Category Archives: Sales and Marketing

A New Year’s Resolution for Authors

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

With January 1, 2017, fast approaching, many of us are thinking ahead to our New Year’s Resolutions. What better time is there for authors to set their book sales and marketing goals?

Make this commitment to yourself today: “I’m going to dedicate at least one hour per day, six days per week for the next full year, toward the advertising, sales, and marketing of my book. No matter what happens, I will spend a minimum of six hours per week, every single week for the next full year, toward the advertising, sales, and marketing of my book. I promise this to myself.” This is a small commitment of time that is totally doable. Agreed?

Attach Emotions to Your Goals

I set goals for every single one of my books, and I attach strong emotions to each of those goals. Why do I do this? Because the only way to reach a destination is to first figure out where you’re going; and if you give yourself a compelling enough reason to get there that really excites your senses, you’ll be that much more committed to making it happen. The rest (the hows) always seem to fall into place once you’ve made that firm decision inside your mind.

It’s not for me to advise you what your goal should be nor why you should want to achieve it. That’s a very personal thing that is different for every person and every book. It’s entirely your choice. My intention is simply to plant some seeds of possibility in your mind, to get you thinking about where and how you might increase the sales of your book. Achieve one goal for yourself, and you’ll be fearless about setting and achieving more in the future because you’ll know you can do it. You’ll have proven it to yourself.

Four Sample Goals for Four Imaginary Authors

On that note, here in an excerpt from my recent book titled Successful Selling Tips for Introverted Authors discussing four sample books published in four different formats by four different imaginary authors. I’ve set unique goals for each author, along with his or her own compelling “why,” to help get you started on yours by awakening the creative flow within.

  • SAMPLE NON-FICTION BOOK GOALS

    Self-published ebook cookbook titled The Cheesecake Doctrine

    This ebook was self-published on KoboBooks.com with worldwide geographic rights (meaning it is available for sale around the world in Kobo’s .EPUB format through any of Kobo’s various applications and devices such as desktops, ereaders, tablets, IOS, Android, Blackberry, and Windows). The royalty rate the author can expect to earn from KoboBooks (Kobo, 2015) is 70 percent of the listed retail price she has chosen for her book, so she has set it at $34.99 CDN for an expected gross profit of roughly $24.50 CDN per book. (She has converted that price to match the currency in each country where she’s selling this book: for example, it sells for $28.99 USD in America, £18.77 GBP in the United Kingdom, and EUR 25.83 in France based on today’s market prices.)

    As a Canadian girl who sets her goals in Canadian prices, she plans to sell 20 copies of this ebook every month this year so she can earn the equivalent of $490 CDN per month in gross profit (for a total sale of 240 ebooks at $5,880 CDN for the year). She plans to use this extra income to pay for a long-desired tropical vacation in Bora Bora next year. She’s wanted to go to Bora Bora since she could remember!

    Self-published paperback self-help book titled Quick and Easy Hairstyling Tips for Teens

    This paperback was self-published on Amazon’s CreateSpace.com for distribution on Amazon.com throughout the United States alone. The royalty rate the author can expect to earn when pricing this book at $8.99 USD is $2.34 USD per book after the distributor’s cut and other fees such as POD printing costs are first deducted (CreateSpace, 2015).

    This author plans to sell 100 copies of this paperback every month this year so she can earn $234 per month in gross profit (for a total sale of 1,200 paperbacks at $2,808 USD for the year). She plans to donate this income to her local youth homeless shelter to help provide the basic necessities of life for its teenage residents as they struggle to complete their educations. She’s always been grateful to the family who provided these things to her while she went through hairdressing school, and now she wants to pay it forward.
    . 
  • SAMPLE FICTION BOOK GOALS

    Fictional novella audiobook titled The Path Less Worn

    This fictional novella is based on an inspirational true story about a thirty-year-old man who overcame incredible odds to build a successful health supplement business from humble beginnings as an underprivileged orphan. It was originally produced as a professional quality pocketbook paperback and ebook by a supportive self-publishing house on behalf of its author. The same company has now helped him convert it into audiobook format, complete with a professional voiceover and high definition soundtrack, and has published it nonexclusively to Audible, Amazon, and iTunes via ACX, an Amazon Platform that will pay royalties for any copies sold (ACX, 2015).

    The original 4.37 x 7-inch novella was designed to be carried in one’s coat pocket for easy accessibility to inspirational reading even when travelling. Due to the pocketbook format, the author set a “pocketsize” retail price to match it: $4.99 USD per copy for both the ebook and the paperback version. For consistency, the audiobook is priced the same. Based on the publishing agreement in place, the gross profit the supportive self-publishing house, Polished Publishing Group (2015b) will earn by distributing this book online on behalf of this author is 25 percent of the list price, for a total of $1.25 per book. The author, in turn, will take home 40 percent of the $1.25 for a total gross profit of 50¢ per book.

