Malik Sharrieff

How Indie-Bookstores Can Get You a Publishing Deal

Just a couple years after launching Write On Press, a fresh-faced aspiring indie-author approached me seeking help getting published. In our second consultation she told me that her dream was to get a book deal with a major publisher.

After she was certain that I had taken no offence, she asked if I could help her create a strategy to attract the attention of one of the traditional publishing companies.

Here’s the play-by-play of how we made it happen…

Step 1:

We reviewed the authors’ manuscript to get a better understanding of who her target reader was and where they might be found. We discovered that the content we were publishing was attractive to readers who frequented bookstores. Not that a bookstore was the only place this author’s readers could be found, but in this case it was the most readily accessible consumer source.

Step 2:

Write On Press published the manuscript and obtained production services through a Print On Demand (POD) platform.

Once we received the first shipment of 50 units of the trade paperback, the author and I targeted a local independently owned bookstore. We then role-played several potential interactions so that she would be ready to engage the store owner or manager and pitch her book.

Then we called the store and arranged a meeting between the store owner and the author.

Step 3:

At the meeting with the store owner, the author was personable and charming and briefly pitched her book. She kept the book description to about 90 seconds but spent an additional minute or two letting the store owner know that she didn’t want the store to buy her book. Instead, she wanted a consignment deal where the store would receive 40% of the sale price. To sweeten the deal, she offered to print and post her own Point of Sale (POS) materials.

After the store owner understood that he wouldn’t carry any risk or cost, it was easy to get 10 books placed in the bookstore.

Step 4:

We organized a quick email promotion to about 150 contacts in my author’s email list. These were just local family, friends, and associates that she felt would have at least some interest in her book being offered in a bookstore. We crafted a short message stating that the author was so excited that after having her new book stocked on the shelves at her local bookstore, there were only 10 copies left!

That message resulted in all copies being sold out by the end of the week. There’s a lot more to tell about crafting a message to potential readers inside your social circle, but I’ll have to cover that in another post.

Step 5:

At the end of the week, my author went to the bookstore to collect her 60% and restock. The bookstore owner asked her for 50 more copies! Of course, we sent out another email message and made a few social media posts saying thank you to all of the fans who helped to sell out her book at the first bookstore.

Then my author visited a second and third independently owned bookstore to talk to the owners about the success she experienced at the first bookstore. Both stores were willing to carry her books on consignment (one did insist on getting 5 free copies, but she also took 50 copies right away). Of course this gave my author more to celebrate with her social and social media networks and build more excitement.

Step 6:

It took about nine months, and she had to work an eventual total of five small bookstores like a part-time job, but my author was able to get just under 4,000 units sold. In that time, she also published a digital format and sold almost 1,000 downloads. With her popularity growing organically now, it was time to develop the assets needed to move to the next step.

I consulted with her about how to prospect/attract a literary agent (I’ll offer more details in another post). Let’s say that it was much easier to get several agents to reply to her after she included her sales receipts with her letter of introduction and writing sample.

After completing the process of selecting a literary agent and putting him to work, my author received three offers over the next two months for single book deals! These were with smaller imprints of the Big 5 Publishing houses, but hey, it’s a contract!!

I’ll have to relate the story of what happened after receiving the offers in another post. What I really wanted to illustrate in this story is that the book deal offers, the attention of the literary agents, even the willingness of bookstores 2 -5 to stock this incredible book would never have happened if not for the author’s ability to demonstrate that this product had a market that was willing and ready to buy it.

Here’s what this means for you:

Whether you use this particular strategy, a variation, or something else altogether; you have to be able to show in real numbers that your book has a market. Publishers, literary agents, and bookstores are all businesses. In order to get what you want from them you have to show how supporting your dream will profit them.

In the publishing world, a book’s perceived ability to sell is king. Prove to the publishing companies that your books can sell on a small scale and they just might take a chance that your books will sell on a large scale.

Feel free to comment or ask questions below, or suggest strategies that might help others in the community to prove your book’s salability.

Until next time, keep writing!

