Thursday, August 30, 2012

Sell Mortimer, Sell!

We just finished a new book (In The Wild Chef), and I was asked by the author “Are you happy with the final product?”  And here is how I answered…

From where it came from, in the time frame that we had to operate, yes.

Understand I LIVE by the Pareto Principle...80% of your time is spent to produce 20% of the output. We could have gone over this thing 4 more times, and it would not be exactly what we wanted.  It never will. And it would be a piss-poor use of time.  Both our time should be spent on sales, marketing and a new book.

But as far as books go, they have a have a half-life of 18 months...second only to software. And just like software, its better to issue it to the public with bugs, than to wait until it is perfect.  Go for good, and make money, or wait for great and don't.  It's that simple.

I have seen horrid books...books much worse than ours, become best-sellers. By both of our admissions, we are not great authors/editors. And I have seen many, many more books that are much better than ours not sell 1,000 copies. What matters is not so much the content, but the marketing that you are doing now and going forward. Its all in the sales.

Why do you think that certain classics (The Great Gatsby, The Snows of Kilimanjaro) are considered great by our generation? Because we were TOLD they were, by teachers and others. Actually, they aren't any better or worse than many other books then and since.  But the Buzz doesn't stop, once you get it started.

My two-cents worth. And a free eBook of any of our Signature Tastes Cookbooks if you can tell me what movie the title of this post came from...

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Driving Online Sales for Books and eBooks

This blog is ostensibly a way to share our (i.e. my) thoughts on our journey to becoming a real, live publisher with business cards and everything.  Every now and then, I come across certain nuggets of information that are incredible helpful.  In the modern world of SEO and information saturation, there is little original content that is truly helpful.  So I turn now to a brilliant source (Nick at Futureworld) from across the pond on driving online sales of your books.  We are going to a new and novel distribution model for all of our Signature Tastes and other books, and it is heavily dependent on our online presence. Understand, I am learning just like you, so this is a work-in-progress for us, too!

To summarize Nick, here goes:
1. Optimise your synopsis information for specific keywords – try the tool, Scribe. It’s designed for non-technical people to optimise text without compromising editorial integrity - publishing and SEO can mix, trust me.

2. Understand the latest SEO trends and rules. One of the biggest problems retailers face is that presented by the Google Panda and Penguin search algorithm updates. Duplicate content (and piracy) is a big SEO no-no - all retailers feature duplicate content. The game is constantly changing.

3. Supply retailer-specific synopsis data to avoid duplicate content issues and to test conversion rates of variations – testing requires the support of the retailer as they’ll need to supply analytics data.

4. Optimise your synopsis information for display on the web, using best-practise reading structures. Think bullet points and lists, F-structures and summary-first techniques.

5. Ensure title and subtitle fields are well-formed pieces of data that facilitate discoverability. In the case of most retailers this will form part of the URL and appear in <H1> tags on the page – vital for good search performance.

6. Sounds obvious but use ONIX to its full potential – most publishers don’t utilise all the fields. The framework is designed with discoverability in mind. 

7. Ensure your eBook synopsis is format-relevant – if the synopsis is for an ebook, edit it with that in mind. It’s no longer enough to just rip the synopsis from the AI or the back of the book to use as metadata.

8. Embed hyperlinks to promote other titles in your eBook files, especially by the same author – note this has to be retailer-specific

9. Try Pay With a Tweet to distribute free book samples on your website and in your marketing. 

10. Use Amazon Marketplace to sell direct-to-consumer, especially consider this if you have the capability to connect to their great API.

11. If you can’t sell directly from your corporate site, connect to an affiliate programme run by your favourite retail partner. Drive sales and margins. 

12. Often the publisher’s own website can rank highest for a book, simply because they are the first people to display the product online (a bit of SEO helps too). Remember this and ensure your landing page is as well presented and structured as possible.

13. Read Google’s Zero Moment of Truth research. It will change the way you think about online shopping and ecommerce.

14. Monitor your product’s performance. If you don’t understand how it’s working online, you can’t improve it. These days releasing data (and your product) into the world and waiting for sales figures is not enough. Most retailers are focusing their business online, even if they have stores and so an ever-increasing amount of data is available if you just ask. Why not explore the data supplied in Google’s partner programme dashboard – that’ll give you a great deal of insight into how people are engaging with your books.

15. Get analytical and get your staff to be analytical. Improving your online book sales requires an analytical mind. You need to be able to understand how your product is displaying and any issues, how it performs in search and most importantly, how discoverable it is. You alos need to be able to understand and interpret the effect your efforts are having on sales.

16. Be tactical – if a competitor product is a penny cheaper, adjusting your price can make all the difference. We live in a world of comparison shopping. In a personal experience, a product I have worked on jumped from 1200 to the top 100 in Amazon's charts overnight using this approach alone.

17. Check for competitor editions – if you’ve sold or bought rights for a book, make sure that other publisher editions aren’t appearing in territories they don’t have the rights to sell in. You wouldn’t believe how often this happens and the potential damage to sales this could cause.

18. Use your website more. Most publishers have websites that let you create landing pages. Your book listing is great, but why not create a few page variations that are optimised for specific searches? You could include links to PR and multiple retailers as well as links to free sample downloads.

