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I am now my own client…

Day 25 of the 5-Week Author Blog Challenge inquires about my views on my book as a business. All 35 posts for this Challenge will be focused on writing, publishing, and book marketing. I hope you’ll stick around through all 35 posts. And if you want to take part, come on in – the water is great! You can register here.

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Day 25 writing prompt:

If your goal is to sell books, you must view your book as a business. In what ways do you treat your book as a business? Where could you improve? What resources could you leverage to improve your book business?

Doncha love it when you come up with a clever idea … or blog prompt … and then, when it’s time for you to implement or answer the call, you hem and haw and think of a dozen much more important things that need doing RIGHT THIS MINUTE?

OK – it’s not quite that bad. But I feel a bit of wriggling going on as I sit here to type out my business plan for Stan Finds Himself on the Other Side of the World. I think I struggle because it’s difficult to separate Stan from the rest of my business. And while it is a component of my business helping socially conscious authors write, publish, and market their books, it’s quite different to be in the client chair than the service provider position.

So how would I start with a new client?

I’d find out where they are in the publication process.

  • Idea
  • Draft in progress
  • Manuscript complete
  • Book in print

I would assess their goals, budget, and timeline. If they have a $200 budget and want to get their book into print in time for the 2015 holiday season, I might suggest they shift to a more realistic goal.

If they were hiring me on the marketing side, I’d do an assessment of their existing social media footprint. I’d also look at the subject of their book and brainstorm marketing ideas specific to their subject/storyline.

If their goal was hearty and their budget meek, I might suggest a crowdfunding campaign. This could succeed, however, only if they already had a crowd to tap. I would recommend they search out and read/listen to Amanda Palmer’s unbelievably amazing book, The Art of Asking. Here’s what I wrote about it for the group blog for Phoenix Publishing & Book Promotion:

Amanda Palmer is an expert at asking, and she has figured out how to successfully harness the Power of the Group. So much so that she waged the highest theartofasking_imageearning Kickstarter campaign to date. So much so that she gave a TED Talk that has had 3.6 million views. So much so that she was asked to inspire a group of women programmers/engineers at Microsoft. So much so that she authored the absolutely-must-read book, The Art of Asking. When I grow up, I want to be just like her.

I’m not much of an audiobook person, but recently I’ve been doing a lot of driving. I was at the library, so I decided to explore the audiobooks and came across The Art of Asking. I’d already seen the TED Talk, so I was pretty sure the book would be good, too. Understatement of the year. Best book. Important book. Book that could change the world if everyone would just read/listen to it. I recommend the audiobook version because Amanda is an amazing storyteller. If you just read the words, you’ll miss her nuance, miss her vocal variety, miss her doing her husband’s voice in a British accent.

Did you notice how smoothly I did that, changed the subject from my book as a business to recommending someone else’s book? All well and good in the right time and place – but this is the place where I’ve committed to telling you about my book’s business plan.

First off, a status update. The writing is still in progress, but I’ve made a commitment to have the thing finished before Thanksgiving. It’s been done for a while now, with an ending and everything; however, I’m still filling in gaps in the story. I’ve connected with a very good editor who simultaneously pissed me off and made me very happy with her early suggestions. Yes – this writer’s ego is just like every other writer’s: it wants to think it’s perfect and needs no help. But then I remember that Michael Jordan credited his coaches with making him a great player, and my ego takes a breath and climbs back on the shelf for a while.

As much as I thought a January 8 launch might be possible (my mom’s birthday – and Elvis’ birthday, too!) I’m not sure how feasible that is, following on the heels of the holidays so quickly. Early 2016 is about all I know for the moment.

My budget is flexible – and I’m willing to spend some money to get where I want to go with this book. I’ve got some prompts coming up that will address a few more specifics about the marketing plans. Suffice to say it will be fun – and potentially dangerous – to apply all my own tricks and ideas to marketing my own book.

I will make the book available on Amazon (at least in the short term), as well as Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, BookBaby, and other online channels. This means it will be a printed book and an eBook. And, as mentioned in my October 2nd post, it will one day soon also be an audiobook.

Crowdfunding for a book tour? I’m all over it! I have a list of 10 potential thank-you gifts to offer backers (things like a photo scrapbook of Isis, Stan’s dog, in all the countries they visit and entries my own clientfrom Stan’s journal), but after listening to Amanda Palmer’s book, I’m rethinking some of those. Make that, thinking BIGGER about some of those. For example, for the grand thank-you, I’d now like to do writer’s workshop and a signing event on an Alaskan cruise!

As many of my co-participants in the Author Blog Challenge have mentioned, finding the time for it all is the most significant aspect. That’s where I’ve got to get disciplined about wearing my client hat when it’s time to work on MY book business. The thought of going and changing my clothes to meet myself for my appointment just occurred to me. Goofy? To be sure – but if that’s what it takes, I’m all for it!

If you’ve got any ideas about how you approach your book business, please share them with us in the Comments section below.

Please be sure to check in again tomorrow, when I’ll describe the best non-bookstore venues for Stan.

And for the record, I’d love your feedback on my Author Blog Challenge posts! And, of course, would really love to have you support all of the bloggers in the Challenge. Find their links here.

