Self-Publisher Explains How to Get Your Book Out Quickly

WRITERS. Suppose you have a great idea for a nonfiction book. Which approach is a better use of your time: Should you develop a detailed book proposal, pitch it to an agent or publisher, and wait two years for the book to hit the shelves? Or should you self-publish the book first and start selling it while most of the information is still current?

Self-Publishing Manual Vol. 2If self-publishing sounds like too much work or you’re not sure where to begin, I recommend reading both volumes of Dan Poynter’s Self-Publishing Manual.  Then you’ll understand why the stigma once associated with self-publishing has vanished. You’ll also see why the brave, new world of ‘trans-media’ is rapidly changing the very definition of a ‘book.’

If you’re a writer, self-publishing is a great way to control every phase of your book’s production. Plus, the more you know about self-publishing, the better prepared you will be to help others who may hire you to ghost-write or edit their books.

Poynter believes emerging technologies are rapidly making it possible for authors to get closer to their readers while also selling books for less. You can still profit from your investment in self-publishing, says Poynter, because you will be eliminating the amount of income paid to agents, publishers, wholesalers, bookstores, distributors, and other gatekeepers in the middle.

Dan Poynter’s Self-Publishing Manual (463 pages) covers the basics of writing, printing, and selling your own book and lets you see how the steps involved in self-publishing differ from those associated with traditional publishing. In addition to tips on book design and formatting, Poynter provides practical advice on selecting a book printer, deciding how many books to print, and estimating sales. He devotes entire chapters to marketing and distribution channels and shipping and fulfillment considerations.

Self-Publishing Manual Vol 1Dan Poynter’s Self-Publishing Manual, Volume 2 (144 pages) explains how to take advantage of some of the technological changes that are rapidly transforming the book-publishing business. For example, Poynter suggests building your print version (pbook) first, then converting that content into other forms your audience might like, including: e-books, audio books (a-books), and large-print books (lpbooks).

As Poynter  explains, “We call them ‘books,’ but that term is generic; ‘books’ can take many forms. Do not think of your product as a print product—think of it as entertainment or information. Then focus on providing the formats (or editions) the buyer wants and needs.”

To streamline the self-publishing process, he advises writing the back-cover promotional copy first so you can clarify in your mind why readers might be interested in the type of content you’re developing. (In other words, instead of figuring out how to pitch your idea to an agent or publisher, first spend some time deciding how you will pitch your book directly to the potential buyer.) 

He also explains how to typeset the book in formatted pages as you write it, instead of writing it in the traditional manuscript form required by conventional publishers. You will still need to have the book peer-reviewed, copy-edited, and proofread. But if the book is already formatted in pages, you can save some valuable time.

In Volume 2, Poynter talks about how to use social media and social networking to gather information for your writing and alerting people who may be interested in buying your book.  He also talks about new technology that let you publish it for less, new ways to distribute your book more economically, and how to have fun promoting it. 

Photo of Dan Poynter with booksDan Poynter says it took him eight years to produce his first book (on parachuting). Since then he has written more than 125 books, primarily by developing a highly organized system for researching, research, writing, and editing.  In some cases, the pages for his books have been written, laid out, and delivered to the printer within 30 days.

Having been in the business since 1969, he knows the ins and outs of the business from all angles. He has published books for other authors and sold some of his own books to publishing companies.   

You Don’t Have to Do It All Yourself!
If you don’t have the time or confidence to handle all of the steps involved in self-publishing yourself, there are plenty of sources who can help you. For example, the self-publishing manual lists specialized service providers such as bar code suppliers, book clubs, book fair exhibiting services, book designers and cover artists. Poynter also lists “book shepherds,” a new group of consultants who will take your book project through all of the necessary steps.

One of the most useful features of the book is a Calendar, with a checklist of some of the administrative and promotion-related items you should be tackling during different stages of writing and producing the book.

Self-publishing can indeed be a lot of work, and recouping your investment of time and money will require a commitment to promoting it. But unless you have already established a strong business relationship with an existing publishing company, self-publishing and selling your first book may soon be regarded as an essential first step.  

The Future of Books
Poynter believes the publishing business is changing so rapidly that in the near future, the publication cycle will be reversed and books will first be posted online, then committed to ink and paper if there is sufficient interest.

