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Saturday, 27 July 2013

What you need to know about Publishing!

This article covers all the things that happen between writing a book and getting it to the public. It describes what a book shepherd does - but many of us are doing this for ourselves or each other already. There are some good rules on marketing though, worth a look.

This is the second and final part of an interview with experienced book shepherd Sharon Goldinger. The first part can be found here: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Book Shepherds, Part 1.

7. What sorts of questions should someone be prepared to answer when contacting a book shepherd?

People who contact a book shepherd to have their manuscript reviewed and assessed should be prepared to answer these questions:
  • Who is the audience for your book?
    • Answer: Every woman in the world.
    • Better answer: Women ages 20 to 50 in the United States.
    • Best answer:
      • Career women ages 35 to 45 in the United States who read Ladies Home Journal.
      • Married women ages 30 to 50 in the United States who want to improve their relationships with family members.
  • What is the goal of your publishing plan?
    • Answer: To have a book.
    • Better answer: To have a book available for my clients and potential clients.
    • Best answer: To publish a book that will offer answers to a specific problem.
  • What is your time availability?
    • Answer: I have some time. How much time will this take?
    • Better answer: I know this will take time. I’m ready to start now, and I hope to be able to have some time available each week.
    • Best answer: I know this is a long-term time commitment. I’ve read several books about the publishing industry and how to market a book. I’ve started researching where and to whom I can sell my book in addition to bookstores and have already started my two-year marketing plan.
  • What is your budget?
    • Answer: I have some money put aside.
    • Better answer: I have researched what this will cost. Please confirm the numbers with me.
    • Best answer: I have researched what this will cost. Please confirm the numbers with me. I have also set up a line of credit that I can tap so that when the book is ready for reprint, I will have funds available to pay for the reprinting while waiting for the money from the distributor to come in.
8. What should an author consider when looking for a book shepherd? Is it possible to know the difference between an ineffective one and an effective one? What questions should an author ask? Whether you’re building a house and need a contractor or have written a book and need a book shepherd, conducting your due diligence is vital. Here are some good initial questions:
  • What types of books do you work with (nonfiction, fiction, categories)?
  • How do you work with your clients (meet with them in person or by phone, have weekly meetings, delegate the project to a staff member, provide guidelines and lay out steps to take)?
  • How long does the process take?
  • How much or how little can you help me?
  • How much do your services cost?
  • What kinds of projects have you worked on? Can you tell me some of your clients’ successes and failures and why you think they occurred?
  • Do you charge for an estimate or assessment of my project?
If you like the answers to these questions, you should check the person’s references and ask those publishers and authors the same kinds of questions that you asked the book shepherd.

