Book Publishing: Are You Keeping Up? – Part 2

by | Apr 11, 2019

By Lee Foster

In Part 1 of my article, Book Publishing: Are You Keeping Up? we discussed:

  1. How Traditional Publishing Worked (and Sometimes Still Works)
  2. Why Independent Publishing─Also Known as Self-Publishing─Arose
  3. Why Independent Publishing May Be Your Most Viable Option Now and in the Future
  4. Your Print-on-Demand Book
  5. Your Ebook Distribution

as based on the 2019 update of my book on publishing, An Author’s Perspective on Independent Publishing: Why Self-Publishing May Be Your Best Option.

Here is a main trend and some key practical adjustments to keep in mind from each chapter 6-10.

6. Your Book Content as a Website/Blog, Funded Partly by Advertising

How consumers may want to get your book’s content is changing in many ways. Many consumers may wish to access your book content in something other than a “book.” They might want to view your book on a website. They might well be willing to endure ads to get your content. You might earn more from ads around your content on a website than from actual sales of your book.

Moreover, seeing the content on a website may stimulate the consumer to click on your Buy button and purchase your book. A landmark recent article in the Washington Post asserts that ad spending on websites now actually surpasses all ad spending on all print media and on TV combined. This sounds incredible, but it appears to be true. Could you get a small slice of that abundance from your book content on your website?

Some practical details are as follows. First, don’t assume your book is unsuitable for ads. If you write erotic fiction, possibly a fragrance manufacturer would like to be present. If you have historical novels set in Greece, the Road Scholars tour operator is sending folks that way, and you are in fact part of the engine creating their demand.

Explore what ads are available to you, starting with Google AdSense Ads. You can put three on a page in a WordPress structure. I have them on my www.fostertravel.com site. I’ve earned something from them every day since 2002. There have been days when I didn’t sell a book, but did earn cash income from ads.

7. Your Social Media Outreach

Some social media outreach will be helpful for your success as an author. This will be true whether you are traditionally published or self-published. But what social media structures would be best for you? And how are they changing?

Who would have guessed a couple of years ago that Google + would fail by 2019? Everything Google invests in is golden, correct? But Google misjudged the audience and its fickle behavior. For me, Facebook, plus Facebook groups, and now Instagram, provide the most engagement.

The practical steps on this matter begin with self-examination. What are you prepared to sustain, if anything, in social media? I am not about to tell you how to spend the precious hours of your life, but I can say you will sell more books with some social media outreach.

What do I do? I commit to one new or updated article for my website each week, usually published on Wednesday. Then I announce the post in my four social media:

  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • Instagram

I also post in six or more Facebook groups, depending on whether the subject is “travel” or “publishing.” The posting and the social media “announcement” takes a couple of hours.

Start small, and do something you can sustain. Your fans will come to expect your social media presence in the time interval you project. How often do you want to hear from all your “friends”? Maybe once a week is about right.

8. Your Book Marketing Strategy

How far will you reach in your book marketing effort and when should you say, enough is enough, and be satisfied?

Your name may not be Michele Obama, and you may not sell 3 million copies of your book. The point is to be smart and realistic, and use your valuable resources of time and cash wisely. Be open to possibilities which you may not have imagined.

Also, accept, as you lurch forward in your book marketing, that you may make some mistakes. I have made mistakes. For example, for my literary travel book Travels in an American Imagination, I invested $350 to send a notice about the book to a list of reviewers, who could then request a review copy. I was the publisher and the only source of the book. About 100 “reviewers” responded, so I sent them physical books, at a cost.

  • Only about five wrote reviews.
  • About 50 of the books were available 30 days after my send of the books from “sub-sellers” on Amazon. Some of the “sub-sellers” advertised that the book they were selling was “new.”

The behavior of these “reviewers” was disappointing. When this happens, just get over it and move on, wiser the next time.

The practical takeaways are: Invest your time and some money in acquiring knowledge. A little knowledge goes a long way.

I think Joel Friedlander has an immensely valuable ecosystem in these presentations on his The Book Designer website. You will find other leaders in the publishing sector who seem relevant to your needs. Joan Stewart and Jane Friedman are two others whom I follow.

Then examine your own dreams and with what markers you would declare success. Give it your best shot, using your valuable resources of time and cash wisely, and accept the results. Maybe you’ll be happy, and maybe you won’t.

9. Your Need for Quality Design in Independent Publishing

The quality of books published, both indie and traditional, keeps improving. And I believe Joel Friedlander and this website play a role.

