April 19, 2013

Ready, Set, Publish!

Why self-publish?

After all, it’s called a vanity press for a reason.

Well, perhaps that pejorative term was applicable when only the rich could publish their own books, which typically didn’t set the industry on fire.

But now, if you’re armed with a good idea or a unique point of view, the tools to help you publish a book are readily available.

Whether it’s an ebook or a traditional book printed on paper and bound, you have a better chance to be successful in the marketplace than ever. While Borders went under and publishing houses band together for survival, books are selling as well as ever.

What does that say about publishers? Author and entrepreneur Guy Kawasaki says that when readers
contemplate buying a book today, they often don’t even notice the publisher. They look instead at the ratings and reviews.

The New York Times notes that a writer turned down by traditional publishers, or someone purposely avoiding them, now has a range of options. Among them are self-publishing a manuscript as an e-book only, or self-publishing through companies such as the Jenkins Group, which can assist authors with everything from editing to marketing.

Marketing is a two-fold activity. There is marketing the book, and there is using the book for marketing.

The former involves a host of public relations and advertising activities, including in-store signings, getting reviews, praise from others for the jacket, making the book available online and at activities such as conventions and business meetings where a ready audience may be found.

The latter involves ways the book itself can enrich the prospects for the author’s continued success. If he’s a business person, then using it to illustrate and extoll his company’s virtues is advantageous.

If she’s a chef, having authored a cookbook confers expert status. If the authors are dermatologists writing about skin care, the tome reinforces their expertise.

One of the keys to success in self-publishing is that the author must embrace roles beyond just that of writer. Without the crutch of a publishing company behind her, she must take on the roles of marketing and business expert.

While it’s absolutely essential to have a good book, having the wherewithal to tireless promote yourself and the book is a key to its success when self-publishing.

According to architectural photographer Patricia Bean, there are many good reasons to use a book for marketing and publicity. For designers, using books to portray their business in a visual way helps them in building their brand-building and supporting their marketing message. For artists, published portfolio books enable them to more easily sell themselves to galleries, and including a bio and descriptions of the works and their inspiration can give more depth to their work. Instructional books can be great to establish you a leader in your field and give you great visibility in business.

April 11, 2013

Alive and Well Between the Covers

Books Continue to be Relevant

Remember how the internet was going to kill the paper office? Take a look around and see if you think that’s true.

Now look at your bookshelves. The internet hasn’t killed books either. And while e-books are increasingly popular, the good old-fashioned words printed on paper between covers books are still going strong.

True, Amazon’s Kindle reader continues to show strong sales. Ditto Barnes & Noble’s Nook. And the iPad surprised everyone with its bullish sales, though only part of that is because it is an e-reader.

But despite the ubiquity of those electronic book devices, books are still here, and are still going strong. That despite the predictions of some media-watchers that they would disappear completely by 2015.

A recent Wall Street Journal article notes that, in fact, the prognosis for traditional books is suddenly looking brighter. Sales of e-books are decreasing, as are the sales of e-readers, at least those that (unlike the iPad and its ilk) serve no other purpose. According to estimates from the market research firm IHS iSuppli, sales of e-readers dropped 36% in 2012, while tablet sales exploded.

A 2012 survey by Bowker Market Research revealed that just 16% of Americans have actually purchased an e-book and that a whopping 59% say they have "no interest" in buying one. And even those who remain on the cutting edge of technology also buy “real” books – according to the Pew Research Center, nearly 90% of e-book readers continue to read physical volumes

What does all this mean for authors and potential authors? It means that the death of books was greatly exaggerated, and writing and publishing a book in its traditional format still has merit. That’s especially true for non-fiction, business books, and the like. Much of the growth of e-books came at the expense of paperback fiction. Heartier fare still maintains its edge in the physical book world.

That’s especially relevant given the numerous self-published books we assist with in the realms of cookbooks, memoirs, and business books. It’s in those areas that we see continued growth and utility. Books such as these serve as introductions for the authors, as attention-getters, as credibility-boosters. Books continue to be a wonderful means to advance your validity as an expert in your field, as a way to boost your visibility in the marketplace, and to gain attention from the media.

April 4, 2013

Tactics for Better Business Development

After years of working in business development, Bernie Brenner thought he had some valuable insights to share. “I’ve been living this for 20-plus years,” said Brenner.

So how to best disseminate this knowledge and at the same raise his own stature? Brenner decided the best way was to write a book.

Brenner is a founding partner and the Chief Strategy Officer of TRUECar.com. TRUECar is an automotive solutions innovator focused on changing how cars are sold. He oversees TrueCar's business development, strategy and partner relationship management.

Prior to TRUECar, Brenner was a senior executive at CARFAX, where he established the company's  business development department and manged every third-party relationship for the company. These partnerships included 26 car manufacturers, Autotrader.com, Cars.com, Kelley Blue Book, and Edmunds.com.

Earlier in his career, Brenner was founder and CEO of PromiseMark, Inc., an online consumer protection and recovery service for victims of identity theft, which was ultimately acquired by the credit reporting agency Experian. He also founded 1-800-CAR-SEARCH, where he served as vice president of marketing and product development.

So he knows whereof he speaks. As you might expect, Brenner’s experience has given him insights into the do’s and don’ts of business development.

“Is there some foundation or theory that can be distilled?” he asks rhetorically. Answering his own question, he continues, “I’ve identified some fundamental principles.”

Those principles are:

1. Business Development is strategic. Sales is not.
2. There is no direct revenue in Business Development.
3. In the Business Development world, everyone’s plate is full. There’s not an assigned person to oversee Business Development, and it’s hard to get to yes.
4. Business Development focuses on not getting a no.

Brenner believes that illustrating these principles will go a long way toward establishing a benchmark for business development. He also anticipates that codifying them in a book will generate credibility and increased visibility.

“I’ve been successful in the business development world. That shaped the storyline for the book,” he said.

“I’ve been getting a positive response (regarding the principles and the book). It’s something of value, and it’s not well understood. It’s an opportunity to help others, and they’ll get more out of a book. It’s more scaleable, and people can refer back to it.”

Brenner believes that writing the book will also help himself.

“It represents a good amount of credibility,” he said. “I want to get more speaking (engagements).”

Brenner believes that incorporating the book into his other marketing efforts will stimulate not only sales of the book but generate additional speaking engagements, leading to an unending circle.

“As I speak more and more, the book will start to sell more. Then I look for greater demand for speaking and other engagements.”

He is looking toward numerous methods to get out his message. “I’ll be doing book signings, and will send copies out to my network,” he said. “I talk about it to a lot of contacts. Word of mouth is great – people in companies of five to 500 can further (the network).

Brenner is also cognizant of the role social media can play, and is looking to Facebook and espcially LinkedIn to further publicize the upcoming book.

Brenner says his book has been a long time coming. “I made the decision (to write a book) several years ago, but it’s a big commitment. I shelved it for years. I committed to doing it last year.”

Brenner isn’t sure how to put a precise value on his book. As he notes, that’s not easy to do with business development, either. But he is sure it will be a welcome addition to his resume.

“A book helps confer the expert position. I’m not looking to sell a million or 500,000 copies and make a lot of money from the book.

“The book is a big component of helping me teach others.”