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Crowdfunding, Books and Author Success – The New Paradigm?

Posted on 07 Dec 2012 | Author Stefanie | Comments No comments | Tags

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Crowdfunding, Books and Author Success – The New Paradigm?Once upon a time, authors submitted their manuscripts to an agent, who then submitted that manuscript to a publisher. A decision was made whether to publish the work, and the author would receive an advance, less the agent’s fee, of course. That’s still the case for many authors, or at least those going the traditional publishing route, but the world of self-publishing has radically altered the landscape, and there are a few things you need to know.

No Advance

One of the largest holdups for authors contemplating going the self-publishing route (or going “indie” as it’s beginning to be called) is the lack of immediate capital. There’s no advance for self-publishers. It’s a slow burn situation, where sales build on sales and eventually equal profitability (or doesn’t, as the case may be). However, crowdfunding might actually replace the traditional advance, making the road to self-publishing easier for some authors to take.

What’s It All About?

Crowdfunding isn’t really all that new, but it’s gained a lot of steam in the last year or so. Some bigger names have drawn massive attention to the area (Seth Godin, anyone?), and more authors than ever before are jumping on board.

It’s a simple enough concept. You set the amount of money you need to publish your book, choose rewards for those who decide to back you, set a deadline and launch your campaign. Readers and fans choose to back your project by funding it (and earn the corresponding reward, of course).

However, that’s the end of the similarities. You’ll find a plethora of crowdfunding sites out there that work with authors (amongst other professionals), and they’re not all the same. Kickstarter and IndieGoGo are two of the best-known sites out there, but they’re also very different from each other.

With Kickstarter, you set the amount you need, a deadline and launch your campaign. However, if you don’t meet your goal by the deadline, all the money goes back to the backers. You keep nothing at all. This can work fine for a project where you know you have a large, established fan base, but might not be that great an idea for newcomers.

IndieGoGo, on the other hand, lets you set your amount and your deadline, but you are able to keep whatever funds are pledged by the deadline date, regardless of whether you meet your goal or not. While this might not be that great if you aren’t able to meet the minimum costs involved with putting out your books, it’s a great thing for those who have already paid on their own and just want to recoup their investment.

You’ll find variations on both of these themes throughout the crowdfunding world, but the fact remains that both methods can offer authors a viable means to put out their works without having to starve while building sales. It might just be a replacement for the traditional advance from a publisher, which would open up the world of publishing to an even wider range of authors.

Article Written by Stefanie Hartman www.stefaniehartman.com
Photo source: Microsoft Clip Art

2012 © Stefanie Hartman Enterprises Inc. You may republish this article, if you keep the article intact as is and credit the authors name and website: “Stefanie Hartman” and website: www.stefaniehartman.com. Thank you.

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Giving a Great Interview

Posted on 26 Sep 2011 | Author Stefanie | Comments 1 comment | Tags

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Here is the seventh great installment I found on book tours, from a company that is closing their doors soon, so I thought I would pass it on to you guys! Kevin gives 5 great tips for giving a great interview and another resource for you to pick up is a complimentary report I wrote on How to Get Booked as a Guest on TV and Radio http://stefaniehartman.com/freereport.html  Enjoy.

All the best,
Stefanie
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Giving a Great Interview

We’re in the promotion part of our series and with any luck, your book will attract the interest of someone who’d like to interview you. That person may appear on national television, radio or in a prestigious magazine (hooray!), but it’s just as significant if they work for a local paper, an interested blog or run their own podcast show. All book promotion must begin somewhere, and small media can often be stepping stones to greater attention.

So how do you give a good interview when the opportunity arises? And by “good interview” I mean one that succeeds in three ways: 1) a strong representation of what your book is about and why a potential reader would be interested in reading it, 2) compelling programming or coverage for the person interviewing you, and 3) evidence that your book is gaining momentum in the marketplace. A successful interview can have two of three. It cannot have less than that.

