Bob Baker's Full-Time Author Blog

14 Things I've Learned About Book Publishing Success

  1. Turn your mistakes into a reference library, not a room to live in.

  2. Do not take financial advice from people who are broke and struggling -- unless you want to end up like them.

  3. Great marketing is falling in love with something, then selling your love for it -- not the product itself.

  4. Realize the lifetime value of a fan: It's far more than a single $15 or $20 book sale.

  5. Pick one aspect of your topic or personality and make that the cornerstone of your public identity.

  6. Conduct yourself as if you deliver great value to everyone you encounter -- even if you don't believe you actually do at the moment.

  7. Be willing to take smart risks and overcome the fear of failure. Ask: "What's the worst thing that can happen?" Usually, not much.

  8. Beware of the quick fix. The sure and steady marathon beats the sprint every time.

  9. Ask: "How did you hear about me/the book/the event?" It's one of the best, low-cost research tools you can use.

  10. Ask: "What will it take to get from 'Here's what I dream about' to 'Here's what I did'?"

  11. No one will represent you until you can represent yourself.

  12. Be proactive instead of reactive. In other words, create the circumstances you want, don't merely respond to what's handed to you.

  13. Stagnation occurs when your fear of the unknown is greater than your desire for a better life. Tip the scales in your favor.

  14. What you do today sets the stage for the success you will enjoy tomorrow. Don't squander today.
-Bob

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Want to jump-start your career as an independent author? Check out my brand-new Self-Publishing Success Secrets 101.

Hits & Misses vs Hits & Niches

Have you read Chris Anderson's Long Tail blog or his book, The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More? It's a real eye-opener. Do yourself a favor and go to Amazon or wherever and get a copy, because in it he writes at length about the changing face of the entertainment industries.

How to Use Video to Promote Your Music Online

Here's the Long Tail concept in a nutshell:

For decades, we lived in a scarcity economy. We got introduced to new books, music and films via retail outlets, radio, TV and print publications. But all of these avenues of exposure had physical limitations. There was only so much shelf space, air time and editorial pages to fill. So, in order to appeal to the widest audience and turn a profit, only those things that were determined to be the most popular were stocked or covered.

This lead to a cultural mentality that a book, band or movie was either a big hit or a giant dud. There was little ground in between the two extremes of popularity. You were either part of the system ... or an outsider.

Then came online retailers such as Amazon and Netflix, which were not constrained by the physical space limitations of traditional sellers. For example, the average Borders bookstore carries about 100,000 titles, while Amazon offers nearly 4 million book titles. The average Blockbuster carries about 3,000 DVDs, while Netflix offers close to 60,000.

And guess what? About 25% of the total revenues on Amazon and Netflix come from products not available in retail stores. Yes, from titles outside the "hit list." Anderson's overwhelming research concludes that, when given unlimited choice (along with the ability to filter through the choices), people will stray from the hits and spend a considerable amount of money on non-mainstream products.

Unfortunately, the old scarcity business model is so ingrained in our culture, it has lead to many unfounded beliefs, such as:
  • If it isn't a hit, it's a miss

  • The only success is mass success

  • "Independent" = "They couldn't get a deal"

  • "Self-published" = bad

  • Low-selling = low-quality

  • If it were good, it would be popular
Luckily, a growing number of creative entrepreneurs are figuring out ways to make the most of this new "abundance economy" -- where practically everything is available to the public, where the cream rises to the top based on what consumers actually want, and where you can make an impact (and a living) without ever ranking on the New York Tines bestseller list.

So, what kind of world do you want to live in? One of scarcity, hits and misses? Or one of abundance, hits and niches?

The choice is ultimately up to you.

-Bob

Attack of the Self-Publishing Naysayers

Kent Larsen left a comment regarding my post "Self-Publish to Attract a Traditional Publisher." I decided to respond to it in this separate post. Please note, if my comments seem harsh, they're not directed at Kent. I appreciate the fact that he took time to respectfully comment.