In Volume 2, he writes, “We will always have printed books, but they will be fiction, coffeetable books (works of art), and nonfiction that is so popular that it has earned a print run.”

Both books are available from bookstores. Or you can buy them directly from Dan’s website, Para Publishing. The website features dozens of other tips and resources for writers and anyone who wants to publish their own books.

LINKS

Dan Poynter’s Self-Publishing Manual: How to Write, Print, and Sell Your Own Book

Dan Poynter’s Self-Publishing Manual, Vol. 2

Para Publishing

Is Marketing Morphing Into Editorial?

WRITERS. Are the lines between marketing and editorial becoming increasingly blurred? That’s what PR Newswire suggests in this YouTube video:

Content: Marketing Morphing into Editorial

Marketing Is Content Cover
The YouTube video is based on a white paper that PR Newswire developed for clients and prospects.

The video was developed in conjunction with the PR Newswire white paper: “Marketing Is Content.” It features marketing experts who contend that content-marketing has become so important that many marketing departments are building their own “editorial departments.”

These departments are being staffed by editors, journalists, and writers who know how to tell good stories. (In fact: The video’s narrator even admits: “Editors, it turns out, have a long history of synthesizing what audiences really want, and fashioning content that informs, excites, or entertains them.” )

One expert interviewed in the video is Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Instittue, who observes that now that marketing departments are establishing editorial teams, “There is no difference between what a marketer does and what a publisher does. The only difference is how they make money.” 

Sure, there is some truth to that statement. But it seems to me that today’s most successful publishers are staying ahead of the curve by ramping up both the quantity and quality of the content they produce. They are then using this content to further build their own brands.

In the video, the marketing executives define compelling content as “storytelling with a purpose.” And while I would agree that everyone has a good story to tell, it’s important to remember that marketers and publishers have different purposes for developing good content.

For example: Publishers need to retain loyal readers while constantly pulling in new readers. They can do so by aggregating content and information from a richer variety of sources. Publishers can produce stories that offer a broader, more balanced perspective from which readers can make good decisions.  Plus, publishers earn credibility by addressing consumer concerns that a marketer might prefer not to publicly acknowledge.  Maintaining credibility will become more important than ever as publishers strive to get more revenue directly from communities of readers.  

Right now, the editorial goal of marketers is to replace “interruptive messaging” with engaging content that will open two-way communications between companies and their customers. The reason marketers want to develop high-quality content is to help them strengthen their brands and generate leads.  

Some marketers understand the concept of content marketing better than others. Some companies just can’t seem to take their sales hat off no matter what. So they end up producing content that is just slightly less annoying than an infomercial.

The companies that “get it” seem to have figured out something that editors and journalists have been trying to tell pushy advertisers and PR people for years: “Back off! Readers get sick of being constantly sold to everywhere they look. Many people would actually love your company more if you would simply help them find answers to questions that aren’t being clearly explained anywhere else.”  

As professional writers and editors, we should be encouraged that marketers are starting to understand that deeloping quality content is not easy. First it involves listening to customers/readers to find out the type of information audiences really want, then committing the time, talent and resources needed to effectively deliver that information.  

We shouldn’t regard writing for traditional publishers as our only option for building an economically viable career. Sure, writing for magazines and publishing companies can be fun. But not if you find yourself working for a stuck-in-the-past publisher that believes the only way they can succeed is to compromise their editorial integrity by submitting to the ill-conceived whims of some advertisers.

In my opinion: the key to building a satisfying writing career is to pursue opportunities with those enlightened companies (publishers or marketers) who genuinely respect the brand value that talented journalists can help them create.

It’s not difficult to see which companies really get it, and which ones don’t. Just look at the type of content they publish!

LINKS

VIDEO: Content: Marketing Morphing Into Editorial

PR Newswire

RELATED POST

Editorial Excellence Can Help Marketers Escape Content Chaos

Five Trends in E-Books

Tablet PC and booksWRITERS. The ongoing evolution of e-books may change how you think about the type of content you suggest when submitting a book proposal to publisher. For example, consider these five e-book trends that Philip Ruppel, the president of McGraw-Hill Professional, listed in a recent post on Mashable.com.

