mass market books

Have E-Books Replaced Mass Market Books?

mass market booksYou probably remember the term “mass market books” or “mass market paperbacks.” But you also probably haven’t heard it in quite a while. There’s a reason for that. And that reason sits primarily in the e-book space.

What Is a Mass Market Book, Anyway?

People often used to confuse the term “mass market book” with “trade book.” So let’s start by defining what each term means.

Both of these types of books are designed for the general consumer. Most could be categorized as romance or mystery. But trade books were intended to be sold primarily through bookstores. Mass market books, on the other hand, were intended to be sold predominantly through “mass” channels beyond traditional bookstores. They often would be available by the register at a drug store, supermarket, etc…

Mass market books were also generally printed on less expensive paper than trade books, making them cheap to produce and cheap to sell.

What Happened to Mass Market Books?

Well, e-books happened. If mass market books were originally intended to be cheap and easy reads … well, what’s cheaper and easier than paying 99 cents to download the book on your Kindle? As more books became available in e-book form, people’s desires to read the same book in paperback (and pay a lot more for it) dwindled.

Now, note that not all genres were sacrificed by e-books. There are still plenty of topics in which people prefer to read a hardcover book — like autobiographies and self-help books. But “light reading” — the types of books that had always been mass market — has not been shown to be one of them.

Experts also say that there’s been a reduction in shelf space on the retail side. But that’s a chicken/egg thing … did that happen because of reduced mass market success? Or vice versa?

So Is Mass Market Dead?

It’s not quite dead, but it’s on life support. Here are a few stats from Publishers Weekly:

  • According to NPD BookScan, which tracks roughly 80% of print sales, mass market titles accounted for 13% of total print units sold in 2013; that figure dropped to 9% last year.
  • The Association of American Publishers reported that dollar sales of mass market titles fell 30% in 2015 compared to 2012.

So What’s an Aspiring Mass Market Author to Do?

You might have spent many years aspiring to be the next Michael Crichton or John Grisham. And you might be wondering if that’s still a possibility.

Rest assured, there are still new mass market books being printed all the time. In fact, according to PW: “Bricks-and-mortar mass merchants continue to be the outlets where these books are most popular, with Walmart being one of the most important retailers among that group. (Depending on the publisher and the book, though, Costco, Sam’s Club, and Target can be just as, if not more, important.) With exceptions, women remain the top customer group for mass market titles because, in genre fiction, romance is one of the biggest drivers of sales. Mass market books also remain, publishers believe, impulse buys. (All the publishers interviewed for this story said that Amazon is not a significant outlet for mass market books.)”

So there’s hope.

But here’s the rub. Given the changing industry, publishers aren’t actively looking for the next mass market author the same way they are looking for the next great historical fiction writer. Because there’s not a lot of money to be made there. Instead, they are opting to publish books by already-successful authors as mass market.

So here’s what that means for you…

You need to become a successful author BEFORE you find success in mass market. The cheapest and easiest way to do that is by breaking in via e-books. Build an audience through a success author marketing campaign (including an author website, of course). Gain readers and followers. Then approach a publisher as a proven success story and pitch yourself as a mass market author that’s worth the small investment.

Times are a-changin’.

vanity publishing and self publishing

Vanity Publishing and Self Publishing: What’s the Difference?

vanity publishing and self publishing

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last decade, you know a fair amount about self publishing. And if you’re over the age of 40, you probably have heard about vanity publishing as well — and likely not in a positive way. Just the name itself is awful (who thought that “vanity” was a good name to put in anything?!?!) But, in all seriousness, what’s the difference between vanity publishing and self publishing? Is there one, or has the industry simply undergone a name change?

What Are They?

Let’s start with simple definitions of each one.

A vanity publishing company is a business that an author can pay to essentially be their book publisher.

A self-publishing company is a business that gives authors the ability to publish their books themselves and pick and choose the needed services to do so.

Vanity Publishing and Self Publishing: What’s the Same

In many ways, self publishing is simply an evolution of what used to be called vanity publishing, but incorporating much of the 21st century technology available to authors. Here is what the two still have in common:

  • They allow authors to publish books themselves, without going through a traditional publishing company.
  • They involve some sort of financial investment from the author.
  • Marketing and sales of the book sit exclusively with the author.

And yet, in many ways, these businesses are very, very different.

Vanity Publishing and Self Publishing: What’s Different?

So now we get into the nitty gritty of what differentiates vanity publishing from self publishing. These are important differences that you need to know before choosing a publishing route.