    Luckily, because this author published through a supportive self publishing house, he has retained 100 percent copyright ownership of his entire end product (the words and the artwork produced for him in all formats of the title) which allows him more control over where he sells his books and what retail price he chooses to sell them at. As such, this author has also decided to produce and sell CD copies of this audiobook direct from his own website, which is why he granted ACX only a non-exclusive contract rather than an exclusive contract through his publisher. If he had granted them an exclusive contract, then they would be the only ones who could sell his book online. Not even he, himself, could sell them direct elsewhere. By contrast, because he has retained his right to sell his audiobooks direct through his own website’s storefront, he will take home 100 percent of the profits from the directly sold copies: $4.99 per book. No middlemen to pay.

    What a difference in gross profit on the copies he sells direct! A much better margin, indeed! But it always helps to have extra distributors (particularly distributors with trusted brands) to help sell one’s books. Having an audiobook available for sale through Apple iTunes definitely lends even more credibility to the book, and the author recognizes that.

    On that note, this author has a goal to sell 1,000 copies of this audiobook every single month: He will sell 50 percent of them through Audible, Amazon, and iTunes at an expected gross profit of 50¢ USD per book, for a total of $250 USD per month; he’ll sell the other 50 percent of them direct at $4.99 USD per book, for a total of $2,495 per month. The grand total per month for those 1,000 books is $2,745 USD in gross profit. (The grand total per year for those 12,000 audiobooks is $32,940 in gross profit).

    This author’s compelling “why” is that he would love to continue working as a travelling health supplement salesman, inspirational speaker, and author, living life on his own terms rather than being chained to a nine-to-five desk job. This book is yet another new revenue stream for a business he loves and feels so passionate about and that allows him to inspire and empower others to achieve their own dreams, just as he and the protagonist in his fictional novella did.

    Limited edition hardcover children’s book about adoption titled A Family for Bailey

    This limited edition hardcover book was originally published and printed by a traditional trade publisher 10 years ago. Because it was trade published, the publisher owned the copyright of the book and paid this author only a small 8 percent royalty on the list price of $25 CDN, for a total of $2 CDN in gross profits per book for that author over the past decade. The copyright ownership of this title has now reverted back to the author, as per the original publishing contract. Five hundred unsold copies of the original 1,000-copy print run have been returned to the author from the publisher’s warehouse, and he is storing them in his garage. It’s now his responsibility to sell them. Luckily, because 100 percent copyright ownership has now returned to him, he will also enjoy 100 percent gross profits on all the copies he sells direct.

    These are high-quality, limited edition hardcovers—priceless keepsakes for adopted children and their adoptive families to commemorate their special bonds. This author has decided to sell the remaining books at the original recommended retail price of $25 CDN each (for a total of 500 hardcovers at $12,500 CDN for the year), and he plans to put these profits into savings for his own cherished adopted child to use toward her college education.

To discover how each of these authors will reach their book sales and marketing goals, and for help in developing your own effective plan, you can order in the above-mentioned book from any bookseller in your area. Or you can visit PPG’s website to sign up for the next Sales Coaching for Authors session that works best with your schedule.

Whatever you decide, I wish you every success with your book and a very Happy New Year! Thank you for visiting the PPG Publisher’s Blog.

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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 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.

UNPAID TRADITIONAL BOOK REVIEWS

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

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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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.

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!

COMPELLING POINTS
• 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.

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.

THE TRUE LIFE OF A BOOK IN THE TRADITIONAL DISTRIBUTION MODEL: ONLY SIX WEEKS!

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.

BOOKSTORES DISPLAY YOUR BOOKS FOR YOU. YOU SELL THEM.

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!

AUTHORS ARE ENTREPRENEURS

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.

WE ALL NEED TO WORK TOGETHER

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.

SOMETHING’S GOT TO GIVE

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.

FEEDING “THE GODDAM BEAST”

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?

THERE’S MORE TO DIGITIZATION THAN JUST EBOOKS

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

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 TheSecret.tv

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 TheSecret.tv.

“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 TheSecret.tv, 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.

The War Over How to Price Ebooks: Kindle versus Hachette Book Group (Value-based Selling)

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

In addition to my book publishing background, I also worked in the world of print advertising sales for many years—a truly valuable experience for me on so many levels. Each of the companies I worked for were industry leaders within their own fields, and the greatest privilege I derived from working with them was a true understanding (and appreciation!) of the many benefits of value-based selling. I’m grateful to all of them for this education … thank you.

