Tag Archives: Dan Poynter

“It’s Too Nichy”^

Sylvia Cary to Get an IRWIN AWARD from the Book Publicists of Southern California Sylvia Cary, psychotherapist and author of 5 books, is to get an award for "Best Niche Campaign" for her book, "The Therapist Writer: Helping Mental Health Professionals Get Published" (Timberlake Press) The IRWIN Award, named for the Book Publicists of Southern California founder, Irwin Zucker, was introduced in 1995 as a way to formally and publicly recognize BPSC members who conduct the best book sales/ promotion campaigns. The Honorees present will share with the BPSC audience the steps they took that led to the success of their book promotion campaigns. The event takes place at the Sportsmen's Lodge in Studio City on Thursday Oct. 15th. Contact at: sylvia@sylviacary.com OR visit newly tweaked and updated website, www.sylviacary.com.

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 clarity in 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!

Weightier Subjects

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

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"

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.

Advertisements

“What Do You Mean You Don’t Want to Write a Book?”

Rick (Richard A.) Rofman’s declaration that he didn’t want to write a book took me aback.  He’s a regular at the monthly drop-in writers group that I run at Crown Books in Woodland Hills, California. It’s a satellite group sponsored by Independent Writers of Southern California (IWOSC.org). Dismayed, I asked, “Rick, whatever do you mean you don’t want to write a book? Why not?”

A Career in Writing “Letters to the Editor”

He’d thrown me. But his comment made me think. Maybe I had been beating the drum for “How to Get Self-Published” a little too strongly in all my various writings, teachings, talks, presentations, and workshops. I’d almost forgotten that you can be a writer without getting a book published as your goal. Ever since the start of the self-publishing craze , I’ve been on the “get published” band-wagon and have talked about little else. “Rick, you know everybody’s got a book inside of them screaming to get out and that it’s only life that gets in the way. Even Dan Poynter says so. Isn’t that right, Rick?” Rick didn’t think so.

Rick Rofman, who teaches composition part-time at a number of LA area colleges, is seen here at a writers drop-in meeting at Crown Books in Woodland Hills, reading one of his over 475  “Letters to the Editor,” a form of writing that has turned out to be his specialty: “Because of these letters,” he states, “I have had contact with CBS’s Frank Stanton, journalist Connie Chung, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Disney’s Michael Eisner, Ronald Reagan, Joe Biden, Bobby Kennedy, and more — but that doesn’t make my life a book!”  When some of us in the writing group suggested that Rick put together a book (there I go again!) of his Letters to the Editors over the past few decades, which would allow him to make comments about the history going on at the time, he was once again adamant: “I don’t want to write a book.”   Photo: Sylvia Cary

The Right Creds

Rick Rofman certainly has the right creds to author a book, a Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Pennsylvania, a Master’s Degree in English Communication from Syracuse University, and a member of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. He has taught English in a bunch of places, and, back in the day, worked for NBC News, Westinghouse Broadcasting, and Universal — but still the idea of writing a book is painful for him,  especially a self-published book. “I just finished trying to read book called ‘How to Publish Your Own eBook,’ and it was like being in the 7th Circle of HELL for all eternity. You need an Engineering degree just to understand the terminology. I’m 71 years old and this is just NOT for me. If Random House or Penguin or Bantam Doubleday Dell were to approach me and assign an editor to me, and assume all costs of publication, that might be a different story. But to devote three or four years of my final years to self-publishing, buy a computer, go through the agonizing process of learning a machine that eludes me–when I can’t even work a mouse–then do book signings, and ruin my health, all for twenty-five cents in ebook royalties, just makes no sense. Instead, I can edit other people’s manuscripts, re-read Shakespeare and Greek tragedies, bone up on my French and Russian, and get involved in community and cultural activities. I’m now reading Sandberg’s Life of Lincoln.”

It's said that Mark Trwin bought a new-fangled typetwriter and hated it so much ihe traded it for a buggy whip. Rick Rofman, in a similar frame of mind, bought a new-fangled iPad and took it right back.   Photo: Morgurfile

It is said that Mark Twain once bought a typewriter and hated it so much he traded it for a buggy whip. Rick Rofman, in a similar frame of mind, says he bought a iPad and took it right back.   Photo: Morgurfile

And What Kind of a Writer Do You Want to Be?

