Hank Jordan's Blog
Writing / Publishing / Business Consulting

Polish It & Publish It

November 7th, 2010 by Hank

This is a reprint of a speech delivered by Hank Jordan Nov. 7, 2010 at the National Authors Day event in Oceanside CA:

Since there are hundreds of ads and articles on the internet about publishing and marketing non-fiction books. I am going to talk about novels — more specifically selling novels.

Gone are the days when the book stores would automatically order some of your books and display them so people can go in and browse around, and buy them. Thousands of books are being published while we sit here today. Your book is one of millions on the market. The competition for attention in today’s world of information is enormous. Your chance as a first time author, or as a second or third time author, of miraculously rising to the top of the best seller lists is minute. Wow!

But don’t give up hope. There is a whole new universe developing for publishing and selling books, and we are going to talk about how to sell your books in this new world — the world of social media and print on demand.

First of all, you want to create a book that people will want to own.

When a book is in a library, people will borrow it. They will want to read it, absorb it and like it, but really – you are going to sell very few books to libraries. Most of your book sales will be to individuals for one reason or another, and they will be sold by various distributors, resellers, sold over the internet. You name it.

There are two major categories of marketing your book — No. 1 preparing the book for sale and No. 2 making the sale happen.

In the category of preparing your book for sale, lets talk about what, within the book itself, makes people enjoy it, makes publishers want to publish it, and makes people happy when they read it. Unless the reader is satisfied with what he or she is reading, you don’t really have a book yet. You don’t have something people will recommend to each other. Personal recommendation, you know, is the key to big sales.

Just putting your own thoughts on paper for the pleasure of saying, “Look I wrote that. Gee, this is my book.” — that won’t sell. It’s got to be something people want to read.

We’ll get back to making your book ready for sale in a few moments, but first lets examine the channels that exist today for marketing your book, and what you must do, as the author, to be sure your book gets a lot of exposure and sells.

If you choose to try for an agent to pitch your book to a major traditional publisher, forget it unless you are a celebrity or an already famous author. We are in the new world of publishing that goes by various names — independent publishing, online publishing, print on demand, vanity publishing, do-it-yourself publishing and E-book publishing.

I believe the key to your success is in publishing two ways. Get your book printed and distributed by an independent print-on-demand company.  There are dozens of good reputable ones these days. In addition, get your book published as an E-book.

E-books are really catching on. How many of you own or have tried a Kindle, or a Nook, or any kind of E-book reader? Raise your hands. The experts tell us the number of people reading E-books is growing rapidly. Although the total percentage of books sold and read as E-books instead of printed books was only about ten percent of the books sold a year or so ago, the popularity and percentage numbers are rising so rapidly right now that it is impossible to know just what the actual readership figures are. Most of the people who own an E-book reader are reading about two dozen books a year. That’s much more frequent than for printed books. Most publishing experts predict E-books will outsell printed books in less than a decade from now.

Most importantly, it’s the ownership figures, not the readership figures that are important to you and me. Lots of printed books are sold, never read, and are residing peacefully on a book shelf somewhere. Essentially, all the E-books sold are read.

We all like that readership idea, but what we really want is to sell our books.

E-books, by the way, can be read on any computer as well as on the various models of hand held E-book readers. In other words, anyone with a computer can buy your book and download it instantly. Lots of people don’t realize this yet.

Why do you want to publish an E-book? Is it really a book? I’ve heard that E-books are a lot cheaper than printed books. Won’t I make more royalty money with printed books?

The happy fact is that you will make a lot more money on the sale of each E-book than you will on a printed book, either hard back or paperback. The royalty percentages are startlingly higher on the E-books. You can set your own price on your E-book, and decide whether to try to sell a lot of books at a lower price, or fewer books at a higher price.