Excerpt from How to Publish a Bestselling Book … and Sell It WORLDWIDE Based on Value, Not Price!:

“…most people are already pretty comfortable with price-based selling (i.e., offering sales and discounts to try to undercut the competition’s price); therefore, we’re going to focus on value-based selling here, instead. It’s an important skill to master because, at the end of the day, anyone can sell on price. But here’s the biggest problem with that plan: if price is the only thing you’ve got, and then someone else with a similar offering comes in at a lower price than you can match, you’re done. You’re finished. You’ve got nowhere else to go. However, if you can learn how to sell based on perceived value right from the start, you’ll always be able to justify your price as it is. You can even increase that price down the road by adding even more value to your overall offering.”

How does this relate to Kindle and the Hachette Book Group? Well, as most people in the digital publishing industry are already aware, there is an ongoing battle between these two giants regarding how to price an ebook. And it’s a passionate war! It’s so passionate, in fact, that Kindle sent out a mass email to all its ebook publishers seeking support of its stance against Hachette, and containing the direct email address for Hachette’s CEO (ouch!), with the hopes we would all send him angry letters in support of Kindle.

In a nutshell, here is Kindle’s stance on how to price ebooks:

“Just ahead of World War II, there was a radical invention that shook the foundations of book publishing. It was the paperback book. This was a time when movie tickets cost 10 or 20 cents, and books cost $2.50. The new paperback cost 25 cents – it was ten times cheaper. Readers loved the paperback and millions of copies were sold in just the first year. With it being so inexpensive and with so many more people able to afford to buy and read books, you would think the literary establishment of the day would have celebrated the invention of the paperback, yes? Nope. Instead, they dug in and circled the wagons. They believed low cost paperbacks would destroy literary culture and harm the industry (not to mention their own bank accounts). Many bookstores refused to stock them, and the early paperback publishers had to use unconventional methods of distribution – places like newsstands and drugstores.…

…Well… history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.

Fast forward to today, and it’s the e-book’s turn to be opposed by the literary establishment. Amazon and Hachette – a big US publisher and part of a $10 billion media conglomerate – are in the middle of a business dispute about e-books. We want lower e-book prices. Hachette does not. Many e-books are being released at $14.99 and even $19.99. That is unjustifiably high for an e-book.”

I replied to Kindle’s email and also cc’d Hachette’s CEO on that reply, at their request; but, perhaps, they were expecting a different answer than the one they got from me. I told them I completely disagree with them. I told them that when Kindle tries to control the price of an author’s ebook by saying is must be priced at $9.99 or lower, it is Kindle that is being unfair. For this reason, I won’t put my next book (the one named above) online in Kindle format. It will remain a paperback on the Amazon site along with various other sites, and an ebook on several other ebook sites such as Kobo.com; and it will be listed at $19.99 USD because that is the price I choose to sell it at. The content inside my book is definitely worth the higher price regardless of what format I’m selling it in. (On that note, for the avid Kindle authors out there who believe that a book sold online can only become a bestseller if it’s an ebook that is priced low or given away free of charge, think again. The POD paperback version of my book, How to Publish a Book in Canada . . . and Sell Enough Copies to Make a Profit!, became an Amazon.ca bestseller only a short month and a half after it was first published and was also listed as a bestseller in the Calgary Herald a short while later. The recommended retail price for that book is $19.99 USD.)

Let me put this into another context for you. Kindle’s stance that every single ebook should be priced at $9.99 or lower is the equivalent of saying that every single car should be priced at $20,000 or lower, whether it’s a Toyota Corolla or a BMW. That’s absurd, plain and simple.

Pricing a book is a very important component of your overall marketing campaign; and, you have to take many different things into consideration when you’re deciding on that retail price. You have to understand your demographic—your book’s target market—and create your marketing campaign around that. You also have to base your retail price on your own projected profit margins.

It will likely take you forever to make back the money it cost you to properly publish your book (the word “properly” referring to professional copy editing, design, and proofreading) if you set your retail price at $2.99 per copy. Not only that, but such a low price truly devalues your content. When you price a book that low, what you’re telling people is, “This is a cheap book full of cheap content.” It is what it is.

I was surprised to receive a reply from Hachette’s CEO. I figured my email to him would end up in some type of spam blocker along with the thousands of other emails he probably received after the crew at Kindle sent his email address to the world.

In a nutshell, here is Hachette’s stance on how to price ebooks:

“As a publisher, we work to bring a variety of great books to readers, in a variety of formats and prices. We know by experience that there is not one appropriate price for all ebooks, and that all ebooks do not belong in the same $9.99 box.”

Anyone who follows this blog and/or has read my books knows full well I don’t agree with everything the traditional publishers have to say. But I agree with this one wholeheartedly. Hachette understands value-based selling, and I think Kindle should rethink their stance on this. If Kindle truly wants to empower self-publishers in the sale of their own books, then let them set their own prices. Give them their freedom back.