~Malik

Key Terms and Additional Info:

Consumer Source = that place where your target readers congregate, discuss, consume or purchase books that are in any way similar to yours.

Point of Sale (POS) = Posters, fliers, postcards, bookmarks, coupons or any merchandise (swag) that markets you as an author or any of your book projects. Point of sale items can be sold, but are most often given away to encourage current or future purchases. There is a subtle difference between POS merchandise and sales merchandise, as sales merchandise is either offered for sale or free with purchase (i.e. a free t-shirt with the purchase of a novel). POS is unconditional and sales merchandise is conditional.

If you have any questions, you can post them below and we’ll get you some feedback. Or, you can visit the contact us page and send us a note. If you would like to schedule a consultation, please click the services tab at: WriteOnPress.com to book a meeting with one of our consultants.

Malik Sharrieff

The Frustrations of Modern Publishing

Recently, I participated in a social media discussion with authors about which was better: traditional or self publishing?

As the owner of a publishing company and a self published author my answer is neither, both… well, it kinda depends? Honestly there are major trade offs and considerations for both publishing paths.

And ladies and gents, therein lays the greatest frustration with the publishing environment today.

There are so many different publishing strategies these days that authors are going bananas trying to wrap their heads around it all. Let’s carve this into more digestible bites, shall we?

Back in the Good Ole Days…

Way back in the golden age of publishing, authors really only had one option to gain fame, fortune and nationwide distribution, and that was traditional publishing.

Of course there were many more traditional publishers than today. Most of the small and mid-sized agencies have become imprints of the Big 5 traditional publishers (if they survived at all).

In those days, authors had to be discovered like starlets on Hollywood and Vine. That publishing model hasn’t changed much to this day. The Big 5 only need a few hundred good manuscripts each year to turn their profits and they receive several hundred thousand each year to choose from. So it’s very obvious how an aspiring author could pull all their hair out in the attempt to get the attention of a traditional publisher.

Add to that, the typical publisher assumes total control of your project and usually contracts you to between 3% and 10% royalties on sales. That feels like financial molestation to someone who has poured out their soul into a project.  These days those imprints of the Big 5 will typically not handle copy-editing or more than the most basic marketing. More frustrating is that if your project doesn’t perform, you could get dropped and be on the hook for expenses.

Self-Publishing Made Everything Better, Right?

Uh, No!

With a market of authors screaming for alternatives to the traditional publishing path that only worked for 1% of all authors that took it, the literary marketplace opened up with alternatives galore!

Now you can publish on KDP, Smashwords or LULU.com for free. You could also contract with vendors at every level of your project to get your book into distribution. Or even work with publishing platforms or even boutique publishers like Write On Press.

Now that there are options for every author, there should be no more frustrations, right?

Unfortunately, it seems like there are so many options that some authors are sitting on stacks of manuscripts with no idea how to move forward.

Talent unactualized; drying away in dusty corners until it drifts off in beams of afternoon light, riding on a mild breeze made by the woeful, somber sighs of melancholy authors.

Each one of these new options carries its own set of trade offs and considerations that make it appropriate or inappropriate for any given author. So how do you know what pat is the right one for you?

Seek Aid From an Experienced Guide…

In every other facet of professional life, we find someone to advise and offer direction. What’s more ironic is that most fiction authors will create guides and mentors for their protagonists (sometimes their antagonists, too), but fail to find a guide for themselves.

Protip:

Just because you are an incredible writer does not make you an adept publisher. Find someone with expertise in the publishing industry to give you direction. The direction you receive should not be general, but tailored to your needs, your project(s) and/or your literary career.

Try doing a search for publishing consultants or literary consultants. Find a professional that can analyze your needs and help you create a strategy that will use your talents, resources and available budget in a way that will successfully get your project to completion and into the marketplace.

Shameless Plug…

Yes, Write On Press does offer publishing consultations. Yes, services are reasonably priced and worth every penny, but that’s not the point.

The point is that if you are confused about how to move your project forward, visit the services page and schedule an appointment or email Author Service to ask questions about working with a publishing consultant.

Stop stacking up unpublished works of genius! Get some help and relieve the frustrations of modern publishing!