9. What rates can authors expect to pay for a book shepherd’s services?
Rates can be by the hour or the project. Much of this decision depends on how many tasks the book shepherd is going to do versus the publisher (or his or her staff). Every consultant is different and provides different services (sometimes directly contracted). You should ask what the book shepherd’s typical project fee is. The needs of a project can vary so much that it is hard to say what fee is and isn’t appropriate. However, the amount should be examined in light of how many books need to be sold to break even. Developing a cost analysis or creating a P&L (profit and loss) statement for each book is a good step.
10. Do you walk authors through every phase of publication? What are those steps?
Book shepherds can do as little or as much as the author or publisher needs. Some clients have more time than money; some, the opposite. A book shepherd can assist with any or all of the following:
  • Creating the publishing company and obtaining all necessary legal, business, and publishing paperwork and forms, including resale permits, ISBNs, copyright, cataloging in publication data, and more
  • Coming up with a book’s title and checking to see what other books already are using it
  • Determining if permissions are needed
  • Setting a publication date
  • Recommending and/or checking out interior and cover designers and indexer
  • Assessing comps for the book (price, size, features, etc.) and determining the price
  • Setting up or updating the author’s or book’s website
  • Making decisions about fulfillment and storage
  • Developing an “elevator speech” (brief description of the book)
  • Determining the audience (specific statistics: gender, age, generation, buying habits)
  • Establishing the benefits the book brings to readers
  • Obtaining endorsements and testimonials (whom and how many to include)
  • Developing a marketing strategy
  • Budget
  • Author’s participation—speaking, writing, website, book tours, blogging
  • Branding
  • Other public appearances (libraries, colleges, book fairs)
  • Media training
  • Networking opportunities (for example, via groups the author belongs to)
  • Email and direct marketing
  • Partnering with an organization
  • Number of galleys to be sent out
  • Length of the publicity campaign (e-blasts, galleys)
  • Collateral materials (postcards, bookmarks, flyers)
  • Bookstore promotions (co-op and advertising dollars)
  • Online publicity and marketing (which websites and social media sites to target)
  • Special sales opportunities (via trainings, workshops, conferences, reading groups)
  • Foreign language translations and serial rights
The book shepherd ensures that all the tasks get done, whether by the author, the publisher, the book shepherd, or a virtual assistant. What’s important is not who does the tasks, it’s that the tasks—all the right steps in the process—are done when they need to be done.
11. Can you get an author’s books on the bookstore shelves?
With more than 200,000 books in print each year and the average superstore carrying 100,000 books, it is impossible to get every book on a bookstore shelf. The question a publisher should ask a book shepherd is, “Can you get my book into the bookstore system?”
Getting into the bookstore system generally means having a book listed with the nation’s wholesalers (for example, Ingram and Baker & Taylor) [In NZ, Wheelers, TLS etc.]. While there are exceptions to every rule, most of the time a publisher needs to be represented by an exclusive national distributor. [No need for exclusivity in NZ] Having a national distributor (which does all the warehousing, invoicing, billing, collections, etc.) has many benefits, but the bottom line is that a publisher needs a distributor more than a distributor needs a publisher.
Remember that publishing is a business: everyone has to make some money in the publishing process. How does a distributor make money? By selling books. How does the consumer know that a book is available for sale? Through marketing. Who’s responsible for that marketing? The author and the publisher. Once those responsibilities and relationships are understood, it will be easier to partner with a distributor.
A distributor wants to know what a publisher’s marketing budget will be—in detail. What’s the total budget? Who is the publicist? How long is the publicity campaign? How big are the author’s and publisher’s mailing lists, and how often will the people on the lists be notified? How, when, and where will the consumer be pushed into bookstores to buy the book? And, since there are so few “one-hit wonders,” what are the next books that the author will be writing, and when will they be published?  [Some good points.]
12. Competition for shelf space is tough. Do book shepherds help with marketing and promotion? What tips do you have to share with authors to help them stand out from the pack?
Book shepherds often help with marketing and promotion. Services can range from providing a referral to a competent and experienced marketing company and publicist or doing the work themselves. The decision depends on the project, the genre, and the budget. When it comes to marketing, specialists are important. A book can be viable, but it may not be the best fit for certain experts.
I always check to make sure I create win-win situations with my clients, projects, and vendors. While every book goes through similar marketing and publishing steps (for example, reviews need to be sent out four months in advance to Publishers Weekly), every marketing plan needs to be tailored to the audience. Should direct-mail pieces be created and sent out? Where can the author write and speak to gain attention (local and national networking groups, local and national publications)? What should your online and social media marketing campaign look like, and how should it be built?
13. Fiction is tough to sell these days. How do you help authors get their novels noticed?
I specialize in nonfiction—although I’m pleased to say that when I did make an exception for Rashi’s Daughters, it was a great success story. The key to my accepting this project was how it was referred to me (by an experienced colleague who is a fabulous fiction editor) and the amount of homework that the author had done. She was an exceptional client in terms of producing an exemplary product and following directions.
The author’s primary goal was to create buzz about the book. Her first step was to research her audience. She knew that her historical fiction book would appeal to a niche audience of Jewish women—a group that reads and buys a lot of books. She then had to find where they were and how to reach them. An Internet search of Jewish women’s organizations revealed a number of national associations, all of which she joined a year before her book came out.
She wrote articles for and bought ads in their newsletters. And she contacted them to speak at their local and national conventions. She spoke for free—all she asked was permission to sign and sell her books at their events. A critical element was her relentlessness. She sent emails, made phone calls, and followed up, followed up, and followed up some more.
She also created a website for the book where she could direct people if they wanted to learn more. She spoke at libraries and bookstores. One final note: she made sure to get the names and addresses of everyone who attended her speaking engagements so when her second book was released, she already had a mailing list of thousands of interested readers.
14. How much importance do you place on cover design? Interior design? Do buyers and readers really notice these elements?
I think all the elements of a book (editing, cover design, interior design, back cover copy, marketing and publicity) are important. I believe that buyers and readers notice them, especially if they’re done poorly, and we work with our clients’ distributors in these areas as well.
Book shepherds ensure that every book they work on meets industry standards, which means that the interior and cover designs are created by experienced book designers. It’s important to note that there is a difference between a graphic designer—even an award-winning graphic designer—and an experienced book designer. Creating a Clio-winning advertisement is not the same as knowing which fonts to use in a book and what colors to use on a cover.
Just as you would not ask a dermatologist to treat your broken leg (dermatologists and orthopedic surgeons are both doctors, but their experience and knowledge are obviously quite different), a publisher needs to use an experienced book designer—not just a designer.
15. Will you recommend how many books an author should get printed? How do you determine this number?
A book shepherd should be willing to make recommendations on every aspect of a book’s life (font, cover design, marketing, printing, etc.). Depending on the market (Is the book a calling card? How many copies does the distributor want? How many presales have occurred?), I provide recommendations for that number as well as the appropriate printer type (digital for short runs, offset for longer runs).
The number of books that should be printed depends on how many the distributor wants and how many pre-orders have been received. Book shepherds help determine that number for the first run as well as re-printings.
I have found that many people don’t plan for success. I ask my clients to consider this: What happens when you sell out your first print run? You won’t see any money from your distributor for three or four months, but you need to print again now.
16. Do authors ever come to you with an idea that has little market potential? If so, how do you handle this?
I come from the land of straight shooters. If I don’t think a project is marketable, I will tell the author and turn down the project.
17. What are some of the frustrations you encounter with your clients?
I’m pleased to say that I don’t have any, and that’s due to one simple reason: I gather good information up front. I know the client’s goals, I feel that I can assist him or her in meeting them, the client has been truthful with me regarding the goals and budget—it’s that straightforward.
In conclusion, I call publishing a game—but it’s a winnable game. Like any game, you need to know the rules, have the proper equipment, know what players you need on your team, have a good coach, develop a winning strategy, and be willing to put in a lot of hard work and money.
My final advice: do your homework, check references, and read and understand every sentence in a contract before you sign it.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Rod Dearing on Target Markets

