A Tale of Two Editors

One aspect of the feature and article writing I do is research –not just subject research but also market research. At the moment I don’t receive many commissions so I have to pitch most of my work to an editor, once I think I’ve found the right market for it.

Four months ago I sent out two pitches. One went to a specialist magazine, the other to a more general one with a countryside theme. Both have about the same circulation figures although different reader profiles. I read back copies of each mag; I obtained their writers guidelines, followed them to the letter and even phoned up to make sure I’d got the editor’s name correct – they do seem to change fairly frequently.

Editor no.1 – the generalist replied to my email within a week.
Yes he was interested and could I supply photos?
Yes I could, how did he want them?
Email and at 300dpi minimum.
OK. Good – job done. The proofs came through ten days ago and the article appears next month.

Editor No. 2 – the specialist magazine
When I phoned in to check his name and email I actually spoke to him. He said: ”I’ll look out for your pitch coming through my email.”
Great. Six weeks later not a peep from him. Do I/don’t I send a reminder?
I wait ‘til the eight week mark and then send a polite note –“ hope you got the pitch, wondering if you have been able to make a decision?”
Sixteen weeks later still nothing.

I assume that the guy is not interested – fine. I understand :-
– the pitch might not have suited – either through content or style;
– the editor might need to take all submissions to an editorial panel and that slows down the process;
– the concept of “busy” and “overwhelmed with emails”. When I had a “ proper” job 50 emails a day was not unusual and I’ve had clients who topped the 100 per day but still managed to answer them, however briefly;
– the pitch might not have reached his desk…but did lightning really strike twice?

Truly I do understand all of that but what I can’t get my head round is complete silence. I cannot believe that with the electronic bells and whistles that abound these days, it is impossible to send a quick, automated “thanks but no thanks” email.

The question is what do I do next? Shall I be passive and leave it a while longer – but how long? Or shall I start again, find another potential victim and revamp the outline? Should I send him a free copy of my book Time for Your Life – there’s lots in there about managing emails and other “stuff”?

There is some small irony here, in that this specialist magazine, without naming names, is aimed at newbie writers and is packed full of good advice about what to do and not do when approaching an editor with a pitch. What it doesn’t tell you is what best to do when your pitch appears to have fallen into a deep black hole.

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Kindle Revisited

My exclusive 90-day deal with Kindle Prime for Time for Your Life will soon be up and I thought now might be a good time for a bit of reflection.

The original idea for Time for Your Life was to start to build up a library of articles and e-books on my business website http://www.thecoachingcorner.co.uk to support my coaching activities. I never expected to sell many copies – just as well really as it turns out.

The book garnered 3×5* reviews on UK Amazon and 1×5* on Amazon.com (Thank you Gwen Bristol) but I have sold very few copies through Kindle. On the other hand I have negotiated three-year licence agreements with a couple of companies for it to be available to the staff via the company intranets. This alone has more than covered my costs and will keep me in jelly beans for a good few months. Both those agreements came about because I sent free PDF copies to Human Resource Directors and two of them got in touch with me. The next step is for it to be available as a PDF via an on-line training and personal deveopment resource website: http://www.glasstap.com. This will expose the book to a completely different market.

I also had some picture postacards printed with the front cover of the book on one side and message/address space on the other. These I sent out to my past and present individual coaching clients. As far as I know none of those has resulted in any Kindle sales but I have sold PDFs.

So what have I learned?

1. Publishing an e-book takes very little time if you have the tech skills or the right people behind you. However marketing an e-book and getting sales takes a very great deal of time. I haven’t put nearly enough time into marketing. I had a marketing plan but seriously underestimated what time it would need – particularly finding, getting and keeping active on different book forums, blogs etc.

2. Pricing an ebook is a bit of a thorny question for me. I didn’t do enough homework on prices and so, in comparison with other books that appear to be of similar content, Time for Your Life may look pricey. £6.00 as opposed to the £1.99ers. Perception is all here. I have a view that if something is offered for sale at what seems to be a very low price then I have very low expectations of it and am more likely to pass on it. I also hold to the belief that you can always lower a price but if you start low and then try to go up in price, you pretty soon piss off a section of your customer base.Maybe I need to review these beliefs…I’m not sure.

3. I’ve mentioned this in other posts but for non-fiction it still may be better to bite the bullet and go for hardcopy publishing. I’ve been asked so many times for a hard copy or “proper” book as many have called it. I think this is an issue of disposable v for keeps.

