How to Get Published and Skip Book Marketing Getting a book published is a big job, but the biggest part of it isn’t the writing or even the publishing; it’s the book marketing. For many authors, book marketing is a … Continue reading →
It’s the 4th of July. While the nation is having a birthday, this blog is, also. It’s 5th. My first blog post went up on July 4th 2011 celebrating “writer independence” for self- or “indie-” published authors. I’m still celebrating that 5 years later! DIY publishing has gotten bigger and better!
Now, on to my blog post…
The Library of Alexandria
As someone in the business of books as well as psychotherapy — writing books and helping others write books which hopefully contain useful information for the world — I have always been intrigued by the story of the burning of the Library of Alexandria in ancient Egypt, an event that caused much information to be lost to us. I can’t help but wonder if some of that lost information might have put us ahead of where we are now. I guess that depends on what information was lost, and how we decided to use it.
Scrolls to Scrolls in Only 2500 Years
The Library of Alexandria was quite an undertaking. Its mission, starting back in about 300 B.C., was to gather up all the world’s knowledge in one place — mathematics, astronomy, physics, the sciences, the arts, and other subjects. The folks in charge of acquisitions were pretty serious about it, descending on any ships entering their port, snatching up all the books on board and rushing them to the library where scribes copied them onto papyrus, kept the originals for the library, and returned the copies to the ships. By such means, the library, according to some estimates, built up a collection of half a million scrolls cut up into self-contained topics (basically, the first books). They were indeed the Amazon Kindles of the ancient world.
The library was a magnificent place with rooms and rooms of scrolls stuck into beehive-like structures, lecture halls, gardens, meeting areas, and living quarters. Above the shelves of scrolls a sign read: The place of the cure of the soul. Many well-known scholars from other countries, such as Greece, came to live there to study, research, write, lecture, and translate and copy documents. Alexandria found itself the leading producers of papyrus and used up so much of it themselves that they had little left over to export, which forced others “book” producers in other countries to use different substances, such as leather and parchment — which proved more durable.
In 48 BC, during the Roman conquest of Egypt, the library was burned down by Julius Caesar. Apparently, it was an accident, and he later gave Cleopatra 200,000 scrolls (pilfered from someplace else) as a wedding present to try to make up for it..
In the 1980s, plans went ahead to build a new library in its place. An architectural design contest was held with more than 1400 entries. The competition was won by a Norwegian architectural office, Construction began in 1995 and, and on October 16, 2002 the new library was opened with shelf space for eight million books. Donations to the Bibliotheca Alexandrina have been donated from all over the world.
You didn’t know that becoming an author meant becoming a marketer, did you? That’s okay; neither did I. The fact is, you’ll need to become actively involved in the marketing of your book because if you don’t, no one but a few friends and family will buy it. Then again, even they might not.
Really, it can be fun. Here are 8 BRIGHT IDEAS you can get started on before publication:
1) First, gather the items you’ll need to market your book:
Author bios of varying lengths – 100 words, 200 words
Book synopsis, about 100 words, written to entice readers
A jpg of your cover
Your elevator speech – a 30-second verbal summary of your book for use at cocktail and other parties when someone asks you, “What’s your book about?”
If you don’t have a website, get one. If you do have one, redesign it to promote your books as well as yourself.
2) Create an Amazon Author Profile. This establishes you as a legitimate author. You can link your website, blog, videos, the promotional tools above and the ones you will develop in the future. Go to authorcentral.amazon.com and it will walk you through the steps.
3) Create a Facebook Page for your book. Invite all your friends to Like (or Love). Start posting the items above and anything you can think of to create buzz. People prefer it if you try to educate, enlighten, or amuse them rather than just sell.
4) Create a Goodreads Author Profile. Goodreads is where the avid readers hang out. Go to the Goodreads Author Program tutorial which will teach you how. Later you will be sponsoring book giveaways as promotions.
5) Go to Vistaprint.com and make some inexpensive postcards using the jpg of the cover of your book. You can use these in any number of ways: send out by snail mail, leave at coffee houses, tack up on bulletin boards, and many uses you will come up with as you go along. I always keep some in my bag – you never know who might want one.
6) Start identifying people and places to ask for book reviews. You will want to get as many as possible, and you’ll be able to use the reviews later for further marketing.
7) Identify local stores that are likely to sell your book – not just bookstores, but gift stores and specialty shops.
8) Schedule and plan your Book Release Party. Congratulations! You’re a published author.
Have you ever attended a book signing by a celebrity author at a major bookstore (think Barnes & Noble), the kind where you are required to purchase the book in advance before you can get so much as a glimpse of the man or woman you have come to see? Then you have to wait in a line, sometimes a long line, and when you finally get up to the signing table, the author may be flanked by sharp-eyed assistants who look like Secret Service agents. Their purpose is to keep the masses at arms length, ward off time-consuming chatting, and keep the line moving right along. One of the author’s assistants may ask you for your name, write it down on a piece of paper, and slip it in front of the author who, without even having to look up at you, can scribble your name inside the book (before signing their own) to make it more “personal.” This done, the book is slapped shut and pushed towards you. You snatch it up, and you’re out of there! Book signing over! It’s all kind of sterile.
A Different Story
But that’s just one kind of book signing. About a month ago I went to a very different kind, a neighborhood book event at a small independent bookstore, Chevalier’s Books at 126 N. Larchmont Blvd. in the Hancock Park section of Los Angeles (chevaliersbooks.com), the kind of book shop that has been disappearing over the past decade because of big troubles in the publishing industry. But this bookstore still seems to be going strong, and the whole signing event was friendly, warm, and cozy — with some great cheese.
The author at this particular book signing is a colleague, Douglas Green, LMFT, a licensed psychotherapist and fellow mental health professional. Lots of his friends and colleagues were there in support of his publication adventure. It was a party atmosphere. Doug’s book, which I’d already read, loved, and had written a blurb for, is called The Teachings of SHIRELLE: Life Lessons From a Divine Knucklehead.It’s a book about a man (Doug) and his dog (Shirelle) and their awesome connection. It’s one of those books that makes readers end up saying, “I laughed; I cried” — and so did I.
