Digital Books: The Price Is Wrong

I went to the store and almost bought the second season of Superman: The Animated Series. Not for my five-year-old, for me.

Don’t judge me — I have a bigger point to make about it.

The reason why I didn’t buy it is because I saw the price, paused, and thought about it. You never  want a consumer to do that. Logically, you want their interest plus access to the money for purchase to equal an actual purchase.

If they have to think about it, chances are you’ve lost the sale. In a former life, I used to sell men’s suits. The “I’ll-be-back-to-buy-it” folks are looking for something — a lower price, a cheaper product — but whatever it is, you don’t have it.

Recently, I read a blog where the author advised against pricing your e-books at .99 cents. Yes, it worked for Amanda Hocking, Darcy Chan, and a number of other authors. But he said it devalues your work to price it that low, and he’s right. I’ve seen a bunch of books priced .99 cents and they looked like they shouldn’t have cost any more than .99 cents.

This is a group I do not want to belong to, and neither should you.

Instead, experiment with your pricing and watch your sales numbers. Find a price point where your buyers don’t pause and think about it, and your numbers stay the same. Stick with what works.

Hope this helps!

You market yourself. . .how? (Part 1)

Recently, a friend asked me, “How do you market yourself [as an indie/self-publisher]?”

Aye, there’s the rub.

Indie and self-pubbed authors want to sell books, but don’t necessarily know how. Witness almost any self-publishing outfit that will offer you bookmarks, business cards, placards, postcards, and the like as marketing collateral (don’t fall for it — do it at Vistaprint for less). To date, I’ve never bought a book because I received one of those things alone. Have you?

So then, we go to Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and other free forums to promote ourselves. I’ve unfriended/unfollowed quite a few people, due to the “Check out my book/buy my book/like my status/watch my trailer” flurry of automated tweets.

I can’t speak for you, but ad nauseum sales pitching turns me off. Be doubly-concerned with your consumers and what they want, not always just what your bottom line demands. It’s my belief that investing in the former will take care of the latter.

So, how do you market yourself? Honestly, without investing time or money, you can’t do it effectively. Trust me, I’ve tried. Pumping out a book a year is a lot more difficult to do when you’re learning how to market, actively marketing, and putting it into practice. Either your sales or your writing will suffer.

Here are two tried and true tips that worked for me.

  1. Come up with a marketing plan (with achievable goals) and follow it. You don’t have a marketing plan? Why not? I found a template online and then asked Stacey Shearer (here’s a link to her Facebook) over at Shearer Message  to help me polish it. Convince yourself that you don’t need a marketing plan. Then, try to get your books into Barnes and Noble, or Lifeway, or just your average, run-of-the-mill bookstore. They’ll all want to know how you plan to sell books before they shelve you. A plan on how to sell books sounds awfully like a marketing plan to me.
  2. Run a contest. Fine, you have a “limited budget.” Do what I did for The Anarchists. Run a “Name a Character Contest,” where you receive entries via your Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, however you want to do it. Promote it on your social networks. Use a randomizer to select the winners and promise them a free book and a mention in your book as long as they sign over the rights to the character (a.k.a. they promise not to sue you if it’s the next Hunger Games). In the end, you have created people who will promote your brand. They have a connection to you and your work. So, they got a free copy. You don’t think they’ll tell other people about their character in your book? That’s word-of-mouth advertising, and anybody in marketing worth their salt will tell you that’s worth its weight in gold — if you can generate it.

Hope this helps! Stay tuned for my take on Kindle Direct Publishing and whether it’s worth it (or not).

Selling that makes sense

My wife and I used to have a Multi-Level Marketing business. Yup, we were in one of those. But, I did learn one, valuable thing from it: the need to create methods of making passive income. Passive income = money you can make in your sleep.

I met a self-published author once who insisted she “liked the hustle” of carrying her books around and selling them. Which is fine. But, if you’re like me, and do this full-time, you can’t afford to hustle every day.

What if your wife has a health emergency? Or, heaven forbid, you want to take time off? Those two things happened to me in the span of three days. That time is irreplaceable, which is why your time should also work for you.

