Lefebvre Publishes for Bookstores and Libraries

Lefebvre_review_20211002

Mark Leslie Lefebvre. 2019. An Author’s Guide to Working with Libraries and Bookstores. Waterloo, Ontario: Stark Publishing Solutions.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

As an author, I triage my time between writing, editing, and marketing. In each activity, I must constantly learn new things because the writing world evolves quickly and life interferes. In 2014 I sold mostly paperback books in person. Since I took an advertising class in 2017, I have sold mostly eBooks online. When I tire of writing, I often focus on learning new marketing tricks.

Introduction

Mark Leslie Lefebvre’s book, An Author’s Guide to Working with Libraries and Bookstores, focuses surprisingly on marketing your books in libraries and bookstores (11). The surprise comes perhaps because many authors focus primarily on social media advertising or the particular niches suggested by their agents and publishers. Even self-publishers often limit themselves to the Amazon.com in the United States, where most sales online occur. Among the writers that I meet in author clubs, most are unfamiliar with cataloging in publication (CIP) data or worldcat.org, where U.S. libraries cite their collections online, and they ignore much of the world market for books.

Background and Organization

Lefebvre lives in Waterloo, Ontario and is a college graduate and author who first published in 1992. He has extensive experience in the Canadian book world, as evidenced by his having been President of the Canadian Booksellers Association. He has worked for Kobo and organized their online service, Kobo Writing Life—among other things.[1] For those new to international book sales, it is significant that Canadians read more and buy more books per capita than U.S. residents. This makes Lefebrvre’s background and experience interesting.

Lefebvre writes in a conversational style drawing on his extensive bookstore experience. The major divisions in his book are:

  • Introduction
  • Basics of How Libraries and Bookstores Work
  • Working with Bookstores
  • Working with Libraries
  • Tips, Ideas, and Strategies for Successful In-person Book Events
  • Conclusions
  • Resources
  • About

His publication date in 2019 is pre-pandemic so he writes before many retailers closed and before the border between the U.S. and Canada closed—something my Canadian relatives remind me.

Bookstores

While I knew that the largest bookseller in Canada is Indigo books, I did not know that Rakuten Kobo (an anagram of book) is a Canadian business although it is owned by Japanese company, Rakuten. I also did not know that Kobo also distributes books and offers advertising to authors that distribute with them. This is a significant point because it is difficult generating sales without advertising—organic sales are usually meager. Lefebvre convinced me to look closely at Kobo Writing Life where this all takes place. I also bought another of his books, Killing It On Kobo (2018), to learn more.

Lefebvre’s discussion of online booksellers is priceless because it is hard to know from the plethora of online services what to pay attention to. For those of you who have tried to find links to your books online in developing a book landing page, it is hard to get a list quickly. Draft 2 Digital offers those signing up with them a free service, a universal link, that accumulates a number of these links for you (84-85). Myself, I registered and spent a day updating my publishers’ website (T2Pneuma.com).

Lefebvre’s conversational style apparently follows from his extensive bookstore experience, which offers a lot of helpful background information on the industry. I often talk about the difference between offset and print-on-demand (POD) printing (65-66), but most of these conversations are accompanied by blank stares. This distinction, however, drives the differences in traditional and indie marketing because offset printers generate inventory while POD printers do not. Details that your spouse might want to know!

Libraries

If you go to OverDrive.com and search on your name, you will generate a list of your books and the libraries that stock your book electronically. Sadly, almost none of my titles appear on this list because I frankly did not know how to get them there—another item on my to-do list.

Lefebvre suggests targeting reviews to library-centric publications: Booklist, Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, and Voya (147). I have actually done this for Living in Christ, albeit unaware! He also suggests perhaps coming out with a large-print edition, something that I never really considered, but which be done with distributors like Ingram Sparks.

Assessment

Mark Leslie Lefebvre’s An Author’s Guide to Working with Libraries and Bookstores is a fascinating read for Indie publishers wanting to publish wide. It is helpful to read this book in front of a computer because many of the references offer immediate online application.

Footnotes

[1] http://markleslie.ca/about/

Lefebvre Publishes for Bookstores and Libraries

Also see:

Books, Films, and Ministry

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com

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Teague Gives MailChimp a Spin

Paul Teague Email Marketing with MailChimpPaul Teague.[1] MailChimp Unboxed: Set-Up Your Account Correctly, Add New Subscribers, and Use the Best Email Marketing Techniques! Manchester, UK: Clixeo Publishing.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Nearly all marketing books advise independent authors to develop an email mailing list of readers who enjoy your books and raise the likelihood of repeat sales. The implication is that you have a well-defined audience eager to subscribe to your mailing list and that you understand marketing to them well-enough to write catchy newsletters that appeal to them. Unfortunately, audience information is illusive and the tools to reach them are often poorly documented for right-brained, creative types, as would describe most authors.

Why Invest in a Book about MailChimp?