Leading up to, and on the night of, the big event at Chevalier’s Books, there was an appealing little chalk-drawn sign outside the front door, inviting people to the “party” — and when you stepped inside you were greeted by a stack of “Shirelle” books but with no pressure to buy before you were allowed to see the author! Doug was right there by the cheese, nervous and happy to see his friends. Finally, it was time for people to find seats and quiet down so Doug could begin.
The book: “The Teachings of Shirelle: Life Lessons from a Divine Knucklehead.” (Available on Amazon.com)
The audience had filled the room. Standing room only in the back. And people kept arriving. At one point Doug looked up at the big crowd and said, as though in awe at the sight, “Oh, this is what you all look like!”
And we, in the audience, got a hear Doug read some wonderful excerpts from “SHIRELLE” and think, “Oh, this is what Doug looks like doing his book signing.” Everyone was on the same page!
Some people pulled their chairs up close. Doug had everyone’s attention with his warmth, humor, and delight in his subject matter (“we laughed”); and we felt sadness when, at the end 0f the book, after many wonderful years, Shirelle died (“we cried”).
When it was over, people jumped up, rushed to the counter to buy the book, grab some more cheese and crackers, gab with friends, and form themselves into a very chatty line to have Doug the Author sign his book.
Above, Doug is signing, talking, and laughing with relief — he’d gotten through it! A book signing is really a lot of work, but once you’ve been to one like Doug’s, you’ll want one of your very own.
All you have to do is write a fantastic book!
Support your local authors and independent bookstores!
It’s VALENTINE’S DAY. Roses are nice. Chocolates are yummy. But what really makes my heart sing is the sight of an Adirondack chair. Wood only, never plastic. They come in all colors, although white is my favorite — memories of Cape Cod summers as a kid and rolling green lawns with white Adirondack chairs plopped down in the middle of them. While I don’t happen to own a rolling green lawn at the moment, if I did, it would most certainly feature a couple of Adirondack chairs facing out towards the world.
Two Rustic Adirondak Chairs in Vermont with Special Meaning
About a year before my sister Evie died of ovarian cancer, while she was in remission, we took a road trip to Vermont and stayed in a charming Bed and Breakfast run by friends of hers. Oftentimes during the day, we would sit out on the back porch in these two rustic Adirondack chairs (see below) and talk. And we would look out at the serenity of this view. That experience, that view, those talks, and those Adirondack chairs are precious to me still.
A Chair “Stars” on a Book Cover
When I returned to California and wrote my book called “The Therapist Writer,” I wanted to use the Vermont photo (above) where my sister and I had sat and had our last lengthy sister-to-sister talk together. Unfortunately, my book cover designer said my photo didn’t have enough “pixels” to look sharp on a book cover, so she went searching for a replacement. I now had very specific requirements: “I want a photo of a single Adirondack chair, under a tree, facing away towards a lovely scene. I want a writer to be able to picture themselves sitting in the Adirondack chair, contemplating nature and coming up with a great idea for a book.” This is what my graphic designer came up with after she had to buy a photo first and crop it way down in order to focus on the chair and tree:
The Therapist Writer by Sylvia Cary, LMFT
You Can’t Please Everybody
I loved my created-to-order book cover, but a therapist colleague of my said, “Oh, no, that’s all wrong. That’s bad ‘feng shui.’ You can’t have just one chair facing away. You have to have two chairs facing forward towards the readers, in communication with each other and with the reader!” I said no, this chair is for solo contemplation to allow the creative mind to pop out a book idea without distraction. I’m sure the writers among you will understand. Besides, I also find Adirondack chairs to be beautiful from the back.
Since my book turned out to be divided into four sections, I included a drawing in between each section — of guess what? an Adirondack chair:
Another Loss and a Pair of Lavender Adirondack Chairs
In January 2014, on the first anniversary of the death of my husband of 28 years, Lance Wolstrup, I felt the need to get out of LA and find a quiet place to go for the weekend. I discovered the charming Lavender Inn in Ojai. From my window, I looked down into the garden and saw a pair of Adirondack chairs in a soft lavender color.
Oh, how Lance would have loved to have his morning coffee sitting in one of those chairs and read his computer magazines. So I took my morning coffee and pastry, and a notebook and mechanical pencil (favorite writing tool) and sat in one of the lavender chairs and tried a daring new writing experiment — turning an historical screenplay written years ago into a novel and, more daring still, using the first person which forces you into feelings. Had Lance been there I’d have asked his opinion, as I always did. This time I was on my own. And I’m still working on that novel!
Over the last few years I’ve given a lot of workshops on the subject of writing and publishing, especially self-publishing, and I’ve also led writing groups. A while back I marketing a small writing group using a photo of colorful Adirondack chairs that made my heart swell, it was so beautiful. I got it from morguefile.com (write that down; free photos to use for book covers and marketing).
The photo caused one woman to email me to say that the picture alone was enough for her to sign up for the writing group. Another Adirondack chair lover for sure!
Happy Valentine’s Day!
* The History of the Adirondack Chair —The first Adirondack Chair was invented in 1903 by Thomas Lee in Westport, New York, a small town on Lake Champlain at the foot of the Adirondack Mountains. He wanted to be able to enjoy the view and not have to keep standing up. Using his family members as “test sitters,” he settled on a chair constructed from eleven pieces of wood cut from one single plank. It was a low-slung, spacious design with a high back and extra-wide armrests for that all-important summer beverage. The chair was originally called the “Westport Plank Chair.” Modern Adirondack chair manufacturers have at times created chairs that closely resemble these early creations, with modifications designed to increase comfort and durability. — from Wikipedia and other Internet sources
Sylvia Cary, LMFT, received an IRWIN AWARD from the Book Publicists of Southern California (BPSC) for “Best Niche Campaign” for her book, The Therapist Writer: Helping Mental Health Professionals Get Published (Timberlake Press). The award is named for the group’s founder, Irwin Zucker, and was introduced in 1995 as a way to formally and publicly recognize BPSC members who conduct the best book promotion campaigns. Each honoree shared with the audience the steps they took that led to the success of their book promotion campaign. (See video clip of Sylvia’s acceptance remarks below.) The event took place October 15th, 2015, at the Sportsmen’s Lodge in Studio City, California,http://www.sylviacary.com.
