How to Leverage Content Marketing to Boost Reputation and Sales

Content marketing is a critical component of digital marketing given its effectiveness in increasing brand awareness, engaging online communities, generating new leads, and increasing sales.

Simona David

Content Marketing Class for the Greater Roxbury Business Association

What makes content marketing effective is that people trust editorials more than they trust advertorials. In essence, content marketing is a form of marketing that focuses on creating, publishing and distributing creative content for a targeted audience to generate leads and sales while informing and entertaining. Traditional marketing focuses on pitching products and services, while content marketing focuses on publishing engaging content.

Although content marketing gained traction during the digital age, the practice is nothing new. In 1895 John Deere founded The Furrow, a magazine designed to educate farmers about the latest advancement in the field, and help them find solutions to their problems. The magazine continues to exist today, not just in print but in digital format as well; it has a large social media platform, and is published in several languages around the world. The magazine helped crystallize the John Deere brand, and grow its market.

Forms of content marketing include: how to guides, white papers, newsletters, presentations, blog posts, social media posts, videos, podcasts, infographics, product descriptions, reviews, testimonials, and others.

#GEInstaWalk is a clever example of content marketing which allows the company’s Instagram followers to take a peek into GE’s facilities where cutting-edge technology is being manufactured. Amazon’s Building Your Book for Kindle free e-book is another clever example designed as a free guide to creating and publishing e-books. This is a great tutorial during the consideration phase when aspiring authors are weighing in their options. An example you might be familiar with is the Phyllo Shells recipes on the back of the package – the recipe itself might be enticing enough to make one buy the product, or vice versa. This isn’t something unique to Phyllo Shells however; there are plenty of food brands that offer recipes on the back of their package. It’s an ingenious form of content marketing.

The Roxbury Motel

Breakfast at Tiffany’s Room at The Roxbury Motel (Source: Facebook)

Two local examples that stand out are the Catskill Dream Team’s real estate blog, and The Roxbury Motel’s whimsical themed rooms as featured on social media. How to Buy a Home in One Year: A Step-by-Step Guide, for instance, educates prospective buyers, but it also builds expectations of a lifestyle, and that’s exactly what a real estate blog is about. The Roxbury Motel’s internationally renowned themed rooms also have stories to tell. Breakfast at Tiffany’s, for instance, designed as a tribute to Audrey Hepburn, has the walls stained to match Tiffany’s flagship store on 5th Avenue. The chandelier that hangs above the bed matches the mini chandelier in the Tiffany window at the opening of the movie when Audrey is eating a croissant and staring in the window. The owners of the motel confess that in their twenties they would go around Manhattan re-enacting scenes from the movie. The following Audrey/Truman Capote quote guided the design of the room: “Tiffany’s! Calms me down right away. The quietness and the proud look of it; nothing very bad could happen to you there. If I could find a real-life place that’d make me feel like Tiffany’s, then – then I’d buy some furniture and give the cat a name.” These fun facts shared on social media are bold examples of clever content marketing.

Moz identified four phases of content marketing, which one of them carrying out distinctive goals and types of content to pursue:

I. DISCOVERY PHASE

Goals: educate, increase brand awareness, generate interest

Type of Content (educational): blog posts, webinars, guides, videos, newsletters, presentations, tours

II. CONSIDERATION PHASE

Goals: direct customer acquisition

Type of Content (solutions): case studies, how to guides, demo videos, product descriptions, data sheets, recipes

III. CONVERSION PHASE

Goals: customer transactions

Type of Content (unique value proposition): product descriptions, reviews, testimonials, comparison charts, direct sales pitch, streamlined sales process

IV. RETENTION PHASE

Goals: retention of existing customers

Type of Content (help, support, advocacy): customer support, help documentation, insider tutorials, special offers, follow-ups

 

Here are a few steps to help you design your content strategy:

  1. Clarify your vision (three – five year plan)
  2. Define your audience (i.e., demographics, media consumption preferences, channels, what are they looking for, who do they follow, what are their wants and needs, etc.)
  3. Audit existing content (inventory, metrics, patterns, etc.)
  4. Set goals (meaningful, measurable, reasonable)
  5. Align your content style, tone and voice with your brand’s personality (set up guidelines)
  6. Documentation (governance rules and workflow)
  7. Content ideation, creation, promotion and distribution (team, tools and infrastructure)
  8. Analytics (metrics to evaluate success)

 

Depending on the size of your project, building an adequate infrastructure will help carry out the tactics and the execution of your content strategy, both creation and distribution. Often enough the work is outsourced to content strategists, writers, editors, and coordinators equipped with tools to designing and implementing an effective strategy.

