Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Giving Away 3,000 Copies of a Book, Part 1

Welcome back!

This season has been busier than I expected. What happened to the lazy days of summer? You may not have all day to spend, here in the coffee shop, but I hope you stay long enough to read about my unexpected marketing plan.
  • Marketing a book can be expensive.
  • An emerging author who personally publishes a book has a high barrier to getting out the word.
That sums up everything I knew about marketing when I published Changing Me, Change the World with WestBow Press, last December. Granted, part of the publishing package I purchased contained marketing elements, but the marketing elements were the most basic ones. I received worldwide channel distribution, book representatives working to sell to Christian book buyers, and an ad in their catalog. Because I was one of WestBow Press' first five customers, Changing Me, Change the World was available on Amazon.com in January, but the book was publicized only in WestBow Press' on-line bookstore until their spring catalog was issued. (I won't see any results from that publicity for at least another month.)

When I wrote a proposal for my book in the querying stage, I identified actions that I would take to market Changing Me, Change the World if I could find a publisher:
  • Schedule book signings at the bookstores in the area
  • Read book selections in public libraries
  • Seek opportunities to speak in other churches
  • Solicit interviews with the local newspaper's religious editor and/or books editor
  • Exhibit and sell books at the state book festival
  • Solicit an interview on the local Christian radio station

I intended to use this list as a basic marketing plan when I personally published the book. Then, I sprained my knee – twice in two weeks – and that delayed all my plans. It also gave God time to get my attention.

Through a series of circumstances (as in God providing the money and the opportunity), I was able to purchase 3,000 copies of Changing Me, Change the World. (WestBow Press does not require an author to purchase books, but they give an author the opportunity to buy copies of the book at a graduated discount. The way discount pricing for an author is structured, I had just enough money to buy 3,000 copies, but not fewer.)

So here I sat - an emerging author with no platform, a sprained knee, and 3,000 books.

Before I purchased the books, I knew that I bought them to give away, even though conventional wisdom says that giving away my book would devalue it. (One of my foundational beliefs is that I can't out-give God.) If God wanted me to bless people by giving them copies of Changing Me, Change the World, then giving away 3,000 copies would not devalue the book. Instead it would be the perfect way to promote my book and send out the message He gave me.

My biggest problem is that I don't know 3,000 people! In spite of that, I've given away 2,171 copies of the book in fifteen weeks. Next time, I'll share some of the things I've done to reach that point.

While you're waiting, if you want to help me reach my goal of giving away 3,000 copies, you can ask for one or more copies. Just send me an email (lynndaell [at] live [dot] com), with "Coffee House" in the subject line and your name and mailing address in the body of the message.

And as always, keep writing.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The World of Personal Publishing, Part 2

Welcome! I'm not surprised to see you here, today. Finding a cool spot to have an icy drink is the only way to ride out this heat wave.

I've asked Kristen Hackett from Offthebookshelf.com to join us, again. Last time, she described the concept and the purpose behind their new business. Today, I've asked her to explain how Offthebookshelf.com makes the connection between the authors who participate in their site and the readers. This is an important part of the picture for writers who want to find an audience for their work. Kristen, you have our attention.

"We developed a two-tiered marketing approach. Since Offthebookshelf.com is a relatively new business, we needed to inform authors of the opportunity to open their own virtual bookstores. Using social media, events and paid advertising with Publisher's Weekly and Writer's Digest, we began building our author base. In the few months that Offthebookshelf.com has been available, over 900 authors have signed up.

The highlight of this marketing program was the Great American Author competition, which just ended. Three winning authors will be announced on Offthebookshelf.com in August. These winners will have their books featured in our first television commercial. The television commercial will officially launch our marketing program to attract the readers to Offthebookshelf.com. We are also switching much of our social media efforts over to attracting readers now that the contest is over. Offthebookshelf.com is becoming the new hot marketplace for writers and readers."


Thank you, Kristen.

Not too long ago, writers had only two options for getting their work published: being accepted by a traditional publishing company or using what has always been called a vanity press. Both options resulted in ink-and-paper books. The synergy of readily available computers, the internet, and publishing visionaries has changed that picture so much that it is hardly recognizable. Jeff Kagan expressed his frustration with the new environment in a comment to a Wall Street Journal article: "…As a successful businessman who is writing a book I find myself swimming in a sea of new ideas, competing claims and confusing choices as I try to understand this changing marketplace. This new world creates unlimited new opportunities, but for authors trying to decide which way to go it can be maddening. jeffKAGAN.com"

The article on which Mr. Kagan commented is entitled 'Vanity' Press Goes Digital. I highly recommend that you read it - carefully. It offers a number of "expert" opinions on the way the whole industry will shake out – some of them contradictory.

The one idea on which all the experts appear to agree is that traditional publishing companies have lost control of the industry. A writer has much more control over their work with this new paradigm, but with control comes the need for business savvy. As Mr. Kagan explained, even a successful executive may have difficulty in finding his way. This is a time for all of us to continue learning as much as we can about the business of publishing while we keep on polishing our writing skills.

We'd love to hear about your recent activity with publishing your book. Please leave a comment.

In the meantime, keep writing.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The World of Personal Publishing, Part 1

Wow! Half of the year is gone all ready. What happened? Take a look at your writing goals for the year. Sherry, you may get extra inspiration from your copy of Publish Your Nonfiction Book. I drew your name to receive a free copy. (Please contact me at lynndaell[at]live[dot]com so that I can mail it to you.)
The rest of us can sit back with an icy beverage and dare to dream. According to Kristen Hackett, our guest writer for today, all you need is a Word.doc and a dream to publish your book.

OffTheBookshelf.com is a Personal Publishing site created for authors, BY authors.  The site launched earlier this year, but it has been in development for over a year as the founders saw a real need for a place for authors to gather, share stories, and publish their work.  We felt the future of publishing would be changing.  Had to change.  To benefit authors - the very people who create the stories people want to read.

OffTheBookshelf.com is not a vanity press, but a place for Personal Publishing, a place that creates a 360-degree experience in publishing, providing unique value to independent authors, published authors and their readers.

The site offers independent authors the opportunity to create eBooks, audio books and printed books.  And control each of those aspects.  The site offers the opportunity to connect with like-minded writers and readers.  And offers personal service via an array of options to help authors with all aspects of their book:  from forums to talk with other authors about ideas and issues, to logistical assistance with printing their books (including copyright filings, editors and proofreaders, an audio book creator, epub conversions, cover art creators and more) to marketing their books.  All in one location.  All so simple to use.  All to help writers fulfill their dream.

OffTheBookshelf.com also offers readers a connection to authors that becomes a personal experience.  We feed their sense of discovery with books they may never have found had it not been for OffTheBookshelf.com.

 We know there are other sites out there that are similar - but we feel our personal approach sets us apart, as does the fact that we are writers.  We have firsthand experience with what writers go through to publish their work.  We feel the ease of use of the site is key to writers (we are as easy to use as Facebook!).  And we are continuously looking for services that will help writers.  We just launched a FREE epub conversion software and an audio book creator.  Two more services that give writers what they need.

We are a group of people that love to write. We love to read. And we wanted to create a community where authors and readers could forge a more personal relationship, where authors didn't have to pay to publish, a place that READERS KNOW ABOUT, a place that could enhance the craft of writing in the digital age.

Please look at OffTheBookshelf.com and let us know what you think. We value all the feedback we get and strive to make the site better every day.


As Kristen's article states, the Internet gives writers multiple options for publishing their works. If you have used OffTheBookshelf.com, Lebrary.com or any independent publishing site, we welcome you to share your opinion about your experience.

In the meantime, keep writing.