Book Marketing

Book Promotion Ideas: Fun, Creative, and Proactive Ways to Promote Your Book

Penguin Parade

penguin parade, book promotion ideas Beginning this week, I will feature one buzz-worthy, motivating, not-too-intimidating idea for marketing and/or promoting your book. I find myself inspired by authors, booksellers, and fellow publishers daily, and I want to highlight their good ideas so that we can learn from, adapt, and build on them. Book promotion is in its most exciting phase (if you ask an optimist, which I am), with a plethora of new tools and outlets. While it’s easy to drown yourself in how-to-break-through-the-internet-din arguments, it is more productive (and enjoyable) to continue thinking, brainstorming, creating, and most important, doing.

While attending the Publishing Institute at the University of Denver, I learned a crucial lesson about book marketing: the more creative, the better, and even if it’s not immediately achievable, dream it until you perfect it. With each marketing plan we submitted, we had to include one knock-out idea, without second thoughts about budget or plausibility. We had free rein: penguin parades, scavenger hunts, hot air balloon tours, star charts, cocktail party book signings, and more. Once we started dreaming up ideas, we couldn’t stop, and eventually we would land on one that was just the right fit—the perfect balance between plausible and remarkable.

(I also learned that marketers almost universally love jazz music. This led me to believe that the best ideas are brewed over a syncopated sax).

This post from The Atlantic is a great starting piece. In the first section alone there are several killer ideas (online quizzes, product reviews, you name it). Check it out, and let me know what you think. Are these too gimmicky, or are they just unusual enough to work? Which idea is your favorite?

For more savvy book promotion ideas, check out my earlier post, How to Promote a Book Without a Killer Marketing Budget.

To hear from an Orange Frazer Press author with more creative ideas, check out our author insider with Susan Levine.

Comparing Apples to Apples: Four Tips for Choosing a Self-Publishing Company

916602_83133825 If you’ve been in the market for a book publishing service, you know that there are about a thousand different options, all offering varied templates, packages, offerings, and pricing structures.

It can be difficult to choose the right self-publishing company for you and your book when faced with a number of unequal factors. One package may break out all of the services and show the specific cost for each in an À la carte fashion, while others may bundle all of the services with the cost of production to give you a unit cost for each book that you’re producing.

It can make your head spin.

But there are general guidelines for comparing your various packages and quotes, and we’ve curated our own experiences with clients (and competitors) here to help you out.

1. Make sure you know exactly which services bundled packages include, so that you can accurately compare them to an À la carte list. We’ve had clients come in before with the list of services provided in a package from CreateSpace, Lulu, iUniverse, Xlibris, etc., and we can very quickly assure that all of these production services are included in our quote as well. Library of Congress, barcode, ISBN, “worldwide distribution” (read: Amazon listing), etc., are all standard services, but check with all of the potential companies to make absolutely certain that this is the case.

2. Calculate the unit cost of each book. Once you’ve determined comparable services, you’ll have to do some math to make a good decision. Determine how many books you are getting in each package, and break down how much you are paying per book. Then determine how many books you would have to sell (and at what price you could sell it) to break even (in each package).

3. Don’t let lofty marketing promises be a deciding factor. Some companies inflate marketing promises to lure authors. “Hollywood” packages are the worst offender. These packages will promise to send your manuscript to a special screenwriting consultant to determine whether or not your book could become a movie. The odds that this is a legitimate and reputable consultant are slim, and the odds that your manuscript will get a full and comprehensive review are slimmer. Only pay for what a company can actually give you, and that is a book.

4. Make sure your potential companies have a clean record and a solid reputation. There are a number of companies out there that continually find themselves in legal trouble for unconscionable practices, but unfortunately authors never seek out this information until they’ve experienced the worst. Look for reviews about the company online, see if they’re owned by a larger company, and if so, what the reputation of the parent company looks like. For example, Author Solutions owns a number of other companies, including Xlibris, iUniverse, and AuthorHouse, so while at first glance the lawsuit concerning Author Solutions may not seem relevant to you when you’re looking for feedback about Xlibris, you’ll discover once you follow the money that you’re actually looking at the same company. Be as informed as possible. To read more about common concerns with these companies, you can check out my post on the topic here.

