Tag Archives: publishing

Are Books Doomed to Extinction?

These days, the question isn’t so much whether to publish or not, as whether to publish electronically.  With the amazing statistics rolling out of Amazon regarding their popular Kindle ebooks (Kindle e-book sales have overtaken Amazon print sales, says book seller), more and more authors are turning to electronic publishing as a solution to so many author problems (cost of self-publishing print books, for one).  This press release caught my attention as it came across my desk this morning, revealing a response to the question many in the publishing industry are asking themselves.

Are Books Doomed to Extinction?
Publishers Must Innovate to Save the Book as We Know It,
Says Best-Selling Author

Photo credit: By indie.ca under Creative Commons Licence – link to page: http://www.flickr.com/photos/indi/ 4259120807/

Michael Levin says he can see the writing on the iPad.

“Unless something changes, books as we know them are doomed, and not simply because people prefer to read on their iPads or Kindles.” says Levin, (www.BusinessGhost.com), a New York Times best-selling author, as well as editor, publisher, co-writer and ghostwriter.

“You’ll see the major publishing houses starting to go away in three to five years,” Levin says. “Their business model is in free fall. Already, we’re seeing books becoming shorter, cheaper, and diminishing in quality. You’ll soon see fewer really good authors bothering to write books, because books are no longer a meaningful source of revenue.”

Levin points to several developments he says foreshadow a sad ending for books:

  • Attention spans are diminishing. Three-fourths of teachers said their students’ attention spans are shorter than ever, according to a poll released in June. By 11 years old, nearly half of the kids had stopped reading for pleasure. The poll, by publisher Pearson UK, is just the most recent survey/study documenting shrinking attention spans and a corresponding drift from books. “Part of the problem is children don’t see their parents reading,” Levin says. “Obviously, the kids’ aren’t the only ones with diminishing attention spans.”
  • Major publishers are producing lower-quality books. The big publishing houses today are more interested in a quality marketing plan than in the quality of the book, so we’re being deluged by low-quality books. One reason is that many large publishers have stopped taking on the expense of marketing books, but they know it’s necessary for sales. So they take on authors with a marketing plan and budget. They’re also less interested in “star” authors, who demand higher royalties. They also lost authors when they eliminated advances in response to the 2008 recession.
  • Books are moving to devices, where content is free and time is thin-sliced. Online, you don’t expect to pay for content. People will expect books available online to be either free or very inexpensive, and if those books turn out to be one chapter of ideas and eleven chapters of Hamburger Helper, they will be less willing to pay for them. Also, people don’t spend much time going into depth online; books are supremely inappropriate for the surface-skimming nature of the Internet. Once people have bought a bunch of ebooks they’ve never started, they’ll stop buying them altogether.
  • Authors have a more difficult time earning a livable wage.Fewer authors can earn enough to make writing a full-time job. The audience is shrinking and fewer people are willing to pay $15 for a paper book when cheap alternatives are available. “We’ve already seen more books written to promote a product, service or company, or to brand the writer so he or she can pursue a more lucrative field,” Levin says. “Most books of the future will be marketing tools, since that’s the only way they’ll be profitable.”

    Photo credit: By Gadjo Cardenas Savilla under Creative Commons Licence – Page link: http://www.flickr.com/photos/gadjo/4121943097/

Levin does find reason for hope, but it will require publishers to change how they do business.

“They need to stop trying to go after the mass market, which doesn’t exist anymore, settle on a niche and develop a brand. Publishers that stand for something in the reader’s mind – like Harlequin stands for romance – are built for the long haul,” he says.

Instead of publishing 500 low-quality books every year, major publishers should bring out only 50 top-quality winners and actually market them, he says. And publish how-to and other guidance and instructional books in concentrated form: short, powerful and to the point,

The rest of us have a job to do, too, Levin adds.

“People need to read, and they need to read to their kids or buy them books. If people stop demanding good books, there eventually will be none available,” he says. “The winners, going forward, will be that minority who still read and think for themselves. It’s a lot easier for government, the military, and the corporate world to control the way people think if they aren’t reading for themselves.  That ought to be reason enough to save the book.”