But I'm not going to beat around the bush with this topic. There are far too many aspiring authors who buy into self-defeating beliefs about their ability to successfully publish a book on their own -- and I feel compelled to offer a different perspective.

Kent starts off with ...

I'm not sure I would say that self-publishing is an "ideal" way to reach traditional publishers. I see at least two problems with self-publishing: 1. There are a lot of companies that prey on self-published authors, selling them services that, they say, will get their books sold or better known. Some of the so-called "Print-on-Demand" publishers (really vanity publishers that use POD) are particularly egregious.

True. There are a number of "publishing" companies out there that do more harm than good when it comes to getting an author's work into the world. No doubt. There are also a lot of unethical car salesman in the world, but that doesn't mean I won't drive because of it. So I'm not following the logic here.

I totally agree with Kent in that I would rarely advocate someone using what I call a "service provider, book packager" publisher. These companies make money selling services to authors, NOT selling books. If you just want a one-stop source to get your book printed and can live with ridiculously high per-book "author prices" that will never allow you to make much money, then one of these services might work for you. (Although, from what I hear, BookLocker and iUniverse are two of the best bets.)

But if you truly want to self-publish, that means you "do it yourself." You form your own publishing company (which really isn't that complicated), purchase your own set of ISBNs, shop for and hire your own designer, editor, printer, etc.

Mr. Larsen continues ...

2. All self publishing has a poor reputation in the industry. Booksellers often assume, without reading, that any self-published book isn't worth reading, let alone stocking in their stores.

Kent's statement presupposes that authors should give a damn about what booksellers think of their books. As self-publishing guru Dan Poynter says, "Bookstores are lousy places to sell books." I've been a full-time self-published author for three years, and I've never concerned myself with retailers or what industry people think. My only concern from day one has been what readers think of my book. And guess what? They don't care who put out your book. They only care what benefit it delivers for them.

When was the last time you heard a friend say, "I wonder what new books Random House put out this month?" Probably never. But you have heard, "I wonder when Stephen King's new book will be out?" Why? Because people buy books based on the author and/or what the content promises to deliver. In fact, I'll bet that 99.9% of Stephen King's fans couldn't tell you who publishes his books. They don't care.

Stop obsessing about booksellers and the industry. And start putting a focus on readers and fans!

Another important thing: This negative self-publishing stigma is outdated and quickly eroding. It's a new world. Wake up and smell the megapixels. Indie music is huge, indie films are all the rage, and indie publishing is catching up too. Don't be left behind with an antiquated belief system. If someone you encounter has a problem with your book because it was primarily produced by you, don't waste your time with them. Move along to the next opportunity, because there are plenty of them out there.

Kent also writes ...

Self-published authors usually have to do quite a lot of work to overcome this disadvantage.

Once again, I question the "disadvantage" label, but regarding the work part ... Yup. Anything in life worth doing takes time, energy and effort. So I'm not getting out my violin just yet. Next.

I'm NOT suggesting that your comment is off the mark. Many self-published authors have found traditional publishing deals because they self-published. But if it is more than a fraction of 1%, I would be shocked.

I'll respond to this by pointing you to John Kremer's excellent Self-Publishing Hall of Fame page.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to artificially pump up would-be authors. But I refuse to join in the self-publishing doom-and-gloom chorus. I agree that, with the ease of putting a book out these days, there's a lot of crap in the pipeline. Yes, it's a noisy marketplace. Yes, it's rare for an author of any type (traditional or self-published) to make enough money to live off of. Yada yada yada. The same can be said for any industry.

Here's what I prefer to focus on: There are independently published voices that have something to say, that break through the clutter, that achieve impressive levels of success. Why discourage someone from taking that leap and giving it their best shot?

Again, I'm not trying to be harsh or get personal with my responses here. It's obviously something I'm passionate about, and I hope my little rant inspires you to at least think differently about your role as an author and your rightful place in the indie book world.

-Bob

Self-Publish to Attract a Traditional Publisher

A news story in the Eureka, CA-based Times-Standard profiled a number of local writers. One section of the article discussed self-publishing and made a point I've been stressing for years:


Self-publishing has its pros and cons, but still it's becoming more of an accepted path of breaking into the publishing world.

