Saturday, May 29, 2010

This Blog is Moving! Please Re-Link or Re-RSS!

Sorry for the inconvenience, but we're in the process of moving from this blog to another platform. It's here: .

If you're currently linked to this blog, please link to the new blog, which also contains all the old posts from this blog.

Thanks for your faithful following! I'll see you over at the other blog!



Friday, April 30, 2010

Writing and Publicity Tips from Mars and Venus

I just listened to Steve Harrison interviewing Dr. John Gray, author of the best-selling (over 30,000,000 copies) Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus. It's worth a listen for any author. Here some of my takeaways:

1) There's value in sharing your ideas in seminars before sharing them in books. Typically, authors think the other way around - "I'll write this book and then sell it at my seminars." But Dr. Gray started with counseling and seminars. For him, this was valuable in that over time he could observe the audience response and discover what connected and what didn't. It also gave him time to develop key analogies, such as "Mars and Venus."

Here's how it happened:

He'd been teaching relationship seminars about how understanding gender differences can improve relationships. Another seminar leader used a striking analogy which compared the man-woman relationship to a cross-cultural experience. (Dr. Gray knows he's hearing a great point when the hair on his arms stands up.)

But he knew he needed an analogy of his own. So one day he began to imagine what it would be like if men were Martians, but were unhappy, and contacted the inhabitants of Venus to try to find happiness. Then, they move together to earth. Since Martians and Venusians do things differently, they must come to understand those differences to get along and thrive.

The point: Sometimes your seminal points and analogies can come out of years of working with people and leading seminars. "To be successful you need a perspective that has been honed and sanded down." (None of my quotes may not be exact.)

2) Dream up a unique perspective. If it's just another book on relationships, with chapters on each of the main points that everyone else lists, that's not news. Why would radio stations want to interview you? But Mars and Venus presents a fresh perspective. The media is all about fresh perspectives.

3) Utilize your life experiences. For nine years, Dr. Gray lived as a celibate monk. There, he learned to be content and happy on his own. Thus, he could relate very differently than people who were hoping to find purpose and happiness through a mate.

"It's your life experiences that give you the power to pull people in."

4) If you're wanting to educate and inspire others, don't depend on selling books to them for your revenue. Support yourself in other ways, so that you can get out and share your ideas. Supporting himself as a computer programmer gave him the time to write and promote his book, without having to depend upon them for income.

5) Don't be discouraged if your early books aren't great successes. Publishers didn't want his first book, so he self-published. His second book was with a small publisher, so small that it took him a year to get a distributor.

6) Smaller books can often communicate better than bigger books. After writing a large book on relationships that said everything he wanted to say, he honed it down to ten concepts for his Mars and Venus book. Most people read only the first two chapters of self-help books.

7) Make it fun and lighthearted. This was another change he made from the larger book.

8) It's okay if it's not an immediate success. Some authors feel that if their books are good enough, that reviewers will instantly rave and word of mouth will immediately take effect. Not for Venus and Mars. He went on a book tour, which indeed landed him on Oprah. Yet, he was relegated to the last three minutes of the program, and it didn't produce sales. After that, his publisher gave up on publicity for his book, saying, "Well, that was our chance and it didn't work out."

9) Keep pressing forward with your own marketing strategy. After his publisher quit publicizing, he took it upon himself to advertise in the Radio-Television Interview Report (RTIR) and did radio interview after radio interview. After doing those for a year, he got best-seller status. Then, he wrote Oprah again and she devoted an entire show to him. After that, his book stayed on the New York Times Bestseller List for seven years.

What struck you about this interview? Anything I missed? Anything you'd like to add from your own experience or knowledge to my nine takeaways?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Getting Reviews on Blogs

Book marketing guru's all speak highly of getting book reviews, even to the tune of sending out 500 or so books to get the word out.

I've found the top 500 blogs in my subject area (I write nonfiction) and am spending a couple of months going to each one and asking if they'd like to do a review and a giveaway. Some don't reply. Some say they've got too many books beside their bed, or they don't do reviews. But about 1 in 6 request a copy for review. (I'll tabulate later just how many come through. Some need reminders.)

Nobody acts like I'm bothering them. It's a win/win and they're grateful for getting a free book on a subject area they're passionate about. And some of these blogs get major traffic. One that reviewed my book yesterday gets 80,000 visitors per month, has 250 incoming links, an Alexa rank of 94,000 and 900+ subscribed RSS readers.

Again, I'll tabulate results later (like how many came through with reviews and how many of my books actually sold as a result), but it seems at this point to be a good campaign.

btw, I do take the time to read some posts on each blog, and read the "About" section so that I can see if we're indeed a match and I can personalize my request to each one. I think it's better to take a slow, personal approach than just try to see how many blogs I can hit in a day. A couple of the bloggers mentioned how much they appreciated that I took the time to check out their blog before suggesting a review.

Has anyone else had success/failures in getting reviews from bloggers?

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Learning From a Successful Teen Novelist

As a 10-year-old, Christopher Paolini started reading fantasy books, but became frustrated because he didn’t feel they were good enough. So at 14 he began writing his own book, but quickly found out he didn’t know what he was doing, so he began reading everything he could get his hands on about how to write.

At fifteen he wrote his first draft, which took him about a year. Then he took about a year to re-write it. His parents read it and thought he should publish it. They took a third year to prepare it for publication (proofing, typesetting, etc.) and self-published it through print on demand with Lightning Source. It’s name: Eragon (he took the word “dragon” and substituted an “e” for the “d”).

Here's the writing process in a bit more detail from Christopher:
“By the end of 1999, I had completed the first draft of ERAGON. At last I was able to read my own book from start to finish ... and I was dismayed by how amateurish it seemed. The story was fine, but it was mired in atrocious language and grammar. I was like a musician who has composed his first aria, only to discover that he can’t perform it because he has not yet learned to sing. I set out to rewrite ERAGON with the goal of raising the language to a professional level.

I did not entirely succeed. My second draft—which took a second year (2000)—was larger than the first and bloated with far too many words. At that point, I turned the manuscript over to my parents, both of whom are published authors.

Finally, I began to benefit from real editing. Editing and revision are two of the most important tools for forging a great book. With my parents’ advice, I was able to clarify my descriptions, streamline my logic, and quicken the pace of the story so that ERAGON read the way that I had intended it to. This consumed the bulk of 2001.

My parents and I had decided to self-publish ERAGON for financial and creative reasons.” ( )
But here’s where he deviated from most authors. Instead of sitting around waiting to see if anyone would discover his book, he went out and started selling it. I don’t get the impression that he did 1001 different things to market his book. He found one method that suited him and worked for him: doing a presentation in schools. And he worked hard at it.
“We started by doing book signings in bookstores, but quickly learned that no one shows up for an author they have never heard of. I was very determined, and would stay for eight hours straight and talk to every person who came in the store and try to sell them a book. On a good day, I might sell forty books. That’s not bad for a signing, but it’s a lot of work.”

I then learned that if I went into a school and did a presentation, in one day we could sell 300 books or more, and inspire students to read and write, so I concentrated on that. We also started charging a fee for the presentation, to help cover travel expenses.
He did most presentations dressed in a medieval costume.
"My dad and I made two trips to Houston, where my grandmother lives. I called numerous school librarians and spoke to them about my book and presentation. They didn’t know who I was, so it took a bit of persuading, but I managed to arrange to visit several schools, along with a few bookstores, that first trip. One of the librarians posted an enthusiastic recommendation of my presentation to an online teachers’ forum (pop quiz: so what does getting on this forum do for him? sm – that’s called a platform for other schools), so by the time we returned home to Montana, my mom already had a second trip to Texas planned, and I didn’t have to do any cold calls. That second trip was a solid month long, with three or four hour-long presentations every single day.”
He and his family ended up doing over 135 talks.

