Tag Archives: self-publishing

Lengthening Shelf Life Part 1

Brian Feinblum, a book promoter and marketer, asked in the June 2017 issue of The Writer, “What can – or should – you do to market books that are aging in the eyes of bookstores, the media, and readers?”

Lately, I’ve been fretting about my struggle to promote and market Perceval’s Secret which I published as an e-book in March 2014. The novel’s fourth anniversary as a published book fast approaches.  I’d love to give it a boost to get it into the reading public’s consciousness to encourage them to buy and read it.

Feinblum, in his The Writer article “Shelf Life: How to promote an older book,” writes about how a book’s “window of newness” has been shrinking over the years. If it doesn’t make a big splash in the first three months it’s on the market, selling it after that could be a struggle. But fiction usually does not lose its relevance, accuracy or current status for a long time, while nonfiction could become dated faster depending on the subject matter. Fiction should be easier to promote after the magic three-month period, right?

Promotional Options for “Older” Books

It’s important to know what the possibilities for promotion for an older book are just like for a new book launch. Feinblum describes them as follows:

  • Let the book die and hope for a miracle that someone finds it, reads it, and sparks a word-of-mouth campaign that will boost sales. I call this the “wishful thinking” option. However, if a writer has constraints on time, it could be just as viable as fitting in promotional activities in a busy life.
  • Create and execute a social media strategy. This option demands the writer be on more than one social media platform, and that there is daily participation on those platforms to talk about the book. I’m assuming that a writer’s blog falls into this slot, along with online book bloggers who review books.
  • Target promotional efforts using traditional media, like print, radio, TV. Interviews on radio programs that cover books, book review sections of major newspapers and magazines, or doing interviews on morning news programs be they local or national are some of the possibilities here. Some of these activities could be done in conjunction with a book tour or locally. Having a publicist could be extremely helpful for this category; otherwise, the writer will be doing all the press releases, making the calls and connections, and setting up the engagements.
  • Travel for the book, i.e. do a speaking tour, paid or unpaid. Book tours require careful planning, utilizing connections in book stores and libraries, and getting the word out about a writer’s visit via press release. It’s helpful if the writer can also help with promoting locally his or her appearance in the bookstore’s location by doing interviews or helping with advertising the event.
  • Advertise the book. Print advertising, for example, in publications that the novel’s target audience reads. I continue to consider running ads in Playbill for Perceval’s Secret. This option has a huge drawback: it can be quite expensive not only for buying the media space, but also for producing the ads. Writers can also utilize social media for advertising, working with the platform to create the ads. When I launched Perceval’s Secret, I did a postcard mailing to the musicians of eleven major American orchestras, and would consider another one.
  • Cross-promote with other authors. This is especially helpful if you know a writer who is fairly well known and has a readership, and who writes in the same genre and related genre as you. The better known writer can spark initial interest and give the lesser known writer a bit of a boost. I’ve heard of this most commonly done for book tours when two or more authors hit the road to do readings and book signings together.
  • Have a giveaway. Everyone loves free stuff. Do a free giveaway for a couple weeks and promote that giveaway at GoodReads, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media, as well as on your blog. Keep it a specific time period to generate urgency. If you have a hard copy version of your book, you can do a giveaway on GoodReads (this site is working on setting up procedures for e-book giveaways but don’t yet offer that option). If you have the money, BookBub also offers effective promotion possibilities.

Before deciding which promotional options will work for your book, it’s important to think about the factors listed below, and this is where I am at the moment with Perceval’s Secret. I’ve looked at all my options and have done some cost estimates – for example, to advertise on Facebook or promote the series’ Facebook page, to do a BookBub promotion – then made a list of where I can heighten my presence to talk about the novel, for example, creating a series of short videos to post at my Amazon author page, on BookBub, at GoodReads, and at my page on Publishers Marketplace. These videos, as I envision them, would be a mix of reading a short excerpt from Perceval’s Secret and just talking about my experience writing the book or why I think someone should read it.

