How to Easily and Inexpensively
YOUR NICHE BOOK BEFORE YOU WRITE IT"
That's the brand new
30-minute audio CD (with the script in print) that I will have ready
in 15 days. Hard to think of any how-to, step-by-step publishing
knowledge more valuable than that! I'll send you a quick email with the
details in two weeks....
AM I WRITING THIS NEWSLETTER?
Because I'm an old
salt at book publishing, article writing and selling, professional
speaking, and product development who wants and has to move into a new
communication world. The trick is keeping (and improving) earlier
skills and processes to make the redirection into the digital,
Internet-based, cross-media land of information dissemination even better. And I'd like to bring you with me,
so we all get there faster, earn more, and have more fun. I
will still focus on niche publishing and speaking. And
empire-building? You bet! Thanks for coming along...
HAPPENED TO OUR TEST PRODUCTS AT SCRIBD.COM?
In the last
newsletter I promised to post two or three items in Scribd.com to see if
anybody looked at them--or, heavens, bought them. Then I'd let you know
what came from the postings.
you've forgotten what Scribd is, here is their
explanation: "Scribd is the largest social
publishing company in the world--the website where more than 60 million
people each month discover and share original writings and documents. With Scribd's iPaper document
reader, anyone can easily upload and immediately share their original works
on Scribd.com or any other website. iPaper
transforms 'print' files like PDF, Word or PowerPoint into a web
document--with all the fonts, layout and artwork that makes your document
On 6/4 I sent a 27-page
report that you newsletter subscribers already know, since it's one of the
three free reports you received when you signed up: "101 Niche Marketing Ideas Report."
It was sent in booklet format, and since I could direct it to different
kinds of readers, I sent it to Business/Law (where it's been read by 135
people) and to How-to Guides and Manuals (where 75 have read it). No
comments so far.
It was very easy to
do, and downloaded precisely as it was sent, in very clear fashion. (Just
go see it at www.scribd.com
and post my name to see all four items.) My reaction to the free-read
response rate? Since I plug the newsletter in it, it may account for a
recent surge in subscribers (but so might two other items released in other
formats about the same time). Otherwise, the report sits there, is useful,
draws about 8 lookers (maybe readers) a day, costs nothing, and may be
helpful to others--so what's not to like, other than it's not drawing 88 or
888 viewers a day!
But the paid items
were much harder to get posted (they finally went up on 6/22) because Scribd's posting process got caught in some endless
address confirmation loop. I finally got their help staff to solve the
issue. Then it was easy enough to do.
Alas, I only have
nine days of contact to share. The 18-page "Selling Your Booklet, a Layout Format,"
selling for $3, has drawn 24 viewers. The larger, 23-page booklet, "How to Plan a Great Second Life,"
a dandy compilation/summary of my full print book by that title, also (not)
selling for $3, has had 11 viewers. But no buyers.
So it's a bust on the
wallet, but it's only nine days--and it took only a few minutes to post,
maybe 90 minutes each to put into final .pdf
format, and a minute every few days to check to see if I have a latent best
seller that has suddenly found its buyerhood
among that promised six million! (Incidentally, the average sales item
posted has 43 pages (mine has 23); 13,640 words (mine, 7,236); 5.99 letters
per word (mine, 5.6), and 317 words a page (mine, 317).
Why don't I check on
this again in six months, in the January, 2010 newsletter?
If you have any
comments or more questions, remember to use the blog
where I respond to your responses.
AND YOUR FUTURE IN DIGITAL PUBLISHING
If you're a
"small publisher" like me, or will become one, we're in the same
pickle. We produce the kind of product that we grew up with--ink-on-paper
bound books. But we can't not see that traditional
structure around us tumbling down: larger publishers closing their
doors, newspapers and magazines disappearing, shipping slowing down and
costing more, libraries and schools buying less, fewer reviews in fewer
publications, distributors squeezing harder and selling less, and so on...