Enhanced E-books

“The e-book of the not-too-distant future will be much more than text,” writes Ruppel. “Interactivity has arrived, and will change the nature of the e-book.” For example, he says an e-book could contain a video showing how to fix a leaky faucet or pronounce foreign-language words as you read them. A novel could provide a platform in which the author can have a live exchange with reading groups.  Thus, in your book proposal, you might want to suggest creative ways to make the content more interactive.

An End to the Device War

Ruppel believes that consumer confusion will lead to quick consolidation around a few winners in the market for e-readers. He says consumers will care less about which device they use and more about the experience provided by the software, the portability of titles, and accessibility to a full catalog of titles.

E-books Costing More than $9.99

Although the $9.99 price for established bestsellers might have sparked initial consumer interest in e-books, expect future e-books with unique interactive features to cost more.

An Upsell for Value-added Extra Features

With enhanced e-books, publishers can interact with their customers in new ways. For example, clicking a help button will point readers to the publisher’s site where they can pay extra to download a tutorial about a specific point in the book they don’t fully understand.

An Expanded Role for Publishers

Producing a conventional technical or reference book requires a team of editors, copy editors, proofreaders, and designers. Producing digitally enhanced e-books will require even greater technical expertise.

In addition, Ruppel believes that with the skyrocketing amount of content being posted on the web, customers will seek out and pay expert content providers that can aggregate and contextualize information. As he puts it: “Commodity content is everywhere (and largely free), so high-quality, vetted, edited content—which takes a staff of experts—will be worth a premium.”

This last prediction, of course, should boost the morale of dedicated, professional freelance writers who have been dismayed by the flood of poorly researched, sloppily written content being churned out by low-paying content mills.  

Link:  5 E-Book Trends That Will Change the Future of Publishing

Editorial Excellence Can Help Marketers Escape Content Chaos

Content Rules Book CoverWRITERS. A new book entitled “Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business” could ultimately open up some fresh opportunities for freelance writers and other creative professionals.

The book was written by two experts in content marketing:  Ann Handley, chief content officer of marketingprofs.com and C.C. Handley, founder of digitaldads.com.

The basic premise of “Content Rules” is that publishing useful content is a good way for companies to build relationships with their customers.  As the book’s promo copy explains, “Today, you have an unprecedented opportunity to create a treasury of free, easy-to-use, almost infinitely customizable content that tells the story of your product and your business, and positions you as an expert people will want to do business with.”

However, because so many companies are jumping on the content-publishing bandwagon, content is rapidly becoming a commodity.

As consumers, we can all see some of the “content chaos” arising from the wider adoption of content marketing. Sure, some of this content can be very helpful. But so much of it seems semi-coherent, superficial, and self-serving. Few companies seem to take the time to consider what type of content their customers would find most enlightening.

In a webinar introducing their book, Handley and Chapman describe the phenomenon this way: “Content marketing is like sex in high school: Everyone claims they are doing it, but few are doing it well.”

They believe content marketing is worth the commitment, noting that “Killer content can earn attention, create trust, establish credibility and authority, and convert visitors and browsers into buyers.”

The book reinforces a fact that many stressed-out, overworked marketing pros have just begun to fully recognize:  Producing a steady stream of consistently good content can be more difficult and time-consuming than it looks.

According to a recent survey cited by Handley and Chapman in Content Rules, the biggest content marketing challenges are:

  • Producing engaging content (36%)
  • Producing enough content (21%)
  • Budget to produce content (20%)
  • Lack of C-level buy-in (11%)
  • Producing a variety of content (9%)

Thus, experienced writers and other creative professionals can offer to alleviate some of the burden. But this tactic will only work if you can suggest how you can help advance the most commonly identified organizational goals for content marketing:

  • Brand awareness (78%)
  • Consumer retention/awareness (69%)
  • Lead generation (63%)
  • Website traffic (55%)
  • Thought leadership (52%)
  • Sales (51%)
  • Lead nurturing (37%)

You might want to read the book, so you can see the type of advice Handley and Chapman are giving to marketing pros.  For example, they discuss the art of storytelling and science to journalism to develop content that people will care about. They also talk about the need to find an authentic voice and create the type of bold content that prospects and customers will want to share with others.   Readers of Content Rules can learn how to:

  • Define content-strategy goals.
  • Get to the meat of the message by using practical, common-sense language.
  • Integrate searchable words without sounding contrived.
  • Create a publishing schedule for creating different kinds and types of content at once.

