication of publishing through this type of publisher. If someone else is paying for it, they own it. They control it. Plain and simple.

In this business model, writers usually retain only the basic publishing rights that recognize them as the author of the book and allow them to be paid a small percentage of the retail price in royalties (usually only up to 10 percent per copy sold, but it varies). The trade publisher keeps the rest of the profits because the trade publisher owns the book. Thus, as the owner of the book, that trade publisher also reserves the right to sell off additional reproductive (a.k.a. subsidiary) rights for additional profit down the road.


Authors who choose the vanity publishing route usually retain 100 percent ownership of their written words; however, if the vanity publisher has produced the cover artwork for them, (nine times out of ten, in my personal experience) that company usually retains the copyright of that artwork. This means that authors must always go through the vanity publisher to have their marketing materials and books printed.

A contract with a vanity publisher will usually also give that publisher non-exclusive online distribution rights throughout North America, the United Kingdom, Europe, and possibly the whole world. All this means is that the publisher reserves the right to sell and distribute copies of the book through its various channels for the duration of the contract; however, this is a non-exclusive contract; therefore, the author (and any other distributor designated by the author) is also free to sell copies of the book within those regions. If it were an exclusive contract, only the publisher would be allowed to sell the book online within those regions.


Last but not least, authors can also choose to publish through a supportive self-publishing house (a.k.a. hybrid publisher) where they will retain 100 percent copyright ownership of both their words and their artwork. Much like the contracts with vanity publishers, a contract with a supportive self-publishing house would also include non-exclusive online distribution rights worldwide for a specified term. This gives the authors much greater exposure without limiting their ability to sell wholesale author copies on their own wherever they choose to sell them.


Eventually, once you’re selling lots of books and making a name for yourself with the general population, you’ll begin to see the true value of retaining majority (i.e., FULL!) copyright ownership—because this is when more business people will come knocking and asking to buy additional reproductive rights to your book. Maybe someone in Quebec will want to purchase the exclusive French language rights to your title so he or she can be the only one to reproduce, print, and distribute it in French to that region’s Francophone population for a profit. Maybe others will want to buy the exclusive North American film rights so that they can adapt the book for film in this region.

You can “divvy up” the rights to a book in so many different ways that it would be impossible to list them all here, but this gives you a very basic idea. It is simplified to provide an easier understanding.

What are all these rights worth? In any industry, a thing is worth what someone will pay for it. It could be worth millions to the primary owner of the book, so it’s a good idea to retain as much, if not ALL, of that ownership as you can right from the start. Then, when the movie producers and foreign publishers start calling, hire an intellectual property attorney to help you determine the best price for each sale of rights to each different buyer.


Whether you’ve written a book, a movie script, or a song, the value of retained copyright ownership is much the same. It’s all intellectual property that can generate additional income through the sale of subsidiary rights.

Most, if not all of us are familiar with Whitney Houston’s cover of Dolly Parton’s song titled “I Will Always Love You.” What you may not be aware of is that, as the copyright owner of that song, Dolly gets paid each time a copy of it is made. She doesn’t have to lift a finger, and she gets paid.

Millions of copies of Whitney Houston’s cover of that song were made. And Dolly got paid on every one of them.

Retained copyright ownership of your intellectual property is potentially priceless. It doesn’t get any simpler than that.

Related reading: Your Intellectual Property is Priceless! 

Related reading: Authors, Keep Your Copyrights. You Earned Them. 

Related reading: Managing Intellectual Property in the Book Publishing Industry

Related reading: Copyright Ownership: Who Owns What?

Related reading: Subsidiary Rights: Acquisition & Licensing

Book Publicists (Advertising Versus Publicity)

Kim Staflund: founder and publisher at Polished Publishing Group (PPG) and author of the PPG Publisher’s Blog

Kim Staflund: founder and publisher at Polished Publishing Group (PPG) and author of the PPG Publisher’s Blog

We often discuss ways you can market and sell your book using various forms of both free and paid online advertising. Now we’re going to talk about publicity. In her ebook titled The Power of Publicity for Your Book, Marsha Friedman provides us with a clear distinction between the two:

By definition, publicity is not advertising; it’s coverage by the media of people, events and issues deemed to be of interest to their audiences.

. . . The nice thing about publicity, also referred to as “earned media,” is that you don’t buy it; you earn it. If you can get a journalist or talk show host interested in your story idea or topic, you might be interviewed for an article, asked to write an article for publication, or invited to be interviewed as a guest on a radio or TV show.