Last week I received my first royalty cheque from my publishers. It was a pittance of course but that didn’t matter. It represented tangible reward for my work and the size of the cheque really didn’t matter to me. (Well, that’s not quite true of course!) Everybody needs encouragement and writers probably more than most. But the arrival of this first cheque got me thinking about how I could make the next cheque a little larger.

My books are published in both hard cover and ebook formats and available through and So they are readily available to the world-wide market. But so are millions of competing books. What was it, I wondered, that attracted readers to purchase my books and who were these purchasers anyway? What were they looking for and did my books satisfy their needs?

Whether we like it or not the answers to these questions goes back to our market appraisals that should have been completed before we started writing. It’s so much easier writing stories with a target market in mind particularly if one’s lifetime experience resonates with that market, its needs and expectations.

I have an Army and civil defence background and my principal target market is the UK Cadet Forces. There are about 100,000 cadets, aged 13-18 years, and volunteer adults organised in roughly 2500 units and schools throughout the UK. I’m also very interested in the wellbeing of badgers in UK, so I have a secondary target market of badger supporters numbering about 250,000. (This number derived from the number of signatures petitioning the UK Parliament to stop a planned cull of badgers.) To satisfy the needs of these two target markets I’ve created two streams of stories – one for cadets and the second for junior cadets.

Have a look at my websites, for the adventures of Cadet Willie McBride and for the adventures of Mr Badger of the North Head Cadet (Engineers) Unit and let me know what you think at

What’s your target market?