Nailing Your Niche*
Definition of niche: A French word meaning “a situation or activity suited to a person’s interests, ability, or nature.”
“Nail your niche and own it.” — Dan Poynter
In the old days of publishing, before digital, before the Internet, before Amazon, before Google, and before Kindle, big publishers didn’t want to touch books on small topics because most didn’t sell . Publishing them just didn’t pay off. Authors of books in niche areas were more likely to find homes with academic or university presses or with little publishers with no money for publicity or marketing. The readers of these books often had to find out about them through obscure newsletters, specialty bookstores, or by word-of-mouth from other folks interested in the same subjects.
I went that route myself “back in the day” when I was researching my book called Jolted Sober: Getting to the Moment of Clarity in the Recovery of Addiction. I became a long-distance member of the Alister Hardy Research Centre in the U.K. (Oxford) in order to receive their snail-mailed newsletter which contained information of interest to me for my book. They were studying spontaneous healings and religious experiences. My book contained numerous stories about sudden “Aha!” moments of clarityin the addiction recovery. What they were researching was right up my alley. Today, niche publications like this one are easy to find. In fact, I Googled the Centre to see if it still exists — and it does, but with a new name. Now it’s the Alister Hardy Religious Experience Research Centre.
What all this means for you is that, as an author, you no longer have to be afraid that your topic or specialty is too narrowly focused (i.e. “too nichy”) to write about. There are people out there looking for what you have to say. And while it’s unlikely that you’ll get a contract with a mainstream publisher where “No Niches Need Apply,” you may be accepted by a small press or you can self-publish on Amazon’s CreateSpace for free. You’ll find some buyers. Or they’ll find you. And they’ll be thrilled.
Tofu Takes Off
Here’s one of my favorite stories about writing a book for a niche market: For many years I’ve been running a free drop-in writers group at a bookstore in Woodland Hills, California. It is sponsored by the Independent Writers of Southern California (iwosc.org). One of our regular members, Lisa, told us how years earlier she’d accidentally stumbled upon an idea for a niche book while waiting in the check-out line at a local market. In her shopping cart she had a couple of packages of tofu. “How do you cook that stuff?” the woman behind her in line asked her. “Tofu is so tasteless.” Because Lisa really knows her tofu, she answered, “”It picks up the flavor of what you cook it in.” The woman was intrigued: “I didn’t know that.” Lisa shared a few recipes with her; the woman was delighted.
This little conversation triggered an “Aha!” moment in Lisa’s brain. She went home and put together a cookbook on tofu, which included family cooking stories and, on each page, she placed a thought-provoking quote. She had copies made and sold them to friends, family and neighbors. She got requests for more. She had additional copies printed, this time bound with a plastic spiral. She took some of these to a local health food store. They bought a few, sold them, and ordered more. Then they ordered even more. By the end of the year the health food store had sold a total of 250 of Lisa’s tofu cookbook.
The following year, Lisa branched out to other health food stores and even a few pharmacies and it was the same story. They bought books, sold out, and ordered more. Next, Lisa bought her own spiral machine and printed copies at home for less money, and started doing a little local advertising. This resulted in a total of 5,000 cookbook sales, a decent number– even if it had been a traditionally published book. But it was a lot of work! Had self-publishing on Amazon’s CreateSpace been available at the time Lisa started this project, who knows how many sales she’d have made as the result of people typing “cooking tofu” into their search engines!
While it may still be possible to put everything that’s known about cooking tofu inside a single book, the body of knowledge in other fields is too vast for that. If you are, say, a mental health professional and want to write a book on your specialty, you are probably going to have to “niche it down” so it’s not too broad and so it doesn’t repeat what’s already been done. In other words, you can’t just write “about alcoholism.” However, a book on alcoholism and the elderly is another story. By “niching it down,” you’ll be appealing to a few specific audiences, such as physicians, mental health professionals working with this population, and family members. Try to think of another audience or two.
Here are just some of the subjects therapists have picked as specialties. Any one of them could be developed into a book: Abuse, addiction, adoption, aging, anger management, ADHD, animal assisted therapy, anxiety, art therapy, Aspergers, autism, biofeedback, bipolar disorder, children/adolescents/teens, Christian counseling, cognitive behavioral, couples, creativity, depression, divorce and custody, eating disorders, employee assistance (EAP), gay / lesbian/transgender issues, HIV/AIDS, Jungian analysis, Gestalt, grief recovery, learning disabilities, life coaching, meditation, mental illness, men’s issues, metaphysics, military culture, neuroscience, online counseling, parenting, phobias, play therapy, postpartum, private practice marketing, psychoanalysis, relationships, religious counseling, retirement counseling, rockstar therapy (yes, really!), short-term therapy, sex therapy, singles, sleep disorders, special needs – and hundreds more!
Start thinking about how you might give your special topic that special twist to make it different and unique. That’s how you get literary agents interested in representing you, publishers interesting in publishing you, and readers interested in buying you, whether it’s a traditionally or self-published book. Readers don’t care. They just want the information. The trick is to jump on a niche when it is still fairly new so, as the late publishing guru Dan Poynter said, you “own” it.
Finding a Home for The Therapist Writer
When I first came up with the idea for The Therapist Writer, I wrote a standard book proposal and started sending it out to literary agents. I kept getting back the same response: “It’s too nichy.” The agents didn’t think there were enough mental health professionals who wanted to write who’d be interested in buying a book on the subject. In fact, well-known literary agent Michael Larsen from San Francisco even phoned me to tell me this, and added that if I’d expand the focus from therapists to include other professions, he might consider it. That was tempting, but it wasn’t the book I wanted to write or felt capable of writing. I know my “tribe,” my fellow mental health professionals, very well, but I don’t know about other professional “tribes,” so I didn’t think I’d sound like I knew what I was talking about. I said no.
