Category Archives: Traditional Trade Publishing

My Winding Road from Traditional Publishing to Digital Publishing

How to Publish a Book in Canada … and Sell Enough Copies to Make a Profit! © 2013

I started Polished Publishing Group (PPG) as a “digital publishing” company in November 2009. In retrospect, I didn’t fully understand effective digital publishing at that time. Nine years later, I can confidentally say I do, and the way I run my company is evolving as a result.

Like many others in my generation and older, I come from a traditional publishing background. I cut my teeth on paperbacks, hardcovers, and offset printing at a small literary press back in 1993. We put all our authors’ books through a thorough, substantive editing process followed by an even more fastidious graphic design and proofreading regimen to polish them to perfection. Then we “sold” (and I use that word loosely) our books by mailing out printed press releases and review copies to all the relevant media in our area, entering some books into contests, arranging the occasional breakfast launch or evening wine and cheese reading event for others, and shipping part of our inventory to various Canadian distributors to house for us. Other than that, we relied on standing orders and word of mouth to “sell” our books to the masses. Once the next season of frontlist titles came out six months later, the latter became part of the dust-collecting backlist.

An Early Education in Traditional and Digital Publishing

It was an eye-opening experience for someone like me who took this job straight out of college thinking I was going to learn what it takes to become a bestselling author from the inside out. (Even just writing that sentence makes me chuckle now.) As detailed in the introduction of How to Publish a Book in Canada … and Sell Enough Copies to Make a Profit!, I quickly learned the realities of this industry. I came to see that our top authors were the ones who bought wholesale copies of their books from us and worked tirelessly to sell them out. They saw themselves as entrepreneurs, and they treated their books as their businesses.

Small Canadian presses aren’t alone in this. Far from it. In fact, the “Big Five” international trade publishers—Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Hachette, Macmillan, and Simon & Schuster—also admit to focusing primarily on their frontlist titles for only a short period of time. Once those books fall to the back list, the responsibility of continued promotion falls to their authors as detailed in this excerpt from Merchants of Culture: The Publishing Business in the Twenty-First Century by John B. Thompson (16-Mar-2012) Paperback:

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. (Thompson, 2012)

How to Publish a Bestselling Book … and Sell It Worldwide Based on Value, Not Price! © 2014

Unless you’re selling it yourselves, authors. Sell it yourself and your book will have a much longer shelflife. As long as you stay focused on selling on any book, it will remain a frontlist title for you. That’s a fact.

I knew that much nine years ago. I had also learned how to sell after leaving my job at that literary press to begin a lifelong career in corporate sales with some of the most prominent industry leaders in print media, office supplies, and multi-function digital and offset printing. I had a strong grasp on digital communications and how easy it now is to communicate and do business with people all over the world so long as each party has a proper WIFI connection. So, in my mind, I was a “digital publisher” because I operated in a virtual office environment, and because I not only had the experience and expertise to help authors produce trade-quality books; I could also teach them how to sell their books worldwide both offline and online.

But Here’s the Problem With That

I now know effective digital publishing requires a little more finesse than simply intermingling yesterday’s offline sales and marketing methodologies with today’s online techniques. Doing so can acutally be counterproductive because the latter requires patience while the former requires momentum. In the traditional offline world, authors must appeal to the interests of people such as agents, booksellers, reviewers, and publicists to help you move more books on their schedules; but, in the online world, you’re working with impartial algorithms and search engine optimization (SEO) tactics to increase your exposure as detailed here: https://blog.polishedpublishinggroup.com/2018/06/a-shortlist-of-googles-top-ranking-factors-an-excerpt-from-search-engine-optimization-seo/. In other words, if you want to succeed at selling books in this day and age, you can no longer “waste precious time” by publishing only one book per year or one blog entry per week and promoting it on someone else’s timeline. The Internet rewards speed and productivity, and the Internet is your greatest sales tool.