All participants in an interview have clear motives. The author wants to get notice for their book and the interviewer wants to create a compelling experience for their audience. The audience wants that compelling experience and to find out about good books. Despite that built-in self interest, every successful interview (meaning successful for everyone involved) is a conversation with give and take at its core. If an interviewer is only out to titillate their audience, you get shock journalism and shrill talk radio. If an author will not budge from answering each question with “as I said in my book,” that author is a parrot, not a creator, and readers don’t buy books by parrots. If an interview seems so private and insular that the audience feels left out, they will ignore the book being discussed because the interviewer and author are doing the same to them.

In each case, somebody loses. Somebody losing is usually bad for your book. Do not be the accomplice to any of them.

What are your responsibilities, then, as the author? Let’s look at them within the framework of a successful interview.

1. Do your homework. A good interview quickly speeds past the built-in artificiality of the situation and becomes about conversation. For this to happen, you want as few surprises as possible. So between when the interview is scheduled and when it happens, get everything cleared up and leave nothing to chance. How long will the interview run? Will it be live or taped? Research old interviews by that journalist. Are they friendly and chatty or aggressive and demanding? The more ready you are, the more the interview will be about your book instead of what you didn’t know about the person and media outlet interviewing you.

On the day off your interview, clear as much time as you’ll feel comfortable with on either end. You NEVER want to arrive late to an interview (it’s says you don’t respect the interviewer’s time) and you don’t want to cut a great conversation short because you have to pick your kids up at school.

2. Answer short. Stay on point. All interviews have their natural limitations: Article length, airtime, life’s other obligations. Which means that no matter how engaging the conversation is, your primary job as the author to answer the questions quickly and accurately. We’ve discussed it before in our series, but rambling answers that don’t hang together make you the author look like a cluttered, disorganized thinker. And sadly, it makes potential readers think the same of your book—and they haven’t even picked it up yet.

If you have trouble answering questions succinctly, practice. Have a friend or family member ask you mock questions and time your answers. Aim for twenty to thirty seconds, one minute at the absolute most. You can expound a bit more if the interview is for a print or online publication or is recorded instead of live. In those situations, the interviewer can edit your answers to a reasonable length. For a live interview, if you don’t answer succinctly, the interviewer will simply cut you off. Then you simultaneously look like a motormouth and haven’t said much of anything.

“Short” does not mean incomplete or shifty. Answer the question you are asked. But answering in a manner that is both true to your book and compelling to the audience is an art that requires practice. Make sure, before you are asked to be interviewed, you know what and can repeat what a great interview sounds like.

(Sidenote: Listening to the NPR show Fresh Air is great practice. The actual conversation on Fresh Air can be several hours, but is edited down to sixty minutes for air. Host Terry Gross and her producers are so skilled at crafting great interviews that authors almost always answer in compelling little chunks of speech without sounding rehearsed or parroty. Practice answering like this.)

3. Maintain your dignity. Sadly, you may have an interviewer who is rude, pushy, or simply out to make you look stupid for entertainment’s sake. The worst thing you can do in this situation is play their game. Getting flustered or outraged, saying, “How dare you?”  is exactly what an offensive question is after. And by giving in to the obnoxious person asking it, you’re no longer an author with a book worth reading. You are a chump who has taken the bait.

No author ever lost points by maintaining their composure and dignity. “I’m afraid I don’t agree” works in almost every uncomfortable situation “I’ve already answered that question. Let’s move on,” does, too. But don’t be a stiff. If the interviewer is playing around, teasing, or clearly bears no hostility, it’s best to play along and demonstrate you have a sense of humor.

All of this can be determined by doing your homework (see point #1).

4. No interview too small. Unless your first four interviews are The Today Show, Charlie Rose, The Colbert Report and The New York Times, you cannot afford to turn an interview down because it seems too “small time” for you and your book. Book promotion is all about momentum and persistence, and the bathtub will not fill up if you don’t keep the water running. So if Nameless Podcast.com wants to interview you and it’s thirty minutes of your time on the phone on Tuesday morning, say yes. An author eager to talk about their book will almost always get more readers than an author snotty about with whom they will talk about their book.

One exception: If a media outlet seems to be asking for something outrageous (“Dear author, “Can you guest write a 3,000 word essay for my blog that fifteen people read?”), say no, politely, and renegotiate (“I’d be happy to be interviewed, guest post a 500 word essay, etc.”)

