This summer I am working on a second edition of my Complete Guide to Online High Schools. I hope to be finished by the middle of August, but it will have about twice as many schools, so this is a much bigger project than the first time around. The hope with this book has always been that I publish a new edition no further apart than two years. And, yes, that means I need to publish it this year!
In anticipation of that publishing, I have begun to ponder how to have greater sales with the second edition than I did with the first.
One of the things that I have learned about book sales, at least my book sales, is that I need to drive traffic toward the book. In this case, I have a website that is the largest website in its niche. I sell many books using that website. Truth be told, near as I can tell, it is my top "store."
While being the largest in that niche, I readily admit that this week it is not a large niche (although it is growing by leaps and bounds). I decided this week that others will soon decide to stake out part of my niche, so I need to pursue a preemptive strike. I purchased nine domain names that I will be populating with WordPress blog software. Why WordPress? Because I thought it was something that I was capable of learning in a reasonable enough fashion not to embarrass myself and my book.
You can see the first two here:
Not great and I will be adding more as I go, but I put up both those sites today. You will note that there are three ways that I can earn money from the site now. They are:
As I have said time and again, small publishers are successful who have multiple revenue streams (and, yes, that could be multiple books). One book does not get you there.
I am spending today writing an article, a free article, for a website. I have said, time and again, that I don't write for free. As it happens, I am at a point in my career where I rarely need to do that. All that being said, why would I write an article for a particular website for free and what are the parameters that I use to decide whether or not I should?
As you know, my writing area is online learning (and some other things). I am the author of traditionally published and self-published books on the topic (and, yes, the self-published have made me more money than the others).
There are a few, a very few, major websites related to distance learning and bunches of smaller ones. As it happens, one of the largest is eLearners.com. I have written an article in the past for them and they emailed me last week asking if I was interested in doing the same again. I should mention that first article was also for free. I, of course, jumped at the chance.
It's very simple math. Really. They have:
Google PageRank = 7
Alexa Rank = 6665
What this means is that their rankings are on an entirely different planet than my Best Online High Schools website. Google and Alexa both reward your site for incoming links from sites ranked higher than yours.
This is a no-brainer. It should boost my ranking and it will provide scads more traffic. As folks who have read this blog know, I am well aware that the more traffic I receive, the more books I sell. I track such things when I get major and minor press. It happens.
So, today, I am writing an article for free.
Now, if you look at other possibilities for writing, there are many websites where I would not produce a completely new article because there is no benefit. That being said, I have certainly modified articles for sites. Links are my friend. Links are your friend, too.
Wil Wheaton, he of Stand By Me and Star Trek: The Next Generation fame, is also a voice actor, writer, and self-published author. You can read an interview with him over at Lulu.com about his most recent self-publishing venture.
I have mentioned here in the past that I am not a big fan of Lulu because their pricing model doesn't work well for most of us. Clearly, Wheaton feels differently.
It has been a while since I have looked at their website. Worth it to take another look (but hard to imagine that it is a better option than Lightning Source).
Well, should you? Please don't tell me that you are not on Facebook. As of today, February 28, 2009, Facebook has an Alexa rank of 5. That's 5 on the entire Internet. Why would you not want to be on a site that is ranked so high when, let's face it, most of our own sites are nowhere near that high?
Small Press Blog, by example, has an Alexa ranking in the 700,000s. Best Online High Schools is in the 300,000s. The point is to piggy-back on their high page rank and increase your contact opportunities.
Do not start a Facebook group for your book. Do start a Facebook group for your topic. No one beyond your mother is going looking for your book on Facebook, but, if the topic is right, many will come looking for your topic.
Starting a Facebook Group is a very simple process. All that you need to do is:
Importantly, make sure that you add all of the contact information that you can. Here is a chance to make sure that they have your email address and a link to your book website, your blog, or your sales page. The whole point is the contact opportunity.
This afternoon I wrote an article over at Hubpages about starting a Facebook Group. You can find it here: Should you start a Facebook Group?
I came across this post over at BoingBoing. It makes my point on so many things.
"Silicon Alley Insider did the math and discovered that it costs the New York Times twice as much money to print their newspaper every year than it would be to just hand all of its subscribers free Kindles and distribute the paper digitally."
When you reach this point, you should consider a piece of advice for the New York Times and a piece of advice for you:
If you don't get this is the future, I would encourage you to just send me the money that you would have spent printing your books. I will put it to better use!
That being said, I have two books out this year. Certainly, both of them will be in print, but both will also be available in Kindle and .pdf formats. Why would you not? Yes, I have heard the rather silly argument that you make more on the print version.
Considering that there is no real cost associated with the digital version, this just doesn't make sense. A little time to format, but otherwise nothing.
In the same way that it’s always easier to parent other people’s children perfectly, it’s easier to criticize the publishing industry from the outside and see what needs to be done. Still, as an ‘outsider’ who’s been in various segments of the publishing industry for over 25 years, here’s my top five list of changes the publishing world needs to implement in order to survive the current economic downturn--if the industry is to emerge at the other end intact.
Give up on returns
It’s ironic that the policy of bookstore returns started during the last economic Depression, when Simon & Schuster decided it was a great way to allow bookstores to take chances on books because there was no downside. Today, however, the cost of allowing returns is strangling the entire publishing industry. Now’s the time to introduce economic incentives for booksellers who are willing to forego returns—or just eliminate the option unilaterally, across the industry. Like gravitating away from hardcovers to soft, eliminating returns will bring book prices way, way down—and change the economics of the entire business.