  • Vanity presses have been around for nearly a half century, while self publishing is relatively new in comparison — only a few decades old.
  • Vanity presses almost always offer “cover to cover” service — everything from editing to cover design to book binding. Self publishing companies may or may not offer such services, and authors who are self publishing are less likely to rely on their publisher for such services.
  • Given the age of the medium, vanity publishing still offers books primarily in print. Self publishing allows you to print books, offer e-books, or both.
  • Vanity presses usually require more money up-front from an author. This makes sense, since their services are far more complete.
  • Here’s a really important one … If you go through a vanity publisher, that publisher will assign your book an ISBN number that belongs to them. This makes them the publisher of record and they may or may not collect additional royalty whenever that book sells. They will, forever and ever, own the rights to that book. A book that is self-published, on the other hand, is fully owned by the author.

Vanity Publishing and Self Publishing: Which Should You Choose?

Almost everyone will tell you that self publishing is the way to go. It offers you far more flexibility than vanity publishing, and — most importantly — allows you to retain the rights to your book in perpetuity. You should definitely lean towards a self publishing company if you:

  • Want to offer your book in multiple formats
  • Have the goal of publishing multiple books and/or becoming a bestselling author
  • Want some flexibility in terms of costs and services

However, that doesn’t mean vanity publishing should be excluded in all circumstances. Vanity publishing may do the trick if, for example, you:

  • Want to print a book that is exclusively for a small audience (i.e. an autobiography or family cookbook that you want passed down for generations)
  • Don’t want to invest a whole lot of time and energy in getting the book published
  • Don’t mind putting some money down up front

Hopefully, this has helped you understand the similarities and differences between the two industries and it will help you make the right choice for getting your book out there in the world.

articles for authors

Articles for Authors: What You Might Have Missed in February

articles for authors

Image courtesy of adamr at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Happy March, everyone.  Since February came and went so quickly, you may have missed some of these really helpful articles for authors – put together from various places across the web. Here are five our our favorites.

5 Must-Read Articles for Authors

  1. The Indie Author’s Guide to Customer Reviews
    How indie authors can turn that discouraging “no customer reviews yet” message into star ratings and commentary.
    Publishers Weekly, February 1, 2017
  2. Are You Confusing Your Readers?
    Here are five signs you might be confusing readers with your book’s category and description. If you confuse readers, you’ll also cripple sales.
    Build Book Buzz, February 8, 2017
  3. Writing an Effective Book Description: 7 Ways to Turn Browsers Into Buyers
    Today I share 7 tips on how to write a book description that will turn browsers into buyers.
    Karen Woodward, February 14, 2017
  4. The 7 Benefits Of Inviting Guest Authors To Your Blog
    Attracting guest posts to your blog, written by outsiders, is a strategy of enormous potential value. Here are seven reasons why.
    Forbes, February 15, 2017
  5. I Want to Stop Blogging. Now What?
    Here are three questions I frequently get when people want to stop blogging, and what you as an author need to know about cutting ties with your blog.
    Smart Author Sites, February 16, 2017

Happy Reading!

author tip sheet

Author Tip Sheets: The Whys and Hows

author tip sheetYou may have heard about an author tip sheet, sometimes called an author sell sheet. You may have even been told that you should have one. But what in the world is an author tip sheet? Let’s answer some of your questions.

What Is An Author Tip Sheet?

Think of an author tip sheet as a resume or a brochure for your book. It’s your one-page pitch about what the book is about, who it’s for and what people need to know about it. I like to think of it as sort of an abbreviated print version of  your author website.

Why Should I Have an Author Tip Sheet?

Every business person has a business card. Every company has a brochure. Your author tip sheet is the equivalent. When you meet someone who might be interested in your book — be it an agent/publisher, bookseller or reader — your author tip sheet is the thing you want to leave behind. Many authors swear by it as a primary way to make a meaningful connection with people who can take their book to the next level.

What Should Go Into an Author Tip Sheet?

As I mentioned before, an author tip sheet is very much like an author website. It should be a one-pager that includes the most important elements about your book.

There are certain musts on an author tip sheet, including:

  • Your book title and book cover
  • A brief book description
  • Publishing details (publisher name, ISBN, pub date, price, page count, etc…)
  • Purchasing options (formats, bulk order options, etc…)
  • Your target audience and why they will be interested
  • Your website/blog URL and/or social media accounts

Other optional elements to include (depending on your subject matter, book publishing status, etc…) could include:

  • Your book marketing plan
  • Comparable titles
  • Review blurbs and/or testimonials
  • Special honors you or the book have received
  • Your bio and/or a list of other books you’ve published
  • Fast facts about why your book is a must read, (i.e. Did you know that 1/3 of Americans …..)

