Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The Hard Truth About Self Publishing

createspace publishing
With your novel completed, it’s reasonable to presume the hard work is just getting started. Many of us hope to find an agent, then a publishing house that will send you a nice, big, fat advance on your magnum opus. To be honest, the traditional route is becoming harder and harder to follow these days, as publishing houses work on a much smaller margin and some aren’t interested in taking a gamble on an unknown author's works.

This leaves few options to the novice author, and though the satisfaction of completing a manuscript is wonderful, publishing and seeing it on bookstore shelves is even more rewarding.

To crack this market, Amazon has developed a platform where with a little know-how, independent authors can publish their own works, for free, on a print on demand model. Sure, the books are in print and people can buy them, but what is the real upside for the author?

In order to sell your self-published books, you need to market yourself. One way to go about this is to buy pay-per-click advertising on Amazon (along with an infinite amount of other authors) so that someone searching for something close to your manuscript will see your advertisement and then buy it.

createspace publishing
Also, you can invest your effort in attending book fairs. That comes with a cost, but it does put you face-to-face with your potential readers. This is a good option for self-published authors. 

Another option is to send out Advance Reader Copies with a professionally designed media kit to independent bookstores with the focus on getting them to request to put your book in stock. The issue is that you are now buying books from Amazon to send on consignment. Some bookstores will request that you pay the postage to have them send it back to you.

createspaceTo be successful, you may consider an advertising budget for Facebook and Amazon ads. The serious ad campaigns that do work are costly, but they do reach a targeted audience. 

The struggles for a self-published author are real. It takes a great deal of energy to gain momentum, but that's not all. Chances are that many bookstores aren’t going to want to place a Createspace book on their shelves. Why? Your Createspace book has an issue- it’s non-refundable and it’s print on demand. 

Bookstores are businesses with a slim profit margin. This means that shelf space is limited and they simply won't use space to put up your book in the hopes that it will sell. That represents a loss of real estate. A loss they can’t afford when larger book stores only stock big name publishing houses. 

We recently received this well-worded letter from a local bookstore where one of our clients wanted placement. The client used Createspace to publish their book. 

Thanks for your inquiry. We do offer a consignment program for authors who live within our immediate market, or whose books are set in or about the area. Based on list price, we take a % discount and pay out the remainder to the author on a quarterly basis for copies sold.
We have two requirements for accepting books on consignment, in addition to the local connection: First, all consignment books must be professionally printed, with title and author on the spine. Second, we do not accept consignment books which indicate Amazon or Createspace as the printer or publisher.
If neither of these is an issue, and the payment terms work for your author, we will be glad to move forward with setting up a consignment agreement. 

Book Store Manager

createspace publishing
So, what can you do? Give up? Spend countless hours fretting about how hard it is to become a writer?

No. What you can do is look for alternatives, such as independent presses like Purple Finch Press or discover a match on the incredibly helpful online writer's resource, the Writer's Market. 
These types of print houses are unique in that your book, which you still fund and control, has a worthy and selective professional publishing contract. You own the books, you maintain marketing and sales rights just as with Createspace, but you get so much more. Your marketing and publishing costs are funneled into the publishing of your book just the same, but in this instance, toward a fully-realized marketing team with a legitimate publishing company with interest in your book succeeding. Your book is released into the world with a print impress that has credibility and marketing in place. 

This method of publishing is something relatively new. In order to complete with larger houses, the independent publishers maintain a lowered overhead with print costs being covered by the author with the stamp of a professional print press. You gain legitimacy, enough to get your book honestly considered to be placed on any bookshelf in the country.
createspace publishing
You gain invaluable assistance from professionals who know how to market your manuscript, who know how to take your pride and joy and get it sold.

Your investment in such a print house project may seem a constraint on your budget, but if the goal is to be an author with a publishing house backing your novel, then this is one way to go.  You have a work of art that was selectively chosen by the print house to represent their brand. You have published a novel on your own terms, and you have opened a world of possibility for sales.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

The Step-By-Step Art of Crafting a Business Plan

business planA business plan is a defined road map that outlines the goals of a company in written form. Because it is designed to be updated, it is considered a 'living' document. A solid plan outlines the future of a company and contains elements that guide company decisions. Quite simply, a business plan is a description of a company's future. Hence, you must have one no matter the size of your company.

Having a well-written plan is essential for several reasons, no matter the size of the business. Not only does it act as an internal road map for guiding decisions, it is a requirement for courting investors and lending agents. Therefore, not having one often means the difference between receiving funding or going out of business.

This article will help draft your business plan by looking at what a plan accomplishes, what the basic elements are and how to manage them. 