We strive for stronger covers, better editing, and more professional interior design. Every author needs to arrange the best quality possible at the most affordable price, whether the provider lives in your neighborhood or overseas. The cover of my An Author’s Perspective on Independent Publishing cost me $15 on Fiverr.com. It would have been $5, but this was a rush job. On the other hand, Joel Friedlander himself designed, in 2013, the cover and interior of my Northern California Travel: The Best Options. I paid him top dollar, and it was a good investment.

From a practical perspective, each of us in our region gradually acquires a knowledge of the people who might help us with editing, covers, and interior design. Reach out to your regional indie publishing group and learn what your colleagues have done. This is a word-of-mouth referral business. The collective knowledge of your peers can be helpful.

For my last three books, I have used one of Joel’s two-way interior templates and cover templates. I tried to do as much as I could myself. But I also invested in getting Joel’s colleague, Tracy Atkins, to take a look at what I did and make suggestions.

My preferred path now is:

  1. Get a template.
  2. Do it yourself as much as you can.
  3. Then get an expert to look things over and make suggestions.

We all need quality books, but at affordable costs that retain the dignity of self-publishing as a profitable venture.

10. Your Book’s Possible Specialized Adaptations, Such as an Audiobook and Chinese Translation

I have dropped a word out of this final chapter title for the next update. Can you guess what that word is? It is the word “app.”

While audiobooks and Chinese translation remain valid possibilities, apps did not flourish. The public did not seem to want the added functionality that software could bring to what was basically an ebook.

I had three successful apps with Sutro Media in the glorious app years, about 2009-2013. There was a day when Apple saluted my San Francisco app and a thousand copies sold that day.

Audiobooks now appear to be on the rise, about 6% of the book market. And Joel has a toolkit on audiobooks with Becky Parker Geist. I had Becky do an audiobook on my travel literary book Travels in an American Imagination.

And, for you, what about translation into Chinese and the sale of your ebook/book in China? Travels in an American Imagination and my main travel guidebook, Northern California Travel: The Best Options, have been translated into Chinese. I am getting some sales of the ebook versions each month. The links show how Amazon sells the ebooks both in China and on my USA Amazon Author Page. My Chinese publisher will return to San Francisco in May. She hopes to have by then a print book version in Chinese of Northern California Travel.

Is your book suitable for an audiobook or for Chinese translation? Remember that many people are using their “down” time, such as when commuting, to listen to audiobooks.

After evaluating your book, the next big decision is whether to narrate it yourself or get a professional reader. I went the professional reader route. However, there is some charm and authenticity in reading the narration yourself, as the author. Ironically, your production cost may be higher to read the book yourself. That’s because the audiobook producer may need to put more hours in to coach you, as an “amateur,” and to clean up your recordings to make the book sound professional.

If you are interested in Chinese translation possibilities, my publisher is Fiberead. Look over their website, see what they are publishing now, and approach them through the structure on their website.

They found the translator, managed all costs, and pay me 30% of their revenue for the ebooks. Amazon.cn is the most prominent sellers of my ebooks in China, but there are several other vendors, which I see in my reports on the Fiberead website.

Final thoughts

In conclusion, please share with us your success or disappointment as you observe the book publishing scene evolve quickly. What’s happening with you, for better and for worse, as you struggle to keep up?

Photo: BigStockPhoto. Amazon links contain affiliate code.

tbd advanced publishing starter kit

14 Comments

  1. Candy HArrington

    Good tips, as always. It is a lot of work, and sometimes a steep learning curve, but totally worth it. That said, I’m glad I have a talented partner in this endeavor!

    Reply
    • Lee Foster

      Thanks, Candy. For those of you who don’t know Candy Harrington and her partner Charles Parnell, they are compelling examples of effective folks in publishing. They have ebooks, books, and ongoing website posts in their specialty, which is travel for mobility-impaired people. See their https://barrierfreetravels.com/ and https://emerginghorizons.com/. I’ve watched them for years build their audience patiently, one person and one post at a time. Their success is a model for all of us in our various specialties.

      Reply
  2. Freddy

    Great points made in this post Lee.. Ernie seems like an on to it chap as well. I agree that audio books are definitely on the rise, haven’t done one yet, but I hope to soon

    Reply
    • Lee Foster

      Freddy, I think you are wise to consider the many forms your book could take. The audiobook of my travel/literary book (Travels in an American Imagination: The Spiritual Geography of Our Time) has brought the book to a new audience. So has the translation of it into Chinese, selling in China and on my Amazon Author Page here in the US, in Chinese as well as English. The book is out as a conventional POD printed book and as an ebook. Each format helps it earn different audiences.

      Reply
  3. Ariane Cap

    Thank you for the great article, Lee. I do many of these things you suggest and they have served me well.