In sum, content marketing works because:

  • It provides valuable information;
  • It provides entertainment;
  • It sparks conversations that bring people together;
  • It forms communities;
  • It converts potential customers into actual customers;
  • It creates loyalty;
  • It establishes authority.

WRITERS UNBOUND – Fifth Annual Catskills Literary Festival

Writers in the Mountains invites you to its fifth annual Catskills literary festival. The daylong event welcomes all writers and readers, artists and audience, and community members from every walk to enjoy a warm gathering of successful and fascinating writers, illustrators, editors, educators, booksellers, and publishers from Syracuse to New York City and points between and beyond. The program includes poetry and fiction readings, a talk by keynote speaker Jan Albert, a panel on news and trends in publishing, illustration, and a few well-kept surprises.

Writers Unbound Flyer

Emmy Award-winning, Jan Albert has worked on documentaries for CBS, NBC, and PBS, produced presentations for the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Library of Congress, and interviewed hundreds of creatives including Joan Didion and Stephane Grappelli. Albert currently blogs for PsychologyToday.com.

Featured Poet this year is New York Times best-selling author Beth Lisick. Lisick has appeared in films that have screened at Cannes, Sundance, and the San Francisco International Film Festival.

The program is as follows:

12:30 p.m.—Poetry Reading hosted by Sharon Israel, author of Voice Lesson / Featured Poet Beth Lisick

1:00 p.m.—Publishing Panel / Group Discussion Addressing the Latest News and Trends in Publishing

Panelists include Leslie T. Sharpe (author), Sari Botton (editor), Anique Taylor (educator), and Roz Foster (literary agent). Moderated by Simona David.

1:30 p.m.—Keynote Address with Jan Albert

2:30 p.m.—Illustrator’s Moment with cookbook editor Carrie Bradley Neves and illustrator and children’s book author Durga Yael Bernhard

3:00 p.m. —Writing Fiction: Leaping from the Known to Unknown with Ginnah Howard

3:30 p.m. — Catskill Fish Stories / Angler Tall Tales: The Ones That Didn’t Get Away, reading moderated by Dr. Bil Birns (readers include Stephen Sautner, Leslie T. Sharpe, Anique Taylor, and Sharon Israel)

4:00 p.m. — The Bounty of Books Raffle, with a prize of ten selected book titles, will be awarded (come early, tickets are limited!), and the winner of the Best Cover Contest will be announced.

Throughout the day, participating authors will read from their works and share their stories with the audience. Admission is free.

Come by to shop for books directly from their authors, hear readings and peer-to-peer discussions (always with a Q and A element), join in an enticing raffle (books are the prize, of course), and vote in the Best Book Cover contest. Union Grove’s hand-crafted vodka drinks as well as beer and soft drinks will be on sale. (Note, there is no food sold at Union Grove, but the Arkville Bread & Breakfast Diner is right next door.)

For more information, visit writersinthemountains.org

Business Writing Workshop

Business Writing

Writers in the Mountains (WIM) introduces a six week long Business Writing workshop with Dara Lurie, running from August 11 to September 15, 2016. The class will be held Thursdays from 4 to 6 pm at the Phoenicia Public Library.
This class, dubbed Author Breakthrough, is a program for small business owners, artists and freelance writers who wish to create valuable content and great marketing copy. No one understands the heart and soul of your business better than you do. Now it’s time to communicate your vision using effective stories and expert content. You do not have to be a professional writer to create great content. The most important function of your content – whether it’s a book, blog, story or expert article – is to connect with your core message and bring that message into sharp focus for your audience.
In Author-Breakthrough you’ll have access to the experience of like-minded entrepreneurs who will provide the valuable feedback you need to develop and refine your message. The class includes engaging writing and dialoguing activities, content development sessions, creative think-tank environment to develop and test your ideas. By the end of the program you’ll have ready-to-publish articles, stories, or blogposts, and client-attracting copy for email or social media posts as well as an action-plan for best use of your content and copy.
Dara Lurie is an author, workshop leader and book coach who helps writers of all levels discover their passionate and original voices in stories. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Film & Theater from Vassar College and her M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Hunter College. Her first book, “Great Space of Desire: Writing for Personal Evolution” is a memoir and creative guide for writers. For over twelve years, Dara has facilitated writing workshops and retreats in diverse locations from college classrooms in New York City and the Hudson Valley to an open-air pavilion in the Costa Rican Rainforest. This year, she launched a new online mentorship program for small-business owners who want to create inspired content and marketing copy to grow their business.
To register, call Jean Stone at (607) 326-4802, or e-mail her at jtstone@catskill.net. To register online, visit writersinthemountains.org. Class fee is $100, if you register and pay by July 21, and $125 after that.
Writers in the Mountains is a 501 ( c ) (3) not-for-profit organization with a mission to provide a nurturing environment for the practice, appreciation and sharing of creative writing. Online at writersinthemountains.org.