To see content-marketing at its best, check out marketingprofs.com and subscribe to their Marketing Profs Today daily newletters. Even if you’re not a marketing pro yourself, you can get some practical tips that can either help you market yourself as a creative pro, or better understand what marketing professionals are trying to accomplish with various forms of communications.

In the online Marketing Profs University, you can listen to the free webinar that Handley and Chapman presented on Dec. 3, 2010.

Content Rules: How to Create the Right Kind of Content

You can replay the broadcast, listen to a podcast, or download the webinar slides and a list of answers to questions raised after the webinar.

The book is available for $11.99 as a Google eBook. Or, you can order a 242-page hardcopy version from Wiley.com, Amazon.com, or BarnesandNoble.com

Links:

“Content Rules”: Google e-book format

Hardcopy book

Wiley.com

Amazon.com

BarnesandNoble.com

New Forms of Books Mentioned on JWT List of 100 Things to Watch in 2011

JWT LogoWRITERS. When the global marketing-communications agency JWT released its list of 100 Things to Watch in 2011, many items related to the ongoing digitization of content on various media platforms, mass customization, and the rise of microbusiness. According to the JWT report, “Books will take new forms, entertainment will go transmedia, and journalists will become entrepreneurial.”

Writers can use the JWT list as a rich source of cutting-edge story ideas. But several items on the list suggest new formats for publishing content as well as new types of clients for freelance writing.

Here are a few of the items on the list that caught my eye. (You can download the complete 110-page report from www.JWTIntelligence.com)

Breaking the Book

Now that the market for e-books has taken off, JWT expects to see a rethinking of the book format. For example, we might see an iTunes-like market for single chapters of travel guides, anthologies, or textbooks.  Professional writers will be encouraged to fill the niche between magazine articles and books. And, we might also see more serialized works through apps that send subscribers a chapter a week.

Children’s E-Books

JWT predicts a rise in the number of children’s e-books for color-enabled screens, such as the iPad and Nook Color. These dynamic storybooks will enable children to switch from text to educational games and graphics. The JWT report notes that “Traditional children’s publishers such as Random House and HarperCollins have jumped on the bandwagon, as have startups.” Ruckus Media expects to have 26 children’s e-book apps in 2011, with 75 more in the works.

Entrepreneurial Journalism

The next generation of journalists is being trained to launch their own enterprises by pulling together traditional journalism with business and technology. For example, the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at the City University of New York is offering a two-year master’s program in which students can study media across all platforms: digital, broadcast, and print. Courses in the program focus on the business of managing media and the study and creation of new media business models. The school also offers a certificate in entrepreneurial journalism for midcareer journalists who have worked in the traditional, mainstream media and understand they need new skills.

Long-Form Content

As blog posts and news items have shrunk to fit our attention spans, JWT trendspotters believe the novelty of long-form journalism will stand out and more readers will turn to mobile devices, e-readers, and computers to access it. JWT cites innovations such as Longform.org, Longreads, Instapaper, and Treesaver.

Storied Products

As consumers look for a personal connection to brands, expect to see more companies play up the people and stories behind their products. It could be everyday employees, the people who produce the ingredients, or the owners of small businesses.

Transmedia Producers

Transmedia is defined as “the art of communicating messages, themes, and story lines to mass audiences through the strategically planned use of multiple transmedia platforms.” The Producers Guild of America describes the job of transmedia producer as overseeing a project’s long-term planning, development, production, and/or maintenance of narrative continuity across multiple platforms, and the creation of original storylines for new platforms.

Digital Downtime

Because so many items on the JWT list seemed techno-centric, I was pleased to see that JWT’s director of trendspotting Ann Mack expects a bit of a backlash against all things digital. She notes that “To balance our growing immersion in the digital world, people will increasingly embrace face-to-face gatherings and digital downtime.”

Digital downtime is described as “mindful breaks from digital input, intended to relieve stress and foster creativity.”