How to Publish a Book in the East That Your Can Sell in the West © 2018

How much speed and productivity are we talking about? There are literally millions of new books published around the world every year now. The playing field has drastically changed from when my publishing career began 25 years ago. It is far more competitive and nearly impossible to stand out among the crowd if you’re doing things the traditional way. I’ve come to see that my approach has to change with the times if I’m to survive in this new digital arena and all my authors—myself included—are to thrive. More and more, I’ve also come to see that it’s necessary to embrace a digital revolution known as “rapid release” publishing, as discussed in my latest book titled How to Publish a Book in the East That You Can Sell in the West. You can reach people worldwide now, but there is a right way to do it that will improve your odds of success. This is the new publishing model I’m now developing for PPG’s upcoming authors.

How do I know this works? I’ve watched the PPG Publisher’s Blog increase from a mere 1,000 registered users in early 2017 to over 5,000 a short year later (and still growing) by doing all the things I recommend to you in my new book. I’ve also seen downloads of my backlist books on Amazon, Kobo, and E-Sentral collectively increase from under 5 books per month to over 300 per month on average (and still growing) within the same time period. That’s my firsthand experience with this to date, but that’s nothing. You’re sure to be inspired by many even greater success stories contained within the book. And once I’ve grown my own numbers to a “respectable” level by today’s North American corporate standards, I plan to package the program to help you achieve the same effective digital publishing results with a dedicated team by your side.

For those of you who are public speakers and business professionals selling your books at trade shows and conferences, the traditional publishing methods still apply. You’ll find the first two books mentioned above are still helpful. For everyone else, stay tuned for more details in the coming weeks.  

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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 © 2018 Polished Publishing Group (PPG). All rights reserved.



When Should Writers opt for Self-Publishing over Traditional (Trade) Publishing?

When should writers opt for self-publishing over traditional (trade) publishing? This is a loaded question because the answer might be different for one person than it is for another. It all starts with your own personal preferences and goals as detailed in this blog post from a while back: Ten Questions To Ask Yourself Before Publishing Your Book. From there, it’s important to research the various publishing options available to you to determine which one best complements your goals. I talk about these three book publishing business models in one of my most recent free downloads titled Your Ebook is an Asset … if You Own the Copyright. Here is a brief excerpt from that ebook:

Some authors will submit their manuscripts to a traditional (trade) publisher for consideration in the hopes it will be published for them free of charge. 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 work (whether permanent or temporary, whether full or partial—it varies with each contract and each publisher).

The grant of rights clause in a publishing contract is one of the most important clauses because it enumerates the specific rights granted to the publisher by the author. Negotiation of this clause has become even more important in today’s world where increasingly more uses are being developed for literary content.

The scope of the clause may vary widely, it could be all inclusive — granting all the exclusive rights and interests in the author’s work, or the grant could be very narrow — only including a single specific use of the author’s work, or it could be somewhere between these extremes. The critical point is that the publisher only has the right to exploit those rights that are specifically granted to the publisher and any exploitation of rights exceeding the author’s grant could be deemed a copyright infringement of the author’s work.

Copyright ownership of a literary work consists of a bundle of rights which an author, at least theoretically, may assign to the publisher in any manner they choose. Thus, an author may assign all or only a part of his/her rights to one or more publishers while retaining particular rights for himself/herself. (Thomson Reuters, n.d.)

Unfortunately, many authors unwittingly grant all their exclusive rights to one publisher without fully understanding the implications of doing so. As a result, these individuals usually retain only basic rights that recognize them as the author of the work and allow them to be paid a small percentage of its retail price in royalties (usually only up to 10 percent per copy sold). The publisher keeps the rest of the profits because the publisher owns the copyright.

