Do you really need publishing services when you are publishing on the web?

It’s a question I’ve thought about an awful lot over the last couple of years, if you’re going to be publishing on the web, do you really need the publishing services offered by the big publishers?

In 2007 when I began working with author and speaker Jim Clemmer, I was lucky enough to learn, first-hand, from someone who had sold hundreds of thousands of books using the traditional publisher route and several hundred thousand copies as a self published author the difference between working with traditional publishing services and going it alone.

The biggest difference was that when you sell books through a publisher you need to sell many more books to make the same amount of money you’d make selling less books as a self-publisher.

One of the first projects I worked on with Jim was his business-fable Moose on the Table: A Novel Approach to Communications @ Work.

Taking the book from manuscript to print was not a huge issue. But we hit a wall when it came to distribution and marketing.

At that point we were focused on getting the book into stores and getting the word out to the public to do this:

  • We scheduled webinars
  • Went on a cross country seminar tour
  • Created a website – www.mooseonthetable.com
  • Sent thousands of postcards to our mailing lists
  • Promoted the books in Jim’s monthly newsletter
  • Sent out targeted email blasts to the database based on what products and services contacts had purchased in the past.
  • Built a YouTube Channel and loaded it with chapter summaries and other videos
  • Created an iPhone Application
  • Hit just about every Breakfast Television show in the country

We were able to do all this ourselves.

In the end the book didn’t sell nearly as well as we’d hoped. And as best I can figure, it was because it was so completely different from Jim’s previous books, that it didn’t resonate with his core audience and it didn’t catch fire with the general public.

We did cover all our bases from a marketing perspective.

But distribution was a big hole. The book wasn’t available everywhere and we were trying to sell as many copies as we could through Jim’s main site – jimclemmer.com. The problem with this is that even with 500 unique visitors dropping by each day, most of them weren’t going to buy a book.

Jim’s next book was more in keeping with what he’d done in the past. Growing at the Speed of Change is, as Jim likes to describe it “inspir-actional.”

While we did many of the same things we did with Moose, this time we were able to remove one of the great barriers to self-published authors – distribution.

With GSC, opted for Print on Demand using LightningSource.com which immediately made the book available in Canada, US, UK and EU at local pricing and shipping through Amazon and other e-tailers. Better still – the books were almost always listed as “in-stock” and “usually ships in 24 hrs.”

While were were setting this up we added all of Jim’s previous books to the POD system – including a two books that had been out of print for over 20 years.

And guess what? They sold some copies as well!

Another avenue we explored was ebooks. Using Smashwords.com, we were able to create e-book versions of Moose on the Table, Growing at the Speed of Change and The Leader’s Digest, which are now available for the Kindle, iPad and other devices.

Distribution was always one of the major advantages of going with one of the major publishing houses. But with LightningSource this advantage disappears. Self published authors can now, for the first time, go it alone and keep most of the profits in their own pockets.

Do-it-yourself marketing for speakers

It’s entirely possible to take care of your marketing without any help. You just have to invest the time and effort to do it right.

The calculation you need to make is how much is your time and effort worth?

If you get paid between $5000 and $20000 a day for an engagement, then you have to consider the cost of each day you personally spend doing your own marketing in those terms.

If you are new to speaking or make considerably less on your average engagement, then there are things you can do to market yourself more effectively without having to spend a lot of money.

Let’s start with the basics. If you don’t have a site, you’ll need one. You can save yourself a lot of time and money, if you arrange for your own hosting and domain name. The good news is that you don’t have to be a tech-head to do this yourself. A quick search for cheap hosting will bring up thousands of choices. To save you a bit of time, I’m going recommend Siteground.com because that’s the one I use. And I think they do a fine job.

But feel free to do some research for yourself. Like I said there are literally thousands of hosting companies out there to choose from. And just before you make your decision do one more piece of research. Type “domaincompany.com sucks” into Google and see what complaints show up.