In a letter to me (what else!), hand-written (not on the computer since he doesn’t own one), Rick continued his stand against publishing a book: “There are many ways to be a writer without writing a book.” To make his point, he enclosed a brochure he’d picked up from Mount St. Mary’s College in Los Angeles about their Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing Program. “They had writing careers listed I’d never even thought of,” Rick said. Among the career paths listed for MFA graduates are: Teaching composition and creative writing at the college level, publishing (at least that’s mentioned! – SC), copywriting, copyediting, manuscript editing, marketing, greeting card author, comic book writing, novelist, creativity coach, writing coach, advertising, songwriter (lyric), freelance short fiction writer, creative writing instructor (give your own workshops), legacy writer (write people’s bios and family histories), ghostwriter, travel writer, freelance essayist/article writer, columnist, video game writer, personal poet for others, playwright, blogger, creative writing consultant, screenwriting.

And, of course, let’s add to the list Rick Rofman’s own specialty,  writing Letters to the Editor.

It works for him. It might work for you.

(c) Sylvia Cary, 2014

Happy Birthday Dear Dan Poynter

"Hot" Publishing Panel sponsored by Publicity Association of Los Angeles (PALA). Left to right, Dan Poynter, "publishing guru; __, Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author, and Robin Quinn, book-doctor and moderator for the evening.

THE BUSINESS OF PUBLISHING panel on Sept. 17, 2014, at the Culver City Veterans Memorial Auditorium, sponsored by the Publishers Association of Los Angeles (PALA). Panelists (left to right): DAN POYNTER, self-publishing pioneer and author of The Self-Publishing Manual (and dozens of other books); CONSTANCE ANDERSON, Director of Pacific Coast Regional, a small business development center (with classes on such things as how to write business plans); CAROLYN HOWARD JOHNSON, author of the HowToDoItFrugally series of books to help authors; and Moderator, ROBIN QUINN, book-editor and coach. (NOTE: This blog post will focus just on what Dan Poynter said. After all, it was his birthday!     — photo: Sylvia Cary

“Global Dan”

It may not surprise you to learn that on September 17th, 2014, Dan Poynter, self-publishing movement pioneer and author, spent his 76th birthday in a room full of writers and wanna-be writers talking about–guess what?–publishing. “I haven’t retired,” he said. “I’ve never met an author who was retired.”

After we all sang “Happy Birthday Dear Dan” and shared some homemade fudge, we quieted down and leaned forward so as not to miss a single word of what this man had to say. We all know that Dan Poynter knows stuff.  When a man travels 6000 miles a week to different places around the globe in order to share with people about publishing, and then he listens to what they say back, he obviously has his ear to the ground and it’s smart to pay attention.

Learn to Love Amazon was Poynter's message for the evening. "There's a book published every five minutes, which is 3500 a day, 3.4 million a year and most are on Amazon. So be there, too!

Learn to Love Amazon was Poynter’s message for the evening. “There’s a book published every five minutes, mostly on Amazon. So be there, too!

“Amazon is Your Friend”

Dan Poynter usually has a specific theme when he talks, and on this particular night his topic was Amazon.com, the world’s largest online book-seller. He addressed himself to the fact that Amazon is constantly being maligned by segments of the book-industry world, especially bookstores and publishers, which Poynter seems to find irritating.  “Publishing hasn’t changed the way they do business since 1947, so they should stop complaining and start marketing.” He points out that readers are now reading books on their iPhones, yet back before Border’s went belly-up, one brick and mortar store in California was paying$32,000-a-month rent. “You have to sell a lot of books to pay that.” Dan said. “Don’t expect the book business to change anytime soon,” he added. “It’s really too late for most of them to catch up.”

While traditional publishing was taking pot-shots at self-publishing and Amazon, Amazon started giving customers what they actually want. (What a concept!) He recommends a book called The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon by Brad Stone (2014) because it tells you all about what Amazon can do for you, the self-published author. (Or how you can buy a toaster).

