Three Ways a Book Publishing Plan That Seems So Right . . . Can Go So Wrong

Mike Ellerkamp thought he had done everything right.

The life coach was fully prepared to publish his first book, The Simple Little Rule: The Golden Rule Rediscovered. Mike was ready to reintroduce the world to the power of God’s ancient wisdom to “love thy neighbor as thyself.” He partnered with a big self-publishing company and a big marketing company for big results.

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But when the book was released, what he got was . . . big crickets.

Unfortunately, Mike’s outcome isn’t unique. Many self-published writers invest a lot of time and money into a quality message — with little to show but disappointment and disillusionment.

After that experience, Mike took a hard look at his assumptions about the book publishing industry. He regrouped. Now, as he prepares to publish his second book, the author candidly shares his three biggest lessons learned in hopes of helping others.

#1 A bigger company doesn’t necessarily mean a better process.

“My first mistake was assuming that giving a lot of money to a big publishing company was the safest route,” Mike explained. “As a new author, you don’t know who to trust. I bought into the sales pitch that a big company would know how to get this done.”

While not all big companies are problematic, Mike experienced several delays. “These large publishers are dealing with thousands of authors and agents,” he said.

Another issue was the growing cost. “I was assigned an ‘account coordinator’ who would ensure a ‘better experience,’” he said. “He did help during a couple of points in the process. But I now realize that he was mostly a sales person first. The company wasn’t unethical. It’s just that the mission of a larger publisher is to sell publishing services—lots of publishing services!”

#2 Bigger activity doesn’t necessarily mean bigger results.

Mike said his second mistake was his marketing plan. “My account coordinator suggested a bigger marketing campaign through ‘bigger and better’ contacts. He cast the bait, and I took it. Hook, line and sinker!”

The 3-month campaign involved a lot of activity. Reports showed that thousands had received his press release, and thousands more were reached through social media. It all looked dazzling. That is, until the sales report rolled in.

“I was excited to land a radio program. But other than that, there were no real results,” said Mike. “I spent a lot of money to speed the process, but it didn’t really enhance the process at all.”

Publicist Sandy Lawrence, the founder of Perceptive PR, said successful book marketing is less about money and more about time. “Most people don’t buy the first time they see. And so, because most first-time authors aren’t known, they first have to become known. Then they can begin to sell books. Naturally this process takes time and perseverance.”

#3 The experts aren’t necessarily smarter than your gut.

It’s critical to find a publisher you can trust. But even when you do, continue to pay attention to your instincts.

“I had done a massive amount of research before I began this new journey,” said Mike. “But I dropped all of that wisdom and listened to the folks at the publishing house instead. In hindsight, I think my money could have been spent in better ways.”

With this experience under his belt, Mike is applying his lessons learned to his forthcoming second book in The Simple Little Rule series. “I’m returning to my own research and following my own avenues to radio shows, newspapers and magazines,” he said, undeterred in his commitment. “I’ll continue to develop the brand the way I originally would have.”

And this time, Mike has a different plan for his resources. “I’m keeping the funding much closer to home and among people I know and trust.” He smiled, adding, “I know better now.”

AuthorMike Ellerkamp is a life coach, inspirational speaker, and Houston chapter leader of the Nonfiction Authors Association. He is the author of The Simple Little Rule: The Golden Rule Rediscovered, in which he brings to life a profound tenet through five principles and shares his own spiritual, philosophical and historical journey along the way. Contact Mike for a book event or speaking engagement, or connect with him on his website, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

 

 

EllaElla Ritchie is the founder of Stellar Communications Houston, a business communications and book publishing team that brings clarity, quality, and integrity to nonfiction authors, business leaders, nonprofit organizations, and federal government agencies. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Facebook, or the website for more information.

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What you need to know to win an award for your book

Earlier this year, we announced some thrilling news to Houston banker Bill Herrington. His memoir about Hurricane Katrina, Contraflow, won the prestigious 2017 Independent Publisher bronze for Best Regional Nonfiction (South U.S.).

His book was one of more than 5,000 entries that were submitted to the annual Independent Publisher Book Awards (IPPYs), the oldest, most established book awards in operation. For 21 years, the IPPYs have been honoring the year’s best independently published titles from around the world.

 

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Publisher Ella Ritchie (right) with an IPPY representative at the 2017 IPPY awards ceremony, New York City, 2017

 

Not bad for a first-time author.

