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August 2010

The Most Important Question a Nonfiction Bookwriter Can Ask Is...

"Where are my potential customers?"

Can you answer this question? Before you reply too quickly, I'll tell you this. The answer is not "I'll reach them in bookstores."

Go into a bookstore on any given day. How many of the customers do you suppose are interested in, let's say, a book on scuba diving? Probably not many. What is the profile of the bookstore browser? The typical bookstore browser is a "recreational reader" - someone used to plunking down $24.95 for hardcover fiction. But check out a dive shop. How many customers there do you think might be interested in a book on scuba?

Dana Lynn Smith has written a great article entitled "How to Sell Books Beyond the Bookstore Market." It's something every nonfiction bookwriter should read.

If you are going to be successful nonfiction bookwriter, your book must have buyers and you must be able to locate them. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Where will I find a high concentration of potential customers for my book?
  • What type of stores do my potential customers frequent?
  • What magazines do they read?
  • What associations do they belong to?
  • What annual events to do they attend?

You may want your book to be sold in bookstores, but the truth is, you will sell many more nonfiction books in places like specialty shops, and through associations, magazines and specialty catalogs. Think of bookstores as the frosting, not the cake.

So rule number one for all nonfiction writers should be, "Make sure there is an audience for your book, and you know where that audience is." Then, when your ready to launch you book, promote it where you know the highest concentration of potential customers are.

[This post was created from excerpts from Successful Nonfiction, written by Dan Poynter.]


Book Marketing - Seven Reasons to Consider On-Line Press Releases

By guest author Jake Olvido.

The marketing and promotion of any newly written book can often be thought of as being similar to that of a new product or launching a new service. Needless to say, publicity can play a crucial role. If your book, regardless of genre, has a newsworthy quality that is worth posting in varous media organizations and newswire and press-release service websites, then creating an on-line press release campaign may be a cost-efficient option.

Here are seven great reasons why well-planned on-line press releases can be effective.

1. An on-line press release campaign can create a new marketing source for a book campaign. Connecting to your ideal demographic market should be your number one book marketing objective, and an on-line press release campaign can be an ideal way to connect with new book readers and fans via the Internet.

2. An on-line press release campaign is easy and convenient. It's easily done. Once created, you can send your press release copy easily via email, but there are also online newswire groups and PR websites that will post your press release for a discounted fee or entirely for free.

3. An on-line press release campaign can draw public interest and discussion of your book. Having it posted on-line means that you are willing to invite public discussion of your book. Such discussions could prove to be the start of "word-of-mouth" advertising for your book.

4. An on-line press release campaign can enhance your reputation as an author. For example, if you are writing an analysis book or have a unique fiction writing style, a timely issued press release can enhance your reputation as an author on how well you articulate your perspectives or present the plot lines to your story.

5. An on-line press release campaign can increase your chances of obtaining well-deserved book reviews. Posting an article about your book online or sending it to reputable media targets can increase the chances of a critical review being done on the substantial merits of your book, and a critical praise could bring your national - or even international - acclaim.

6. An on-line press release campaign can be long-lasting. Some on-line PR websites and newswire companies have the ability to store your book's information in on-line databases that are accessible for future research purposes or relevant book subject inquiries.

7. An on-line press release campaign can be aimed at demographic-specific or geographic-specific audiences. You can choose which PR websites and media targets to send your media releases to, including those found in your home state and those which specialize in specific genre or georgraphic distribution (if your book is of geographic interest).

A couple of follow-up notes: Media release submissions are normally subject to approval according to the respective publication and posting standards set and implemented by each PR newswire service. Also, some on-line PR newswires may request a complimentary copy of your book before posting your release - so you need to consider, before hand, if you are willing to accommodate such requests.

[Jake Olvido is a book marketing specialist and can be reached at Bookwhirl.com.]


Do I Need to Copyright My Nonfiction Book?

Copyrighting is an interesting concept, and it isn't very difficult to understand. However, many new authors of nonfiction works often become preoccupied with two questions:

  1. How much of someone else's work may I safely use?
  2. How can I protect my work from plagiarists?

The following should be helpful in answering these questions.

Most nonfiction is simply a reformulation of existing ideas and facts. Nonfiction is written from research. Copyright covers an author's presentation or expression - a sequence or pattern of words. It does not protect ideas. If you read and blend the ideas of other authors and put the collective thought into your own words, that is perfectly legal. This is how most nonfiction books are written.

Be sure to not repeat any of your research material you collect word for word. Some of the material is not yours, so copying it could be considered plagiarism, and you possibly might be guilty of copyright infringement. Adapt the ideas from many sources so that your work is not substantially similar to any of them.

Also understand that facts may not be copyrighted. They are free for anyone to repeat or use in a manuscript.

The moment you create a written work, it is automatically copyrighted under Common Law. Once your book is published, if you wish, you may send two copies to the Copyright Office along with Form TX and a fee to register or perfect your copyright. However, a registered copyright only gains the author some extra rights. The difference is between copyright and registered copyright, not between not copyrighted and copyrighted.

And if you are working with a publisher, fear not. Publishers rarely steal manuscripts. They are in the publishing business, not the book writing business. There is very little incentive for them to want to rip you off.

One final thought. A copyright protects the text, not the title. The main reason is that there are too many books and too few words in our language. There are just not enough words to go around. The best advice is to do your research to ensure that, to the best of your ability, you create a book title that is not the same or sounds the same as an existing book.

[This post was created from excerpts from Successful Nonfiction, a book on tips for getting published, written by Dan Poytner.]