Product Details

“Amazon Does More for Authors”

Poynter listed just some of the things that Amazon does for authors:

  •  Amazon leveled the playing field so everybody can play. Anybody can publish their book for FREE.
  • Amazon makes it easy for self-publishers to market their books, including their own “page” where they can put photos, videos, links to blogs, and more.
  • Amazon lets you have real people review your book and tell you want readers really want and don’t want. (And buyers actually read these reviews before buying).
  • Since bloggers are the new book reviewers, Google for bloggers in your area to write reviews. Type in “your subject + book bloggers.”

Poynter’s Conclusions

  • Thanks to Amazon, you can now be in charge of your writing career
  • Learn the rules
  • Don’t put out shoddy work –it hurts all self-published authors
  • Support our industry–buy books as gifts
  • Amazon is the only dog in the fight
  • Amazon is a fact of life
  • Keep buying Amazon stock!

Dan Poynter has three free newsletter you can sign up for — one on publishing, one of marketing, and one on speaking. Go to http://www.parapub.com and sign up on the top left side of the front page.

What Do You Do After You Say “I Have a Great Idea for a Book?”

First, Decide to Take the Plunge

Okay, so you have a book idea and you’re willing to take the plunge because you think it’s a great book idea. But is it? How do you know? How can you tell if your book idea is lousy or lovely? How do you know if it’s even viable?

Writers, Take The Leap! There's Always a Helping Hand. As Publishing Guru Dan Poynter Says, Don't Die with Your Book Still In You.    Photo: Sylvia Cary

Writers, take the plunge! Get published, even if you have to do it yourself. There will always be a helping hand along the way. Heed the words of publishing guru Dan Poynter: “Don’t die with your book still inside you.” Photo: Sylvia Cary

Do Your Basic Research — The Top Ten

I’m not talking about heavy-duty library research. I’m talking about the simplest kind of research that you can do on the Internet. It’s so basic that I’m always surprised when somebody comes to see me for a book consultation session and they haven’t done research  on their “great” book idea.  Do they think they can just sit down and start writing without knowing some things first?

So, let’s get to it. What should a wanna-be author do if they think they have a great book idea?

1. Write down what your book is about in twenty-five words or less? Fiction or non-fiction?

2. What’s your working title?

3. What’s your working sub-title?

4. Look up your book’s title on Amazon. Is it being used already? Is your subtitle being used?

5. Look up your book’s topic on Amazon. How many books are out there already on the same subject?

6. Sort books similar to your idea by date of publication. (Amazon gives you sorting options). How many were published in the last five years?

7. Of those that were published more than five years ago, were any of them best-sellers? Are any of them still classics in the field you want to write about?

8. Narrow down the list of books similar to your book idea and using Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature, read the Table of Contents, read a few pages, and look at the back cover. Is the book still similar to your book? How is it different? Read the reviews on the Amazon site.

9. Google your topic and read what others are saying about it in their blogs, articles, newsletter or in their videos.

10. Sign up for Google Alerts and use keywords related to your topic so you’ll get notices when somebody else is talking about it or there’s “new news” about it.

These are the basics  musts before you take the plunge. I discuss this subject with TV interviewer Jean-Noel Bassior (TheBookMentor.com) in the video clip below from my appearance on BOOK BEAT (available on YouTube):

Twist and Tweak

Don’t be discouraged if you discover that there are many books on your subject and many with similar titles.  You can still write your book. If somebody has already “got” your title — even though you can’t copyright titles — pick something else. Find something even better. As Jean-Noel says in the video clip, you have to “take it to the next level.” You have to come up with a tweak, twist or create a niche that takes the book where it’s never been before.

No matter what subject you’re writing about, imagine it as a branch on a tree.  You don’t want to recreate the same old branch; you want to burst forth into a new, fresh, leafy branch. What will this new branch be about? What will you call it? Will it be about something unexpected and different? Will it fill a gap? Is there really a book in it — or more?

Book Ideas Branch Off Into New Book Ideas, Just as a Tree Springs Forth With Newer, Fresher Branches. Photo Taken at Vermont Bed & Bath Inn by Sylvia Cary

Old book ideas branch off into new book ideas, just as a tree blossoms forth with newer, better, fresher branches. Keep tweaking your idea until you get it right.
Photo by Sylvia Cary — taken at a Vermont Bed & Breakfast and the inspiration for the cover of my book, The Therapist Writer (cover design by Dotti Albertine).