What Format Is It in?

As you have probably figured out by now, an author tip sheet is usually a printed one-pager that you can leave behind when you visit a bookstore or other professional contact. Experts also recommend that the one-pager be available as a PDF that is accessible through your website. This will allow site visitors to print it out — and start handing it out — thus increasing your reach.

Do You Have Examples of Other Author Tip Sheets?

Yup. Here are a few that might serve as good models for you if you’re interested in getting started.

Dorothy Hamilton, Love What You Do
(created by iUniverse)

Brian Thomas Schmidt, The Worker Prince

Tom Harbin, MD, Waking Up Blind

So How Do I Make One?

If you’re working with an outside firm that handles anything from web design to book cover design to PR, they should be able to create an author tip sheet for you. But if you’re going it alone and want to create one yourself, there are a variety of websites that offer downloadable templates. Here are just a few we’ve found:

Hopefully, this has helped you better understand what an author tip sheet is, why you need one and how to make one. If you have experiences — good or bad — with your author tip sheet, please share them with us in the comments box below.

Group Blogs: The Hows and Whys for Authors

So you know you should blog to promote your book. But you worry it will be a waste of your time and effort. The solution? Group blogs.

Why Authors Should Consider Group Blogs

First, let’s define group blogs. These are individual blogs on specific topics that have multiple authors, each contributing posts.

Group Blogs for Authors -- Image courtesy of olovedog at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of olovedog at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

So, in other words, you might create a group blog on, say, weight loss. Then you might have five different authors who each have written books on diet, exercise, etc… who regularly contribute to this blog with their own individual posts. People who visit the blog would be able to read all the posts in chronological order, or simply read the ones by the contributor they are most interested in. Each of those posts would also include promotion of the individual titles that each author has written and/or links to their personal site.

The benefits of group blogs for authors like you is numerous, including:

  • You can expose yourself to a new audience. In other words, people following one of the other blog contributors are likely to see your posts as well.
  • The shared responsibility of keeping the blog updated doesn’t sit solely on you; it’s a team that keeps it alive and kicking.
  • More posts = more traffic = more book sales. It’s simple.

Creating or Joining Group Blogs

If group blogs sounds more palatable to you than blogging on your own, how would you go about doing it?

First, see if there are already any group blogs created in your genre. Do some Google searching to identify any that may be out there, and then reach out to those bloggers about becoming a contributor.

If there aren’t any group blogs in your genre, you can start your own if you’re willing to take on the responsibility. Start by setting up a blog for free at WordPress.com. Post one or two entries yourself to set the tone and theme. Then reach out to other authors in your field (if you know them personally, great; if not, a simple search should allow you to find authors promoting themselves) and ask them if they’re interested in being a contributor. Create posts on Facebook and/or LinkedIn pitching group blogging — you can link to this blog post — and asking those who are interested to reach out.

Group Blogging Tips

If you are going lead a group blog, here are some tips and things to keep in mind.

  • You can add authors and contributors easily through WP Admin. Go to Users → Invite New to invite others to join your team to be contributors or authors (more on this distinction below).
  • Decide if you want final authority over everything posted on your group blog. If you give contributors “author” rights, they can post and publish instantaneously. Or you can decide to make them “contributors,” in which case you would be able to review each post before it goes live.
  • Make sure to have each contributor create a user profile and gravatar. This will allow visitors to easily differentiate between each contributor.
  • You can also have each author be his or her own “category” of posts, making it easy for readers to sort posts by contributor.
  • Have all your contributors follow the same guidelines about tagging blog posts, optimizing them for keywords, etc… Consistency is key.
  • Use the super-cool author widgets that WordPress offers. Consider “Author’s Widget” — “an easy, direct way to display your team, as shown on The Smoke-Filled Room. When configuring the widget, you can adjust some settings, from a custom widget title, to the number of posts to show for each author, to the ability to specify avatar size.” Or try “Author Grid,” which brings in the photos of each of your authors/editors.

Have you tried group blogging? What worked for you? What pitfalls did you face? Share them with us!

most read posts of 2016

Our 5 Most-Read Posts of 2016

Happy New Year, everyone! 2017 is coming in with a bang! But before we look forward, let’s take a quick look backward at our most-read posts of 2016 — most-read by authors like yourself.

Here is a list of the five blog posts that got the most reads in the calendar year. Consider this your cliff notes if you missed any of it. Enjoy!

