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Prepare and Budget for the ENTIRE Life of Your Book

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Most authors budget their time,money, and energy for the life of their book, but they forget that the book’s life span does not end when the book is printed… that is when it starts. A book’s life starts at it’s birth (the launch) and needs to be budgeted for.

Here is a video of my most recent talk on the Life of Your Book.  We will be covering this in more detail on Mentoring Mondays with Judith Briles starting June 3th.

 

 

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“I want to sell a million copies”

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I hear this sentence at least three times a day.  A million copies. The magic number.  Just thought I’d throw a few more magic numbers out there….

Here is a brief run down of Stephen King’s latest marketing program for his last book from an October 2011 Wall Street Journal Article.

Mr. King and his publisher, Scribner, face an odd challenge as they unleash an elaborate marketing campaign to promote “11/22/63.” How do you rebrand one of the world’s most famous and successful living authors? Scribner is targeting history buffs with book-giveaway promotions on bio.com and history sites. To reach news junkies, the publisher bought ad time on 11 p.m. news programs in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. The 30-second ad, which will also run on the CNN airport network and on the A&E and Syfy networks, shows archival footage of Kennedy’s Dallas motorcade, with a voice-over that says, “What if instead of justwatching history, you could change it?” Mr. King’s book tour will include appearances at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston and at the Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas, the site Oswald fired from. The Dallas museum is preparing to host 1,000 people.

So what do we take away from this?

Mr. King has a huge following and decades of New York Times Best Sellers behind him.

He was on the road for weeks doing events in high-profile locations.

His publisher purchased ads on CNN, A&E the 11pm news in major markets.

Scribner also launched a multi-platform online campaign that gave away over 3000 books.

The magic number since the book released last November?  According to Bookscan, Mr. King has sold 576,361 copies across all formats.

One of the best-selling authors of all time spent over a hundred thousand dollars on marketing with his publisher and even with eBook sales included, did not reach a million copies.

What is the real magic number?

It starts with the amount of time you spend getting the package of your book right

It is followed by the number of months you spend planning and orchestrating your launch

Right behind that is the number of ads and programs you participate in.

But that last number does not count much unless the ads and programs are in top venues (USA TODAY, PEOPLE, CNN…)

Next up is the number of PR and marketing professionals you are working with.

Then is there are the amount of reviews you get

A BIG number is how many retailers are getting your marketing and PR information to convince the buyers to buy your book.

Finally, there is the elusive “tipping point” number.  How many people have to love and recommend your book before it takes on a life of its own?

So what is the answer to the question “what are the right numbers for my book?”.

It is different for everybody, but start with THOSE numbers and THEN tell the world how many you plan on selling.  If you are going to spend 20 hours and $4000 on sales and marketing, your book will not “catch fire”.  The stories of books that grow from nothing and become huge successes have enormous numbers behind them. Numbers of hours, numbers of dollars, numbers of supporters…. the ratio varies, but the totals are the same.  At least a million….

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Let’s Make a Deal – Setting Your Price

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Just recently, we blogged about the importance of category research when choosing the right cover for your book.

Category research might be a theme for several posts from us moving forward. All to often, clients, potential clients, publishing friends and colleagues come to us with finished books (or book ideas). All to often, we come back to them with a myriad of questions – including, how did you come to that price, trim size, title, subtitle, cover, etc.?
For us, each of these “packaging” details must be dictated by the market into which we publish. While we always have an opinion, our number one goal is to ensure that our clients and colleagues are getting real-time feedback from the retail marketplace. In this case, our opinion doesn’t matter. The marketplace, however, does.
Which, for today’s post, brings us to price.
How do you choose the appropriate price for your book?
The first place to start is, of course, your P&L. Once you factor in your advance (for our publisher friends), your editing fees, copyediting fees, layout, design, printing prices and marketing budget, what is your profit margin?
As you know, a P&L is only as good as the person that creates it. For example, if I price a 196 page trade-paperback business book at $24.95, I’m most likely going to see a healthy profit margin in the end. The cost for editing, printing and producing such a book is often dictated at a per-word or per-page rate. Tiny book, tiny costs, big profit margin. That all sounds good, right?
The only problem with this particular analogy is that selling-in and selling-through a 196 page business book for $24.95 is going to be really difficult. People don’t have the disposable incomes that they used to. And, more importantly, this particular lightweight book may not scream “value” to your end customer. Especially if they can get a similar book on the same topic for $12.95.
So how should you really set a price?
Let’s work backwards.
Let’s say you’re publishing a book in Category X. Get on Amazon, go to the bookstore, peruse your bookshelf. Pull out all of the bestselling books in Category X. What’s their price point? What does the consumer get for their money? Is your category driven by a 336 page trade paperback for $14.95? Do “unknown” authors charge a dollar or two less for for their book? Does the price point reflect a big author’s name? A page-heavy book? Do some publishers actually charge less because price-point is their value proposition?
Here’s what you’ll discover through this simple exercise. The consumer is actually telling you, through book sales, the price they’ll pay for a book on your topic in Category X.
If, for example, it’s $9.95, $12.95, $14.95 or $19.95, then that’s the price you need to get to. It doesn’t matter that you’re convinced that your book is so extra special that you’re sure the consumer will pay an extra $10.00 for it. Research will show that’s most likely not the case.
Everybody’s on a budget these days. If your P&L shows that you have to sell 15,000 copies of your $5.95 book to make your money back, than that’s what you have to sell. Charging $15.95 for that same book just to make your money back, in a category that can’t sustain it, just means you won’t sell very many copies of your book.
What you need to do is go back to your P&L and take a look at real costs compared to a researched price point. Figure out how many books you need to sell and develop a sales and marketing plan to make it happen.
Like so many things in our business, strong market research can prevent you from making some of the simple mistakes that can have long term, adverse affects on your publishing program. Setting your price is just one area.
So, let’s make a deal. Next time you decide you need to charge $24.95 for that 196 page book to make your money back, rethink how – and why – you’ve gotten in to this business to begin with.
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Don’t Judge A Book By It’s Color