Sometimes it may feel as though there’s nothing new under the sun, but when it comes to book ideas, just one more twist or tweak or shift in point of view can take your baby from an ordinary book idea to a great book idea.

Your assignment: Start writing it.

(c) The Therapist Writer: Helping Mental Health Professionals Get Published (Timberlake Press), Sylvia Cary, LMFT. YouTube video clip by Melody Jackson. Photos in this post by Sylvia Cary.

The Dan Poynter Show

Publishing Guru Dan Poynter Presents Another Factoid-Filled and Fascinating Talk on Publishing -- Photo Credit: Sylvia Cary, LMFT

Publishing Guru Dan Poynter Presents Another Factoid-Filled and Fascinating Talk on Publishing  — Photo: Sylvia Cary

Whenever publishing guru Dan Poynter speaks within a thirty mile radius of Los Angeles, I’m there. Recently, he spoke at the Motion Picture & Television Fund Home (MPTF) in Woodland Hills (a retirement home for the movie industry), and I was there. The grounds are beautiful — fountains, flowers, flags and a huge statue of a Trombone Player.

Flags Welcome Visitors at the Motion Picture & Television Fund (MPTF)

Flags Welcome Visitors to the Motion Picture & Television Fund (MPTF) — Photo: Sylvia Cary

Okay, so why am I a Dan Poynter groupie? Because Dan Poynter always has something new and interesting to say about one of my favorite topics, publishing. To date, he has made twenty-one trips around the world to speak on the subject, which puts him on the cutting edge of what’s new in publishing globally. I want to hear all about it. For example, during his talk at the MPTF, he mentioned that the Chicago Sun-Times had just laid off all their photographers, instructing their reporters to take their own photos and videos. This is just another example of the fact that newspapers are dying and can no longer afford their staffs. Keep in mind that I heard this bit of news from Poynter  a week before I read about it online, which tells you this man has his ear to the ground! In addition to giving his talks, Poynter always distributes a fabulous handout, a great resource in itself. And for those of you who don’t want to follow the man around, his free newsletter, Publishing Poynters, has 21,000 subscribers and is full of book marketing news, ideas, tips and opportunities. To sign up go to http://www.parapub.com.

Toot Your Own Horn -- Statue of Trombone Player outside the Katzenburg Pavilion at the Motion Picture & Television Fund

Toot Your Own Horn — Statue of Trombone Player outside the Katzenberg Pavilion at the Motion Picture & Television Fund — Photo: Sylvia Cary

“Discovery” Is the New Word for “Promotion”

According to Poynter, the latest term for book “promotion” is book “discovery,” a fresh word that lets writers know that it’s up to them to find ways for readers to “discover” their books: “It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you.” And since publishers no longer market your book for you, you have to do it — unless you’re Paris Hilton and you’re already a brand. I know I’m not a “brand,” so that means I have to keep on looking for ways my book can be “discovered.”

“Amazon is a Fact of Life”

There are authors out there who seem to relish putting down Amazon, but “Amazon is a fact of life,” Poynter says. Since 70-80% of all online book sales are through Amazon, learn how to take advantage of the site and all it offers that can benefit you and your book.  Join forums and groups. Improve your Amazon profile. Flesh out the Author Central page. Poynter adds, “Put different images of yourself on the site, including pictures of you at work, doing what you do, so when somebody goes to Google Images to look you up (perhaps for a review, blog or article), they’ll have a whole page of different  photos to pick from to go with whatever they are writing.”

Wikipedia

“You must be on Wikipedia,” Poynter says. It’s not easy to get on the site. You have to follow the Wikipedia format. You can always look up Dan Poynter and use his page as a template. Wikipedia has become the place people check out when they are checking you out to see if you’re the real deal, so give it a shot.

