Keynote Speaker: B. Alan Bourgeois
Every seat was occupied at the November 18th meeting, where we welcomed Austin author and marketing guru B. Alan Bourgeois. Following the business session which included election of new Board members, Kim Black handed the gavel over to our 2018 President, Mike Akins. There were many announcements from members about upcoming books and new projects. The creative energy and can-do attitude of Amarillo area writers is always inspiring.
Mr. Bourgeois is the founder and director of Texas Authors, Inc. and assists writers through his company Bourgeois Media & Consulting (BMC). "The arts is not something that most people are encouraged to pursue," Alan said. "Our parents meant well but most of our creative outlets was blocked."
In today's publishing environment, authors no longer need to consider whether to publish or not. With so many options available for writers, the reality is to ask the question "How to Publish?" Finding the right option for your work is key to successfully selling your books.
There are about 8400 published authors in this state. With over 50,000 new titles being published on Amazon every month, authors are face with impossible task of being noticed. Alan founded Texas Authors Inc to help Texas authors market themselves. We watched an inspirational music video by X Ambassadors, "Renegade", which shows people facing insurmountable odds without considering their limitations. Here's a link to watch the video.
There are three main types of publishing options for authors today: traditional, hybrid, or self-publishing.
The Big 5 traditional publishers have altered their focus. When you look at the new releases today, the main question is 'who does the author know'. Traditional publishing has become very public press oriented. Politicians, celebrities and people with high visibility are awarded book deals, not first-time novelists. The main question is not so much as to the quality or content of the work, but how many social media followers do they already have. You give up total control of your work for a small percentage of the profits when you choose a traditional publishing deal.
Hybrid publishers offer a portion of the services than the traditional route, and you can retain some control. For example, you might pay for editing, cover design, and marketing options. If your are complete control freak, and have the dollars to spend, then self-publishing is the perfect option for you.
Research your book. Does the story you wrote have an audience? Look at everything in regards to your content, cover design, target market and compare it to other books that are similar. Does this fit what you intended?
You must practice and know the sales pitch/synopsis for your book. Briefly, in 30 seconds using one to two sentences that relates to the back cover copy, describe your book. Alan discussed book reviews and the importance of having an email for business. "Set-up an email for authorship and your books. Keep it active and keep it alive," he told us.
Marketing renegade style, is doing whatever it takes to get people's attention. Marketing is 1) promotion of a product, 2) the ability to get someone to want that product, and 3) getting someone to buy your product. Alan described some of the new and unique services Texas Authors Inc offers its members.
"There are so many ways to promote your book. Think outside the box," Alan encouraged us to, "be the renegade that you are." We ended the workshop with a sing-along, as a second playing of "Renegade" was shown with lyrics provided.
It's our time to make a move
It's our time to make amends
It's our time to break the rules
And I say hey, hey hey hey
Living like we're renegades
Hey hey hey
Hey hey hey
Leaving like we're renegades
(Renegade by X Ambassadors)
Thanks to Mr. Beorgeois for a very energizing and inspiring morning!
These set-and-forget marketing tricks help make books more discoverable
By Mark Coker | Originally published in Publishers Weekly on Nov 17, 2017
Marketing is critically important to a book’s success, yet time spent on marketing means less time for writing. Here, I share 10 set-and-forget tips to put an e-book’s most important marketing on autopilot. These tricks work 24 hours a day to make an author’s books more discoverable to readers.
1. Add These Three Sections to Your Back Matter
These sections drive sales and build an author’s social media following:
2. Add a Discussion Guide
It’s great to sell one book to one reader, but if the reader’s a member of a reading group, that could mean even bigger sales. If they see a reading group discussion guide at the end of the book, they’re more likely to recommend the book as for the group’s next read.
3. Add Sample Chapters from Other Books
The reader just finished the book, they loved it, and now they’re ready to read more. Let them jump into other e-books by offering generous samples of other titles.