About Michael Levin

Michael Levin, founder and CEO of BusinessGhost, Inc., has written more than 100 books, including eight national best-sellers; five that have been optioned for film or TV by Steven Soderbergh/Paramount, HBO, Disney, ABC, and others; and one that became “Model Behavior,” an ABC Sunday night Disney movie of the week. He has co-written with Baseball Hall of Famer Dave Winfield, football broadcasting legend Pat Summerall, NBA star Doug Christie and Hollywood publicist Howard Bragman, among others. As a publishing consultant, Michael’s best-selling clients include ZigZiglar, Michael Gerber and Jay Abraham. He was the editor for Ziglar’s most recent book, “Born To Win.”

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E-Book Review: You Are A Writer by Jeff Goins

Jeff Goins, author of “You Are A Writer”

Jeff Goins is a writer who believes in writers.  He believes in them so much that he has shared a great deal of his wisdom gained through experience in the writing field.  No one ever said writing was easy, but Jeff explains some of the important ins and outs, like platforms and brands and networking.

 Jeff is also going to present a 15-day workshop, starting tomorrow (June 5) that he says will improved your writing drastically.

Jeff Goins wrote:  All great things come with practice, and writing is no different. If you want to move from mediocrity to mastery, you’re going to need to do what the masters do. You’re going to have to form new habits.

So, he will work with us in practicing what the masters practice.  I signed up.  See at the bottom of this review how to get more info on this workshop and how to get Jeff’s e-book that I have reviewed below.  You will need the e-book for the workshop.

* * * * * * * * 

E-Book Review:  YOU ARE A WRITER (So Start Acting Like One) by Jeff Goins

by Sandra Bell Kirchman
Copyright © 2012 by Sandra Bell Kirchman

Recently I attended a webinar that covered, amongst other things, allowing yourself to dream your dream, believing in yourself, encouraging yourself to dream bigger, and putting yourself in your dream, i.e., choose yourself.

The next thing I knew, Jeff Goins, respected author of such writer-friendly titles as The Writer’s Manifesto and Building an Empire With Words (as co-author), offered me a chance to review his latest e-book, You Are A Writer.

Guess what You Are A Writer is about?  Yup, allowing yourself to dream, believing in yourself, encouraging yourself to dream bigger, putting yourself in your dream…from a writer’s perspective.  Well, you could’a knocked me over with an elf’s wink, it being such a timely piece for me to read.

“You Are A Writer” by Jeff Goins

But wait, there’s more!  (sorry, couldn’t resist that).  Seriously this e-book is full of answers and explanations of things that likely puzzle all starting writers.  I know they had me scratching my head.  It begins with the premise:  You are already a writer.  You just need to write.  And then it goes from there with advice, explanations, examples and step-by-step how-to’s of how to establish yourself as a successful writer.

Every wonder what the heck an author’s platform was?  Or an author’s brand?  How does one get published by publishers?  This book has all that and more.  Jeff’s style is to state the question or problem, give an answer and description of it, lay out a step-by-step guide of how to accomplish it.  He finishes it off with his own personal experience in the topic at hand.  By the time you’ve finished reading the book, you will feel solid with: 

  • knowing and building your own author’s platform
  • understanding what an author’s brand is and how to develop your own brand
  • networking, how to build a community, building social relationships, and the relative importance of social communication

Jeff cares enough about writers and writing to tell you the bare truth about the job:

  • It’s harder than you think.
  • It’s not enough to be good.  You have to be great.
  • Nobody cares about you.  People care about themselves.
  • It’s more about who you know than what you know.
  • You’d better love it.  (Otherwise, quit now.)

Jeff leads you from quivering beginning writer who has a hard time believing she is really a writer, through steps that will help you gain that confidence and belief.  He helps you understand thoroughly the above three points and how to implement them in your writing and your life.

He finished up with an excellent description and how-to section of how to get published, advocating to start small and build relationships until you have the experience and expertise to accomplish the last step: get your book published (if that is your dream).