19. Think contextually. These days, digital marketing is all about placing your product in the right place at the right time in a position your target audience is going to see without altering their browsing habits. Use YouTube via Adwords. If someone’s searching for a specific recipe on YouTube and your cookery book features a similar recipe, show them an ad. It’s simple, measurable, scalable and cost-effective and if channelled towards a retailer, can form part of your marketing spend negotiations.

20. Join the blogosphere and I don’t mean start a blog. If communicating with key bloggers isn’t part of your PR strategy, you are doing it wrong. Good bloggers have influence and audience and are becoming more savvy by the day. And they all need content. Build your own network and email lists and incorporate communicating to these people into your core activities.

21. Set up and monitor a hashtag on Twitter for all key releases and promote  that in your marketing and even in your product. Let people talk as they read.

22. Use Facebook ads to market to Facebook pages. Facebook ads that drive users to Facebook pages to perform specific conversion goals have considerably better conversion rates. Keep users in the eco-system they are already in.

23. Acquire data. In every piece of digital marketing you run, whether running a competition with a partner or a social media drive, are you always getting data? Direct to consumer is the future and to win that battle, you’ll definitely need data and as much of it as possible.

24. Get mobile. Not just as an afterthought. Make good samples available to Smartphone users, make sure your website works well on mobile, consider mobile-specific marketing (most big ad networks can differentiate by platform / device now).

25. Think about the book’s jacket in terms of the web, not just in terms of print. Is the text legible, will it look good at around 300px wide, 72dpi, what happens to the spot UV layer when it’s in web form, are there any print-specific finishes that will need adjusting for online display?

And a bonus – number 26 and 27...

26. According to Google research, the average customer uses 10.4 resources to influence their buying decisions online. I’m not convinced the number is that high for books but it’s worth thinking about the concept. Have you provided enough supporting material and content to ensure you can send that customer over the tipping point to transact. And, is that information available easily via search? Think press coverage, product reviews, blog posts, twitter activity, the author’s own presence online, video, consumer reviews and much more. 

27. For the socialisers amongst you, check out the new social channels Branch and Medium to see what's around the corner in social media. These channels have been created by the guys behind Blogger and Twitter.

28. Consider Quora. If your book is non-fiction and answers questions from 'what's the best recipe for lasagne?', to 'when was Michael Winner born?', Quora can be a marketing channel for you. 

Thanks Nick!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Working your ass off...

We have had a stellar month, and it’s only halfway done.  We have a certified best-seller in Signature Tastes of London, and released both Signature Tastes of Manhattan and Signature Tastes of Atlanta.  Next week we will release our first national book, In The Wild Chef, along with two more SigTastes (Portland and South Carolina).  In short, we have been working our asses off.

I have to turn to my friends at to explain…Dreaming is fun, achieving those dreams isn’t always so enjoyable. If you want the things you desire, you’re going to need to work your ass off. But it isn’t a matter of just doing a lot for a long time. There are different approaches to use along with working hard and you need to find a balance. It’s almost like an art form.

Work smarter while working harder
One of the new sayings I’ve been hearing more and more is frustrating me more and more; “Don’t work harder, work smarter.” I feel like a lot of people are taking it out of context and see it as advice to find the easiest and shortest way to achieving a goal. I look at working smarter not as the quickest route or cheating, but as learning from yesterdays mistakes so that you won’t repeat them again. If you want to achieve a goal you need to not only work smarter, you need to work harder than you have been.

Hard work can be mental work
Hard work may only seem like back breaking labor but there are a lot of people who are putting their minds to hard work. Most tasks that require you to do so are creative such as writing. When you’re doing mental work people might label you as “lazy” because they don’t see you running around, digging ditches, and lifting heavy items.

You need a little patience (or a lot)
Patience is an action you need to take with all your hard work. The results from doing hard work can take a long time to enjoy so you have to find patience to keep you going forward and sane. Don’t get discouraged though, because hard work does eventually produce results. When there’s an action, there has to be a reaction.

Know that good work is hard
Even if you’re doing noble work like helping the homeless, building wells in Africa, and changing lives, it’s going to be hard work. And a lot of the times it’s going to be harder than doing selfish work, perhaps that’s the reason not everyone does it.

Know what to sacrifice
When you’re working hard you’re going to have to make sacrifices. There’s no way around it. But you need to prioritize and know what is worth sacrificing and what isn’t worth missing.
A few things worth sacrificing:
  • A meal – If you’re healthy enough and have enough energy, it might be worth skipping a lunch or dinner once and a while to give yourself more time to achieve a goal.
  • Partying – I’m taking about going to get drunk. What’s the fun in it first of all? And secondly, what good are you getting from it, especially with regards to productivity?
  • Shopping – If you don’t need anything, try not to go for the fun of it. You spend money you don’t need to spend and you’ll have more junk to cram in your house.
  • Comfort - Go without sleep one night to finish something.  You did in college. I slept in my truck for two months in the dead of winter. It didn't kill me or even hurt me. But I saved money to produce my first book.
Be your biggest competitor
Working harder than other people is important, but your biggest competition is you. You’ve got to work harder and more efficient than you did in the past and you need to do things differently than you have been to achieve something you’ve never had. Hard work can become less like “work” when you have passion and find purpose in what you’re doing. Granted, if we meet head-to-head in business, I will win. because I want it more than you. But you really don't figure into my equation. I'm playing against Steven W. Siler.

If you see me on the streets of Vancouver, Seattle, Atlanta or Charleston, please take notice of two things.

The lack of ass in my drawers.

And the smile on my face.