Goals of a Business Plan


business plan
A business plan has two distinct purposes. The first, as mentioned before, is to act as a road map to keep the company on course with a cohesive vision. Therefore, the plan outlines everything from your company description to the details of your marketing plan. This ensures everyone is working toward the same goal.

The second purpose is to show investors and lenders the company's plan to grow and profit. After all, no one will invest a dime without seeing a clear road map to success. Therefore, a well-researched plan demonstrates to banks that your company has a strategy for succeeding, mitigating the risk of default. As a result, the plan acts a forecast for a return of capital.

Business Plan Elements

  • Executive Summary: Acts as a snapshot for your plan, with an abstract about your company and goals.
  • Company Description: Provides information on what the company does, how it's different from competitors and identifies the markets for your product or service.
  • Market Analysis: Contains detailed research reports concerning your industry, competition and overall market.
  • Organization & Management: Outlines your organizational and management structure.
  • Service / Product Line: This section details your product or service, including manufacturing information and benefits to the customer.
  • Marketing & Sales: Provides details about your marketing and sales strategy.
  • Funding Request: This section includes a formal request for funding.
  • Financial Projections: These projections help an investor or lender visualize their return on investment.
  • Appendix: Contains sensitive information such as bank account numbers, deeds, patents, resumes, phone numbers, tax and credit history. The appendix is not for all eyes, but only used on a need to know basis.


Managing a Plan


business planIt is important to keep a business plan together once completed. Each element relies on the others for supporting information, and having to review separate documents can be confusing. To keep them tidy, have them bound. Staples offers an inexpensive binding service.

Your plan is a living document. As such, review annually or quarterly depending on the business. Due to shifting market trends, competition and changing technology your plan should adjust as needed in a timely manner. Ensure all significant parties are in attendance during review and are providing feedback. Also, when changes are made make sure all concerned parties are notified.

A strong business plan is the foundation for a strong business. Look for future articles on drafting the separate elements of a business plan, or contact Spotlight Publicity for a free consultation.

What business plan tips can you share for start ups or companies that are re-branding? Please leave your comments below.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Market Your Manuscript

market manuscriptUntil your last sentence is edited and you've put down your manuscript, you shouldn't concern yourself with marketing a book. Daydreaming about release parties and appearing on Oprah are nice, but they do little to keep your project on track. However, as we're going to discuss how to market your manuscript, we'll start from the presumption that it's ready to go.

Market Your Manuscript

For those authors who sign with a small publishing house as well as those who decide to publish on their own, the process to market a manuscript is the same. There are steps to be taken, though not necessarily in the same order, that encourage your book project to reach an intended audience. Small publishing houses rarely extend a comprehensive marketing plan when signing authors. There may well be some material that gets your manuscript mentioned, such as a publishing catalogue or web page. Even with the big houses, you will still need to do some marketing on your own.

market manuscript
In order to get things moving, your first step will be to discuss with your publisher your own marketing plan. They may have some things lined up, and working with them ensures you won't be doubling efforts. This might include press releases to local newspapers, publishing magazines and the like. Make yourself a list, with calendar references, of their plans and use them to support your own efforts to market your manuscript.

How To Market Your Manuscript

Working methodically and with the same energy you used to write your book is key to finding success in the sea of literary sales. To market your manuscript, use the following methods to achieve your goal. The order is irrelevant, but including each in critical.

  • Elevator Pitch - You never know when you will cross paths with someone who wants to pick up your book, so develop a solid elevator pitch to assist. This is a well-written, memorized synopsis that you can comfortably relay to a listener in the span of an elevator ride. Include a hook that interests a listener as well as the critical details of your plot points. You're not telling them about the entire project, but just enough to spark their interest. Limit this to 30 seconds.
  • Social Media- This should be obvious to anyone with any sort of marketing inclination. Build an audience with social media accounts dedicated to your writing. However, this should be stressed, this social media campaign is not about you. It is about your book. To market your manuscript, build dedicated social media pages that only focus on this project. If you have follow-up manuscripts, use your existing ones to garner the interest of your existing followers.
  • Outside Your Comfort Zone- Here's where your creativity truly comes in to play. Consider calling bookstores, radio stations, newspaper and libraries to share your manuscript and look for reasons they would benefit from speaking with you. Here, marketing yourself is as important as how you market your manuscript. Look for low hanging apples, such as your local library. Let them know you would love to come in and speak with budding writers in a workshop environment, or perhaps your manuscript is significant for the area because it draws from local places and characters. If you spend a little time figuring out what makes you special, you will have an easier time booking appearances. It's even easier if you have someone representing you that knows how to pitch your project and give a third party perspective. If you state how wonderful your work is it doesn't carry as much weight as a hired professional. 
  • Contract Help - There's quite a lot of work that goes in to promoting your work, and if done properly, it can be overwhelming. In this case, determine a budget where you can contract some assistance to market you manuscript. Boutique agencies such as Spotlight Publicity can design a marketing package that fits your needs without adding on a lot of minor contract points that you don't need.  