It's not all bad. It
is easier, faster, and over-all less costly to print books now, mostly
because of computers and that we can produce affordably smaller runs. And
if our books are niche-sold, we can control our near-term destiny by
pre-testing to see if our book will sell before we even write and publish.
But if our books are general (mostly bookstore sold, with some library
sales) or are for children, our fate is less controllable. And then there
are all those digital products threatening to turn it all upside down!
Is digital publishing
the salvation? I was eager to read the 148-page first-rate report by Steve Paxhia and Bill Tripp called "Digital Platforms
and Technologies for Publishers: Implementation Beyond 'eBook'"
sponsored by Follett Digital Resources (serving the educational field).
I'm going to share
the key points the report made that directly affect us right now. That will
make this newsletter longer than I'm told you will read, but I'll take my
chances. The last paragraphs are the report's main conclusions, if you
Some quick notes
first. Consider each section self-contained and to be reflected upon by
itself. And know that the writing style jumps around a lot, since I pluck
the key words from different authors giving different lessons. Still, they
have a lot to say...
The authors and I had
very different concerns. They talked about digital books and technology,
workflow implications, editorial and business models, channel
relationships, partners, and the role of search engines They were sharing
best practices and lessons learned from the megahouses
(like McGraw-Hill and Random House) and mostly talking about content
development processes and the larger firms using it (or hiring other firms
to implement it). Important stuff but fat chance that much of it will
intentionally find its way to my two-man publishing stand!
My questions were: (1) since my books have a digital core
but are mostly sold on bound paper, how can I use basic manuscript
information digitally (as is or restructured) so I can sell (and sell
again) its unique concepts (and artwork) more widely and for greater
profit? (2) where
are digital products (now spin-offs) going in the near future, how
can I get aboard, and when will it be profitable? (3) what new digital
skills must I learn?, and (4) what new mindset is required to jump from print to digital?
In reading what the industry leaders are sharing with each other, I feel
like a guerilla fighter reading future battle plans while I'm sneaking a
peek behind the lines. We are using different weapons. They have digital
cannons; I have a 22. What can I learn from them?
And what can I share
with you in summary form that I'd like to know if someone else had a chance
to read those battle plans? Here it is.
publishing is suddenly coming of age after a very disappointing start.
Digital sales percentages were about 10% of the total book sales in 2008.
the writers saw its future as moderately to alarmingly positive. It won't
replace ink-on-paper publishing, but it's where most of the substantive
increases in the industry will take place. You can't ignore it either. Your
future readers are Internet babies, digitally-trained.
digital market will accelerate about as quickly as the reading platforms
(the dedicated devices like Kindle and the Sony Reader and the mobile
devices like the iPhone, iPod,
and the Blackberry) are accepted and improved.
number of titles in digital form will also substantially increase once the
Google settlement has finally been approved by the courts.
parallel advance has particularly improved the small publisher's
flexibility in reaching tight niche markets quickly and inexpensively in
print. The two changes that have revolutionized publishing in general are print-on-demand and short-run printing.
Taylor from Lightning Source provided a good set of definitions. "POD
means that a book is sold before it is manufactured and that each copy is
manufactured especially for a specific customer. Short-term printing involves
using new, more efficient processes and printing technology to economically
produce a smaller number of copies than would have been possible with
traditional long-run printing processes."
publishers need to fully understand POD. Since POD copies cost more per
unit than offset printing, it only makes sense to consider going there when
you want to print less than 1,000 or so copies. (The key advantages of POD?
Less money spent for smaller runs, less shipping, and reduced inventory
obsolescence.) At Lightning Source, their Espresso machine can print 100
pages a minute at the cost of a penny per page. Taylor sees the Espresso as serving
bookstores and libraries worldwide, with distribution centers in remote
countries. A customer will go the counter, buy a book, and walk away with
it, just printed and bound in a four-color cover, a few minutes later.
