E-Publishing

This was originally part of the Suite101 University ecourses. They are all being taken down from the site, sometime soon. I have preserved some because they are worth keeping. It seems a shame to lose something which has value and had so much effort put into it’s creation.

E-Publishing

By Dawn Whitmire

Introduction

“Catch the Wave — Become an E- Publisher”

Anyone with a computer will tell you e-commerce and e-publishing are definite waves of the future. More and more e-publishers are popping up over the Internet and it’s not surprising others want a piece of this pie. If you’ve thought about becoming an e-publisher, this course is for you. However, let’s be frank. This is not an easy job where you’ll make quick money overnight. E-publishing takes investment of your time and knowledge. You have to be willing to learn that which you do not know and to find someone who can teach you. If you’re reviewing this course introduction, the thought has crossed your mind or maybe you know someone who is interested in venturing into the wide world of e-publishing. Can we show you how? Absolutely. Can we make you a success? Absolutely … not. That will be up to you. Your success will depend upon your devotion to your task and your drive to succeed. We can give you the steps to take; we cannot infuse you with determination.

As you go through each lesson, you should tailor this course to your own needs / specifications. Because of our knowledge, you will find we tend to focus on genre specific e-publishing. That does not have to be the case for you. These steps will work for any type of e-publishing. You will start with the very basics and we ask you to read and pay close attention to each section. We’ve outlined each lesson in detail, alerting you to the possible pitfalls, especially those which we fell into along the way. If you follow our guidelines, we can’t guarantee your company will be everything you want it to be. What we can guarantee is that this course may make the road to e-publishing a bit easier and if the advice you find here helps in some small way, we’ve done our job.

Good luck and we hope to see your company on the cyber-horizon in the very near future!

This course is excellent for those who are interested in self-publishing and people who have written their first book and now have to market it. Viola Ashford

Lesson 1: In the Beginning

We begin with the basics. By the time you complete this lesson, you should have a general idea of where you want your company to go and where you can find the readers of the amazing books you’ll publish. Of course, you can’t jump into the difficult tasks without acquiring some basic knowledge. The first section will lead you to the diving board and hopefully, by the time you end this course, you’ll be ready to jump into the deep end of the pool.

We’ll be using The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing and The Self-Publishing Manual in this lesson and students would benefit from a quick perusal of these books even if it’s just the Table of Contents.

Basic Knowledge Required

 

Just like you can’t begin typing a paragraph on your home computer without basic knowledge of a word processor, you can’t expect to start an online company, especially one as involved as e-publishing without some basic knowledge and skills. To that end, this section deals with what we consider your most essential abilities you will need before you jump into the swimming pool.

Internet Basics

This one is self-explanatory, but if you’re not familiar enough with the Internet, you should take a few days, weeks, or however long you think it will take you, to familiarize yourself with surfing. I know we all know how to look up a game or go to Amazon.com, but how much do you really know about search engines and keywords? Do you know how to interact with people through forums and chat rooms? Are you comfortable enough with your e-mail system that you can send photographs and files? If not, now is your time to hone your skills before stepping into something which will test every bit of knowledge you currently have. Just take a look at our website, Vintage Romance Publishing, if you want to get an idea of exactly what it takes to create a workable e-publishing website.

Basic Office Skills

Typing is a necessity as you will be preparing your own web pages and doing your research yourself unless you’re independently wealthy and can pay someone to do it for you. You should also know enough about office equipment so you’re not stuck if the printer goes haywire on you and your beloved spouse who is the computer guru isn’t around. Scanners, copiers, postage scales, and last, but certainly not least, the computer. We’re certainly not suggesting you have to be able to dismantle your home computer and put it back together again, but you should, at the very least, be proficient with your word processor. The more knowledge you have when it comes to dealing with software will benefit you in the end.

Speak the language

This one is a bit tricky, but we think you’ll see the wisdom in what we’re about to suggest. If you don’t already speak computerese, now is your time to learn. Do you know what a gif file is? What about jpeg? Are you familiar with pixels? Meta tags? Crawlers? And if someone tells you your perfectly prepared word processing document needs to be converted to html, are you going to know what they’re talking about? Hypertext Markup Language or html as it’s commonly referred is going to be one of your biggest assets unless you want to pay a webmaster to set up your website, maintain it and make even the smallest of changes. If that’s the route you choose to take, let us warn you, it will not be cheap. So if you haven’t done so already, buy a book, take a course, but learn the language.

Of course, if the computer isn’t your forte and you still want to start an e-publishing company, there’s still hope. Partner with a quick learner or someone who has extensive computer knowledge or invest time in yourself and your company and enroll in a continuing education class. Better yet, ask a teenager. Most of them know more about the computer than adults will ever know.

Lesson 1: In the Beginning

Choose A Name for your Company

 

Juliet, by the pen of William Shakespeare, said, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” And while we have to agree with the logistics behind Juliet’s declaration, we have to politely disagree with her when it comes to naming a company.

We know some of the populous would not lend much credence to our suggestion that a name can put your company on top. However, we believe a company name can create an image in the mind of a consumer Imagine a company named Paper Roses. One would automatically assume the company had something to do with paper, possibly an office supply store, or a stationery store or perhaps, a flower store. Just the name alone created an image in your mind, didn’t it?

If you’ve read the biographies of your course instructors, you will know we, along with two other partners, created Vintage Romance Publishing. What do you think we publish? Comic books? Art books? By the title alone, you could assume accurately, that we publish romance novels. With the addition of ‘Vintage,’ we created a mini-advertising campaign with just our company name.

Now, we know there are a lot of people who just simply aren’t good with names. Those people have a tendency to use their own names for the title of any company they create. We’re certainly not saying that’s a bad thing. You should be proud of your family name.

If you are one of the individuals who just can’t think of a good title for anything, there are myriad resources which will provide some assistance. The Novel and Short Story Writer’s Market has an exhaustive listing of current publishers as well as the Writer’s Guide to Book Publishers & Literary Agents. Peruse the names and check out some of the creative titles. One of the most creative names for publishers I’ve found recently is Atori Publishing. If you go to their web page at www.readmeatori.com, you’ll see that Atori is a shortened version of a child’s way of saying “read me a story.” We all know it usually comes out sounding like, “read me atori.” Someone with a truly creative flare came up with that name, but it doesn’t mean you can’t do the same even if you are creatively challenged.

Think of words and phrases which you’ve heard over the years which have made you laugh out loud or even cry. Listen to your kids or listen to conversations on the street. A simple catch-phrase might be an inspiring title for your e-publishing company. In any case, just make sure your company name stands out from the crowd. You want to attract attention, not camouflage your company.

Lesson 1: In the Beginning

Research your Niche

 

We’ve all had those sudden sparks of inspiration where we wake up in the middle of the night with a great idea. Of course, our spouse may not think it’s such a grand one at four in the morning, but nevertheless, you scramble from the bed to write down your gem before you forget it.

Okay, so you have this terrific idea for an e-publishing company that absolutely no one else has thought of before. The question is, what do you do with it? Do you run with the idea and get your company set up in the hopes that you’ll be the next Donald Trump? Or do you allow yourself the time you need to investigate your idea and generate a game plan in your mind? If you’re going to take our advice, by all means, investigate. Do your homework.

When we decided to start an e-publishing company, we already had the idea basics in mind, but long before we constructed the website or prepared our business plan, we spent countless hours discovering more information about our niche, which, as we mentioned above, is vintage romances. We combed the Internet searching for other similar publishers, websites which could possibly offer us exposure and we visited classic movie forums to get a feel of the reality behind our idea.

Go to your favorite search engine and pop your idea in and see where it takes you. Suppose you want to publish only books about hats. Then type that in and see what comes up. If your search returns literally hundreds of possibilities, then you know you’re going to have to come up with a unique angle to own your niche. On the other hand, if there’s only one publishing company in Podunk, USA, you’re in good shape…for now. We’ll discuss more about this in the next section of this lesson.

