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From The Indie Curmudgeon…

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I was asked in 2009, to contribute a regular series of articles for the Indie Author site, Publetariat.  The mission was to help struggling authors who had decided to pursue Independent Publishing through the pitfalls and maze of learning how to design and market their books. Keeping costs pared to their lowest point has always been a key point in my design and marketing work. In this series of articles, written from the “Nuts and Bolts” perspective, I told readers what worked from my twenty year advertising and design career.  The complete versions are found on the Publetariat site, just follow the links at the bottom of each excerpt.

Introducing a Weekly Diatribe and Toolbox Roundup for Publetarians …

Labor Day Weekend has come and gone!  I’m so thoroughly re-created that I’m exhausted and rarin’ to get back to work!  Those of you who have been Publetarians for some time now may recognize my writing – cantankerous though it may be.  This serves as fair warning to those of you who don’t need one more online curmudgeon filling your browser page with annoying, endless, self-important opinion.  On the other hand, I’ll be minimizing outright opinion, over the coming weeks to concentrate upon throwing some useful information out there to the hungry masses of Indie Authors and Publishers.

This column won’t tell you how to write the perfect pitch, or how to hone your books and stories down to where they shine in every agent’s glistening eyes. There’s plenty of good information provided by other Publetarians that covers improving your writing skills.  My aim with this weekly column will be to provide some “nuts and bolts” information regarding how to promote, advertise and sell your work.  The trick, as I see it, is to learn to attack the problem from many different directions at once and to stay “on your feet”, adapting your message to your market as it shifts before your eyes.  A kind of sleight of hand helps keep your audience waiting for the next dove to fly out.   Read the Full Article…

One Electronic Thingie an Indie Author Can’t Do Without…

It’s been another strange week, in a strange year.  The wholesale adoption of the previously (all through the “dark ages”) shunned Print On Demand production model by the mainstream publishing industry continues unchecked.  The last reported Big Publisher to succumb is Hatchette as reported in Publisher’s Weekly.  Soon, I’m sure at least publishers and agents will have to admit that POD alone is not sufficient grounds to disregard a writer’s work!  But then, I’m not here to rant on…

As technology, especially communications technology continues to spin out new and improved ways to spread the word, Indie Authors may face a dilemma.  What gear do I really need to promote and sell my work?  Read the Full Article…

Crafting a Cover: A Do-It-Yourself Sermon in Two or Three Parts…

We’ve all worked the keyboards till our fingertips are bruised getting our books into shape for readers to actually read and enjoy.  At some point, towards the end of the editing and rewrite drudgery, I need a break.  I’ll assume we all do, and that’s a good point to start thinking about your cover design, if you haven’t already been carrying the whole idea, or components of it around inside you head for months and months.  Putting together a hard hitting cover design will require a whole different set of tools from writing, although you’ll use some of your well-honed writing skills on the cover, you’ll need to put on a new cap – the graphics designer cap…

When I was fresh out of school, the guys who worked the Linotype machines setting hot metal for newspaper type galleys and the pressmen (very few presswomen at the time) wore hats they made by folding last night’s sports section, to protect their hair from ink, etc.  and give them a place to stick a couple of extra red pencils and/or grease pencils.  Read the Full Article… Read Part Two… Read Part Three…

Create Hard-Hitting Ads for Your Book…

Hard hitting? Well, that particular expression may be a bit dated, but the old idea is to clobber the reader with intent. Nothing’s changed.  Any ad, whether it appears in print or online, is intended to motivate the reader to BUY your product, or at least allow themselves to be pitched. We’ve discussed how important it is in book marketing to define just who your reader actually is. Now it’s time to utilize a relatively inexpensive device to reach out and grab their attention.

A simple tool…

Ads are communication tools, nothing more. They are part of a complete marketing plan. Ads can either be designed for a mass market, or targeted to a specific niche. It all depends upon the medium carrying the advertising, and it’s positioning in the medium, as to which the ad should be be designed for.  You need to focus on who you intend the ad to reach. Read the Full Article…

Small Ads Can be Beautiful and Work, too!

