Traditional publishing vs. self-publishing

copy-of-booksWhenever writers get together, the topic of publishing nearly always comes up. Even though lots of blogs cover it, and there are lots of articles out there, I feel like it needs to be addressed yet again.

Over the weekend, I went to a book signing by multiple authors. A couple of authors approached me and asked for tips about publishing. I explained that my first book was traditionally published in 2014, and the other two (Fatal Impulse and Diamond in the Rough) are self-published. Both individuals asked me how much it cost to publish traditionally. I was shocked at the question.

Let me be clear: You should NEVER pay to publish your book. If you are paying a publisher, you are NOT traditionally published. You have paid what is commonly known as a vanity press to publish your book. You pay them, they put your manuscript together, have copies printed and sell them to you. I suppose there might be individuals who are okay with this arrangement, but I am NOT. Do a little research before you publish – with ANY company. Know what their reputation is. Find out what you are paying for. Ask around to see if others have dealings with them. There are fantastic resources out there like Absolute Write Watercooler and Preditors and Editors. (not updated, but still has links to good info). If you don’t know what those are, go to the links and read. Trust me.

One individual waved it off when I said I wasn’t happy with my traditional publisher. She said something like, “Well, you own the rights so you can take it somewhere else.”

No. You can’t. When you are traditionally published, the publisher buys the rights from you. You should have a contract that spells out those rights.

Then she asked how much I paid to have my self-published books published. She was shocked when I said I did not pay to get them published.

Self-publishing shouldn’t cost you anything, except for those jobs that you subcontract out to others (such as editing, formatting, cover art). When you pay for those things, you aren’t paying to publish, you are paying a business expense.

So, here’s the deal: If you are thinking about one of those self-publishing companies, a vanity press that promises to publish your book for the low, low price of $1,000 or $2,000 or even more (!) (YES – I had a man email me who paid over $5000 for 100 copies of his book – YIKES!!), Don’t do it. Just don’t. But sign up for Writescouts and take the class I’m offering in 2017 on how to self-publish without going broke.

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Blank to 50K: How to DO a Book Signing

Once you’ve written your way to those first magical 50,000 words, then edited & polished to perfection, then published your book, it’s time to market. One way to get your book in front of people is to literally get in front of them.

Do a book signing.

NOTE: I did not say “host” a book signing. I did not say “have” a book signing.

I said DO.

A book signing should be interactive, involving your prospective readers. You will catch more customers if you are active and engaging. Carry through the theme of your book, either capitalizing on the title or a major component of your book. Here are some things I’ve done that worked, specific to my book, Denim & Diamonds:

Prepare: Take a flyer to the location so they can post it in advance of your event. Put your event on community calendars (think TV, radio, newspaper websites). Send postcards out to friends and family inviting them to the event. Notify local reporters – think of a hook they can use to create a story (give them a reason to talk to you!). Put flyers around the community and in your local library and local bulletin boards. This means use a table skirt (I bought sparkly denim fabric), have some sort of centerpiece (I used three glass jars covered with rhinestone mesh, which held LED candles), and a display of giveaway items (I often give away items that feature my book cover & website: postcards, bookmarks and bite-size candy bars – more on that stuff later). Of course, make sure your books are prominently displayed. A small banner with your name is also helpful. I used my diecutting machine to make a banner of blue and silver diamond shapes which spelled out my name.

D&D Lisa won penGame. Have a game to draw people in. I made a game called “Pick Beau’s Pocket” with a big piece of core board, with nine back blue jean pockets (thanks to friends who donated their used jeans! BTW – you can see it in the bottom right corner of the pic at the right, with my friend Lisa, who was the first winner of a pen!). I used my diecutting machine to cut out diamond shapes. Some of them were marked “Winner” and some were marked “Sorry!”, then I laminated them, and stuck them in the pockets. I had this set up on an easel next to my table. I stood beside it and asked everyone who passed by if they wanted to play – no purchase required. Simple game – all they do is pick a pocket and pull out a diamond. One of the prizes was a $10 gift certificate to the bookstore (this is a good way to say thanks to the store for allowing you in – and it instantly gives them good vibes when you walk in and buy a gift certificate before you even set up), and I also like to give travel mugs and nice pens (I usually buy from Vistaprint). For those who get the “Sorry!” diamonds, I offer a consolation prize – a full-sized chocolate bar wrapped with a custom wrapper featuring my book cover on the front and my website address on the back.  I created the wrappers myself, and am happy to send anyone who’d like it a copy of the template. Just shoot me an email and ask for it!

Celebrate Sales. I offer to take a picture of every individual who buys my book, and offer to let them wear my cowboy hat or my giant fake diamond ring. Then I snap a picture on my phone and post it to Instagram, Facebook and Twitter with the hashtags #DenimDiamonds #LoriLRobinett. This creates interest on social media, and customers often end up then liking my social media accounts. You can even encourage them to post with a simple flyer on your table featuring the hashtags you recommend, to make them part of the action.Ericca - D&D signing

I create a Pinterest board for each of my books and I include things I want to do for book signings, such as foods, drinks, decorations and games.

Remember, a book signing is as much a celebration of your publication as it is a sales event. Think of this as a party.

Have fun, and success will follow!

Creativity Takes Courage

Creativity Takes Courage

Creativity Takes Courage

The subject matter of this page is a few years old, but it still makes me smile. I started participating in National Novel Writing Month in 2004. I’ve won several times. The first couple of years, if you won, Lulu (a POD publisher) would print your book. They published Denim & Diamonds, which was my 2004 winner, and I released it to the public. As part of my NaNoWriMo responsibilities as a Municipal Liaison, I sent out press releases. In 2009, Megan Murphy, a local television reporter, contacted me and asked if she could do a story about our group. She brought a videographer to my house and they filmed my story in my scrap room! It was really, really exciting. I asked if she minded if I took pictures while they were filming and these are a couple of the shots I got. It was beyond exciting to have her here, talking to me about my writing. Even though the photos are not the best in terms of lighting, they tell a story.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been enjoying the CSI site (Color, Story, Inspiration), and when I saw the most recent case file, I knew exactly what photos I wanted to scrap. Take a look at the inspiration and you’ll see why I chose to do the layout above.

CSI: Case File 88

CSI: Case File 88