Business of Publishing

I do a lot of consultations with entrepreneurs who are looking to write a book in their niche. And this is a GREAT idea since it can help you really get your message out there, increase your reach, credibility and perceived expertise.

But sometimes these same entrepreneurs admit to me, rather sheepishly, that they have ANOTHER book project they’d just love to work on. Something that has NOTHING to do with their niche, business, or expertise. I really think they’re looking for permission to branch out and do something that really won’t forward their business at all.

Except that these “other” projects really DO help you forward your business!

Take for example, Pastarelli. I’ve written about him in a few articles. This book has NOTHING to do with writing and publishing blogs and books or with the other niche I write in, outdoor recreation. So why does this completely different project make me a better business owner?

Because Pastarelli is a passion of mine. And while I know that I need to keep the main thing the main thing, I’ve found that by doing something different has really increased my passion and creativity IN the main thing. But taking a break and writing something completely different is another way to re-charge your batteries and keep things fresh.

I’ve got two projects in the works that are completely out of my normal writing scope (and one is completely out of my comfort zone!)

Project #1:

I have sponsored events and had trade show booths a LOT throughout my professional career. And I’ve created a ton of tricks, tips, idea, and checklists that I really want to share. This book has nothing to do with anything in my current business. BUT the information keeps rattling around in my brain looking to get out.

I haven’t quite figured out how to turn this into a list-building exercise but I think the possibility is there. See, I have these GREAT checklists for trade show booth setup and I would like to offer this as a bonus to people who buy the book. What I’m not sure about is if THOSE people would be interested in a newsletter about writing…

(I’d LOVE your thoughts on that!)

This is a pretty small project. Like a rainy Saturday afternoon when it’s too nasty to hike and I’m too brain dead to really work.

Project #2:

A novel. Yep, I’ve been slowly outlining and planning a novel. I started in November, actually, collecting ideas and beginning my research. A novel is COMPLETELY out of my comfort zone and I’ll admit I’ve been a little freaked to even start writing. Jotting down ideas and doing research is WAY easier than actually beginning.

And I’ve been a little bit let off the hook because I refuse to start such a monumental project when I’m still in the middle of the LAST monumental project I’ve started: video.

But the video project should be launching in the next 10- to 14-days so I’m rapidly running out of excuses about the novel.

Now here’s the thing with BOTH of these other projects. I will be spending time, energy, creativity and effort on them. But I know that neither is really my MAIN THING. But both are side projects that will help with my overall creativity!

And, the novel is a goal of mine for 2014: Write Something That Scares You

So here’s the advice that I give to all those sheepish entrepreneurs who ask me about the “other” project they have brewing. Go for it! Enjoy the process but know when you need to come back to the main thing.

I’m the first to admit I think playing games on my Kindle Fire is a BAD IDEA. I figured out pretty early on that I get “addicted” to an activity pretty quickly; there’s no such thing as “just five minutes” for me. Knowing this, I uninstall the games that come with my computer and avoid Facebook games like the plague. Since I know I can’t quit once I’ve started I just don’t start at all.

When I bought a Samsung Galaxy Tablet two weeks ago I knew I would need to avoid the game section of Google Play. After all, the tablet is a tool and I bought it for one purpose in my business. And then my honey showed me “Pop Star” on his iPad. I knew that I would love it. I tried for three days to avoid downloading it to the Galaxy but I finally have in and downloaded a similar game, “Crush Star”.

(Same game rules, different scoring.)

I’ll admit it, I lost a fair amount of my weekend to the game. I used every excuse under the sun to play including that I was “stuck” on a project and needed to clear my head. Yeah right! I’m just avoiding the project.

Then I realized something. First off, the game isn’t challenging anymore; I’ve found the pattern that lets me win more than I lose. But what I realized was that this pattern, this philosophy, a way of looking three steps ahead, is actually something that completely and totally translates to writing books.

I felt no small amount of vindication that my “lost” hours really weren’t lost!

