Today’s article is from Guest Carol White. I met Carol at a presentation she gave on book marketing to BAIPA last year, and asked her to tell the story of how she got involved in self-publishing. Here it is.
“Believe it can happen and work to make it so” is the advice of author Carol White, who can now boast: “As seen on CNN.com, USAToday.com, ABCNews.com; read about in newspapers across the country from The Boston Globe to The San Francisco Chronicle; seen in magazines like Money, Entrepreneur, Motorhome and More; and interviewed frequently on radio and TV.”
They also sticker their books with Finalist—2004 ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year—Travel, and 2006 Benjamin Franklin Book of the Year—Marketing Excellence and Innovation as a result of entering competitions. In addition to being featured in not one but three Associated Press articles that appeared in hundreds of newspapers across the US, the book now quite regularly occupies Amazon’s #1 spot for Travel – Budget Travel, Travel – Senior Travel, and Transportation – RVs. Along the way, she and co-author/husband, Phil, became national spokespeople for RV Industry and now speak at national conventions such as AARP’s Life @ 50+ and the Great North American RV Rally.
Headed for Disaster?
Her business had the recipe for disaster written all over it. Rejected by traditional publishers – one after a year of working through their process, Carol and Phil decided to “put their money where their mouth was”, and formed their own publishing company to produce their book, Live Your Road Trip Dream: Travel for a year for the cost of staying home (RLI Press, July, 2004)
What did they know about publishing? Nothing. Disaster number one. Stir in the fact that neither had ever written a book before; add a generous pinch of naiveté, and a large scoop of being totally unknown – no Clintons’ or rock stars here – and you have the makings of a flop. Add to the mix a small (under $5,000) marketing budget and you are surely done. No industry knowledge, no famous name, and no money. What could be worse?
But something happened along the way that overcame all that. Not overnight, of course, but slowly over the last six years with perseverance and vision for what could be; the Whites’ dream of sharing their how-to knowledge, based on their year long trip, became a successful reality.
Phil says, “Naturally we were nervous, but I had faith that if anyone could pull it off, it would be Carol, and we knew our target market was huge – the 78 million baby boomers starting to retire, ranking travel as their number one expenditure in retirement.”
The Learning Curve
And so it was that Carol went off to bookstores and the Internet for several months to learn about publishing while recovering from her disappointment with the traditional publishing process. She read, subscribed to newsletters, visited industry-related web sites and bulletin boards, networked, researched potential competitive titles, joined industry groups, attended classes and immersed herself totally into the unknown world of books.
What Carol did know about was sales and marketing from her 35 years in that field. “Of course I made mistakes along the way. For instance, I never really understood the arcane industry practice of pre-publishing reviews. You are supposed to provide the industry heavy-weights, like Publisher’s Weekly, with galleys (unpublished copies) of your work four to six months before it comes out,” Carol says. “But my marketing background told me why would you send the ‘Big Guys’ something that is less than perfect – your best effort – and without a finished cover on it – a prime piece of a book’s appeal? I was horrified at the thought!” So she waited until she had a finished product and totally missed that opportunity.
Launching Into the World
After an ambitious and well-received start, Carol was introduced to KSB Promotions, a publicist catering to the travel industry. Kate Bandos, the principal of the firm, helped Carol with a low-cost, high-impact campaign that resulted in national coverage that couldn’t have been accomplished on their own. “It was Kate’s knowledge of, and contacts in, the travel industry that made the difference” explains Carol. “The campaign that we put together complimented perfectly my efforts on the Internet, on radio and TV, with newsletters and a blog, with bookstores and with group presentations around the country about how we planned our trip.”
The book started selling well, and they were able to secure national distribution – mainly due to the aggressive marketing plan that Carol laid out for executives while at BEA. From there, AAA came onboard, followed by Camping World after a yearlong trial online. The word built layer upon layer, as did sales. None of the happened overnight, or without lots of effort, or without follow-up and persistence.
As a fellow author recently quipped, “only 5% of all books ever sell more than 5,000 copies. How does it feel to be in that rarified company?” I guess I’d have to say, “we passed that goal long ago, and we’re now pushing for 25,000.”
Carol White is an author, speaker, writer, and book marketing coach. In addition to co-authoring the best selling, award-winning book, Live Your Road Trip Dream, Carol is a frequent guest speaker at conventions such as the national AARP Life @ 50+ and The Great North American RV Rally. She is also a published writer for magazines and websites and has spoken about publishing to groups including IBPA’s Publishing University, the Northwest Association of Book Publishers and the Bay Area Independent Publisher’s Assn. She has an active book marketing consulting practice that includes both domestic and international clients. www.carolwhitemarketing.com
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