In the summer of 2002, American novelist Carl Hiaasen was on vacation in one of the cities that Paolini gave a talk in. While there, his stepson bought a copy of Eragon that he "immediately loved".[1] He showed it to his stepfather, who brought the book to the attention of the publishing house Alfred A. Knopf. Michelle Frey, executive editor at Knopf, contacted Paolini and his family to ask if they were interested in having Knopf publish Eragon.” Knopf re-edited it and published it in 2003.

He got two big-time reviews, but they were both rather mediocre, calling it formulaic, not that well-written, but hey, not bad for a young person. But the public voted with their dollars and Eragon placed on the New York Times Best Seller list for 121 weeks.

Then the movie came out in 2006. It tended to get lousy reviews by the critics, but I’m sure Paolini and the publishing company cried all the way to the bank since “the film’s $249 million total worldwide gross was the sixteenth highest for 2006.”

Today Paoloni continues to write books.

Takeaways for authors:

1) Take your time in writing your book. Writing is rewriting. Get input from professionals.

2) Writers without platforms can make it.

3) Market your book. I don’t think any of this would have happened had Paolini never contacted his first school to see if he could do a presentation.

(References:, ,

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Too Much Competition to Sell Books?

Someone on a forum lamented that, with so many books on the market, the competition makes it nearly impossible to sell books. So let's say that there were 400,000 new books published last year. Many are by big-time publishers and big-time authors. Are we small-time authors crazy to compete in this game?

In the end, perhaps it makes little difference whether there are 100,000 books published next year, or 2,000,000 books. Our real competition is against books that are #1 - well-written and #2 - well-marketed. Sure, there are exceptions that get a lucky break and make it big, but typically those that lack #1 or #2 (the vast majority of books) are buried so low that they're not really competing with us.

In marketing my non-fiction book, I'll e-mail (this week) about 20 popular financial blogs or financial magazines, asking if they want to look it over to bring out tips for graduates. About 4 typically respond. If I follow-up well, I get reviews out there, with links pointed back to my book on Amazon. Another small-time author friend likes radio and is finding this response rate when he queries radio. I interviewed him last week. You might like to see exactly how he goes about it:

When another friend who writes novels puts his book into local (not chain) restaurants, he's not typically finding any competition. He's the only book there. It doesn't matter if 150,000 novels were published last year. The people in line at the restaurant don't have the 150,000 before them; they see my friend's novel.

That's all to say, although it's gonna be very difficult to get into the channels that everybody's competing for, like Publisher's Weekly or Kirkus, once you go to other channels, there's lots of room to sell good books. We just have to be creative in how to get the word out there. We're not competing with all the books that are published, just all the books that people are aware of, which may be no larger a group than we were competing against 20 years ago.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Author Shares Guerilla Marketing Tips that Work

Danny Kofke doesn't have a big platform, nor does he have a lot of time. He teaches full time in a public school (special education) and is raising two young children. Yet, he's selling far more books than your typical author, largely through his own publicity efforts. On his media page, I find four radio shows and one book signing that are booked for the next couple of months. And it's not a brand new book. It's been out over two years. It's called How to Survive (And Perhaps Thrive) on a Teacher's Salary.

Here are some tips I picked up from him in a phone conversation this morning:

1) Face it, it takes time and effort to sell books. They don't sell themselves.

2) Book marketing is fun! He's been at this for over two years and still gets a charge out of doing radio interviews, TV and other media. He still fondly recalls the excitement of doing his first radio interview.

3) He takes advantage of both large and small opportunities. You never know what might pay off. He had one interview he did for Bank Rate that got picked up by the FOX site. Another went secondarily to AOL's home page. The point? Just get out there and do something, even if it's small. Do something enough and cool things start to happen.

4) His main method is to research viable media and send e-mails to them.
  • He starts with a Google search for such topics as "radio stations about teachers", "financial radio shows," etc. Then, he finds them on the Web and studies the show. If it's all about, for example, recommending stocks to buy, he doesn't pursue it.
  • Next, he finds the contact person on the site. E-mail them a pitch. The pitch must be powerful. Remember, it's not about your book, it's about their audience. With the first paragraph, share a startling statistic or something to grab them, demonstrating that their audience wants to hear what you have to say. If you've gotten publicity before, link them to your media page so that they can see or hear past interviews.
5) Follow-up and keep good records. Danny emphasized this over and over. He'll pitch anyone and everyone, then write on the calendar to follow-up in a month or so if they haven't responded. If they still don't respond, he may e-mail again several months later, saying something like, "Hey, I just spoke on this station and was mentioned in this article. If you'd like to interview me...." And he keeps following up until someone says that don't want to hear any more.

As you can imagine, good record-keeping is vital. He calendars items that he needs to do at a later time. He keeps a notebook as to who he's e-mailed, how they responded, and when to follow-up. If someone declines and wants no further pitches, he notes that as well.

Example: He contacted the "700 Club" early in his marketing. They declined to interview him. But recently he e-mailed again, telling them what other events he's done and linking them to his author site so that they can see his other interviews. This time, they booked him!

6) Interest can build over time. The media isn't just interested in new books. Once you get one interview and put it on your media site, this can leverage more reviews. Now the media has something to judge whether or not you're a fit for their program. The more interviews you get, the more impressive you look. It's called building a platform from scratch. It's called leveraging one opportunity to get other opportunities.

Danny sent 10 e-mails over time to CBS about getting on their early show. Finally, he could say in an e-mail, "Hey, I was just on CNN." This time, they replied and asked to see his interview from CNN. That's progress! Hopefully, he'll let us know if it comes through!

7) Danny uses HARO (Help a Reporter Out) to give his expertise to journalists who need to interview experts, or regular people with specialized experiences. Responding to a HARO request got him into the Wall Street Journal.

8) Set up your media page. We've already mentioned how he's using it. I like it for two reasons:
  1. It gives the media exactly what they want to know, all there on one page where they don't have to waste time searching for information. They can click on both articles and interviews and see that Danny can handle himself well on interviews.
  2. It's free and takes minimal time to maintain. I can hear marketing experts saying, "You need to post a blog every day, or at least a few times a week. You need to get links from other prominent sites. You need to post on other people's blogs." To which I'd respond, "Danny doesn't have time for all that crap. He's got something that works for him. Why ruin it?"

    Danny's blog is free and functions well for his purpose. He set it up on and didn't even bother to buy a distinct url. Apparently, he doesn't need a url, so why pay $10 a year to get one? That goes along with his book on how to live on a teacher's salary. You don't buy things you neither want nor need.

  3. It's easily up-datable. You don't have to use DreamWeaver or ExpressionWeb or have to hire a webmaster. Blogspot gives you all the basic tools you need.
9) You don't have to do everything. If I understand Danny correctly (I'll let him edit this), he isn't putting his book in book fairs, sending it off extensively for review, going for book awards, writing articles for magazines, and traveling extensively. While he has his eye on other opportunities, like presentations to school faculty, he's hung in there with something that's working for him - doing radio shows. I've heard that one of the hardest things for entrepreneurs to do is to stick with a winning formula once they've found one. Danny's making it work, and for that, I greatly admire him!