Most trade publishers do not ask for an outright assignment of all exclusive rights under copyright; their contracts usually call for copyright to be in the author’s name. But it’s another story in the world of university presses. Most scholarly publishers routinely present their authors with the single most draconian, unfair clause we routinely encounter, taking all the exclusive rights to an author’s work as if the press itself authored the work: “The Author assigns to Publisher all right, title and interests, including all rights under copyright, in and to the work…”

…The problem is that most academic authors—particularly first-time authors feeling the flames of “publish or perish”—don’t even ask. They do not have agents, do not seek legal advice, and often don’t understand that publishing contracts can be modified. So they don’t ask to keep their copyrights—or for any changes at all. (The Authors Guild, n.d.)

If you choose to follow the traditional route toward publishing a book, you must read and fully understand the contract being presented to you before signing anything away. You should only grant a publishing company the primary and subsidiary rights that it has the full intention (and capability) of exploiting on your behalf so the relationship benefits you both. If any publisher ever tries to tell you otherwise, then walk away.

Interested in reading more about your other two options? You can download a free copy of Your Ebook is an Asset … if You Own the Copyright from your choice of either Amazon, Kobo, or E-Sentral to continue reading. Click on the link for details.



BookShots: The Hachette vs. Amazon Truce?

A few months ago, I published How to Build a Loyal Readership So Your Self-Published Books Get Picked Up by Literary Agents and Trade Publishers which highlights a few highly successful independent authors who are using “rapid release” publishing (among other tactics) to sell thousands of books online. Many of them are earning six-figure incomes. One of the early pioneers earned seven figures in her first year. I’ve since come across an article from 2016, titled “James Patterson Has a Big Plan for Small Books,” discussing how one of the world’s most famous trade-published authors is using the same tactic to sell more books to an extended audience:

…Mr. Patterson is after an even bigger audience. He wants to sell books to people who have abandoned reading for television, video games, movies and social media.

So how do you sell books to somebody who doesn’t normally read?

Mr. Patterson’s plan: make them shorter, cheaper, more plot-driven and more widely available.

In June, Mr. Patterson will test that idea with BookShots, a new line of short and propulsive novels that cost less than $5 and can be read in a single sitting. Mr. Patterson will write some of the books himself, write some with others, and hand pick the rest. He aims to release two to four books a month through Little, Brown, his publisher. All of the titles will be shorter than 150 pages, the length of a novella.

This article states that Patterson created the idea of BookShots to try to capture the growing number of people who just don’t have/make the time read traditional 300- to 400-page novels anymore; but, considering he’s offering these novellas in paperback, ebook, and audiobook formats, I’m willing to bet Patterson also sees how BookShots can help him to monopolize on today’s digital selling trends. The fact is, the best way to sell a book online is to publish another book. When done on a consistent basis, as the above-mentioned independent authors do, it can successfully ping both Amazon’s and Google’s algorithms to place an author higher and higher up in the rankings. The higher your rank, the more books you will sell. Online selling has more to do with indifferent computerized processes than publicity or popularity.




I also see Patterson’s BookShots concept as a form of truce between Hachette Book Group (which publishes his books in the USA through its Little, Brown imprint) and Amazon after their epic battle a few years ago. To refresh your memory, Amazon believed that all ebooks should be priced low all the time. The Amazon Books Team went so far as to send out a mass email to all its ebook publishers seeking support of its stance. Below is an excerpt from that email which was also published by Dave Smith for BusinessInsider.com in August of 2014:

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.

Skip ahead a couple of years, and James Patterson announced his plan to publish cheaper BookShots novellas to reach the same audience Amazon was talking about. In the 2016 article, it states:

In some ways, Mr. Patterson’s effort is a throwback to the dime novels and pulp fiction magazines that were popular in the late 19th and early 20th century, when commercial fiction was widely available in drugstores.

There’s the truce. In November of 2014, Hachette was victorious in negotiating a deal that allowed trade publishers the continued right to dictate their own retail prices for the books they produce (as it should be, in my opinion). But Amazon got through in some ways, didn’t it? The company planted a seed with the traditional publishers that obviously grew. And now James Patterson and his team write BookShots.