Here’s to meeting all kinds of wonderful characters in your waking life!

Laura

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

__________________Anatomy of a Book Launch

If you’re getting ready to launch your book and would like help to put together a successful event, download my free special report: Anatomy of a Book Launch. Then CALL me at 602.518.5376 to schedule your complimentary 15-minute consultation. It’s never too early to begin planning!

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Are you employing the 8 components of a successful book business?

For the next 5 days, we’ll be taking a little detour from the traditional marketing posts you’ve come to know and love on the Marcie Brock blog as I lead by example and follow my own writing prompts for the Author Blog Challenge.

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Day 24 writing prompt:

If your goal is to sell books, you must view your book as a business. In what ways do you treat your book as a business? Where could you improve? What resources could you leverage to improve your book business?

Virtually every successful business has a business plan – a roadmap, if you will, of where they are now and where they plan to go. This is no different for your book business. We’re often told that the best plans will contain some most of the following elements:

  • Executive Summary
  • Company Overview
  • Description of Products and Service
  • Market and Industry Analysis
  • Marketing Plan
  • Operations Plan
  • Development Plan
  • Management Plan
  • Company’s Competitive Advantage
  • Financial Plan
  • Funding
  • Appendices

But a business plan need not be long or elaborate to be complete. My friend, business coach Suzanne Muusers, has developed a 2-page mini business plan system that cuts the clutter and helps you get to the heart of the matter: understanding what your business does, where you want it to go, and how you plan to get there.

7 other crucial pieces of your book business include:

Branding.

If there’s ever a professional who needs to cultivate a personal brand, it’s an author. According to personal branding specialist, Peter Montoya:

Your personal brand is the powerful, clear, positive idea that comes to mind whenever other people think of you. It’s what you stand for—the values, abilities and actions that others associate with you. It’s a professional alter ego designed for the purpose of influencing how others perceive you, and turning that perception into opportunity. It does this by telling your audience three things:

1.  Who you are

2.  What you do

3.  What makes you different, or how you create value for your target market

A website.

Your website needs to reflect your brand and make it possible for your audience to access you and your products. I plan in the near future to hire Suzanne’s husband, Dana Ball, a brilliant, creative designer, to revamp my website. Dana gave my book cover a thumbs-up, which made me ever-so proud.

A method of e-commerce.

The only way you can collect money for your book is by having some method of e-commerce installed on your website. While PayPal is widely used and accepted, if you’ve got more than one or two titles, you may still want to look into a shopping cart service.

Distribution channels.

The point of writing a book is getting it out into the world. This most likely means distribution beyond your website. Whether it’s an eBook or a traditionally printed book, you’ve got to have a way of disseminating it. This might be through Amazon, BookBaby, Smashwords, Lightning Source, or some other channel. The point is that if you want as many people as possible to have access to your book, you’ve got to employ a source (or sources) to do that for you.

An e-mail list.

The heart and soul of any online business is its list – the people to whom you will market your current and future books. Developing a list is an important activity you must master if you intend to be a successful Internet merchant.

A CRM system (customer relationship management).

Realtors and mortgage folks seem to be masters at CRM – but cultivating and managing relationships with the people on your list is essential for any author who takes the business side of things seriously. This means knowing who bought what when, how they found you, whether their preference is for eBooks or printed titles, to name just a few.

A team.

As a self-publishing author, you may at times feel like your team is just one person: you. As I wrote in a January 2012 post:

It’s quite common for a new author to take that precipitous dive into self-publishing only to realize, even after a fair amount of research, that there’s a LOT involved. And it’s really easy to get overwhelmed. I think a good part of the overwhelm comes from the erroneous belief that you’ve got to “go it alone.” It’s not much of a stretch to make the analogy between a self-publishing author and a general contractor, if, as careers.stateuniverity.com explains, a general contractor’s job is to “coordinate and supervise the work at construction sites from early development to final product.”

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Well, if there are so many people involved, how can you possibly be going it alone? Ask any leader who feels that it truly is lonely at the top. Hiring people – or contracting for their services – doesn’t mean you necessarily view these individuals as members of your team, and that’s a key component to not going it alone. Sure you’re in charge – but are the folks tasked with components of your book making and marketing simply people you’re paying, or are they members of your team who are equally invested in your success?

Yeah, you wrote a book and thought you were done. As one Author Blog Challenge participant put it, “Writing the book was the easy part. I’m still trying to wrap my head around all this marketing stuff.”

The good news is that you can sell a lot of books on your own if you set up your book business properly from the start. Will it take time? Yes – probably more time than you think you can afford to give. Will it take determination? Boatloads. Will it take some marketing savvy and computer skills? Yep – those are somewhat necessary to become a successful online bookseller. Can you do it? I’m going to go out on a limb and say yes – you can do it. Decide you want it. Make a plan. And implement.

Happy bookselling!

Laura

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

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In honor of our 1-year anniversary (May 2, 2012), we’re hosting the Author Blog Challenge! It starts June 2 and is open to published authors, authors-in-progress, and would-be authors. Come check us out!

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