The Factors to Think About

  • What are your needs and desires for promoting the book?
  • How much time and what resources (money) do you have available?
  • How strong is your belief that your book is worth more promotion?
  • Would your time be better served by letting promotion go of this book and focus on writing new books?
  • Have you figured out why your book didn’t sell as well as hoped during launch or why it failed to generate more reviews?

Answers to these questions could steer you in one of two directions. The first is simply to proceed with the new promotional efforts.  The second could be to revise and repackage the book and do a re-launch. This second direction offers the opportunity to make improvements if you decide they are needed or to add promotional items like testimonials from readers, quotes from reviews, or getting blurbs or a writer to actually write an introduction. I know that I want to eventually issue a paperback of Perceval’s Secret once I’ve paid off completely the debt I incurred for the e-book. This might serve as my repackage of the novel with a specific paperback launch. But for now, I’m concerned about promoting the e-book edition.

Next week in Part 2, how my strategy does or doesn’t fit with what Feinblum wrote in his article in the June 2017 The Writer.

Have you ever been faced with promoting an older book? What did you do?  

Ready? Set? Go!

Writing a Blog: Is it a Publication Credit?

During my recent intense search for a permanent fulltime job, I kept forgetting to mention that I’m also published online.  Every week, at least once a week, I write a 500-700 word essay here about writing, my writing projects, or classical music subjects.  That is the same as if I were writing a column for a newspaper or newsmagazine.  And yet, oddly, I don’t think of it as publication

The internet and progress in digitization is forcing a re-definition of many things, a re-assessment of legitimacy in some instances.  For my purposes here, I will stick to things literary.  Traditional publishing has been rocked a couple of times in the last one hundred years.  It began the 20th century with hardcover books and only hardcover books, some even leather-covered.  Then came paperback books.  They broadened publishing possibilities and added a couple points to the profit margin.  I don’t know when recorded books first came into existence, specifically for the blind.  No one considered at that time that sighted people might enjoy them too — until the 1980’s, and then they took off.  I have a good friend who loves audio books, and listens to them on her work commute and long road trips.  At the end of the century, the internet opened up a whole new world with seemingly endless possibilities.  Traditional publishing was not terribly pleased.  In fact, if I remember correctly all the articles that appeared in Publishers Weekly during the 1990’s, publishing houses were terrified of losing their business and terrified of not thinking of a way to take advantage of the internet themselves. 

We are now in the midst of a huge change in publishing.  Websites are considered publications of those who created them, and it can be expensive to have one created for you.  There is an entire segment of the workforce dedicated to them.  In addition, authors have posted their writing online, giving it away for free or asking for payment through Paypal.  Is that a publication credit?  E-books, while still a small percentage of the total books published each year, have finished the hurdles race to be accepted as real publication, especially with traditional publishers on board with e-publishing divisions.  Some believe e-publishing will eventually make traditional paper-and-board publishing obsolete while others believe it will be like audio publishing, i.e. just one more content platform for sale.

My publication credits currently include essays published in magazines, a journal, and a hardcover anthology.  Why can’t this blog join them?  Or must I compile an anthology of my posts to be published in e-book or traditional book form before I can claim a publication credit?  If to publish means to disseminate or to put before the public or issue the work of a writer, then the form, i.e. hardcover book, CD, or digital file, doesn’t really matter.  However, if it means to issue the work of a writer only in specific forms accepted as publication by the industry and the general public, then the form does matter.  And who determines that?

Literary agents and publishers currently tend to dismiss POD and self-publishing as not really publishing.  I think they’re justified in that belief to a certain extent.  However, I don’t believe they completely ignore books that have been self-published.  In fact, John Grisham’s first book was self-published.  I think it depends on the quality of the product, as in all business.  And in self-publication, writers need to understand that quality counts, and it costs.