The Therapist Writer by Sylvia Cary, LMFT
That’s when I realized I didn’t have a clue how big my market was. How many mental health professionals are there are in this country, anyhow, and how many of them want to write a book? I consulted the Occupational Outlook Handbook and came up with 750,000 mental health professionals, so I figured that if I could sell The Therapist Writer to just 1% of these therapists, that would end up being 7,500 books. I also realized that while this figure might make me happy, it wouldn’t make me rich, and it wouldn’t impress a mainstream publisher.
I gave up on the idea of traditional publishing and self-published through Lightning Source (after first becoming a publisher — their rule at the time), and once the paper version was up on Amazon, I published it as a Kindle E-book.
Doc, What’s Your Line?
The conversation with agent Larsen made me really clear on the fact that I didn’t want to give up my niche audience (mental health professionals who want to write) and write for all writers. There were already plenty of books on writing and publishing for the general public. I also felt it was a plus that I was a licensed psychotherapist because I had chapters in the book on special issues that therapist-writers face, such as the important issue of patient confidentiality: How can a therapist write about a client’s case without getting sued? I talk in the book about “the art of disguise” in writing about others, which means a lot more than just changing names.
I now understood that by “niching down” my book I was probably limiting my readership and profits, but that’s just one of the many decisions an author must make. I also knew that when I started marketing my book, I’d have a chance to point out the benefits in the book for all writers, not just therapist writers. One big marketing shift I had to make was to treat therapist-writers as therapists, not writers. Most therapists don’t want to be writers, which is why they haven’t bought books on writing, and why they know less about the writing business than the average bear. They just want to keep on being therapists who have written a book. My book, I point out in my marketing, understands this and works with it so the therapists can reach their publishing goals in spite of their discomfort. The therapists who do want to be writers (and there are some!) already act like writers, and have read books and know about publishing trends. They are ripe and ready to press on.
The majority of the time, in marketing to therapists, I stress therapy careers, not writing careers. I list the perks for therapists in being “the author of ” a book. It means instant credibility; being seen as an “expert in the field.” They might even become the “go-to” shrink for colleagues to refer to for specific psychological issues, like one therapist I know whose self-published book on his personal bipolar struggle has made him the therapist that other therapists think of as a referral resource. When I’d speak at therapy-related events and meetings, I’d take the same approach. I’d talk to the audience as “therapists,” not “writers,” and stress the career perks of getting published.
Becoming Niche Savvy
It’s important to know why your niche audience wants your book. For my niche audience, my book is business, not pleasure. Some therapists want to publish in order to have a carton of books in the trunk of their car to sell when they give talks or give workshops, or to have on hand for clients, clients’ families, and colleagues. Nothing more. They hate marketing.
I learned how to market The Therapist Writer (and I’m still learning)and how deal with a niche audience on the job, mostly by correcting mistakes — such as starting out with no idea of the size, or whereabouts, of my audience! Next time out, I’ll know.
I didn’t get rich or famous marketing my book, but I learned a bunch and I got this award for my efforts. Cool experience. And the award is pretty, isn’t it?
The IRWIN Award for “Best Niche Campaign”
Below, FYI, is a video clip of my award acceptance remarks:
*Copyright 2015 Sylvia Cary, LMFT. Portions of this blog post are taken from the chapter on “Nailing Your Niche” in The Therapist Writer.
Compared to the way it used to be, self-publishing today is easy. Just imagine writing a whole book on this little gizmo! Photo credit: Morguefile.com
The story goes that Mark Twain bought one of the first typewriters ever made and hated it so much he traded it in for a buggy whip.
For those of you who think self-publishing is just too complicated to even consider — and are about to give up on it — hold it right there! Self-publishing gets easier every year and it has also become “cool,” so if you’ve got a book in you, or you have a tale or even a collection of tales to tell, or there’s a subject you know a little something about and you want to share it with others, then consider doing a book or e-book via the two biggest and best, Amazon’s CreateSpace and/or LightningSource’s Ingram Spark. Besides. “Getting published is good for business — no matter what business you’re in.”
I’ve been giving workshops on the HOW TO of self-publishing for years, complete with a Power Point demonstration so you can SEE what self-publishing looks like. My next workshop (in Sherman Oaks, California) is coming up soon on Saturday October 17th, 2015 (see below for details). One of the people who took f my workshop a number of years ago and put what she learned to use is my guest blogger for this post — so let me introduce Catherine Auman, LMFT, author and publisher:
Becoming a Published Author with Sylvia Cary’s Help
Catherine Auman, LMFT, author of Shortcuts to Mindfulness: 100 Ways to Personal and Spiritual Growth
Little did I know when I attended Sylvia Cary’s self-publishing workshop that it would turn out to be a seminal day for my career and life. Sylvia’s calm demeanor and her enthusiasm made it all sound so easily doable, and while I wouldn’t say it’s been easy, I am now the author of a book that has sold over 500 copies, and a publisher with a small press helping other authors make their dreams come true.
My book, Shortcuts to Mindfulness: 100 Ways to Personal and Spiritual Growth, was rejected by two publishers, both of whom said that no one would be interested in a book of short essays. Of course, Chicken Soup for the Soul, one of the most successful books in history, is a collection of short essays, but I took no for an answer. To even try to get an agent for a non-fiction book requires writing a 40-page book proposal, and since writing is not easy for me in the first place, I decided I’d rather spend the time and effort working on my next project.
I had also recently attended a panel discussion on changes in the book publishing industry, in which I heard a speaker say that one’s chances of getting published as an unknown author by one of the Big Six (now Big Five) companies was equal odds to that of winning the lottery. The panelists also said that self-publishing has lost its poor reputation and is now the way to go, much like what has happened for musicians with the recording industry.
