Everything you need to know to publish a book

So, you want to publish a book.

You know that you have something to say. You produce and regularly publish great content to your blog, Tumblr or podcast. And now you want to go the next step and publish a book.

The book publishing industry is being transformed by technology and shifting media consumption habits. And as this happens, it is becoming possible for anyone with something to say to publish it in book form and to reach an audience.

If you think you have a book in you and you are wondering how to publish it, you must read two posts: Jay Baer’s 25 Secrets – How I Wrote and Marketed a New York Times Best Selling Business Book and James Altucher‘s How to Self-Publish a Bestseller: Publishing 3.0.

Jay is the author of Youtility, which charted on the New York Times Business Book bestseller list. James is the author of Choose Yourself, which ranked on the Wallstreet Journal bestseller list. And both authors share generously, not just about how they wrote and produced their books, but also about the savvy marketing and promotion programs they conducted to earn their place on the bestseller lists.

Jay Baer obtained a deal with a traditional publisher and then put together and ran his own promotion campaign. James Altucher self-published, but relied heavily on marketing pros to promote his book. Two different paths. One common element – success.

A few highlights to whet your appetite for reading their complete posts.

Jay BaerJay Baer

“Always go with the most enthusiastic publisher, even if the terms are not quite as good.”

Recognize that you, not your publisher, will sell your books. So, put a lot of time into your marketing plan.

Signing with a major publisher brings credibility, but not necessarily more money.

Develop your ideas in advance of the book through presentations.

Establish a schedule for your writing and stick to it. 1,500 words per weekday and 5,000 words one weekend day per week enabled Jay to write Youtility in six weeks. You can do this too. But it takes discipline.

Covers and titles matter. Invest in producing great ones and test them on your social networks. Your followers will tell you what works best.

Build your own bookstore to sell your books. It gives you more control and data on purchasers.

Aim for the most sales you can get on day one. It’s your best chance to chart on the bestseller lists. Offer incentives for pre-orders.

Be clear-headed about the effectiveness of advertising. Pre-order ads drove awareness but few direct sales.

Publicists can produce results for you. Working with a publicist as well as his own outreach, brought Jay over 50 interviews and podcasts.

Help bloggers to cover you. Reading and reviewing a book may be more work than all but the most dedicated are prepared to do. Many will gladly take a guest post. So, develop topic-specific posts from your book that you can guest post on popular blogs.

Don’t stop with the book. “Atomize” its content for things like an ebook with the 25 best quotes. You can get much more life for your content in different forms.

Promote. Promote. Promote. Speak at events that will sell books. Produce a video. Produce related content as a bonus for book buyers. Conduct contests. Remember, you are responsible to sell your book.

James AltucherJames Altucher

“The distinction now is no longer between “traditional publishing” versus “self-publishing.” The distinction now is between professional versus unprofessional publishing.”

Self-publishing will enable you to maintain more control over your content rights (think international markets) and also the content in your book. It also will enable you to bring your book to market much faster than you could through the traditional publishing system.

A traditional publisher will want to see evidence that you can be successful in promoting your own book sales. “But if you already can hand-deliver the customers, what do you need the traditional publisher for?”

You can become your own professional publisher because the professional resources you need are available to you. “…for the first time, the best editors, designers, marketers are no longer working at the big publishing houses. Instead, they are striking out on their own and independently charging for their services.”

Edit. Edit. Edit. James and his editor went back and forth more than fifteen times. And then, after Altucher read his book for the audio version, he edited again for the things that didn’t work when read aloud.

Like Jay Baer, Altucher obsessed over the right title and the right design. And he also hired a publicist who delivered results.

In this new publishing world, “ I am not limited to who is on the publisher’s staff but I can pick the absolute best people in the industry. With millions of books out there, the competition is incredible. … Hiring the best editor, design firm, marketing firm, and audio firms were all part of that. Not just the best around but who I felt were the best in the world.”

You can do this too

So, you have the content. You have the writing talent. Can you publish a book? Yes you can.