4. Do a Sample-Chapter Swap with Another Author
Many indie authors have friends who also write in their genres or categories. Offer to swap sample chapters. Each author places the other author’s sample chapter in the back matter of their books. Be selective. Only swap with quality writers who target the same readership.
5. Add Enhanced Navigation to E-books
E-books support a hyperlinked table of contents. If the author adds the enhanced back matter recommended above, they can advertise and link to those sections in the table of contents.
6. Make at Least One Book Free
Free e-books get about 30 times more downloads on average than books that cost money, which means that more readers are exposed to the enhanced back matter. Nothing hooks a reader like a free first book, especially for series. Authors who write standalone books should consider running free promotions of priced titles to help introduce first-time readers to their bodies of work.
7. Editing Turbocharges Word of Mouth
Good books aren’t good enough anymore. An author only gets one chance to wow a new reader with a five-star reading experience. It’s the five-star read that leads to the ultimate form of autopilot marketing: reader word-of-mouth. To maximize reader satisfaction, hire a professional editor, preferably one with experience editing other books that became bestsellers in the same genre or category. There are multiple types of editing:
developmental editing, copy editing, and proofing. Each is critically important, and none can be skipped. Developmental editing is the most expensive but will have the biggest impact on reader satisfaction.
8. Work with Beta Readers
Beta readers are test readers. They read the author’s book prior to publication and provide feedback to help guide the final revision. A properly managed beta round could provide feedback similar to that offered by a developmental editor. To learn how to run a beta reader round, check out my December 2016 column, “Making the Most of Beta Readers,” or listen to Episode 5 of the Smart Author Podcast.
9. Occupy Multiple Price Points
Readers harbor pricing bias. One reader’s bias will be different from another’s. Some readers will only try a new author if the book is free, while others will only try the author if the book is priced under $3.99. Other readers will avoid low-cost e-books altogether for fear that lower prices indicate poor quality. By occupying multiple price points, the author can accommodate a wider range of pricing biases so that more readers will give the work a chance. Once the author earns the reader’s trust with one book, price is less of a factor.
10. Always Release with a Preorder
Books released as preorders sell more copies because preorders enable more effective book marketing. Much of this benefit is on autopilot. Indie authors can get their books listed for preorder up to 12 months in advance of release. During this entire preorder period, these upcoming titles are merchandised alongside the author’s other books at retailers. It means more months of selling time.
Mark Coker is founder of Smashwords and the host of the new podcast Smart Author.
There are more bestseller lists than ever and the ramifications for publishing remain unclear
By John Maher, with reporting by Rachel Deahl and Claire Kirch | Nov 03, 2017
Bestseller lists have long been powerful marketing tools for the industry. In short, they sell books. But they have proliferated, with more lists that group books according to different metrics, and industry insiders are wondering whether they wield as much power as they used to. When nearly any title can be called a bestseller, does becoming a bestseller still matter?
Though insiders we spoke with agreed unanimously that the term “bestseller” still means something to readers, they disagreed on how lists affect the market and what actually defines a bestseller.
Historically, bestseller lists were broken down along two major lines: format and category. The largest groupings were nonfiction and fiction. Those groups were then broken down by the three major print formats: hardcover, trade paperback, and mass market paperback. The introduction of the fourth format—e-books—disrupted the way bestseller lists are compiled, as it did many other parts of the industry. Because e-books are predominantly sold online and not in stores, their sales can’t be tracked in the same way that print sales are: by collecting data from physical retailers.
Further complicating the bestseller list landscape was Amazon’s introduction of multiple bestseller lists. The e-tailer, which tracks sales of its titles in real time, publishes a wealth of lists, broken down by format and also by multiple subcategories. There are “overall” print and Kindle bestsellers on the site, but also numerous subcategories like “Crafts, Hobbies & Home,” “Humor & Entertainment,” and “Law.”