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Just yesterday, someone posted an interesting question to one of the discussion groups that we follow.

Basically, the question was “Does anyone have any idea what the “ideal color” for a business book should be?”

I was surprised by the number of responses that actually suggested a color! Blue, it seems, is the color people associate with business books. Apparently, content and subcategory doesn’t matter. It should just be blue.

To me, responses such as these are dangerously irresponsible. How can a group of people suggest a “sellable” color without doing the extensive research needed to choose a book’s packaging?

How can something as vitally important as a book’s cover be reduced to the simple question of: “What color should a [insert your own category here] book be?”

Below are some highlights from my response to the “color” discussion. I hope you find them useful:

Asking about the color of a business book doesn’t take in to account so many important variables. To come up with a thoroughly competitive cover design, you should do the following:

1. Research the subcategory – leadership, time management, ethics, human resources, business management, management, how-to business, marketing, etc.

2. Purchase (or at least go to the bookstore and look at) the top sellers in your subcategory. Identify the colors, fonts and images used.

3. Find out what’s working and why. Are they all the same color, same title treatment, same image pattern? I’m guessing not. Why not? Which of the books “popped” off the shelf most. Why? (the color could be why)

4. Pull out books in colors that you and your client like that are in your cover design. Put them in the shelf within your category. Can you see them? Why? Why not? Which colors will stand out on the shelf.

It’s important to keep in mind that cover design is ultimately driven by the consumer. We teach people what to expect when they go in to the business category in terms of look, feel, trim size and even price. So, you want to be sure that you’re what they expect. At the same time, it’s important to stand out. If every book in your subcategory is blue, you might want to try red, or green or muted purple. You might want to try something very bright that practically leaps off the shelf.

Most importantly, there is no set formula for choosing “a color” for any category of books. you need to thoroughly research the subcategory and find out how you can match up against the competition and get noticed on the shelf.

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Everyone Will Want to Read My Book…

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No they won’t.

The first rule in publishing is to know your audience. For authors and publishers, this means know your reader (the end consumer) and your business partners (retailers).

While you may believe that you’ve found the “perfect” book that is uniquely qualified to be all things to all people, it’s important to really know your audience.

Let’s look at this through the eyes of a potential publisher:

The Retailer—While the publishing business is moving more and more to online sales and marketing and finding a solid audience, it’s still important to ensure your book is “shelved” in the right place. While you may have written a novel for 8 year old girls that can have a positive impact on her 12 year old brother with special advice for mom and dad, that particular shelf doesn’t exist in the bookstore. Your book will be shelved in one category. This is important to know before you ever write your book proposal. You need to identify where it goes in the book store so you can determine what editor or publisher to send it to. They know their retail market, do you?

The Consumer—The consumer is the end audience for your book. This is the person that will pick it up, skim a few pages, and ultimately make a purchase. Whether it be for themselves, as a gift, or required reading for their occupation, that consumer is your audience. That means you need to know: Who they are? What they buy? How they shop? What the competition for their business is? Does your book “fit” your consumer? Do you have the right cover design, price, trim size? Are you shelved in the appropriate category?

These are just some of the questions that agents, publishers—and retailers—ask when they are pitched your book alongside thousands of other books. If you want to stand out in a crowded marketplace, it’s important to know your audience.

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