Call it boilerplate, but, if nothing else, ESPECIALLY if you’re self-published, your book should be available in both paperback AND digital formats. I’ve spent countless hours curating a list of reviewers, and most of them still want paperbacks. It doesn’t make sense not to do both.

Think about it: if your book is only a paperback, you cut off digital sales. Why would you do that? You don’t want to make more money and expose people to your writing across the globe?

Amazon’s KDP Select program opens up the possibility of your writing reaching England, and German, France, Spanish, and Italian-speaking countries. I’m not knocking her hustle, but I’m thinking she’s not doing it over there simultaneously.

Likewise, publishing on Smashwords’ Premium Catalog would put her book in the Apple iBookstore, Kobo, etc. Throw in Pubit.com for the Nook, too. Once she published digitally in all of these places, all she has to do is check back and see how much money she’s made.

Conversely, to an indie publisher or a self-publisher, an exclusively digital book does not make sense in the long run. It means no signings to expose yourself to new readers. If you’re a speaker, it becomes increasingly difficult to convert your audience to a digital sale, versus something they can see.

Digital only also cuts off the ability to be shelved, or carried on consignment, which are two ways to generate passive income. A benefit of paperbacks (most times) is the hustle because it’s instant income. At worst, it takes 30 days for you to get it. Selling your e-book online means you won’t see that money for up to three months. Even if you’re not in the game to make money, you’d like to make some eventually, right?

Nope. She wasn’t feeling me. Hopefully, you are.

B

Don’t take it personal: Damaging the brand

FYI: I said “personal” not “personally” on purpose 🙂

I have strong opinions on many political and social issues, but you’ll never see them on my social media pages. There will not be rampant misspelled postings or off-the-cuff comments warranting a “sorry-if-that-offended-some-people” disclaimer either.

Learn a little lesson called “social media policy.”

But Brian, I’m a solopreneur! Can’t I police myself without a social media policy?

Honestly? No. Not if you sell yourself, instead of your company, as your brand.

Brian Thompson is my brand; Great Nation Publishing is my company. If Great Nation Publishing ceases to exist in 2012, (hopefully) Brian Thompson will be standing. You will find me to be personable, honest, and very much what-you-see-is-what-you-get. My business ventures follow suit. So should yours.

You have an opinion on the Penn State scandal, Occupy Wall Street, or the GOP debates — there’s nothing wrong with that. I do too, but I don’t express them online. Why? They’re irrelevant to my brand. Inflammatory comments pigeonhole your audience, and it’s difficult to distance yourself from offending people in a digital age where offenses live forever.

Someone I follow on social media recently made an offensive comment regarding a topic I take to heart. I almost stopped following him because the worth of his product was outweighed by the ignorance of the statement. You better believe your customers will do the same.

Now, I do post about life and my marriage, but I do it to build a relationship with my followers, not to vent. Besides, my wife reads my blog (hi baby!)

Think about your post before you post it. Think about it again. Consider it a third time. Remember: if you have a sudden stroke of conscience and delete it, it’s still out there. Don’t take your posts so personal.

Brian Thompson’s passion is motivating and encouraging others to write and to pursue Do-It-Yourself publishing. He is also author of the Christian fiction thrillers The Lost Testament, and The Revelation Gate. You can read more about Brian by visiting his author site.

3 Key tips on marketing your book

The following guest blog post is by Kemya Scott. Scott (or “Miss Kemya” across the web) is the self-titled “solopreneur” of Phisco Marketing: a stratetegic marketing consultant agency that specializes in helping small business. Scott, a 15-year marketing consultant veteran and MBA grad, believes small businesses are “the lifeblood of our economy.” She is an “open-book,” funny, personable, and looks at problems as challenges. For more information, see the Phisco Marketing website.

Are you a self-published author struggling to do your own marketing? Are you one of the millions of people wanting to write your first best-seller? Have you already been published, yet your sales are lackluster and you’re not quite sure what to do about it? With all the competition in the marketplace, how are you supposed to catch the attention of today’s reader and entice them to purchase your book?