So let me introduce you to “Crush Star”.

The Rules:
The goal is to get rid of all the colored squares. The more of one color you can put together, the more points you earn. You have to earn a certain number of points per level to move on. When you crush the blocks, any blocks ABOVE the ones you crush move down. If you clear a whole column, the remaining columns move to the right. And you can only “crush” the squares when two or more are touching. (Diagonals don’t count; they have to share a common edge.)

As you can see from this game board, there is a large block of blue squares. When I first started to play, I would happily crush the blue squares and then move on to hunting down and destroying groups or two to three. I liked the graphics, the music, and the sound the blocks made as they were eliminated.

But I was pretty much getting stuck at about level 5. I just couldn’t earn enough points to move on. So I started paying attention to how the points were awarded.

2 blocks – 20 points
3 blocks – 45 points
4 blocks – 80 points
5 blocks – 125 points
6 blocks – 18- points
7 blocks – 245 points

As you can see, the more blocks you crush at one time, the more points you earn.

And then I figured out the REAL key:

You have to think long-term about how the blocks will slide together was you crush certain blocks. Sometimes you have to crush a two- or three-block group to make the biggest grouping of same-colored blocks.

Beginning game board.

Beginning game board.

Move 3.

Move 3.

Move 4

Move 4

Move 5

Move 5

Move 7

Move 7

Move 8. Worth 1,280 points.

Move 8. Worth 1,280 points.

Wonderful!

Wonderful!

By looking ahead, and knowing the end goal (blue blocks together) in just seven moves, I was about to create a SIXTEEN block group. That group alone was worth 1,280 points.

So how does this relate to writing a book?

When I work with my clients, often times we work with the content THEY ALREADY HAVE to create their book. It’s a lot like the starting game board: a large chunk is already done. A few key (new) chapters later, the pieces of the whole book slide in to place.

Okay, that’s a pretty metaphor. But GETTING to the place where the book slides in to place… There are two ways:

Way One: When you have ENOUGH content already written for other things: blogs, newsletters, articles, white papers, etc., the book will become self-evident. Patterns, themes and similar topics will become noticeable and THAT will become your book. And depending on the volume of content you start out with, you may have enough for a few books.

This is like hunting down the groupings that the game board just GIVES you.

But eventually you run out of the “stuff” you’ve already created. Sooner or later, you’ll need to start from having SOME content but not a lot. Then, you’ll write strategic articles that will start to create the framework of your book and fill in the gaps. THIS is the top-level game play.

Way Two: You have the outline of the book. You start writing the articles that you have to write anyway but instead of random articles about your topic, you’re driving toward a goal. Every piece of writing becomes strategic; either THIS book or the NEXT book.

When I first started self-publishing my books I had a HUGE backlist of articles. I had six years of newsletters and blogging under my belt. When I did an inventory, I discovered I already had 20 campfire stories, 90 recipes, 12 articles about trout fishing, and 30 camping articles.

I took the content I already had written to create:

  • 2 books of campfire stories, fifteen stories each (I wrote ten new stories)
  • 3 cookbooks of 33 recipes each (I had to create about five recipes to fit into my categories)
  • 1 book about trout fishing (about 30% new content to fill in the gaps)
  • 1 book about beginning tent camping (about 40% new content to fill in the gaps)

I then created my blog’s calendar so that I was writing a new campfire story every month; I published my third book of campfire stories six months later. (Many of the stories can ONLY be found in the book.)

I’ve published an additional 20 new recipes; I’ll have a fourth cookbook late spring.

And then there’s this blog: I put the eventual book(s) plan into place before I posted a single article. I’m looking long-term and making sure all my “crushed blocks” are moving me closer toward my next book.

And now, I’m off to download Angry Birds!

Back in August, I wrote about Amazon’s reviewing system for eBooks. I still feel that reviews are important to sales but not the be-all, end-all. I’ve recently received some new reviews on my books (yay!) and they are all positive 4- and 5-star reviews.