Follow-Up Interview

Out of 20 first contacts that you make, how many do you estimate end up
actually booking you?

Danny -I would say maybe 4-5 even replied to my message and maybe 2 would book me.

SM - Now that you've got interviews on your press page that they can look at
and realize that you've been in major media, is it easier to book interviews? If so, how many out of 20 responded at first and how many out of 20 now?

Danny - Yes, it's easier to book interviews now. Most producers want to see how you can fit into their show and help their listeners/viewers out. It is not about you or your book most of the time - it is about your message. Since I have been on numerous TV and radio shows, producers can take a look at these and see if I would be a good fit for them. They no longer have to guess what I would sound/look like since they can see first-hand. I would say I now get 5-6 responses (still not half) from the pitches I send out.

SM - Is 90% of what you're doing going after radio?

Danny - No, I would say about 60% radio, 30% television and the rest various print outlets. At first, before I had any television exposure, I was mainly going after radio but now, since I have had exposure in all three areas I mentioned, I pitch appropriate people in all of these areas.

SM - How many contacts (new and followup) do you think you average each week?

Danny - I would estimate 100 or so. Some weeks it is more and some less but, overall, I would say that is the average.

SM - How much time do you think you average marketing your book each week?

Danny - It is an endless job since there are so many ways to market. I have come up with a balance to be the best husband, father, teacher and marketer I can so I limit myself since I could probably work on marketing 10 hours a day! I would say I spend an average of 15-20 hours a week working on book related stuff.

Thanks Danny! That's great information. Thanks for being so generous with us!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Bookstores vs. Amazon for Sales: Part II

The New York Times article on James Patterson (James Patterson, Inc.), was instructive regarding how publishers, and thus bookstores, cater to the big-time authors. A couple of paragraphs told about how the big publishers now put most of their marketing efforts behind their best selling authors, much more so now than the past. The result is that best-selling authors sell even more books, but the mid-list authors get very little marketing dollars. Publisher pay thousands of dollars to reserve top-placement sections of bookstores for their best-selling authors. Thus, the best-selling authors keep selling more copies while the rest of us may initially get into a bookstore, but will soon be sent back to publisher if we fail to sell, never to return.

Thus, even if the smaller authors get into the bookstores, if there isn't a strong marketing campaign (either by the author or the publisher), then people won't come to the bookstore looking for the book, and it will get returned.

I'm a small-time author, and am glad that my books are offered through Baker & Taylor and Ingram, but the bulk of my sales come through Amazon. And yes, in a sense, Amazon is just passive, but isn't that the current revolution in marketing - from "interruption marketing" to "I'll help you find me marketing"?

By optimizing my Amazon pages, posting articles on popular sites and blogs, getting reviews on popular sites and newspapers, and by having all these linked back to my Amazon page, I get regular sales. And I get 35% of each sale on Amazon - much, much better than the percentage of my sales to bookstores through the big wholesalers.

So for me it's both/and, but Amazon is becoming the bigger and bigger player for me.

J. Steve Miller
President, Legacy Educational Resources
Author of Enjoy Your Money! How to Make It, Save It, Invest It and Give It
"The money book for people who hate money books."

Brick and Mortar Bookstores vs. Amazon for Authors

An experience, a stat and a reflection on brick and mortar vs. Amazon:

An Experience

I write resources for those teaching character and life skills in public schools. When the two Superbowl contenders are decided, I immediately find out who the highest profile athletes are so that I can research them for character stories (what led them to such a high level of success.)

So Kurt Warner was quarterbacking in the Superbowl a couple of years ago and I decided to read his autobiography. He'd led his team to the Superbowl several years earlier in a spectacular bag-boy to Superbowl hero story and I thought, "This is as high a profile person as you can get. The Superbowl's a week away, the most watched media event of the year; so I'm sure his autobiography will be in my local bookstores."

I called Barnes & Noble, Borders and Books a Million. None carried it. One said they couldn't even order it. I ordered from Amazon.

A Stat

A few experiences like this one and people begin defaulting to Amazon. Here are the stats from 2008:

Barnes and = $466 million
Borders/ Waldenbooks = $3.11 billion
Barnes & Nobel/ B. Dalton = $4.52 billion = $5.35 billion (book sales only)

More importantly in 2008, Amazon’s sales grew by 16% while each of the other bookstore chains lost money. If this trend continues, Amazon will rapidly become a bigger and bigger player for authors, and bookstores will become less and less - particularly for small-time authors who can't be guaranteed to get into bookstores and be continually stocked there.

A Reflection

Don't get me wrong; I love bookstores! But after a couple of experiences like that, I began defaulting to Amazon. I support bookstores. I hang out at bookstores. But I depend on Amazon. It's a time issue. A local bookstore can carry only a small percentage of the millions of books in print, even of books that are recognized classics in their fields - like a Psychology text on "Persuasion" I couldn't find locally. After signing up for Amazon Prime, we never pay postage. And books come quickly to our door.

If you're a major selling author like Sue Grafton for novels or David McCullough for biographies, traditional brick and mortar bookstores, Walmart, etc. are wonderful sales outlets. For the rest of us, they are a useful outlet that people can order from, but not likely to carry us long-term.

If a person with as high a profile as Kurt Warner's (incredibly "high platform", which all publishers are looking to publish) can't keep his autobiography in the bookstores several years after it was written (and it was truly a well-written, inspiring book), then what chance do us low-profile authors have of keeping our books in bookstores over the years? At best, for low-profile authors, I'd suggest that brick and mortar bookstores are typically a short-term rather than long-term strategy.

I have a book on church music, published 17 years ago with a traditional publisher, with no marketing done for it in the past 15 years, that still sells steadily on Amazon. It probably lasted only a couple of years in bookstores.

Friday, February 19, 2010

On Getting Articles Published

It's one thing to write insightful and well-crafted prose, quite another to navigate the business of writing - actually getting published and making money from your craft. Most of the ideas for this post come from The March/April issue of Writer's Digest, which attacked theme: Your Economic Survival Guide. Lots of great stuff here. I'll center in on ideas for getting articles published.

1. Build Relationships. Maybe you meet writers at socials or writers' conferences. Offer to take them to lunch to ask for advice. If you've written for someone before, keep in touch! Keep a good client list. If you came through with a good article last time, they're more likely to take your idea next time. Submit to them regularly.

2. Understand the Market. Perry Perkins makes a full-time living writing articles. At first, he wrote articles and used Writers Market to try to find appropriate places to place them. Then, he took a different approach. He spent several days reading through Writers Market, cover to cover, studying it. This knowledge can become a brainstorming list to dream up articles a certain publication might love. Then he could write queries based on what magazines were looking for, rather than trying to taylor his articles to fit their purposes.

There's an interesting parallel to Warren Buffett's advice to a young person wanting to learn how to invest like him. Basically, he told him to start like he did, studying every publically traded stock in the United States. The person objected - there are thousands of stocks! To which Buffett replied, "Start with the A's". I think Buffett's point was: if you want to pick the best companies, it helps to understand how they compare with other companies. The more companies you know and understand, the better decisions you can make.

Writing is a skill. But we sell our writing in a market - an industry. The more thoroughly we understand that market, the easier it will become to find the perfect match for our articles, and to propose articles that would be the perfect match for specific publications.