Let’s be honest, you can write a book and get it published, but that doesn’t mean you’ll make any money. So here are 3 significant tips to help you promote your book and begin building a buzz to drive sales. It doesn’t matter if you’re an independent self published author or you have a publisher, you need to build the buzz. Why? Because the marketing of your book is typically your responsibility, whether or not you have a publisher. If you’re still writing your first book, there’s plenty of work you should be doing right now to create a buzz. Let’s get started with these 3 Key Tips to Build the Buzz for Your Book:

Know Your Audience

To sell books, you have to know who you’re selling to. This is not as easy as it sounds. Let’s use an example: I’m writing a coffee table book about shoe design, including images and sketches of shoes from around the world over the last 50 years. Who would you consider as the audience I’m targeting to buy this book? Are you thinking this book would appeal to all women over the age of 18, since women love shoes? Well…you’d be missing the mark, because all women over the age of 18 is not a target audience. Women like buying shoes, but that doesn’t automatically translate into buying a book about shoes. You can’t wear a book can you?

Think about this audience: a boutique might like to have this book in their sitting area, a hair salon might like to have this book in their lobby, and I might give this book as a gift to a fashion design student. This is the beginning of a targeted list of prospective book buyers. Understand the importance of knowing your audience, and you can promote your book accordingly. *Note: Don’t get excited, I’m not writing this book, it’s just an example.

Pitch Yourself to The Media

The media will become your best friend! First, create a web page specifically for the book. Ideally you want to create a separate website with an address that features the book title. If you have a website dedicated to your speaking engagements, you could add a separate page devoted to the book. With a dedicated web page, you can exchange links and drive traffic to the site with comments, blogs, quotes and extracts of the book. Be sure to show people exactly how they can buy the book. Encourage user feedback, comments and reviews to build a community around your book.

Next, use social media and traditional media to create the hype! Here’s a key element many people forget – everyone is not on social media, and those that are on social media aren’t all buying from tweets and Facebook posts. Hence, a series of Facebook posts about your book will most likely leave you hungry. There are plenty of people who use radio, tv, and print as a vehicle for peer influence. Therefore, you must integrate a combination of traditional and social media into your marketing plan to catch your entire prospective audience. Pitch yourself as guest on appropriate radio and tv stations. Pitch yourself as a featured story in your local community newspaper. Develop social media profiles to reflect your book’s content and your speaking ability and promote your heart out! Develop your own brand ambassadors to leverage cross-promotional opportunities where appropriate. By appropriate, I mean as it relates to your audience. When you blanket the market with your promotional activity, you are ensuring your audience sees your book, which builds a buzz. Remember, we talk about things we see and things we buy? Just be sure to always tell people exactly where they can buy your book – if online the exact link – and spell it out if necessary.

Use Reviews and Testimonials to Build the Hype!

Ask your friends, family, and colleagues to provide reviews and testimonials. Send excerpts to influential media persons and ask them for reviews and testimonials for the book. Use your social media networking community and ask for the same. These reviews will demonstrate the quality of your content, as the reviews form a cross-section of the population. This will create a buzz that makes people want to find out about your book. Post these reviews and testimonials everywhere possible. You can include a testimonial on a bookmark (for print books) or on the back of your business card. You can even post a testimonial as a tweet or Facebook post, linking to your website. Get creative in the use of these reviews and testimonials. This also builds the buzz in a way you may not anticipate – the person writing a review or testimonial will tell people about the book! They become part of your brand ambassador tribe!

Ideally, the marketing of your book begins before the book is finished. Whether you do your own marketing, or hire a marketing company to market your book, the success of your sales will be largely determined by your tenacity. So take ownership of your work and your brand, and build the buzz about your book!

Ciao,

Miss Kemya

Learn my lesson, business owner!

Anything in life you draw experience and knowledge from isn’t a failure unless you don’t learn from it. If we could accurately measure knowledge’s value, teachers would be paid like pro athletes.