So where does this leave blogs?  I think I need to work harder at including this blog in my publication credits.  If I treat it as a publication, then it is a publication……


No, it’s not Invasion of the Body Snatchers!  POD stands for “print on demand.”  It is e-publishing without the “e” and on paper.  POD has been around longer than e-publishing also and was a trigger for e-publishing.  With POD, the publisher has your manuscript in digital form.  Instead of the publisher sending off a printer-ready galley to a printer that then prints a minimum of 2000 copies on paper to bind and ship to bookstores, the POD publisher takes orders for the book, prints out from the digital file and binds the number of books for the order and ships them to the person who ordered them.  The book never goes out of print.  There are no returns or remainders.  Sounds great, huh?  Maybe too good to be true….? 

How does POD differ from e-publishing?  They both utilize digitization.  POD produces regular books on paper, but e-publishing produces books to download onto your computer or e-reader, no paper involved.  POD, however, is done by POD companies that are essentially printers.   E-publishing is done by publishers, Amazon.com and most recently, B&N.com. (I think B&N has gotten into e-publishing).  All this sounds like more money in a writer’s pockets, right?  Not necessarily.  If a writer decides to go the POD route and essentially self-publish, he or she will be paying the POD company initially, as with any self-publishing project.  The difference between old style self-publishing and POD is that the POD company will handle orders and take a cut of the sale price to pay for printing the book, whereas with old style, the printer prints 2000 copies (or whatever the printer’s minimum run is) of the book and ships them to the author to sell.  And, while at least one POD company I’ve researched offers writers “additional services” for additional fees including help with design and layout, cover art, and copy editing, most do not.  So, the writer essentially needs to find, at the minimum, an editor, copy editor, book designer, and cover designer (if the book designer won’t do this) and pay them for their work.  The outlay could be substantial, depending on the needs of the manuscript. 

In comparison, a regular publisher provides an editor, copy editor (although this could be debated), book and cover designers, publicity, printing and distribution, and pays the writer.  My impression today about editorial by publishers leans toward the belief that editors don’t edit like they used to, and it’s really in a writer’s best interests to hire a professional freelance editor (preferably one that’s worked at a publisher or been editing for a long time) even before shopping it to literary agents and publishers.  Some literary agents will recommend an editor that they work with on a regular basis (be careful about this, however.  If the agent hasn’t agreed to represent you before sending you off to a freelance editor, there’s no guarantee the agent will take you on after you’ve paid the editor who could be in cahoots with the agent and kick back a percentage of the editorial fee to him or her.).   I prefer to work with editors that are local and have been recommended to me by either The Loft or another writer I trust.

So, what’s a POD book like?  I’ve been very curious to see for myself the finished product and have bought a couple POD books, one nonfiction and one fiction.  Both are paperbacks, which seems to be standard for POD.  When the nonfiction book arrived, I was dismayed to see on the front cover that the author’s name hadn’t printed out completely, leaving blanks between letters.  This is unacceptable.  I have yet to read the nonfiction book.

The fiction book’s cover was fine and suitably intriguing.  Nice design.  Inside, the front pages were well done and the layout of the body of the book looked just fine.  The font is easy to read.  So far, so good.  I started reading and on the first page found typos, grammar issues, run-on sentences and inconsistencies in the content.  Uh-oh.  I continued to read, only to encounter much the same issues in subsequent pages.  This book badly needed a really good editor and then a really good copy editor. 

I know that when I’m writing a story or novel, I am too close to the material to serve as an editor of my own work.  Which is not to say that I don’t edit because I do.  I line edit with as much ruthlessness as I can muster.  With Perceval, after the line edit, I hired a professional freelance editor to read it and provide feedback as well as suggestions to make it better.   It was money well spent.  The editor asked me questions that helped me to see holes in the story or places that needed to be cut or a character that needed more fleshing out.  She pointed out grammar issues, although by the time she read the manuscript, there weren’t many. 

Would I ever go the POD route?  I’ve seriously thought about it, researched several POD companies.  It’s one way for a writer to maintain complete control over the production process, and also sales and distribution, marketing, and publicity that needs to be done also by the writer.  I decided that this was not what I wanted, really.  And I cringe inside to think of all the people out there who may have written what they believe is a great book, take it to a POD company, and have it printed without paying attention to the design and editing part of book production…..