We don’t need to tell you that there are hundreds of e-publishers on the scene today and if you’re going to make a difference, to capture the eye of the buying public, you need to be different. Sure, you could set up shop as just another e-publisher of fiction books, but what is going to draw customers to your company as opposed to XYZ Publishing?

We couldn’t wrap up this section without emphasizing research. Know what your niche is all about and how you can be different from the growing group of e-publishers clamoring to be noticed. In the end, you’ll reap the benefits of the time you invested with a positive sales flow and a marketable angle.

Lesson 1: In the Beginning

Research your Target Audience

 

Okay, you’ve picked your niche, done your research and now, you’re ready to find your readers. You didn’t really think you were going to be able to jump into an e-publishing company without knowing where your readers were, did you?

Let’s go back to the publishing idea in the section above. You want to publish books about hats. Great, but who’s going to read them? What type of people can you target with direct mail or other advertising campaigns in an attempt to convince them to buy your offerings? What about people who work outside? People who spend a lot of time outdoors? It’s possible they might be interested in the best hat on the market. Then, of course, there’s the teenage crowd, especially if your books will offer trend-setting ideas. Bald men, people who sunburn easily, classy women who attend polo matches and snazzy gents with an eye for the theater could benefit from new ideas your books may offer. Use your search engine to pinpoint some of these individuals and you’re off to a good start.

Still using our example, another way to find potential markets is to visit organizations targeted toward outdoorsmen (or women), like websites, forums, chat rooms (but only the nice ones) and don’t forget your friends. Ask them if they would be interested in reading a book about hats, but don’t let their lack of interest dissuade you. If you believe in your niche, yourself and your abilities, you can still make a go of your company.

Another way of finding your readers is to research what people are reading nowadays. If you’re the parent of a child from ages 8 on up, then you’re probably aware of the Harry Potter craze. Wizards are in. So it’s not difficult to assume if your e-publishing company is targeted toward fantasy books, you’ve got a waiting market.

On a final note, a particularly helpful website to visit is www.bruceclay.com. This website provides more information on targeting your market and appealing to your readers. I hope it helps you as much as it helped us in our quest to start our own publishing company.

Lesson 1: In the Beginning

Bibliography

Poynter, Dan, The Self-Publishing Manual (14th edition), Para Publishing, 2003

Ross, Tom and Marilyn, The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing, Writer’s Digest Books, 2002

Vintage Romance Publishing, LLC, http://www.vrpublishing.com

http://www.bruceclay.com/web_pt.htm.

Lesson 2: It’s Just Business

 

Now we’re starting to get into the business end of Becoming an E-Publisher. If you intend to sell e-books, you need to have some business savvy. The sections here will guide you in choosing how to set up, organize and protect your business.

Recommended Reading: The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing and The Self-Publishing Manual as well aswww.bplans.com for an excellent guide to business plans.

 

To Partner or Not to Partner

 

As you’re getting things underway, doing your research and your excitement is overflowing, you should ask yourself one question: Do I need help with this venture?

Now, a simple way to make this determination is whether or not you have a full-time job and you don’t mind being stuck in front of the computer for each and every spare minute that you have. If that’s your life anyway, then you’re all set. Some of us still want a social life.

When Vintage Romance Publishing’s editor came up with the idea for our company, there was no question about doing the work by herself. It was virtually an impossibility. Enter three friends who were as excited about the company idea as the editor was. Five months later, an e-publishing company was born. (Don’t panic. This was our time line, not a set-in-stone deadline.)

Partnering can be a big advantage if you have others whose talents differ from yours, and therefore, can do some of the work you’d prefer not to do. We would like to offer a word to the wise, though. If you’ve made the decision to partner with another person, or two or three, you should put the work duties and the profit split in writing. Even if you think Alice is your best friend so you don’t have to worry about any problems, take our advice and put the details in writing. You want to spend your time building a business, not battling over who gets what on an episode of Judge Judy.

Partnership agreements are fairly easy to assemble, but unless you know a lot about the laws of your state, you should consult a book publishing attorney or a lawyer who deals with contracts frequently.

Vintage Romance Publishing was fortunate to have two paralegals on board (your course instructors) who had access to two very knowledgeable attorneys. Those connections served us well, but don’t despair if you don’t know an attorney well enough to finagle some free legal advice out of him or her. In this instance, the web is your friend and the library runs a close second. You can easily find simple partnership agreements online or you may want to call a local attorney and see if they offer free consultations. It would be worth your time to sit down with a knowledgeable individual who can point you in the right direction.

Of course, if you do decide to bring others into your venture, you need to decide if employees would be a better way to go or even percentage partners instead of full partners.

As you can see, there are a lot of decisions to be made when you’re thinking about sharing your dream and future profits with a partner. It’s not a decision to be made lightly and certainly, not without a great deal of investigating and consideration. This is your business and the decision is ultimately yours. Choose wisely so you won’t regret your choice a year into the company when you’re splitting the profits with someone who doesn’t have the same drive and desire to see your company succeed as you do.

Lesson 2: It’s Just Business

Incorporating/Protecting your Assets

Now we get down to a major point in your preparation to be an e-publisher. Protection. If you’re wondering why we would even bring this up so early in the lessons, quite simply, you need to protect your assets from the start. We certainly don’t intend to be purveyors of doom, but let’s face it, most of us would not think of getting behind the wheel of our car if we knew we didn’t have car insurance. Therefore, why would you think of operating a business without the same protection? Even if you’re using the home computer you’ve always used, a natural disaster or a simple virus could destroy all of your company information leaving you hundreds or thousands of dollars in the hole. So in this section we’re going to discuss two major ways of protecting your new company.

Incorporating – Because there were four of us at the start of our venture, Vintage Romance Publishing, LLC chose to form a limited liability company to protect our assets – not in case of fire or flood, but a lawsuit.

Wait a minute, you say, as your heart starts to race. Why are you talking about lawsuits already? We’re just getting started in this venture. That’s true, but, did you know, as a sole proprietor, one successful lawsuit against you could mean the end of your company and the victor could walk away with some of your personal assets as well?

Forming an LLC isn’t cheap and unless you’re extremely familiar with the laws of your state, we suggest acquiring the services of an attorney who can properly guide you. If you’re working with an extremely limited budget, you could try going to the website of your state’s Secretary of State. Most of them have guidelines as well as the forms, but be forewarned, those forms can be convoluted. Hence, our suggestion for an attorney. We know you may think, “Well, I’m not going to get sued.” And to you, we may sound like those guys at the Hurricane Prediction Center (which, if you live along the coasts, is very familiar to you). Every year, the HPC distributes its predictions for the number of tropical storms, named hurricanes and major hurricanes. And while their predictions are usually close to the mark, in our opinion, the knowledge doesn’t usually do much for citizens in hurricane-prone areas other than create a sense of panic in unsuspecting individuals.

We are not delivering an empty warning. Suppose you decide to accept an author’s book and, after publication, learn that half of the material is plagiarized. Do you think the wronged author is only going to come after your writer? And what happens if one of your partners or even you yourself say something in an interview and suddenly, the company is slapped with a lawsuit for slander and defamation of character? You’d certainly wish you’d gone the LLC way then.

Forming an LLC allows the company owners to protect their personal assets, but like most things in life, it does have its downsides.

Now, let us touch briefly on business insurance. If you operate your new publishing company from your home, then you should check with your homeowners insurance to see if it covers business assets. If it doesn’t, consider adding this benefit. If you rent, check your renter’s insurance policy (if you don?t have one of these, that should be your first step).

With all the weather tragedies which have been on television lately, we don’t need to tell you that insuring that nice new scanner you bought on sale just makes good business sense. In our opinion, operating a business without insurance is like walking barefooted in a nest of vipers. You’re going to get bitten; it’s just a matter of how badly and if you can recover from the damage.