The independent authors mentioned earlier may not be as famous as James Patterson. Just his name alone commands an automatic audience to sell all the BookShots he publishes each year with ease. But, as mentioned earlier, many are now selling thousands of books online each year using the exact tactics that are detailed inside How to Build a Loyal Readership So Your Self-Published Books Get Picked Up by Literary Agents and Trade Publishers. I now do the same and have seen my personal blog users increase from 1,000 to over 5,000 in one year. I’ve also watched my personal monthly book downloads increase from under 5 books per month to 300+ books per month on average. Now you know what I mean when I say it’s unecessary to add a bunch of extra “fluff” into a book to get it to a certain word- or page-count to make it more saleable. That’s irrelevant in this day and age. You can sell just as many—if not more—books by writing and publishing BookShots like James Patterson does, whether you write fiction or non-fiction.

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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 © 2018 Polished Publishing Group (PPG). All rights reserved.

For the Love of Making Money on Your Books, Read This One!

This content first appeared on the Innovative Editing blog and has been republished here with permission.

Every month, Innovative Editing features a creative writer or non-fiction writer who caught its editorial eye. These authors can be self-published or traditionally published, Innovative Editing clients or outside recommendations.

Just, one way or the other, they do stand out! If you think you do too, then reach out right here.

This month, I have an author whose featured work is relevant for so many writers. How to Build a Loyal Readership So Your Self-Published Books Get Picked Up by Literary Agents and Trade Publishers is incredibly useful in unearthing industry secrets about writing, publishing and marketing that can put your book in the spotlight.




I would recommend this guide to any creative writer or non-fiction writer who’s even considering the self-publishing route… even if it’s just as a step toward being traditionally published.

January’s Author of the Month: Kim Staflund
Featured Title: How to Build a Loyal Readership So Your Self-Published Books Get Picked Up by Literary Agents and Trade Publishers
Genre: Business Non-Fiction

Age Appropriate: All

Jeannette: Kim, I’m just going to come right out and say how informative your book was. It definitely taught me a thing or two about marketing, and you have a lot of great tips and tricks to tell about writing as well. What inspired this book idea, and what is its main purpose?

Kim: I consider myself a “sales coach for authors” more than a book publisher because my greatest goal is to help authors sell more books. I’m constantly researching and utilizing the latest book sales and marketing tactics that will give authors the greatest edge.

In 2017, I found two articles that profiled two different fiction authors and how they had earned six- and seven-figure incomes selling their books online. Then I personally spoke to two other fiction authors using the same tactics to sell literally thousands of books on a consistent basis.

That had me wondering: If it can work for fiction, can it also work for non-fiction? I asked a couple of “author marketing consultants” what they thought of this, and both were skeptical. In their opinions, it couldn’t work for non-fiction authors because they don’t typically offer multiple book products to the same pool of readers.

Hmmmm… Something inside of me disagreed with their logic. My gut was saying it would be just as easy, if not easier, to do this with non-fiction books. And sure enough, I researched some more and found two non-fiction authors using the same tactics to sell thousands of books online. That made me smile, and it inspired me to begin writing how-to guides tailored specifically to various non-fiction authors.

But, again, the process can also work for fiction authors too.




Jeannette: Okay. Let’s dive right in then! You write that “… the most successful authors are the ones who treat book writing, publishing, sales, and marketing as their own business. They don’t only write; they sell their books.” I don’t want to give away all of your secrets here, but can you expound on that concept a little bit?

Kim: Even before I wrote this book, that was true. I’ve been saying it for years. The most successful authors are entrepreneurs. Always have been. Always will be.

For those who disagree, I highly recommend you read this blog post where the Big Five trade publishers themselves – Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Hachette, Macmillan, and Simon & Schuster – discuss how much time they actually spend selling their authors’ books for them. You’ll be enlightened.

