Book Publishing Means More Than Paper

Who doesn’t like sitting in front of a roaring fire with a good book. Many of us thoroughly enjoy the feel of paper on our fingertips and the smell of newly pressed ink. We give hardbound books as gifts, leave once-read paperbacks behind at vacation destinations, for others to enjoy, and we likely have a bookshelf at home for our family favorites.

SPG loves print and has tremendous respect for book producers who make it come to life. But when conceiving and marketing a book, today’s aspiring self-publishing author must consider emerging tools and technology, as well as the fact that 70% of books sold are in digital format.

We attended the wonderful Boston Book Festival recently and were wowed by the originality of the authors who so generously shared their time, tips, and words. It was difficult not to buy ‘everything.’ However, we were disappointed in one session, earmarked to focus on self-publishing, because it skirted the proliferation of ebooks and the digital platforms that support them. Surely Amazon/Kindle, iTunes/AppleBooks, GooglePlay Books, KOBO, and Barnes & Noble should have been called out by name – not to mention those serving libraries, subscription models, and the foreign market.

We were dismayed that social media – so critical to viral marketing –was not part of the conversation. Clearly, a self-published author needs to create an online persona, separate from their personal and professional identity (assuming writing is not their full-time job). So – word of advice: set up an email account in your book title or series name, create a Twitter account for those characters, and start a Facebook page that is more about your plot than your pets.

But getting there can be daunting – not only in research, writing, editing, and design – but in file preparation and verification, sales strategy, and distribution planning – even before marketing. The process is often ‘learn as you go.’

In this same, otherwise lovely BBF session, we heard of failed PR efforts and unproductive direct mail campaigns that cost big bucks. Those, frankly, are not avenues we’d recommend in today’s tech-driven world. Through digital distribution partners like Publish Drive, and online platforms like Goodreads, new authors can send review copies to the media and encourage readers to post reviews. In this same session, we heard about the success of snagging a radio interview, and that’s great, but now authors can post their own podcasts, chime in on industry webcasts, and consider audio books.

Meet-and-greets in brick-and-mortar bookstores are, of course, exciting, but realistically, a new author isn’t going to get much shelf space. Thus, having an author website is essential. This is the place to introduce yourself, present your titles, share your motivation, and build a following. This is the place to link directly to purchase pages, encourage feedback, and capture email addresses for future communication. This is the place to use the keywords assigned to your book category for Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

Sampling content is also smart. Most online stores offer it with a ‘Look Inside’ feature on the ‘Buy Now’ page – but there are other options, too. A friend of ours has built technology to enable book sampling independent of bookstores. Text Cafe is an HTML-based solution that allows writers and publishers to sample their content directly through web Search, without forcing readers into their bookstore accounts. This is appealing to casual browsers who might not be ready to buy but who are intrigued by a topic or theme. These people are terrific, predisposed prospects for conversion to sale.

These are only a few of the needs and resources we’ve discovered in our first foray into commercial publishing, but we hope to have many more to share. Come back. Contribute. Tell us what we can do for you.