 You Are A Writer is wrapped up in humor, caring, and nuts-and-bolts facts.  In my opinion, it is a treasure for any writer who has had questions on where they are now, where they are going, and how to get there.

If you are interested in Mastering the Habits of Great Masters, go here.  You need to sign your blog up on that page.  Remember, it starts tomorrow, so don’t miss it.

You Are A Writer (So Start Acting Like One) by Jeff Goins has just been released and is available in Amazon’s Kindle Store for $2.99.  Good news is that you don’t need a Kindle to read Kindle stories.  You can download free Kindle software onto your computer, which will handle your e-book reading.

How to feel good about yourself even when your manuscript is rejected

One of the hardest parts of being a writer is the fact that rejection is part of a writer’s life, moreso than just about any other profession.  (Of course, artists, dancers, actors, etc. might disagree.  For them, keep reading.  Here’s something that will help everyone.)  And unless a writer goes entirely to self-publishing (and even then there is rejection from the number of sales you don’t make), rejection is just part of the job description.

Another rejection slip - Image by Graur Codrin / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

No one likes being rejected.  When I first started out as a writer, I got rejection after rejection.  Like a puppy, I never gave up hope.  I would wait for the postman to deliver the mail and eagerly sort through it to find a hopeful acceptance.  Most of the time, there was nothing.  It took a long time to get a response from a publisher or magazine editor.  Then the day came when the publisher’s/editor’s masthead envelope arrived.  With trembling hands, I would open it.  Ninety-nine point nine percent of the time, it was a form rejection.  The other .1% was a personalized rejection or a standard rejection with a personal note scribbled on it from the editor.

The .1% I prized.  It meant that I was getting closer, but I was still missing the brass ring.  For a few moments, I felt crushed, discouraged, of lesser worth.  Then I would think of the manuscript I was working on at the time.  This helped me regain my enthusiasm, and, my light not quite as bright as before, I would go back to my writing again.

And that’s the crux of the matter right there…what rejections do to a writer, actually any person.  As a writer, until we learn to recover from this consistent rejection quickly without losing face, self-worth and enthusiasm, we won’t make it to the halls of glory.

Here’s something to help.  I used to pin this anonymous tip up near my typewriter (and then word processor, and then computer).  Whenever I got a rejection, I read it.  It helped me enormously.

The $20.00 Bill

A well-known speaker started off his seminar by holding up a $20 bill.  In the room of 200, he asked, “Who would like this $20 bill?”  Hands started going up.  He said, “I am going to give this to one of you, but first, let me do this.”  He proceeded to crumple the bill up. He then asked, “Who still wants it?”  Still the hands were up in the air.

“Well,” he continued, “What if I do this?”  He dropped it on the ground, and started to grind it into the floor with his shoe.  He picked it up, now crumpled and dirty.  “Now, who still wants it?”  Still hands went into the air.

“My friends, you all have learned a very valuable lesson,” the speaker said.  “No matter what I did to the money, you still wanted it, because it did not decrease in value.  It was still worth 20 dollars.

“Many times in our lives, we are dropped, crumpled and ground into the dirt by the decisions we make and the circumstances that come our way.  We feel that we are worthless, but, no matter what has happened or what will happen, you will never lose your value, dirty or clean, crumpled or finely creased, you are still priceless to those who love you and to those who respect you.

“The worth of our lives comes not in what we do, or whom we know, but by who we are.

“You are special, don’t ever forget it!  …  Always count your blessings, not your problems.”

I think that about sums it up, don’t you?

Make Your Book More Professional By Harvesting Praise

We’ve been taught to not pat ourselves on our back because it feeds our vanity, and excessive vanity is apparently evil.  So we refrain from saying anything too nice about anything we do in case our vanity becomes too big to handle.  Unfortunately (or fortunately, as the case may be), this works against us in the professional world.  Now, people still have the idea that anyone who praises himself is perhaps vain, or arrogant, or a braggart, or all three.  Yet somehow it’s necessary to get the idea across to the readers that this particular book is really good and should be read.  So, what’s a poor writer supposed to do?

