Thursday, November 20, 2008

"THE MIDDLE-AGED MAN AND THE SEA" SERVES AS EXAMPLE FOR SELLING BOOKS IN A TOUGH ECONOMY

My friend and fellow UCLA Writers' Program instructor, Chris Meeks, is looking to selling books even in a rough economy. As per my advice in The Frugal Book Promoter, he posted an educational kind of release on one of my favorite media release disseminators, PRLeap.com. You'll find a list of others along with mini reviews of each at www.howtodoitfrugally.com. First click on "Resources for Writers" tab at the top of the page. Then find the media disseminators link under the title on that link. Lots of other resources, too! And here's what Chris is doing to beat the economy odds:


(PRLEAP.COM) There’s an old saying that in a tough economy, books and booze continue to sell. The booze is because people don’t stop drinking, no matter what, and the books are because people don’t stop thinking, no matter what.

Ah, but how does an author or small publisher get more sales when sales outlets become tighter, and customers are more discerning with their dollars? Here are six tips based on what "The Middle-Aged Man and the Sea" by Christopher Meeks has done to stand out. The collection of short fiction has garnered many great reviews, including one in the Los Angeles Times and a selection in Entertainment Weekly.

1) MAKE BOOKS "BOOKSTORE FRIENDLY" I.E. RETURNABLE AND RETAIL DISCOUNTED.

A number of small publishers have embraced the new print-on-demand (POD) technology, which heralded a green revolution for the publishing industry. Only books that book buyers ordered were to be printed—and printed quickly like a high-end one-hour photo. Most POD books, however, are not returnable, which means bookstores have stayed away in droves, not ordering anything POD.

Additionally, most POD titles are not discounted enough for bookstores. Barnes and Noble executive Diane Simowski in the Small Press Department says that only books that receive at least a 40% discount on will be labeled as a "retail discount" versus a "short discount." If a book shows up as the latter, individual Barnes stores can only order them if a customer prepays for the book.

Thus, if one is using print-on-demand, it’s best to use a printer that can print inexpensively, guarantee discounts to bookstores, and the books can be returned.

"The Middle-Aged Man and the Sea," first produced by Lulu Press, was not returnable and it had a short discount. Now with a new ISBN number, it’s published by White Whisker Books, printed though Lightning Source, and it’s bookstore friendly: retail discounted and returnable.

So is Meeks’s new book, "Months and Seasons," and his upcoming novel, "The Brightest Moon of the Century," out March 7.

2) ENABLE GOOGLE BOOK SEARCH.

Rhonda Herman, executive VP at publisher McFarland & Company, based in Jefferson, NC, has characterized the recent market for reference books as a "slow but steady decline." One of her company’s tips is to participate in Google Book Search. The full-text of their books are fully searchable on Google, resulting in a 1.5 percent click-through on a link to buy a book. Herman feels Google Book Search to be more effective than online advertising. "The Middle-Aged Man and the Sea" is fully Google searchable.

3) GO DIGITAL. GO KINDLE.

Books are not just in paper anymore. Books are now downloadable to computers and, thanks to Amazon, to a wireless reading device, the Kindle. The $359 Kindle is lightweight and can be used in daylight. It doesn’t cost publishers anything to make their books digitized for Kindle, and the growing market is thus worth pursing. For consumers, a downloadable book is much less expensive. Michael Connelly’s #1 bestseller, The Brass Verdict, retails for $26.99, sells on Amazon in hardcover for $16. 19, and for Kindle, just $9.99. "The Middle-Aged Man and the Sea" will soon be on Kindle.

4) TAKE ADVANTAGE OF LITERARY BLOGS.

Send your books to the best sites for review. A broad decline in newspaper circulation sales that began early this decade has worsened recently, according to figures released by the Audit Bureau of Circulations. That means even worse news for space allotted to book reviews in newspapers. Witness the recent downsizing of the Los Angeles Times’ Sunday book review section.

What the newspapers are losing, the Internet is gaining. Such huge sites as Salon.com, the Huffington Post, and Rebeccas Reads, review books regularly, but so do smaller sites known as literary blogs. These are often individuals with a passion for reading and reviewing. Meeks’s books have appeared on more than two dozen of these sites, such as Dawn Rennert’s She’s Too Fond of Books, Rebecca Schinsky’s Book Lady’s Blog, Marc Schuster’s Small Press Reviews, and Sam Sattler’s Book Chase.

Literary blogger Wendy Robards, whose website Caribousmom recently won a BBAW Award for Best Literary Blog and has reviewed Meeks’s work well, wrote recently that "Authors and publishers are not sending their books to bloggers simply to be kind. It is becoming more and more apparent that book bloggers are impacting sales, and for the cost of mailing a book, an author gets marketing, which travels around the world." As author Elizabeth Emerson Hancock adds, "The worst review is no review." Get your books reviewed.

Meeks says to find some great literary blogs, go to Google, click on "more" then on "blogs" then type "Christopher Meeks" and you’ll see. He also recommends using the book "The Frugal Book Promoter" by Carolyn Howard-Johnson.

5) TAKE ADVANTAGE OF INTERNET RADIO SHOWS.

With the airwaves finite, and the number of talk shows limited, the Internet is also becoming host to a legion of radio bloggers. Meeks is interviewed on http://www.blogtalkradio.com/Jordana-Ryan/2008/08/22/Chris-Meeks.

6) MAKE A VIDEO FOR YOUTUBE.

An author on YouTube is akin to a rock band on MTV - a growing necessity. Go to YouTube and type in your favorite author. You’ll see. The best videos are not mere authors talking to a hand-held camcorder, but they are made professionally with music and imagery, created by specialists such as the one for "The Middle-Aged Man and the Sea" produced by Expanded Books. You can see it at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hgq5N-Me7j4.


"The Middle-Aged Man and the Sea"
Published by White Whisker Books
ISBN: 978-0-615-24917-9
List price: $14.95; retail discount through Ingram

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Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of This Is the Place; Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered; Tracings, a chapbook of poetry; and two how to books, The Frugal Book Promoter: How To Do What Your Publisher Won't and The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success. She is also the author of the Amazon Short, "The Great First Impression Book Proposal." Some of her other blogs are TheNewBookReview.blogspot.com and AuthorsCoalition.blogspot.com, a blog that helps writers and publishers turn a ho-hum book fair booth into a sizzler.

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