4. I’m not totally convinced of any advantage Kindle Prime offers for this type of book other than the % rate. With hindsight I would have preferred to have offered the book from the get-go in as many ways/formats as possible.

So just something to chew on this Friday morning. I’d be more than happy to hear your thoughts/experiences – perhaps between us we should put an ebook out on the definitive way to self-publish.

Anyhoo – signing off for the weekend which is predicted to be warm and sunny – so have a good one.

Book Sales, Telephone Repair Man and Me

At last, normal service is resumed; the world is at my fingertips once more and guess what? It’s been a day of firsts.

I’ve just sold my first copies of my first book; I have my first two 5* reviews for it ( no I haven’t bribed my friend or neighbours) and I’ve got my first commission this year for a magazine article.

Woohoo – I’m on a roll. I’m pleased. No what am I saying… I’m as happy as a church mouse that’s discovered a stash of Double Gloucester in the vestry on the cat’s day off.

However, the idea of someone, a real person buying the book really tickles me. I’ve sold articles and the odd short story but never a book. It feels more personal – an act of faith on the part of the reader. I wonder if it will bore, amuse, irritate or even get read at all? Will they delete it or file it for posterity? Perhaps they’ll say it was all a mistake; that they got their cursor crossed and really wanted “Time for Your Lies – a Beginner’s Guide to Telling Porkies”.

I mentioned the book to Telephone Repair Man this morning. I’d made him a cup of copper-coloured tea after he’d been freezing his whatnots off up a ladder fixing the phone line.
“Have you made any brass from it?” he asked in typical direct Yorkshire fashion.
I had to be honest about the anaemic sales figures.
“Thought not.” He supped his tea.
“Are you famous at all?”
I admitted the path to my door was unbeaten.
“Thought not”.
I bridled inwardly (is that physically possible?)but I’ve picked up the gauntlet along with several dozen bits of snipped off wires. I’ll show him. And this is where I’ll need your help.

All you need to do is click on this link http://tinyurl.com/d2wfbb7 and make the appropriate donation to the Make Sheila Famous and Confound all Telephone Repair Men Fund.

Ta very much.

Reflections on Kindle

I spent most of the weekend working on my marketing platform for The Book – mainly bullying the friends and family category. However, I also invested a little time in thinking about this Kindling experience. Here are four early learning points.

1. Don’t assume that everyone has a Kindle or similar. I lost count of the times I was asked to “show” the book because the f&f member didn’t possess a Kindle. This was also the case when I spoke to a couple of local newspapers and a radio station. So, buy a copy of your book and hawk it around on your own Kindle and you can give people a bit of a taster.

2. I had planned to publish The Book in other digital formats however, if you publish in KDP (Kindle Digital Publishing) you are tied in to an exclusivity clause for 90 days. Check the terms and conditions thoroughly (if you are doing your own “Kindling”) and don’t make commitments that you won’t be able to keep.

3. You can have up to 5 “free” days in any 90 day period so you need to think about how you’re going to use them (if at all). I’ve decided to save mine for around the end of the 90 days when they can help me put a bit of a sales boost on.

4. Was it worth going through a Kindle publisher? For me yes, yes and yes again. I’m not tech-savvy; learning how to Kindle is not a priority for me nor a good use of my time. I think it better to stick to my knitting. The publisher I used (www.kindlepublishmybook.co.uk) had loads of experience and inside knowledge; managed the whole process once I gave him the mss and was affordable. I’m sure you can d.i.y. it but for me it wasn’t worth the potential hassle.

Finally, be prepared for someone (at least one) to say to you: “Oooh! You are a clever thing aren’t you, but it’s not like it’s a proper book, is it?”

AAAGH!!!

Happy Monday.

I just got Kindled

Yesterday my first book got Kindled. When I got the email to say it was ready I confess I got the shakes a bit. There’s no going back. It’s not a huge 100,000 word blockbuster rather a modest twenty-odd thousand words of self-help type but it’s mine and I’m proud of it.

I’ve lived with this book for more than six months in between the day job – first in the research and then the writing. Sometimes it flowed easily; sometimes it was sluggish. But the most fiddly part was the editing and like the guy in Camus’ The Plague I got stuck writing and rewriting the same sentence. Then I was gripped with this fear that I might have inadvertently nicked someone else’s words or phrases. The subject of the book – making time for the things you want to do in life – is by no means original and the internet is larded with articles, blogs and references. I know I’ve read some of them. I spent last night checking over the mss for possible copyright breaches – for the third time.