Book Publishing, A Quick Look at the Industry

Publication2On April 24 I had the pleasure of sitting on the Publishing Panel at the Writers in the Mountains’ annual book festival held this year at the Union Grove Distillery in Arkville. I was joined that day by Leslie T. Sharpe, professor, author and editorial consultant; Anique Taylor, poet, painter and educator; and Lillian Browne, journalist. We all shared very different perspectives on publishing.

Here were some of my contributions to this conversation.

  1. General Considerations

Independent publishing or self-publishing, as it is now called, has always existed. Shortly after the invention of the printing press, artists and writers with entrepreneurial spirit learned to design and publish their own books. Digital technology has of course made things a lot easier. I highly recommend the essay “From Papyrus to Pixels” published by The Economist in 2014.

Self-published authors are those who set up accounts with various self-publishing platforms, and publish that way, and those who set up their own presses, and become their own publishers, the likes of Mark Twain and Virginia Wolf.

Earlier this spring I attended the Woodstock Writers Festival, co-sponsored by The New School. One author explained that publishing a book is ultimately a way to connect with readers, and self-publishing is one way to do so. But authors shouldn’t choose self-publishing as a way to avoid gatekeepers, because gatekeepers can really help make a manuscript better.

Four authors were asked about their route to publication, and all four of them had a different answer:

  • One of them met his publisher at a party in Woodstock.
  • Another one had a more methodical approach: she started by googling “how do you get a literary agent?” and then googling “how do you write a query letter?” Her manuscript was accepted on the first day she sent out query letters to six agents.
  • A third admitted that it had taken her a really long time to find an agent. She started by approaching friends, and friends of friends, and people she met at workshops. Her advice to writers was to look at books that were similar to theirs, and see who published them.
  • The fourth author said that he was lucky, because it took him six years to write the book, but sold it in forty-eight hours.

Ultimately, how you choose to publish a book depends on the complexity of the project, I would say, how resourceful you are, and how much time you have to commit to the project.

  1. Trends

My advice to writers has always been to remain constantly creative and curious, and look for new models in publishing, because the industry is changing rather rapidly. For instance, at the Woodstock Writers Festival last year I met someone who works for Diversion Books in New York City: Diversion takes a digital marketer approach to books – they use data analytics to assess book consumption, and enhance the commercial success of a book. What does that do to the literary value of a book, what does that do to poetry, and projects that don’t really fall into categories – these remain open questions.

A few trends I’d like to highlight:

  • Millenials watch YouTube more than television. They are the largest generation in the history of the country. The millennial market (18 – 34 year old) is estimated at 92 million people, and $200 billion worth of spending in the U.S. (source: Publishing Perspectives).
  • Digital audio books are becoming more and more popular, and more common in independent bookstores.
  • Also, we see more digital content in schools.
  • New apps, and new tools for writers are introduced every day – tools for writing, editing, organizing content, designing and publishing books. For instance, Amazon StoryWriter app automatically formats screenplays, so writers type without worrying about format. Moleskine introduced a Smart Writing Set that includes a smart pen and a notebook that instantly digitizes notes, including sketches – this comes in handy for illustrators.
  • Retailers are giving independent authors more space.
  1. Statistics

Smashwords 2016 Survey (conducted between March 2015 and February 2016) reveals that among Smashwords authors:

  • Fiction dominates (89.5% of Smashwords sales were fiction titles);
  • Offering books for free remains a powerful discovery tool – free books get about 41 times more downloads than books at any price, according to Smashwords;
  • Preorder is becoming more and more popular: 13.5% of new books released at Smashwords during the period under investigation were released as preorders, up from 9.8% in the year before;
  • Series books outsell standalones.