My friend “Laverne” has a dilemma. Her client, “Shirley,” signed a contract requiring pre-payment. Shirley requested different payment arrangements. They agreed to do installments. Now, Shirley is behind and Laverne has already provided the service.

What should she do?

I had a similar problem once. My investment property was empty for months. We found a tenant, who paid first month’s rent AND security. We’re talking four digits CASH.

Red flag #1: NEVER make important decisions when you are: Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired, or Scared. I was SCARED of my duplex going to pot because I didn’t have a tenant to pay each month.

Red flag #2: She didn’t readily communicate. My property manager played “Where’s Waldo?” with her whenever rent was due. Waldo won. Every time.

Laverne took Shirley on because, like me, she needed the money. And Shirley paid at first, like my tenant. When Shirley fell behind, so did the communication. Next came the excuses. Shirley failed to negotiate well with Laverne, which is where most people mess up with their bills. Most bill collectors, like Laverne, are amenable to arrangements.

So what does Laverne do? If she goes to a collection agency, she’ll spend more than Shirley owes her. And even that’s not a guarantee that she’ll get her money. In the future, she should not change her payment policies. EVER. She has three choices for those who can’t afford her services:

  1. Do it pro-bono or as quid pro quo work
  2. Markdown (to a level she can live with and stick to it), or
  3. Turn her down and move on.

Shirley said she can’t afford to pay the entire service amount upfront (READ: DO NOT EVER accept checks from me unless you can afford to come after me if I bounce them). Laverne needs Shirley to make payroll. So, try this:

L: “It’s a $300 service Shirley; what can you afford?”

S: “I can do $200.”

L: “Today’s special only: 35% off! But, I need a 50% down payment first. The next installment HAS to be pre-paid before I provide the service. My PayPal accepts credit/debit cards, and I’ll take cash and/or money orders. And no, you don’t need to have a PayPal account to pay me.

Hope this lesson learned helps, especially “Laverne.” Be blessed.

Brian Thompson’s passion is motivating and encouraging others to write and to pursue Do-It-Yourself publishing. He is also author of the Christian fiction thrillers The Lost Testament, and The Revelation Gate. You can read more about Brian by visiting his author site.

Branding sends a clear message

Ranchers would brand cattle as a physical reminder to rivals, buyers, or passersby that the cattle belonged to someone. In that case, a brand was a symbol that established the identity of a business, and to be effective, it did not resemble anyone else’s symbol enough to cause confusion.

Does your brand do that? If it does, you are sending a clear message. If it does not, you are sending a clear message that you are unclear about your own brand. Confusion = I don’t trust it and won’t buy it. Consider the following:

  1. Brands start with an idea and a name. What do you want to sell? Research shows that names beginning with a hard “C” sound do well. I have a relative who once had an online traveling business called TKE Enterprises. He did not want his brand’s name to pigeonhole him into just travel, as he was a general contractor and has an avid interest in real estate. His scope was large. If he had used TKE Travel instead, he would be sending a message that he sold something related to travel but nothing else.
  2. What’s the scope of what you want to do? My indie outfit, Great Nation Publishing, specializes in Christian fiction and non-fiction. Screenplays, spoken word, plays, music publishing — these are all covered, but they will all have that spiritual bend. We won’t be publishing erotica or street lit, but that’s not our focus. Stay in your lane. Use your company name in your e-mails and your blog.
  3. You need a logo. Just a name doesn’t do it. You need a professional-looking logo that clearly communicates your name and your scope. It should go on your website,  invoices, order forms, e-mail sign-up forms, business cards, and e-mails. Research your colors and their meaning carefully. Clip art (while free) is unprofessional-looking and you cannot trademark it. Remember, not everything free is good.
  4. Continuity is key. Learn from my mistakes here and be similar across the board. When I first started, I bought the URL for the name of my first novel, TheLostTestament.com and GreatNationPublishing.com to brand. Designing and maintaining one URL is not cheap, much less two — not to mention that it’s confusing to an audience I was still building. So, I wanted to brand my name. BrianThompson.com belongs to an actor. BrianLThompson.com belongs to another author. There was no way I was going to spell out my middle name, so I settled on BrianLThompson.co. CO is a new end link that hasn’t really caught on yet. Besides, you have to constantly tell people to drop the “m.” Remember: confusion = I don’t trust it and I won’t buy it.