Jeannette: You’re spot-on with that blog post. Authors-in-the-making too often have a utopic idea of what being traditionally published looks like. They have no idea they might be working just as hard to market themselves as if they were self-published.

I know you address this directly in the linked article above. But let’s talk about it here too since, in your book, you brought up at least one example of a self-published author who got picked up by a traditional publisher after she marketed herself well enough.

Would you say that’s a publishing world trend at this point, where the big guys want to know writers can pull their own weight before they offer anything on their end?




Kim: This is not only a recent trend. It’s always been this way for the majority of authors/writers. I strongly recommend that people read the above-mentioned blog post so they can have their eyes wide open when approaching trade publishers.

Trade publishers are looking for authors that already have their own platforms, and this book can teach you how to build yours.

Jeannette: That it can! But like I said several questions ago, I don’t want to give away all of your secrets, so let’s switch focus to the book-writing phase you also address in How to Build a Loyal Readership. As a book-writing coach myself, I cheered when you said that a writer’s “sole purpose” in writing out their first draft was to actually get it written.

I’ve had too many students and clients start out absolutely awesome stories, only to fall prey to the editing bug well before they should be editing. And so they never finish their first drafts, much less ever get published.

Click here to sneak a peak inside!

Kim: I’ve talked about this type of procrastination in all my books because it’s such a common issue for authors. There’s so much more to procrastination than simple perfectionism. It goes much deeper than that. It’s about fear.

I dedicated a full chapter to uncovering what I believe causes fear – and how to overcome it – in my recent paperback Successful Selling Tips for Introverted Authors. Midwest Book Review touted it as “…a critically important instructional reference … informed, informative, and thoroughly ‘user friendly’ from beginning to end … a mandatory study for every novice author seeking to establish themselves in an economically supporting career…”

You can find that whole section in:

They complement what you’ll read in How to Build a Loyal Readership. If you combine the advice between the book and those two blog posts, you’ll be able to overcome your procrastination much more easily.

Jeannette: If it’s okay with you, I’ll out one aspect of that advice right here: rewarding yourself along the writing way. What’s the best incentive you ever set for your writing accomplishments?

Kim: It depends on where I am in life. I’ve rewarded myself with everything from a new pair of shoes to a trip to Europe! I think we should spoil ourselves once in a while. Because writing a book is a true accomplishment.




Jeannette: And such a worthwhile one too! Oh, and speaking of worthwhile…

For the record, I know that’s a horrible transition. But I really want to squeeze this second-to-last question in here. You mention that you prefer Microsoft Word rather than Scrivener. I’m with you there, but you do know “them’s fightin’ words” for a lot of writers, right?

Kim: Lol. Yes, I think you’re right. And that’s why I invite anyone who reads my book to add a review/comment to it afterward on whether they agree or disagree with anything that’s been said. I may have 25 years’ experience in this industry, but I don’t know it all and I’m a lifelong learner. I read the comments because I’m open to other people’s opinions. I think we can all help each other.

Jeannette: That was definitely another aspect I appreciated about How to Build a Loyal Readership. Too many people in the book writing industry – editors included –  are very snobbish about their opinions. But you give so much amazing, insightful and honest advice in your book.

Is there one piece of information you think stands out as being more important than all the others? Or is this one of those systems where each part builds off of the next?

Kim: There are a lot of moving parts to this type of book sales and marketing. All these things work together, and it has to be done on a consistent basis in order to see any real traction. The only one piece of advice I have is what I’ve been telling authors for years: Whether you’re self-published or trade published, authors are entrepreneurs.

Jeannette: Beautifully stated!

Kim: Jeannette, thank you so much for the opportunity to speak to your subscribers. I’m very grateful for it. And thank you for the guest post you did for the PPG Publisher’s Blog, too: Do You Really Have What It Takes to Write a Book?

Jeannette: That was such a fun article to write! So thank you, Kim. I had a blast putting it together.