Read full article at http://blog.smashwords.com/2015/12/2016-book-publishing-predictions.html.

Also from Mark Coker at Smashwords:

  • Print books continue to dominate: print accounts for 70% of the market;
  • Independent authors control 15 – 20 % of the e-book market;
  • Kindle Unlimited model reconfigures the entire industry – readers get used with reading for free;
  • Libraries remain an area of growth and opportunity for independent authors.

Read more at http://blog.smashwords.com/2016/04/2016survey-how-to-publish-and-sell-ebooks.html.

The American Association of Publishers reported that:

  • When it comes to traditional publishers, e-book sales decreased 12% in 2015 compared to 2014.
  • After years of decline, physical retail stores saw an increase of 3.2% in revenue ($3.80 billion from $3.68 billion) and 4.1% in units (577 million from 554 million) in the trade category in 2014.
  • Online retail remained the top sales channel for customers in the trade category, selling 832 million units and providing $5.90 billion in revenue in 2014.

You can read more at http://publishers.org/news/us-publishing-industry%E2%80%99s-annual-survey-reveals-28-billion-revenue-2014.   

© 2016 Simona David

End of Year in Publishing

Sophie McNeill from Penguin Random House summarized the five key trends in the book market in 2015, which reveal that:

books 2015

  • Print remains the most popular reading format with 63 percent of Americans reporting that they read a print book in the past year compared to 27 percent who reported they read an ebook in the past twelve months (data from the Pew Research Center).
  • Young adults are more likely than their elderly to have read a book in the past twelve months – McNeill points out that the range of successful movies based on young adult books may explain the age gap (which came as a surprise to me). Also, women are more likely to read books than men (the average woman reader reads fourteen books per year compared to nine books read by the average man reader).
  • In the first half of 2015 the trade book market when it comes to adult fiction, children’s and young adult literature, and religious presses was down 1.4% compared to the first half of 2014: $3 billion compared to $3.13. This statistic is from the American Association of Publishers, which only looks at traditional publishers, and does not include self-publishing. Children’s and young adult literature recorded the sharpest decline (12.3%).
  • According to the American Booksellers Association independent bookstores are coming back: according to the ABA the number of independent bookstores increased 20 percent from 2009 to 2014  (from 1,651 in 2009 to 2,094 in 2014).
  • 50 percent of Americans own a tablet or an ereader for reading digital content. It is expected that more and more Americans will shift from tablets to smartphones in the coming years. Read more about these findings here.

Mark Coker from Smashwords released his predictions for 2016, and these include:

  • Independent (in other words self-published) ebook authors will continue to gain market share at the expense of large publishers because indie titles are priced lower, and because indie authors move faster, and are creative when it comes to marketing and distributing their titles, among other reasons. According to Coker, “every year readers are spending more hours reading books from indie authors.” Also, according to Coker “more traditionally published authors will continue to experiment with self-publishing.”
  • Amazon Kindle Unlimited and KDP Select programs have trained readers to expect free ebook downloads, and this will have long-term ramifications not just for the self-published authors, but according to Coker for traditional publishers and traditionally published authors as well, and of course for the Amazon’s retail competitors.
  • According to Coker, the overall market for ebooks will shrink in terms of dollars, but will increase in terms of units.
  • Print won’t go away. Print books represent approximately 70 percent of the market today. Coker says that “for many readers, print is the gateway to digital.” He also writes about the importance of brick-and-mortar bookstores, and about Amazon’s plans to open a brick-and-mortar bookstore in Seattle.
  • Preorder usage will dramatically increase in 2016, according to Coker. Read full article here.

As mentioned in Coker’s article, Amazon did indeed open its first brick-and-mortar bookstore in Seattle back in November. The store, called Amazon Books, is located in University Village. Read article here. Amazon Books plans to use its huge database to stock its shelves; it will look at reviews from millions of readers, but also at staff-favorites, among other sources. Thomas De Monchaux wrote about Amazon Books for the New Yorker.

