The Not-so-Sexy Side of Book Publishing

People think what I do is glamorous and super cool – publishing.  When I was a recruiter we used to use “Publishing” as a headline to attract talent for our open positions that were basically secretarial jobs or filing clerks. There used to be editors and publishers who were almost like celebrities in the New York scene.  Books were launched with parties at trendy venues, lucrative deals were made at Book Expo, and everyone was looking to discover the next Salinger, Hemingway, Roth, Asimov, Morisson, Kerouac, or any other writer you admire.  Sounds like fun, right?

What I’ve said so far is what the audience sees.  Most people in the industry don’t expose the magic by showing you what happens backstage.  It’s not all that interesting, but these things must be done to publish professionally and competitively.

In the indie publishing world, I see repeats of wasted opportunities and misinformation about how things work that can be cleared up by remembering a few details and rules.  As a publicist, and, now, a publisher, I’m going to wear both of my hats and dish the dirt on what you need to know.

Publishing Tips

  1. Format: Proper formatting is a very basic aspect of putting a book together.  When I was an editorial assistant we called it front and back matter.  I don’t know if that’s what the managing editors are calling it these days, but it still works for me.  These are the pages at the front of the printed book including a title page; copyright page; dedication; acknowledgments; author’s note; and predetermined blank pages.   The title page and copyright page are mandatory, while the others will or won’t be added depending on the author.  My advice is to look at books from traditional publishers to see what they are doing with their pages and copy the format.
  2. Identification: There are identifiers your book needs.  Without them, it doesn’t exist in the market and can’t be sold.  They are ISBNs, bar codes, and a Library of Congress number.  Most everyone seems to know how to get the first two, but the latter is still often missing.  I was taught that it is necessary, especially if you want libraries to find, recognize, and shelve your title.  Check out this site for information on how to get your number(s).
  3. Accessibility: If you choose to publish exclusively with Kindle Direct, independent bookstores, and probably the chain stores as well will not know about your book, nor will they want to stock it.  When you sign up with Amazon’s publisher only, your sales channels are those that Amazon covers.  To have your book recognized in the trade market, you need to upload it with a national wholesaler such as Ingram, which is now the only wholesaler that distributes to independent stores.  You can also try to solicit wholesale orders through your website, but that still won’t give you the credibility you need with the trade market.  I recommend doing all of the above.
  4. Credibility: Bookstores and publications will look to see if your book is listed in Ingram’s database.  I’ve had conversations with editors at publications who will look up the book and if they don’t see it in Ingram they won’t cover it.  Why?  Because some bad apples in the indie publishing world convinced these people to review books that never made it to publication.  The quote I’ve heard is, “I’ve been burned before”.

Book Marketing and Publicity

Regarding promoting a book, there are two major issues I keep coming across.

  1. You have to consider timing.  I won’t belabor the point here because I’ve said it many times before.  If you have written a novel or memoir, you will need three to five months ahead of your publication date to send out review copies and allow for publications and bloggers to read and schedule reviews of your book.  For a prescriptive non-fiction title that has “news you can use” there is a bit more flexibility, especially if it is tied into your career or field of expertise.
  2. Printed review copies are necessary.  In indie publishing, we often use the finished book as a review copy and have it stickered or printed in a way that indicates it is a preliminary version.  The publication date is printed on the book or sticker so that it is clear when it will be for sale.  You can register with Net Galley, offer a watermarked pdf, -mobi file or ebook, but 90% of the reviewing public wants a hard copy.  I know it’s an added expense but you will be better off in the long term doing it the correct way.

For more resources and information I recommend the Independent Book Publishers Association website.  It’s not that expensive for a membership, which will give you full access.  Also, I suggest visiting Jane Friedman’s website.  She is a veteran in the industry, a professor, editor, and a published writer.

“Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.”
― Mark Twain

 

 

Claire McKinney Launches Plum Bay Publishing, LLC

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

PUBLICIST AND NOW A PUBLISHER

Veteran New York Book Publicist and Entrepreneur Launches Indie Press

May 21st, New York, New York, after over twenty years working as a publicist and book marketer in New York, and as the owner of her own public relations agency, Claire McKinney enters the growing independent book publishing community with the launch of her new company Plum Bay Publishing, LLC.