All that is left now is for me to write a few persuasive sentences for the advertising blurb and decide on key words for searches. Despite all the anxieties and neuroses it’s brought out in me I feel…not exactly satisfied – I’m never that – but perhaps elated. I’ve done what I set out to do, as well as I could do it. Whether it burns with a bright flame or fizzles out remains to be seen.

I’m also relieved that I can move on. For sure I’ve got work to do in marketing and selling the book but my head’s stuffed full of other ideas and projects all crying to get out.

Clearly I can’t give my Oscar speech since I ain’t sold a single copy yet but I would like to publicly thank Steve at http://www.kindlepublishmybook.co.uk for his support and help. I gave him the worst possible example of a mss for Kindle – full of formatting, tables, illustrations – all the Kindle no-no’s. He took it all on the chin and worked his magic in no time at all.

Now, I need 5 or 6 sentences to promote the book – how hard can that be?

To Market, To Market…Revisited

I received an email from a reader of this blog scolding me slightly for sounding negative in yesterday’s post. Said reader (I know where you live) suggested that instead of being “sarky” I shared my approach to building a marketing platform. Personally I think it’s just a ploy because she’s too lazy to work it out for herself but she makes mighty good cakes which often make their way to me. (No! It’s not my mum).

So, using the list I produced yesterday, here are some of the planks and nails that are going to build my marketing platform for my book “Time for Your Life”

Social Media – I shall tweet, facebook and link-in in an escalating format – “only ten days to go…” you know the sort of thing. It’s also where early reviews extolling the virtues of the book will make their debut.
Press, TV & Radio – these call for press releases. There was a helpful blog about writing these to be found at http://writegoodbooks.wordpress.com/2013/02/01/promote-your-self-published-book-give-the-media-what-they-want-better-press-releases/. I realise I’ll have to keep slots in my diary for the several interviews that will naturally follow the press releases but hey ho…that’s life.
Articles – I’m already on with this and angling each article so that it is specific to an industry, profession or other group. For example healthcare, small biz owners; working mums.
Public Speaking – here’s where I piggy-back onto the day job in the form of workshops that I run particularly Personal Effectiveness and Time Management. I’m not sure whether anything else is possible given that there will be no back-of-room sales with an ebook.
Websites/Email – Promoting on my own sites plus a link to my landing page on few others. Going to add a little banner to my email signatures.
Friends and Family – will be bribed or bullied unmercifully to promote and sell on my behalf.

One additional one – Influencers – clients/ex-clients/HR Managers whose organisations have a staff training section on their Intranets. I’ll let them have a free copy to put up in the hope that individual staff members will want to have their own copies.

There, that’s my platform and not a bit of sarky in sight. I’ve no doubt as it gets closer to launch date (only 30 days to go folks) it’ll all change.
Am I shriven now?

To Market, To Market to buy a Fat Book

One of the hundred’s of thorny issues I regularly torture myself with is the question:if I self-publish a book how will I market it? Then, a few months back an editor at a well-known publishing house told me that for traditionally published non-fiction the strength and extent of the author’s marketing platform is almost, if not equally, as important as the book itself. I suspect that the advice would almost be the same for fiction.

So, having a curious soul I thought I’d check out this concept of marketing platform. One of the basic tenets appears to be that it is preferable to earn your customer’s interest rather than buy it but that your marketing platform can use both approaches. Wow that’s good to know.

Buying your customer’s interest comes through paying for advertising, banner ads, etc in both actual and virtual worlds. So that’s where all those posters in stations come from and those whopping banner ads that quite literally are the length of a bus. Ok, you’ll probably need to take out a second or third mortgage but you could offset it against those mega-buck sales that will stream in.

Then there’s the free stuff. Here’s a brief list:
Social Media
Getting on the radio
Getting on the TV
Getting into the Press
Articles and articles that Search Engines fall in love with
UTube for videos
Public Speaking
Discussion Boards and Forums
E-mail campaigns if you have permission; email signatures if you don’t.

Then there’s your friends and family and the 7×7 rule. Each paid up member of the f&f cohort must be tasked to tell 7 other people about your wonderful book and, so the theory goes, those other 7 will tell 7 more and so on.

Now, I don’t know about you but for sure I have difficulty in managing 2 small websites, 2 blogs and 2 bits of social media as well as managing the day job, renovating the cottage, creating a new garden (on hold – it’ll probably have to be a bog garden) and creating time and space for writing.

However, the answer came to me in a dream. I’ll have more than enough time to build my marketing platform using all the above provided I outsource the writing. Got it. Sorted.