What are you waiting for?

Bonus Content

Are you struggling with writer’s block? Mitch Joel tells you how to End to Writer’s Block.

Still reading? Let me leave you with one final bit of inspiration: the story of Terry Fallis, the PR executive who self published his first novel in his late forties, only to win a series of awards and become a serial bestseller. You CAN do it!

eBook prices remain high in Canada despite price drops in US

While readers in the US may be benefiting from a drop in eBook prices following settlement of the Apple eBook price fixing case, Canadians are not sharing in the benefit of declining eBook prices.

Laura Hazard Owen reported yesterday that retailers have begun cutting eBook prices in response to the settlement of the Apple eBook price fixing case. Her post included a table comparing prices at which certain books are offered by the various major eBook retailers in the US.

I focused on the fact that my favourite eBook seller, Kobo, was the highest priced seller in all examples. I tweeted about this and was promptly called out by Jennifer Fox.

 

 

Jennifer makes good points. Canadian prices always are higher than US prices and a comparison of US prices does not transfer into Canada.

So, I decided to take a look at the prices that the Ebooks in Laura Hazard Owen’s example are being offered in Canada. .

Laura Hazard Owen’s US price table

Laura Hazard Owen eBook price comparison

Canadian prices for the same books

Title Author Kindle Nook Apple Kobo Google
And the Mountains Echoed Khaled Hosseini  $    16.99  n/a  $    16.99  $    16.99  $    16.99
Entwined with You Sylvia Day  $    10.99  n/a  $    10.99  $    10.99  $    10.99
The Fault in Our Stars John Green  $    15.99  n/a  $    15.99  $    15.99  $    15.99
The 9th Girl Tami Hoag  $    13.99  n/a  $    13.99  $    13.99  $    13.99
Whiskey Beach Nora Roberts  $    15.99  n/a  $    15.99  $    15.99  $    15.99
Backfire Catherine Coulter  $    10.99  n/a  $    10.99  $    10.99  $    10.99
Youtility Jay Baer  $    12.99  n/a  $    12.99  $    12.99  $    12.99
The Great Degeneration Niall Ferguson  $    13.99  n/a  $    13.99  $    13.99  $    13.99
Cooked Michael Pollan  $    15.99  n/a  $    15.99  $    15.99  $    15.99

Do you see what I see? For Canadians, one high price for each book, regardless of retailer.

Canadians are not benefiting from the drop in US eBook prices

It’s clear that agency pricing persists in Canada. And that means higher book prices across the board with no competition on price.

That’s not good for consumers. That doesn’t promote reading. And that’s something that must change. Now. Not next year.

What will it take to end agency pricing of eBooks in Canada?

Who will see this as an opportunity and take the lead?

I buy from Kobo because of its commitment to ePub standards and its device-agnostic approach. And I’m willing to pay a premium for being part of an open system that lets me consume my books on the device of my choice.

So, Kobo, you’ve already got me for the right reasons. Now why don’t you go the next step by seizing the opportunity to break the agency model and lead the way to better book prices for Canadian eBook readers.

Kobo, are you listening?

SXSW Interactive's Special Sauce: Community

With the opening of the SXSW Panel Picker to new presentation proposals, preparations are actively underway for the 2014 edition of SXSW Interactive.

SXSW is the little conference that grew and grew to be a giant festival of all that is geeky good. Why has it grown far beyond other conferences of its sort?

DSC00018One explanation may be found in the sense of community that has propelled SXSW Interactive from its earliest days. In my view, SXSWi is a conference of, by, and for the attendees.

Hugh Forrest, the Director of SXSW Interactive, can be seen as the embodiment of this ethos. In fact, he actively eschews his actual title of Director, saying that he prefers to think of himself as SXSWi’s Community Manager.  In a recent interview for the Inside PR podcast, Forrest told Martin Waxman, “Community Manager is what most of my work is, managing this community, or trying to understand this community, trying to communicate with this community, trying to absorb all they great ideas they have. That community manager concept applies to so much I do.”