Amazon is not only the world’s largest bookseller, it’s also an important publisher. Launched in 2009, Amazon Publishing owns 14 imprints, and publishes both fiction and non-fiction books. Through AmazonCrossing, launched in 2010, the company publishes translated books. AmazonCrossing committed $10 million over the next five years to works in translation. Read more about Amazon Publishing here. Read more about AmazonCrossing in this article published by Alex Shephard in the New Republic.

Happy New Year, and Happy Publishing!

Simona David

 

Woodstock Writers Festival’s Sixth Anniversary

The Woodstock Writers Festival celebrated its sixth anniversary this past weekend, March 19 – 22, with a variety of workshops, panel discussions, a story slam competition, as well as a couple of parties, after dinner conversations, and a Sunday morning literary brunch.

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I attended the publishing panel on Saturday morning. Panelists included: Gail Godwin, a three-time National Book Award finalist, and the bestselling author of twelve novels, including Publishing: A Writer’s Memoir, published by Bloomsbury Publishing; Jenny Milchman, author of three acclaimed novels published by Ballantine, an imprint of Penguin Random House; Sara Carder, editorial director of Jeremy P. Tarcher, an imprint of Penguin Random House; Mary Cummings, vice president and editorial director of Diversion Books, a digitally focused publisher in New York City; and Ned Leavitt, a literary agent. The panel was moderated by Nan Gatewood Satter, a fiction and non-fiction editor with close to thirty years of experience.

What I took out:

  • Gail Godwin emphasized the importance of having a good editorial team, and an established long-term commitment among publishing partners. She also talked about the authors’ ability to negotiate their rights, and secure some benefits even when they don’t quite get the exact terms they were looking for. She warned authors of doing too much pro-bono writing.
  • By contrast, Mary Cummings talked about pro-bono writing such as submitting articles to newspapers and magazines as an investment in the author’s brand and long-term sales. Cummings talked about the importance of crunching data and fine-tuning the marketing strategy for each title on a monthly basis. No title is ever abandoned. In addition, she emphasized the role of social media in connecting authors with readers, and also the role social media plays in enhancing an author’s brand. Cummings was fond of search engine optimization techniques; she said she puts a lot of effort into creating “foundable books.”
  • Sara Carder confessed that this was a “frightening” time for the publishing industry. She talked about the creative process, and the effort each editor puts into each new book project. She said she relied on her intuition when deciding whether to move forward with a book project or not. Carder also feared that search engine optimization techniques would hurt “poetic titles” and other creative ways of differentiating a book. She did however agree that newspaper and magazine articles can help a writer’s brand, and wasn’t too worried about pro-bono writing.
  • Ned Leavitt talked about the excitement of good writing. He was worried about Amazon’s publishing model. He also confessed that intuition plays quite a role in his work.
  • Jenny Milchman talked about her journey to publishing; it took her eleven years to get published, but in the end she got the deal that she wanted to get. Since 2013 she’s been publishing a new novel each year. Milchman was keen of social media, and enjoyed connecting with readers. Each year she does a long book tour, visiting hundreds of bookstores all over the country.

Jenny Milchman will be at the Writers in the Mountains’ book festival on April 12; she’ll be talking about publishing. She’ll also be delivering the keynote address.

News and Trends in Publishing

A quick overview of what’s new and trending in the publishing and content marketing industries.

  • First and foremost, news from Amazon: Amazon authors may have received news about changes in the European Union (EU) tax laws regarding the taxation of digital products (including e-books). The Value Added Tax (VAT) used to be applied based on the seller’s country, but beginning January 1st this year the VAT is being applied based on the buyer’s country. Kindle authors were asked to re-visit their pricing strategies, and make adjustments moving forward.

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Also, Amazon had gradually expanded its Kindle Unlimited services to include countries like Spain and Italy (since November 2014), France and Brazil (since December), and Canada and Mexico (since February). Kindle Unlimited is a subscription service that allows customers to read as many book as they like and keep them as long as they want for a monthly subscription fee. This is different from being an Amazon Prime member: anyone can subscribe to Kindle Unlimited services for a $9.99 monthly fee.

Authors who have enrolled their e-books in KDP Select, and have made their titles available to the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library ought to know that all titles enrolled in KDP Select are automatically enrolled in Kindle Unlimited as well. Authors do get paid royalties once a customer has downloaded and read at least 10 percent of their books. But there are concerns that authors actually earn less, as a result of fierce competition from other titles (Kindle Unlimited currently has a library of over 750,000 titles). You can read more opinions about Kindle Unlimited here. To learn more about authors’ royalties, visit https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A3BQJE2QV37M1B.