Your friendly neighborhood publisher,

~Malik Sharrieff

 

If you would like to schedule a consultation with a Write On Press Publishing Consultant, please send us a note at: authorservice@writeonpress.com, or visit us at www.writeonpress.com.

Connect via email or digital meeting platform (i.e. zoom, gotomeeting, etc.).

Feel free to comment or ask questions below, or discuss your past publishing plan(s).

Until next time, keep writing!

~Malik

P.S.:

If you have any questions, shoot us a note at the contact us page.

Malik Sharrieff

Have you Talked to your Publishing Consultant Lately?

In the Beginning…

Thousands of years after storytelling and hundreds of years after written language, someone recognized the financial value in the exchange of the knowledge and entertainment within what we consider a printed book. When that individual first commissioned some monk to copy a volume for sale to a noble instead of for their personal consumption, the industry of publishing had begun.

Many authors confuse the act of printing and the industry of publishing. Here’s the difference:

When you take your manuscript and have it converted for consumption, that’s printing. You could take a handwritten manuscript and photocopy it, or send your digital manuscript to a Print On Demand (POD) publisher and order 1,500 copies. Both of these actions are considered printing.

When you publish your work, you convert it for consumption, package it, price it, market it, and distribute it for the consumption of a market. There is an expectation that the author will deliver value to the literary consumer and that consumer is willing to pay their hard earned money for that value.

So, printing is an activity, publishing is an industry.

For the bulk of the publishing industry’s history, the requirements of the trade (i.e. printing, marketing, and distribution) have limited entry to the larger publishers that we know as today’s “traditional publishers.”

Because of these barriers to entry, many would-be authors were never published because they were never “discovered” by a publisher or their agent could never quite negotiate a deal. Fortunately, with the advent of modern technology all that changed over the past 30 years or so.

Publishing Today…

Since the early 1990’s the Internet has allowed individuals to economically publish their own works for mass distribution. By taking advantage of blogs, e-zines, e-books, audiobooks and self-publishing platforms and services, authors can bypass the traditional path to publishing and distribute to the public directly. In fact it was only 10 years ago that I had begun my own literary journey. It was actually my decision to self publish that eventually led to the creation of Write On e-Publishing, LLC in 2012, and getting your projects published has only gotten easier since then.

This means that likely all of you reading this article have absolutely no excuse to not publish your projects.

Of course now most authors complain that there are so many publishing options that they can’t figure it all out! The truth is that there are as many unique strategies to publish as there are unique projects and authors. And that’s why I see a new change in the publishing industry just over the horizon.

Where Are We Going Now?

When I began as a small, digital publishing house, Write On Press focused on e-books exclusively and supported the careers of aspiring authors. After a couple years, we expanded our offerings to include trade paperbacks because every author wants a book they can hold in their hands and can autograph. As technology has created more efficiency, we find that we are now able to expand into audiobook distribution. But through everything, the bulk of customer interactions and the lion share of our work with authors has been consultative in nature.

The industry is moving forward at an incredible pace now. More options will exist tomorrow for authors looking to get their books to readers and that means more confusion and a need for more direction and support.

It is likely that, just like we have realized, there is a insane amount of value in being able to consult with authors and help you plot out a publishing path as well as strategies and tactics to support your literary projects and career.

Here’s what This Means for You:

As you move into 2021 it will be important for you to include consultative services in the overall service mix that you use to support your career.

When you begin to engineer your literary career, it would be wise to seek out the assistance of professionals who can guide you through the publishing process. This type of support will help you optimize technology, available resources and service providers as well as identify what tasks within the process you can do yourself so that you can save time and money without driving yourself crazy.

If you would like to schedule a consultation with a Write On Press author service representative, please send us a note at: authorservice@writeonpress.com, or visit us at www.writeonpress.com.

We can connect via email or digital meeting platform (i.e. zoom, gotomeeting, etc.).

Feel free to comment or ask questions below, or discuss your past publishing plan(s).

Until next time, keep writing!

~Malik

P.S.:

If you have any questions, shoot us a note at the contact us page.

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