Perhaps the hardest truth for an author in the publishing or self-publishing industry is that there is NO option that will allow him/her to avoid the hard work of marketing. In today’s industry, even authors picked up by traditional publishers do most (or all) of the marketing legwork, so unless you hire a PR company or a marketing guru, you shouldn’t expect a publishing company (traditional or self-publishing), to do this work for you. For more about the question of marketing in the self-publishing (or custom publishing) industry, you can read my post on the topic here.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to comparing packages, quotes, and even your own goals and budget. If you live in the Cincinnati area and would like to learn more, you can attend my session at the Power of Stories: Personal History and Self-Publishing Expo. I will be exploring this same topic in greater depth and will be answering any and all questions.

How to Promote a Book Without a Killer Marketing Budget

Or, Five Free Ways to Promote Your Book Right Now Independent book publishers have long found their niche in creative, bottom-up approaches to book publicity. Without the deep pockets of mega-conglomerates or the advantage of bestsellers to boost marketing budgets, indies have had to find innovative ways to connect with readers. Luckily, this makes independent publishers like Orange Frazer accessible partners to first-time and custom-published authors wondering how to promote a book. We understand and respect the budget limitations of our clients and help them find innovative ways to get their books to readers.

Here are our top five favorite methods for increasing book discoverability, connecting with readers, and increasing sales.

5. Special offers: In an Amazon-dominated world of steep discounts and free shipping, it can be difficult to add value to your offering and still profit on your book sales (and why shouldn’t you, you have spent an incredible amount of time and energy just to make it a reality!). Help direct readers to ideal retail outlets by adding value in any way you can. One of my favorite ideas, which I have seen authors do time and again, is offer signed copies of their book (sometimes even with a personal note) if it is purchased online or in-person through their favorite independent bookseller. Other authors will highlight independent booksellers and their publisher on their blog or website with clickable links to help direct readers to these retail outlets. Others will host an author event or talk at an independent bookseller, and consider the purchased copy of the book from that bookseller a “ticket” to attend. You are only limited by your own creativity on this one!

4. Smart social media: I preface this with “smart” only because the general din surrounding social media how-to articles offers generalized approaches that are rarely fine-tuned enough to be useful. Start with a good idea of your target audience: age, income, geography, reading preferences, hobbies. Be able to draw a picture of your ideal reader and understand the ideal reader’s needs, desires, and pastimes. Now that you know this reader, think about which social media platform he or she is most likely to flock to. Research Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, Pinterest, and others to learn more about their user demographics. Only tackle what is necessary. Consider what your strengths are, and only commit to social media platforms that you understand and enjoy. You will be ineffective on Twitter if you struggle to write anything in under one hundred and forty characters.

3. Email marketing: There is no excuse not to be using email to your advantage. Authors with effective email marketing campaigns will generate buzz for their books pre-release, promote events and book signings to their readers, encourage participation in giveaways and contests, drive traffic to their blogs and/or websites, and build a personable and open relationship with their readers and followers. Services like Mailchimp make it easy for first-time authors to build lists and create compelling emails—free of charge*.

*Mailchimp services are free as long as you stay below a certain number of subscribers, and then paid packages are tiered based on how many emails subscribers you have.

2. Giveaways: A well-coordinated giveaway can generate publicity, build your email marketing distribution lists, generate Facebook fans and Twitter followers, and build excitement for your release. People love the opportunity to win free books (which is why Goodreads giveaways often generate hundreds, and even thousands, of entries), and a creative and well-executed giveaway can be more than just a giveaway and a lost profit. Third party apps such as Shortstack and Woobox allow you to create fan-gated contests and sweepstakes through Facebook, allowing you to create a custom entry form that requires your giveaway participants to enter their name and email address and like your page before entering. Advertise this custom app with a Facebook ad to generate entries*, and you will build your fanbase and distribution lists while creating “buzz” for your book. Goodreads giveaways are also an excellent opportunity to build name recognition. While you are not able to fan-gate them or garner email addresses for your lists, you are able to put your giveaway in front of hundreds of thousands of active users.

*Facebook advertising does entail its own cost, so skip this step if your budget doesn’t allow it.

1. Author events: Author events are crucial in today’s fractured publicity world where online media is dominated by big ad money and smaller titles and first-time authors struggle to overcome the din of book discoverability online. Events give authors an opportunity to build on their expertise, share their passion, and connect with readers personally and emotionally. Events can be as creative as the author. Orange Frazer authors have had live falcons in attendance, stuffed buzzards, mini-quiches (for sharing and eating), and ten-foot snakes (for not sharing and not eating). They have held events in museums, bookstores, libraries, garden centers, elementary schools, and farmers markets. They have put on reenactments and book signings, illustrating workshops and rooftop parties. They have found one-of-a-kind ways to connect with potential readers, and they have sold books doing it. It should be the closest thing to a circus act you can imagine.

