The Self-Publishing Manual - Volume 2

The Basics About Researching Your Book Topic

Before you get too deeply involved in the actual writing of your nonfiction book, it's critical that you research your topic. The purpose of doing book research is to (1) make sure there is a market and potential demand for what you are writing, and (2) gather material for your book. To help you in your research work, here are some tips that might be useful.

Bookstores. Visit a few bookstores with a notepad. Large stores have a wideer selection. For example, downtown stores may have a greater selection of business books, while stores in the suburbs may have more books on parenting and relationships. Be sure to visit neighborhood bookstores as well. 

Look on the shelf where your book would be. Think: If someone were to see this book, would they also be interested in my book? 

Online. Log on to an online store such as Amazon.com. and search for your category of book. See all of the books in your field. Make notes regarding books that are close to your project. At Amazon, readers evaluate books. Amazon also provides sales rankings to tell you how books are selling against each other. 

Magazines. How many periodicals serve the group(s) you want to sell to. If there are a lot of magazines for your audience, there may be a lot of potential buyers for your book. Also, some of these magazines may be good resources to solicit book reviews.

Associations. Look to see how many clubs and associations may comprise potential buyers.

Stores. It is highly possible that you will sell far more of your books through specialty stores than bookstores. Look for stores that you believe your potential buyers would frequent.

Events. Where do your potential buyers voluntarily come together because they have  like interests? What events do they attend? Relevant conventions and other events are good places to sell individual books and to make contacts.

Research such as this will enable you to get a good feel for what has been published in your topic area and what hasn't been done, what is selling and what is not, as well as how much you can charge for your book. Conducting your research early on in your book project will enable you to get started in the right direction.

[This post was created, with permission, from excerpts taken from Dan Poynter's Self-Publishing Manual, Vol. 2, written by Dan Poynter.]


Nine Steps In Successfully Writing a Non-fiction Book

While there are a number of choices when it comes to producing, distributing and promoting your non-fiction book, following a single system for writing it can prove to be extremely beneficial. Here is a way to save time by consolidating some of the writing steps.

Step #1: Research your topic. Proper research will help you determine if there is a market for what you are writing about, as well as identify where and how you can gather material for your book. Research sources are many and can include bookstores, the Internet, magazines, associations and book/writing events.

Step #2: Narrow your focus. As you learn more about your subject matter, you will discover that by making your book more specific, more potential buyers will identify with it.

Step #3: Draft back cover sales copy first. One of the greatest obstacles to book writing is lack of focus. Drafting your back cover before you write your book will help you focus on your readers and will guide you to what will be in your book.

Step #4: Select a working title. Drafting your back cover copy may likely produce several ideas for your book's title and subtitle. A "working title" will provide you with something to refer to as you write your book.

Step #5: Gather and use quotations. Including pertinant quotations (obtained during your research) in your book will add to its credibility.

Step #6: Add stories. Readers love stories. These accounts help them to remember the points you are trying to make. Stories can demonstrate that you are writing from experience and will add depth to your writing.

Step #7: Don't start writing with chapter one. Very few writers begin at the beginning. Write where your research and thoughts take you. You can fill in the blanks, including the introduction, later.

Step #8: Have your manuscript edited. No writer is so good that he or she should skip editing. While the information is yours, rely on a picky English pro to check the punctuation, grammar and style of your book. Then re-read your manuscript to make sure that the editor improved the copy without making material changes.

Step #9: Obtain feedback on your manuscript. One secret to good material is peer review. Smart non-fiction authors take each chapter of a nearly complete manuscript and send it off to at least four experts on that chapter's subject.

[This post was created , with permission, from excerpts taken from Dan Poynter's Self-Publishing Manual, Volume 2, written by Dan Poynter.]


Selling Your Book In Chain Stores - It's the Author, Not the Book

[The following post offers some great tips from Dan Poynter on how to grow your chain store book sales.]