In my case, I have been using MailChimp for about four years, but never really got comfortable that I knew exactly how to use it effectively. The online documentation is thorough and well-written for middle-of-the-day use, but in the wee hours of the night when I typically wrote my monthly newsletter it appeared almost incomprehensible. In this context, I welcomed Paul Teague’s how-to book, MailChimp Unboxed when it appeared earlier this year.

Teague introduces his objectives with these words:

“I have written this book because I want to show you why email marketing is so powerful and I also want to demonstrate how you can get started immediately, using only free tools.” (4)

Teague’s audience is the small business operator and his zero-to-sixty metric starts with no knowledge and ends up with explaining targeted Facebook ad composition. The focus, of course, is on becoming familiar with MailChimp as an email and customer-relationship-management (CRM) platform (3-4), although Teague clearly has experience working with a wide range of alternative email marketing tools.

Basic Concepts

Although I have been managing an email list for over a decade, email had not been invented when I attended my last marketing class in the early 1980s. Teague’s explanation of basic concepts proved helpful for me. The motivation for email marketing arises through “repeat sales, cross-sells, and upsells” (6), which is quite different from keeping in touch with an author through a newsletter focused on what’s been happening lately. Spam is unrequested and unstoppable email, while “proper email marketing is always permission-based.”(7)

In some sense, email marketing is all about the life-cycle of participants in a database list who share common interests. How do you find and motivate people to subscribe, open, and click on your emails rather than unsubscribe from the list or report your emails as spam? (7-9) Emails “bounce” when they cannot be delivered because of incorrect or old addresses, full mailboxes, technical problems, or are blocked (9).

Moving On

Once Teague reviewed the basics of email marketing, he began walking through the MailChimp sign up process and performing basic functions. As with any how-to computer book, I found it helpful to sit in front of the computer and walk along with him to make sure that the easy stuff was really easy for me. I always find this arrangement challenging because every time Teague taught me a new trick I wanted to run and play with it.

An example of this problem occurred last night. Having reviewed how to set up welcome-to-my-list and unsubscribe-from-my-list, I found myself implementing this framework for a men’s group mailing list that I maintain. I used to warn people that “itis easier to get on than to get off my list”, but not anymore! I sent an email to list members inviting them to invite men to subscribe or unsubscribe, as they see fit.

Who is Paul Teague?

Paul Teague is an author and web-designer living in Manchester, UK. He writes online that he has “worked as a waiter, a shopkeeper, a primary school teacher, a disc jockey and a radio journalist and broadcaster for the BBC.” He wrote his first book at the age of nine.

Assessment

Paul Teague’s MailChimp Unboxed is a helpful book on how-to start with and utilize MailChimp for email marketing. He limits his discussion to features available in the free version of MailChimp with the small business operator in mind as his target reader. He generally avoids delving into the integration of MailChimp with other email tools used by professional marketers. Teague writes clearly and uses screen shots to illustrate his points.

Footnotes

[1] https://clixeo.com. http://self-publishing-journeys.com.  @PaulTeagueUK.

Teague Gives MailChimp a Spin

Also see:

Scott Writes Pro Email Newsletters 

Books, Films, and Ministry

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/2zRkNMJ

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Penn Attracts Readers to Books

Joanna Penn, How to Market a BookJoanna Penn. 2017. How to Market a Book. Bath, UK: Curl Up Press.[1]

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

One of the banes of postmodern life is that successful professionals must communicate effectively across multiple media. Communication is more important than ever because technology has made all of us more productive. If one 2017 professional can now do the work of a dozen 1960 professionals, then that professional effectively functions as a team, including the team manager. Production, marketing, and sales all need to be done by that one professional. As an economist, I faced this challenge; it has only gotten worse now that I am an author and publisher.

Introduction

Joanna Penn in her new book, How to Market a Book, advises authors on trends in marketing and sales of self-published books. She sees five non-negotiable activities for all book marketing:

  1. Make sure that your book is the best it can be…
  2. Identify your comparison books and authors.
  3. Optimize your book sales page…
  4. …use paid promotions to send readers to your book page.
  5. …set up a professional looking website and an email list sign up. (281-282)

In my experience, each of these activities can keep you busy. During the past year, for example, I spent more than six months working with different webmasters to upgrade my three websites (T2Pneuma.net, T2Pneuma.com, and StephenWHiemstra.net), which is Penn’s item 5. Meanwhile, I spent an equal amount of time moving my titles from exclusively with one printer to be jointly with another printer, Penn item 1. These two activities ostensibly prepared me to be more effective in my promotions, Penn item 4.

Who is Joanna Penn?

Penn is an interesting writer for self-publishers to pay attention to because she is one of the few authors who has succeeded in quitting her day job and living off the proceeds of her writing. Less than five percent (one in twenty) of independent authors sell a thousand books (I have sold about six hundred) which implies that even fewer authors have broken even on their book sales. Most independent authors are supported by a dhealthy or by a spouse. By her own accounts, Penn started seriously writing in 2006 and quit her job in 2011, five years later (7-9). This track record makes Penn a credible source of recommendations for how to succeed in self-publishing.