3. If your writing is good, then it's a numbers game - put out lots of submissions. Trying to move up from making a partial living to making a full living, Perkins upped his submissions from an average of 2.5 per day to 15 per day (assuming a five day work week). It worked!

4. Query big, well-paying publications first.

5. Don't put hours into an article until you know someone wants it. Query first.

6. Know the publication, giving editors what they want, when they want it, how they want it. You know this by studying their guidelines for submission and reading their publications.

Leftover Questions

I've written article for magazines, but have never done extensive article submission. Do most magazines accept multiple submissions? I suppose that since Perkins recommends hitting the big publications first, they he's giving them a week or a month to respond before submitting the proposal to lesser publications. How long do you give the major publication? And if there are 10 lesser publications, do you send out those 10 at the same time? What if more than one wants it? Do you write two similar, but different articles?

If you have answers or suggestions, please let me know.

31 Recent Blogging Insights

From a blogging seminar and Writer's Digest article:

1. Be extremely specific/niche. Find what's not already published on Amazon.

2. Blog about what you love.

3. If you need to make money off it, find a topic where "Something You Love" meets "Something People Will Pay For." You may love to write about your cat and the cutesy things he does. But will people pay for it? (I think this is one of the most overlooked insights in people trying to make money with their blog. It's not just, "blog every day with quality content." You've got to ask if you're putting out information that people are willing to pay for in some fashion.)

4. Break up copy with bold headlines, subheads, etc.

5. Have several beginnings of posts on your blog home page, where they can click for more.

6. Headline Tips:
  • Be Concise
  • Use full names of people and places
  • Include key words and phrases
  • Include story details.
7. Choose your own domain name, cheap from

8. Link back to earlier posts = 2 page views.

9. Ask for input - engage your audience!

10. To build a following, post every day for 30 days, then 2 - 3 x per week.

11. Comment on other blogs and track back.

12. Wordpress Direct ( is search engine optimization on steroids.

13. Set up supporting blogs that link back to your main blog.

14. Reciprocal linking is suspect to Google - looks like an arrangement.

15. Try to manage several of your social media (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.) at once.

16. Pre-populate your tweets and blogs to save hours.

17. People and search engines love "Top Ten," "How to..." and Videos.

18. Embed the video on your blog rather than just link to youtube.

19. Put your blog address on the video.

20. Try live streaming free at, to connect with people in real time.

21. Monetize with e-books. The blog is the jumping off point.

22. Monetize with "Donate" button. "If anything I've written helped you, donate now." Just set up a merchant account with PayPal and embed the code.

23. One person with an airline insider weekly e-mail asks readers to donate once a year. It's enough to make a living. The average donation is $50 per month. He works at it full time.

24. Monetize with premium resources. So you have lots of free resources available, which lets them know you do quality stuff. Then you sell e-books or a members only section.

25. Monetize by being an Amazon Associate. When you recommend a book, you have a link to Amazon. If someone buys, you get a cut.

26. Monetize by selling ads. But you have to have a lot of traffic to make it work. You might do better approaching a compatible company than just going with Google Ads.

27. Approach other blogs with posts they could use. That gives you links coming back. Some successful bloggers get most of their traffic from other blogs.

28. Write guest posts for another blog or publication. One blogger writes a monthly column for her state's main newspaper. It gives her respect and brings people in.

29. Use 1.5 spacing. More inviting.

30. Go to Google Trends ( to find hot topics and hot searches. Other sources of trends = Technorati, Digg, StumbleUpon, Reddit.

31. Submit appropriate posts to article marketing directories such as or

32. Do clear calls to action: "Sign up for my newsletter," "Buy my book."

"Blogging is just like networking - the one with the most friends wins!"
"We need 1,000 eyeballs looking at our writing!"

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Summary of First Year Marketing Book

Often, what I find lacking in book marketing literature (I've read 15 such books so far) is the answer to the question:

"Okay, so you've told me 10,000 ways to market my book. But how can I decide which of those ways are likely to have the best payoff? I know every book's different, but what methods tend to work best and what often doesn't sell books at all?"

To help answer that question, a big part of this blog over the past year has been to track my efforts to sell my book, Enjoy Your Money! How to Make It, Save It, Invest It and Give It. I've admitted grand schemes that produced no sales at all and lots of tiny efforts that apparently, taken together as a whole, are now producing significant sales on a regular basis.

So here's my 11 month summary, which I used for a consult with Brian Jud (guru at marketing books "Beyond the Bookstore) and Guy Achtzehn (formerly with Simon & Schuster; current president, The Marketing and Sales Group and The Promotional BookStore. Represents such brands as Black & Decker/DeWalt, Bulova, Coleman, Fuji and Ralph Lauren. Here's information on doing your own $49 consult with them. )

Enjoy Your Money!
Marketing Summary

Bottom Line: Much of the ground work has been laid (glowing reviews, attractive and inviting Amazon presence, useful media page) and the book has proven itself to be a valuable resource (readers like it). I think we’ve arrived at a time that we can leverage these tools to seriously get the word out about this book. The big question: of all the available marketing methods, which will be the most effective to pursue, given limited time?


My literary agent contacted many traditional publishers, all of whom turned it down. She has relationships with many of these, so she asked them why. None of them had a problem with the quality of the book (one asked for a copy, should we get it published!). They felt that I lacked the platform – “financial books won’t sell unless you have a national radio show”. I respectfully disagreed, started my own publishing company and published print on demand through Booksurge (now CreateSpace) in March of 2009.

I sent galleys to all the major reviewers four months before publication, but got no reviews.
I pursued other reviewers and financial columnists, got a publicist who helped me with press releases, etc. Sales have continued to increase as a result (see next section for specifics).
Wholesalers: Available through Baker & Taylor (from March, 2009) and Ingram (by March, 2010), without a return policy. Thus, I don’t expect bookstores to be a main source of sales at this time. I could pay extra to have a return policy with Baker & Taylor, and probably with Ingram, but some advise not to.

Distributors: In December, the Follett Corporation ( ), a major player in distribution to young adult libraries (juvenile collections in public libraries, high school libraries), started receiving some orders and they contacted me. We signed a non-exclusive contract for them to distribute. They actually market their books, so I’m hopeful that this will be a solid outlet. I paid Premium Book Company (Through Brian Jud) to search for bulk sale opportunities. Nothing so far, but I know this is a long-term project.

Marketing So Far
What’s Working and What’s Not

#1: Amazon Sales: At first, since there were no big-time reviews, books only sold when I did some initiative: like letting Facebook friends know about it, or a review came out. But by the Fall, sales have begun taking a life of their own, even when I have no specific initiative going on. Apparently, word of mouth is taking over. Prior to December, it was selling a bit less than one per day. In December, it sold about 2 per day; in January, 3 per day. Perhaps we’ve hit a tipping point! Or maybe December and January are just good for financial books. Who knows?

#2: Bulk purchases for gifts: A CPA bought 100 copies (and promises to purchase more) to give away to graduating seniors. A pastor bought 30 copies to give to graduating seniors. A lady bought 30 copies to give as gifts. I have a personal relationship with all three of these, so people who don’t know me already may not be as eager to jump on it. Following up on this, I personally visited several CPA firms in my city and gave them a free copy to look over, in case they wanted to purchase in bulk at $10 each for Christmas gifts for their clients. None followed through, although some secretaries bought copies.

#3: Bulk purchases for speaking: I’ve spoken at two retreats where they bought the books for each of the students at $10 each – about 30 copies per retreat. I relate to students well and enjoy communicating with them. I’ve also spoken to adults in both churches and civic organizations, and can begin seeking out more opportunities if I decide to go this direction.