  • Mark Coker from Smashwords listed his predictions for 2015, which, as expected, include the increase in digital reading and independent publishing, but also some unexpected considerations. I find particularly interesting Coker’s prediction that independent authors will in fact face increased competition from traditional publishers in 2015, and also the fact that Coker expects many more indie authors to just give up. Coker also thinks that major publishers will begin experimenting with free products in 2015, a strategy that has been far too common among indies. At the same time, Coker warns that freebies aren’t what they used to be, because there are so many free books already on the market. We’ll see what 2015 bears for both traditional and independent publishers.
  • Social media will continue to evolve and bring ever more changes to the way we’re doing business. The landscape is becoming so complex, that analysts recommend an increased specialization in this field. While integration across multiple platforms has been unavoidable for some time, 2015 is seen as the year brands can no longer avoid paying for ads on social media. Video sharing is rapidly spreading, and gaining more popularity. SlideShare is also becoming trendier, as it plans to introduce video sharing capabilities this year. As a novelty, Twitter and Facebook may introduce a “Buy” button so users can make purchases without leaving these platforms. According to trend analysts, in 2015 interactive brand personas will become ever more common. To read more about social media trends, visit http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/social-media-marketing-predictions-for-2015/.

documents

Specifically, when looking at content marketing trends, having a well-documented content strategy, using catchy headlines, and making content easy to share are at the top of the list. More suggestions and recommendations can be found here. For more marketing trends, go to http://www.fastcocreate.com/3040028/how-marketing-will-change-in-2015-the-creative-forecast.

Have a great and productive year!

Independent or Traditional Publishing?

books modernAs more and more aspiring authors debate over traditional versus independent publishing, I am weighing in this debate by exploring the pluses and minuses of each option. Herein I will consider the relationship between author and publisher from a historical perspective, I will look at self-publishing from a business and marketing standpoint, I will share statistics and trends, and I will mull over the future of publishing.

Historical Perspective

Over the past five years or so we’ve talked extensively about self-publishing given tremendous opportunities created by digital technology, but self-publishing is not new. Shortly after the invention of the printing press in Germany in 1450, German painter Albrecht Durer self-published an illustrated book called The Apocalypse, as reported by Hyperallergic and other sources. As a side note, Durer’s godfather, Anton Koberger, one of Germany’s most successful publishers around that time, published The Nuremberg Chronicle in 1493 – that book is on display at Vassar College through December this year.

To resume, artists and writers with entrepreneurial spirit have always existed. In the 17th and 18th century Europe self-publishing was fairly common; self-publishers were using subscription models to hook new readers. But moving forward into the 19th century, the advent of newspapers and magazines changed again the way publishers were doing business, by enabling them to publish short book excerpts and popularize novel ideas. It’s worth mentioning the essay published in October this year by The Economist magazine From Papyrus to Pixels: The Digital Transformation Has Only Just Begun, a piece musing over the past and future of publishing from different perspectives.

Granted, the relationship between authors and publishers hasn’t always been a rosy one: in 1849, for instance, Thoreau had a hard time finding a publisher for A Week on the Concord and Merimack Rivers, as reported by Brain Pickings; eventually, he paid out of pocket to print 1,000 copies – only 300 would sell. In 1845 Edgar Allan Poe only made $20 for the publication of The Raven, despite the instant success of the poem. Meanwhile, in 1855 Walt Whitman decided to self-publish Leaves of Grass – Whitman only printed 800 copies, and although the sales weren’t great, the author wasn’t discouraged. Today, we’re looking at traditionally published authors like David Mamet, who is considering self-publishing, and also at successful self-published authors like Bella Andre, who sold millions of copies of her novels, and made The New York Times Bestseller List.

Self-Publishing Is a Business

Self-Publishing is a business. Writers who self-publish are also publishers, marketers, and business managers. Publishing a book is very much like a start-up – it involves everything from product development, the book, to knowing the technology that’s involved, resources that are available, project cost, market research, branding, distribution, sales, and taxes. Successful self-published authors understand the book market – they know what people read, and how they read, know who their competition is, know how to price their books, know how to promote and distribute; they can compare different publishing models, and make a profit. In sum, authors who self-publish are more than writers – they are also entrepreneurs.