“Bloggers are the New Book Reviewers”

Poynter has been saying this for years, and it’s even more true today: “Bloggers are the new book reviewers.” While it’s good to have a blog, you don’t have to have one. Instead, you can follow the blogs of others and, at an appropriate time, approach them to be a “guest blogger,” or ask if they’d be willing to review your book. He pointed out that publications such as the Library Journal have now started to charge money for book reviews – mostly because they’re getting fewer ads from publishers, so it helps them stay afloat. The downside is that their reviews no longer have the same credibility because they’re paid for. On the other hand, blogger reviews have come to mean more.

Two other Poynter tips from his MPTF talk: 1)  Put together a 2-minute “sizzle reel” (a lively demo reel about your book) and upload it to your website or YouTube; 2) Use your email program to create an “ad” for your book at the bottom of every email you send out. You can include your picture or a picture of your book cover – or both.

Check Dan Poynter’s website (parapub.com) or look at the end of his newsletters to see “where in the world” he is speaking next — and maybe you, too, can be a Poynter groupie.

© Sylvia Cary, LMFT, author of The Therapist Writer: Helping Mental Health Professionals Get Published (Timberlake Press)

Authors Love Being Top Dog

Authors Are Top Dogs in Self-Publishing
-- Photo by Sylvia Cary

So here I am, waiting patiently in the car while my owner trots inside to buy a book.  How quaint is that!  How old-school. She’s the only dog owner I know who still buys the real thing.  (Guess there’s one in every crowd).  Much as I love chewing on traditional  books, self-publishing is way more cool. Self-publishing has  chased away all the gate-keepers (and do I hate gate-keepers) down the street.  Self-publishing has made them “redundant,” as the Brits say. And guess who’s in the driver’s seat now?  Guess who’s free to roam?  Guess who doesn’t have anybody yelling “no!” at them or, worse yet, “not for us?” Ya got it, pally! Self-published authors!  And if you think for one moment that self-published authors are going to give up all that fun without a fight, you’re barking up the wrong tree.

If only I could talk.

When I think about how my owner could self-publish her own story (and she’s got one, believe me!) or do an e-book instead of paying money to read someone else’s story, it kills me. Doesn’t she get it? Doesn’t she see the fun she’s missing? And don’t even breathe on me about what those naysayers are bow-wowing about, trying to scare off indie authors by telling them  that self-publishing is  a house of cards about to tumble down.  I’d like to take a rolled-up newspaper to those party-poopers  (excuse the pun).  The good news is that author Nathan Bransford barked right back at them in his March 7th blog (www.nathanbransford.com) when he told them, “Get used to the self-publishing boom. We’re just getting started.” Go, Nathan! (He’s just got to be a dog owner).

If only I could talk.

Obviously, Nathan got a good whiff of the self-publisher’s spirit. He knows being a Top Dog author is just too damn much fun, along with the hard work, to pass up. When self-publishing guru Dan Poynter says 81% of people feel they’ve got a book inside them, well I say it’s the same thing for dogs.

If only I could talk.

But it won’t be long. This is strictly on the QT, but I’ve been working on this little project out back in my dog-house.  It’s  called “the iPaw.”  Someday every dog will be able to tap out his or her story. Someday every dog will have his day.

Someday this car will be mine.

copyright Sylvia Cary, LMFT

A Panel of One: Dan Poynter Updates Writers on Latest Publishing Changes & Opportunities

Self-Publishing Guru, Dan Poynter, Updates a Southern California Writers Group on the Latest Publishing Industry Changes -- Photo: Sylvia Cary

Whether you’re a therapist writer or any other kind of writer, you know it’s important to  keep up with what’s going on in the ever-changing publishing industry.  Since we can’t all be at every writing-related event in our area, I thought I’d share some things I learned at the latest meeting of IWOSC (Independent Writers of Southern California) in my own area.

Now usually on the last Monday night of the month, IWOSC presents a panel of four to six experts on topics related to writing and publishing, but this time things were different. This time it was a panel of only one — that one being Dan Poynter, a man who probably knows more about the publishing game than anyone else on earth. He flies 6000 miles a week, speaking to book-writing hopefuls and conversing with publishing experts in every nook and cranny of the globe. He spends 40% of his time in the air, at airports, and in other countries. It’s no wonder that whenever he opens his mouth to speak about publishing, writers listen.