will PODs particularly help us? Rather than bulk
printing again, the one-time copies will keep a book alive longer at the
end of its normal lifecycle. In fact, now many more books are simply
starting out as PODs, particularly to very
limited audiences. It also lets us escape the warehousing and physical
distribution business--and invest that money elsewhere. It will also let
customers select and print out key selections from their eBooks. What I like best, its digital asset management
capacity will give us full digital capacity without having to create the
infrastructure. For example, it will make our printed books, eBooks, excerpts, even our widgets, instantly usable on
lower costs of digital products (and their downloadable immediacy without
shipping) will increase their buyability (and
still make profits and reasonable royalties possible).
biggest benefit of digital publishing is its ability to keep its
viewers/readers informed at the very moment that change occurs. Not only,
for example, can the medical field learn of life-changing procedure or
research as it is reported in real time, they will be able to see both the
history and the projected future of that subject in text or
three-dimensional, active video, all at one sitting.
extension, digital components to a printed base can keep the
"locked" text alive by directing the reader to credible and
appropriate websites and news sources.
the flip: the book first appears digitally, is expanded as needed by add-ons
in multiple media, is kept current by links--and, when the reader wants, is
"frozen" by that reader at a chosen moment, with that configuration
reproduced and downloaded or mailed by print-on-demand.
biggest challenge is "tapping into the many competent and
sophisticated channel partners to help us distribute new and mature
products to consumers and institutions worldwide."
term "cross-media strategies" was used repeatedly throughout the
report. No longer are the publishers bound to the words and static
illustrations or charts initially captured on paper. Digital formats
combine the immediacy of word definition linkage, color, sound,
conversation between the reader and writer, cross-text references (with the
other media also involved), and reader response (like opinion surveys, with
media usually refers to where print is linked to digital to reach the
widest possible audience of readers. Whether the content uses XML and a
content repository or is pieced together on the fly, print delivery will be
composed on the press as we know it, print-on-demand, or self-printed while
digital delivery can occur via email, RSS feeds, podcasts,
DVDs, and so on. The future sees much of the same base content being
provided by more appropriate means. Rosenblatt's example of a higher
education product has the customized narrative content delivered as a
printed book, problem-solving help and sophisticated solutions coming
through a computer, and iPhones used to ask for
help or to take sample tests.
might we publish our work once we have digital in place? As interactive
hardcover, trade paperback, or mass market paperbacks; audio; electronic;
digital; eBooks, websites; video; real-time
updates, video interviews with authors, in large-print format, ...
portability, the report suggests that each of the various reading devices
seem to work best with different formats: long-form reading and novels are
best on Kindle, mobile devices work best for short selections of books or
short-form content, and computers work best for educational content (so
students can carry all their textbooks on their laptop).
easy enough to convert a Microsoft manuscript into an attractive digital
book cheaply and quickly that costs very little to manufacture and
distribute. Prices will drop (and more items will be bought) when the distribution
and royalty models are changed. They say to look at licensing and
subscription models for even more cost savings.
copyright on all of these new platforms be a problem? Just remember the key
points: Buyers can't copy and distribute information found in a book, but
they do acquire a perpetual license to use the book and then sell it to
another reader. That doesn't change on the formats. Incidentally, used book
sales have almost no effect on other publishing sales except in higher
education, where they can cause an increase in the cost of new books.
theme appears repeatedly in the report that we small publishers must
embrace. Says Brook, "develop a product roadmap before specifying
individual product offerings." Or mindmap
your book idea before you dig into the research. (I'm
going to write an eBook about this in the coming
months. It's simply too exciting a concept not to fully explore.) Richard Ferrie says it again, "think
through and plan a new product for multi-channel development," and he
adds, "while keeping the traditional book people in the lead." I
read: if we are print publishers, don't throw that away in some digital
mania. Build out from what works--but plan all the formats before anything
new paradigm in publishing is taking place way above us. It is defined in
the report as WCM (web content management), DAM (digital asset management),
XML, and PFD (which in small publishing we now mostly use for print workflow,
print on demand, and digital distribution, including eBooks).