I set up my publishing company as Sylvia directed. This took a fair bit of commitment, as you have to decide on a name, get a DBA, open a separate checking account, and have a website made. After that, I had to find a book designer to do the layouts for print and e-book, design the front and back covers, and post to CreateSpace where it would be published-on-demand.
The mission statement that I wrote for my press is: “At Green Tara Press, we are dedicated to publishing works that promote compassion, healing and love, and awaken and inspire readers to enlightened action.”
We are now looking for authors whose work fits in with our mission to promote compassion and love in the world, so it could be any genre with this intention: self help, poetry, fiction, essays, biography, memoir, and nonfiction which helps people become more effective.
I learned all this publishing stuff the hard way, so it is my delight to take the guesswork out of it for authors who just want to see their books published. We don’t make any money from our authors; it’s a labor of love. Our authors only pay for the costs of the book designer who does the cover design and the layouts for print and e-book. Quality book designers who are easy to work with can be a challenge to find, and the one I chose for Green Tara Press had been a delight.
Catherine Auman, LMFT is a licensed therapist with advanced training in both traditional and spiritual psychology with thirty years of successful professional experience helping thousands of clients. She has headed nationally-based psychiatric hospital programs as well as worked through alternative methodologies based on ancient traditions and wisdom teachings. Visit her online at www.catherineauman.com
If Catherine’s blog inspires you to give it a go, then start by attending my next workshop on Saturday October 17th, 10 am – noon. Here are the details:
HOW TO SELF-PUBLISH WITH AMAZON’S CREATESPACE & LIGHTNINGSOURCE’S INGRAM SPARK
CreateSpace (www.createspace.com) is Amazon’s publishing wing. Once you upload your formatted book and cover, your book goes worldwide. IngramSpark is LightningSource’s (www.lightningsource.com) site for smaller publishers.
DATE Sat. Oct. 17th, 2015 TIME: 10 AM – Noon PLACE: OfficeSlice Coworking, 15165 Ventura Blvd., #245, Sherman Oaks, CA 91403 PARKING: Free FOOD: Snacks COST: $60.00 REGISTER: www.eventbrite.com (You may have to cut and paste this link): (https://www.eventbrite.com/myevent?eid=17964495289)
What the self-publishing process looks like ON-SCREEN
The 7 Perks of Getting Published
All about formatting, fonts, trim size, imprints, covers, ISBNs, copyrights, E-books, and more
The differences between Amazon’s CreateSpace and LightningSource’s IngramSpark – pros, cons, costs, and why do BOTH!
How to market your newly published book: Top 15 ways to start.
You’ll leave feeling inspired and confident that you now have the skills to self-publish your book and get it up on Amazon.com, B&N.com, and other online booksellers for sale. You might even make some money! Bring your questions.
Sylvia Cary, LMFT, is the author of The Therapist Writer and four other books. On October 15th she is to get the Irwin Award from the Book Publicists of Southern California for the category of “Best Niche Campaign.”
The Last Bookstore. Supercool! Known as the largest (two floors, vaulted ceiling) independent bookstore in the world. Breathtaking decor; many public events, located in downtown Los Angeles at 453 S.Spring, LA 90013. As it says on their website, “As physical bookstores die out like dinosaurs from the meteoric impact of Amazon and E-books,” The Last Bookstore may end up being just that. There’s a back room with 100,000 books for $1 each! Open daily. — Photos by Sylvia Cary
The Care and Reading of Little Book Buyers
My daughter and her husband have been reading to their two kids, Lily and Lyle, my grandchildren, since they were six months old, maybe younger. No surprise that they love books. Each has a bookcase jammed packed with them. So when I decided to take Lyle on a field trip with Nana to downtown LA to visit The Last Bookstore, I asked him to pick out 10 books he was no longer into because The Last Bookstore not only sells books, they buy them.
Lyle proudly shows his receipt and $3 for selling 3 of his 10 books to The Last Bookstore (they are fussy about what they purchase). Lyle then turned right around and bought $3 worth of new books!
Once a bank, The Last Bookstore, especially when viewed from the second floor, is truly awe-inspiring. It’s a reader’s paradise but perhaps it’s a little depressing for writers — with all those books, does the world really need another one?
Books are displayed in imaginative ways…
Lyle has just walked through the Tunnel of Books
If you want a RED book, they have red books. Ditto BLUE, GREEN, WHITE, YELLOW and BLACK.
You’ll be inspired to pull out your typewriter and start your novel…
Or sell a few books and replace them in here…
Dance on the Carpet of Pennies
Stop by the yarn shop for a spot of color
At the End of the Day…
And, finally, curl up in this chair and read one of your purchases. Obviously, a few others have done so before you!
Copyright (c) 2015 by Sylvia Cary, author of The Therapist Writer: Helping Mental Health Professionals Get Published (Timberlake Press)
This is what “stuff” looks like. This happens to be mine all mine as I unpack from a recent move. Photos: Sylvia Cary
I love stuff. I love pretty stuff, practical stuff and decorative stuff. I love stationary supplies, hardware store items, dishes, glasses, books, and containers of all kinds. I love cooking appliances even though I don’t like to cook — but how can anyone resist a brand new rice cooker for $4, even if you already have two others?
Where to Get Stuff
I don’t get my stuff at stores. I go to garage sales, Goodwill, Salvation Army, and the Discovery Shop (a chain of stores that raises money for breast cancer research), so at least my stuff is helping a good cause. I would never go to an actual store to buy some of the items I end up buying at Goodwill or garage sales. I do it “Forrest Gump” style – I drop in to Goodwill and it’s like a box of chocolates, “You never know what you’re going to get.” I’d sure like to take all my stuff with me when I leave this world, like those people who get buried with their sports cars. I’m going to be really upset if it turns out there’s no stuff in heaven. Hell? Hmm.
A Writer’s Stuff
My “writer” stuff is a story in itself. I have my laptop computer and the box it came in, which I’m keeping because it has information on it which I should probably read. I’m also keeping my very old desktop computer because what if there’s something on it I need? I have a bunch of removable hard drives, too, mostly back-ups of my old computer. I know I’ll never use them because they’re outdated. Newer desktops don’t even have slots for them. I have printers that don’t work — but they might if they were fixed.