You can buy advertising, you can talk on radio, you can do book signings, but all this still is you talking about you.  Of course, some people have developed a knack of saying good things about themselves and people love it, but this knack seems to be for the chosen few.  For the rest of us, it seems like we are tooting our own horn.  Well, how about getting OTHER people to say nice things about your book?  If you have sold your book to a publishing house, then your publisher will generally take care of securing testimonials from people about how good your book is.  You usually don’t have to do much.

However, if you are taking the self-publishing route, then it’s up to you to find this praise.  You might feel funny going up to someone and saying, “Will you say nice things about my book?”  This is liable to earn you a cold stare, quickly followed by a colder shoulder.  We we have ways of making you like…er…there are ways to get people to comment on your book.  The best way is to let them read the manuscript.  So, initially, make sure you know the people and trust them to a certain degree.  Then you ask them to write a paragraph or two about what they thought about your book.  You are hoping that they liked it, but if they don’t, thank them anyhow…and, of course, don’t use it.  But, if they liked it…ah, if they liked it, then it is pure gold.

A few things you need to get from them…their name, their occupation, and their permission to use what they said for promotion of the book.  You can also get their location if you think that might be of interest to the readers.  These comments are called testimonials, and you will notice that many books will include them in the front of the book in what they call the front matter (the pages before the start of the novel).  And they definitely add a professional look and tone to your book, not to mention reassuring readers that this is a book worth reading.

For the 1st edition of my first published book, Witchcanery, I sent the manuscript to a number of people I thought might enjoy it and asked them to read it and let me know what they thought.  To be honest, I had gone over the durned thing so many times, I had lost all perspective of and feeling for the book at that point.  So I held my breath, crossed my fingers, and hoped for the best.  When I got the first one back, I let out the breath I had been holding and sniffed back some tears.  Here’s what he said:

Witchanery drew me into a new world and brought me new friends and new heroes, new magic, used in new ways…touching and bright even when things were very dark.  And DARK things get!  The world of Sandra Bell Kirchman’s Witchcanery spans a great length of time and we are given but a tasty slice—I hope the hints of more are materializing from the fertile grounds as we watch.

I signed it with his name and occupation:  Starhawk Victor, User Support Specialist II, American Red Cross.

Try to get a good cross-section of people to read the book and comment.  For instance, my collection of testimonial givers included a retired Colonel in the U.S. Army, a retired schoolteacher, a warehouse manager, and a geologist.  On the back of the book, I used the testimonial of a friend of mine who also happens to be a PhD.

Book cover of Guy Vanderhaeghe's The Englishman's Boy

It doesn’t hurt to do a little bit of mild name dropping.  If you know a celebrity or have a friend who knows one, there is nothing wrong with asking them to write a foreword for your book, which is hopefully just a longer testimonial.  For the first anthology I edited,  In the Shadow of the Burr Oak, the gal who designed the front and back covers of the book, photojournalist Helen Solmes, knew the noted Canadian fiction author Guy Vanderhaeghe (The Englishman’s Boy and The Last Crossing).  Helen asked Guy if he would write the foreword.  He did and it was a lovely, touching one.

Don’t overlook sources close to home either.  I gathered a few testimonials for my second anthology, Birth of a Unicorn and Other Stories, but  I made my first sale (other than to the various authors of the stories in the book) to my family doctor.  He had read my first book and enjoyed it.  When I asked him for a testimonial, he agreed.  It took a while because he is a busy man, but when it came, it was short, sweet, and well worth the wait.  Here’s what the good doctor said about Birth of a Unicorn:

“Riveting.  Sandra and her skilled team of writers transport you from mysterious forests to far-off beaches, high up into the mountains and right down into dungeons, whilst interacting with Unicorns, Dragons and other magical creatures. You won’t put it down ‘til you’re done.”

I will use it for future promotional brochures and other places I am promoting the book.  I will sign it with his name and occupation:  Johann Nel, M.D.

Well, what are you waiting for?  Go and find some people to write good things about your book.  What?  Your book isn’t finished yet?  Then go for the gusto and finish it!  You know you want to.