Lesson 2: It’s Just Business

Organizing with Business Plans and Timelines

 

Once you’ve researched your target market and defined your niche, you should prepare your business plan. If you’re anything like we were when we first started this venture, you have no idea what a business plan is. However, if you intend to apply for any kind of loan or financing for your business (which we discuss in Lesson III), you’ll need to learn how.Now is the time to stop reading this so you can go directly to www.bplans.com. This website has what you’re looking for, especially sample business plans. Spend some time reading and learning how to organize your company’s business plan and please allow yourself plenty of time to put this document together. It might take more time than you’d like to expend, but you’d rather have too much information than not enough.

Business plans include information about the structure of your company, your target audience (which you should know by now), and the potential for income and growth. This will enable a potential financier to make a decision based on your company’s future earnings. As you review the sample business plans, we want to caution you not to leave out any of the sections even if you don’t understand them. You may have to do more research, but we can guarantee the one section you decide to leave out will be the one the bank requires.

The next step in your organizational process should be your timeline. With some of the basics behind you, you’ll need to prepare a calendar of the steps you’ll need to take to get your company up and running. We’ll cover some of those steps in the upcoming lessons, but it’s important you have a realistic view of the future.

If you’ll notice above, we mentioned a realistic view of the future. You need to make sure that you allow yourself ample time to complete your intended steps. If you decide you’re going to cram everything into the last two months before your company launches, we hope you’re able to function without sleep.

One of your first responsibilities should be joining Publisher’s Marketing Association. You can visit their website at www.pma-online.org. The information you’ll glean from the printed newsletters alone will pay for the dues and you simply can’t beat the resources available to beginning and existing publishers.

Once you’ve spent a day or so refining your timeline which should include your new business purchases, designing your website, advertising and preparation and submission of press releases just to name a few, put your list aside and take a day off. You read correctly. Take a break from the madness of starting your company and don’t think about the timeline or how you’re going to run an online business. When you finally return to your notes, look at them with new eyes. Did you give yourself plenty of time to complete your goals? Can you complete the tasks without exhausting yourself? Will you be able to enjoy the launch of your new company after everything is done? We know all about the excitement of this new venture, but please, allow us to say that if you take your time with the steps, both your physical and emotional well-being will thank you.

sson 2: It’s Just Business

Bibliography

Poynter, Dan, The Self-Publishing Manual (14th edition), Para Publishing, 2003

Ross, Tom and Marilyn, The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing, Writer’s Digest Books, 2002

Vintage Romance Publishing, LLC, http://www.vrpublishing.com

Publisher’s Marketing Association, www.pma-online.org

Bplans, http://www.bplans.com/st/

Lesson 3: Show Me the Money

 

 

Unfortunately, we’re not talking about the money you’re going to make with this exciting new venture. In this lesson, we talk about funding your business and some underlying costs you can expect during the start-up process. Reference materials are listed in the bibliography and we encourage our students to review the material we suggest as you can never have too much information.

 

Loans and Financial Backing

 

Just like any other start-up business, your company is going to cost money to get it off the ground and unless you have a family inheritance or a rich uncle who’s willing to subsidize your new venture, you’re going to need help.

In today’s world there are many options to consider besides a typical bank loan.

When we started Vintage Romance Publishing, we opted to use our own funds to pay for the creation expenses. If you’re partnering with others, this might be a consideration. Keep in mind, though, that starting an e-publishing company can be an expensive venture. You’ll need to create a website. You’ll have hosting fees, domain fees, advertising and promotional fees not to mention taxes, licenses, ISBNs, bar codes, copying, postage, office supplies, office equipment, etc. We’ll talk more about the expenses in the next section of this lesson, but you should, at the barest minimum, count on $1,000 as your basic required start-up capital.

As mentioned in The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing, myriad ways exist to fund your business idea, but what if none of those work for you? Perhaps your credit isn’t good enough to obtain a loan, you have nothing you can bare to part with long enough to pawn, and your friends are borrowing money from you. Then what?

Your options might be limited, but if you truly believe in your publishing company, you can still make this work. It might take more time to get things off the ground, especially if you’re having to pay for things out of pocket, but it can still be done. Here are some additional ideas not mentioned by Tom and Marilyn Ross:

  1. Refinance your car. Now, before you pass out because your 2000 Toyota Camry is almost paid for and you’ve been looking forward to not having to pay that $289 each month, look at it this way – a refinance of the loan could put a tidy sum in your pocket plus cut your car payments in half. Thus, you would have investment capital of the lump sum amount and the extra money per month you’re saving from your car payments.
  2. A part-time job. What about a fun job like becoming a tour guide? Here in Charleston, South Carolina, carriage tours are famous. Drivers must be knowledgeable about the city and they earn a decent salary. You could work long enough to earn your start-up capital of $1,000, $2,000, or however much you need based on the expense chart in the following section. Though it might seem like it would take forever, you could earn $1,000 in approximately two and a half months if you bring home $100 per week. That’s a short part of your life for something which will reap long-lasting benefits.
  3. Make friends with the branch manager of your personal bank. This last one will only work if you’ve been with the bank an extended period of time, you have a good record with the bank, and you start out small. Though a branch manager still needs to go through channels, he or she can often push a loan through if they have faith in your ability and determination to repay the loan.

You’ve been given a lot of ways to fund your start-up company, but no matter which route you choose to take, remember the money you invest now will enable you to reap dividends aplenty in the future.

Lesson 3: Show Me the Money

Expenses

 

Now comes the fun part (this, of course, is your course instructors’ sarcasm shining through). Seriously, though, outlining your possible expenses is never a fun thing to do, but if you aim to stay in business for any length of time, it’s a necessary one. We’ve listed some start-up expenses below. We’ve not included the actual dollar amounts as, in most cases, that will depend on the choices you make. What we have done is include potential amounts and our suggestions to offset the high cost.

  1. Creating a website (includes domain names and hosting fees): We’re going to start by saying do not, under any circumstances, set up your company by using a free hosting site. At best, it’s going to annoy your customers. At worst, it’s going to annoy your customers. I’m sure you get our meaning and additionally, such sites can make aspiring businesses look cheap. Not to mention, the last thing you’d want a potential customer to see is an ad from a competitor’s site on your web page. So that said, we’ll move on.Your site should be simple, clean and without a lot of gizmos and gadgets. Avoid using flash intros as customers with dial-up access may get frustrated and leave before they even fully access your site. Visit our website at www.vrpublishing.com to take a look at a good example of a clean website. Our site was created by The Romance Studio and if you’re looking for good customer service and reasonable prices, look no further. (Shameless free plug there.) Whatever you do, purchase your own domain name and try to get it as close to your company name as possible. The extra $9.95-$39.95 a year is well worth it. Although, personally, we wouldn’t pay $39.95 per year for a domain name when you can buy one at the $9.95 price. A smart-looking website can cost anywhere from $200 plus hosting and domain on up. If you’re looking to pay lower, you may be able to achieve your goal, but you may have to make some compromises.
  2. Advertising: This can be accomplished relatively inexpensively to start, especially if you promote online at free sites. When we started Vintage Romance Publishing, we utilized existing markets and spent very little capital getting our name out into cyberspace. You can do the same, but you may have to invest some time in research.
  3. ISBNs: If you’re going to sell books, you’re going to need to purchase International Standard Book Numbers. Big name for the small set of numbers on the back of any book. Yes, I know we’re talking about e-books, but it still should be done. You can access the application for these numbers atwww.isbn.org but be forewarned. We’re not talking cheap. Ten ISBNs cost approximately $225 plus the set up fees. Some companies like to start out with one hundred numbers for which you will shell out a whopping $800. Use your own judgment and wallet to decide which route you’d like to go. There have been some talk about the smaller amount of numbers reflecting badly on publishers. However, if that’s the only downside to this exorbitant start-up expense, the risk might be worth the relief to your wallet.

These are just three of the main expenses which can be costly, but, as shown in the advertising section, can be circumvented. The only expense you’re not going to be able to get around is the cost for the ISBNs. Bite the bullet and pay it if you’re serious about becoming a publisher.

Lesson 3: Show Me the Money

Research Tax Information and Business Licenses

 

Uncle Sam is going to get his so we respectfully dedicate this section to our federal government.