And Forrest gives full credit for the success of SXSWi to the community of participants. ”I have been completely amazed at how much Interactive has grown in the past ten years and, particularly, in the past five years. When we first started this thing, it was a struggle to get people in the door. It was a struggle to figure out what we were doing and what our market was and I could never imagine that it would grow as much as it has grown. … I would love to say that it  was my vision that propelled that growth. But, it’s really this community that’s pulled us forward as opposed to us trying to push them in one direction. The better we’ve become at listening to this community, engaging with this community, understanding what this community wants, polling the best ideas of the community, the more the event has grown. The more we have been able to let them pull us forward,  the better this event has become.”

Forrest has a well thought-through approach to the SXSWi community, to which he attaches the PEACE acronym:

P: “Patience over profits.” Things take a  while. Be prepared for it.

E: “Early buzz is good buzz.” The panel picker and community voting on presentations in July and August build anticipation of the event nine months ahead of the actual March festival dates.

A: “Acknowledge your mistakes and failures.” If you are doing something innovative, you will make mistakes. When you acknowledge mistakes, the community can be very forgiving.

C: “Customer service leads to customer advocates.” Word of mouth endorsements are still the best kind of publicity there is. The line between love and hate is a thin one. Acknowledge, respond to and help the critics. They may change their minds and become supporters.

E: “Encourage massive creativity.”  Forrester does not see SXSWi as a technology event. “We are an event about creativity.” And he tries to be open to the ideas of the community that push the programming forward.

Listen to Hugh Forrest explain his perspective on the success of SXSWi using the player below. And stick around for the second half of the podcast to hear Martin Waxman, Gini Dietrich’s and my take on Forrest’s approach and building community.

Sherrilynne, Nora and Joe's Excellent Adventure

DSC00035In June, I had a once in a lifetime experience – I flew on a de Havilland Beaver from Vancouver Airport to Galiano Island, one of the gulf islands between Vancouver and Victoria.

I was invited by Darren Barefoot and Julie Szabo to attend Fireworks Factory, a gathering a smart, progressive marketers. I wanted very much to attend. However, I was scheduled to be in Austin the day prior to Fireworks Factory and there was no way I could get to Vancouver in time to catch the last ferry of the day destined for Galiano. As it turned out, both Sherrilynne Starkie and Nora Young also were booked on flights that arrived too late for the ferry.

DSC00039We had three people in search of a solution. And that solution: charter a floatplane  that would take us from the airport to Galiano. So off we went on our excellent adventure. And I recorded it on video to share with my friends. Sadly, I lost almost all of the video I produced. I backup my hard drive to Dropbox. However, the Internet connnection on Galiano Island was iffy and slow. So, the video files were trickling up to Dropbox. And wouldn’t you know it, this would be the time that my computer would pick to fail! After numerous calls to Dell support, my hard drive was wiped and everything but a few still photos and a couple video outtakes were lost. A frustrating experience because I really wanted to capture and hold on to this experience. And a lesson in the ephemeral nature of all media.

So, here’s the little bit of video I could salvage. The rest will play only in the memories of Nora, Sherrilynne and me. :(

DSC00036In case you aren’t aware, the DeHavilland Beaver is an aviation icon. Over 1600 Beavers were manufactured in its 20 year production run beginning in 1947. And although the final Beaver came off the assembly line over 45 years ago, in 1967, many are still in service.   It is the quintessential bush plane, used widely in Canada’s north. It is a true Canadian icon that has inspired legions of fans. One fan, Neil Aird has established a Website, DHC-2.com, where he is attempting to compile a pictorial history of every individual Beaver.

Other sources of information about the DeHavilland Beaver:

DHC-2.com, with histories of individual Beavers

The de Havilland Beaver entry on Wikipedia

The Beaver page on Bush-planes.com

You can't judge a presentation by its title

June was a month of wall to wall conferences. And those conferences brought Gini DietrichMartin Waxman and me together in two cities – Austin and Ottawa – and pulled us to opposite ends of the continent.