Put galleys online
Distributing hard copies of advance galleys four months before official publication date is a practice that should have died out with the advent of instant printing several years ago. Why should publishers do headstands to get advance galley copies of books (books that are already in final form, mind you) into the hands of opinion makers four months before the books are officially released? It’s time to put galleys online where they belong. Not only will this save mega bucks and mega time, it will eliminate the fake ‘four month window’ during which you have to sit on your books, as well as the plethora of galleys available for sale on Amazon. Done correctly, it might even generate advance buzz amongst readers.
Market the books, dammit!
When McDonalds introduces a new burger, they do a PR campaign. When the Hilton introduces new amenities, they do a PR campaign. It’s hard to even think of an industry where products for the general public are not marketed. But usually the publishing industry only markets books that seem to be taking off already. As an industry pundit once said, publishers would wait to see whether the infant survives before bothering to feed it…
And market the books online, too
The publishing industry hasn’t evolved most of its practices in decades, but the rest of the world has changed. Most particularly, where potential readers congregate and buy has changed. Newspapers are dying; magazines are going out of business; and it’s not just the independents, but all the brick and mortar bookstores too that are in trouble in this economy. For publishers to really thrive and compete, they need to be where the readers are. And that means Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and blogs. Hire some literate college kids and let them loose, but do something with social media and and Web 2.0 and do it fast! With bookstores dwindling and without an online fan base, it’s hard to see how even the biggest publishers will survive the decade.
Rethink the whole book model
It’s not only the publishing industry that needs to change. Books have to, and can, change in several fundamental ways. One hundred years ago, a book had a beginning, middle and end. Today, books can be sold in smaller increments profitably (think: cell phones). Books can be tailored to specific niches, or even specific individuals (think: Michelin Guide replaced by three page guide to restaurants near my business meeting in the North End; or 200-page tome on knitting replaced by a single-page summary reminding me just how to cast-off.) Also, consumers today, perhaps sadly, watch and listen more and read less. They crave interactivity. Smart publishers will find ways to deliver that. Supplement your books with audio, video and new media. Think out of the proverbial box.
There’ll always be writers and (I hope) there’ll always be readers. The smart writers and publishers will figure out some way to propel their stuff into the world. But if large publishers don’t start making some radical changes, the publishing landscape may have to continue without them. And that would be a shame.
Okay, so everyone has a website. It's either a writer website, a book website, or a companion website, but a website nonetheless. If you don't know yet that Googe Page Rank is important, you do now. Page Rank shows how much value Google believes a particular website has. The more value, the higher the ranking. So, for us publishers, it means more people come to look at our books. That's a good thing.
If you went to this site, ThomasNixon.com, you would see that it has no Page Rank. The sad thing is that it used to be ranked at 5 less than six months ago. Unfortunately, due to a clerical error on my part, it should have been forwarding somewhere and it was not. So, unfortunately, it gets to start over.
Here's my weird one, though. As loyal readers know, my other major website is Best Online High Schools. It has had a Page Rank of 4 for quite a while. Not awful, certainly, but I had been working to convert it to a PR5 without success. Oddly, at the beginning of the month, without explanation, it dropped to PR2. That is so not good.
After I had finished crying, I attempted to figure out the problem. In 2007, a large number of websites had their PRs dropped. I looked around the Internet and that was not the case this time.
Next, I looked at my statistics. Yes, the last couple of months, the site's numbers were lower, but that is a purely seasonal event with this website (as in people don't look for an online high school during the holidays).
I looked at its ranking information on this site and it was showing a drastic drop-off in a number of key statistics for no reason that I could tell.
What did I do? I resubmitted the SEO information to Google. As of today, it has jumped back to 4.
My guess? The last time Google "spidered" the site, it missed something. Re-submitting it, Google found what it had missed.
Either way, as you can well imagine, I am glad that it is back where it was. Have I lost traffic to my site? I don't know, but should I discover anything, I will let you all know.
I regularly get books for review here on the Small Press Blog. There are people who believe a review here is worth something. While I am happy to do reviews, I have been very specific about which sorts of books that I will review. I am interested in:
Marketing in general
Related topics (E-Bay, Amazon, etc.)
I have mentioned this list a few times here and elsewhere, but I continue to receive books outside my area of expertise. The majority of those are fiction.
Let me say it here: In most cases, I think self-publishing fiction is a monumentally bad idea. The number of people ultimately successful in that endeavor is tiny. Am I telling you not to do this?
No. We are all adults and we make our own decisions. However, and back to the topic at hand, don't be surprised if your self-published fiction doesn't get reviewed by people who don't review fiction.
Every week I receive at least a couple self-published fiction books. While I can at least relate to the folks who have done everything right (i.e. read the books of Poynter, Reiss, Kremer, Horowitz, etc.), it is so very clear the ones who have not. Take for example this book I received a few weeks ago:
Decide on your name. This book uses more than one name for the author on the cover. Bad idea.
Books do not use "by" either on the cover or on the spine.
No weird capitalization in either the title or the author's name.
Notice that I never even mentioned the inside of the book. Can I be honest with you? Fiction book reviewers are an incredibly picky bunch. They just are. While non-fiction reviewers (and that would be me) can look past some of those things, the fiction side of reviewdom will not.
Here's a guarantee: Someone will email me and ask why I was saying bad things about their self-published book. It likely is not you. I don't know what it is about fiction, but these mistakes occur time and again. The non-fiction folks tend to do a better job in this regard. That being said, we certainly have our own weirdness in regard to self-publishing (like choosing topics of limited interest!).