(This column first appeared in the January 2005 edition of the St. Louis Publisher's Association newsletter.)
Welcome to January, a month of renewal and fresh starts. This time of year has special meaning for me. It was on the first day of 1987 that I came up with the idea to publish a local music newspaper in St. Louis. That idea led to Spotlight, a monthly magazine I published for the next 10 years.
And it was around this time of the year in late 1999 that I decided to get serious about using the Internet to promote my self-published books and my identity as an author. Because of that decision (and the consistent effort that followed), I am now a full-time author and publisher.
I share these details with you to point out that the New Year's resolution mindset can have a real impact on a person's goals and future success. Note: If you come across this article February through December, know that you can put these resolution principles to good use at any time of the year.
With that in mind, here are some ideas that can help you make 2005 a great year for your book publishing efforts. I've divided my nine suggestions into three categories, so there's something here for everyone -- regardless of where you are on the publishing path.
If you aspire to publish a book this year ...
* Choose a great title. The name of your book is actually one of its greatest marketing tools. Which title do you think would sell better: Wedding Planning Basics or How to Have a Spectacular Wedding on a Shoestring Budget (Without Driving Your New In-Laws Crazy)? Take time to pick a fantastic title. Then write a book that delivers the promise of your title.
* Design the cover first. Yes, you should have a mock-up cover before you even finish writing a book. Why? It gives you something tangible to hold in your hands, which will motivate you to write. Simply having a vague mental picture of your completed book isn't as powerful.
* Promote your book as your write it. I know, this goes against tradition (but then I'm not a traditional guy). Start a web site or blog on the topic of your book. Post chapter excerpts soon after they're written and circulate them as articles. Create a buzz about your topic so that you already have an audience by the time the book rolls off the presses.
If you are about to publish or have just published your first book ...
* Give away free samples. Before people will line up to purchase your book in droves, lots of people in your target market need to know about it. Let readers download the first couple of chapters from your web site. Donate your book to charities that your potential customers support. Free samples lead to awareness, which can later lead to sales.
* Cross-promote with sneezers. A sneezer is an enthusiastic person who spreads an idea like a virus. If sneezers like your new book, they will recommend it to their networks of contacts. Make a list of people who run associations, newsletters and web sites that reach your ideal customers. Then suggest cross-promotion ideas that benefit both of you.
* Create a 12-month action plan. Even though most men supposedly don't like to ask for directions, people in general are better off when they start a journey with a roadmap. You need one for your book sales and promotion. Grab a calendar and write down one or two marketing ideas for each month of the coming year. Don't overburden yourself with too many plans. Keep it simple. Then follow your plan throughout the year.
If you're a publishing veteran with one or more books under your belt ...
* Develop spin-off products. If you've enjoyed even a small amount of success with a book, you owe it to your audience and to yourself to publish other titles on the same subject. This is one of the keys to making money long-term in publishing. If your mystery novel was a hit, bring the characters back for an ongoing series of books. If your outdoor gardening book was a big seller, follow it up with a book on houseplant care. The possibilities are endless.
* Tie your PR into current events. A book you wrote four years ago may be old news to you, but it may be just the thing a journalist needs to interview you. Always keep a watchful eye on current events and ask if one of your titles would make you an ideal expert to quote regarding a hot item in the news.
* Reinvent yourself. Like a shark, a book publisher needs to keep moving ... or it will die. What can you do this year to add a fresh spin to your marketing activities? How can you serve your customers better? In what new format could you produce your work (audio, e-book, CD-ROM)? What new ways could you use to reach people who really need your book?
Consider these ideas, combine them with your own thoughts, and go out there and make 2005 your best publishing year ever!
Bob Baker is the author of "Unleash the Artist Within," "Guerrilla Music Marketing Handbook" and "Branding Yourself Online." Get a FREE subscription to Bob's newsletter, "Quick Tips for Creative People," featuring inspiration and low-cost self-promotion ideas for artists, writers, performers and more. Visit PromoteYourCreativity.com for details.
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