#4: Sales from Reviews: I found 30 major newspapers that have financial columns, e-mailed the columnists, sent free books to those who requested it. I got only one review, but it was from a syndicated financial columnist from the Oakland Tribune, and I got multiple sales immediately after he published. I don’t know how many direct sales have come from reviews, but I think that, even with no-platform reviewers, the word gets out. So far, I’ve sent out about 320 copies to people for review, to enter contests (I received a “best books” award), let teachers review it, see if a CPA would like to order in bulk, etc. I seldom send it to anyone without contacting them first and getting a request.

Bookstores sales: Two local bookstores haven’t sold any. A bookstore in my home town sells a few copies regularly. A local university bookstore has sold copies and pushes it during graduation. I don’t have a lot of confidence in this book’s ability to sell well in bookstores, if it’s not pushed by the owners. If a media wave hits, then maybe it will send people to the bookstores to buy it.

Stores that aren’t bookstores: Several non-bookstores (a coffee shop, a fitness center, a video rental store, a home office/copy place) have tried to sell it, with only a couple sold. But a Trade & Play Video Game store owner sold some copies saying that the secret is that parents look at it while they’re waiting in line and he recommends it. He seems pretty excited about it. (My theory was to put it in a place where parents bring their kids to buy stuff, and while the parents are wandering around with nothing to do, they’ll pick up the book and look it over.) I think the key here is to find store owners who’ll actually read the book and catch a passion for helping people by recommending it.

HARO (Help A Reporter Out): I’ve contributed to several articles, one of which resulted in a lot of traffic to one of my sites. As Murphy’s Law would have it, this was a few months before my book was published.

I was on two major Atlanta TV stations and sold none. (I bought the rights and put them on youtube, however. Also, I got a link from their site, which could be very important.)

I did one radio interview and sold none.


1. The book itself. People like it, but it doesn’t sell itself (I’m neither Donald Trump nor Dave Ramsey.)

2. My presence on Amazon (all 19 reviews are five-star!) and my Media Pages. All include great reviews:

Main Media Page:
Media Page Targeting Educators:
Amazon Page:

3. Work ethic: I don’t have lots of time, but I can do something each day. I can set long term goals and execute.

4. Flexibility: If I find that something works better than what I planned, I change course.

5. Patience. I excel at plodding. I’m fully willing to do things for months that might produce multiple sales years from now. I see marketing this book as a life-long effort, so I’m willing to set decade-long goals.

6. I’m a voracious learner. If I don’t understand it the first time, I’ll get it on the 30th time. If you tell me that I need to read certain books to understand certain aspects of marketing, I can do that.

7. Speaking: Although I’m not a world-class speaker, young people and adults enjoy my presentations and give me great reviews. People ask me back. But I can’t get out a lot, due to family responsibilities (seven boys and caring for 104-year-old granny.)

8. Articles: This book lends itself to limitless articles. Lots of material, tons of research, lots of interesting angles.

9. Royalties: I get 35% of the retail price on each Amazon sale. At this point, this is my main avenue for sales. Since CreateSpace is owned by Amazon, there are no costs to me for this transaction (no mailing to Amazon, no yearly fees, etc.) To sell it myself, the book costs me about $4.60 to purchase it in bulk, including shipping to me. So I can still offer it at a 55% discount to wholesalers/distributors (if they pay postage, which Follett does), and make a profit.

10. My Websites and Newsletters: My not-for-profit, Legacy Educational Resources, encompasses two websites that I have full control over: and . Together, these sites get about 900 unique visitors per day. My quarterly e-zine goes out to about 8,000 people who’ve signed up on these sites. Unfortunately, although many of these are educators, a relatively small amount would be actually teaching person finance, so links from these sites and mentions in the e-zines have produced insignificant sales.

11. Rights: I own the rights to the book, so that if I can publish booklets, excerpts, e-books, or whatever I please. If a company or book club wanted to order in bulk, I could price out an offset run and even personalize it for the company.

12. Social Media Savvy: I have three blogs, a twitter account (@enjoyyourmoney), am on Facebook, LinkedIn, and participate in several marketing forums. I don’t put a lot of time into these, but at least have a presence. In general, for me, I’m finding more value in “going where the people are already gathered,” rather than trying to gather people around me.

13. Website: Open to input here.


Limited Marketing Budget. I’m small time. But since the book’s making money, I can devote that money to marketing.

Limited Time: I run a not-for-profit, am raising 7 boys, and care for my 104-year-old granny. I can do something every day to market my book, but I can’t devote full time.

Small Platform: I have no strong platform (radio show, syndicated column, etc.) except for the platform I’m building (leveraging bigger blurbs from smaller blurbs, etc.).

Geographically, I’m physically constrained. I can’t get physically far from home very often at this point in life. I can’t be a full-time travelling speaker, nor do I desire that life. I can speak once a month or so.

Current priorities

(Do you agree? Which of these would you prioritize? What do you specifically recommend for me to do?)

This is where I really need your input. There are so many ways to market this book, and I could devote a solid year to several of them. Which do you think would be the most effective to pursue (if any of them.) At present, this looks like a good way to prioritize. What do you think? And with the avenues you’d pursue, how specifically would you pursue them?

#1 – Shoot for multiple sales to schools, including home schoolers. How, specifically, would you do this?

• Try to get some initial classes to use it, so that these teachers could recommend it. Haven’t succeeded so far. (I give myself a “D” for poor follow-up.)
• Follett has a division that works with textbooks. Perhaps I can cultivate this relationship.
• Continue to develop my free, online resources to accompany the book at .
• Find the most popular home school blogs and sites and newsletters and offer them a free book for review.
• Find where traditional educators go for advice on texts and try to get in there.

#2 – Offer the book to well traveled blogs/newsletters/sites/magazines on topics like personal finance, success, raising teens, etc. Not only does the word get out to their audiences, but many of these people are influential in other realms besides their newsletter (like recommending texts to their local schools). Ulrich’s and Gale’s Directories give me hundreds of these. I can also use Technorati, Google Blogs, etc.

#3 – Radio. So I’ve got this southern accent working against me, but I think I come across natural and enjoyable in the media. Since radio people are always wanting a new angle on personal finance (particularly during the recession), should I get in the Radio-TV Interview Report (RTIR)? I think that’s where Kiyosaki (Rich Dad/ Poor Dad) made his big break.

#4 – Speaking at Universities? There are all kinds of clubs and organizations there.

#5 – Offer it to not-for-profits and prison ministries and poverty stricken schools at my cost? Hey, I wrote the book to help people. And I get the feeling that the more I can get it out there, the more word of mouth will take over and the more people will actually pay for it.

#6 – Contact those who’ve written “So You Want To…” and “Listmania” Amazon lists on personal finance or personal success, offering them a free book if they’ll add it to their list, if they deem it worthy.

#7 – Military, including military families, military returning home, etc. Find the newsletters, blogs and sites they frequent. Many of these have had their finances done for them, their room and board provided. How can I help them make their transition back home? Do you have ideas here?

Again, I see hundreds of things I could do to market this book. But how do I narrow down the best use of my limited time and limited budget?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Using Articles to Market Books

Surely I could get more mileage out of my articles. I typically put them in the members' sections of my two sites, post them on my blogs, and use them in my newsletters. But after I've spent so much time researching and crafting an article, shouldn't I take a few more minutes to get the article out there somewhere, providing incoming links from the far corners of the Web and helping my Google rankings with key words? That's precisely what a lot of marketing experts suggest.