And files – OMG – files! I have two 4-drawer file cabinets, a desk with three more file drawers, a single wood file cabinet that doubles as an end table, and I have a bunch of those files boxes with handles that you can carry around, plus two files on wheels that I can roll into another room. Worst of all are the wire baskets of paperwork “To File” and stacks of papers that haven’t yet made it to the “To File” basket. A perfect set-up for losing important documents.
And books, books, books! Many I’ve read. Many I’ve read and forgotten so I need to keep them to read again. Many of them I’ve read and have even taken notes — but where are the notes? The hardest thing for me to let go of as a writer is my research – boxes full of 3×5-inch cards and stacks of print-outs from the Internet along with typed notes on topics I’m writing about — or have written about. I can’t let go of them because maybe I’ll write about those topics again. And finally, drafts. I’m drowning in drafts – fourteen versions of a single screenplay. I’m hanging onto them all because each one is just slightly different from the earlier version.
Moving Your Stuff
Much as I love my stuff, it has its downside. When you have a lot of stuff it’s hard to move it from place to place. Recently I moved from a tiny one-bedroom apartment to a two-bedroom apartment to share with one of my adult daughters, herself a collector of stuff.
My cat, Smokey, nervously makes his way through Box Canyon looking for the kitchen
Prior to the move I spent weeks packing boxes – books, papers, china and all the rest of it. When the movers arrived and saw all my boxes of books, one of them said, “Ever think about getting a Kindle?”
It took eleven hours for the movers to move my stuff to the new place, and cost a fortune. I probably could have bought most of those books as Kindles for less than it cost me to box them and transport them.
Once I’d boxed up my apartment, I tackled my daughter’s one-bedroom apartment with her thirteen years’ worth of “stuff.” She has, for example, kept every greeting card ever given or sent to her, even if it’s just a gift tag — the “To”/“From” kind, as well as every stuffed animal since childhood, some falling apart at the touch, like pages of an old book, and VCR tapes by the hundreds, all numbered and alphabetized: “I’m OCD,” she explained to the movers.
My Heroes of Got Junk. When they drove off with the dirty white couch and a truckload of other stuff I felt relief
I called Got Junk, a service that removes the junk in your life, and we spent the next day putting signs “4 Got Junk” on things, starting with the dirty white couch and the four tall, swaying bookcases, and we took it from there. They came the following day and in only two hours they whisked away an entire truckload of stuff. As they drove off, I felt a huge sense of relief. A burden was lifted.
Arrival: Once we got into the new apartment, the stack of boxes three-deep once again seemed overwhelming. We’d never get them unpacked!
Weeks later we’re still unpacking those boxes. Now my back hurts.
The Solution to Overwhelm is almost always the same — the Twelve-Step way — “One box at a time,” 5 or 10 boxes a day. Here are the opened boxes, piling up!
Lessons Learned about Stuff
Affording your stuff isn’t the issue. The “cost” of having too much stuff is high, no matter how much you paid for it.
Goodwill or Tiffany’s, it’s all the same. It’s stuff.
Stuff gets in the way of writing;
Stuff drains you of creative energy;
Stuff is a ball and chain;
Stuff means somebody else will have to clean up after you when you kick the bucket;
Stuff is hard to move around, like those homeless people who’ve acquired too many shopping carts;
Stuff needs too much personal attention – even if it’s only dusting it;
Stuff just plain takes up too much time;
Last Saturday to test myself I “dropped in” to Goodwill and there was no stuff there I wanted. I left empty handed. It felt good.
Too bad you can’t put your whole life on a Kindle.
Almost There:Smokey, now a happy cat, sits on my lap with his tail up to let the world know it’s beginning to feel like home again. There’s even a Danish flag to honor my late husband’s spirit stuck in the bookcase. Just a few more boxes to unpack, some pictures to put up on the walls, books and china to put away, framed photos to place around, and we’re done! And not an inch of space left for any new “stuff.”
Copyright 2015 by Sylvia Cary, LMFT, author of The Therapist Writer, Timberlake Press
Getting the right “angle” or “hook” for your book makes all the difference. It determines whether or not the book “works” and is marketable. The answer is in there somewhere! You just have to find ways of getting to it. –photo by Morguefile
by Sylvia Cary, LMFT
Brainstorming (def): The uncensored offering of ideas or suggestions.
Angle (def): To examine a problem from all angles; to give a specific bias, or point of view.
Writers say the hardest part of writing is knowing what to write. Once you nail down your topic, the next hardest part is zeroing in on your angle — i.e., figuring out what approach to take. For those of you who are mental health professionals, you may want to write a book about your area of expertise, such as addiction, post-traumatic stress, anger management, neuroscience, men’s issues, aging, eating disorders, abuse, bi-polar disorder, or depression. I read somewhere that there are about 1000 specialties in the mental health field, so it’s not like the topics are going to give out!
However, since most of these topics have already been written about, some of them a lot, it’s not enough to simply write “about addiction” or “about abuse.” You’ll need to come up with a new twist/angle/hook in order to get the potential book buyer’s attention. For example, instead of writing “about depression” you might zero in on a niche aspect of it and write about depression in children.
Trend Tree Think of the special topic that you want to write about as a branch on a tree, a rapidly growing, ever-evolving, living thing. What seems like a fresh, trendy, or “green” idea one year feels kind of old hat the next. The zeitgeist (or cultural atmosphere) just keeps on rolling along so you have to keep up by pushing out on your particular tree branch until you’ve come up with a fresh, new leafy take on your topic that makes others say, “Oh, I’d like to read that!”
Looking at a peaceful scene often quiets the mind and allows us to push out further on our particular branch or niche. — photo by Morguefile
7 Ways to Brainstorm Angles Writers use tricks to help them brainstorm their topics and tweak them into something fresh and appealing.