When a reader leaves a review on Amazon, good or bad, there’s a little spot where other people can leave a comment.

Don’t!

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As the author, whatever you do, don’t respond to a review. If you respond to a 1- or 2-star review you are seen as whiny and can’t take constructive criticism. If you respond to a 4- or 5-star review, congratulations, you have officially entered into creepy stalker territory.

I know it’s hard not to defend your work from people who didn’t “get” it, don’t like it, or didn’t read the full description before buying. But there is NOTHING in any way, shape, or form that you can say that allows you to stay classy.

And as much as you’d love to thank a reviewer for a positive review, don’t do that either. Amazon’s reviewing system isn’t Facebook; the reader isn’t looking to start a conversation with you – you are AUTHOR, not a real person.

Deal with it.

If you want to engage directly with readers, be available through links in your book to your website, email, and social media accounts. Then, if a reader reaches out to you directly, feel free to thank them for their opinion, start a dialog and exchange knitting patterns. And if a reader sends you an email saying how much they loved the book, it’s okay to ask them to post the review on Amazon!

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This question came up at an event I was at this past weekend. Especially the related questions:

Is there even a difference?

and

Does it matter?

While there are some experts who claim that anything posted on a blog is by nature, a blog post, I can agree that content of any length, posted to a blog can be considered a “blog post” but that’s just splitting hairs! The difference is in the way the two are used.

Blog Post

  • Short! Typically under 500 words.
  • Casual. You’re not trying to explain everything in a blog post.
  • Frequent. Because there’s less content, they can (should?) be posted more often.
  • Tightly written. One topic, one opinion.

 

Article

  • Longer. Over 500 words and up to several pages in length.
  • Professional. The goal is to inform and are can be more formal in style and tone.
  • Detailed. Not always fact-based (can be opinion) but they have all the details outlined.

Of course, this is an oversimplification of the differences but it’s a good starting point! Another way of thinking about it is that a blog post is like a magazine’s sidebar (good content, short, to the point) and an article is the main story.

Which style is right for you?

I think you should use both! Sometimes, it’s nice to post short snippets of information that didn’t take as long to write (or research) and post. But your readers are coming to you because you’re an expert in your field, they genuinely want to know your opinion, and they are looking for good information.

By varying the length and type of posts on your blog, you are engaging your readers. Most people don’t want a steady diet of long, takes time to read it, highly detailed articles. But, by the same token, I’ve seen to many topics only covered in a blog post when the subject matter really needed an article!

Even with our short attention spans and super-busy days, the right topic, written with all the word needed, will be read and consumed. Personally, it makes me crazy when I go to a blog, expected an well written, thought-out article about a topic and I get a blog post: little more than a summary or bullet points that sends me rushing back to Google to do more research. This also means I just left the blog — and the blog’s owner lost me as a converted subscriber, reader, and follower.

PS: This is a blog post! Tipping the scales at only 420 words.

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Many small business owners, especially those with an online presence, understand the importance of writing and publishing an email newsletter, or eZine. Without fail, they write well researched, relevant content and email it out to their customers and prospects, hoping to gain sales and customers.

What these small business owners/eZine authors don’t realize is that they are leaving easy money on the table!

One of the business owners I’m working with owns a local brick-and-mortar store. It’s a hugely successful garden center. One of the reasons it is so successful, even through the economic challenges and major road construction, and still able to compete head-to-head with the Big Box stores in town, is through the quality content that is emailed weekly to subscribers. The business owner knows the power of content and the garden center’s website has a wealth of resources hidden in its archives.

Since the garden center is known as the place to go to for local plants, garden supplies and knowledge, at first glance it looks like all that weekly content is doing exactly what it’s supposed to do: establish credibility and bring people in the door.

There’s work to write, edit, and publish each article. But after the customers are at the garden center, the content is no longer working on behalf of the business owner.