[David] Kindopp self-published his first book for two reasons, he said. "One, the notorious difficulty of finding a literary agent and/or a publisher. Two, the general ease of self-publishing today," he said.

Kindopp believes that self-publishing provides a big advantage in that a writer can begin to market their work immediately and "find your audience."

"Once you generate reasonable sales you can more easily get the attention of agents and publishers," he said.

Lesson: Even if you eventually want to have your book put out by a traditional publisher, doing it yourself at first is an ideal way to get there. Why go through rejection and delays, when you can get an early version of your book into the marketplace now and start building a fan base?

Once you have a track record and a success story to tell, you'll have more value to bring to an agent or publishing. And, when you get to that point, you may decide to continue self-publishing anyway. That's what I do. And it's worked out wonderfully for me!

-Bob

How to Rank Higher on Google

In part 1 of this post, I detailed where my web pages rank on Google for keyword phrases related to my books and online identity: "music marketing" and "music promotion." Now I'll share a few simple tips you can use to rank better on search engines for your own keywords.

As an example, let's use an author who writes how-to books on personal finance. Here are the steps you would take:

1) Get Category Specific

So you publish "personal finance" material. Fine. But ask yourself, "Is there an even more specific way to describe the types of books I write?" Personal finance can be further defined as credit repair, retirement planning, money management, investing, taxes, and more. What words best clarify your type of personal finance information? And more importantly, what words might buyers of your books search for online?

2) Title Tag, You're It

Be sure to include your chosen keywords in the Title tags of your pages' HTML code -- especially your home page -- with the most potent words first. Example: "Retirement planning and personal finance advice." For my purposes, I called my blog "Bob Baker's Indie Music Promotion Blog," which appears in the Title tags of every page. Google loves it when pages specifically reference what they're about.

3) Use a Keyword-Rich Domain Name or Subdirectory

The personal finance author might register RetirementPlanningTips.com or SaveMoneyOnYourTaxes.com. I grabbed MusicPromotionBlog.com to reinforce what my blog was about. Again, search engines like to send people to sites that clearly communicate a specific topic, and a well-chosen domain name will help.

If you already have a domain name (such as FinanceBooksByDave.com), add a subdirectory and send people to FinanceBooksByDave.com/retirement/. While I own MusicPromotionBlog.com, my blog is actually hosted on my main site at bob-baker.com/musicpromotionblog. Therefore, my blog name, subdirectory name, and Title tags all reinforce the keywords I want to emphasize.

4) Link to Yourself

To show up on Google, you must have incoming links from web sites that are already indexed by Google. The more the merrier, and the higher profile the site, the more weight its link to you will carry.

In the old days of the Internet, you got incoming links by trying to get other sites to link to yours. You can still do that, but these days there are tons of options to create dozens of your own incoming links.

Examples: Include active links to your site (or your specific subdirectory) from your profile pages on MySpace, Flickr, YouTube, Blogger, Amazon, and tagging sites like Del.icio.us and Technorati. Links from these popular sites carry weight with Google.

5) Link Using Targeted Keyword Text

Whenever possible, use your exact keywords as the active link text. Don't just write, visit my "home page" for more info. Better: Download my "free retirement planning checklist here."

Use these five simple tips to improve your Google search engine rankings, whether you publish "books for bowlers" or a guide on "how to play blackjack for a living."

-Bob

Improve Your Google Keyword Search Ranking

Would you like to rank higher on Google and other search engines for the specific keywords related to your book? Let me show you the success I've had and share a few simple Google ranking tips.


First, let's take a look at how I'm doing with Google. For years, I've been pounding away at the two-word phrase I want to be known for the most: "music marketing."

Actually, I'm probably most associated with the three-word term "indie music marketing." But I figured if I could fare well in the slightly more generic "music marketing," I'd be doing just fine.

The good news is, for some years now I've ranked very well for these word combos. Take a look right now at the Google results for music marketing.

