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The Internet: A Self-Publisher’s Best Friend

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Take one writer, one book, one phone, one computer, and one Internet connection. Subtract the publishing house, agent, publicist, and big promotion/marketing budget. Hardly a surefire strategy for landing three major book clubs-Writer’s Digest Book Club, Quality Paperback Book Club, and Book-of-the-Month Club. Or reviews from (historically self-pub-averse) publications like Library Journal and Booklist. Or a “Full Publisher Contract”-typically reserved for the big boys-from Ingram. But it can happen. How?The Internet, of course.Exponential Efficiency

The beauty of the Internet is that it allows for maximum accomplishment in minimum time. Let’s examine my strategy for the book: The Well-Fed Writer: Financial Self-Sufficiency as a Freelance Writer in Six Months or Less-a step-by-step “how-to” for establishing a lucrative full- or part-time freelance corporate writing business. Corporate America has plenty of work and hourly rates are $50-100+.OK, who’d be interested in such a book? How about any “wanna-be” writers looking to make a handsome living with their pen? Plus seasoned freelancers looking to diversify beyond magazines into higher-paying work. And at-home moms and business seekers looking for a flexible, well-paying, home-based career.Go to Your Market

Now go to where those people hang out. Scour the Internet for Web sites, associations (check print version of Gale’s Directory), newsletters (Oxbridge Directory of newsletters on-line and others), newsgroups, and other writers of related books. Visit these sites, find the “Contact Us” link, and make your pitch by e-mail. Make up one standard pitch letter, vary it slightly for your different audiences, and “cut ‘n paste.”In the beginning, I was on the hunt for blurbs for my final edition. In less than a week, while still doing my corporate writing work, I lined up close to 25 commitments, not only for blurbs, but reviews, interviews, articles (which I’d write), and Internet “chats” later on. I was getting responses back in 15 minutes! Out went the galleys. And then I simply repeated the process, over and over, as my laser-targeted review copy list grew fat and fast.Try any URLs that sounds right for your topic. Actual examples for me: writers.com, writing.com, freelancewriting.com, www.writingfordollars.com, athomemoms.com, etc. Find related writers through Amazon.com (you’d be amazed at how many have e-mail links) and pitch them directly.Your Web Site

Gotta have one. Period. It’s the linchpin of any Internet marketing push. Mine (wellfedwriter.com) has a sample chapter, Table of Contents, About the Author, reviews, cover art, Q&A, and much more. Link to it from every e-mail you send (add your URL to your signature), and you connect your market to a wealth of information for nothing.Raising Eyebrows

And incidentally, including a single-spaced full-page listing of all my pre-release marketing contacts in my Ingram Express Marketing Strategy Questionnaire prompted the wholesaler to offer me-one guy, one book-a Full Publisher Contract, which will provide wider distribution for my title. If I can do it… you can do it too!
Book Clubs

With galleys in hand, approach the book clubs early. Check Literary Marketplace for a complete listing. And don’t be afraid to shoot high. I landed Writer’s Digest early enough that I could use it in all my Internet pitches-a phenomenal door-opener. I didn’t even consider the big boys-QPB, BOMC, and Doubleday-till much later, thinking my book wasn’t good enough for them.Then after landing the LJ and Booklist reviews, I got a little cockier, sent them on, and within a month, got the thumbs-up. You won’t get rich off the book clubs (especially the big ones), but the promotional windfall is incalculable.Limited Budgets

Shoestring budgets are the reality. So prioritize your spending. Where should you put your limited resources?Your Cover: You’ve heard it before: Don’t skimp on your cover. Remember: 50,000 books get printed each year. The people considering your title for purchase, distribution, review, media mention, Web site/newsletter/magazine feature, etc., see a ton of books every day. They look for reasons to cull the herd. The cover is the easiest way to do that.Spend the money to get yours professionally designed. I traded writing for design services with a professional graphic designer (NOT my cousin who’s artistic…) with whom I’ve worked for years on corporate writing projects. I’ll write copy for her Web site and marketing brochure. What can you offer someone?Four-Color Galleys: While it’s a fact that the industry views self-publishers as “less than,” it absolutely doesn’t have to be destiny. I assert that I landed reviews from LJ and Booklist (translation: beaucoup library sales) because I overcame their institutionalized reluctance to review self-published books by making my book look like anything but a self-published book.Hire a Consultant: As a naïve first-time, self-publishing author, one of the best things I did right out of the gate was to hire a professional publishing consultant with 40+ years in the industry. He suggested the Writer’s Digest Book Club (which alone has paid for his services many times over; they just ordered their second 1,000 copies). He reviewed my press releases. He answered time-sensitive questions via e-mail in mere hours. He’s been this over-my-shoulder presence throughout the whole process. And worth every penny.Hire Out Distribution: Yes, this is a plug. BookMasters, Inc., printed my books and is handling all fulfillment, from the aspiring writer calling the toll-free number to order one copy, to the Ingrams, B&Ts, and Amazons of the world, and everyone in between. They handle all shipping, invoicing, even collection. They do it well. Let them. You’ve got enough to mess with.Keep It Up

While I sent out probably 100 review copies in the first two weeks after getting a supply of finished books, a day doesn’t go by that I’m not sending out at least one or two more. Always be looking for more contacts, more markets, more key “pivot people” who are plugged into the communities you want to reach. A book sent Priority Mail will run you probably five bucks, tops. Show me a better advertising tool. There ain’t one.Remember: You can’t do it all. Pick and choose your battles. Good luck.

Peter Bowerman of Fanove Publishing is a PMA member and the self-published author of “The Well-Fed Writer: Financial Self-Sufficiency as a Freelance Writer in Six Months or Less.” Visit his Web site at www.wellfedwriter.com and reach him at bowerman@mindspring.com.

 

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