Poynter opened his talk with a catchy little definition of self-publishing that you might want to put up on your fridge to inspire you:  “Self-publishing, when you’re doing it right, is when your passion center meets your profit center.”

But publishing wasn’t originally Dan Poynter’s primary passion. Sky-diving was his first love. One day in 1972 somebody took him for his first sky dive “and I was hooked,” he says. If he hadn’t been taken on that jaunt, he never would have known how much he liked it — and he might never have ended up in the publishing field. Today, he advises parents to “do something new every weekend with your kids; open them up to different kinds of experiences and eventually they’ll find something they want to pursue.”

After Poynter got into sky-diving (including a  jump into the north pole), he realized that there were no parachute manuals. He wrote one, became a publisher, published it and sold it through parachute schools, parachute shops, parachute catalogs, and parachute magazines — but not through bookstores. Even back then he realized, “Sell to your own tribe. You have to go where your audience hangs out.” Marketing a book was harder in those days.  “Today, because of the Internet and search engines, we can find our customers and our customers can find us.”

In 1973, Poynter discovered hang gliding. He fell in love again. And again, when he realized that there were no manuals on the subject, he spent four months researching it and came out with the first book on hang gliding. The book took off. “It was the right book at the right time, just when everybody was crazy about hang gliding and there were articles on it in every magazine.” He marketed this book the same way he’d marketed his parachuting book — he sold them in hang gliding stores, hang gliding schools, hang gliding magazines and hang gliding catalogs. “Your book has to be the first one,” he says. “If you have the second book you’re out of luck.” Initially, when he left copies in stores on consignment, management was skeptical. Then, when the books sold out, he started to get calls for more: “You have to show them there’s a market.”  Also, thanks to his naïveté at the time, he sent a copy of his hang-gliding book to the Library Journal and asked them to review it.  He had no idea that getting a book reviewed in the Library Journal is a feat the equivalent of parachuting into the North Pole. But the Library Journal actually did review the book and as a result of that review he sold copies to 1200 libraries.

By 1974 Poynter had earned enough money to move back to California from a colder clime (he’d come to hate cold) to a big house on a hill in Santa Barbara. He has since authored over one hundred additional books.

Publishing is changing so fast it’s hard to keep up. The large publishers are downsizing, the traditional brick and mortar stores are going out of business, readers have fallen in love with ebooks, “and we’ve been losing three independent bookstores a week for the last twenty years.” Publishing industry professionals who are still resisting all these changes are, in Poynter’s words,  “in denial,” And the changes are having a huge impact on every facet of book publishing — literary agents,  distributors, book printers, book reviewers — just about everyone that the industry touches. Even the area of “foreign rights” is changing. Someday, authors will have their books translated into other languages on their own and sell them on Amazon or on their own Web sites. “Tolerate books stores, but don’t pursue them,” Poynter says. “Bookstores are lousy places to sell books. New York publishing still thinks it’s all about bookstores, but they’re wrong. The winners are going to be authors and small publishers who go with the flow and adapt to what’s inevitable and embrace the changes. In the past, everyone followed the Big Six publishing conglomerates. Now, the Big Six are following us!”

Poynter predicts that the abandonment of the “New York” publishers and gatekeepers will continue, and magazines (and along with them book review space) will continue to disappear. “1989 was the peak year for the magazine industry. Magazines were thick with ads. Now they’re getting skinnier and skinnier. Look at Newsweek. It’s losing millions. Most newspapers will disappear in five years. The only four likely to survive are the New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today and the Wall Street Journal. Most book reviews will be done online by book bloggers.”

While these changes are opening up all kinds of exciting opportunities for writers, Poynter warns that writers also need to be wary of scammers. “Avoid Vanity presses. Do your due diligence. And if you are about to do business with a company, first go online and type in Google + the name of the company + scam (or rip-off) and see what comes up.

Poynter ended his presentation with a reminder: “87% of people don’t like their job. One million people call in sick every day. But we, as authors and publishers, are respected and have a passion for what we do. There will be a growing need for entertainment (fiction) and information (non-fiction)…” – and that means work we love! So for the hundreds of  writers, publishers and guests sitting in the audience listening to this most impressive “panel of one,” the future is looking pretty good.

The Ebooks Are Coming! The Ebooks Are Coming!