“Since starting my own public relations business in 2011, I’ve been impressed by the number of great writers whose books are not being published by the bigger houses,” says McKinney. “My goal is to provide a transparent environment for authors and retailers that allows good, quality books to enter the marketplace at competitive prices and discounts.”

Plum Bay Publishing will publish traditionally and cooperatively depending on the needs of the authors and their books. Their intent is to create a model that allows for printing and warehousing books for the trade, while allowing online retailers that work directly with indie presses to order via print-on-demand. Currently, the Plum Bay list consists of six titles, two of which will be published this summer. Their goal is to publish up to 20 titles per year.

“I love this business,” McKinney says, “and I feel that I need to do my part to preserve its integrity and to bring qualified, untapped voices to readers.”

For more information, visit www.plumbaypublishing.com or call Keely Flanagan at 908-955-7580.

Social Media 101: Reddit

Entrepreneurs and authors alike are encouraged to use social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to promote their product. These platforms are indeed user-friendly promotional tools on an author’s belt in the effort to corner mainstream interest. Among these tools there is one invaluable gem that is perfect for targeting niche audiences yet is largely avoided: Reddit.
Since it’s debut in June 2005, Reddit has curated 1.2 million sub-reddits or small forums with niche interests such as “r/IndieBookClub” where redditors meet to discuss a specific subject. The platform hosts a total of 330 million subscribers (TechJunkie). So why do authors avoid Reddit promotion?

Redditors and sub-reddit administrators are quick to attack, or even ban raw promotional content. Though Reddit has a massive base of users, the high volume of sub-reddits fosters a sense of grass-roots/tight-knit community among these small virtual villages. These users only want genuine content that is entertaining, informative, or useful in some way. This results in a general aversion to the shameless plugging of products. Authors who have met this obstacle are often discouraged from utilizing this platform. But don’t give up. There are a few tricks to making the most of Reddit for authors.

Be active. This is a rule of thumb with any social medium but is especially important with Reddit’s micro-communities. Participate in other redditors threads. Comment on threads, join robust conversations about things that interest you. Share other user’s content. Regularly create your own content that isn’t necessarily promotional or related to your book.

Being active builds awareness about you and your book and creates trust among your potential audience. You will also earn a good deal of karma points from being active -this is a score visible on your page, affected by how many upvotes or downvotes your content gets (comments on other redditor’s posts included) similar to likes on a Facebook post. As mentioned before, it’s all about building credibility -good karma means a good reputation in your communities. Being active is hard work, but effective, as seen in ReferralCandy Marketing Manager Si Quan Ong’s recent case study.

Tease your product. Present your book’s intrinsic value to your following. You can promote your book on Reddit, but it must be done with tact. Instead of sharing blurbs with Amazon buy links like you would on the other platforms, write a useful post relating to the subject matter of your book. A good example of this method is our client Ron Franscell, author of ALICE & GERALD: A Homicidal Love Story’s recent AMA.

AMA is an acronym for “ask me anything.” We have used AMAs over the years as a strategy to curry favor and build loyalty for our authors in key niche groups. Ron Franscell did an AMA in r/UnResolvedMysteries, as he is a veteran true crime journalist and author. Rather than plugging his book, Ron presented himself as an expert in true crime and fielded questions relating to the subject. ALICE & GERALD  was used as an example of his experience rather than a product being pedaled.

Here is what Ron’s thread looks like. So far it is at 96% upvotes of 1.2 thousand, and 157 comments.

 

As you can see, Ron replied to everyone’s questions promptly and thoroughly. A few redditors even asked for book recommendations from his accumulated works (Ron has authored 17 titles, you can find ALICE & GERALD here on Amazon).

 

While it is difficult to manage a successful Reddit account, it is well worth it -look at those upvotes! With these tips, you’ll find your karma climbing and follower count growing. You can find more of our social media tips and tricks here.

Social Media 101: What’s New with Twitter?

Since its debut in 2007, the application a brainchild of Evan Williams and Jack Dorsey, you might be wondering–what’s new with Twitter? The answer to that question is that there aren’t many new or complex updates from its conception as a combination social media and SMS hotspot. However, there are some key features that authors might be overlooking on the path to making the most of a Twitter audience and book promotion.

Twitter analytics is a feature that every Twitter user, business or personal, has access to. You can find the statists of how users interact with your content by selecting the bar-graph symbol below each of your posts.