    Reply
    • Lee Foster

      Thanks you Ari. I’ve enjoyed watching you develop you bass guitar playing book and courses now for a couple of years. You have a good sense of the service and cohesiveness with which an author can interact with an audience. I encourage everyone reading this to click on Ari’s name, above, and see her system of books and courses.

      Reply
      • Ariane Cap

        Thank you, Lee, that means a lot!

        Reply
  4. Joan Stewart

    Lee, I hope your excellent tips sink into the minds of many authors who don’t understand the options of making money from their books in all its forms. So many authors upload their books to Amazon but do little more. Almost always, they’re disappointed by the results. Thanks, too, for your reminder about the additional revenue stream by placing ads inside books. I’ll be a lot of authors would think iyt’s obscene to sell ads. The smart authors are already thinking of ad rates and companies they can approach.

    Reply
    • Lee Foster

      Dear Joan,

      Thank you for your comments. I have not myself put ads in my physical books and ebooks for revenue, though I do, of course, have ads around my book content on my website. However, in my field of travel books, there is one publisher, Moon/Avalon that had this ad policy for a long time. They allowed the author of the book to sell a full page ad to some supplier of services in the book area. This was a helpful additional income for the author beyond the author’s royalty income. I am not sure if they still do that.

      Thanks,
      Lee

      Reply
    • Ariane Cap

      I place advertisements to my own products in my book. It has served me very well and is quite unobtrusive. I created additional products because my readers requested them.

      Reply
  5. Ernie Zelinski

    Lee:

    Here is the link to the PDF of Brian Judd’s latest newsletter where he makes the Bookscan comment

    https://www.bookmarketingworks.com/mktgmatters/Volume%2018%20Issue%207%20April%208%202019.pdf

    Here is an interesting statement from “Publishers Weekly” in 2006 about the number of books sold in 2004.

    “Here’s the reality of the book industry: in 2004, 950,000 titles out of the 1.2 million tracked by Nielsen Bookscan sold fewer than 99 copies. Another 200,000 sold fewer than 1,000 copies.”

    That was 2004. This means that at that time 79 percent sold fewer than 100 copies and 95.83 percent sold fewer than 1,000 copies. Here is the link to that article:

    https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/columns-and-blogs/soapbox/article/6153-a-bookselling-tail.html

    But times have changed since 2004. Apparently there were over 1,000,000 new titles published in 2018. With so many titles, and overall book sales not increasing all that much, no doubt the percentage of books selling fewer than 100 copies will have increased a lot.

    Reply
    • Lee Foster

      Ernie,

      This is helpful detail on actual books sold. Thank you from all of us who are learning valuable insights from you.

      Thanks,
      Lee

      Reply
  6. Ernie Zelinski

    As an author whose books (mainly self-published) have sold over 1,000,000 copies, I think that book marketing is a lot tougher than it was 5 or 10 years ago.

    Brian Jud, Book Marketing Expert, in his latest newsletter stated, “According to BookScan, 93% of all new books do not sell more than 100 copies.”

    My latest book “The Joy of Being Retired: 365 Reasons Why Retirement Rocks — and Work Sucks!” was published early this year and just reached 102 copies sold according to the Bookscan numbers for both the POD edition and the offset print edition. These numbers represent sales on Amazon.com and in US bookstores. If what Brian Jud says is right, regardless of the low sales, “The Joy of Being Retired” has already sold more than 93 percent of new books will ever sell.

    So, I decided to have a celebration last night for the fact that my new book has sold over 100 copies. This may sound weird given that my other books have sold over 1,000,000 copies.

    In 1963, Bob Dylan wrote and sang, “the times they are a-changin’.” Well, in 2019, the times they are a-changin’ about 100 times to 1,000 times as fast. Moreover, as the Graffiti from the late 1960’s warned, “The Future Ain’t What It Used to Be.”

    Reply
    • Lee Foster

      Dear Ernie,

      Thanks for your insightful comments and good humor.

      I’ve heard Brian Jud speak twice to our local baipa.org group and was a little concerned that actual opportunities to “sell truckloads of books non-returnable” might be less likely than the hopefulness suggested. So it is good that he also presents some harsher realities. Maybe if you can share the exact link where readers can see his BookScan comment or the exact comment on Bookscan, that would be helpful. Could you inform us further on how to look up our own books on Bookscan?

      Ernie, I will raise a glass of chilled Chardonnay to you tonight as a truth teller. I will meditate of the reality that selling your next 102 books may be more difficult than selling your first million. We must be careful not to shock too many authors to embrace fully the title of your latest book and leave their authoring work behind.

      Thanks,
      Lee

      Reply

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