One of the biggest mistakes folks make is building a static site that is virtually impossible to scale upwards. If your goal to be successful, then a little planning now could save you thousands of dollars in the future.

For this reason alone, I recommend using a Wordpress.

It comes with thousands of free and paid extensions to make it very easy to integrate the latest and greatest tools from around the internet.
www.wordpress.org

Many hosts use something called a cPanel that let’s you install WordPress with just a few clicks.

It comes with an few out of the box templates to choose from, but you can also find free templates online or hire a programmer to custom build something for you. My experience tells me that you should look through the free templates first and then hire a programmer to customize it for you.

I’m actually using an out-of-the-box solution on this site.

If you don’t like any of the free ones, you can find hundreds of Wordpress designers on Upwork.com

The next step is to define your marketing position from the viewpoint of a visitor. Too many speakers believe people care who they are. Assume that each visitor to your site is someone who doesn’t know you, but has found you through some research or a referral.

What is it you’re offering them? That’s the reason they are there and that’s the only reason they are going to hire you.

If you have a site that is all about how awesome you are, nobody will care.

Offer real solutions to real problems and you won’t have to look very hard for clients.

The good news for speakers when it comes to web marketing is most of your competitors’ sites are terrible. They might look shinny, sharp and cutting edge, but if you peak under the hood, they aren’t search engine friendly.

If your name is Johnny Speaksalot and your site comes up number one, when someone searches for you specifically, great. But it’s far more important to reach those who are looking for a keyword or phrase that relates to what you do. Johnny would be much better served if the content on his site attracted folks typing “conference speaker for widget convention.”

There are a number of ways to do this, but for this article I’ll give you two quick ways to bring in more qualified leads through search use the words you want to be found for into the actual content of your pages and have a proper site map so that Google and other search engines can easily find and index your content.

One of the first things I do when I visit a potential client’s site is look for a sitemap ie www.example.com /sitemap.xml . If it isn’t there I know there is work I can do to help them.

Site maps are so valuable and yet I’m constantly surprised by how many folks don’t have one. If you are one of those folks, here is a great free tool to generate one within a few minutes:

http://www.xml-sitemaps.com/

Once you’ve done this upload the site maps to your site and submit them to the Google, Bing, Yahoo.

Here are the links:

http://www.google.com/webmasters/sitemaps/ping?sitemap=http://www.website.com/sitemap.xml
http://search.yahooapis.com/SiteExplorerService/V1/updateNotification?appid=YahooDemo&url=http://www.website.com/sitemap.xml
http://submissions.ask.com/ping?sitemap=http://www.website.com/sitemap.xml
http://www.bing.com/webmaster/ping.aspx?siteMap=http://www.website.com/sitmap.xml

Web marketing isn’t rocket science, but it does take a bit of time and effort. Do it yourself or hire someone else. But don’t underestimate the power of the web to help you find clients from around the world.

Other things to promote your self online

Invest in a bit of SEO (Search Engine Optimization). How much is your time worth? Should you really be the one looking for keywords and trying to figure out how to get a better placement on Google? Use Scriptlance for this.??Install Analytics on your site. Find out how many folks are actually coming and set a realistic goal for improvement. www.google.com/analytics??If you have videos, create a custom YouTube Channel. How many folks come to your site compared to YouTube? Build the channel bring your content to a whole new audience. Then use a module to bring those YouTube videos to your site.??Link all your social media together. Whenever you send out a newsletter, publish a blog post or update your status – let it show up everywhere automatically. Create a podcast and update it once a month. You’re a speaker. Speak.

http://www.apple.com/itunes/podcasts/creatorfaq.html. Try a webcast. This is a great way to engage your existing clients and even get some referals. The secret is simple. 1 hour consisting of 50 great content peppered with 10 minutes of subtle pitching.