According to web marketing guru Ralph F. Wilson, "Those who find success with article marketing don't just write one article, they write and submit one a week -- or two or three. Done well, article marketing works very well." (From How to Support Your Site through Article Marketing.)

Here are some suggestions I've run across on submitting articles to free article sites, where people read articles and follow links back to my sites, or where blog owners and journalists find articles to put in their blogs and e-zines.

1. Submit only to about five top article directories and some niche sites. Don't use software to submit to hundreds of directories. Google will see that as spam and penalize your search engine position. Few people go to the lesser directories anyway. Look for the current top directories, as ranked by Alexa and Google. Here are five of the top article directories. I checked their Alexa ranks today (lower numbers are better): - Alexa Rank: 132 - Alexa Rank: 424 - Alexa Rank: 518 - Alexa Rank: 1609 - Alexa Rank: 2965 - Alexa Rank: 5800

2. Write short articles: typically between 400 and 750 words. (See what each article directory recommends.)

3. Hyperlink to your site and/or book (see how many links the site allows) in your signature (not the body of the article.) Hyperlink from key phrases you're targeting, not just the url. Search engines rank hyperlinked phrases higher.

4. Format it allowing plenty of white space, using devices like headings, subheadings, bullet points and bold for key words/phrases.

5. Choose your key words carefully. I like to find them here: . Use them in your title and your first sentence. But don't use them too much. Google's algorithm also accounts for synonyms. And your chances of getting ranked highly for a mega-searched term like "Money" are slim. (Everybody's trying to capture them.) So consider choosing some words that still get a lot of searches, but aren't out of your league.

6. Write quality, timely articles.

7. Write a title that intrigues, accurately sums up the article, and contains your key words. (Good luck!)

8. Additionally, send the article to e-zine editors' Websites in the field of your topic.

Lingering Questions:

1. Would it be better to target certain major publications? Even if I got only one article in the MSN Network or a major magazine, wouldn't that link likely draw more traffic than 1000 links from article databases?

I suppose that once I submit an article to one of these free sites, many magazines will no longer want it, since they may want rights to publish it for the first time. So, if I think an article might be appropriate for a magazine with a large circulation, would I do better to submit it there first and wait until later for the free sites? Or, are the odds so slim in getting into the major magazine (and the corresponding site) that I'd do just as well submitting to free sites?

Looks like I need to read several authoritative articles on submitting articles to magazines to better estimate the odds on this tactic.

2. Is it okay to submit to all these places (including top blogs and sites) at once, or do some want first rights?

3. Let's think long-term.
Let's say I concentrate on more traditional magazine/ezine publishing for my better articles. So I get some published in magazines with medium circulation and then some with larger circulations. Isn't it possible that, in a few years, my resume could include "Has written for People Magazine and AARP?" Wouldn't that be better for my long-term career, than just saying, "I put up 1000 articles on free article sites and got them put in a bunch of blogs?"

Friday, February 12, 2010

Writing Lessons from James Patterson

You may love James Patterson's books. You may hate them. But you can't deny his success - if you measure success by sales.
  • He's published more New York Times best sellers than anyone: fifty one. Thirty five of them hit No. 1.
  • Last year, he sold 14 million books in 38 languages.
  • He publishes books at an astounding rate: 9 original books in 2009. He plans to publish at least 9 in 2010.
  • "Since 2006, Mr. Patterson has written one out of every 17 hardcover novels...bought in the United States."
Jonathan Mahler's recent New York Times article on Patterson (James Patterson Inc., 1-24-10) gave me some insights worth chewing on. Here are my takeaways:

1. Writing can be a team sport. Writing is popularly viewed as the lone venture of recluses who hole up in their basements, surfacing every 9 months or so to submit their finished products to their publishing houses and do their national book signing tour. Then it's back to the basement. But in reality, perhaps there are as many ways to write as there are writers.

Patterson's writing has evolved into a method that doesn't require him to write the entire book. He envisions the broad strokes of the story and writes a detailed outline that can run up to 50 pages, triple spaced. (He writes it in long hand on a legal pad and gives it to an assistant to type.) He then gives the outline to one of his five coauthors (each specializes in a particular series or genre), who writes chapters and hands them back to Patterson for revisions or rewrites.

The benefit of team writing is that members of the team can concentrate on what they do best, or what they like to do best. The task of writing a 250 page book requires a vision, a knack for telling a story, the ability to create interesting, likeable characters, structuring, titling, creating cool analogies, and piddling over grammatical minutia. Just because someone's bag of talents and interests doesn't include one or more of these skills shouldn't automatically preclude her from being a writer.

It's considered normal for a screenplay to involve a visionary, several writers, and input from a legion of people, including actors and pre-release audiences. Couldn't many authors benefit from such a team approach?

2. Take your marketing seriously. Most authors seem averse to personally marketing their books. To them, it almost seems morally repugnant - like bribing people to read something they should choose of their own volition. But read up on the business of writing and you'll discover that publishers these days insist that authors involve themselves in the selling of books. I'd suggest that Patterson's success is at least partly due to his personal involvement in marketing his books.

As a former ad executive, he's intimately involved with the design, publishing and advertising of his books. In his early years of writing, Patterson repeatedly challenged conventional industry practices in book marketing. It's quite possible that if he hadn't taken rather extraordinary measures in advertising those early books, he'd just be another writer today.

3. Keep improving. Of one of his early books, Patterson says, "That's an absolutely horrifying book.... I actually tell people not to read it."

4. It's tough to get a first novel published. Over a dozen publishers rejected Patterson's first manuscript. Once published, it won a prestigious Edgar Award. Everyone in the industry tells me it's much more difficult to get published now. So don't let rejection indicate to you that your writing sucks. All authors, except best-selling authors, get rejection after rejection.

5. Don't expect everyone to like your books. Stephen King has called Patterson "a terrible writer." A Washington Post reviewer called one of his works "subliterate." To which Patterson responds, "Thousands of people don't like what I do. Fortunately, millions do."

6. Story trumps sentences. In his early work, he obsessed over his sentences. Now he's more interested in stories than sentences. Mahler describes Patterson's writing as "light on atmospherics and heavy on action, conveyed by simple, colloquial sentences." Patterson says, "I don't believe in showing off. Showing off can get in the way of a good story." He writes short chapters and avoids "description, back story and scene setting whenever possible." He prefers to "hurl readers into the action and establish his characters with a minimum of telegraphic details."

7. On writing what people want. "I have a saying. If you want to write for yourself, get a diary. If you want to write for a few friends, get a blog. But if you want to write for a lot of people, think about them a little bit. What do they like? What are their needs? A lot of people in this country go through their days numb. They need to be entertained. They need to feel something."

8. On loving your work. Patterson's grandad once said to him, "Jim, I don't care what you do when you grow up. I don't care if you drive a truck like I do or if you become the president. Just remember that when you go over the mountain to work in the morning, you've got to be singing." Patterson said, "Well, I am."

9. Understand the publishing industry's bias toward best-selling authors. Times have changed. The industry has changed. Before 1980, if you sold a couple of hundred thousand copies in hardcover, you had a "hit" book. Today, to be a blockbuster, it's gotta sell at least one million copies. How did this happen, and how does this affect authors?