1. Cruise the Online Bookstores: First, see what’s already out there. Search for your book’s topic online, go on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, look at the titles and subtitles, read the Tables of Contents when you can. The last time I searched for books on “alcoholism” (my specialty as a therapist), I found thousands of them! That’s pretty daunting and discouraging if alcoholism is what you really want to write about. Don’t fret. New books on alcoholism are still being published and are still selling, so the market obviously isn’t dead yet. Come up with a fresh angle, and you’ll have a chance. Look for “holes” in the topic that need filling; look for aspects that haven’t been explored yet. They are there.
2.Cruise the Real-Life Bookstores: Though many bookstores have gone belly-up, others are still out there peddling books. Go visit some. Looking through an existing book on your topic can be a great way to get ideas. Sometimes just a single paragraph from a book can trigger an idea in your head that you can actually turn into a quality book.
3. Read / Talk About Your Subject: Read everything you can on your pet topic. Ideas beget ideas. What’s hot? What’s not? What trends seems to be coming down the pike? Share your enthusiasm about your topic with others. Start discussions. Ask others for their opinions and views. Sometimes people ask a question that can lead you to a solution. Ask, “If a book on X, Y or Z were to be published, would you want to read it?” And, “If not, why not?”
4. Yellow Pad; Sharpened Pencil: I must admit that my favorite brainstorming technique is writing things down on paper. I write down my topic and then I start scribbling down all the ideas that occur to me about that topic. It’s a free-association process that helps me decide if it’s a good idea or not. If I get lots of associations, it’s a good idea. If I get two and then run dry, it’s probably not, so I’m likely to drop it. There are other times when I don’t know what my angle is until I’m already writing. I may think I’ve got a good angle or hook, and then a better one presents itself and I have to change horses in midstream. Writing is easier if you have your angle in mind up front, but if a better one comes along, grab it and make the necessary adjustments in what you’ve already written.
5. Shower Power: There are writers (I don’t happen to be one of them) who get ideas while in motion (running, jogging, walking), or while being quiet (meditating, contemplating), or even while they are showering. My late husband, a computer programmer, got solutions to programming problems in the shower when the hot water hit the back of his neck. Other folks say they can “instruct” their brains to give them answers in dreams: “I want to write about Freud but I need a Fresh angle.” So, whether it’s staring into space, meditating, walking, showering — or sleeping — the answers can obviously pop into your head at the most unexpected times.
6. Professional vs Personal Perspective: No matter what subject you know enough about to write a book, it doesn’t always have to be from the point of view of an expert or scholar. Maybe the best angle for you is the personal, writing a memoir or taking the narrative non-fiction approach where there’s dialogue in the book so it reads more like a novel. Many therapists are “wounded healers,” people who have become professionals and have an area of expertise as the result of some personal or family experience. Numerous compelling and important books are by authors who have had personal experiences with addiction, child abuse, bipolar disorder, and so on.
7. The “10 Things” Angle: Think about your topic and ask yourself, “What are the top 10 things I’d like the world to know about this subject? What hasn’t been said yet? What’s missing?” For example, “10 Things Your Clients Should Know About Obsessive Compulsive Disorder;” “10 Ways to Help People with Phobias” (or 7 Things or 15 Things); “10 Symptoms of Sex Addiction;” or “10 Misconceptions about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.” Your list of 10 can grow into a unique and solid book. There can be an Introduction, then a chapter on each of the 10 things you came up with — and then a Conclusion.
So count to ten, and you’ve got yourself a book!
You can rest your mind anywhere.
There are many other ways to brainstorm angles and hooks. Not surprisingly, there are even books on the subject of how to help your brain trigger an “Aha!” which gives you the angle you were looking for. Once you get that angle and write that book, there are people out there who will want to read it.
Do you think animals think? photo credit – Morguefile
Copyright 2015 by Sylvia Cary, LMFT – The Therapist Writer
Attract, Don’t Pursue:How is book-marketing like romance? Let the book-buyers find you. It’s called “discoverability.” — photo credit Morguefile
Are You the One for Me?
I knew my husband was “the one” the first time I went out with him for coffee after a computer class. I’d been on a lot of coffee dates in the twelve years since my divorce, but this guy was different. He was kind, responsive, shared, listened, seemed interested in what I had to say, had no “agenda” that I could spot, and he made me feel good about myself. It was nice to know that good men still walked the earth. I was interested.
So then how could I get him to see things the same way? My friends gave me dating advice, most of it involving pursuit: “Buy tickets to a soccer game/movie/play and invite him; make him a picnic; ask him out for coffee again after your next computer class.” Another friend suggested the opposite tact: “Let him chase you. Men know how to do that.”
I scoffed. Her advice sounded old-fashioned and manipulative. “Don’t be silly,” I told her. “I have to do something, take action, not just sit there like a shrinking violet. If I don’t ask him out after class I might never see him again. It’s the last class.”
I waited anxiously through the final session, plotting out my approach — a note? a swift sprint over to his seat before anyone else got to him? Or maybe I should wait until he started walking out of the classroom and nab him in the hallway.
I was a bundle of nerves trying to decide how to make my move. Thinking back over a dozen years of similar dating challenges, I had to admit that being the pursuer in love, given my upbringing and introverted writer’s personality, hadn’t worked for me. I kept snapping up reluctants who were there only because I’d made it easy for them. I hated that feeling of being with someone who’d rather be elsewhere but was too gutless to say so. That made me sick to my stomach.
Seconds before the class was about to end, I had a sudden paradigm shift and said to myself: “If he wants me then he’ll just have to come and get me!”
I was so afraid I’d break my resolve that when the class was officially over, I bolted out of the room, dashed down the stairs, burst through the double glass doors and into the parking lot where I ran over to my car, unlocked the door, and was about to jump inside when I heard my name being called: “Sylvia!”
I froze. I stood there next to my car and waited as he jogged over, by now breathless, and said, “You’re a hard woman to catch!”
We were married for twenty-eight years until his death from lung cancer in 2013.