And Innovative Editing readers, here’s the short list of e-books Kim has written, starting with the oh-so-helpful Author of the Month feature. Oh yeah, and the second two are free!

How to Be Your Own Best Writer You Can Be

James Sale

When Kim Staflund, whose ‘How to Publish a Bestselling Book’ is a mini-masterpiece of useful information on the topic, invites you to do a blog for her pages, then you know you have a problem: what could you possibly write that could add to her readers’ knowledge or skill-set that is not already contained in her volume? There is so much she has done already; so perhaps my first piece of advice would be to go back and read her book! But the initial panic subsides when one realises that one isn’t trying to be Kim Staflund; on the contrary, everyone can become truly helpful to others when we just simply become authentic. What does that mean? It means in the first instance we need to address our own experience, and not try to come up with all the regular solutions that everyone else does. On that basis, then, I’d like to share with you some of my publishing experiences over a 35-year period, and to see whether this of use to you, dear reader.

First, so what are my publishing credentials for speaking at all on this matter? I am pleased to tell you that I have been both self-published, and also published by minor and major publishing houses. All my poetry collections (as opposed to individual poems, which have appeared in many magazines in the UK and the USA) have been self-published (check my The Lyre Speaks True: http://amzn.to/2t5L7iy), as have some management booklets, which have been done for marketing purposes within my core consultancy business (www.motivationalmaps.com). But alongside these, going back to 1984 when a 3-volume educational series of books were published by Macmillans, I have had over 30 books published by the likes of Nelson, Hodder and Stoughton, Longmans Folens, Stanley Thornes, Pearson, Courseware Publications, Gower and most latterly, Routledge. My book, York Notes: Macbeth (Pearson: http://amzn.to/2sdZQvu ) has been (and still is, though currently when I looked, ranked #2) an ongoing bestseller, and I have written 4 versions of the book over a 20-year span. Currently, following the sales success of my Mapping Motivation book for Gower (http://amzn.to/2s7iL6H ), I am under contract to Routledge to write 6 more book on aspects of motivation. So it is true to say that, whilst I am not a full-time professional writer, like many readers here perhaps aspire to be, I am a serious writer with a track record to match.

So what can I advise people? How can I help you become a better, more effective writer? I think the first thing I would say, and which is counter-intuitive to what many readers want, and even reasons for reading Kim’s magisterial work, is this: be really clear about why you are writing! This may sound obvious, but in my experience it is not. The trouble is, I think, that people see writing as an easy way to make money, or worse: simply they do it for money. And that – with many honourable exceptions – leads to dire writing; disposable writing; writing that is here today and gone tomorrow, even when it succeeds in its objective of making money.

CLICK HERE TO BUY NOW

You see, once you get on the treadmill of I need to make money writing, then the marketing takes over the writing process; the writing for the market becomes more important than discovering yourself; the ‘it’s good enough’ attitude supplants the desire to – in that wonderful Eagles’ phrase – ‘take it to the limit’. What I am saying is, of course, very difficult in today’s world where the market dominates everything. But for me, writing is a special calling, and in two special ways.

The first is that writing is a process of discovery, self-discovery. We may intend to write a book about a particular topic, but true writing always reveals more than we thought we knew. In fact, it could truly be said that we don’t know what we think until we come to write it down. Second, the content and the writing itself are both forms of expertise – and becoming expert in both is what is critical. In this expertise there is a deep joy – one, in the element of words, is like a prime dolphin in the element of water, how wonderful to experience that mastery!

