Category Archives: eReader

Let’s Talk About Books (and eReaders and marketing) Radio Show 06/23/2011 with Lynn Serafinn

Tomorrow’s guest on Let’s Talk About Books is author and transformation coach Lynn Serafinn who will give us insights into her book’s success. My cohost Stephanie Gunning and I will also be talking about eReaders and book marketing, and we hope you find our insights and tips helpful. Feel free to call in as you’re listening at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/letstalkaboutbooks The show is from 11:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Eastern Time.

Also, I wanted to add something to what I was saying last week about book endorsements. Don’t forget that you can also ask a potential endorser to write a foreword for your book! The coauthor of my book Raising a Sensory Smart Child had admired Temple Grandin, the famous cattle-handling-facility designer and author of books on autism, for years, and wrote to her, cold, asking if she would consider giving us a foreword. She did and that’s been incredibly invaluable for us. Don’t be afraid to ask, even if you don’t know someone. If you’ve written a marvelous book that offers great value to people, people may very well be willing to lend their name and write a foreword or endorsement.

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Filed under Blogtalkradio Show, book publishing, endorsements, eReader, Forewords, Lynn Serafinn, sales of books, Stephanie Gunning, testimonials

Lessons for Aspiring Self-Help Book Authors: What NOT to Do to Your Brand!

As part of my research for a book proposal I’m working on, I’ve been looking at a bestselling self-help book that was recently featured on Oprah’s show. I see from the acknowledgements that I know the acquiring editor well; she is a talented structural and line editor and has a good eye for commercial material, strong hooks, and great platforms. The book has hit the bestseller lists and has a high number of stars (average ratings from reviewers) on Amazon.com/ Yet the number of one- and two-star reviews is very high as well—and to me, the book is unreadable and a waste of $15 in paperback, much less $25 in hardcover. I can’t even recommend it as a $10 eBook. So what are the lessons here?

  1. A book does NOT have to be good or even readable to be highly successful IF it’s from an established author. Platform is king these days. But, the big question is, has this author tarnished her brand by going out in a big way with a book that’s mediocre at best? The bad reviews are mostly focused on how little information is contained in these pages, the book’s repetitiveness, the book’s lack of originality, and the lack of value. There is no way an author with a modest platform could have sold this book to a publisher, in my professional opinion.
  2. Publishers are stuck in the old business model. The book began as a hardcover selling for nearly $25. It is 224 pages and by my count, about 50,000 words. When I began in book publishing in the late 1980s, a standard self-help book was 10,000 words. Now, they usually run 60-80,000 words. Why charge $25 for 50,000 words? The publisher needs to justify a big advance to the name-brand author and money spent on advertising (they advertise only the handful of books they think have a chance at bestsellerdom), paying bookstores to display the book, and paying the publicist. For publishers, an overpriced hardcover is crucial to make the numbers work. Now that eBooks are outselling hardcovers, and eBook prices are being jacked up to make up for the lost revenue, the $25/hardcover-first model is in serious danger. Depending on the timing of the hardcover and the eBook releases, the eBook revolution may have erased this book’s profit margin for the publisher. So while it may be a bestseller, it’s possible it lost money for the publisher. Selling her next book may be VERY difficult for this author regardless of how low an advance she is willing to take.
  3. Grammar, mechanics, and structure matter. Although the book has a standard self-help book structure, the chapters meander and have no headers, just design elements to break up text here and there. On the surface, this disguises the meandering, unstructured text. In reality, the reader notices that we’re flitting from this thought to the next in a disorienting path that circles back in on itself. What’s more, there are several sentence fragments on each page. Knowing that the editor is perfectly well aware that a sentence must contain a subject and verb, and with some verbs, a direct object as well, I have to assume this was a stylistic choice. It was a poor one. The text is disjointed and tiresome to read. You see, discussion of all those commas and semicolons, parallelism in clauses, and careful choices regarding sentence length and placement of subordinate clauses may bore anyone but a Latin or English Grammar major, but when they’re missing, the casual reader recognizes that something is “off.” It takes work to slow down and put the thoughts together in your mind to understand the ideas. When the reader discovers the ideas are overly familiar, she loses interest (many reviewers reported not finishing the book).
  4. Define your audience. The title was designed to play off another bestselling book’s title that appeals to the same demographic—a wise editorial choice. The problem is that the book doesn’t deliver on the title. This frustrated readers. Remember, you have a title AND a subtitle with which to summarize the book. People buy books on titles and short descriptions. If yours is misleading, your readers will be very unhappy and post negative reviews.
  5. Define your audience’s problem. One aspect of defining your audience is clearly defining their problem that your book promises to solve. If they buy your book to solve a different problem, thinking you’ll address it, they’ll be disappointed. Is yours a book of parenting advice for all parents, parents of children with special needs, or both? A book can straddle both audiences, but don’t mislead people by implying that it’s for the wider audience when it’s not. (In fact, I had this problem with another book I bought this week—at some point, I may blog in more detail about this particular problem!)
  6. Know your audience’s sensitivities. Is your audience women from 18 to 80, women who attend Bible classes and go to church every Sunday as well as women who are atheists, women who find Sarah Silverman offensive and women who find her hilarious? If you want to cast that wide a net, you will have to pay close attention to tone and voice. The bestselling book I’m describing in this blog uses the word “God” to describe a New Age/New Thought concept of divinity, ignoring the fact that many women have a very different idea about “God.” It also uses the F word liberally, including in a chapter title. That may fly with a certain generation; to another it is considered offensive and a sign of lazy writing. When I work with clients or cowrite books of my own, I may not agree 100 percent with the final choices the team of authors, editor, agent, and publisher’s sales force representatives makes, but I know how important these decisions are. I have seen books shut out of bookstores due to poor decisions about title, tone, and voice that caused the bookstore buyers to be unclear about the intended audience.
  7. Deliver what you promise your readers. A self-help book is supposed to do more than just define the reader’s problem and give insight into its origin. It must have takeaway: an action plan for solving the problem. This may include exercises, a recipe for activities to be carried out over a specific period of time (such as a 21-day diet plan), tips, resources that will help the reader further tailor the takeaway material to her specific needs, and so on. Reviewers complained that the entire book is summarized in the few pages and that the suggestions for how to solve the problem were stale, the sort of ideas we’ve all heard a million times. Today, authors are competing with free information on the Internet available in seconds to anyone using a search engine. If there’s nothing special or fresh about your information, and your advice can be summed up in a page of bulletpoint tips, you aren’t ready to write a self-help book.