A Healthy Mindset

Part of Penn’s success arises because of a heathy mindset. She writes: “marketing is sharing what you love with people who will appreciate hearing about it.” (13) This mindset is a form of “attraction marketing” which means that you find out what people want and offer it to them.

Why is this important? Two reasons stand out.

Attraction Marketing

First, when I studied marketing in the 1970s and early 1980s, I was taught “push marketing”. Push marketing means that the firm bought advertising and pushed it out to the reading, listening, and viewing public. Attraction marketing is new and many people have not yet caught on to it. Penn has done her homework which is an important reason for her success.

The Mindset Advantage

Second, Penn mindset comes as a relief for those of us who doubt our own credibility as authors. It is one thing to write a book; it is another to believe that anyone other than your mother would want to read it. This fear of being an unworthy author is pervasive and it prevents many authors from succeeding in their marketing. Penn mindset shows that she believes in herself and does not get in a muddle in reaching out to others who will appreciate her writing.

The Book Launch Thing

Another gem arises when Penn writes that “marketing is more than a book launch” (20). While I have learned to sell books in person and online, my failure to have a great book launch has always bothered me. Penn offers an important piece of background information on this point.

 Traditional Publishers Focus on the Launch

Traditional publishers, who work with retailers to stock and toss books all the time, focus on the book launch because they have limited time and resources to devote to each book. The launch is coordinated with a media campaign and a month later they are on to another book.

For small publishers who have no retail connections, no publicity team, and no media budget cannot easily host a successful launch following this model and probably should not try. Book marketing is more of a marathon than a sprint for the small publisher because resources are tight, relationships need to be built, and learning is an ongoing necessity.

Assessment

Joanna Penn’s How to Market a Book is a useful, readable, and timely book for authors who publish. I found her comments on podcasting and publishing audio books particularly insightful. Perhaps you will too.

[1] http://CurlUpPress.com. www.TheCreativePenn.com. https:/JFPenn.com. @TheCreativePenn.

Penn Attracts Readers to Books

Also see:

Penn Whispers to Professional Speakers 

Books, Films, and Ministry

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/2wVZtbb

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Bolme Guides Authors in Christian Marketing

Bolme_marketing_12092014Sarah Bolme. 2014. Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace.  Charlotte: Crest Publications. Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra One surprise when you become an author is how hard it is to sell books. This comes as a surprise because most authors are also avid readers.  If you are an avid reader, snapping up books recommended by friends and colleagues all the time, it comes as a surprise to learn that everyone does not behave that way!  Sarah Bolme book, Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace, works hard to make sure that disappointment does not follow surprise for aspiring authors and publishers.

Introduction

An important theme in Bolme’s book is the depth and complexity of the Christian book market. Christian books are bought and sold both formally and informally in marketing channels that differ by denomination, ethnicity, workplace, and region. It is not enough to publish your book on Amazon.com and cash your royalty checks.  At a minimum, Christian readers want to know that your theology is consistent with their own faith convictions and that the people with whom they study, worship, volunteer, and work with find your book compelling enough to read and discuss.  The vetting process is important and it shapes book marketing and sales. Bolme likes to point out: Marketing and selling books is not a sprint, it is a marathon (4).

Organization

Bolme’s book is structured around this conception of the Christian book market.  Bolme writes in 19 chapters divided into 4 parts:
  1. Launching Your Books (chapters 1-6);
  2. Selling Your Books (7-15);
  3. Targeting Special Markets (16-19); and
  4. Reference (Index).
These chapters are preceded by a foreword and Introduction, and followed by a number of appendices on special topics.

Content

Reading Bolme’s text has taken me 3 months to read, but not because I have been procrastinating.  In September, when I began reading, I issued my first press release.  I had wanted to issue a press release in August when I began promoting my book, A Christian Guide to Spirituality (T2Pneuma.com), but it was not until I read Bolme’s discussion (122-123) that I learned how to do it.  I found myself requesting reviews (43-53), running book giveaways (www.GoodReads.com;180), doing radio interviews[1] (124-126), applying for awards (63-72), and joining new groups (e.g. Christian Indie Publishers Association—www.ChristianPublishers.net; 7-17) as I read the book.  These activities distracted me from progressing promptly through the book and finishing a review. I also learned why some of my early marketing attempts were unsuccessful.

Why Marketing is Hard

An important problem facing authors and publishers today is the explosion of new book titles and the collapsing readership.  People read fewer printed books than they used to because of, in part, competition from other media, but the growth in independent publishing has also increased the number of authors publishing (73-75).  This means that retailers are inundated with titles and cannot respond directly to author requests; instead, they work through distributors who filter the available books on their behalf.  My requests that local retailers stock my book failed because I did not understand the stocking process.

Assessment

For Christian writers and publishers, Sarah Bolme’s Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace is an important read.  Although I did not immediately become a marketing success having read this book, I did finally get an appreciation for the task at hand and got pointed in the right direction.  You may also find it helpful. [1] See the list of interviews at the bottom of the page at:  T2Pneuma.com.

Bolme Guides Authors in Christian Marketing

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com. Newsletter: http://bit.ly/Lent_2019
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