And here – as a seasoned consultant and business person – I can bring in my first true marketing point to help you. Namely, what the great American marketer Jay Abraham called the principle of ‘Pre-eminence’. I don’t write to make money; I write to become pre-eminent in the disciplines that I know and exercise. I want to be in the top 4% of poets, in the top 4% of management and motivation writers; these are my playing fields, and these are my objectives. So to establish this is not about simply how many copies of a book can I sell, and what percentage of the turnover do I keep (typically 100% in self-publication and 10% with major publishers); it is much more about my reputation and the collateral benefits that book writing provides. These collateral benefits are considerable; and have always been there in my life: ranging from giving me the edge in job interviews (in ye olden days before self-employment), attracting invitations to speak as prestigious events, facilitating consultancy assignments and etc. To give an example, only last week I was at Regents University in London at a conference called ‘5 Great Minds’, organised by The Chartered Institute of Marketing; it was a day conference (https://www.cim.co.uk/event/83890/ ) with – guess what? – 5 speakers, all ‘great minds’ speaking, and I was one of them. Hype aside, that – THAT – is what is so valuable to my business and career, and writing enables it. And to be clear, I am all for making money – it’s just that writing books can lead to it indirectly (as well as directly), which is why clarity of purpose is so important.

Thus, given the above context, what do I recommend you do to develop your own writing business? What things have I done that have helped boost my reputation as a writer?




First, let’s deal with getting a publishing deal with a major publisher. What is my number one piece of advice? You need to go and find a way to meet the editor personally. That’s it. Like you, I have had hundreds of rejections from submitted manuscripts and proposals. But I have found that when I get out and go for it, and meet the relevant person at some event, and I don’t try to ‘sell’, but simply have a great chat and find out their interests and what they are doing, then – THEN – there is every chance the magic sentence can almost casually come out: “You know, I think I have something you might like’.  Boom! And they say, “Send me it – I can’t promise, but –”

Can you do that? Can you get out and meet that someone? And keep in mind, when you meet them, meeting per se is not enough. For the transaction to take place they need to: know you (hence you turn up), like you (are they going to, or are you going to be a pain?), and trust you (do you listen to them carefully, and are you going to follow through and do what you say?). My key books with Macmillan, Pearson, Gower and Routledge all occurred because I went out to meet the key decision maker, enjoyed their company, and as they liked me, so good books were born.

The question you might ask is: well, how do I meet them? Where will they be? The answer to that question is not as opaque as it might seem. In ye olden days of the ‘80s, things were trickier, but now you find on Twitter especially, but also Facebook and Linkedin, editors going on about conferences, book signings, writers events that they are going to attend all the time. They, too, remember, are in the market.

This leads on to my third point: developing expertise. In Kim’s wonderful book she has a great tip on overcoming writer’s block, but actually the tip is much more important than just writer’s block. She says, “The writers who spend even as little as half an hour per day reading another author’s work often find they are more creative …” Yes, and often more expert too. We need to find not only authors who inspire us, but also what I call ‘home-bases’ – people or sites who share your values, who are aligned with what you do (Kim’s website is just such a place for writers generally) at the ‘field’ level. Learning and expertise through this can become so much deeper.

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What does this mean? It means that being a writer can be a lonely business and we need deep encouragement from others, and others who can support us on the way. Take my own ‘field’ of poetry for example. This is an extremely fragmented and disputatious field. One could never get published if one kept sending one’s work to ideologically-opposed magazine editors. So I identify ‘home bases’ where people are in sync with me, where I share values, and this is like a watering hole (one brilliant home for me is The Society of Classical Poets: http://classicalpoets.org. This is a place that values, especially, form and beauty; it doesn’t want poetry that says the world is a hellhole, there’s no hope, no form, and – hey, subtext coming up – aren’t I a clever little monster for observing all this rubbish; where’s my Pulizter?) So the question for you becomes: where are the value-friendly and vision-aligned publications where you can expect – if they know, like and trust you – to find a receptive audience? Go to work and project there!

My fourth point would be the importance of those two twins: reviewing and blogging. In between writing your actual books, and sometimes mining them for articles as ‘sneak peaks’ or ‘tasty teaser’ copy, there is the importance of contributing back. I really cannot emphasise this enough. Indeed, a subsidiary point arises: namely, it is better to engage in 2 or 3 marketing activities that you really understand and enjoy and ‘work’, rather than trying to deploy 25 techniques and tools from a dozen different marketing experts promising outstanding success if you just only do this … No, really getting behind one or two great ideas is where the meat is; or is the 80/20 Rule in action.