It like the old adage: make your money work for you. Most people agree that it’s better to get even the tiniest fraction of interest on money in a savings account than to have the money sitting in a sock drawer, lazing around. Money earning interest, even a miniscule amount, is money that is working.

So why not treat articles the exact same way? What do you do with your articles after you send out your newsletter?

If you archive it on your website and then forget about it, it’s the same as letting your money watch bad daytime TV while hanging out in your sock drawer! Content you’ve already written can be put work for you – bringing in additional dollars from a brand-new market in eBook and printed book sales.

I’m currently working to take all the great content that has been created for the garden center’s newsletter and repackaging it into books that will be sold on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other major on-line retailers. Even though it seems like a cut-off market, written specifically for this area, the gardening tips, tricks, and techniques are relevant for other gardeners facing similar challenges. The articles are relevant, well researched, and written by a gardening expert.

The brick-and-mortar store is the local market leader, hands down. While it brings in the lion’s share of all gardening dollars locally, at some point, there are few additional local dollars to be had. By repackaging existing content into a different format, we are able to add an additional revenue stream into the business and expand the potential client base far beyond a local reach.

When the books are sold on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc, the business owners is able to earn additional dollars that aren’t related to local sales. These book sales probably won’t result in additional retail sales due to simple geography, but they will add and additional revenue stream.

The business owner has already spent the time to write and edit the articles. And it’s paid for itself in customers walking into the store. But, each week, new content has to be written and edited for that week’s newsletter. Then the customers come into the store.

Just like vitamins or exercise, it’s a never ending cycle: write the article, email it out, and get customers. Repeat weekly for consistent results.

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Through a one-time publishing process, the same content can start earning passive income as books. After all, the content is already written (and paid for)! Once the book is published on Amazon, it can be sold again and again and again with no additional effort on the part of the business owner.

This is how I got started publishing my own books. For years of I wrote newsletters about outdoor recreation translated into three camping cookbooks, three books of campfire stories, and a book on trout fishing. These books continually bring me income. All I had to do was repackage the content from the articles into books and now I receive a monthly royalty payment without any additional effort on my part.

Is your content working for you? Is it bringing you revenue from the largest retail website in the world? Or is it just archived on a website or hard drive? Find that great already-written content and let it work for you!

This article was first published in “Happier Healthier Women” magazine. Get your free copy today.

I received an email this week from Paul T. Paul asked:

I have been toying with the idea of publishing some sort of eBook. My problem is staying focused on one topic. I could say I probably have topics and starts of layouts for about a dozen books. Do you have any ideas on how to stay on track?

Night Path

Thanks for the email, Paul. This is a really valid concern.
Here’s how you can figure out what path you’ll want to take to get started with your books.

1. Decide why you want to publish your book.
Are you looking to establish your credibility in your field? Attract new clients? Fulfill a life-long dream of being a published author? Make extra money?

No answer is the wrong answer! But the answer to WHY you want to publish your will direct how you go forward.

2. Know your thought process.
Do you need to write it all down and get it all out? Or can you make a list of book topics before actually writing a word?

There are people who work both ways. Either way is just fine and use with what works for you. I’m a list creator and usually that works for me. But sometimes, I end up writing everything that comes through my head and then cutting it down to just the main topic and moving all the rest of the writing to different projects.

While that may seem like more work, when I get to the other projects, a lot of the writing is already started!

3. Find the project’s flow.
You need to have gain clarity on what each book will specifically be about and what flows from one topic to the next. Sometimes you’ll find that what started out as one topic becomes three!

If you try to skip step two, you’ll just frustrate yourself. Give your ideas time to percolate so you can see what works in Project A and what is better in Project B.

For example, I’m working on a book that will be a beginner’s guide to tent camping. My idea creation had all this AND camping games and songs, crafts, stories, and recipes. Too much! I am staying laser focused on JUST information for tent camping for beginners and moving everything else into other books.