Before you establish your new business, it’s important to investigate taxes, including local, state, and federal. Some people go into a new business thinking if they don’t succeed, they can just use it as a write-off. At this point, we’d like to say it’s worth an investment of your time to research. The Complete Guide to Self-Publishingmentions two guides for small businesses which would definitely be worth a look. Small Time Operator: How to Start Your Own Business, Keep Your Books, Pay Your Taxes and Stay Out of Trouble and 422 Tax Deductions for Business and Self-Employed Individuals.

We would also suggest scheduling a meeting with a tax advisor or an attorney specializing in tax law to discuss what you can expect once you start your own business.

The next portion of this section you’ll want to pay close attention to is researching business licenses and/or permits. Believe us when we tell you that a trip to your Chamber of Commerce or your local tax office is worth your time and trouble. You’ll want to know if you will need to charge sales tax on your books. Do you need a business license in your county even though you’re operating your business online?

Most permits are based on your future sales and you certainly don’t want to go into the office boasting you’re going to make your first million within a year. You’ll be charged more money than what you have in your checking account and either leave there without your permit or with a much lighter wallet and a second mortgage on your house.

You simply cannot have enough information when it comes to taxes and business licenses. The more prepared you are, the better your chances of doing it right the first time around. We don’t think we need to tell you that making a mistake on your taxes is never a good thing.

To wrap up this section, we’d like to point out a couple of more places you can go for research on these very important topics. You can visit www.irs.gov, They have free pamphlets you can access online though most are in pdf format and you’ll need Adobe Acrobat to read them. If you don’t already have Acrobat Reader, you can download it free at www.adobe.com. Another suggestion is your state’s Department of Revenue for information on potential state taxes and, of course, let’s not forget your local library. Remember the old saying, it’s better safe than sorry.

Lesson 3: Show Me the Money

Bibliography

Poynter, Dan, The Self-Publishing Manual (14th edition), Para Publishing, 2003

Ross, Tom and Marilyn, The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing, Writer’s Digest Books, 2002

Website for International Standard Business Numbers, www.isbn.org

Internal Revenue Service, www.irs.gov.

Adobe Acrobat, www.adobe.com

Lesson 4: Welcome to My World

Now comes the lesson we really like. In these sections, your dream will start to take shape. We’ll touch on website designing, setting up your e-books and enhancing them with vivid covers which will capture even the most discriminating reader’s attention. We’ll be using our own business website, www.vrpublishing.com and we invite you to visit, take a look around and get an idea of the necessity for a quality website.

 

Website Design

 

We’ve touched on this briefly in the expenses section but here, we’ll go into more in-depth ideas for creating a website which will stand out from the other millions of websites plus offer you some suggestions on how to improve on your own ideas.

First, let us say, it’s extremely important that you design your own website on paper. You need to have your pages listed, i.e., welcome page, FAQ page, etc. and you will need to create the information you want on those pages as well as be able to tell the webmaster what ideas you have for each page. For example, when we were in the process of starting Vintage Romance Publishing, we sat down as a group and listed each web page on a separate sheet of paper. We then listed some ideas for the type of graphics we wanted, where we wanted those graphics positioned and what type of font we wanted. You need to think small when you’re designing a web page on paper, by the way. Then, we wrote the data for that page. No matter how many pages you intend to create, you need to prepare each one down to the smallest detail.

When you create your website in your mind, asking yourself some questions can help establish your design.

  1. Does your website reflect the title of your company? Vintage Romance Publishing is dedicated to nostalgic romances. Hence, the black and white photos. If your company name is Stars Publishing, you certainly wouldn’t want to create a picture in your readers’ minds which do not relate to stars, i.e. an expensive automobile. You could, however, go the celestial route and use stars which follow your mouse. For an example, go to www.dawnrachel.com. The stars will travel when your mouse moves and it’s a very cool effect, compliments of The WebGoddess Designs.
  2. Next, are your ideas expanding beyond your space? You certainly don’t want to clutter your welcome page with too much information or too many graphics. On a website, as on the walls of your home, space can be a good thing.
  3. And finally, would this site idea appeal to other people or just yourself? If want to publish e-books of all genres and yet you create your website based on your love for ham radios, well, you might have a problem. Expect some confusion from your readers.

And last, but certainly not least, if you’re not familiar with website design, now is not the time to learn and/or practice your amateur skills. You want a website which captures a customer’s eye and will make them want to tell others about what they’ve seen. Remember, clean, simple and pleasing to the eye, not gaudy, flashing and loud. You want people to return time and again and broken links, disjointed graphics and/or sounds which cannot be silenced are deal breakers for a lot of people, including your course instructors.

Lesson 4: Welcome to My World

E-book Compiling and Covers

 

Here’s a step which most people don’t think about until the last possible minute, but it’s a major one. How are you going to present your e-books to the wide world of readers?

When we began investigating the means of compiling e-books, we thought it was a fairly simple process. We would purchase a compiler (the market is flooded with them, by the way) and we’d be all set. Little did we realize that the compiler set the e-books up as an exe file. For those of you unfamiliar with computerese, an exe file is an executable file which basically means it’s an application, a program which must run on the reader’s computer. In the age in which we live with the influx of computer viruses, not many readers are going to be eager to open the hard drive up for a potential Trojan, worm or whatever other destructive entity out there. So we scrapped the e-book compiler and kept it simple.

Every reader who owns a computer and can access the Internet can read an e-book in html format or hypertext markup language. This, of course, has added benefits in that your readers are already on the Internet and can easily follow any links you choose to insert. All of the e-books Vintage Romance Publishing offers for sale are available in this format. There’s little chance of difficulty and all a reader needs is a web browser. Well, that, and a computer, but that’s a given when we’re discussing e-books.

The next type of e-book if you’re trying to start relatively easy is the doc format or Microsoft Word. Surprisingly enough, not every reader has Microsoft Word or the ability to open and read a doc formatted e-book. Believe us when we tell you we’ve encountered the difficulty with some of our customers who think they can open a document with a doc extension. It might be wise to offer this format as an option, but don’t put all of your eggs into one basket by selling only doc formatted e-books.

Rich Text Format is another basic extension and can be accessed from virtually any word processing program. It’s always a wise choice to include this format as one of your options.

WordPerfect or wpd is our next option and we have to say we don’t recommend using this one as one of your formats. Don’t get us wrong. WordPerfect is our word processor of choice, but quite frankly, not many readers would choose to read their books in WordPerfect. Just as Microsoft Word, not every reader has it and not every reader wants it. We opted to leave out WordPerfect as one of our format options simply because it’s not a popular word processor when it comes to e-books.

Then there’s pdf or Portable Document Format. To create a pdf version of a file, you will need more than just Adobe Reader. You will need the standard version of Adobe and while it’s listed on the Adobe site for $299.00 ($99.00 if you’re upgrading), you can probably find it cheaper elsewhere. Plenty of other pdf software exists in today’s market and while we don’t have anything bad to say about them, we prefer to stick with the tried and true. However, if you prefer using another pdf creator, please take some time to investigate and compare the programs. We can say that Adobe Acrobat 6.0 standard is one of the easiest programs to use and converting is a breeze.

And finally, if you’re familiar with e-books at all, you’ll know pocket readers are in abundant supply. Having spent time on e-book forums and boards, we can say unequivocally that owners of these neat gadgets are enthralled with them and will never go back to reading their books on the computer. The downside is that they can be expensive. Nevertheless, if you’re intent on selling your e-books in this manner, we cannot stress enough the importance of exhaustive research. The added expense for software and your own e-book reader (to test the books) may be more than your wallet can withstand. Remember, there’s always time to upgrade, room for improvement and ways to move up in the world. Don’t bite off more than you can chew.

Briefly, we’ll mention creating e-book covers. You should, of course, become comfortable with pixels and have in mind the type of cover you’re looking to use. And here’s where another investment comes in. If you don’t already have a versatile graphics program, you should purchase one, unless you intend to hire a graphic artist who comes complete with his/her own software and computer equipment and is willing to wait for payment until you make your first million.