(And on a side note … apparently October and November were good months — they brought all of our most-read posts of the year. This is a pure coincidence.)

most read posts of 2016

Image courtesy of patrisyu at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

1. How to Promote Your Book on Your Website
Ever wonder how to promote your book online? Whether or not you already have an author website, there are definitely right ways and there are wrong ways to feature (and hopefully sell) your book there. Here are some examples of the dos and don’ts.
October 20, 2016

2. Getting an Agent for a Book: Why Self-Marketing Is Essential
So you’re starting to think about getting an agent for a book. Your manuscript is almost finished and it’s time to get it out there. Where do you start? In today’s world, I would argue, becoming a self-marketer before getting an agent for a book is essential.
November 17, 2016

 3. Your Author Page: 5 Questions to Ask Yourself
So you’ve decided to build an author website. Among other things, that website will include an author page. In this post, I explore a few different approaches to a successful author page, and examples of people who have done interesting things with theirs.
October 11, 2016

 4. Selling Books Online: 5 Things You Need to Know
Okay, you’ve written your first novel and you’re interested in selling books online … so how do you actually go about that? Here are five basic tenets to help you get started selling books online…
November 29, 2016

5.  Website Hack? 5 Reasons Your Author Site May Be Down
Here are five possible causes of your site being down, and what you can do about each one.
October 27, 2016

Here’s to a great 2017 for all you authors out there!

What Authors Should Read: November in Review

what authors should read

Photo credit: Foter.com / CC0

Another month has come and gone (and we are in the midst of the holiday season). We did a lot of posting and sharing in November — both of our own content and of other sites’ interesting articles, blog posts and more.

In case you missed any of it, here’s a summary of what authors should read to stay on top of industry trends.

What Authors Should Read From November

1. Is Passion for Your Book Enough? Include These 10 Hot Selling Points
Knowing these before you write your book will make all of your copy more organized, succinct, easy to read and engaging.
Book Coaching, November 5, 2016

2. Author Website Templates: 5 Things You Need to Know
So you want to build an author website. Here’s what you need to know about selecting and utilizing the right author website templates.
Smart Author Sites, November 7, 2016

3. Guest Blog Post: Author Website Tips
This article offering author website tips is our second guest post from Irish children’s book author Avril O’Reilly, who I met when she took one of my book marketing courses.
Build Book Buzz, November 16, 2016

4. Social Media Marketing Evolves
As social media platforms get more crowded, indie authors are recalibrating their marketing efforts.
Publishers Weekly, November 18, 2016

5. 4 Steps to Selling More Books with Less Social Media
Traditionally and self-published authors use Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms to help sell books. But should they be doing that?
Digital Book World, November 28, 2016

Happy reading!

selling books online

Selling Books Online: 5 Things You Need to Know

selling books onlineOkay, you’ve written your first novel and you’re interested in selling books online … so how do you actually go about that?

Here are five basic tenets to help you get started selling books online…

1. It’s not that difficult to get a book listed on Amazon. Even if you didn’t publish your book through Amazon, that doesn’t mean you can’t sell it there. It just takes a few easy steps to create your Amazon page and sell your book. Here are some instructions from Amazon’s Author Central on how to do that. And the nice part about selling through them is that you don’t have to worry about collecting money, distribution, etc… It’s all pretty simple.

2. There are other options for selling books online. Let’s say you don’t want people to have to go through Amazon to buy your book. Maybe you want to keep 100% of the profits. Or maybe you want to incentivize people to buy it directly from you by, say, offering a signed copy of the book to your buyers. In that case, there are several simple ways to sell the book yourself, assuming you have an on-site platform already. The simplest and most efficient way is via PayPal. This will allow you to create a product page, set prices for the book (and for shipping) and then easily embed that “buy” button on your author website. If you want to get even more sophisticated (or if you plan to sell more than just a book — say, your book and corresponding t-shirts, hats, etc…), you can set up your own online shopping cart. That takes a bit more work to build, but it would allow people to do all their shopping right there on your website. You can learn more about these various options in our post on how to sell books through your author website.

3. … but if you do, be aware of tax implications.
This is an important message for those of you who plan to sell the books yourselves. Talk to a financial professional in your state before beginning this venture! Find out about sales tax in your local area and what you’re required to charge buyers. The last thing you want is to get in trouble with the authorities.

