The Secret to Schmooze Book Marketing

by Joel Friedlander on February 24, 2012 · 8 comments

Post image for The Secret to Schmooze Book Marketing

by Marcia Degelman

Marcia is one of the authors I’ve met at the monthly meetings of the Bay Area Independent Publishers Group. She impressed me with her persistence and how she kept making her book and her marketing better. I asked her to tell her story, and I’m happy to share it with you here.


Writing a book is kind of like having a child. The gestation period takes about as long, and when it’s good and ready, it comes out.

The editor is like the midwife or birth coach, helping the author produce healthy offspring. Friends and family help too by offering encouragement.

Maybe self-publishing is akin to home birth, offering more control over the process, but with more risk. Traditional publishing might be more like a hospital birth; lucky for those who qualify, but they also miss out on some of the thrills you get along with complete ownership of the process.

And there is no greater thrill than the first moment you hold the little darling in your hands, hard or soft cover.

Sending Your Baby Into the World

But you have to let go and send your darling into the world. So maybe your first bookstore is like preschool. You get your book in there, marvel to see it on the shelf, and if you are lucky, some stranger buys it and takes it home with them. You check back often to see how it’s doing, and then try to figure out ways to let more people know about its existence.

There are a lot of hats to wear as an independent author.

  • First you have to find something to write about, something that will keep your interest for the years it takes to write a book.
  • Then you have to find the time and the discipline to actually write it.

Inspiration Strikes

In 2002 I took a long car trip to Palm Springs, and I got the inspiration to write down everything I knew about health in one place. I wrote my book in 45 minute segments over six and a half years. That was as long as I had to myself before my daughter would usually demand my attention.

I am a massage therapist and I had a client who had a friend who was an editor. The editor had back pain so we traded massage for editing. We would do an hour of editing and then an hour of massage.

She told me about the San Francisco Writers Conference, and we both attended in 2006. It was there that I first found out about the Bay Area Independent Publishers Association (BAIPA). I was thrilled that there was a way for me to get my book out there, for as an unknown first time author, the odds of getting published seemed mighty slim.

Soon after I attended my first BAIPA meeting, and Vickie Weiland was very kind to me, and helped me get my San Francisco business license and my tax resale certificate, so I could be a legitimate small publisher.

I decided to go with CreateSpace, a division of Amazon, since they provided the ISBN and access to Amazon, and it seemed easy and user friendly.

Aside from difficulty in uploading the cover, it was pretty easy. And what a thrill it was holding that first proof copy in my hands! Of course I made some rookie mistakes like publishing in November, so my copyright date was only current for two months.

But I did throw a “launch party” at UCSF and invited all my colleagues from The Osher Center for Integrative Medicine. I catered it with Mediterranean food, fitting with my theme of healthy eating.

The Bookstore Story

In January of 2009, I went to the Yoga Journal Conference at the Hyatt Regency in San Francisco and I met Neil, the owner of Bookshop West Portal who had a booth selling books at the conference. I asked him if he would carry my book at the conference and he said no, but I could bring the book by the bookstore and leave it there on consignment.

My book was so short that it didn’t have a title on the spine, so I brought a small stand so they could display the book face out. They found a little niche for it in their health section, and the book started selling.

A high point for me was the time the manager called me to tell me they had sold out and needed more copies.

This was in LA, outside the lobby of the Hollywood Hills Hotel, and another guest, smoking a cigarette overheard my conversation. He said, “I’m an author, too! You just sold out your book! I have to have your book!”

I took out a copy and asked him his name and signed it for him, and then he said he didn’t have any money. He ripped out a blank page from the back of the book and wrote down his address and said he would send me the money.

Well, I pondered what to do for a moment, and then I said to him, “I’ll make you a deal—I’ll give you the book, if you consider quitting smoking.” He hesitated, and then agreed. I put the piece of paper in the pocket of my coat, and then I lost the coat on the way back to San Francisco, so I’ll never know if he kept his part of the bargain.

Next I was able to get my book into the gift shops of the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). Hospital gift shops are a good place to sell books about health. There is an association of hospital gift shops and someday I will contact them.

I was able to get my book into a conference in Napa due to some connections at UCSF and the bookstore associated with that conference was a well-known bookstore in Corte Madera, California, so they carried my book for while, but it didn’t sell well there.

The Second Edition

Eventually I realized that to do right by my book, I had to get some help, namely a professional design for the cover.

It was at a BAIPA meeting that I saw some promotional materials from a fellow author, even though his book wasn’t finished yet. I really liked the design, and he put me in touch with his designer. We worked together over the phone and email, and we still have not yet met in person.