Lesson 4: Welcome to My World

Updates

 

How many times have you visited a website only to discover it had not been updated in six months or even a year? How is a reader supposed to know you’re still in business if you don’t refresh your pages now and again? You think, by the mere existence of a website itself, they should be able to tell? Let us politely say . . .this is not going to happen. If we visit a site and scroll down to the bottom of the welcome page, we want to see a recent day, preferably within a week of our visit. Why? Because you wouldn’t go to a grocery store week after week if you thought for one instant their stock had not been upgraded or they ran the same sales week in and week out. It’s all about creativity. Constantly changing your content will bring visitors back to your site and the article, 10 Website Essentials to Increase Your Sales which you can read at Web Source provides a list of excellent pointers, one of which is providing your visitors with fresh content on a continual basis. Ms. Lowery even lists several websites which provide free articles for publication on your website. So if you want to sell books but you’re not a writer yourself, these places might be an excellent source for new content.

We know a question which is in your mind right now is probably, how do I update my website if I’m not familiar with hmtl or any of the technical jargon? You have a few options, one is keep your webmaster/webmistress on retainer so he/she can do the updates periodically for a set monthly fee. Another idea is to ask your web designer to prepare a control panel with step-by-step instructions which will enable you to perform the updates yourself with a minimum of trouble. A third suggestion is to utilize your web designer on an update-for-fee basis which basically means you gather all your updates together and submit them to him/her and they refresh your site. The downside to this option is that it can be expensive if you want to update at least once a week. And yet one more option is to take a class and learn how to do it yourself so you don’t have to worry about paying any fees at all once your website has been created. While html sounds difficult, it’s fairly easy once you get the hang of it and you can always keep a cheat sheet beside you when you start out. We actually use a cheat book,The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Creating a Web Page written by Paul McFedries and most of the html we know is self-taught which should show you how easy it is to learn.

So what if you don’t know what to add if you don’t have any new books to add to your catalog? Vintage Romance Publishing has a news page entitled Now Hear This which we use to post new tidbits of information and we keep our readers updated on contests, giveaways, drawings and even nostalgic trivia. We have a lot of fun with it and it’s something you should consider. Inside every entrepreneur, there is something to say.

Lesson 4: Welcome to My World

Bibliography

Vintage Romance Publishing, www.vrpublishing.com

Website of Author Dawn Whitmire, www.dawnrachel.com

Suite 101.comMaking E-book Covers by Kris Williams

Ross, Tom and Marilyn, The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing, Writer’s Digest Books, 2002

10 Website Essentials to Increase Your Sales,Web Source

McFedries, Paul, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Creating a Web Page, MacMillian USA, 2002

Lesson 5: Calling All Authors

Okay, now we’re starting to get into the tough stuff. Oh, you thought the actual set-up lessons were the toughest? Well, as much as we hate to disillusion you, the toughest part of Catching the Wave isn’t the actual formation of the company. It’s making the business a success, the day to day operations. In these sections, we’ll help you make sure you’re ready to begin marketing to your bread and butter: authors because, unless you plan on selling your own books, you’re going to need authors to fill your catalog. We’ll be spending a lot of time using the two books we’ve already discussed as well as How to Publish and Promote Online and several of the websites listed in our resource links.

Are You Ready for Authors?

 

Okay, you’ve prepared your website and it’s in top shape. You’ve obtained your business license, your ISBNs and checked and rechecked your business supplies. You are officially ready to start accepting books for publication. Or are you?

With Vintage Romance Publishing, we were fortunate to have two published authors on our staff who were extremely familiar with publishing, marketing, royalties and author promotions. Most authors who are already published will be as well. So the question is, what can you offer them that the other publishers can’t? Barring that, why should authors choose to submit their masterpieces to your company rather than the competition?

When we started our company, we had a set marketing plan in place as well as Author Benefits which we posted to our website. We wanted authors to see what they could expect from us. We have a Marketing Director on staff and will help authors with every aspect of promotion and marketing even setting up a website if they don’t have one already. See, it’s not just about selling books. You have to sell yourself and your company name as well.

With that said, what are you prepared to do to make sure all authors, both published and unpublished, seek out your company? If you publish an author and their books aren’t selling so well, are you willing to go the extra mile as Jay Dubya did for his own books which he describes in his article, Starting an Internet E-Publishing Business Was Not Easy. Mr. Dubya didn’t give up. You can read the article here. Or will you simply focus your attention on another author’s book which does happen to be selling? Let us be the first to warn you, authors will remember you in a positive light or a negative one. You don’t want to be in the latter category.

Have you thought about royalties and how much you can offer them? You’re selling e-books, so your overhead is much lower for publishing. We’ve seen rates ranging from 30-45%. There is no set amount, but if you choose to start out at the lower end, you need to do something extra to compensate your authors, maybe by way of promotion. For more information on how to negotiate the promotion jungle we recommend, E-book Marketing Made Easy. Author Rusty Fischer provides 101 Great Ways to Promote and Sell Your eBook in an easy to read and understand format. It’s a must read for publishers because you need to know how to market an e-book just as much, maybe more, as your authors do.

So before you decide to open for business, take time to prepare your marketing plan and come up with some creative incentive plans for your authors. They’ll thank you for it in the long run and happy authors won’t be eager to take their work to one of your competitors.

Lesson 5: Calling All Authors

Preparing A Contract

 

Now, we get to the hard stuff, the stuff which requires all of your attention and will, more than likely, create wrinkles unless you’re familiar with creating contracts. Of course, being familiar with basic contracts doesn’t necessarily mean you can put together a publishing contract. To use a cliche, it’s a horse of an entirely different color.

The best way we found to start off on the right foot was by visiting Epic (Electronically Published Internet Connection), an organization solely devoted to publishers, authors and readers of e-books. Epic has a sample contract which can be conformed to your company’s standards and it has done all the hard work for you. Visit Epic here for the scoop.

In any contract, you want to include the author’s compensation rate, how many free downloads they will be entitled to upon publication of the book (or how many times they can give away their book), whether or not they can use the cover art for promotional items they intend to sell. Sometimes, the use of cover art is tricky especially if you intend to use a graphic designer or artist who doesn’t want to give permission. You also need to think about how many chapters your authors will be allowed to post on their website for promotion and any requirements you have for author participation in company sponsored chats, virtual book signings or other promotional campaigns.

Now, we’ll mention some sections we don’t suggest you include in your author contract. We’ve never been fond of right of first refusal clauses because, quite frankly, we feel it infringes on an author’s right to choose his or her own publisher. Additionally, if your turn around time to review a submission is six to eight months, the author’s work is tied up for that length of time while you’re focused on getting the first book ready for publication. Writing for a living is tough enough without a company, which should be the author’s staunchest ally, holding up potential profits. Therefore, we opted not to include such a clause in our contract. We want our authors to return to us simply because of how we treat them and help them achieve greater success with their publishing career.

Another item which is a necessity is the term of the contract. Yes, it must be included in your publishing contract, but we listed this under things not to include for a reason. We’ve read many contracts which purchase the rights to the novel for seven, ten or even twelve years. Are those companies really going to actively promote those books for those long periods of time? Absolutely not. They simply intend to keep the e-book on their website ad infinitum and if it’s not selling well, the author can do little to improve on the quality of the book or perhaps self-publish it to increase its selling potential.

And finally, under no circumstances, would we ever deduct any type of fees from an author’s royalties. We’ve seen contracts where, if a reader pays by credit card, the fee the company is charged is deducted from the author’s royalties. We do not believe in charging authors any fees of any kind for e-publishing. Let’s face it folks, it’s your decision to set up shop as an e-publishing company. Why should authors pay you for the privilege of selling their book from your website? What authors are looking for are credible publishing companies which will help them build their career. It’s one more book they can add to their resume and more exposure for you. May you use it well.

