Monday, February 2, 2009

So You Think You Can Write a Book?

By Anthony S. Policastro

The Jenkins Group, an independent publishing services company, says four out of five people they surveyed said they believe they have a book to write. Even fewer actually sit down and write a book and even fewer get published. Many established literary agencies in New York and elsewhere get upwards of 500-email and snail mail book queries a week and less than one percent of them are considered for representation.

So how do you get published with those odds?

It is easier than ever to get into print with the magic of print on demand and do-it-yourself publishing web sites like, Lulu is one of the few sites where it is free to upload your manuscript, design your cover or pick a pre-designed one and publish your book complete with an ISBN number and distribution on There is no minimum number of copies to purchase, no hidden, we gotcha fees, and no secrets about how much you will make on each sale, what Lulu makes and what print and distribution costs amount to for your book. You keep all your rights and you set the price and the royalty.

A recent article in The New York Times reported, “In 2008, nearly 480,000 books were published or distributed in the United States, up from close to 375,000 in 2007, according to the industry tracker Bowker. The company attributed a significant proportion of that rise to an increase in the number of print-on-demand books.”

So what are you waiting for? Change your odds of getting in print. Go to one of the self-publishing online sites and publish your work! What? You’ve done that already? Okay, now comes the hard part - the marketing and promotion of your work.

If you wanted to sell homemade jewelry on the web, you would put up a web site complete with a storefront and check out cart and sit back and hope one hundred or more orders a day came your way. Now, would they? Most likely not. You have to promote your site, its market advantages like price, quality, brand, and ensure you are reaching people who are interested in buying homemade jewelry.

It’s the same when publishing a book. If you write a romance novel or a technical manual on how to tune the engine of a 737 you have to reach the right market with your message. One of the great advantages to using Lulu is that you can choose between doing everything yourself or buying the marketing services of publishing professionals from Lulu.

Here a few cool tricks I use to market my Lulu books . And they are free. Go to Google Blog Search and search for blogs pertaining to the subject area of your book. When you find some, read a few posts and leave a comment with a link to your book on Lulu or to your web site. This takes time and you must leave a comment with some substance for it to work. But if you hit the right blog with the right audience, it’s like winning on a slot machine in Atlantic City. One post increased traffic to my site by six times in one day! You can also do a search on Google, but you will get mostly web sites and often you cannot leave a comment.

Offer a free download of your book for a limited time. After all, if someone is willing to read your entire book on a computer screen they must be pretty interested in your work. What usually happens is if they like your book enough, they will purchase the print copy out of convenience since it is easier to read a book in print than on a computer display. This is also helpful when you send out press releases – you can direct the media to download your book for review. This is the preferred method of distributing your electronic version to the press and reviewers. If you attach a copy to an email, press people most likely will not open it for fear it may contain a computer virus or Trojan horse.

By the same token, send emails with links to your book to people involved in your book’s subject matter and ask them to review your work and write a short review. Mention that you can include their comments in your book if they want.

If you want to market your book as an eBook check out Smashwords. It’s free to upload your book and you make 85% of the price you set. The most significant advantage of Smashwords is that the site automatically converts your manuscript into ten different electronic formats so that your book can be read on a standard PC, iPhone, Kindle, Sony Reader or Palm Pilot. Readers can also view your work directly on the site using a web browser or standard word processor.

If you have never written a press release, Lulu offers an excellent template that walks you through the process so you can produce a professional release that the press will read and hopefully follow up with you. I used to be a journalist and it was nearly impossible to read every piece of mail that came into the office. But a professionally written press release always managed to get read.

And if you want to write your next book rather than market your current one, you can easily purchase Lulu’s many marketing and distribution services created and offered by professionals in the publishing business.

If you are considering self-publishing, my good friend and colleague Henry Hutton just started, a supermarket of author services that will greatly help you navigate through the complex world of self-publishing. He is also one of the founding members of and extremely knowledgeable about the industry.

Just keep in mind you are the best sales person for your work – you are closest to the content and you are passionate about what you wrote or you would not have made the effort to create a book.
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