When conglomerates consolidated the industry in the 1980's, they sought larger profits by pushing for bigger best-sellers. "Under pressure from both their parent companies and booksellers, publishers became less and less willing to gamble on undiscovered talent and more inclined to hoard their resources for their most bankable authors. ... The few books that publishers invested heavily in sold; most of the rest didn't. And the blockbuster became even bigger."

My takeaways: 1) If you're already a best-selling author, the traditional publishing industry is a great way to go. They'll publish you, spend the money to market you, and pay to have your books displayed in the most prominent places in bookstores. 2) If you're not already a best-selling author, expect it to be very difficult to get published (or republished) with traditional publishers. If you do get published by them, they probably will do little to market your book. If you've gotta market the book yourself anyway, and have the time and motivation to consider the new tools of publishing, consider the self-publishing option.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Networking Miracle

Get out there. Keep meeting new people. Take an interest by asking what they do. Offer your assistance or help. It's called networking, and there's something very mysterious about it.

So last night I almost skipped a networking event - a local alumni gathering for the university my wife attended. But I went because I always seem to meet someone I need to meet at these type meetings. Also, they offer free food.

So the first few people I met were interesting, nice, and I felt like I was able to encourage or offer some direction in their pursuits. We exchanged business cards. It's always fun to be useful to someone.

The fourth and last person I met was a financial planner, so we naturally hit it off - my latest book is on personal finances. He mentioned that he was raising two boys, trying to help them toward independence, so I mentioned that getting my own 7 boys independent inspired my recent research and writing. Finally, I offered him a free copy, thinking he might find it useful. And, who knows, he might could recommend it to clients or when he teaches seminars or something.

So he says, "Hey, my wife works with a textbook distributor to schools. I'll let her see it."

I thought, "A textbook distributor to schools? A TEXTBOOK DISTRIBUTOR TO SCHOOLS!!!"

It just happens that my top marketing goal for this year is to figure out how to get my book into schools. I don't have a distributor to schools. I need one.

This is so bizarre that it almost defies imagination. On the way home, after giving him a copy (always, always, keep copies of your books in your car), I looked at all the lights of stores in Kennesaw and thought, "Out of the 30,000 people in Kennesaw, Georgia tonight, what are the odds that one of them works for a book distributor to schools? And what are the odds that I would meet that person's husband at a random event that had nothing to do with book marketing, and that the meeting would occur in the very month I was prioritizing marketing to schools?"

Coincidence? Because of my faith, I have to believe that this was a God thing. As someone once said, "a coincidence is when God works a miracle and decides to remain anonymous."

On the other hand, there tends to be a human part in miracles - someone prays, someone is out helping the needy, then God shows up. Networking gurus would say that miracles tend to happen more around people who are out there doing something, rather than to people who are sitting on the couch eating nachos and watching TV.

Whatever you make of this, I think it pays to get out there and meet people. I help them; they help me. That's when miracles happen.

J. Steve Miller
President, Legacy Educational Resources
Author of Enjoy Your Money! How to Make It, Save It, Invest It and Give It
"The money book for people who hate money books."

A Writer's Weaknesses: Try Teamwork

Here's a note I wrote on a forum to someone who said he's a great idea person, but his grammar sucks. I assume that he's tried to work on his grammar, but it's just one of those things that he can't "get."

Dear _____,

If you're aspiring to be an editor, you'll have to be an expert on Grammar. But if you're wanting to write books and articles, that's what a writing team is all about. Whenever I write an article or a chapter, I read it over and over it, trying to perfect it. Then I give it to my wife, who's a fast reader and can give me big-picture ideas. Then I make corrections and give it to my mom, who's a stickler for grammar - she's the comma queen, agonizing over whether this or that comma is really necessary. If you're in a writer's group, that's where they come in handy.

For a book, I'll give the manuscript to many other people, besides my wife and mom, to critique. They keep finding errors - some of fact, some of grammar, some of consistency or logical development. These are not typically professional writers - just people who like to read. (They're typically glad to look it over, honored that I respect their opinion. I give them a free book after it's published, then ask if they'll give me a review on Amazon. Since they've already read the manuscript, I get reviews right after it comes out.)

By the time I give a book to a professional editor, she's having to look hard to find mistakes.

Sure, there are some writers who can do it all, then turn it in to an editor for final polishing. Steven King used to teach English on a college level, so he can do it that way. But many, many others think of it as a team approach. James Patterson, the most prolific, best-selling author of our time, will "write" 9 books this year. He's the idea person; then he gives it to a team member to flesh it out. George Lucas can't spell worth anything - but he's a great idea person and can tell a great story. Lloyd Braun hatched the idea of the TV series "Lost." He hired Abrams and Lindelof to do the writing. And they involve others in their writing sessions as well.

Do you involve others in your writing? In what way? How does it work for you?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Author Shares What Publicity Worked for Her and What Didn't

This article by a POD author tells frankly what worked and what didn't for her. Shows that just putting money into things that give you exposure don't necessarily sell books.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Book Marketing: The Snowball Effect

When I first published Enjoy Your Money!, I narrowed down a distributor who targeted selling to libraries and applied for their services. They turned me down flat. Now, eight months later, two library distributors are requesting my book and one, a distinguished distributor, (Follett) has signed me on as a vendor.

What brought them to me? Follett said that they had received some orders, which, I assume, came from libraries. But how did the libraries hear of my book?

My best guess is that it's either from VOYA Magazine - a review magazine that targets youth libraries (which I pursued), or The Librarian's News Wire - to which I sent a free press release.

Besides orders from distributors, my Amazon sales have doubled in December and January. Yesterday, for no discernible reason, I sold 17 books on Amazon, although I average only 2 per day. Where are all the Amazon orders coming from? There's no way for me to know.

Apparently, some of those links from reviews or word of mouth from readers or links from my contributions to discussion groups - something - has made publicity take on a life of its own.

I suppose it's what publicity folks call "buzz." Being the skeptical type, I'd always been suspicious of those claiming that you could create buzz by doing certain things. Sure, it happens to some, but what percentage of authors can create it, even when they do all the right things? But I guess it can happen!

My lesson?

"Nobody wants you till somebody wants you;
then everybody wants you."

So the trick is to get somebody to want you and build upon that. Put your manuscript out far and wide to get blurbs and reviews. Use those reviews and blurbs to solicit more reviews and blurbs. Eventually, movers and shakers begin to notice. If you have 100 or 1000 links out there pointing back to your book, somebody who's searching for a book like yours is likely to find you. And occasionally, one of those buyers will be a person of influence who spreads the word far and wide.

Hey, this is pretty exciting!

Time Saver for Typing the Same Text Over and Over

I found a free clippings manager (multi clipboard) that's a free "ad on" with Firefox. Once I copy my five line signature (see at end of this post) into the program, I can hit ctl/alt/v and then click "n" (for "name") and the below signature magically appears! This should save me a lot of time!

Without a multi-clipboard, we copy text to put into another document or program, but once we copy a second text, the first text disappears. With a multi-clipboard, you can store any text that you find yourself regularly typing, so that you can paste it without having to copy it all over again.

It's called Clippings 3.1 and can be downloaded here if you're running Firefox as your browser:

J. Steve Miller
President, Legacy Educational Resources
Author of Enjoy Your Money! How to Make It, Save It, Invest It and Give It
"The money book for people who hate money books."

Friday, January 15, 2010

Pursue Niche Reviewers

Keep pursuing reviews beyond the big-time reviewers!