Lesson 5: Calling All Authors

The Right Knowledge

 

Do you have to use the big words when you prepare a contract or any other legal document for it to be considered legal? No. However, as a business, you will certainly want to use the proper terminology in order to give the appearance of a classy publishing company with all the right knowledge. Does that mean you have to actually have the right knowledge? Well, it helps, but then, so do resources you can refer to whenever you need them.

Powernet has some interesting reading which will further help you understand the publishing world. You can find more information here. For as much as you need to understand the business side of your company, you also need to understand the legal side of it and what you’re writing when you’re writing it.

Another great place to spend some time visiting is www.writing-world.com. Moira Allen has written a fabulous article entitled, Selling International Rights which explains the different types of rights publishing companies may ask for.

We took a break from writing this section of the lesson to visit www.parapublishing.com which is Dan Poynter’s website and it offers a plethora of information for publishers. Some of the information is free, some isn’t, but Mr. Poynter does offer a free electronic newsletter which is entitled Publishing Poynters. We loved the title and that was enough to encourage us to sign up for the newsletter. Everyone, no matter how much information they may have, could always use more knowledge.

While we’re looking at publisher resources, we certainly can’t forget Publishers Marketing Association. We can’t extol the virtues of this website enough and its newsletters have answered many of our company’s questions since we began. You certainly can’t go wrong by investing some of your time and energy reviewing this site.

These are just some of the resources Vintage Romance Publishing relies on along with investigative research and feedback from fellow editors and publishers. Yes, there are publishers out there who will be happy to tell you what not to do when you’re starting out. They might not be so easy to find, but if you’re tenacious enough, you’ll discover fonts of information for the new publisher you never even knew existed before you started this venture. After you glean the information you need and your question is answered, please remember to send a short e-mail to the writer of the article or book or owner of the website thanking them for providing information which new publishers so desperately need. As much as we’d like to think that one thank you or kudos wouldn’t make that much of a difference to a busy author or website designer, it’s simply not the truth. You’ll understand better what we’re talking about when that one author thanks you for all you’ve done to help them sell their book or one reader sends you an e-mail expressing their delight with the books you publish.

Now, that’s knowledge everyone needs.

Lesson 5: Calling All Authors

Bibliography

Rose, M.J. and Adair-Hoy, Angela, How to Publish and Promote Online, St. Martin’s Griffin, 2001

Starting an Internet E-Publishing Business Was Not Easy, Jay Dubya, www.sffworld.com

Fischer, Rusty, Ebook Marketing Made Easy, BookBooters Press, 2002

Epic (Electronically Published Internet Connection), www.epicauthors.org

PowerNet

Selling International Rights, Moira Allen, < a href=”http://www.writing-world.com”>www.writing-world.com

Poynter, Dan, The Self-Publishing Manual (14th edition), Para Publishing, 2003

Para Publishing, www.parapublishing.com

Publishers Marketing Association, www.pma-online-org

Lesson 6: Getting to Know You

Now, we’ll teach you how to start spreading the word about your company. From advertising to networking, we’ll give you the scoop on what works and what doesn’t as well as how to avoid the dreaded pitfalls. Our book resource focus will be How to Publish and Promote Online, but we may throw in another resource or two just to add even more information.

Promotions

 

This is, in at least one of your course instructors’ opinion, the most challenging and rewarding part of running a small business. Promotions will either make your business or break it. Let’s be honest here. You can build the most creative website, have the finest people on staff and enough knowledge to teach anyone else how to become an e-publisher, but if you don’t get your company’s name out into the wide world of cyberspace, you might as well be hawking cheap toupees on a corner street in downtown Podunkville.

Cathy Stucker has written an informative article entitled How to be Everywhere on the Internet: Creating a Credible Online Reputation. Ms. Stucker has ingenuous ideas on making your presence known online, but includes some offline ideas as well. You can find Ms. Stucker’s article in How to Publish and Promote Online by M.J. Rose and Angela Adair-Hoy or you can visit Ms. Stucker’s website at www.idealady.com. One particular idea your course instructors liked was creating your own holiday. Read the article for full details and then try it yourself.

A high-end way of promoting your company is by direct mail advertising or e-mail promotion. We say high-end because renting the lists (those individuals interested in the type of books you publish) can be expensive and the turnaround may not be very high, at least in the beginning.

Personally, we can’t stress enough the importance of keeping your company’s name in the public eye. While searching for low-cost advertising opportunities, which we’ll discuss further in the next section, we came across a magazine which published romance short stories based on the Golden Years. We contacted the editor and it has been the start of a friendship. Recently, the editor of that magazine mentioned our name in a chat room and we were contacted by the chat room host who wants to have Vintage Romance Publishing as chat room guests. The chat room is hosted by a national magazine, by the way, and you can’t beat that for free promotional opportunities.

Like we mentioned, promoting is challenging, but the rewards you’ll reap from your hard work may, one day, bring your company national exposure.

Lesson 6: Getting to Know You

Advertising

 

Congratulations! Now that you’ve started your own e-publishing company, you get to advertise it. Notice we said get to as opposed to have to. You get to allow your creative side to take charge and to find low-cost ways of advertising the books you have for sale, any sales you might have going on at the time, your company newsletter (which is a must have) and/or news related to your company. Oh, and you may need to advertise for authors in the beginning. Affectionately known as call for submissions, this is one of the most important things you’ll ever do. Do it right and the authors will flock to your door. Do it wrong and your company could end up another ghost town on the e-publishing highway.

First, we’d like to say, we don’t suggest you invest a large portion of your money in pricey advertising slots in print magazines or newspapers. Why? Because you need to focus on letting the online community know who you are first and where are you going to find the most readers and writers of e-books? Online, of course. We can’t even begin to tell you there are scads of free advertising opportunities available for the new entrepreneur.

Reciprocal links, posting an ad in e-zines and newsletters which cater to your reading market and becoming active in online forums are just a few of the ideas we’ve found. We also contacted writers’ groups and organizations, websites for romance readers and websites listing publishers and found that most editors were more than willing to post a blurb on their website for the best price . . .for free.

An idea would be to contact the owners of the listed websites and find out if they offer newsletters. Some do. If that’s the case, simply ask if they would be willing to include a brief announcement about your company (make sure you come up with a short, catchy paragraph which will draw readers to your site). We’ve found that anyone publishing a newsletter is generally willing to help out another business, especially for the potential exposure it will give them as well.

We have investigated offline advertising and have found inexpensive ways to do that as well. Though libraries don’t usually carry e-books, some are amenable to allowing your company to hold a small presentation. Make sure you have your promotional material and business cards on hand.

Oh, and let’s not forget bumper stickers, inexpensive advertising products like pens, keychains and magnets which you can buy in bulk at places like Earthly Charms online. Of course, your return address labels you use for all of your mail, not just company-related, should hawk your company name or at the very least, the logo. How about slipping a business card in the envelope when you pay your bills? The opportunities are endless and all free.

In closing, we’d like to remind you that while Rome wasn’t built in a day, it never would have been built at all if no one had lifted a finger to get the job done.

Lesson 6: Getting to Know You

Networking

 

Though we’ve listed different ideas for creating an online presence, we didn’t want you to overlook the power of networking. You can network online and off and some of those networks can lead your business to the top of the corporate ladder.

When you’re dealing with business associates who are helping you establish your business, by all means, give that person a business card, ask them what they like to read and if they would be interested in a free book to read at their leisure. Few people will turn down a free book.

We’ve all heard the saying “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Well, that does play a very large part in building your company’s image. Tom and Marilyn Ross have written a free tip sheet for business owners in their book, The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing. It contains money-making tips for the business owner and one of those tips is cultivating testimonials and referrals. Suppose a popular corporate executive or local politician makes a nice comment about one of the books for sale on your website or even offers a kind word about the website itself. Would you have the courage to ask him/her to put it in writing? If not, you’d better start practicing courage right now. If one of your friends made the same type of comment, you’d ask them, wouldn’t you? We certainly hope so. Friends and family members can help generate some interest at their job, their church, their gym, the local grocery store and even at their son’s baseball game. Never underestimate the power of the spoken word.