Subsidy Publishers - Misleading at best and dishonest at worst

What is a subsidy publisher? Also called a vanity publisher, a subsidy publisher takes payment from the author to produce his or her book. With subsidy publishers, it's the writer's cash, not the quality of his or her work, that really counts. Typically, they provide little or no book editing, limited marketing and promotion, and perhaps some warehousing services.

Unfortunately, it has become more and more comon in the past couple of years for these subsidy publishers to refer to themselves as "self-publishing companies." But beware, their use of the term self-publishing, which they are not, is misleading at best and dishonest at worst.

Self-publishing your own book implies the you are the publisher. If you use a subsidy publisher, they are the book publishing company, not you. They are a book publisher for hire, not a self-publishing company.

Authors who are "accepted" by subsidy publishers - and 99.9% of them are as long as they have the cash - pay to have these companies publish their books and then recieve royalties on copies sold. The publisher owns the ISBN, although the author retains the copyright. The author pays for all the steps in the publishing process, but the publisher makes most or all of the decisions. In most instances, authors must do their own promotion and publicity.

When you choose a subsidy publishing company, there is another issue to consider. Since they own the ISBN for your book, they usually set the price. They literally will tell you what to charge for you own book. This is more than a loss of control - it can damage the sales of the book if they set the price too high or too low.

Authors choosing subsidy publishing really need to do their homework to make sure they understand exactly what they are getting into. If you intend to make money selling your book, true self-publishing is likely the best way to go. And if you do self-publish, ensure your book's quality by working with reputable professionals. Doing anything less can be a costly and career-threatening mistake.

[The post was created from excerpts taken from the 5th edition of The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing, co-authored by Marilyn Ross and Sue Collier.]


Why Should You Write A Book?

There are many reasons why people invest their time and money in writing a book. Some do it for fame or recognition; others to make money; some to help other people; and still others who have a personal mission.

Few things can boost an individual's or company's image like a book. Look at what Lee Iacocca's books did for Chrysler in the early 1980's and what Howard Shultz's book did for himself and Starbucks. Many industrial leaders and many politicians have written and published books because they know a book can advance a cause, improve credibility - and bring in more business.

Would you like to be recognized as someone who is an authority on a particular subject, someone who is a knowledge leader and worth listening to? Wouldn't it be nice to do what you love and love what you do?

Authors are held in high esteem by our society. Imagine people coming up to you at a business meeting or in a bookstore with a copy of your book and requesting an autograph. Imagine passing a bookstore and seeing your book in the window or on a display table, or even on the shelf. 

Your book instantly makes you an authority on its subject matter. You do not have to be an expert to write a book. However, when you do write a book, you become the expert.

Writing a book is a great way to advance your mission - to get out the word on something you feel strongly about. Do not be afraid to stir up some controversy. Imagine sharing your enthusiasm with the rest of the world?

Your book may be a means to inspire others. There are thousands of self-help and how-to books being sold today. You may discover that your experience and research may inspire a lot of people. Imagine the satifaction you will feel in helping so many other people by sharing what you know.

Yes there are many great reasons to write a book. A book is an opportunity for you to invest time in your future. A book can be the foundation for the rest of your life. Your book is your gift to the world, and it will last forever. A book is your legacy.

Why should you write a book? Because there is a very good chance that you will find it to be an extremely rewarding experience.

[This post was based on excerpts taken from Successful Nonfiction, written by Dan Poytner.]


Book Titles That Will Hook Readers

A dynamic title - one that turns a sleeper into a keeper - is a great way to motivate someone to pick up your book and look at it. Wouldn't it be great if there were some absolute rules or proven formulas to create that award-winning book title? Unfortunately, there are none.

As soon as we say, "The best titles are ideally two or three words and certainly not more than six," John Gray writes Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus. If we believe good titles should be descriptive, along comes Who Moved My Cheese? - a book that is certainly not about cheese.

Creating a book title that really works for your book can be difficult at best. But perhaps the following guidelines will be of some help to you.

  • It usually works best to have a clear title over a catchy one. And ideally it should start with the two or three most relevant words, so that when it shows up in a database, a searcher can immediately catch your drift.
  • When playing with titling, look at the power of numbers. Things like: 5 Ways to .., 21 Secrets for..., 50 Money Making Tips..., 101 Easy... By the way, studies show uneven numbers work best.
  • Another useful approach is to identify the three biggest problems your book solves. Become the reader and ask yourself, "What's in it for me?" or "Why should I care?"
  • Sometimes a play on words can have a dramatic effect. The subtitle of Jim Soules book about finding your perfect mate included A Guide for Twogetherness.
  • Another way to stimulate ideas is to check magazine article titles to see what thought ticklers they provide. Peruse teaser phrases on magazine covers. Sometimes by just substituting one word, you can produce a grabber title.

Just as there are guidelines for good titles, there are also some negatives to avoid. Stay away from trite titles, such as All That Glitters Is Not Gold or To Be or Not to Be. Profane or controversal titles can spell disaster. And don't choose a title that gives misleading signals (i.e. "This book isn't what I thought it would be.").

Start jotting down some ideas - every idea that comes to mind. Then use a thesaurus to find synonyms for likely candidates.

Next, do some preliminary market research. You can sample public opinion for free. Carry your list of suggested titles everywhere you go and ask coworkers, relatives, neighbors, friends - even strangers - which they like best, and least, and why. Favorite titles may begin to emerge.

One final recommendation. Always subtitle your nonfiction books. There are two very good reasons. Books in Print and other important listing sources enter both the title and the subtitle, so you get more mileage out of your listing. A subtitle also gives you more opportunity to describe your book.

For example, the subtitle of this post could be "Nine Great Ideas That Will Make It Happen!'

[This post was created from excerpts taken from The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing, 5th Edition, co-authored by Marilyn Ross and Sue Collier.]