The sources of the data on which the lists are based also complicate their interpretation. The New York Times famously pulls data for its lists from a select and secret sample of retailers, and Amazon, while reporting its print sales, does not, for the most part, disclose sales of e-books. The lists that are arguably the most transparent, like PW’s, rely on NPD BookScan’s point-of-sale data, which tracks 80%–85% of print sales in the country but doesn’t include data on e-book sales. Other news outlets, such as the Wall Street Journal and USA Today, run their own lists, and organizations like the American Booksellers Association produces multiple lists, including an overall list of bestsellers in ABA bookstores and regional lists.
The sheer number of lists and Amazon’s decision not to widely share its e-book sales figures (despite the fact that BookScan has for years asked the company to take part in its sales aggregation program) means that there is not a true national bestseller list that can definitively identify what the top-selling books are across all formats in a particular week. As a result, there’s some confusion about what the designation “bestseller” really means.
“Even when it comes to ‘national bestseller,’ it seems that we don’t have a consensus [about the meaning of the term],” said one agent, who asked to remain anonymous. “Not that long ago, it meant a lot if you said a book was a bestseller. Why? Because a select number of books earned that accolade, and we all understood and agreed what it meant.” Now, he said, he worries that the multiplicity of lists has “watered down” the designation.
“Every publisher must make a decision on when to refer to a book as a bestseller,” said Bill Wolfsthal, executive v-p of sales and marketing at Skyhorse Publishing. “Was it a bestseller on Amazon for a day? Is it a bestseller if it makes a bestseller list for independent bookstores? In those decisions, good judgement and common sense rules the day. No publisher wants to mislead a reader, but we are all fighting to get attention for our books.”
Whether the bestseller tag even really drums up attention is also a point of debate. “As long as it has an XYZ in front of it—as in New York Times bestseller, USA Today bestseller, or Wall Street Journal bestseller, I do think it carries weight with the reader,” agent Kristen Nelson said. “If it just says ‘bestselling author,’ I do think readers tend to perceive the moniker with some skepticism.”
Ironically for booksellers, titles dubbed bestsellers aren’t necessarily popular with customers. Vivien Jennings, who owns Rainy Day Books in Fairway, Kans., said that bestseller lists “draw attention” to books, but that attention doesn’t necessarily translate into sales. Anmiryan Budner, a bookseller at Main Point Books in Wayne, Pa., said the real sales boosters are good reviews; coverage in high-profile media such as NPR, 60 Minutes, and morning TV shows; and word-of-mouth.
The Times list, for its part, has been the subject of some controversy in the industry. Historically it has been seen as the list with the most caché. But the secrecy of the formula the paper uses to compile its list has long created frustrations in the industry, with complaints over the years that it does not offer an accurate picture of what’s actually selling.
About half of those we spoke to referred to the Times’ list as the “premier” list, the “gold standard,” and the “crown jewel.” Others said it was not the kingmaker it once was.
“I would say that the Times in general, like any media outlet in digital, print, and broadcast, does not have the same impact in terms of driving book sales that it once did,” said Knopf’s Paul Bogaards. Nonetheless, he said, publishers still rely heavily on the name: “Clearly, publishers still believe in visibly branding their books with ‘New York Times’ or ‘national bestseller.’ Have a look at the covers of some titles in the marketplace right now. [Many] are festooned with the bestseller copy.”
Carol Fitzgerald, president of the Book Report Network, admitted that she still believes “everybody wants the Times list more than anything else.” Despite this, she prefers “lists that are actually based in sales; no algorithms, just sales.” She added: “That’s really what a bestseller is, isn’t it? How it’s sold.”
