Getting into print
by Steve Alcorn
(Orlando, FL, USA)
"Everything In Its Path" by Steve Alcorn
It's time to consider other ways of getting into print.
There is a certain stigma attached to so-called "vanity presses." These are short-run printers who charge authors to get into print. Because they have no distribution, sales or marketing divisions, it's not a lot different than going to Kinko's.
Sometimes the vanity press gets you an ISBN number, files a copyright form (which serves little purpose, by the way) or formats the pages for you, but these are all things you could easily do yourself. There's little added value. In the end, you wind up with a big pile of books, and are out many thousands of dollars. Then what? All your friends and relatives can have a copy (but they won't read them), and you can use the rest as doorstops.
Depressing? A bit.
But the Internet and the advent of new printing technologies have changed things a bit. On-demand printers can get your book into print with low – or sometimes no – up front costs.
Usually someone has to pay for an ISBN number, and if you can't do your own cover art or text formatting there may be a charge for these, but it's hundreds – not thousands – of dollars.
And the on-demand printers are generally distributed through amazon.com and bn.com. That means people can buy your book, one copy at a time.
What's missing here?
Two things. In-store distribution and a marketing campaign. Getting into print doesn't mean you've gotten your book into a potential buyer's hands.
With a conventional publisher, your books would be sent to hundreds, or perhaps thousands, of bookstores around the country. Some would be bought. Some would be returned. But that distribution isn't available with on-demand printing.
As far as the marketing campaign, that's not such a big deal. The fact is, few new authors receive any marketing support from their publisher anyway. So if you want to sell your book, you'll have to do it yourself.
Selling your book means identifying your readers, telling them about your book, and convincing them to buy it. The last part of that is sales, and probably has to be done on-on-one. The rest is marketing.
Start with a good promo sheet.
It should have a nice (preferably color) picture of your book and an exciting synopsis that makes readers want to see more. The type of synopsis students develop in my Write Like a Pro class is perfect.
Write a press release about the book.
Focus on yourself as much as the book. The human-interest story of a new author is as likely to get it published as anything. You'll need a cover shot of the book and a good photo of yourself to accompany it.
Write magazine articles about your book, or the job of writing it.
I wrote a human-interest article for Romantic Times about the fact that my Ring of Diamonds co-author and I had never met, and it sold 600 copies in one month.
You can also use this to generate interest from radio stations, which can interview you by telephone and make it sound like you're in their studio.
Try to get your book reviewed, but don't pay for reviews.
Those websites that charge you for a review are well known, and carry no respect. If your book is listed on amazon.com or bn.com, get your friends to leave positive reviews. That five star rating is important.
Don't give away a lot of promotional copies, even to the press, unless they guarantee to review your book. If you check out the newspapers, most of the reviews are nationally syndicated and review books that are being advertised by the large publishing houses.
Get local reviews. Small town newspapers will be happy to tell your story.
Speak at the local library. Do a book signing afterward, for anyone who wants to buy a copy.
Do the same thing at local bookstores. Consider leaving a few signed copies on consignment, with a sign – possibly a laminated copy of your promo sheet – plus stickers that say "Author-signed copy!"
Do the same thing at local meetings. Many clubs love guest speakers. Be sure to take a box of books with you.
Create a web page to promote your book. (Click to mine below for an example.)
Sign up for Google Adwords to send traffic to your site, but carefully select your keywords and spending limits.
Once you've sold a few thousand books, you'll be surprised how much easier it is to get an agent. Don't think, "What do I need an agent for? I'm selling thousands of books!" The agent can get you a great price for your next book.
Self publishing, subsidy and print on demand by Lulu, Createspace.com and others.
Visit Steve's website, Theme Perks Press, where he has six books in print.