About 8 months after my book came out, I sent my book to VOYA Magazine, a niche publication that librarians consult for their young adult collections. They did a nice review, and within a month, I received a request from the Follett Corporation (, saying they'd received requests for the book and wanted to distribute it to school libraries. I looked up Follett in my book marketing books to find that they were indeed a respected (founded in 1873!), large distributor who actively market their books to libraries. They're starting to order my books and so far appear very professional. I give them a 55% discount off retail, but they provide free shipping through their Fed Ex account.

I've wanted to get my book into libraries, but I'm sure it would have been a long, arduous task for me to pull off personally. Since libraries are used to working with Follett and respect them, this should be a wonderful opportunity!

So, if you think your book might be valuable for school libraries or the youth collections of other libraries, consider sending a copy to VOYA magazine. Here's some of their information:

VOYA Magazine, Voice of Youth Advocates, "The Library Magazine Serving Those Who Serve Young Adults" "VOYA is the only magazine that matters for librarians working with young adults. . . . Simply the best there is."—Patrick Jones, public librarian and author of Connecting Young Adults and Libraries, 2nd Ed. (Neal-Schuman, 1998). Founded in 1978.

J. Steve Miller
Author of Enjoy Your Money! How to Make It, Save It, Invest It and Give It
"The money book for people who hate money books"

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Book Marketing: Think and Think Different

IBM's motto is "Think." Apple Computer's motto is "Think Different." Authors would do well to adopt both mottoes in their marketing strategies.

So far over the past year, I've read about 15 books on book marketing. I've found the lack of redundancy striking. Each book shares fresh ideas, new experiences and recommends new tools and resources just begging to be explored. As a result, I have a much better handle on how to sell my books - what's most likely to work and what will most likely be a waste of time.

But beyond learning from the pros, I find the need to do my own thinking. After all, no book is exactly like my book. Isn't it likely that the marketing of my book should be just as unique?

Yesterday a chance encounter showed me the need to keep thinking and learning. I walked into the gym to see Henry walking toward me. Now Henry's hard to not notice - he's built like a tank, with arms the size of my legs. He tells me excitedly that he's been selling my personal finance books (Enjoy Your Money!) at his video game store.

(Why did I put it on consignment in a video game store? Well, the owner of our local SOHO HERO, a home office printing and mailing shop, told me that a local author sells children's books at her store because parents come in with their kids, who start reading the books while their parents make their copies, and then they want their parents to buy the book. I thought, "Since parents are more likely to buy my book, I need to find a store where the kids are doing stuff and the parents have the time on their hands to pick up a book and check it out. Thus, a video game store.)

I responded, "Wow! I was ready to collect all my books from local stores. I'd concluded that, although Amazon sales were great, that people simply wouldn't buy my book from stores." Henry said, "Here's how it works. People are waiting in line and pick up the book. I tell them that I respect the author and like what I see in the way he's training his kids. Then they want to buy it. Here's the secret to your store sales: the person at the cash register has to believe in the book and be willing to sell it."

So my conclusion about sales in local stores was apparently all wrong. They could sell. But I'd missed one little component that was sabotaging my sales: make sure that I sell the owner on the book and give them enough information to be able to encourage people to buy it. If someone asks the store owner about the book and the response is, "I don't really know anything about it. It's just a book by some local author" then why would anyone buy it?

It's just one little trick. But perhaps there are 50 subtle tricks to getting my books sold in local, non-bookstore outlets. Odds are, reading all the marketing books in the world wouldn't tell me all the tricks that would work for my book. That's why we need to keep trying new things, keep listening, keep thinking, and keep thinking different.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

When Marketing Meets Magic

I'm sure some low-profile authors, by some inexplicable stroke of fortune, publish their books, get a phone call from Oprah within the first month, become instant media darlings, and watch their books quickly climb to best-seller status. It's like magic, but a magic that graces far less than one in a million authors.

The more typical magic comes as a complete surprise in the midst of an author doing the daily, mundane tasks to get her book noticed. Sadly, the great majority of authors will never experience the tap of the fairy's wand, not because their books suck, but because they failed to create the context frequented by fairies. Fairies quickly lose interest in authors who hope that their mother and brother will start an unstoppable word-of-mouth campaign. Soon, they flutter off to visit a more worthy author - the one passionately speaking at an obscure school to a bunch of half-interested students, wondering how in the world her life came to this. But then, quite unexpectedly, the fairy arrives with her wand. A teacher recommends the presentation on a popular teachers' forum, and you arrive home to find school after school begging you to speak at their schools and sell your books.

In broad strokes, that's how young author Christopher Paolini was touched by the magic. He tried doing the book signing thing in bookstores, but soon discovered that it didn't work very well for unknown, first-time authors. So he tried doing school presentations. He called school librarians in Houston and several of them allowed him to speak. Then the first fairy appeared, in the form of a librarian who posted an enthusiastic recommendation on a teachers' forum. That one recommendation allowed him to book a solid month of school talks in Houston.

He ended up doing over 135 presentations. In the summer of 2002, the second fairy appeared, in the form of novelist Carl Hiaasen, who was vacationing in a city where Paolini was speaking. Hiaasen's stepson showed the book to his stepdad, who recommended it to his publishing house. They signed Paolini and his book placed on the New York Times Best Seller list for 121 weeks.

You might wonder, "How lucky was it that one of those librarians frequented such a forum?" Or, "What are the odds that a novelist with connections just happened to find Paolini's book?"

Well, I'd argue that, although the odds of either of those specific events happening may be quite remote, the odds of something happening, given his 135 presentations, was almost certain.

At first, I didn't understand the magic. I thought that if one of my marketing efforts didn't produce immediate sales, it was just one more failure. But just getting out there and trying stirs things up. Fairies notice. Eventually, wands come out tapping and truly extraordinary stuff happens.

During my first few months of book marketing, I felt much like the pastor who went to watch the train go by every day. When someone inquired about his unusual habit, he said, "I just love to see something that moves without my having to push it." For the first few months, my book sold only when I was out there doing something. If I let up for a day, nothing happened. And 90% of what I tried seemed to have no impact at all.

But somehow, all that cumulative publicity made things start to happen. Some may call it word of mouth. Others may call it reaching a tipping point. Some may say I was touched by an angel. Whatever you call it, it certainly appears to be magic.
  • A book reviewer to school libraries wrote a positive review.
  • A respected distributor to school libraries started getting orders and requested a contract.
  • Twice as many sold on Amazon last month, without any promotion on my part.
  • Today, someone at the gym told me how he was successfully selling my book at his video store. Someone else found my website and said he's moving a branch of his organization to Atlanta and was interested in partnering. Yet another e-mailed to say he'd love to read my book, review it in his blog, and write an article for a popular youth-leaders publication.
Some may say I'm having lucky breaks, but I think luck tends to fall upon those who've been doing the daily, mundane stuff for nine months straight. Today, I felt the brush of the fairy's wand. It's pretty cool!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Cheap, Quality Mailers

Leaders of early Wal-Mart said that they made money by saving money. Publishers would do well to follow suit. I find myself mailing hundreds of books to media and potential reviewers, so that buying bubble mailers from office supply stores or even Wal-Mart for $1 or more adds up.

I've been saving 71 cents per bubble mailer, including shipping, by ordering from , when ordering 100 mailers. That's a savings of $71 on 100 mailers!

Always, always shop around and find the best rates on printing, mailing, and the other basics of the trade.