Tod Maffin speaks at PABSo, you spend all that money and time to attend a conference. And now you’re sitting in a presentation and you’re deciding whether you made the right decision. What makes it worthwhile?

Gini applies the Chile Con Queso Test. She loves chile con quesos. And she judges a restaurant by their quality. If they’re great, she’ll keep going back for more. Gini’s Chile Con Queso Test for conference presentations? Does the presenter provide her with at least one idea for a blog post? “If I can go into your session and come away with a blog post idea, I’m going to think you’re the best speaker on earth,” says Gini. On the other hand, “If I can’t get at least one idea to create content around, I’m not going to think you’re a great speaker.”

If you’re a speaker, how can you deliver the goods for your audience? I saw Lee LeFever talk about this at the recent Fireworks Factory organized by Darren Barefoot and Julie Szabo. Lee, who is best known for the explainer videos he has produced through his company, Common Craft, says that you must start from a position of empathy for the audience. Focus on what we care about, not what you want to present. Frame your topic in terms to which we relate. Suggest a commonly experienced problem to which we all relate. You’ll know you’ve done this is you see our heads nodding. Once you’ve established the shared space, focus on “why.” Why does this matter? Why will you approach it in this way. And then, and only then, move on to the “how.” How do I do this. Think about the presentations you’ve seen recently. How many of them failed because the presenter plunged directly into the “how” section, providing minute detail of what they did, while you were still stuck at, “Why do I care about this?”

Martin calls this the importance of appealing to the audience’s emotional senses. He points out that this often can be achieved through story telling, in which a motive is established and listeners are drawn into identifying with the subjects and storyline. Gini agrees with the power of this approach, pointing to a 52N (five minutes to engage, a variant on Ignite) presentation delivered by Abbie Fink at the recent PRSA Counselors Academy Conference in Austin. Abbie’s presentation consisted of reading a letter to her recently deceased family dog. At the end, she left many in the room in tears and everyone considering the nature of relationships. A story that appealed to our emotions. That appealed to the pet lover in all of us. That didn’t explain the why, but relied throughout on it. (Pity the poor presenter who followed Abbie – Martin Waxman!)

I attended a presentation recently by a speaker who gave me not just one good takeaway, but nine. Nine takeaways in an hour long presentation. And that speaker was … Gini Dietrich! Perhaps because Gini listened for takeaways in other speakers, she deliberately packages takeaways in her presentations. “When I write presentations, I write them long form. But as I do it, I write sound bites that I know people can tweet. You have to think about the key takeaways. Is someone going to get enough to pass the Chile Con Queso Test? And are they going to be able to tweet about it?” If you achieve these three objectives, people will come away with something to think about over the long term as well as content that will prompt immediate tweets and conversation.

Finally, there’s one huge no-no for conference presenters. What makes the audience groan and flee the room in droves? Martin calls it the “You can’t judge a presentation by its cover” problem.” You  decide to attend a presentation on the basis of the description in the program only to hear the speaker lead off with the statement, “I’m going to talk about something different from the advertised topic…” Sadly, that’s not uncommon at conferences. Not just the small regional conferences, but even larger conferences. The kindest interpretation I can put on this it that because of the long lead time between the time that the conference topics were set and the actual presentation, the speaker decided that the topic was outdated and decided to offer more up to date thinking. The unkind interpretation is that the speaker just said yes to the organizers’ invitation and then realized that he didn’t really have anything worthwhile to say about the topic. Either way, it can be a real let down if you showed up keen to learn and discuss the advertised topic.

Gini sums it up: ”We’re all busy. We all want to find value in the things that we are attending. We’re spending money to attend these things. And if we can’t get something out of it to bring back to our careers or organizations, then it’s not worth the time.”

This post was originally published on the Inside PR podcast blog.