Book Signings Can Be Fun…Even If You’ve Never Done One (Part 1 – the Set-Up)

Bookstore

When I was contemplating my first book signing, I didn’t have anything to go by other than what I had seen on TV and in the movies…a bored author signing an endless parade of books.  It was a stereotyped image, and the author was invariably someone who was famous and had umpteen dozen best sellers on the market.  All of it was so far from my actual experience, that I was astonished.  Let’s deal with the stereotype and get that out of the way.

Unequivocally, if the author is bored, people will stay away in droves.  Now you might not be bored, but nervous instead and bury your face in a book to cover it.  However, it will give people the same impression:  you’re not interested in your book and you are not interested in the people.  They will stay away from your table.

Maybe we should go back to the beginning.

When the first edition of my novel Witchcanery was published, I was ecstatic.  Since it was self-published, I had to get out and spread the word.  I had no clue how to go about it.  Fortunately, I had attended a seminar on book publishing by small, independent publishers, and they had mentioned about a contact to get books placed in Chapters, a large Canadian chain of bookstores.  I telephoned the guy, who turned out to be the regional consultant for PR with the stores in Alberta.  He met with me and gave me all kinds of helpful advice, plus a list of stores to try.  I contacted two or three of them, asked to speak to the store manager (or the consignment manager), and set up book signings.  It was as simple as that. 

Booksigning Table

In a big chain, the stores will usually take the books on consignment (under contract).  That means you don’t get paid until the books are actually sold.  Then the store will take a commission for selling them for you.  With the big stores, it can be as much as 45% (which it was in my case).  It can also be as low as 10% in small stores, such as our local pharmacy.  Some places won’t charge any commission, but enjoy having the books as an extra service to their customers.

Many places will handle the publicity and posters themselves; others will ask your help.  I found it helpful to do my own signs and bring them, since on at least one occasion the harried consignment manager had misplaced the signs I sent her.  You can make high quality signs and posters on your own computer if you have a good graphics program.  Just scan the front cover of your book and use that as the image on your sign or poster.  If you can have bookmarks on hand, they are great advertising, and it’s nice to give something useful to your customers.  Here is what you will need to take with you to the book signing:

2 or 3 good pens
A small notebook
Scotch tape
A thermos of coffee or your drink of choice; also some water
Your own business cards if you have them
Any brochures you might have made about your book
A pillow for your chair
Your books (bring a few extra with you, even if you delivered books to the store in advance)
Display stands for your books
Your posters
* Cash box or pouch with change in it, depending on the price of your book
* A few plastic bags for your customers to put their book in

* The last two are for venues that are not stores themselves – art shows, libraries, etc.

Check if the store will provide a table covering (they usually do).  If not, bring a cloth to cover the table to make it look more professional.  A solid color is better than a patterned one, unless your book is about cooking or crafts.  Then a gaily patterned table cloth might set off your book better.  Use your judgment and good taste.

Display Stand

If you have had some publicity about your book, or if you took out a nice ad for it (your cost), clip out the story or ad.  You can buy some nice plastic stands at an office outlet to hold them.

You should arrive at least half an hour in advance, so you can set up your table.  The store will provide your table and a chair and will place it in the store for you.  The best position is facing an entrance so you can greet people as they enter.

Make the table look as attractive as possible.  The store will bring you a pile of books if they took them in advance.  Sometimes they want to put their magnetic codes on the books, before people buy them.  Arrange the books in attractive ways.  Marketing techniques say that you should have varying heights on your table to make it look more interesting.  Lay out your brochures, business cards and posters in an eye-catching way.  Big point is to not litter the table with pop cans, coffee cups, or burger wrappers.  This is the professional table of a professional writer, so you want to keep it looking that way.  Keep a little garbage bag under the table or your chair for refuse and keep the table for your books.  Make sure you have enough space on the table to sign the books as well.

If you have been just married, like I was at my first book signing, make sure you practice signing your new name a few times so you don’t make a mistake on the books.

 You are now all set for your first book signing.  Put on a happy face and wait for the next stage of the book signing.  Stay tuned to this blog for Part 2 tomorrow on what to do while you are at the table and how you can bring in more sales.