Explaining HealthThe other big change I made was to add a couple of chapters to the second edition, so the book would be big enough to have a title on the spine. And I went with Lightning Source (LSI) as the printing company, instead of CreateSpace because of their distribution with Ingram.

It was a much more complex process, as I had to get my own ISBN and I had to purchase new software to get the right kind of reproduction-quality PDF that LSI requires.

But it has made all the difference to be able to walk into a bookstore and say to the book buyer you can order my book through Ingram. It also helps to make it returnable, and at full discount.

Making More Connections

It was at a BAIPA meting that I heard about The Mechanics Institute LIbrary Book’tober Fest. Authors, independent publishers, independent bookstores, and beer! What could be better?

I met the managers of Books Inc. and Green Apple Books. And they both agreed to order my book. At Books Inc. they displayed it on a table face out, and it sold!

After that I was able to contact the other Books Inc. stores and say it was selling at Opera Plaza, and some of them also agreed to carry it. It sold out in Burlingame.

And now I’ve come full circle, back to the San Francisco Writers Conference, 2012 volunteering at the BAIPA table, with my independently-published book in hand, and selling at bookstores. It all comes back to the personal connections that you make, to the people who help you on your journey, and being able to lend a hand to your fellow authors.

Marcia DegelmanMarcia Degelman’s book, Explaining Health: What You Need to Know to Stay Healthy is available at Bookshop West Portal, Books Inc., MT. Zion Gift Shop and Kaiser’s Health Education store at 4141 Geary St. in San Francisco. It is also available through Amazon.

Be Sociable, Share!

    { 8 comments… read them below or add one }

    Marcia Degelman February 26, 2012 at 11:07 am

    Carol,
    I find for myself I have to do just a little bit at a time, so I don’t get overwhelmed and give up. It helps to think about publishing as a long term process. If I accomplish one thing in a day, that’s enough for me. The tortoise approach, savouring each small victory!

    Reply

    Marcia Degelman February 26, 2012 at 10:59 am

    Jean,
    Thank you! You are lucky to share a creative endeavor with your daughter. Good luck with your book.

    Reply

    Marcia Degelman February 26, 2012 at 10:55 am

    Sharon,
    I am in the process of doing the look inside feature on Amazon. It’s one of those things that was easier with CreateSpace- it was automatic, now with LSI it ‘s a process.
    I was very happy with the color interior. One of the differences was no transparencies with LSI, so the images are stronger.

    Reply

    Sharon Beck February 26, 2012 at 11:11 am

    May I suggest a technique that might make it easier for you? I think I read about it either on Joel’s blog here or Aaron Shepard’s blog.

    Keep you LSI distribution as is, but turn off Amazon. Publish the same book with the SAME ISBN through Createspace to only Amazon. That is the default setting right now. They charge you $25 to turn on expanded distribution and you do not want that since you get it through LSI. It costs you nothing to set the book up on Createspace. Your book may also get better treatment on Amazon.

    Now you’ll have it appear on Amazon with the Look Inside feature set up for you automatically, and you still have your Ingram distribution.

    By the way, I believe Createspace does distribute through Ingram now, whereas it did not when you published your first book. But I think the dual printing strategy is worthwhile. Aaron Shepard writes about it in his blog, explaining how to do it in the most cost effective manner.

    And I have to thank Joel for telling us about Aaron’s blog.

    Sharon Beck
    Aldine Publications

    Reply

    Marcia Degelman February 27, 2012 at 11:52 am

    Thanks, Sharon. I’ll look into it. Thanks for posting.

    Reply

    carol brill February 26, 2012 at 4:05 am

    Thanks for sharing your story. I too really liked the birth analogy. The way you lay out your progress step by step takes some of the mystery and angst out of the process for me, reminding me, if I do one thing at a time to move towards my target, I can get there.

    Reply

    Jean Ann Geist February 24, 2012 at 7:44 pm

    Great story! Congratulations on your success, Marcia! i especially appreciate your comparison of self-publishing to giving birth. Having done both, I’m not sure which caused me the most angst! And to bring the two together– my daughter, who has a degree in art, painted a watercolor for my book cover.

    Reply

    Sharon Beck February 24, 2012 at 10:26 am

    Congratulations on your marketing success. Since you are selling it on Amazon, you may want to prepare a Look Inside for your second edition, too. I see it has a color interior. Are you satisfied with the quality of the color from LSI? I think there are many here who have wanted to publish color books.

    Reply

    Leave a Comment


    + 7 = eight