Today, my website address, along with my Twitter handle, Linkedin profile, and Facebook Fan Page all have “Author Brian Thompson” as their titles. So, when I’m interviewing, I don’t have to recite a long list of different names and addresses.

One final tip: match your e-mail address to include your URL, so you’re not giving away free advertising to AOL, Yahoo!, Gmail or Hotmail. They make enough money as it is. And yeah, it’s free, but it bears repeating: free isn’t always good.

P.S. In this case, free IS good: enter your e-mail on my author site TODAY (July 6, 2011 ONLY) and I will e-mail you a coupon for a FREE electronic copy of my June 2011 release, The Revelation Gate.

Brian Thompson’s passion is motivating and encouraging others to write and to pursue Do-It-Yourself publishing. He is also author of the Christian fiction thriller The Lost Testament, and The Revelation Gate. You can read more about Brian by visiting his author site.

Are you a “sales grinch?” DON’T BE!

I HATE being sales pitched. I HATE sales pitching (at least in the traditional sense). More and more, I’m experiencing sales “grinches.” What’s a “sales grinch”? You know who they are. I am a reformed sales grinch. You might even be one.

If so, let me persuade you to change your ways.

Sales grinches exist in all walks of life: retail, public and private sectors. They’re the people who “sell, sell, sell” by telling you “buy, buy, buy.” You may need what they have or even want it, but their approach totally turns you off. 

You can see the sales grinch coming a mile away. They have a look to them, especially if they sense you have a need or a want and whatever they’ve got can fulfill it. They lead with “you should buy this,” which tells you the sales grinch cares about the sale, first and foremost — not the consumer (you).

Say you’re, I don’t know, an independent publisher selling a book. You want people to buy it to support your fledgling writing career, right? There’s a stranger in your midst, and they are reading from a Kindle, which signals to you that they like to read. You walk up to them, and say, “Hi, I’m an author and my book, ‘Blah Blah Blah’ is available for $5.99 in the Kindle Store. Would you mind checking it out?”

“Sure,” they say, which loosely translates: if I say yes, will you go away? Silly consumer! Sales grinches don’t leave until they make the sale, or you mace them (kidding!).

You, the sales grinch, take the “sure” as in they’ll do it now, because common sales psychology says if you don’t close the sale right then, right there, the odds are sky high that they never buy. So, you stick around.

This particular reader tells you that they’re in the middle of an important chapter (READ: Go away) and that they’ll check it out once they’re done (READ: I’ll never do it. EVER). You drop a business card, which they take (READ: I’m throwing this away as soon as you’re out of my line of sight). The sales grinch walks away, onto the next consumer. Now, not only does the reader not buy your book, but he/she spreads the word about your pushiness. And trust me, bad word-of-mouth is MUCH worse than a non-sale.

So, how do you increase your odds of getting the sale? Let’s revisit the same scenario, which I’ve actually tried and had some success with:

I’m an independent publisher selling a book and want people to buy it to support my fledgling writing career. I notice that one of my Facebook friends says “I just got a Kindle. What books should I check out?” That signals to me that they like to read, and they may be open to reading something by me since we know each other.

I comment on the thread and say, “Hey friend, my new book is coming out soon, and I’d love it if you would take a look at the first few chapters for free and tell me what you think.” The friend responded with, “Not only will I check it out, but I’ll buy it and read it” and she did.

I wasn’t a sales grinch. I introduced my product to her FOR FREE and let the product do the rest. They do it a grocery stores all the time: someone prepares a dish that the store is selling and they give you enough of it to get you hooked, but not to fill you. The only time I pass up a free sample is if I’m full or it’s not a food I would eat even if it was free. That’s important: know your audience. If they have diabetes, don’t sell them a dessert high in sugar.