Gotowebinar.com let’s you do this for $99 for up to 1000 attendees. Imagine the impact of reaching that many potential clients without even leaving your room. Look into POD (print on demand) services that will get your books onto Amazon sites across the world. Lightningsource.com is a great resource to get your book distributed around the world! Turn your books into ebooks through Smashwords.com. They now provide content for Apple’s Ipad, the Amazon Kindle, Sony e-reader and Barnes and Noble Nook.

You can do it yourself. So the decision is yours. Do you have the time and the inclination to do this or would you rather hire a web marketing expert to take care of it for you?

If you are looking for the latter, then please contact us and we can make this the most profitable year in your speaking career.

Quick tips to improve your marketing

Back in December, I was an exhibitor at the CAPS Conference  in Montreal and as part of my follow-up, and as a thank you to everyone who attended, I’ve been reviewing sites and passing along recommendations to help folks improve their online marketing efforts in 2011.

I’ve noticed a lot of speaker sites need exactly the same things and so I’m putting this out there to help everyone in the group kick-start their marketing in 2011.

The first thing I’ll tell you is that I’m not recommending anything you can’t do yourself. I’m even including links to help you access the tools I’m talking about.

Obviously. I’m hoping you’re far too busy and you’ll hire me to do the work. But if not, at least you’ll have a pretty extensive to-do list .

The first thing I noticed is folks aren’t maximizing all the free Facebook integration tools.

There are 500 million folks on Facebook and it is one of your best opportunities to find more clients.

To do this you can:

  • add a Facebook “Like” button to every page on your site. This allows folks to share your site with their friends.
  • create a Facebook Fan Page that integrates your Linkedin profile, Twitter feed, blog and e-newsletter feeds, and display that fan page box on your homepage.
  • replace the default comments on your WordPress blog with Facebook Comments. This will eliminate spam and comments will appear in visitor’s status, so all their friends will see a link back to you site.

If you’re currently you’re using a profile instead of a Fan Page –  it’s a mistake I’m seeing over and over again as I do these reviews. There is a key distinction. With a profile page, you never know who is going to see your updates, but with a Fan Page everyone gets a notification.

Here is a link to grab the Facebook code:

http://developers.facebook.com/

Your books and audios

I recommend setting up an account with LightningSource.com and moving them to Print on Demand. Lightning Source is owned by Ingram, so your books will be available around the world through their catalogue as well as Amazon.com – USA, Canada, UK, EU.

Why POD? Very simple. If you are taking care of fulfilment yourself, Amazon is probably only taking 5 or 10 copies at a time. This means your books are probably showing as “Usually ships with 3-4 weeks.” With Lightning Source your books are always “Ships within 24hrs.” And that’s in Canada, US, UK and EU!

PDF e-books are great – or at least they were 3 years ago. Have you thought about offering your books as e-books for the iPad, Kindle and other readers? All you need to do is set up an account at Smashwords.com. Did I mention it’s a free service? In addition to being able to sell your books on your own site, your ebooks will also be available on the iTunes store, Barnes and Noble and Amazon.

As for your audios, if you sell cds, why not create downloadable MP3 versions? Are you selling them on iTunes? Why not??

Videos/podcasting

As a speaker, you probably have boxes of videos you aren’t using. Why not chop them up and create a custom YouTube channel? Or use them for a Podcast distributed through iTunes. All you need is an xml file and some content!

Quick onsite changes:

Have a look at this tool and see what keywords you should be using in your copy to get more visits: https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal

Set up a Google Webmaster (www.google.com/webmasters)  account and submit your xml site map. –

There’s obviously loads more, but if you just get the Facebook stuff done, you should see some real benefits.

Send me a note if you want a more personalized free consultation.

Some completely attainable goals for 2011

Whether you do it yourself or hire someone else, here are ten completely attainable marketing goals for 2011 that will help you take your business to the next level.