Recently, some of our staff went to a seminar hosted by The Center for Women, which is a local organization here in Charleston, SC, which promotes and assists women entrepreneurs and those in a career field. This seminar was an extravaganza for entrepreneurs and offered a prime opportunity for networking and a definitive way to introduce another part of the public to Vintage Romance Publishing.

Never pass up an opportunity to talk about your company and your mission. When someone strikes up a conversation with you inside a doctor’s office, in an airport terminal, or even at a restaurant while you’re waiting for your table, figure out a way to work your company into the discussion. For example, a few days ago, one of your course instructors was waiting at a doctor’s office and the doctor was terribly behind schedule. Luckily, several other women were there and we all began to talk. One woman mentioned that it wasn’t like this in the good ole days, that doctors rarely kept you waiting as long as we’d been waiting. A perfect opportunity. Did your course instructor take it? Absolutely. What occurred next was a half hour discussion about Vintage Romance Publishing and what makes us different from the other publishers out there. Business cards were distributed and more contacts were made.

If you’re naturally a shy person, you will need to discover a way to tap into that inner speaker. Give yourself a chance to break out of the box and announce to the world that you are running a business and you intend to make it one of the most successful e-publishing companies on the Internet. You’ll be glad you did.

Lesson 6: Getting to Know You

Bibliography

Rose, M.J. and Adair-Hoy, Angela, How to Publish and Promote Online, St. Martin’s Griffin, 2001

How to be Everywhere on the Internet: Creating a Credible Online Reputation, Cathy Stucker,www.idealady.com

Ross, Tom and Marilyn, The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing, Writer’s Digest Books, 2002

Poynter, Dan, The Self-Publishing Manual (14th edition), Para Publishing, 2003

Lesson 7: Mission Possible

And away we go! Here’s where we show you how to reach out to authors and entice them to join your company as well as waving a cyber-invitation to avid readers. Plus, we’ll show you how to keep both groups happy. It’s all in the service you provide. Please see our bibliography for a list of our recommended resources as we’ll be using a lot of them in these sections.

 

Marketing for Authors

 

Okay, you’ve gotten your company up and running, covered all your bases and even offered a contract to your very first author. Now, is the time to sit back, relax, and let the big bucks start rolling in, right? You know what’s coming, don’t you? Wrong. Now is where even more work starts taking place. If you want to keep your authors, you’re going to have to do your part to make sure their work gets out there, gets noticed, and gets bought. When your authors succeed, you succeed. So exactly how do you make sure your authors are getting every vestige of notoriety they deserve?

One option is to hire a marketing director. Vintage Romance Publishing is fortunate to have a marketing director as one of our partners. She is actually one of your course instructors, Deb Curwen, and works closely with our authors to make sure they get the best exposure possible. While some publishing companies don’t feel it’s necessary that they promote their authors’ books, we say it’s mandatory. Let’s face it, sometimes, you’re going to be dealing with a first time author and they’re simply not going to know what to do to promote their own book. So what do you tell them? Hopefully, you’ll tell them you can help. Otherwise, you’re going to have an e-book up for sale which is simply taking up space on your website. You have to be a cheerleader for your authors.

Let’s go back to some of our resource books for this course. One important fact Dan Poynter mentions in Chapter 7 of his book, The Self-Publishing Manual is: Reviews sell books. He couldn’t be more right. Your company should be prepared to submit your author’s book to no less than ten review sites, more if you really want to be helpful. Some review sites take a while. Others respond within a couple of weeks.

We don’t think we need to emphasize once again how extremely important it is to make sure your authors are happy and while you may think the toughest part of your job is over once you’ve published their book, they won’t. If an author’s book isn’t selling, it isn’t fair to place the blame solely at his/her feet. You have a responsibility to build the reputation of not only your company, but your authors.

Lesson 7: Mission Possible

Marketing for Readers

 

This section is just as important as the marketing you’ll do for your authors. When we discuss marketing for readers, we’re talking about thinking creatively to draw readers to your website. Yes, if you properly market your authors, your traffic will increase, but how will you get the readers to keep returning? Will you offer buy one/get one free sales? What about half-priced e-books occasionally? Contests? Games? Chat rooms? If you’re wondering what this could possibly have to do with running an e-publishing company, let us explain.

Readers of e-books like to get involved. If you don’t believe us, visit the Yahoo Group called ebooklove. It’s over 400 members strong and hosts e-book authors and avid readers who discuss the latest e-books they’ve read, reviews and enables the authors to host an Author Promotion Day. They welcome publishers, too, and it’s a tremendous promotional tool.

Readers can be very discriminating when it comes to their choices in reading material. So you need to make every effort to give them the best quality and the best choices. By best quality, we mean if you don’t have the ability to proofread the books yourself, make sure you have someone on staff or even someone you can trade-off with to do the proofreading for you. All it takes is for readers to find constant errors in the books you publish and no amount of marketing or buy one/get one free offers will get them to come back.

Another idea is to let the readers make some of the decisions for you. Reader surveys are great investment vehicles. They tell you what the readers would like to see in the future, what books weren’t their particular favorites and which ones were. You can even ask readers what type of format they’d prefer to read the books in. Again, readers like to be involved, but if you’re going to go this route, make sure you actually put the surveys to use and you might consider offering a small prize to increase your response rate. And your prizes don’t necessarily have to be free downloads of the books you offer for sale. Small gift certificates from coffee shops or department stores make great gifts.

Finally, you might want to consider offering a drawing every month for your loyal readers. That reader will get an even bigger prize and believe me, that winner will talk about her prize to a lot of people and that’s more potential customers for you. Never underestimate the power of your readers. As much as you need your authors to succeed, you also need those readers, especially the ones who come back time and again. Give them the opportunity to take part in your company and you can’t go wrong.

Lesson 7: Mission Possible

Customer Satisfaction

 

Readers will talk about you. What they say about you will depend on what experience they’ve had with your company and its staff. It’s your responsibility to make sure it’s a good one. Tom and Marilyn Ross mention in their book, The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing, to ask for what you want. If you want a pleased customer to write a customer review at Amazon.com or other online bookstores, you should ask for it. Now, the question is, how do you make sure that customer is pleased? Simple, by applying the same customer service rules you would to any other business.

E-mail etiquette is a must. From time to time you may receive customer inquiries. Remember they are e-mailing a business not a friend. You should not, under any circumstances, use the acronyms which are commonplace in today’s society, for instance, LOL (laughing out loud-which, in our opinion, would serve no purpose in an e-mail to a customer), BTW (by the way), IMHO (In my humble opinion), ROTFLOL (rolling on the floor laughing out loud and its counterpart, ROTFLMAO which we will not dissect for you). Be professional at all times. Address the customer by their last name and always sign the e-mail with your name, title, and the company name.

Problem resolution is another quality a small business owner must have. What happens if a customer buys a book, downloads it, and they are unable to read it? It’s possible that, during the process of conversion, material can become garbled. It doesn’t matter if you believe that’s what happened or not. This customer paid for a book to read and is now telling you they are unable to read it. Unless you intend to pay a personal visit to their house to confirm their story, you should automatically send them another download in whatever format they prefer. Now, if this happens continually with the same customer, you may want to suggest that they use a different download option such as html as opposed to pdf, etc. But follow the e-mail etiquette guidelines listed above. Always remain professional.

Be wary of creating a customer pet. Every company will have repeat customers if they’re doing the job right. However, you do not want to play favorites with any one customer. If you want to hold a customer loyalty sale, that’s one thing, but we don’t recommend even that. It’s possible some readers will feel slighted and won’t return. Treat all of your customers with respect and dignity, but maintain a professional distance. Otherwise, you could end up with a customer who feels they should be rewarded for the amount of money they’ve spent buying books from your company, especially if that customer is a friend. You’re in business to sell books. If the customer chooses to buy books, even better. We’re certainly not trying to sound harsh here, but giving away your merchandise to your friends isn’t going to make you popular, especially to the authors who’ve labored over those books. If it’s a buy one/get one free sale as we’ve mentioned before, then all customers should have access to the sale. Be fair. Be reasonable and most of all, be successful.