Well, if the return is so much higher on E-books than on printed books, why should I bother to publish some printed books? The answer is simple. There are two types of people who read books. Some of them, mostly older folks, prefer to read a printed book rather than an electronic book, so they won’t buy your E-book. Other readers may buy and read your E-book on an E-book reader or computer, and then decide they want a printed copy as well — either to keep, or to give to a friend as a present.  One lady bought nine copies of my printed novel and gave them as Christmas presents to her friends and family.

Just how does the publishing process work in the case of E-books? The answer is it is extremely easy to publish an E-book, instantly. No waiting for galley proofs, editing schedules, print schedules, publishing schedules etc. You just send a properly formatted computer file, such as a Word document or a PDF document, via email to the E-book publisher. That’s all there is to it. And the price is right. It is possible to publish your E-book for free. The major independent publishers will convert your printed book into an E-book for a small fee, and make it available to all the major outlets such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Notice I said a properly formatted file. Each E-book publisher has different specifications for submission of a document file. They publish what they get from you, and if you send an improperly formatted file, your reader will see a messy, undesirable book on his or her screen. Its not rocket science to format correctly, but you must follow the rules. It makes a lot of sense to hire a professional to do the formatting in order assure maximum return to you.

Okay, you have now published a printed version and an E-book version of your book. What do you have to do to make it sell?

You have to get people to hear about your book. One of the best ways to get them to hear about your book is to publicize it through the social media – Facebook, Twitter, etc. And you need a website and a blog. If you post information about yourself, your personal interests, your motivation for writing a novel, and a lot of freebie excerpts from your book on your blog, you can attract attention and the people who follow the social media will spread the word for you. They call it viral marketing. The only cost involved is your time and energy.

Remember I said the first step in publishing your book is preparing your book to sell. This vital procedure includes deciding how the book will look, on the cover and inside. Yes, you need a cover design for both the printed book and the E-book. Most authors use the same exact cover design for both.

The cover may attract someone’s attention, but it is the content, inside the book, that makes it a dud or a good seller. Notice I said good seller, not best seller. We authors will be happy if we accept good seller rather than best seller. We will be delirious if it turns out to be a best seller.

When it comes to formatting, Don’t try to make a clever design take the place of meaningful writing. If you try to do the formatting yourself, follow the rule the professional designers use to make the book appealing and easy to read. It’s a simple formula:

KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid

What are some of the things that determine the readability and enjoyment of a novel?

Certainly, the most important requirement is to make the book easy to read and enjoy.

Just get across what you want to say. Readers of fiction want to see the words, feel what’s going on, and hear what’s happening as though it were actually happening on a stage in front of them. Their reaction will be based on what the author has chosen to show rather than tell. Pick your words to create images in your reader’s mind.

When you write your novel, pretend you are just talking to someone. You don’t want to write a textbook. Nobody wants to read a technical manual. People want to have the ability to let their minds flow, just like an ice skater glides smoothly over the ice. They want to imagine themselves present, on the scene in your story. Use active, transitive verbs and unique adjectives. Use short sentences. Paint a mental image.

One thing you want to avoid at all cost is interrupting the reader. If you are going along telling a story, and all of a sudden you put what could be considered as an aside or a parenthetical thought, in the middle, that stops his brain and makes him change railroad tracks and go a different direction. So let your reader ride right along, in smooth enjoyment.

It’s essential for you as an author to establish a strong Web presence. Register your domain name with all the major search engines, starting with Google. If possible, use your book’s title as your domain name. If you have multiple books, establish multiple web sites – one for each book with a reminder that you have other books for sale. You don’t have to be a dot com. Even if someone already has your title as a dot com, your website can be dot info or dot something else.

Link  to other websites and blogs by other authors as often as possible, and encourage them to link to yours. It’s this cross linking that thrills the search engines.

Posted in Book Publishing

One Response

  1. Barbara Deming

    Hank, it was a pleasure to see you again at Author’s Day and I very much appreciated your discussion. Contrary to what Karla Olson seemed to be saying, I feel E-books will take over the printed books. I hope to one day have a Kindle or a Nook, and to write E-books myself. I of readers/writers is really take these to a new level.

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