A Lovely Little Local Book & Author Fair. Will These Still Exist When Ebooks Take Over the World?

“Ebooks are the future.” —  Dan Poynter, self publishing guru

Dan Poynter has been predicting that ebooks are the future for years. He has compared hanging onto the idea of paper-only publishing to still manufacturing buggy whips. It’s so yesterday. “Every paper book has to be an ebook,” one insider said at a meeting I attended on book promotion, “and to argue against it you are shooting yourself in the foot.” Another added: “Ebooks! That’s where the industry is going. You can’t stop it!”  Harsh? Maybe. But probably true.

So last week, with all these warnings and predictions dancing around my head, I drove  north from Los Angeles to Camarillo to attend what I’m sure will one day be regarded as just another relic of the past — the Ventura County Book & Author Fair, a delightful all-day event with speakers, panels, and authors at tables selling books and handing out chocolates. And, of course, exchanging publishing and self-publishing stories with humor and enthusiasm.

Touching Books

The minute I walked across the patio from the Senior Center and entered the exhibit hall, I felt a surge of relief. The book fair looked like every other book fair I’d ever been to and I liked it. Nothing had changed. Buggy whips galore! And what I was most struck with was how everybody loves to touch books.  And so do I. I saw people picking up books, caressing books, flipping through books, rubbing the spines of books, smelling books, looking at the tables of contents, studying the front covers, reading the back covers. And even buying books.

Touching Books -- So Hard to Resist!

A Book Fair Without Books?

Then a question popped into my head:  If things are going all-digital, can you have a book and author fair with just ebooks? What will it look like?  What will it feel like?  Will it look like Brookstones or Comdex? I went around to different book display tables and asked authors how they felt about the idea of an all-ebook book fair. Most had the same response:  “Oh, the horror.”  The idea of a world without touchable books seems unthinkable. I asked myself, would I be willing to drive an hour to a book fair just to touch the latest hardware? Sniff a power cord? Scroll through words on a screen instead of flipping through a real book? And leave my fingerprints on somebody else’s ebook reader? Are we having fun yet?

After returning from the book fair I emailed a therapist colleague of mine in Bakersfield, Sue Speake, LMFT, who has almost finished writing her own book — and has her heart set on seeing it in print — the traditional way. When I asked her what she thought about an all-digital publishing world, she had the same reaction — resistance: “What about colleges or public libraries, bookshelves at home, book markets and peeking at the end of the book to see what happens? What about trading books with a friend? What about donating the book you’ve finished reading to the senior home or schools? We must have real books…WE must!”

“Panic Nook”

Somehow I suspect that those of us who are book lovers and book touchers will manage to stash away a supply of books in a nook or cranny somewhere for that fatal day when you just can’t buy a real book anywhere. We can pull up a standing lamp, screw in an incandescent light bulb from our secret stash under the kitchen sink, pull an afghan over our knees and enjoy caressing our way through one of our favorite relics of the past, keeping our place with an actual paper bookmark, and we can take comfort in the fact that as long as we have our own little panic nook — at least total ebookgeddon isn’t today.

Shape-Shifting Small Bookstores

The X-Factors of Small Bookstore Survival

A Small Bookshop in Amsterdam - Photo Taken by MorBCN's Photostream via Flickr from Yahoo!

Not being a bookstore insider, I get my information about what’s going on with bookstores the way many of us do – by reading about them or taking myself on little “class trips.” A few weeks ago I went to witness the closing of my local Borders store, took a few photos and blogged about it. Since then I’ve been tracking online articles about small bookstore closings — one after another, I’m sad to say. According to one of my favorite news sources for such things (www.TheBookseller.com), there have been 2000 independent bookstore closings in Britain since 2005, including Notting Hill – The Travel Bookshop, made famous by the 1999 movie starring Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant. Efforts to save Notting Hill, led by celebs, have apparently failed. This story is being repeated globally as bookstores (many with a resident cat) are closing — in Canada, Japan, Australia, the U.S. and other places. Three famous independents here in Los Angeles that have met this fate are Dutton’s Bookstore, The Mystery Bookstore and the Bodhi Tree, closing this Christmas.