Self-publishing and book marketing go hand in hand, because authors who self-publish have to market their books, and build name recognition. Therefore, in addition to being writers, authors today are also performers, communicators, and brands. In that sense, I’m quoting Helmut von Berg, a publishing expert, who said for Publishing Perspectives in January 2013 that: “publishing of the future is networked publishing.”Also Seth Godin, who just published a CD of his bestselling book Tribes, emphasizes the importance of having a tribe, when it comes to marketing and sales: “All those blogs and social networking sites are helping existing tribes get bigger and enabling new tribes to be born.”

Trends and Statistics

In 2013 there were a total of 458,564 self-published titles, an increase of 17% from 2012; broken down by format in 2013 self-publishers published 302,622 print books, an increase of 28.80%  compared to 2012, and 155,942 e-books, a decrease of 1.60% compared to 2012. The source is Bowker Market Research.

In 2013 self-publishers preferred print to digital, a remarkable finding, considering how much easier it is to self-publish digital rather than print content. The ratio print to digital was 60 – 40 in 2012; in 2013 that changed to 66 – 34 print to digital.

Also, another exciting trend, in October 2014 Frankfurt Book Fair, the world’s largest book festival, expanded its successful self-publishing German-language arena to include English-language books; the fair hosted this year a two-day intensive program dedicated to self-publishers, thus acknowledging the increased importance of independent publishing.

The Future of Publishing

In recent years we’ve seen a constant increase in self-published titles. But traditional publishers are no stranger to this market either: in 2008 HarperCollins created Authonomy.com, a site dedicated to independent authors; in 2011 Penguin U.S. created a similar site called Bookcountry.com; in 2012 Penguin acquired Author Solutions, one of the biggest self-publishing conglomerates; also in 2012 Simon & Schuster partnered with Author Solutions to create Archway Publishing. Furthermore, in 2013 Bowker, the agency that issues ISNBs in the United States, in existence since 1868, created a site called SelfPublishedAuthor.com, providing resources for authors contemplating independent publishing. In sum, traditional publishers appear not only to have been embraced self-publishing, but also to profit from it.

Pundits looking at traditional publishing models ponder over what changes the future might bring. And editors working in big publishing houses already moonlight as freelancers for independent projects. Meanwhile, Penguin UK is offering online writing courses, thus this major company becomes more than a publisher, and enters the realm of instruction and education. Other pundits wonder whether traditional publishers would unbundle their services, and thus offer authors just what they need, whether be editorial services, design, marketing or distribution.

In conclusion, should you self-publish or look for a publisher? The answer depends on a whole range of factors. It’s important to look at both options, and assess pluses and minuses. Ultimately the decision will depend on the goals and needs of each author, and the nature of each book project – some projects are more complex than others from an editorial, legal, or financial standpoint. Your choice.

© 2014 Simona David

simonadavid.com

How Often Do You Review Your Ideal Client Profile?

How often do you review your ideal client profile? Do you do it once a year? Twice? Quarterly?

I am used to reviewing my client profile at the beginning of each year, when I also update my resume and re-assess my best products and services. It’s a process that helps me set a new direction for my professional goals in the year that is about to start. It gives me a fresh perspective.

Hence, I look at:

1.     Who Is My Client?

If I understand my client’s business and what makes it unique, I can better serve his / her goals.

2.     What Is My Client Looking for?

Is my client looking for marketing plans, white papers or other media products (i.e., newsletters, books, blogs, or websites)? Is he / she in need of brand enhancement or development? Perhaps strategic planning? Fundraising?

3.     Where Are My Clients?

Are my prospective clients in the Catskills / Hudson Valley area? Or, are they in New York City? How do I facilitate a meeting?

4.     When Is My Ideal Client In the Market? What Is His / Her Purchasing Behavior?

When is my prospective client most likely to re-vamp a website, publish a newsletter or a handbook, look for market research, organize events, or engage in strategic planning? How do my services respond to these needs?

5.     How Do Prospective Clients Find Me?

Most of my clients are repeat clients. Others find me through referrals, word of mouth, business meetings, or social media.

Also, to better understand my clients, I regularly conduct surveys and gather insights. It’s important to me to know how my clients find me, what they like about my services, and what else they’d like to be offered.

 

What is your advice? How do you go about reviewing your ideal client profile?

 

Have a productive new year!

 

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