5. Always follow-up. After your interview is complete, email the interview and whomever approached you initially and thank them for the opportunity to speak with them. A handwritten note is even better, if you’ve got the time and nice stationary. It’s also fine to ask when your interview will run and important to make mention of it on your website and social media platforms. Whoever interviewed you will appreciate the traffic you send their way. Also, interviewers are journalists on deadline with space to fill. If they know you a) are a good interview and b) are a pleasant person to work with, they will very likely call on you again when a story of theirs merits it.

It is tempting but usually not ok to ask to see a transcript of the interview before it runs. Many media outlets have a policy against such things (the argument is that it leads to pre-publication censorship, which I do not dispute), and the ones that don’t will almost always reserve the right to not make changes you request. The social contract you enter into when being interviewed states that what you say is “on the record” unless you say otherwise.

Remember, the interviewer has a job to do, too. If you allow them to participate with you in a compelling conversation, it creates a compelling experience for the audience. This, in turn, heightens interest in the minds of your potential readers.

An old advertising adage says: “Nothing reveals a bad product faster than a good ad” I’d add “Nothing kills a good book faster than a boring conversation about it.” In a good conversation, like a good read, everybody wins.

Exercise: Listen to NPR’s Fresh Air www.npr.org/programs/fresh-air and practice how you would answer Terry Gross’s questions about your book.

BookTour.com  launched a ten-part series on Book Promotion called “Everything you Wanted to Know about Book Promotion but were Afraid to Ask” written by CEO Kevin Smokler. Kevin has been advising authors and publishers on marketing and promotion for nearly a decade and has written and lectured on the topic throughout North America.

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Getting ready for your book or product promotion

Posted on 13 Sep 2011 | Author Stefanie | Comments 1 comment | Tags

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Here is the third great installment I found on book tours, from a company that is closing their doors soon, so I thought I would pass it on to you guys! 

Sometimes there are so many pieces involved in promotions and you want to have every detail perfect that you end up not ever getting your campaign going.  It’s really important to know the pieces involved, but to also remember that what’s more important than being ‘perfect’ is to JUST DO IT!  In this article Kevin describes some of the things you can think about before your book promotion.  Enjoy.

All the best,
Stefanie

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Book Promotion: Getting Your House in Order

So far in our series, we’ve discussed how best to describe your book in an airtight sentence and who your first group of readers will be. This week, we’re going to pull back a bit.

Imagine that you’re in the weeks and months right before your book is published. What’s the best way to get ready for the big day? How much time will it take and what needs doing? All of these questions are part of the answer to the one that keeps authors awake at night when they have a new book on the horizon.

How ready would you like to feel?

When entertaining guests, we clean the house and stock the icebox. Before a trip, we pack a suitcase and notify the neighbors. We do this because the best antidote for fear of the unexpected is readiness. Just as you won’t be a good host if you don’t plan for your guest’s arrival, you’ll be a lousy spokesperson for your book if you don’t get ready before its due date. Put more simply…

In order to best promote your book, make sure your own house is in order.

Anyone who has thrown a party knows that readiness does not mean scurrying about when the doorbell rings. Preparing to promote one’s book requires time and effort in advance of the publication day. The normal amount of prep time needed for book promotion is 3-6 months. For what? You might cry with surprise. I’m about to tell you. And before you think I’m being excessive, think of how long it took you to write your book. Do you want to skimp on your efforts now, right before it’s time for your book to find its readers?

How do you get ready? I break it down into three parts: 1) your calendar 2) your team 3) your online presence

Your Calendar: Clear it.

A diligent and thoughtful promotion effort takes three to six months of preparation and at least that much once the book is published. So to give your book both a fighting chance, we’re talking about a year. Sometimes it’s more. A lot less and your book will suffer.

We both know life won’t stop because you’ve got a book coming. So while it’d be unreasonable for me to say “clear a year on your calendar,” it’s also smart not to actively court major life changes during this crucial time.

That may sound like an obvious warning, but after a decade in publishing, I’m still amazed by how often authors decide that the weeks and months leading up to their book’s publication are exactly the right time to get married, have a baby, buy a house, change jobs, schedule major surgery, join the circus, etc.