Why attending the IABC World Conference was the right decision

Mark Schumann

I’m in New York attending the International Association of Business Communicators’ 2013 World Conference (#IABCwc13). It’s a big commitment of time. And an expensive trip. And proving to be well worth it.

Why?

The chance to see thought provoking presentations by Mark Schumann, Shel Holtz, Katie Paine, and Richard Edeleman. And that’s only in the first day and a half of the conference. Still two days to go – and many other promising presentations ahead.

Shel Holtz

The opportunity to renew relationships with old friends and meet people in real life whom I’ve come to know online. IABC draws people from around the globe to its conferences. This international focus makes its World Conference a truly global affair. It seems like the whole world comes together here.

Yes, I’m happy I came to the IABC World Conference. And if you didn’t but are thinking about attending next year, remember this post. I promise you, it’s worth the effort. A great conference. A great learning experience. A great networking opportunity. And this year, the chance to be in New York. A great city that never gives up.

Inside PR 334: Community at Social Capital Ottawa

Gini Dietrich, Martin Waxman and I had a rare opportunity this week. We were able to record the Inside PR podcast with all of us sitting face to face in one place in real life. We were in Ottawa to attend the Social Capital Conference. And the best thing for me was that it felt like I was getting together with two of my closest friends for a chat about our shared experiences. Even after all these years, I’m still in awe of the power of social media to enable us to create deep and meaningful relationships over distance. So, even though Martin, Gini and I are together in the same real life space at most four times a year, we have developed a much deeper relationship.

Gini delivered the conference opening keynote explaining how she has built a large and active community around her Spin Sucks blog. The starting point, says Gini, is recognizing that “The one word we all like to hear is our name.” Her approach to community is grounded in this recognition. It has driven her to focus on the people who come to the Spin Sucks blog. She acknowledges them personally, responding to virtually every comment left on the Spin Sucks blog or the Spins Sucks Facebook page. But she goes beyond this. She reaches out to the members of the Spin Sucks community and participates in the discussion in their home spaces. Community is a two way interaction, not just one way.

Another factor to consider in building communities – it takes time. And this is at odds with the short-term, campaign-based approach taken by many marketers. As Gini points out, she has been blogging for seven years, and it took more than one try to find the right combination of factors that led to the current success of Spin Sucks. This same point was made by Sherrilynne Starkie, who presented a real world case study of an international union building community. In Sherrilynne’s words, its success was only possible because the union leadership were prepared to “stay the course” and persevere through early stages of thin participation until members caught on that this was a real and ongoing exercise. Momentum built slowly. The community could not have emerged in a short-term campaign.

Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson have demonstrated bot of these fundamentals in building a successful community around the For Immediate Release podcast. They have been persistent and consistent creators of content. They routinely acknowledge their listeners and feature their contributions in the podcast. And they’ve set up a Google+ community to provide listeners with an opportunity to offer their own thoughts and engage in conversation with other members of the community.

This is something we’re trying to do with the Inside PR podcast as well. If you’re a regular listener, please consider joining the Inside PR Google+ community or the Inside PR Facebook group and participating actively. We’d love to involve you in the podcast.

And if you’re still with me, you can listen to the podcast by clicking on the player below.

 

Lessons from a successful conference organizer

socap_badgeThe third edition of the Social Capital Conference will be kicking off next weekend. Like last year, this year’s event will be sold out, with every available spot filled. And participants this year will attend a conference that has expanded to offer a day of practical workshops alongside a more ambitious speakers lineup.

Organizing a community-focused conference is no small feat. And I think there’s much we can learn from the organizers of successful conferences that we can apply to our own projects.

So I was delighted to have a chance to interview Karen Wilson, one of the co-founders of the Social Capital Conference, for the Inside PR podcast. You can listen to that recording as part of the Inside PR 3.33. I also recorded a video of our interview, which you can see here.

Among the things that Karen shared:

Make the conference planning a two way conversation.