The technology is strategically important for the bigger houses; it allows
them to get control over their digital strategies and assets.
provides a way to develop multiple products from a single content base. How
does that reach the small publisher, and is it ever going to be applicable
to us? In the meantime, how does the unique content of the small house
products get protected and acceptably absorbed by larger firms for
business models discussed in the report: (1) outright sale of a digital
product. Buyers starting to expect to pay less for digital content
products; (2) hybrid print and digital (at Amazon now, digital costs less,
about $10--they see this flipping, with book (POD) offered at cost, $5-10,
(3) subscription. They see popular nonfiction books will offer enhanced
services, readers become subscribers to continual updates, newsletters,
communities..., (4) modules, see Cengage's iChapters, where breakeven is at 8-10 iChapters; chapters could be worth $1 sold individually
to hundreds each for content license; (5) licenses (institutional), courses
priced per student enrolled, would cover upgrades and updates--would let
user make liberal modifications to customize the contents; (6) individual
licenses, sold by the publisher to the person or through bookstores or e-tailers; (7) sponsored or ad sponsored--GoogleBookSearch offers 30% to the publisher of web ad
revenue, where ads appear in book, ad inserts, sponsored websites, or
update services linked to book, and (8) free. Here, it's promotional;
authors give books to show their expertise, thus sell consulting or
speaking (see Free: The Future of a
Radical Price by Chris Anderson.)
education, Ferrie sees "lower-cost,
higher-function handheld devices could become a game changer." That
would replace the bag of books, but it would only happen "where all
students, even the neediest, could be provided with such devises, perhaps
through state or federal funding." He sees it starting in the upper
grades and working down, with different devices at different levels.
attention to iChapters and eChapters,
which allows price conscious students to buy parts of eBooks.
Ken Brooks sees more digital products in higher education, more modularity,
and more learning products developed from scratch by a new generation of
web-centric authors to take full advantage of digital platforms. Some students
will still want print products (likely customized by their instructors),
and they will combine personal computers, dedicated readers, and mobile
devices. Audio and video will be part of the mix. Why limit our minds to
higher education here?
the same vein, if your publication is used by students or teachers,
investigate how your digital editions can be sold by chapters or sections,
and how the bookstore can be compensated for its role in aggregating
adoption information and transmitting to you and to the students. Consider
selling licenses directly to students. Or how the college store might
merchandize optional study materials, perhaps by producing customized
printed materials via print-on-demand.
you publish books that educators might consider for class adoption, replace
the old "free printed copy" with a "free digital download
copy" ASAP. And link the cover letter, at least, to ancillary components
at the support website. (We've done it for the past year and it's worked
great. Just gently remind the instructors of the copyright restrictions.)
don't want the confusion, risk, or hassle of publishing at all? Rather,
just speak or create other products instead? Then check lulu.com, where they will print
your book or photo creation plus provide some solid social networking. You
get total control (sort of, within Lulu's formats), and 80% of the revenue
(after book costs are paid). It has a solid on-line sales and distribution
structure. If you're not going to do your own book, for lots of your needs
Lulu is quicker, cheaper, less risky, and more efficient than standard
publishing. The biggest feather? Regular publishers are using Lulu to keep
a book alive after the regular print copies run out. (An alternative: POD
now! If your reader wants your words in daily 5-minute-or-less installments
(like learning a different language, business guides, or test prep), see
DailyLit.com or look at the 50 free Wikipedia
tours. Works best on mobile devices (or email or RSS feeds):
"quick-read" installments. A thousand titles already.
Lichtenberg (Lightspeed) captures the publishing
future best when he sees it heading towards a service model. The model we
have known is uni-directional. The customer could
only buy a specific product at a set price--printed words on a page. Then
came digital: multi-directional. Here, the author and publisher can expand
into a range of products, and plan it all in advance, including a direct
relationship with the customers at each step, particularly in what is
needed, how, and in which order. Each component of the product has its own
manufacturing and distribution model, plus its own channel (selling)
strategy--the order can be fulfilled by the publisher, distributor,
retailer, or e-tailer. The author's personal
voice can be added to the boo k through blogs, podcasts, and reader communities. Lichtenberg says
"that listening to readers, not just bookstores, is the first key to
transitioning to a service mentality. This allows publishers to concentrate
on their core competency of developing outstanding content rather than
designing beautiful books."