Now is not the time for any of those things. Promoting your book, if done properly, will be at least a part-time job—more, if all goes well. And you want to be available for more interviews, more events, more everything should your book start to find its readers.

Promoting your book will be plenty hard. Don’t let your schedule stand in the way of your success.

Your Team: Talk to it.

We may write alone, but most do not live that way. Even though book promotion requires substantial time and energy, our families, friends, and coworkers will not vanish and let us devote ourselves fully to it.

But they can help, and will, if you ask. Three to six months before pub date is the time to start communicating with the key players in your life. Let your job know that you might need to take some days off or start socking away vacation time. Enlist your spouse and family to help out and reward them afterward with the vacation you will have to postpone now. (I once worked with an author who had scheduled a three-week no-Internet-access vacation for the week after her publication day. Guess how well her book sold?) As we discussed last week, your friends are your best allies. Now is the time to start prepping them for what lies ahead. And what lies ahead for you may be travel, late night events, extra hours at your laptop, and radio interviews at 5 AM.

And that’s if you’re promoting well.

Most importantly, if you are working with a publisher and/or a publicist, three to six months is the time to open lines of communication. A short, thoughtful email (four to six lines) to your editor saying you’d like to be introduced to your publicist is perfectly appropriate. If you won’t have a publicist, that same email is meant to clarify with your publisher who has what marketing responsibilities. Are they handling pitching reviewers and mailing galleys, or are you? Who is scheduling events? The answers vary but they will never be “sit still, we’ll take care of it.” You will be working. Now is the time to get clear on what and how much.

A word here about manners. Your publisher and/or publicist is a skilled professional with a demanding job. Yours is likely not the only book they are handling. Now is the time to state that you trust their judgment and are ready to be a hard working member of the team. “Put me to work!” your communication should convey. This is not the time for demands, blurted expectations, or “I won’t dos.” Rudeness or rigidity will sour your publisher on you and your book. And do you really want to do that to your book before it’s even been published?

Your Online Presence: Build it.

You will need an author website. A website takes time and money. Three to six months before pub date is a good time to start.

An ideal author’s website will be professionally designed (that means by someone who designs websites for a living, not your niece between homework and band practice) and will cost between $500-$1000. The domain name should be yourname.com or yournamewriter.com if you have a common name. Remember, the Internet is a big, unruly place. You want it to be as easy as possible for you and your book to be found.

A quality author website will contain pages for your biography, your book, news/events/happenings related to your promotional efforts, and a contact page with your email and that of your publicist. That’s all you need. With writers’ websites, less is often more. Music, animation, or a lot of fancy graphics are a distracting waste and come off as desperate. Your website should focus on conveying the most useful information to a prospective reader as quickly as possible

To find a good website designer, visit the websites of authors you respect who have new books coming out. A clear, simple, dignified website was designed by someone good. Their email will be at the bottom of the page. Contact two or three designers and see how you get along. A good designer will answer your questions promptly and with patience and clarity. A lousy designer will be short, thoughtless, tardy, or will not listen. Don’t give them your money, no matter how pretty talented they seem.

Should you set up a blog? A Facebook page? A Twitter account?

Can you maintain it? A blog is a continuously updated set of short writings. A Twitter account is a continuous stream of 140 characters updated several times a day. Do these sound like tasks you’d be willing to maintain for the duration of the promotion process? Because a poorly maintained blog/Twitter/Facebook page is worse than none at all.

We’ll be discussing which technologies to use on the marketing trail in a future segment. For now, three to six months is the time to start learning about these basic social media tools. Ask a friend or another author who uses them well to walk you through. Or just do a Google search on “How do I use Twitter to promote my book?” These are called “social media” for a reason.  How to use them is not a state secret.

Exercise: It’s three to six months before your book is going to be published. Begin clearing your calendar, assembling your team, and researching your website and social media tools. Then tell us in the comment section how it’s going.

BookTour.com launched a ten-part series on Book Promotion called “Everything you Wanted to Know about Book Promotion but were Afraid to Ask” written by CEO Kevin Smokler. Kevin has been advising authors and publishers on marketing and promotion for nearly a decade and has written and lectured on the topic throughout North America.

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