One last thing: don’t be a sales grinch to your family members either. They can’t help that they’re related to you. Casually let them know what you’re up to, and if they want to support you, they will. Be blessed and well talk soon.

Author Brian L. Thompson is the president of Great Nation Publishing and author of the Christian fiction thriller The Lost Testament, and The Revelation Gate. You can read more about Brian by visiting his author site.

Tips for broadening your marketing prowess

Are you in need of marketing tips? If so, I have a couple HOT, FREE websites for you.

is a website that specializes in “inbound marketing.” Traditional marketing is “outbound marketing” — flyers, brochures, posters, and the like. “Inbound marketing” is using non-traditional techniques to bring the leads and traffic to you — websites, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), social media advertising, etc. You get a 30-day free trial where they evaluate your website. After that trial expires, the info doesn’t stop. FREE webinars, FREE PDFs of useful material, including the one I got today on how to pimp out your SEO. Go! Sign up!

Also, try . Social Media Expert put me on to this one. How do you gain respectability in your field, get your name out there? Get quoted. I’m a big proponent of conquering your surrounding area and reaching out, kind of like a mushroom cloud of publicity. But, what if you can reach an audience WAY outside of your target area without spending a dime?

HARO is a website where reporters ask for quotes regarding specific stories. You submit a quote, and you get notified if they use it. Then, you can add it to your portfolio. BAM! You’ve built up your presence and you didn’t even have to leave your house.

Hope this helps. Be blessed!

B

Author Brian L. Thompson is the president of Great Nation Publishing and author of the Christian fiction thriller The Lost Testament, and The Revelation Gate, due for release on June 7, 2011. You can read more about Brian by visiting his

7 helpful business websites you need to visit

Just yesterday, a good friend mentioned that she was looking for ways to get grant funds for her small business.

The first, most easy option is what multi-level marketing companies call your “warm market.” Your warm market is made up of people who will buy from you just because it’s you: friends, family, co-workers, and friends with more financial resources than you. (Try Peerbackers also).

The second option is to go with “Hobby Angels”: referrals from your warm market or people that you’ve pitched. The third is angel groups, people with high net worth, venture capital firms, banks, etc. Of course, don’t do any of this without a fundraising plan or a business plan. People like to know where there money is going and when/if they’ll get it back.

Where did I get this information you ask? At. A. Free. Workshop. (Shout out to Entrepreneur.com). The resources are out there people. You just have to look, or know the people who know where to look and will tell you for free. Like her. Or her. Or me.

There are free resources out there, but, much like anything worth looking for, they’re not easy to find. What you have to decide for yourself is if it’s worth your time to look for them or worth your money to pay the people who know where they are to tell you. To paraphrase the Joker from the movie The Dark Knight, if you’re good at something, never do it for free.

I recommend what I try and I know that it works personally or I know someone personally or professionally who knows that it works through experience. Anything else is conjecture. And conjecture is dangerous. I heard a quote from someone that struck me. He basically said that people who don’t know what they’re doing are the first ones to give advice. As a married man, I don’t believe in taking advice from single people. There’s nothing you can tell me about marriage if you’ve never done it. The same is true with business. From the outside, it looks one way; on the inside, the perspective is different.

Some more websites that you may have heard me mention before: Fiverr.com is good for finding people to do the practical to the ridiculous for $5. (Think CHEAP but effective marketing). The pianist who composed the background music for my book trailers is on Fiverr (andymusician — look him up).

Animoto.com produces slideshows with background music in the public domain. It gives you a wide variety of options for however many pictures you can squeeze into 30 seconds.

Last blitz of sites for you to visit: socialface.net (to back up your social profiles), endor.se (to secure testimonials and endorsements from others), and technorati.com (for blogs popular in your content area). Take a look and I hope it helps.

Be blessed,

B

Author Brian L. Thompson is the president of Great Nation Publishing and author of the Christian fiction thriller The Lost Testament, and The Revelation Gate, due for release on June 7, 2011. You can read more about Brian by visiting his author site.

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