Of course, if you could somehow come upon a bookstore with a giant fishbowl, that would be ideal.

What are your favorite ways to promote your book and connect with readers?

Books are Progressive: Self-Publish a Book to Build Your Brand

These days the word “progressive” often connotes sleek tablets, mobile apps, tech start-ups, and the like. I bet you don’t hear book and progressive in the same sentence very often. But let me tell you why you should. Why your business should custom publish a book

self-publish a book, build your brand

Books are brand-builders:

Books breathe life into your brand. They suggest permanence, professionalism, authority, and expertise. The digital world can, at times, feel fleeting. Facebook posts travel the length of your newsfeed in a matter of hours; tweets have a window of opportunity lasting mere minutes; emails are read, responded to, and disposed of. We are entering an era where content is king, and the art of discoverability rests on a business’s ability to get the right content in front of the right people, again and again. Books are trusted, established content. A book communicates time and attention to detail while it reinforces a content message that sells not just you, but your brand, your history, and most important, your legacy.

Jennie Jones, an esteemed Cleveland photographer, has completed two book projects with us, and each is an excellent example of brand-building. Her photography is featured alongside Ian Adams’s in a photographic exploration of the Cleveland Botanical Garden— A Paradise in the City. She also did a book that exclusively showcased her own photography, called Cleveland Inside Outside. It is a gorgeous, full-color coffee-table book that she can hand to potential clients, long-time friends, and community organizations to show off her skill and diversity and to build her individual brand.

Because of her success with these books, the Cleveland Museum of Art has commissioned her to photograph its newly renovated museum to be showcased in its new book.

Books are profitable:

If you’re thinking about creating a book for your business, it is important to think about its intended audience and purpose. Is this a book to give to associates, employees, and loyal partners as a show of gratitude? Is this a book to give to all of your salaried employees as a Christmas gift? Or is this a book that leverages your unique expertise and history to sell your brand?

If it is the latter, you can think about return on investment, or ROI. Focus on profitable distribution channels—speaking events, conferences, festivals, independent booksellers, online retailers, your own bricks-and-mortar establishment—and make a plan that you feel would work best for you. Understand that you will have to sell the book all the way through, particularly if you want to sell in traditional book retail locations, so it may not be easy. But, if that is where you intend to be, have a plan ready. Orange Frazer Press assists interested custom publishing clients with warehousing and distribution, making this step in the process easier and more accessible.

Books can be profitable when they are specifically written and conceptualized to meet an audience’s need, and professionally edited, designed, and printed. A custom publisher like Orange Frazer can give you the edge on your self-published and big-house-published competition, creating a book that looks like it came from New York, but costs like it came from friendly Midwesterners.

Our cookbook project with Cameron Mitchell of Cameron Mitchell restaurants is a great example. It was titled, The Art of the Meal, and it displayed in beautiful, full-color format many of his beloved recipes. The book was only sold in his own stores, and still went into four printings. It had a specific audience and a precise purpose, and it sold beyond expectations.

Books are memorable:

A book can be a wonderful way to leave an impression on those within your organization or company. Books tell stories, affirm dreams, and celebrate accomplishments. One of our clients created a book that celebrated the history and legacy of Ronald McDonald House Charities titled Entering These Doors of Compassion. It was a full-color, intricately designed coffee-table book showcasing each and every Ronald McDonald House in the world, and it was given to each and every Ronald McDonald House in the world. It isn’t sold in stores or online, making it an exclusive, valuable, and memorable item that reminds each house why it is a home.

So, should my business self-publish a book?

We have a long history of working with individuals and businesses, and we have seen tremendous success with these projects. No book is a guarantee, no profit is written in stone, and no benefit—sentimental or otherwise—can be quantified to the decimal, but, with hard work, precision, focus, and determination, you can custom publish a book that will stand out in today’s content-driven world, and succeed.

Has your business self-published a book? We would love to hear about your experience! You can comment on this article, or visit our Google+ self-publishing custom publishing community page here.