Rod Dearing 




Friday, 12 July 2013

Jenny Harrison on scrawling in books

Do you deface books?
Some time ago, a little old lady (I’m assuming it was a little old lady, because little old ladies sometimes do strange things. It could have been a little old man but I don’t think little old men get their knickers in a knot like little old ladies do. Anyway...)
Let’s start again...
Some time ago a little old lady, taking books out of our local library, started a campaign whereby she (she, he...see above) crossed out the word God whenever and wherever she found it.
‘Oh, my God,’ he yelled.
See what I mean? Whenever the word God was written, out came her pen.
And, no, ‘twas not I.
I suspect library staff traced her through her loan history, for shortly thereafter the crossings-out stopped. I believe she may be sharing a cell - in leg-irons - with a mass murderer or two.
So, is it ever okay to annotate or mark a book with your private opinions, etc? I have to confess, I have done it and I bet you have too. Ever seen an awful grammatical error and not been tempted? Garn! Confess!
I scribbled furiously in Helen Long’s book Safe Houses are Dangerous, published in 1985 by William Kimber & Co. Writing about Dunkirk she blatantly states: ‘Although evacuating some 336,000 troops, the British did abandon and allow to fall into enemy hands, several thousand French troops. British troops....’. According to more accurate recording, 198,000 BEF and 140,000 French troops were evacuated. 40,000 French were ordered by their own command to stand fast and protect the beaches of Dunkirk. My scribbling was fast and furious. My own book, so it was probably okay.
I also have a penchant for crossing out “less people” and adding “fewer”. (I hear the plod-plod of police boots.)
Now, we come to a more delicate matter. When you buy and read my book, Rusty and Slasher’s Guide to Crime, you are at liberty to deface the book to your heart’s content. I say this because you may very likely have another pet name for the male appendage (see how Victorian I can be?) Rusty and Slasher call it Mr. Jolly. If that offends you, you are welcome to draw a line through it, Mr Jolly, and replace it with the name of your choice. 
But if you have borrowed the book from your local library, please refrain.
Yours on the run,
Jenny Harrison

Friday, 5 July 2013

Jean Allen on VOICE

I believe an author’s ‘voice’ is unique and has a right to be read. However, unless we find a way to get published, distributed and displayed to the public we may as well give up?
Wait! Think of all those writers whose works were rejected. What if Dickens or Tolkien had given up? What if Thomas Bracken hadn’t written the words for our NZ National Anthem?  A good book, song, phrase, a poem buried can be a sad, sad loss.
I have had to spend the last three months mostly at home. Our street is ‘over a hill and round a corner’. It has no through traffic and is quiet. Or is it? Quietude in this little, green valley is threaded with an orchestration of birdcalls. Three fat kereru beat heavy across the house, settle in the bush and coo; the sound Eileen Duggan likened to moaning and groaning. High in a cabbage tree a tui’s loud refrain overrides the chatter of sparrows. Our place is a bird’s world. We love them; so much so that some walk in to visit and can’t find their way out - sometimes leaving a trail behind that is not good for the carpet!At intervals throughout the day different bird choruses become my background music. Sparrows chirp and chatter; fantails tweet and sometimes gulls fly in from the sea, sit on the roof and squawk their heads off. Yes, some birds are strident. Some, though, are amazingly musical, while the tui fools me, from time to time, with his clever mimicry of other bird calls.
No one tells them they can’t add their voice to this little world because they aren’t known; won’t make enough money; won’t be liked etc. etc. And how much less a place our valley would be without even one of our songsters. Sure, sometimes they fight and sometimes they sing on and on and on. However their voices either together, or in solo, either in their silence or in discord – are priceless.And to some people – so is my writing voice. I need to keep on writing; keep putting my work out ‘there’. I need to be like Bracken and the birds and never give up, never shut up. Small I may be. Slow I may be - but I’ll get there and some readers, somewhere, will be grateful for the gift my writing ‘voice’ gives.
Are you with me?

This is Jean ‘Angel’ Allen hoping you are writing or reading something splendid today.