How to use it – Upon clicking the bar-graph, a window titled “Tweet Activity” will open allowing you to see exactly how many “Impressions” (people who have viewed your post); “Engagements” (how many likes, shares, or comments on your post); and “Link Clicks” (how many people have clicked the links in your post) your Tweet received. Monitoring your Tweet activity is an important piece of tracking the payoff of your efforts in comparison to the time you’ve spent creating content. If you are spending a lot of time planning Tweets and not receiving any buzz from your posts, it might be time to switch your strategy or outlet of choice. Logging activity can also help you better strategize the subject matter you Tweet about based on which of your posts gets the most traction.

Including a backlink to your website or buy link where people can purchase your book in social media posts is a great way to keep people clicking around your content for long periods of time. On Twitter, you can pin a Tweet to the top of your page containing those valuable links. This author strategy makes the Tweet containing your links the first thing users see when visiting your page.

How to use it – Each time you click on one of your own tweets, you see a dropdown arrow on the upper-right-hand side of its window. If you click on that dropdown, you are prompted by a variety of options: “Share via Direct Message,” “Copy link to Tweet,” “Embed Tweet,” “Mute This Conversation,” “Pin to your profile page,” “Delete Tweet,” and “Add to new Moment.” After selecting the Pin to your profile page option, that Tweet is now pinned to the top of your page. This ensures optimal exposure due to the fact that it’s the first thing users notice after clicking on your page. You’ll be seeing increased book sales and clicks on your website in no time!

Twitter is currently beta testing several brand-new features such as status updates and a new color-coded organization for Tweet comments. For now, you are equipped with the Twitter tools to win over new followers. If you’re still stuck on basic functions like hashtags, check out our blog post that breaks those concepts down.

Publicity 101: 5 Steps to Curating the Perfect Media List

Although it may seem like a daunting task, generating the perfect media list is an essential part of the publicity process. These lists are the foundation of your media relationships, so knowing how to go about finding the right people to pitch is crucial. Here are Claire McKinneyPR’s top five tips for curating the perfect media list:

1. Pick a subject to focus on. There internet is ripe with every resource from blogs to podcasts. Before you choose what types of outlets you want to pursue, it’s important that you have a definitive topic from which to generate your list. For example, we recently worked with a book of recipes called Sandwich’d: My Life Between the Breads; for this campaign, we created a lists of food bloggers and social media influencers.

2. Pinpoint the type of coverage you’re looking for. Now, it’s time to brainstorm what type of outlet works best for your purposes. Are you seeking reviews or features? Do you want to be online, on television, radio or podcasts? Are you looking for event coverage? Narrowing down your contact list goals will put you on the right track to getting a return on the eventual pitching portion of this process.

3. Determine which method(s) you’re going to use to acquire contact information. There are plenty of great services available to assist in generating even the most niche contact list. While we utilize some lead generation services, they do often cost a fee for the more advanced features. While this works if you have the budget, a simple Google search can often go a long way. To make the best of your Google search, be as specific as possible, exclude transitional phrases like “the,” and don’t be afraid to reach for those third-page results! Small outlets can be pivotal in generating buzz among niche communities.

4. Do your research. At this point, you’ve identified the coverage you’re looking for and collected some outlet contact information. You might have noticed that for many outlets, there are several contacts to choose from–particularly when it comes to large organizations. When pitching smaller blogs or news sites for reviews, search for an email address (and possibly a contact form) on the designated page of their website. When pitching media, look for people with these job titles:

• Newspaper & Magazines: Book Review Editor, Arts & Entertainment Editor or Editor in Chief
• Radio: Program Director, News Director, or Operations Manager
• TV: News Director or Producer

5. Create an excel spreadsheet. For the lead generation services I mentioned above, you can export the lists you generate as CSV, or Comma Separated Value sheets. This enables you to neatly categorize your outlets, contact names, email addresses, phone numbers, you name it. Not only can you keep this information for projects to come conveniently on your desktop, but you can also keep track of addresses or other contact information changes that other websites might not. This is also a good place keep track of your results as you start pitching. Organization is the name of the game.

For more useful PR tips, check out Publicity 101: 5 PR Skills You Won’t Learn in Class. With your new and improved list generation skills, you’ll be generating leads and closing deals in no time!