As of this writing, I appear three times on the first page of results -- at the 4th and 5th spots for two pages on my own web site, and again in the 9th spot where my Guerrilla Music Marketing book's Amazon page appears.

That's pretty damn good. But a few years ago, I discovered that the term "music promotion" was searched for about five times more often than "music marketing." At the time, I was buried about three pages deep in the results for "music promotion."

This wasn't a good thing for reaching more people with my message. So what did I do?

One thing I did more than two years ago was start my Indie Music Promotion Blog. I purposely chose the word Promotion instead of Marketing in the name of the blog. For nearly 27 months now, I've been posting to the blog and getting the word out about its existence.

Today, if you search Google for music promotion, my blog pops up in the third spot on the first page of results. That's a big improvement! And it has a great impact on my ability to empower artists -- and on my bottom line.

I also discovered an unintended Google perk. If you simply search for "promotion blog" -- with no reference to music at all -- my blog is in the very top spot! Nice.

In my next post, I'll cover a few simple things I did -- and you can do -- to improve Google search engine rankings. Stay tuned.

-Bob

P.S. I touch on this topic and dozens of others in the special report 50 Ways to Promote & Sell Your Music on the Internet.

Your Book Marketing Plan

Here are some great nuggets of wisdom from this page on the Mapletree Publishing web site:

Begin your marketing plan even before you sit down to write. The first thing to do is identify your audience. Whether fiction or nonfiction, if you have a specific niche of the market in mind before you start, you'll be more successful.

Plan how you will reach and interest this audience. What format and features will make your book appeal to this niche?

Too many writers get their books back from the printer and then start to think of how they're going to sell it. They've put the cart before the horse. If you have no idea how you'll sell your book, maybe you shouldn't have written it!

To eliminate that sense of despair that can grip you as you set out to market your book, identify your target before you start and then build in a setting, a style, and other features that will appeal to this audience.

I'll add to that ...

Start building the buzz about your book as you write it. Publish a blog that chronicles your book-creation journey. Let people know what chapter and topic you're working on. Solicit suggestions and ask your readers what they'd like to see in the finished book. This not only stimulates advance promotion, it will also help you write a better book!

-Bob

Author Shares Book Promotion Secrets

Ever wish you could be a fly on the wall in the office of a successful author? Well, David Louis Edelman offers that perspective in a blog post entitled How I Promoted My Book.

On this one page he details what worked, what didn’t work, what he should have done more of and less of, etc. It's an exhaustive checklist of ideas.

At the end, he lists six lessons he learned, summarized here:

1. You don't necessarily need to spend a lot of money.

2. Play to your strengths.

3. Recognize that the most important aspects of book promotion are the ones you have little or no control over.

4. Nobody knows when you fail.

5. But let everybody know when you succeed.

6. You, the author, are the only one who really gets to decide if you succeeded or not.

Great stuff. Read David's entire blog post here.

-Bob

How to Self-Publish Your Book Events

I finally put up a live event schedule web page. It includes all of my public events: book publishing-related talks, music marketing workshops, even my live music performances (yes, I still actively play part-time).

Most of the events are in St. Louis, MO. But some are in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and New York City, and I hope to add dates in Chicago and Nashville soon.

I'm serving my third term as president of the St. Louis Publishers Association, a nonprofit dedicated to helping authors and publishers create, market and sell more books. I open every monthly meeting, held the second Wednesday of every month.

So check out the new Where in the World Is Bob Baker? page for all the details. Hope to see you at an event soon.

-Bob

203 Book Marketing & Sales Tips

My pal Scott Ginsberg is on a serious roll as a professional speaker and author. He's accomplished more than most people do in a lifetime -- and he isn't even out of his 20s yet. Yes, I know. It's sickening :-)



Lucky for us, Scott has been cranking out a lot of books -- some of them available for free from his web site. One of his latest is called 203 Things I've Learned about Writing, Marketing & Selling Books.

You can download the ebook from this page or grab the PDF directly using this link.

Here are some of my favorite word bites from Scott's ebook:
  • Your interviews on TV and radio will be a lot better if you speak quickly, succinctly and use sound bites.