4. Have a firm marketing plan in place. Just having a way to sell your book (or even having it listed on Amazon) is not what’s going to actually sell your book; just like setting up a lemonade stand on your street isn’t going to sell much lemonade. In order to successfully begin your venture of selling books online, you need to follow these basic steps: 1) Identify your audience; 2) Figure out how to reach that audience; 3) Drive them to where the book is sold; 4) Incentivize purchasing it. Now, those four steps sound pretty simple, but they’re not. If you’re not a marketing person at heart, I recommend you talk to someone who has some background in this. Even if he or she is just serving as a consultant for a short time, that consultation can help you firm up those plans and kick off your campaign. For example, if your book is a romance novel, you might be able to determine that your audience is female, ages 30-60, they spend a lot of time on Facebook and Pinterest, and could be driven to your site via paid ads on Facebook and/or viral pins. Once they get to your site, you might then want to offer them some kind of discount/donation to a charity for buying your book, or a cool bracelet if they recommend it to their book club. This is just one very specific example, but it’s a good idea of the detail involved in doing this right.

5. Make good decisions about selling print books, ebooks or both. Books aren’t just books anymore. Nowadays, you could sell your book in print (hardcover/softcover), an e-book, a PDF, etc… Again, this ladders back up to knowing your audience and how they prefer to read. A younger audience may prefer Kindle, while an older audience wants to hold the book. Genre matters as well. Now, you could certain decide to go with all of these options and offer your book however someone wants to read it. But be aware that each one is an investment in time and money, so choose wisely.

Selling books online may be easy in theory (technology does wonders, doesn’t it?), but it requires a lot of time, thought and planning to do it right. If you want help with any of these steps, you’re always welcome to reach out to us for a free consultation.

Good luck and happy bookselling.

author tips october

5 Author Tips from October

author tips octoberIt’s time for our monthly round-up again! If you missed any of these five author tips that were published in October, this is your chance to catch up. Enjoy!

October Author Tips: 5 Must-Reads

1. Your Author Page: 5 Questions to Ask Yourself
In this post, we explore a few different approaches to a successful author page, and examples of people who have done interesting things with theirs.
Smart Author Sites/October 11, 2016

2. Anatomy of a Book Cover
We are always admonished to not “judge a book by its cover,” but that’s exactly what happens, because your book cover is a retail package.
BookCoaching.com/October 11, 2016

3. Pitch Your Book to Holiday Gift Guides
Would your book make a good holiday gift? Now’s the time to start thinking about how you’ll pitch it to annual holiday gift guides that run in newspapers and on websites and blogs.
Build Book Buzz/October 12, 2016

4. Is Social Media Toxic to Writing?
What happens when an author won’t join social media?
Publishers Weekly/October 14, 2016

5. Website Hack: 5 Reasons Your Author Site Might Be Down
Here are five possible causes of your site being down, and what you can do about each one.
Smart Author Sites/October 27, 2016

Happy November!

web novel sample

Web Novel: What Is It and Should You Release One?

web novel sampleI sometimes get asked the question: “What is a web novel?” Authors hear the term and want to know … is a web novel the same thing as an e-book? How do web novels get distributed?

Here are five things you need to know about web novels, and whether or not you might want to consider releasing one.

5 Web Novel Facts

1. A web novel is exactly what it sounds like: a novel published on the web. These can also be referred to as a “virtual novel,” or “webfiction.” But note that these do NOT encompass e-books that are published through Amazon or other online retailers. Web novels are usually released in blog format … and if they end up being published, they are often referred to as a “blook” — a blog that turned into a book.

2. A web novel is usually released by the chapter. While most books (including e-books) are usually released all at once in their entirety, a web novel is usually released chapter by chapter — so one chapter this week and one chapter the next … and so on. That keeps users coming back regularly to keep reading.

3. Web novels are generally offered for free. That’s right. Since most web novels are not available via Amazon and such, they are almost always offered free of charge by the author for people who are particularly interested in their writing. There have been a few cases in which an author charges for access to their web novel, but those are few and far between.

4. A web novel can be a good jumping off platform for an author. Some aspiring novelists use a web novel to gain recognition and a fan base for their work while they try to get the attention of a publishing company. Some web novels can actually end up being turned into full-fledged print books, should a publishing company choose to work with that author. Of course, there will be some editing and tweaking of the story that happens during that time.

5. Anyone can write and release a web novel. It’s true. Basically, all you need is an online platform or author website. Then you can use the blog tool (or something similar) to start releasing your story. Make sure to invite all your friends, social networking followers, etc… to subscribe to your feed so that they can be notified whenever a new chapter is posted.

So is a web novel for you? Well, if you are a fiction writer who is trying to build a following, it may be worth considering — assuming you’re willing to give away your work for free. Based on the information above, it’s up to you to figure out whether this is the right starting point.