Don’t forget that when you have more than one book in a subject area, you can always direct readers from one book to the next. I direct readers to my cookbooks from the campfire story books and vice versa.

4. Pick your favorite topic and GO!
In the case of my camping book project(s), I really wasn’t excited by camping games and songs. I’m sure there’s a market for the information. I’m even pretty sure it would be fun to write. But it didn’t fire me up and make me excited.

I also decided to focus on the beginner’s guide to tent camping as my first project because it would help me establish credibility as an outdoor recreation expert. (Remember, that’s my other love!)

5. Cut everything that doesn’t fit.
I recently read a book that had a ton of potential. But the author wasn’t brutal in removing everything that didn’t fit the main premise of the book so the topics jumped around from her childhood to nutrition to relationships to self-esteem. She had so much knowledge to share but it got lost in lack of focus.

Notice I didn’t say DELETE anything that doesn’t fit your main topic! I said cut. Open up a second manuscript and save those sections for another project.

What advice would you give Paul?

I received an email from a client last week asking my opinion on adding additional content into her book project. Her manuscript is nearly done and she wanted my advice on adding in some additional chapters with resources, tips, and a “plan” to follow.

I suggested against it.

Oh! Did I surprise you? Let me explain:

In the industry where she works (health coaching) it is a very common practice to add several bonuses to the main offer. The thought is that you’ll come for the meat of the topic (main offering) but stay for the potatoes, salad and dessert (bonuses).

However, in the book publishing world, this approach often backfires. Your reader purchased your book for a very specific reason; they were looking for a very specific solution. Offering them more than what they came for usually doesn’t scream “BONUS INFO! This author really knows her stuff!” It says: “This author couldn’t figure out how to stay on topic!”

I’ve seen it in a lot of independently self-published titles, both in fiction and non-fiction. Here are some examples:

 

Fiction Example:

I buy a Kindle version of a novel. Upon “finishing” the book, the progress bar that tells me how much of the book you have left to read is saying 20%. That last 20% of the book are excerpts from the author’s other novels.

Now, at first glance, that seems like good marketing, right? I just finished this novel, presumably liked it since I got to the end, and I get a taste of more stories. But think about the math: I paid $4.00 for the book. But 20% of the “book” wasn’t a book. It was just advertisements placed there by the author.

I really spent $3.00 for the book and gave the author $1.00 for the PRIVILEGE of selling to me. I think I might be a bit annoyed.

 

Non-Fiction Example:

I purchase a book on how to use a trade show event to attract new clients to my business. I’m expecting a book that will have tips, tricks, techniques, sales tools, etc all revolving around a trade show.

I get one chapter about finding the right trade show, one chapter about setting up the booth, one (short) chapter about a free giveaway to build my newsletter list. Then, I get six chapters about how to email that list, how often, what to say, etc and a call to action to buy the author’s email newsletter building program.

Again, it seems like good marketing, right? I’m learning how the author is an expert in list building.

Here’s the rub, I really spent my $6.00 on a book about TRADE SHOWS! I got three chapters about trade shows and six about email newsletter lists. I’m feeling flat-out ripped off!

So how can you fix this problem?

1. Deliver what you’ve promised
If I’m expecting a novel, give me a story. If I want a non-fiction book, especially a how-to, solve that problem for me.

2. Offer related “bonuses”
My recipe books offer 33 recipes and four tips on camp cooking, each under a page long. It works out to approximately 36 pages of recipe content to 4 pages of “bonus”. Or, another way of looking at it is 90% content they paid for (recipes) and 10% bonus (tips).

3. Point them at a second book!
Break your content into targeted chunks. Then make each chunk its own book. At the end of each book, give links to the others.

We’ve been trained that offering bonuses is the key to getting more sales. But in books, the price point of purchase is so low that only the most targeted of bonuses really impact sales.

Coming back to my client; she decided to keep her initial book with a highly targeted focus. We’re moving all the “bonus” material into a companion book project that will dovetail into her existing marketing.