Lesson 7: Mission Possible

Bibliography

Vintage Romance Publishing, www.vrpublishing.com

Rose, M.J. and Adair-Hoy, Angela, How to Publish and Promote Online, St. Martin’s Griffin, 2001

Yahoo Groups, ebooklove, www.yahoo.com

Ross, Tom and Marilyn, The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing, Writer’s Digest Books, 2002

Poynter, Dan, The Self-Publishing Manual (14th edition), Para Publishing, 2003

Lesson 8: That’s A Wrap

Finally, we reach the end of the lessons. By the time you arrive at this point, you should have a general idea of where you’re going with your company, how you want to get it up and running and now, we’re going to give you some snapshots on the actual day to day operations and how to save yourself a buck or two. We hope you enjoy this final lesson and that the course resources will be of benefit to you as well.

Your E-Publishing Company at Work

 

Everything is in place. You have your website completely developed. Your pages are completed and you’re ready to start accepting submissions. Allow us to say, “Good for you.” We’re happy you’ve chosen to become an e-publisher and while it is certainly not easy work, it definitely is rewarding. In this section, we’ll focus on the logistics of your company which are basically how to run an e-publishing company.

If you’ve promoted your company enough, you should start receiving submissions within the first week, provided you’ve done all your research and know there’s a target audience for your books as well as target authors. So who is going to read those submissions? You? An associate editor? This is a decision which must be made pronto as well as who has the final say on acceptance or rejection of the manuscripts. How long is your turnaround time going to be for you to respond to queries, synopses and/or partial submissions? If you’re not familiar with queries and synopses, you might want to take the course, Catching the Editor’s Eye, which is on Suite 101.com as well. This will help you to understand what they are and what you should expect from authors, provided they know the proper ins and outs of submitting to publishers.

Once you’ve decided to accept the manuscript, you have other tasks ahead. As Dan Poynter points out in his book, The Self-Publishing Manual, the work must be converted to the proper files for download. Then, of course, there’s the cover art, preparing the book cover, pricing the book and whether or not the book will be distributed through other channels besides your own website. Then, someone has to work with the author to make sure the book is in tip-top shape before you put it up for sale (remember to consider your image at all times) and once you have that first book for sale, the other half of the work begins which we’ve already discussed in the section, Marketing for Authors, in Lesson VII.

Soon, you’ll begin getting more and more submissions, e-mail inquiries asking about your guidelines (yes, you’ll get these even if your guidelines are prominently displayed on the first page on your website), and if you’ve done your homework, you’ll start getting noticed. Remember that every e-publisher in cyberspace had to start somewhere. You’ve started and now, you must keep the ball rolling.

Keep organized at all costs. Vintage Romance Publishing has lists for every aspect of the publishing business including marketing, advertising, submissions, acceptances, and rejections. We list out the items which need to be accomplished on a daily basis, on a weekly basis and even on a monthly basis. Does it always function like a well-oiled machine? We offer you a resounding, No. Please don’t make the mistake of thinking this is going to be smooth sailing. You will make mistakes. We have and will continue to do so in the future, we’re sure. All new publishers do, but as the saying goes, the greatest mistake you can make is to be afraid of making one.

Lesson 8: That’s A Wrap

The Next Steps to Take

 

Now that your business is underway, you’ve made a few sales, we’d like to take this opportunity to say, don’t relax. You heard us. The company will not run itself. You have much more work to do if you intend to make your e-publishing company one of the biggest ones out there. It’s now time to turn your attention to publisher listings. You want authors to know how to find you and a listing in The International Directory of Little Magazines and Small PressesGale Group’s Publisher’s DirectoryThe Literary Market Place, and Writer’s Market are essential to creating a credible image.

Next up, start targeting your local libraries. Even if they don’t accept e-books, you may be able to convince them to join NetLibrary which offers e-books. Check out World ebook Library and ask for a publisher alliance. We know these organizations can be difficult to get into, but you certainly won’t obtain a spot with them if you don’t try.

Target the big name book distributors even if they don’t offer e-books. How do you know they won’t begin offering the e-books if just one more company asks? Publishers Group WestNational Book Publishing andIndependent Publishers Group are three of the biggest you should focus your attention on, but there are plenty other distribution markets out there.

Develop a list of reviewers you want to court even if they don’t currently review e-books. The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing mentions on page 41 that some major publications like Publishers Weekly, the Library Journal and ForeWord have begun reviewing e-books and offer ways to contact each. These should automatically go on your list as should Midwest Book Reviews. While using online resources to review your e-books is an excellent source of promotion, you do want to get the big names under your belt as well.

And last, but certainly not least are the radio and television slots. We’re not talking about paying for advertising in either of these outlets. What we are saying is consider trying to garner a spot on a local television show orNational Public Radio. Tom and Marilyn Ross, in The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing, quoted The New York Times as saying, “An interview or a review on any of the three main programs-‘Morning Edition,’ ‘All Things Considered,’ and ‘Weekend Editor’-practically assures a rise in sales.” Those are promising words and worth the effort it will take. Be tenacious and don’t give up.

So as you can see, your work is yet to be done and quite frankly, as long as you choose to run your e-publishing company, it won’t be done. You will always need to promote, advertise, network, recruit and train. You will wear many hats, including publisher, editor, creative consultant, business manager, problem solver and marketing director, but, with any luck, your hats will fit you well and you and your company will succeed.

We hope to hear you on the radio soon.

Lesson 8: That’s A Wrap

Cutting Corners

 

We come to the final section in our lesson and the final words we’ll say to you before you begin your journey into the world of e-publishing. We could think of no better way to end it than to give you some money-saving tips while you’re just getting started.

We discussed the importance of networking and with networking comes business cards, stationery and other promotional items which will make people remember you. What we didn’t discuss was how to obtain the first two of these items for practically nothing. If you can use your computer, you can create your own business cards and stationery. We did it. Any office supply store has the perforated business cards along with a template to show you how to set it up and by adding a laminated cover, you can achieve smart–looking cards for a fraction of the price it would take for you to buy them from a printer. Same goes for letterhead, of course. We add our logo, our address and phone number and use fine linen paper. The end result is the same and you haven’t shelled out hundreds of dollars.

When you think about what formats to use for your books, we’d like to suggest creating your own CDs. While plenty of companies out there will create them for you and charge a per charge cost, we’ve discovered that buying a pack of blank CDS in the jewel cases and the CD inserts are considerably cheaper. If you can save a file to a disk, you can create a CD. Yes, we know creating the CD inserts can be a little trickier, but you’ve got time. Use it to learn. You’ll be saving money and that’s a much better investment.

When Vintage Romance Publishing first started, we looked into e-book cover creators and discussed the added expense. Then, a search on the Internet turned up a wonderful program called, PagePlus 5.0 and another one called PhotoPlus 5.5. made by Serif, these are free programs and can be obtained fromwww.download.com. The programs are no more difficult to learn than a new computer game and we now create our own book covers with little or no trouble. We even use it to create banners, wallpaper, flyers and other marketing tools. Try it out for yourself and see how easy it is to do it on your own.

Okay, next, we’ll discuss creating your own website. No, wait. Scratch this one. We’ve already discussed this and we just don’t recommend it unless you’re a computer ace who knows the ins and outs of html, website designing, ftp (file transfer protocol) and all the other hassles that come with this. If you are that computer whiz, then, by all means, save the cash for this as well.

Buy the resource books mentioned in this course. We know we’re talking about saving money, but in the long run, these books are going to help you save that precious commodity. Filled with tips, ideas and just good lessons, the books will train you as you go along and give you a leg up in the community.

Lesson 8: That’s A Wrap

Bibliography

Ross, Tom and Marilyn, The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing, Writer’s Digest Books, 2002

Poynter, Dan, The Self-Publishing Manual (14th edition), Para Publishing, 2003

National Public Radio, www.npr.org

www.download.com

 

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