Selling you book through chain stores is not easy. But if there is a way to get your book into the chains, it's through the back door.

To get started, go to a chain store in your local area and offer to conduct a mini seminar on your subject. We use to call these "autographings." Once the manager agrees, your first responsibility is to create a crowd for your event. Remember, the store is only providing the venue. They want you to bring in new customers.

Send an announcement to everyone in your email address book and ask your friends, relatives and colleagues to forward the announcement to anyone they know (within driving distance) who they believe would be interested in you or the subject.

Be sure there is an ample supply of your books at the store for your event. When you arrive at the store, proceed to the area and shelf where your book will be and look for other books very much like yours.

Take them back to the presentation/autographing area. When you speak, take time to hold up the other books and praise them. This puts your book in good company. If appropriate, you might say things such as, " This is one of the books that got me started in this business," or "This is a book I keep next to my dictionary for constant reference." Because of your reference, it's possible your audience may purchase not only your book, but may leave the store with two or more. Each person could spend $20.00 or they could spend $60.00. Sixty dollars will impress the store manager a lot more. And he or she will more likely want to stock your book.

If you had some success with your first presentation, go to another store in that same chain. Based on your previous performance, they may want you to make a presentation in their store. In fact, they may have already heard about you. The more stores in the chain you are successful at, the more likely the chain will want to stock your book.

If the chain makes a positive decision, don't be disappointed if the chain places your book in only a fraction of their stores. Each store is profiled, and the chain management knows what will sell best in each of their stores. For example, a business title may sell better in a downtown store while a book on parenting may be more successful in a suburban store. The chain will want to place your book in stores where it will move.

When it comes to selling books through stores, it's the author, not the book. Stores want authors who can sell books. Books don't sell themselves, authors sell books.

[This post was created, with permission, from excerpts taken from Self-Publishing Manual, Volume 2, written by Dan Poynter.]


Some Dos and Don'ts About Sending Review Copies

For many authors, sending review copies can be the least expensive and most effective book promotion they can do. The secret to getting good reviews in publications that you believe your book audience reads, is to send review copies to category magazines.

For example, if your book is about scuba diving, sending review copies to scuba diving magazines could generate a 100% response and a review. Editors like to report on new products, and their readers like to find out about new products.

Sending a review copy of your book to someone like The New York Times would be a waste of your time and money. They do not have space to mention your book, and readers of the Times are most likely not your book's targeted audience. Large city newspapers are aimed at very general audiences. You want a targeted audience whose interests match the content of your book.

The easiest way to identify where to send your review copies is to go online and make a list of magazines, newsletters, ezines, blogs, etc. that match the subject matter of your book. Do not email an editor asking if he or she wants to see your book. They are too busy to answer you. What's important is to get your book into their hands. Your book is its own ambassador and should speak for itself. You can't possibly describe your book as well as it can present itself.

When in doubt, ship it out.

And here's another great tip. Each 30 days after you have sent out a review copy, send an article for publication to the same recipient. Just take a page from your book, add a headline, introductory paragraph, closing paragraph and ordering instructions. As a published author, you are a prestigious contributor to magazines in your field. Editors will want your material as part of their content - and the value of the content is what they sell to their readership.

The bottom line? Make review copies part of your book promotion strategy.

[The above post was created, with permission, from excerpts taken from Self-Publishing Manual, Vol. 2, written by Dan Poynter.]


Three Great Ways to Give Your Self-Published Book Added Interest and Appeal

Authors are constantly looking for ways to make their self-published books "more interesting and appealing." If you're seeking ways to add some interest to your book, here are three of the most popular ways to do it.

1. Use material from others to support your thoughts and opinions. Be aware that, if you plan to use other authors' materials, you need permission. Prior to publishing the added material, locate and write to the author. Send him or her a copy of what you want to use, ask if you can use the material and (if some time has passed since they published it) if they would say or publish the same thing today. A positive reply provides both permission and a paper-trail. You'll discover that most authors are thrilled to be quoted as long as you give credit in your text.