Reviewing is so important because you learn from the books you review, you alert others to them, and critically you demonstrate your expertise. Finally, reviewing can also lead to your making invaluable and prestigious contacts. This is so important. I myself through this process have only just this week been contacted by a leading academic at a top-notch New York university about a project. This is someone I could not have accessed, probably, through any other mechanism, but now it’s happening. And remember, when you support others, they are much more likely to support you; and if they don’t, no matter, move on, and be a moving target. So where are you reviewing? And there’s the thing; it’s rather like publication – think of the self-publication where anyone can start, and also think of the more prestigious magazines where one might gain a foothold. So, to use myself as an example, I regularly review on spiritual and healing matters for the Quaker print magazine, Towards Wholeness (http://bit.ly/2t6busx) and also have now become an official poetry reviewer for The Society of Classical Poets. On top of this I am an active re-purposer! My management blogs I present first on my Linkedin page (http://bit.ly/2t6busx) but then I re-use them on my personal blogging site on Typepad (http://bit.ly/2t6jGZA), so that they can appear fresh a week or a month later; also, I have spent a long time building up credibility on ezine.com, so that now I am a ‘Diamond’ author for them and get top priority with my posts (http://bit.ly/2s6vBC4). There are so many outlets out there, and here’s the thing; they really are desperate for high quality content because – why? – there is so much low quality content around! This is either because the writer cannot really write, or because they are simply peddling clichés and jargon, the sort of stuff you can find anywhere. But if you are a real writer, if you have followed Kim Staflund’s advice, if you are adopting the strategy of ‘pre-eminence’ as I mentioned earlier, then you are exactly the kind of person that editors are looking for: your writing can be a game changer for so many other people, and in the end quality counts. So to return to my earlier point, it’s counting the quality first, and then the money follows, rather than trying to count the money, never mind the quality.

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So what is true of reviews is true of blog and blogging: you demonstrate what you know. And here again is another important principle in action that needs to be fully grasped, embraced even. Namely, the key point of blogging is to give away free and significant information – note, to give away. This means, then, what not to do: not to act like some consultant who has key information regarding a solution to a pressing problem, but only hints that they have the solution, and that you will have to contact them – and pay – to get the full works. People hate this niggardly sort of transaction; and not only that it always reveals, in my view, that the author has a very limited set of ideas, which is why they are so parsimoniously doling them out. When you are a deep-knowledge worker/writer you can give away a 100, a 1000 ideas for free, why? Because you really do have the abundance mentality; you understand that in the world of ideas, everything is limitless – there are 10,000 more and that the human mind the more expert it becomes, the more it realises the more there is to comprehend, and the more driven it is to encompass just such further knowledge. Thus, there will always be more! As the Dalai Lama said: “Generosity gives rise to a creative mind”. You are fueling yourself when you give to others: awesome or what?

These, then, are some core ideas that have emerged for me as I have pursued my writing career and am now a senior in the digital age! But I don’t yearn for the good old days. Yes, they were good, but I think things are even better now precisely because of the ability of writers to determine more of their own destinies; we can produce, we can distribute, we can market, much more easily; and we can keep the rewards of our labours. But that doesn’t mean self-publication is the only choice. As I said at the beginning, be clear about what you want to achieve from your writing. Be open, then, and be flexible; look for opportunities, especially in the form of good contacts. Give to others and commit to the work. There is a deep joy and calling in being a writer, so now seize that moment and get your stuff out there! I hope some of you may let me know how successful you have been following some of these ideas.

MAPPING MOTIVATION  by James Sale for Routledge on Amazon

The Lyre Speaks True by James Sale

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© James Sale 2017