The endorsement of traditional media, even if it’s simply mentioning your name, has always been marketing gold to anyone trying to build a reputation as an author and gain visibility for their book.

Some authors misunderstand the role of publicists. They hire a publicity firm assuming that organization will advertise and sell their book(s) for them, but this is incorrect. The true role of a publicist is to garner publicity for their client—to get that author mentioned in the media via Associated Press-style articles and press releases written about the topic(s) in his or her book, and by promoting that author as an industry expert in his or her field. The idea is to attract newspaper, radio, and television interviews that will highlight the publicist’s client within the mainstream media. The by-product of this publicity is a heightened interest in the author, which should boost sales of his or her book much like advertising does.

Both advertising and publicity are about putting yourself in front of a larger audience as often as possible to build on (and maintain) that top-of-mind awareness we talked about earlier; but, by contrast, advertising is essentially you talking about yourself and your book whereas publicity is the media talking about you and your book. Obviously, when someone else is talking about you, it has more credibility in the eyes of the public. That’s the power of publicity.

It is possible to generate publicity on your own, free of charge, without hiring a publicist to write the news stories for you. Friedman offers some helpful tips about this in her ebook, as well:

You can hire PR professionals to help you get publicity, but you can also work at getting it for yourself. . . . for a newspaper, you might write a short, bona fide news story, or a list of tips that address a problem relevant to your book. For TV and radio, briefly describe the topic you can address and what you will contribute. . . . Most mass media are focused on issues and events in the news today, so you’re much more likely to get publicity if you can speak to something going on now. That’s not as difficult as it sounds, but it does require creative thinking.

There is a definite benefit to hiring a publicist to do all this for you, though. Publicity firms have developed long-standing relationships with all the “movers and shakers” in the media, and their staff knows exactly how to format news stories to have an “Associated Press” appeal that is more likely to be picked up. They watch the news regularly, so they’re aware of what is going on and how to tie you and your book topics into current events. Hiring a publicist is somewhat expensive but, in my opinion, it’s worth the investment when you’re working with a reputable firm.

How expensive is it? Well, it depends. There are different types of publicists out there. Some firms want a retainer, much like a law firm, and they will charge their clients for time spent researching, writing, and contacting the media as well as for telephone charges, postage fees, and any other materials they create for you (i.e., printing and copying). And then there are the firms that use a pay-for-performance business model where they charge only one lump sum fee in the beginning and guarantee a certain amount of publicity along with that lump sum fee.

To clarify: If you want someone to publish your book and provide you with worldwide distribution channels to sell it through, hire a publisher; if you want someone to sell your book for you, hire a salesperson; if you want someone to advertise and market your book for you, hire an ad agency; and if you want publicity for yourself and your book, hire a publicist. Or, you can manage your own publishing, distribution, sales, advertising, marketing, and publicity by yourself using all of the techniques discussed my latest book, Successful Selling Tips for Introverted Authors, plus my two previous books.

As with everything, there are pros and cons to hiring any of these professionals. It’s important to do your homework to determine which one is best for you or whether you even want to hire one at all. You may decide to do it all on your own. Just make sure you’re doing something. Remember, you’ll sell many more books if you’re in the driver’s seat than you will if you leave it all up to your publisher.

How to Dwarf a Giant

Kim Staflund: founder and publisher at Polished Publishing Group (PPG) and author of the PPG Publisher’s Blog

For Starters, Stop Mentioning Its Name at Every Turn

Last year, an epic battle played out on the North American book publishing landscape.

The conflict pitted an ecommerce retailer/vanity publisher against traditional trade publishers, new ideas against old, price against value, which ultimately spawned the creation of a group called Authors United led by American author Douglas Preston.

In November of 2014, a soldier on the traditional side of this battle was victorious in negotiating a deal that allows trade publishers the continued right to dictate their own recommended retail prices for the books they produce. This has always been the relationship between manufacturers and their retailers, as it should be. The manufacturer (publisher) knows its own production costs and, therefore, sets its recommended retail price based on those costs. The retailer, in turn, lists the item at that suggested price and may or may not provide discounts to their buyers based on their own projected profit margins.

Despite this win, Preston is still concerned.

“The main problem hasn’t gone away,” he told Publisher’s Weekly. “When one company controls 50 percent of the market, and it has proven itself to be ruthless and uncaring with authors, that’s a problem. We don’t want this to happen again.”

His solution is to continue drawing attention to the problem in 2015 by sending a formal complaint to the Department of Justice citing possible antitrust issues which will surely keep this retailer in front-page news for several months to come.