Predictions

If you love bookstores (and I do), then the predictions that accompany these store closings are depressing.  Dan Poynter, the self-publishing guru who travels around the world a number of times each year and has his finger on the pulse of publishing, predicts that within a few years, all publishing will be online. John Biggs, a blogger and gadget geek for TechCrunch, is quoted as saying, “I love books but they’re not going to make it past this decade…The time to pivot is now and it’s clearly already happening.” In a February 2011 article in USA Today called “Is There Hope for Small Bookstores in the Digital Age?” reporter Bob Minzesheimer forecasts that shelf space for print books will decline 50% in next 5 years and 90% in 10 years. Another article, “The End of Bookshops,” predicts that bookshops will be “wiped out in only five years.”  So it’s looking more and more as though somewhere between 2011 and 2021, your local Barnes & Noble may consist of nothing more than a café with an espresso coffee machine sitting next to an Espresso Book Machine (EBMs can print a book from a digital file in just minutes) with digital access to millions of books (if you still insist on paper), including the Encyclopedia Britannica which has also gone digital.

The Comfort of Community

Each bookstore closing triggers deep emotional reactions from staff and patrons, many describing themselves as “heartbroken,” “distraught,”  “crestfallen,” or “angry” over having their gathering places wrenched away from them. Earlier this year 200 upset customers picketed to protest the closing of a Barnes & Noble store in Encino, California. I ran a writers’ group there and we lost our home, then settled elsewhere, and now that’s up in the air.

It’s not that any of these people are being denied access to books. They’re being denied access to the human connection and the comfort of community they’ve become used to, and they’re also being denied access to potential dreams hidden away in all those books, yet to be discovered. Haven’t you ever bought a book just to have it? Maybe not even to read right away, but because you sense there’s something in it you might need to know someday? How will one stumble across such precious volumes if there are no more bookstores? The co-owner of one U.S. bookstore, which has no immediate plans to shut down, was quoted in one of the articles I read as saying, “There are customers who would start crying if we said we were closing. People are hungry for human contact, and so when we create a place where like-minded individuals can gather, it’s going to work.”

Surviving Bookstores Shape-Shifting

Before you get too discouraged, consider this: Yes, thousands of small bookstores have gone out of business, but thousands more have survived.  Not only that, but new ones are actually being opened. What’s going on? Don’t they read the papers?  Are they in massive denial? But I saw this with my own eyes when I went to the Flintridge/La Canada (California) Bookstore and Coffeehouse to see their Espresso Book Machine (see my July 31st blog about this great gizmo) and learned that the store had just been rebuild and expanded (after a truck had driven through it!). I remember thinking, “How refreshing! A new bookstore.”

My Own "Small Bookshop" of Writing Books

A booksellers meeting this year in Washington, D.C. (again, according to articles I’ve been reading) drew 500 people, 25 of them considering opening new bookstores, which is significant. The American Booksellers Association reports that after membership slid from 4000 down to 1750, it’s creeping up again and is now at 1800. Bookstore survivors are brainstorming like mad, trying to figure out the best things to do to stay in business.

Small Bookstore “To Do” List

Here’s part of an evolving “To Do” list for small bookstores looking to thrive:  take advantage of the mega bookstore closings * hook in to the growing “support local businesses” movement * make sure book-buying is a pleasant experience * hold events, groups, classes, talks * let the supermarkets use their floor space to stock the best-sellers and magazines * stick to unique books and niche topics * sell both used and new books * partner with local POD authors and carry some of their books * market locally * have a welcoming café * open up later and stay open late * put your entire inventory online * market via social media * offer services that customers can’t get elsewhere * sell some gifts and toys, but don’t become a gift store or toy store that sells books * sell personalized children’s books * do a radio pod cast with authors and an audience *  have volunteer “interns” to assist and learn about the book business * have free writing classes to help grow new authors * and, finally, smile and stock really great books!

The Mystery of Survival

I don’t know if the dire predictions about the death of bookstores will actually come to pass, but what I do know from being a psychotherapist for twenty-five years is that when it comes to “recovery,” there are mysterious x-factors in the mix that we can’t explain. So don’t count the bookstores out yet.

Copyright Sylvia Cary 2011