As an writer, put your best work out there, tweak your website into shape, work on your author’s persona, and readers will find you. — photo credit Morguefile
Find Me, Love Me, Read Me!
What does all this have to do with book marketing? A lot. Newly published authors today, whether traditionally or self-published, are competing with more books than ever in a whole new publishing environment. Sales success is no longer the publisher’s job, or the agent’s job, or the publicist’s job, or the book-store’s job — it’s the author’s job. Talk about pressure!
My own”indie” published book, The Therapist Writer: Helping Mental Health Professionals Get Published (Timberlake Press),had come out just a few months before my husband died. By the time I’d recovered enough from that blow to think about book-marketing, I was coming from behind and felt overwhelmed. I read up on book marketing and scrambled to pursue every suggestion — do a blog, give a seminar, hold a workshop, create a website — three websites! — speak, pass out flyers, brochures, and bookmarks, send out postcards, send out emails and newsletters, “do” social media, run a free writing group, create my own YouTube channel, make “Animoto” videos, write press releases, listen to webinars, buy print ads, ship my book to the Frankfurt Book Fair (for a fee, of course), even write about my new book in my college “Class Notes.”
And guess what? I wasn’t selling many books!
What helped me at last was hearing about the latest publishing industry buzz word, “discoverability.” (The term “platform” had been hot for years but was now “so yesterday.”) This new word clicked with me. It did something to my thinking, as did a 90-minute YouTube webinar/video that I’d stumbled upon when Googling for “discoverability.” (“Driving Discoverability, Engagement, and Revenue in the Publishing Industry – with Murray Izenwasser). Basically, what it was describing, without using the term “flirt” (which is mine) was “flirt” book marketing.
Just as I’d had a shift in my thinking the night I decided not to pursue my husband, but let him find me instead — and just as the Twelve Steps recovery groups talk about being “a program of attraction, not promotion” — I made a similar shift in my thinking about book marketing: Stop pursuing; start attracting.
You don’t have to chase down book buyers (or cars). Be lovable, loyal, and patient. They all have search engines. They’ll come home to you. photo credit Morguefile
Think “Flirty” When Book Marketing
I once asked my husband what qualities in a woman most appealed to him. He didn’t hesitate: “Warm and friendly.” Well, that can work for book marketing, too. You’ll still have to take all those marketing actions mentioned above (website, handouts, blog, videos, and all the rest of it), but now do it with a “flirty” mindset, not with the mindset of a desperate pursuer: “Gotta make that book sale!”
Apply “flirty” marketing to the following two main book marketing areas: Your Website, and You.
Don’t let your website languish and get stagnant. Reinvent it. Do a make-over. Freshen it up and invite the world to see it. Bring out the good china. Pretty it up with immersive, evocative, and emotional photos. (I once attended a seminar just because of the photograph they used to market it). Go to Morguefile.com for free pictures. Or take your own.
Make your website “a good date” — warm and friendly. Approachable. A little mysterious (“Click here to see a gift I have for you!”). Whisper those important keywords into your readers’ ears. Keep your site well-maintained — but not “high-maintenance.” Don’t make it so complex that you can’t fix it or change it by yourself and end up having to contact your web designer.
Be entertaining and charming. Have useful information and interesting things to say on your website that will make the lives of your readers easier. Know what’s going on in the book industry and share it. Be generous with content. But be careful of clutter. Avoid TMI. (There’s one site I avoid that has plenty of good content, but there’s too much of it. It’s like being in a conversation with an intelligent person who won’t stop to take a breath). Edit your copy down; have “white space” so readers can get a breather.
Let your website tell potential book-buyers who you really are. If you have a sense of humor, or creative new ideas, or if you have a quirky take on things, show it off — perhaps in your blog. Your blog should be on your website so that whenever you put up a new post (Oh, I am so guilty of not doing this often enough!), the snoopy search engines will be alerted to a new moving part on your site and will zero in to check it out. To make it easier for people on your email list to read your blog, send them an email: “Hi, here’s my new blog about ___________. Click on this link.” The link takes them right to your latest blog post. (Also make it easy for them to unsubscribe! Don’t be a stalker.)
Always give your readers and potential book-buyers a reason to come back to visit you to see what else you’ve got to say. Ditto the media: Have a great online media kit and be easy to contact.
A book-buyer in search of an author
Author, show yourself! Don’t be a shrinking violent. Get out from behind your computer and strut your stuff. You are important. You are the star of this whole show. Without you, there would be no book to market. Besides, many articles and studies have shown that readers really want to know more about authors. Why do you think Amazon gives you a special Author’s page when you have a book for sale on their site? They know it helps to sell books. And don’t just stick words on your Author page. Have a bunch of photos, including smiley ones (“warm and friendly,” remember?).
Beg friends, family, neighbors, and even strangers, to write a customer review of your book and put it up on your book page on Amazon and other online booksellers, such as BarnesandNoble.com. Aim for 100. Then aim for more. Enter contests. There are many of them and if you can win, place, or show — even if it’s just in one category — you can buy gold seals which look great, no matter what your book cover, blog, Facebook page, Pinterest page, website, or various marketing materials, are wearing.
Speak! One speaking gig, like one date, can lead to another. Don’t isolate. You never know when you’ll be “discovered” by book-buyers who didn’t realize they were in the market for a book (just as my husband didn’t realize he was in the market for a wife!) until you showed up and talked about it. Join Toastmasters and talk about it some more. If there’s a local bookstore willing to host a Q & A, do so — even if only three people show up. Their advertising for the event will reach many more. Treat the ones who do show up like royalty. Have handouts with smiling photos of you. Record an Amazon audio version of your book. Have videos of you talking about your book on your website, blog, YouTube, on your YouTube channel, and on your Amazon page. Keep them short and sweet. Two minutes tops. Don’t bore people. Just whet their appetites.
And keep reminding yourself, you need to do all this with a “flirty” mindset. Your goal isn’t selling a book, it’s “discoverability.” Then, once discovered, definitely make sure your book is pickable.