By now, I’m sure you’re thinking, “Yeah, but the author got a big advance, a bestseller, and a place on Oprah’s couch.” Yes….but only because the author had built up credibility with previous books over the years and a solid brand she’d worked hard to build. Will her next book see success? Will it yield a hefty advance? I doubt it. Over the years, I’ve seen many authors destroy their brands by making bad choices in conjunction with their advisors who are too often contemptuous of book buyers. I will never forget the day one of the bigwigs in the editorial department of a publishing house told me, “We don’t have to spend the time and money cutting out those two hundred pages in the middle of the book that weigh it down. People won’t realize it sags in the middle until after they’ve bought it!” She chuckled; I made a mental note that I did NOT belong in a company that held contempt for their customers. To me, the story I’m telling here is a cautionary tale for publishers, editors, and authors. You can only fool people so long before they catch on to the fact that you don’t provide quality products and don’t respect and value them.

If you as an author or aspiring author aren’t comfortable with a suggestion your social media expert makes regarding how to build your brand, if you don’t feel ready to write your book just yet because your platform’s solid but you’re still unsure if your ideas are well-formed enough to work into a book, listen to your instincts. Maybe you need to try out your ideas in workshops and with real-life clients. That’s easier than ever to do thanks to webinar and teleseminar software. Maybe you need to mull over your brand and your hook a little more because something’s not right about it. These investments of time and creative energy will pay off in a book that you can be proud of for years to come, and they give you greater potential for establishing your career and a loyal audience.

Have you ever felt torn between rushing forward with writing a book and slowing down to get it right? What pressures did you feel, and why? Would you have benefitted from spending time with book publishing consultant to talk through your concerns and strategies? Please share your stories with me!

Does your self-help book deliver on its title and promise? Does it solve a problem? Does it offer "takeaway" for readers that they can apply to their own lives?

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Filed under bestseller, bestselling author, book length, book publishing, book publishing economics, book publishing revenue models, chapters, eReader, frontlist books, grammar, headers, listen to the customer, Oprah, pricing your book, sales book, sales of books, self-help books, structuring nonfiction, write a bestseller

Google Enters the e-Book Retailing World

The New York Times reports that Google is now selling and offering free eBooks through their site, readable on smart phones and eReaders (although for now, only the free books can be read on Kindle–boy, that Amazon is determined to keep its grip on the market). They can team up with bookstores so that you can buy Google books through an actual brick-and-mortar store. So, if you’re loyal to the corner bookstore, you no longer have to “betray” them by buying eBooks through the online retailers.