Does anyone remember the movie The Golden Compass? Do you recall all the extra press coverage this movie received back in 2007 when the Catholic Church condemned it for sending an anti-religious message? By calling for a public boycott of the film, the Church actually drew even more attention to it, which inadvertently boosted its sales. That’s why I bought my ticket. I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

By the same token, if the goal of Authors United is to dwarf a retail giant that has grown too big for its britches over the years, perhaps a more effective tactic would be to stop mentioning its name at every turn. Change the focus altogether.

There are many exceptional retailers around the world that will happily sell various book formats for their clients without exclusivity contracts while also letting those publishers (self-publishers) determine their own recommended retail prices. How about rewarding these allies by referring customers to buy books from them instead of giving all the focus and energy to a perceived adversary?

There are also many potential customers out there with different motives for buying various types of books. Some people make buying decisions based on price while others make buying decisions based on value. There is a time and a place for both types of marketing. It all depends on your book’s customer base and what will speak to them most. Trade published authors and self-publishers alike should do the necessary research to understand what their customers want, rather than blindly choosing one form of marketing over the other based on the viewpoint of one retailer. It is your customer’s wants and needs that should determine your marketing strategy.

Value-based selling is far from being a new concept, even if it’s a bit foreign to some within the book publishing industry. If it can be used to sell a car, a clothing item, or even a cup of coffee, it can be used to sell a book. And, it can result in a higher profit for the copyright owner of that book while providing more value to the buyer. It’s all just a matter of a little education.

How Gratitude and Visualization Can Help Authors Sell More Books

Kim Staflund: founder and publisher at Polished Publishing Group (PPG) and author of the PPG Publisher’s Blog

Kim Staflund’s Personal Story is the Featured “Story of the Week” This Week on

When Australian television producer Rhonda Byrne released The Secret film in 2006, it inspired millions of people all across the world from all walks of life. One of those people was Kim Staflund, bestselling author of the newly released Successful Selling Tips for Introverted Authors, who has enhanced the traditional sales and promotion of all her books using the gratitude and visualization practises recommended by Rhonda.

Staflund believes in the power of love, gratitude, and visualization but offers insight to others who have tried and come up short time and again. “In addition to reading Rhonda’s books, I began researching other individuals who have had success with this to try to understand why some succeed and some don’t,” she says. “One of my all-time favourite sources is a video clip of Oprah Winfrey interviewing Jim Carrey in the late 1990s about how he made his own dreams come true using these techniques. Oprah made the comment, ‘Visualization works if you work hard,’ to which Jim agreed, ‘You can’t just visualize and then go eat a sandwich.’ That interview really resonated with me.”

Two months before Staflund noticed one of her books on a bestseller list for the very first time, she had increased the intensity of her gratitude and visualization sessions to twice daily—first thing every morning as soon as she awoke, and last thing every night before she fell asleep. It certainly did the trick as detailed in her story on

“The key is to feel gratitude for where you are in your life right now. Really feel it,” says Staflund. “And, at the same time, visualize what you love and where you want to go while working toward it on a consistent basis.” All authors are entrepreneurs, and there are certain things they must do if they want to achieve commercial success. As a bestselling author, book publisher, and sales coach for authors, Staflund now devotes her career to sharing her knowledge with others to help them sell more books.

When Staflund first shared her personal story with the team at, she asked them to keep her name anonymous: “I felt shy about coming right out and saying I did this and it worked for me. I’m not entirely sure why.” But after some thought, she realized that what she admires most about people like Rhonda Byrne, Jim Carrey, Jack Canfield, and John Assaraf (to name only a few) is their willingness to share their beliefs and experiences publicly so that others can see real-life people attached to these real-life stories. Doing so made everything that much more believable and inspirational for everyone else.

Staflund has decided to “pay it forward” as they did and give people one more real-life person attached to one more real-life story. She hopes authors all around the world will find it inspirational and helpful along their own journeys to success.

About Kim Staflund

Kim Staflund is the founder and publisher at Polished Publishing Group (PPG) and author of the newly released Successful Selling Tips for Introverted Authors. She is also author of How to Publish a Bestselling Book…and Sell it Worldwide Based on Value, Not Price! released in 2014.

In addition to her book publishing background, Staflund has a substantial sales and sales management history that includes new business development, account and personnel management and leadership experience. Connect with Kim Staflund on Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

Kim’s books are all available in both paperback and ebook format through choice booksellers all around the world. Booksellers can order them in via Ingram Content Group.