2. Use quotations. Quotations can add a lot of positives to your book. They can make your text more relevent, your book more important and confirm the suggestions and opinions you are making. Quotations may be sprinkled throughout your text or may be used at the bottom of the pages. They are, however, most effective when placed near the text they are meant to reinforce. Generally, most quotations are not copyrighted, as they are usually too short to be subject to copyright laws - but it still is wise and appropriate to include the quotation's source.

3. Add stories. Readers love stories. These accounts can help readers remember the point(s) you are making and can offer illustration to the information your book is providing. Stories demonstrate that you are writing from experience; that you are an "expert" on the subject. Don't hesitate to ask colleagues for their stories, if what they can offer will be of help to your writings.

Reaching out to others for materials that will enhance your book can result in another benefit as well. By connecting with others who share a similar feeling for your subject matter, you will be expanding your network and making those you connect with aware of the book you are writing.

[This post was created, with permission, from excerpts taken from Self-Publishing Manual, Volume 2, written by Dan Poynter.]


The Changing World of Book Publishing - Something Writers Should Know

Today, there are more books, published in more ways and available to wider audiences than ever before. For many readers, the printed-paper book is a convenient way for them to be entertained (fiction book) or informed (non-fiction book). For others, the audio book works well. And for still others, electronic books may be the preferable choice.

Howwever, before you begin printing your book, it's important that you understand one important factor: book production and book selling are changing. And to be successful, authors and publishers must recognize and adapt to these changes.

Historically, books have been printed in large quantities and sold through bookstores "on spec." In other words, old fashioned publishers have tried to "push" books into the market, rather than let public demand "pull" them into stores. Books that did not sell were returned to the publishers and basically scrapped. Some of the larger publishers would often get 25% to 35% of their books back. This practice is very expensive and has to be calculated into the cost of the books. This practice is also environmentally very wasteful as well.

Today and as we go forward into the future, the best book publishing strategy will be to print a modest initial print run of books to address early sales demand and to cover promotional (i.e. review copies) book requirements. Then as readers become aware of the book, print additional copies on a print-on-demand (POD) basis. The initial print runs are used to "prime the pump." If sales increase to a amount that justifies larger quantity print runs, book production can switch over to quantity printing using digital or offset methods.

Today's book publishing model makes very good sense, and is something you should strongly consider before you go to press.

[This post was created from excerpts from The Self-Publishing Manual, Volume 2, written by Dan Poynter.]


The Book Publishing Business Died Last Week

The book publishing business died last week. The economic meltdown was the meteorite that hit the dinosaur right in the forehead. The only surprise is that traditional publishing lasted as long as it did.

The firings of industry leaders, mass layoffs at top publishers, and the decision of at least one other major publisher to cease accepting new book proposals for consideration - taken together - indicate the end of the influence of the major publishers. Sure, they'll be there to push celebrity books into a celebrity-minded public, through book outlets like Wal-Mart and your local supermarket. But the busines that began with editors who loved books and published what they wanted is vanishing, a victim of its own inability to find a reason for being in the Internet and the print-on-demand (POD) world.

The firings are an immediate result of the plunging economy, but the death of traditional publishing is really self-inflicted.

  • Is there any other industry that chooses its newest offerings on the basis of the collective whim of a group of people (acquisition editors) with practically no business experience?
  • Is there any other industry that pushes out thousands of new products a year, but offers marketing support to only a handful?

Twenty years ago, publishers spoke of an 80-20 rule: 80 percent of the book marketing dollars went to 20 percent of the books. Today, the rule is more like 90-10 or even 99-1. If Dr. Phil is publishing a new book in the same promotion as a first-time author, Dr. Phil will get all the book marketing dollars, and the new author will get crumbs.

Thank goodness that new and lesser-known writers and authors have an alternative.

[The above post was created from excerpts from The Self-Publishing Manual - Volume 2 by Dan Poynter.]