  • Take a look at your site from the viewpoint of a visitor. What is it you’re offering them? That’s the reason they are there and that’s the only reason they will hire you.
  • Invest in a bit of SEO (Search Engine Optimization). How much is your time worth? Should you really be the one looking for keywords and trying to figure out how to get a better placement on Google?
  • Install Analytics on your site. Find out how many folks are actually coming and set a realistic goal for improvement.
  • If you have videos, create a custom YouTube Channel. How many folks come to your site compared to YouTube? Build the channel bring your content to a whole new audience.
  • Link all your social media together. Whenever you send out a newsletter, publish a blog post or update your status – let it show up everywhere automatically.
  • Create a podcast and update it once a month. You’re a speaker. Speak.
  • Try a webcast.
  • Look into POD (print on demand) services that will get your books onto Amazon sites across the world.
  • Turn your books into ebooks through Smashwords.com. They now provide content for the Amazon Kindle, Sony e-reader and Barnes and Noble Nook.

These are all perfectly reasonable goals to get you charged up for success in the new year.

As I said, you can do all this yourself. But it makes much more sense to have a professional do the job. Click here and see what I can do for you.

So you want to publish a book: publicity and marketing

This series was originally posted in 2008

Publicity and marketing is harder to speak about at this stage. We spent the better part of September looking at different firms to see what each had to offer.

As Jim has said to me many times, a lot of these places like to have release parties that do more for the author’s ego than for actual book sales – because attendees are more likely to be friends and family rather than actual media contacts. So in that respect, for an author on a small budget, it’s better to direct your funds toward activities that are most likely to land you in the press and generate some sales.

For Moose we decided to go with Meisner Publicity in Toronto. Headed by Susan Meisner, they seem to have no end of connections and come to the table with plenty of good ideas to get press.

This is the one area where I think if you absolutely have to cut expenses you can. But don’t delude yourself. You’ll need to be a shameless advocate of your book 24/7 if you want to succeed. You’ll have to buy some books on writing great news releases and be fearless and creative when it comes to targeting media. If you have any hesitation about going it alone – get a publicist.

For my own part, I built a little site that’s still in beta called A Writer’s Market. I like to think of it as a farmer’s market for authors. Have a quick look and see how it’s coming along. If you know an author, then send a link. I really need some folks to help test it.

I hope you found this little series useful. If you have any questions, send them along and I’ll be happy to answer them as best I can.

So you want to publish a book: audiobooks and ebooks

This series was originally posted in 2008

As I’ve stated in previous posts, the most inexpensive way to sell a book is electronically. There are no shipping costs to consider and no ongoing production costs to factor in once the audio or ebook version is ready to go.

The ebook version is the easiest to sell online. As part of our arrangement with Heidy Lawrence, when the book was ready for the printer we received a PDF of the ebook, ready for our online store. That was included on in the initial estimate.

There are also online distributors that deal exclusively with both audiobooks and e-books – such as audible.com and Overdrive.com.

In the future, I’ll talk in more detail about the benefits of ebooks and distribution methods to help you expand your market across the world.

The audiobook is a bit of a challenge. It usually involves hiring a professional voice actor and booking some studio time. It may be tempting to save money and do it yourself at home – but don’t waste your time. Your audiobook is likely to turn out like one those reno shows, where the amateur decides to do all the work themselves, blowing timelines, budgets and ending up with a substandard job.

Invest a little here and you’ll have it over and done with in a week. For Moose we used Clare Burt Studio in Toronto and hired Barrie Bailey to do the reading. Here is a short clip from the studio of Barrie reading from Chapter one.

So you want to publish a book: distribution and website

This series was originally posted in 2008

It’s never too early to think about how you’re going to reach your audience. Don’t think for a second: “If I write it, they will read.”

Getting your book into stores isn’t easy. The big guys in the publishing industry have whole teams working the big chains constantly to get their product placed prominently in stores. As a self-publisher you’ll have to do a lot of leg work to get your book on the shelf. And even then you’ll probably find that your book will be lost in the tide of a an literary ocean as the big box stores have millions of other titles.

Additionally, you may find yourself faced with huge orders only to have those same books returned to you three months later, dog-eared and unsuitable for resale.