While the proliferation of bestseller lists is a worry for some, reducing the number does not seem to be the preferred response. Many of the sources we contacted said they are upset that the Times cut a number of category bestseller lists. “Eliminating a bestseller list in a strong and previously established category—as happened for YA and graphic novels, for example—feels like a step in the wrong direction,” agent Laura Rennert said. A fellow agent, Barbara Poelle, said: “I feel like there isn’t a week that goes by where I don’t lament, curse, howl over the loss of the mass market and YA e-book lists in the New York Times.”
To Karen Auerbach of Kensington, the Times’ decision to cut those lists was more than a slight: she sees it as a serious business error. “I think the Times removing their lists has created an opportunity for the other bestseller lists to fill that vacuum,” she said. “It creates a challenging environment without those [category] lists, which were important to the community. Without [those lists at] the New York Times, it makes the USA Today and PW lists more important. Because now there is a gap that PW and USA Today are filling.”
A version of this article appeared in the 11/06/2017 issue of Publishers Weekly under the headline: Does Anybody Know What a Bestseller Is?
by Ellen Harvey
Originally Posted on Book Business March 11, 2016
The Digital Book World Conference & Expo (DBW) notably shifted its attitude towards major technology platforms this year. The platform giants Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google were ominously dubbed “The Four Horsemen.” They were referred to as such throughout the conference, and the language used to depict these companies matched the apocalyptic theme. Described as more powerful than most nations in the world and largely free from the confines of the law, these four technology platforms were blamed for the decline of all other forms of media and, it was implied, the decline of society itself.
In the opening keynote of DBW, Jon Taplin director of the USC Annenberg Innovation Lab, explained the damage the Four Horsemen had already done. He said that over the course of the digital revolution, “$50 billion moved from content creators to platform creators. . . The digital revolution isn’t just coming after artists’ incomes, it’s coming after everyone’s jobs.”
In a Wednesday keynote on antitrust and technology, Jonathan Kanter, an antitrust partner at the law firm Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, explained that these platforms have captured this market share by becoming massive intermediaries that control the moneymaking side of content, including advertising, search, and adtech. “As these intermediaries get bigger, more money will be stuck in the middle and less money goes to the individual,” explained Kanter.
So how can publishers combat these massive entities? Antitrust enforcement is key. Taplin said that there are legal precedents in the U.S. that support a more equal distribution of technologists’ power, like the antitrust action taken against Bell Laboratories several decades ago. The government demanded that all of its licenses be provided for free for other companies to use. That technology included the microchip, the transistor, the microwave, and a slew of other inventions that consumers and companies have come to rely on. “Think of the possibility if Google had to do the same today,” said Taplin.
Kanter explained that antitrust efforts should focus on areas where the Four Horsemen sacrifice the well-being of their platform to protect their power. “Antitrust laws don’t penalize big,” he said. “They penalize exclusionary conduct.” He gave the example of Google promoting its own products in search listings over those of its competitors. Currently an antitrust case in Europe is investigating this practice. Kanter encouraged that similar action be taken in the U.S.
Both Kanter and Taplin said during their respective keynotes that disintermediation is an effective way to lessen the monopolistic power of the top technology platforms. Kanter identified disintermediation as the next revolution of the digital era, and the biggest fear of the Four Horsemen. “They’re worried about people being able to go direct to a user or buyer,” said Kanter. Taplin added that today’s low-cost distribution systems makes direct sales more attainable for content creators than ever before. He cited the creation of Sunkist, a cooperative of citrus growers that decided to bypass distributors to sell their products directly to retailers, as an example of disintermediation’s success. Taplin added that the Sunkist model is one that book publishers could emulate.
It’s interesting to note the rapid change in rhetoric at DBW, and perhaps a bit sobering too. I remember at last year’s conference representatives from both Apple and Amazon were present to share their plans for the future of the ebook. Although attendees questioned whether these technologists had publishers’ best interests in mind, the sentiment seemed to be that ultimately these tech giants were a necessary evil. Publishers had to play nice in order to succeed. If this year’s conference is any indication, it seems that book publishing leaders are prepared to get much feistier in order to protect their businesses.