You’ve self-published a book? Congratulations, you are now a small-business owner!

stock photo by christgr stock.xchng A Hybrid Publisher in a Hybrid Author World

As one who is constantly monitoring the worlds of traditional publishing and self-publishing (from here on out referred to as custom publishing, which is more indicative of Orange Frazer’s belief in full-service customization), I’ve had a harder and harder time being patient with articles comparing these various forms. Obviously, the comparison/contrast must be done; it’s helpful to potential authors and writers, and helps a changing publishing landscape define itself. But the manner in which it’s often done seems to help no one. Each article has its own bias, its own particular underlying argument. You’ll notice that the bylines are typically writers/publishers representing one house or another; they’ve already staked out their respective sides in the fight.

This is where Orange Frazer actually has a unique, and potentially helpful, perspective: we’ve done, and continue to do, both traditional and custom publishing. In a world where the hybrid author is getting increasing recognition (authors who have had books self-published and traditionally published, at different points in their careers), the hybrid publisher is often overlooked (potentially because there are very few of us). As a hybrid publisher, we are distinctly aware of the remarkable differences between the two publishing tracks, the benefits and drawbacks of each, and the very different authors, audiences, and markets each track serves.

I was reading an internet post from a regional writers group the other day that was answering a submitted question on self-publishing, and frankly, though the writer clearly knew his stuff (the dollars and cents of publishing, that is), the answer felt misframed. He begins his response by detailing everything a self-publishing service won’t do: market your book, publicize your book, visit bookstores to get them hooked on your book, print advance review copies and send them to thousands of retail outlets, etc. As the list grows, an uninformed reader is probably thinking, man, what DO they do then? But this is exactly the problem. Why would a custom-publishing company do any of these things in the first place? Comparing traditional publishing to a custom publishing service is like comparing apples to oranges. It only misrepresents the fundamental difference between these two publishing tracks by describing one as a stripped-down version of the other. When treated this way, self-publishing loses its essential, entrepreneurial spirit, and this is the spirit that makes self-publishing such an innovative alternative to traditional publishing.

Traditional Publishing vs. Custom Publishing: Apples vs. Oranges

Both forms of publishing can be understood as investments. In traditional publishing, the publisher invests in the author and her work. Because of this investment, it is in the best interest of the publishing house to work as hard as it possibly can to sell the book to retail outlets, pitch it to reviewers, buy publicity spots and advertisements, etc. Traditional publishers shoulder the burden of cost in production and publicity because they are making money from the book: once they invest in it, they have rights to it, meaning that when it sells, they profit. In custom publishing (or in self-publishing) the investment scenario is flipped: the author/writer/client is investing in the production of her book by paying the publishing service to produce the book (and/or design, edit, copyedit, etc.). The publishing house is not earning any money on this book when it sells; it is simply producing a product for a client, and allowing that client the freedom to sell it as she so chooses. In this sense, it doesn't make sense for the publisher to shoulder the burden of publicity. The publishing house is not earning any money from that publicity, nor is it investing in the outcome of the book; it is providing professional services to a client and allowing the client to keep all of the rights of sale. It is the client's responsibility to market and publicize this book, as it is her investment that will be recouped. In a very real sense, the author has become her own independent business.

Imagine if this were a coffee shop. Perhaps the owner of the coffee shop doesn’t have the time to grow, harvest, and roast all of her own coffee beans. She may not have the skillset to do so (or the climate!), and she may have decided that it's not profitable for her to stretch herself this thin. She should do what she is best at: making fantastic coffee and selling it to caffeine-loving customers. The company that takes care of the production of these coffee beans is providing her a service, working within its skillset with its specialized resources to give her the product she needs for her business. Should the coffee bean company market her coffee shop? Send samples of her coffee to connoisseurs and food reviewers across the country? Foot the bill for coffee machines and espresso machines and cappuccino machines? No, it wouldn't really make sense. It would be inappropriate for the production and growing company to assume ownership over her product when it hasn't invested in it. It's her coffee shop, after all, her time and love and investment.

Promoting Your Book: The Business of Books

The book business has always been confusing simply because it is both a business and an art. It is a romanticized business, rightfully so in many ways (I am a lifelong book lover, buyer, and critic), but it is also a business. When books are bought by publishing companies, it is often because the editor has fallen in love—with the story, the characters, the setting—but it is also because the editor knows that there is an audience for this book, that this book could sell well in its established market, and that other people will buy, love, and recommend the book. As romantic as we make the book business, it will always be a business. When it is done right, self-publishing is no different. It is this balance of love and logic, heart and good planning, that makes the book business, any book business, sing.