To me, this signals a move toward a greater emphasis on guiding readers to the books they might like in order to distinguish yourself as a retailer. If I go into bookstore A and they carry a paltry number of books in my favorite genre, I’m unlikely to feel the desire to patronize them over any other bookstore or online retailer (especially if they don’t carry books I’ve written!). However, if I go into bookstore B and they carry a good selection of books in my favorite genre, host author appearances and discussion groups that appeal to me, and offer great recommendations that go beyond simple software generation of related titles (“If you bought Diary of a Wimpy Kid, you will love Diary of a Wimpy Kid II and the Diary of a Wimpy Kid trivia book”–gee, I coulda figured that out by myself!)–that’s where I’ll be buying my books. For now, Amazon.com and BN.com have the software that many readers rely on for recommendations, as well as helpful reviews from actual readers, while independent bookstores have the advantage of creating a sense of community, with handwritten “shelf talkers” that provide recommendations by employees (helpful if you happen to have similar tastes, not helpful if you don’t.

Of course, many of the books we buy are gifts for others. Now we have some choices. If I want to buy, say, the new Mark Twain autobiography and wrap it up to place under the Christmas tree for someone I love, I purchase it in a brick-and-mortar bookstore or order it to be shipped to me, or to my loved one (in wrapping paper if I pay extra). Or, I can “gift” it to them using their email address attached to their eReader device (a new service from Amazon.com for Kindle)–not nearly as much fun to receive but still, an option. What if I could wrap up a “look in your Kindle” or “look in your Nook!” card in a box and send the book to the person’s device? Again, all are options–but where do I buy the book if there’s no big price difference? (There probably wouldn’t be a price difference on eBooks). Where do my loyalties lie?

In the future, I think we’ll see improved recommendation software combined with personal recommendations offered through online or brick-and-mortar stores that create a sense of community for the people who love a certain type of book (Christian books, mystery novels, children’s books, New Age books, etc.). We love to support our community, however we define that community, and retailers can capitalize on this. If I can buy my favorite New Age/Spirituality books from one main retailer yet still use that retailer to access helpful guidance on buying y.a. and children’s books for the kids in my life, that would be my ideal.

It’ll be interesting to see how general bookstores, chain or independent, will find a better way to reach out to niche customers. “It’s politically correct to support us” just isn’t enough when it’s clear they won’t help you find books you’re likely to love–or make up for it by offering cheaper prices and better service than Amazon.com or BN.com.

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Filed under book publishing, book publishing economics, eReader, independent bookstores, listen to the customer, Uncategorized

Kindle Will Be Publishing Works That Are Too Short for a Book, Too Long for an Article

Often, potential clients will tell me they’ve written a book, but when they tell me it runs 30,000 or 40,000 words, I have to break the news that they’ve written an animal that’s too long for an article and too short for a book. No more! eBooks break us out of the limitations of bindings and paper orders, allowing us to create books that are of that “in between” length. You can learn how to submit your book to Amazon’s new Kindle Singles program for those “in between” works here.

Of course, this opens up the question of, when will Amazon/Kindle and B&N/Nook take over the traditional job of publishers by wading through submissions and choosing the best ones, then providing editorial guidance to make the books “sing”? Will they soon begin working with freelance book publishing professionals to create an editorial vision or voice, weeding out the marginal material and highlighting the works truly of value to readers who aren’t related to/best friends with the amateur author?

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Filed under book publishing, eReader, finding an editor, independent publishing, writing a book

Enhanced e-Books or “Vooks”

The New York Times reports that publishers are beginning to create enhanced e-books that feature film clips, deleted scenes from novels, and other extras that enhance the reading experience. We’re at the beginning of a new era and judging by history, publishers will first invest in making such enhanced books for bestsellers or frontlist books and later, for midlist books, then finally, perhaps, they’ll take a look at their backlist to find ways to relaunch old favorites in an enhanced form. As the process of finding material and clearing permissions becomes smoother, the business model will reveal itself. It will take time but I’m very much looking forward to an enhanced book experience!

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Filed under backlist, book publishing economics, deluxe book packages, eReader, frontlist books, iPad, midlist books, permissions, Uncategorized

Google Entering the eBook Biz with Independent Booksellers

Google knows searching and downloading, independent booksellers know how to sell a book. Now Google is going to act like a wholesaler to independent bookstores, offering eBooks that can be read on any device. Independent booksellers will be the ones to recommend particular books. Check out this New York Times article on how it will work.

Of course, this means that people still have to be drawn into the bookstores and get into the habit of trusting the recommendations of booksellers who are known for hand selling books.

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Filed under book publishing economics, eReader, Google books, independent bookstores

Self-publish on Apple’s iPad

Now you can self-publish your book on Apple’s iPad, increasing your readership. See the article here.

I believe that more and more, authors will self-publish and the stigma of “vanity publishing” will give way to the prestige of being a successful “independent publisher.”

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Filed under eReader, independent publishing, iPad, self-publishing