like the SharedBook's idea of letting readers dip
into a digital pot of content and artwork and add their own comments to
create their own book, be seen on the web, downloaded as .pdfs, or just printed out. I see a dozen applications
but you'll have to check their website to see if it would work for you, if
it will justify its cost, and if you could affordably sell the result in
Gilbane conclusion says that "publishers
must remember that their mission is not to create books, per se, but
instead to develop content products that satisfy the needs of their
customers. Print publishing will continue to be a vital business."
left out about half of the material concerning textbook publishers--not
many survivors there are "small publishers." If that's your
field, Follett wants to know you anyway. Ask for this report because much
of it addresses your needs and your future. The most compelling arguments
sit in the digital textbook area.
publishers now offer a "digital" version of their book that is
usually nothing more than the same text slightly modified, saved in .pdf, and downloaded. Gilbane
says they "need to find ways to make digital editions richer than
printed books." With fiction, for example, "perhaps audio with
authors reading selected passages, or video clips could be added."
a huge pain to sell bound books one at a time; it's more profitable (though
hardly painless) to work through distributors and retailers. But it's
infinitely easier to directly sell digital books individually. There is no
warehousing and since they can be immediately downloaded, there are no
costs of shipping and handling either. The problem is getting buyers to buy
digital and to be aware that the digital editions even exist.
content is now digital" says Ingram Digital's
Frank Daniels III. Check Ingram's Lightning Source for quick and reliable
transition to the digital world. I have used them for years to produce
print-on-demand large print spin-offs and to make our digital book copies
more widely available. Their conversion process from .pdf
is very easy to use, but their website software to get there is a groaner.
recently, the sales of eBooks have been extremely
disappointing, mostly because of the lack of a suitable platform, weak
publisher commitment, minimal consumer demand, and affection for
(ink-on-paper) books. But that has changed in 2008 over 2007, with a growth
are eBooks growing now? Readers like the new eBook platforms: Kindle, Sony Reader, and Apple's iPhone and iPod. Plus, the
increased availability of titles for each of these platforms.
is a need for new products that aren't simply repurposed print items. In
short, a digital-first publishing strategy, rather than looking at markets
through the primary lens of a book. Fortunately, digital production costs
are low. But strongly consider as you create your digital-first plan that
you seek (or even develop) websites that serve those who have interests and
topics similar to the kinds of products you want to publish so you can
identify and address them in your products. Your shift must come from not
looking at digital products as derivative items delivered on gadgets,
rather to publishing on the coming readers' favorite media
platforms--including the traditional book.
the Internet, people's reading habits worldwide have changed. They actually
read more, but less in traditional media, like books. The difference?
Digital platforms. They are reading topics that are more personal than
general, and spending less time to do it.
aren't responsible for preserving printed books as the dominant media
format, rather to serve readers by providing them with compelling content
that is entertaining and/or informative. We should offer content on as many
popular formats as are practical and profitable.
is much more efficient to plan the full suite of intended products at the
beginning of the authoring and publishing process instead of retrofitting
them after a book is published. Every platform has unique characteristics
that should be considered during the product planning process. The best
content products are those optimized for each media platform.
particular attention to what Lulu.com and Safari Online are doing, with
their authoring and publishing platforms that are in line with the current
Media 2.0 principles. See how that fits into what you are planning to do in
the next few years.
a simple question with a book, then let the reader digitally roam (with
your help) on an interest-piqued quest. That's one way to begin a suite of
"living book" products plus build a reader-led following from
which you can build your empire.
making the digital form (with full multimedia richness) your lead product,
with a print-on-demand book available on request. Few upfront costs, no
expensive print runs, and you can expand as interest dictates.
biggest challenge is to change the planning processes from being book
focused to being customer focused. By thinking about how customers can
benefit from content delivered in various media formats, publishers will be
well positioned to benefit from customer preferences and reading behaviors
to garner a greater share of the expanding reading marketplace."