We wanted to know what made Contraflow stand out as a winner. So we asked the IPPY awards director, Jim Barnes, to share a few bits of insight with us.

But before we get to what he said . . .

Why does it matter?

The recognition of an award is a huge morale boost for you and your team. You’ll see renewed enthusiasm because your hard work is confirmed as credible. It didn’t hurt that we were whisked away to New York City to celebrate at the IPPY awards ceremony. And it’s rewarding for the other businesses and individuals who lent their names and support for your project.

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The 2017 IPPY awards ceremony, Copacabana Night Club, New York City

 

 

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The 2017 IPPY awards ceremony, Copacabana Night Club, New York City

 

An award also increases the visibility of your marketing campaign. You’ll have photo opportunities and will receive book seals that can added to your covers. You may be mentioned in a new wave of websites, press releases, and international articles to new audiences.

 

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The 2017 IPPY awards ceremony, Copacabana Night Club, New York City

 

You might be given opportunities to feature your book as a guest blogger. The Independent Publisher website featured Contraflow and one of our articles, 9 Tips to Nabbing Your Best Endorsement.”

Ultimately, all of this means that your message may reach new people and lead to increased book sales.

Let’s get back to Jim’s insight.

 

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The 2017 IPPY awards ceremony, Copacabana Night Club, New York City

 

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The 2017 IPPY awards ceremony, Copacabana Night Club, New York City

 

 

What is considered?

Jim said IPPY book submissions are judged by longtime publishing experts. They narrow their selections based on the following six criteria, and then a committee selects the winners.

  • First Impression
  • Design
  • Originality
  • Use of Language
  • Message Delivery
  • Relevance

These criteria underscore the importance of selecting a publishing team that will pay attention to every detail of your book – from writing and editing to design. “Books are judged by their covers,” Jim said, “so make sure your book looks really good. Your book title and cover should tell exactly what it’s about and what readers should expect.”

 

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IPPY Awards Director Jim Barnes presents the 2017 IPPY awards

 

That’s why the author of Contraflow collaborated extensively on the book cover. He wanted to nail the exact colors, images, and words that would convey his message.

(If you’re in the Houston area and want to know more about creating your best book cover, join us for our upcoming talk, “Don’t Blow Your Cover,” hosted by the Houston Chapter of the Nonfiction Authors Association.)

Contraflow-cover-mockup-IPPY

Jim continued, “Opening lines should grab the reader and suggest great things ahead. Careful editing and proofreading are vital, especially in the early pages.” That’s why we opened the book with a line that is sure to stir curiosity:

“Right away, it was obvious that something was wrong.”

What is not considered?

Jim said there is one aspect that doesn’t tip the scales.

“We judge the book and only the book,” he said. “So any marketing material accompanying an entered book is discarded. We don’t pay any attention to reviews or publicity.”

Two things that spell doom

There are two red flags for a book – and they both have to do with being too vague. Jim said, “One thing I hear that spells doom for a book is, ‘You have to read about halfway into my book to really get it.’”

For this reason, the most heavily edited section of Contraflow was the Preface. We knew it was critical to establish the purpose of the book in the first few pages. (You can peek inside the book on Amazon to read the Preface for yourself.)

Jim said another red flag is when an author says, “My book is really hard to classify and kind of falls between a few different categories.” It’s important to thoughtfully consider your genre before you even start writing – and again when it’s time to enter it for an award.

There are more than 80 subject categories in the IPPYs, from economics to science fiction to cookbooks and coffee table books. Since Contraflow is part autobiographical and part regional, we consulted with a marketing guru, David Ivester of Author Guide, on the best category. David advised that we enter the Regional category because it’s not as broad as the Autobiography category. (We’re glad we listened.)

So start with the end in mind. As you write your book, be clear on what you are writing and who you are writing it for. Partner with a professional team that will craft the best book for you. And then dream big!

Jim BarnesElla Ritchie (pictured left) is the founder of Stellar Communications Houston, a business communications and book publishing team that brings clarity, quality, and integrity to nonfiction authors, business leaders, nonprofit organizations, and federal government agencies.  Connect with her on LinkedIn or Facebook, or check out the website for more information.

Jim Barnes (pictured right) is the awards director of the Independent Publisher Book Awards, which bring increased recognition to the thousands of exemplary independent, university, and self-published titles published each year.