Market A Manuscript For Success

market manuscriptThe amount of effort you put into publicizing your book equates to how successful your campaign will be. If the extent of your efforts to market your manuscript include a Facebook page where you post once a month and blindly sending out query letters to publishing houses, you won't get very far.  In fact, it is a wise option to treat this publicity campaign as a second job. Dedicate scheduled time to research bookstores, reading groups, radio programs and whatever else you come up with to share your project. Write carefully crafted query letters to agents. Be methodical and precise, but also show them how you are unique to your audience.

Your success is up to you. If your manuscript is well written and edited, you will find your audience. All it takes is the persistence to help it along. If you are looking for more help, contact Spotlight Publicity for your free consultation.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Why Micro Businesses Work

micro businessesThe state of the American economy is changing, led by the creation of small micro businesses. Born from both a desire for professional fulfillment and financial reasons, the expansion of these small businesses into the marketplace is growing more significant each year.

According to the SBA, 27.9 million businesses in the US are considered small businesses. Of these, nearly 22 million are considered micro businesses. A micro business is defined as a business with 5 or less employees including the owner. Because of their flexibility and low overhead, micro and small business are more likely to grow quickly and add a tremendous amount of jobs to the workforce as the economy progresses. Some reports site that up to 93% of businesses in the US are micro businesses, considering the growing underground economy.

More and more people of every age, particularly women and minorities are starting their own micro businesses because of the upward mobility and flexibility they provide. With control of your own business, you can do things on your terms according to your skills and passions.

Difference Between Hobbies & Micro Businesses

Hobby: I knit on Sundays. 
Micro Business: I knit hats, mittens and scarves and sell them on my Etsy store, my personal website, and in several local stores. I also offer knitting classes.

Hobby: I like to write poetry. 
Micro Business: I have written three novels, have expended $7500 in expenses and have $5000 in income. This would necessitate a Schedule C. These expenses are a write off. 

You can check to see if your business meets these standards here: SBA Standards 

Support Local Micro Businesses

Here are samples of several East coast micro businesses that have found success in doing what they love. 

ReikiMasters, located in E. Kingston NH has only three employees, but two locations. Two employees work out of the NH location while one works out of a remote office in Kansas. The Kansas office specializes in animal Reiki. The owner, Rebecca Dow, and her two employees are certified Reiki Masters. 

Rhodey SUP is Rhode Island's only fully mobile stand up paddle board rental, instruction, and guide service.  SUPs are big and difficult to transport.  Rhodey SUP eliminates that problem by bringing the boards wherever the clients want to paddle. Owner Darren Rome Leo has been a SUP guide for LL Bean for the past few years, and achieved an ACA level 2 instructor certification. 

Ampersand Bakery is a custom in-house bakery located in New Hampshire. Owners Natalie Kenney and Tim Bemis craft small batch custom cakes, cupcakes, and other yummy baked goods. They offer gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan options.  Both work full time elsewhere, but their micro business feeds their passion and provides unique and stunning baked goods as well as additional income.

micro businesses

Micro Businesses & Income 

Many micro businesses are a way for employed individuals to supplement their primary income with something they enjoy. The businesses showcased in this blog receive income from  $4,200 a year to $50,000 a year and though the income is meant to be supplemental, but can often become a primary source with success and life adjustments.

Tips to get started and to succeed:

Do something you love. Follow your passion. If that is teaching art classes or building websites—do it.

Keep books. Your income and expenses need to be reported with your tax return, so be sure to record every penny in and out of your micro-business.

Show up for work. A business, regardless of the size, is a business and you need to treat it like that. Don’t show up when you feel like it. Be consistent.

Be professional. Nothing spreads faster than bad word of mouth. If a client is unhappy, do your best to remedy it.

Always use a contract with clients. Whether it is $100 or $30,000, get it in writing. Have your business attorney look over the document to ensure both parties are covered in the agreement. Keep it simple. A one-two page agreement should cover everything that needs to be done.

Have a great social media presence. This includes your website, FB, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and any other platform you use. This is how people will find you.

Networking. Get out there and share what you do with people that otherwise would not know. Bring cards. Mingle. Many networking events have opportunities for sharing, so if for example you are a micro-bakery, bring samples!

Brand your business.  Make sure you have a great logo and tagline. Use this across all platforms: Letterhead, envelopes, business cards, brochures, website, etc. This sets you apart from the others and makes people remember your business.

micro businesses

If you need advice about micro businesses, website development, printed materials, marketing, social media, media placement, ribbon cutting planning, product launch or event planning, contact Spotlight Publicity.