  • An amazing title can sell a crappy book.

  • Unless you get a SWEET offer from a big publisher who is giving you lots of money and nationwide distribution, self-publish.

  • I would recommend at least one free downloadable ebook a year and post it on your website/blog. It gives value, increases traffic and often results in future sales via click-throughs.

  • Shorter chapters = better. Ever read The Da Vinci Code? Exactly. So did almost a billion other people. Why? Short chapters.

  • Write on day one, edit on day two.

  • Don’t kill yourself trying to sell your books in bookstores. Without a large distributor, it's tough for self-published authors to even get their books in stores! Trust me, you won't sell too many anyway. Because bookstores are lousy places to sell books. Any self-published author will tell you that.

  • The author of the book 1001 Ways to Be Romantic handed out free copies of his book to everyone waiting in line for the Jay Leno show. Leno then showed the book on air to 10 million people. Are you doing stuff like that with YOUR book?
Great stuff! Thanks for sharing, Scott.

-Bob

Book Publishing Secrets to Success

If you've been reading my writings for very long, you may know that I'm a full-time author. To clarify, I sustain myself almost exclusively from sales of printed books, e-books and audio programs -- mostly on the subject of music marketing. I run a one-man publishing operation from home.

I rarely supplement my income with speaking or consulting fees, like many other authors do. It would probably be smart if I did offer these services, but I get the most joy from writing and publishing information for my target audience.

It's been brought to my attention that reaching this full-time author/publisher status is rare. Therefore, both aspiring and veteran authors approach me for advice. Often, they are looking for tips, tricks and shortcuts to success -- the best media connection, the most effective marketing angle, or the best way to spend their money so they can reach their publishing goals.

So, how did I get to this supposedly enviable position? What are my publishing secrets to success? Here are some answers ...

The Lowdown on Money


First off, the key for me had nothing to do with money. When I started on this journey more than 10 years ago, I had no cash to invest. So I made a decision to use the Internet as my primary marketing tool. For the first few years, I spent only $40 a month total for Internet access and web hosting.

So don't let a shortage of money stop you from pursuing your goals. Just know that going the low-cost route will require creativity, persistence and passion.

The biggest secret to share with you is something I call "chipping away at success." There was no one connection or review or sales promotion that put me over the top. It was an accumulation of little things -- done consistently over weeks, months and years -- that led to the positive word of mouth and recognition that I enjoy today.

So many authors and publishers focus on a big launch and media blitz with a new title. There's nothing wrong with that, but I've found the sure and steady, long-term approach to be most effective for me.

Your Promotional Canvas

Think of the way an artist paints a picture. First there's a sketch of what the artist envisions. Then some broad strokes are put down as the background. As layers of color are added, a picture begins to emerge. Each new layer adds detail until a crystal clear image is formed.

My book promotion history has been a similar process. I put my focus on two topics I am passionate about: music and self-promotion. My vision was similar to the bare sketch an artist creates. Then I used whatever avenues were available at any given time to get my message out to the people who needed to hear it the most: musician readers with a do-it-yourself mindset.

I wrote dozens of articles and placed them on my own web site and made them available to countless others. I published an e-zine, contributed to news groups and online forums, posted press releases, gave away promotional e-books, and made lots of new friends via e-mail. More recently I've added a blog, a podcast, and am now embracing video content.

The Snowball Effect


All of these efforts act like layers of paint that build up over time. At first, the image is fuzzy and only a handful of people know who you are and what you do. As you continue to create content and leave these little promotional crumbs across the Internet, your notoriety slowly expands. Eventually, a multiplying effect takes hold and thousands of people are hearing about you and responding.

The thing is, no one e-mail or article or sample chapter or blog post makes a huge splash. It's the combined effect of all your marketing efforts that builds over time. They are drops in a bucket that turn into a steady trickle and, before you know it, a full-blown waterfall that erupts into a tidal wave.

That's my secret to success. Hopefully, it will help you reach your creative goals. Now get busy leaving your own promotional crumbs somewhere!

-Bob