As luck would have it, in addition to being a fantastic editor, Don Bastian also runs a small imprint and we were able to negotiate a fair deal for distribution in Canada. Where he takes on the leg work of retail promotion and distribution.

But if you don’t have a distributor for your book, you can still send out copies to reviewers, library magazines and direct folks to a web site.

Website
The model for distributing books has been the same for hundreds of years. Authors write a book, sell that book to a publisher, who then gets that book into bookstores.

This really made a lot of publishers and bookstores very rich. But for a small author trying to break into the racket, you may find that you’re just not worth the effort for these guys. But the internet has chnaged things. It’s easy to get your book into the online booksellers. But the real way for a small author to achieve the maximum return on investment is to build a web site with an ecommerce component and sell the book online.

With Moose, I hired a fellow from Pakistan to do the work. The result is mooseonthetable.com.

If you visit the site, you’ll notice we’re selling the book through our site as e-book and audiobook. Both these methods are great opportunities to reach an audience online and save money on production at the save time.

The website is a great way to provide information about your book and you can make it as interactive as you want. Websites are also great because you’re not just releasing your book to a domestic audience. You have the potential to sell to anywhere in the world. Think about it. A person in Toronto can download an ebook or audiobook as easily as someone in New York, London or Dublin! How’s that for a distribution channel?

So you want to publish a book: professional editing and illustrations

This series was originally posted in 2008


The editor is the most important member of the team you pull together. Don’t cheap out. There is nothing more cringeworthy than a poorly edited book. Don Bastian has decades of experience as an editor and was the Managing Editor at Stoddart books at one time.

Beyond looking simply for grammatical and spelling issues, the editor looks at the project from a readers perspective. Because of Don’s experience he was able to provide insights that made the narrative structure of the book better. And even then – we were still catching little things in the hours before the book went to the printer!

The illustrations are something that may sound easy. In Moose, illustrations are found at the beginning of each chapter and the cover. Great illustrations can help propel a story and set the tone for the book. Before we went with Bill Kimber, we looked at five other illustrators. Of those five, Bill came the closest to the “whimsy” we were looking for.

But even though he was close – it took some back and fourth before we got to where we were comfortable with what we had. Another thing to consider about the illustrator and the illustrations is how you plan to use them. In moose, the cover illustration is in colour and the chapter illustrations are in black and white. However, we had Bill create colour versions of everything, so we could also use these illustrations on the web site and on the materials Jim uses for his keynotes and workshops.

So you want to publish a book: self publishing & project management

This series was originally posted in 2008

To self-publish or go with a one of the big guys
One of the first questions I was asked (after how long does a book have to be?) by more than one person was how do you get a book deal? Well, if I’ve learned anything from the last five months, it’s that you don’t need a book deal to get a book published. And frankly, there’s not much hope for an unknown writer sending in an unsolicited manuscript to a large publisher anyway, so it’s really up to you.

For the purposes of this blog series, I’m going to assume that you’re going to self-publish your opus. The risks are great, but the potential reward is greater. Why? You front the money- risk. You keep all the profit – reward.

And for the second question, Moose on the Table was about 52000 words or 120 single spaced pages on MS WORD that came out to a 176 page softcover.

Project management
So you know you’re going to go forward and get the book out there. How do you arrange typesetting, printing, find editors, illustrators, and distribution? A good project manager should be able to help you with all of this and pull together a budget based on what you need. You may be surprised to learn that typesetting and printing costs – while substantial are actually a very small percentage of your overall budget.

With Moose on the Table – we went with Heidy Lawrence and Associates. You can find out more about her operation at www.wemakebooks.ca.

Heidy sourced out 6 different printers to get the best unit cost. She also took care of the typsetting, cover design, and look and feel of the book, from a font and layout perspective. Most importantly, she was able to provide us with a short ist of highly experienced editors and illustrators.

In the end, we went with Donald Bastian as the editor and William Kimber as our illustrator.