Interact with your participants before and after the conference. Every year, the organizers of Social Capital survey participants and potential participants to find out what they want in a conference. “We’ve been listening to the participants since day one,” Karen asserts. We incorporate what they tell us with the lessons we’ve learned ourselves to make the conference better each year.

Get over the tools. We’ve got issues

In three years, Social Capital has evolved beyond sessions focusing on social media tools to instead offer tracks that focus on topics relating to issues people must deal with when they are active in social media: content creation, law and ethics, strategy and then a series of case studies. This meant that the organizers abandoned some of the content streams they had first planned for this year’s conference when they realized that the topics being proposed by speakers were quite different from what they expected. “We looked at the topics that were being submitted and realized that the topics we had picked weren’t the things people are interested in,” says Karen. “We redesigned the conference to fit [people's interests.]”

Change is essential. But expectations must be respected.

Mistakes that we can learn from? “Be careful about making too many changes at once,” says Karen. “There are expectations set every year and when you make too many changes at once… We moved the date of our conference, raised prices and added a second day, and it’s been harder to sell. It’s challenging when people are used to everything being a certain way and then it starts to shift.” So, balance established expectations with innovations.

The conference experience is about the attendees as much as the speakers

Karen also shared her advice from the perspective of a conference organizer to attendees on how they can have the best possible experience at the conference. “You get what you put into it,” she offers. “If you sit at the side of the room without interacting with people … you won’t get the full learning process. Even if you’re shy, go up to people and talk to them.” It’s not just about listening to the speakers. It’s about meeting the people in the room who share your interests and forming bonds with them.

Thank you to Karen and her co-organizers for all the work you put into organizing Social Capital. I’m definitely looking forward to attending and learning from both the speakers and fellow attendees.

What do you think? If you’ve organized a conference, what advice would you offer. As a conference attendee, what advice would you offer to conference organizers?

 

Tonight's Third Tuesday Toronto is all about online community

Tonight’s Third Tuesday Toronto #3tYYZ is all about community – the kind that grows and thrives online.

Colleen YoungTonight’s speaker, Colleen Young, founded and sustains the #hcsmca  Health Care Social Media Canada weekly twitter chat. And she knows how to develop a successful online community of interest. I first became aware of the #hcsmca Twitter chats a couple years ago when doing a social media audit for a health care client. As I looked around at the various discussions, I discovered that media professionals, policy makers, at least one provincial Minister of Health along with health care communicators were all gravitating to #hcsmca to exchange their views on issues relating to the provision of health care in Canada.

So, I’m very much looking forward to tonight’s session.

N.B. When I checked this morning, there were still eleven open spots for this evening’s Third Tuesday. So, if you’d like to participate, click over to the Third Tuesday meetup site and register to attend tonight’s event. I’ll be hopping on a mid day plane to Toronto so that I can be there in time. And if you see me there, I hope you’ll say hello.

Thank you to our sponsors

I can’t close this post without thanking Third Tuesday’s sponsors - Cision Canada andRogers Communications - who believe in our community and help us to bring speakers not just to Toronto but to Ottawa, Calgary and Vancouver as well. Without the sponsors we couldn’t make Third Tuesday a truly Canadian affair. So, thank you to the sponsors of the Third Tuesday 2012-13 season: Cision Canada and Rogers Communications.

We want students to be able to attend

One more thing: Third Tuesday is a great opportunity to hear about the latest developments in social media and to network with business and thought leaders. And we don’t want students to miss out on this opportunity. So, if you are a student and would like to attend, don’t let the admission fee stop you. Simply present your student ID card at the time you sign into Third Tuesday and we’ll refund your admission fee, courtesy of Thornley Fallis.

If we had a billion dollars…

YahooOK. I get that it’s an arch statement. Yahoo leads off its release about its $1 billion acquisition of Tumblr with the subhead, “Promises not to screw it up.” And given that Yahoo now is led by someone who for years subscribed to the corporate slogan, “Don’t be evil,” it makes sense.

However, I can’t get over the feeling that, if you and I had a billion dollars to spend, we’d probably aim a little higher. :)