Let’s talk about producing an ad design for your book. You’ve already assembled your media information, and narrowed down the potential venues to the ones you believe will give you the best targeted exposure for your money. On one side, you’ve got a list of the venues, sizes and color considerations that fit your budget. On the other, you’ve listed your “If only…” publications and online venues. These are usually places you’d like to see your ad based upon such careful research as “Wouldn’t my ad look great there! I’d be so proud!” They are usually the kind of venues that would somehow give credibility to your book, just for the association with the venue.

First…

First thing, pick up the “If only…” list, crumple it up, and throw it into the nearest circular file. Advertising venues don’t exist to grace your book by hosting your advertising. They exist to obtain your money in exchange for space. All the credibility you need, assuming you haven’t rushed the book to market without adequate editing and developmental re-writing, is in the fact that your book is complete and ready for sale. You’ve already achieved much more than most writers in just sticking to your guns and believing in your story. Read the Full Article…

The Nuts and Bolts of Good Response

Now that we’ve discussed all the background concepts in producing and effective small ad, it’s time to create the artwork. Just following a few simple considerations through the process will insure that your ad will be read, and hopefully, retained by your targeted market reader.

Size and position count

First, once you’ve settled upon the best size for your budget, determine if the medium will allow you to request positioning. Where your ad falls on a page will affect it’s effectiveness. For most smaller ads – smaller than full page banners, right hand top positioning will give your message better visibility and retention. This has been tested by media wonks for years, and it follows the science of eye movement on a page of written material. If that is not available then try for the next slot down the right hand column. Left hand columns, or outside columns on left hand pages, in a two-page spread layout, generally are not as effective. This is because the readers eye doesn’t pass over this position as often during a full read. If the page where your ad will run has only other small ads and no editorial content, I’d think twice before making a commitment there. Your ad will not creqate as effective a response in that situation.

Of course, if a poorly conceived, badly designed ad appears in the top-right position, it won’t be effective anyway, but it will get more visibility. Make sure your message is carried by as effective a vehicle possible. Then put it where it will do the most good.

Resolution, resolution, resolution.

The next most important consideration is to maximize the resolution of your ad. The majority of online venues will accept 72 dpi images. This is barely enough resolution to allow the legibility of small, or “fancy” typefaces. It can be adequate, if you choose your graphic elements, including type, for the low-resolution final product. If your medium will accept 96 dpi images, then produce your ad in this higher resolution, to allow better contrast, image detail, and type legibility.   Read the Full Article…

Learning to Wait…

This is a general, rambling comment covering some of the more touchy-feely components of setting up a marketing plan.  I prefer a more organic approach rather than the nice, crisp document with all the numbers in a row.  They have their place, but if you have an interest in developing your ability to perceive your market better, read on…

“Millions Sold!” Remember the little tag line that used to be seen between the Golden Arches under every McDonalds Hamburger Sign? Just knowing that …millions…of people had purchased and eaten these “bombes du gut” really made your mouth just water, didn’t it? It also made established two implications. First, that the burger was good. Second, that if you didn’t scarf one up, you were cutting yourself off from…millions of people. Millions.

I receive the Daily Email from Publisher’s Weekly. As an Indie Author, I find it about 50-50 with subjects of direct interest and entertainment. Today, (I’m getting a head-start by actually beginning on Friday for tomorrow’s article.) the banner ad running across the top of the email was for “NY Times Bestselling Series” Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead! Then, just below – and I realize the PW is a TRADE publication for those that sell books – ran the slogan, “Over 2 Million Books Sold!”

Not to disregard the money to be made in the Vampire Genre, by booksellers hungry for every sale, but it really did remind me of McDonalds’ advertising. Brings P.T.Barnum to mind. I won’t be scarfing up any Vampire bestsellers right now, and I don’t care if I’m ostracized from millions of sold readers. I don’t write Vampire. After Stoker – good, tasty stuff – I won’t be reading Vampire either, no offense intended to Anne Rice, who launched this amazing fountain of gold, then exited holding a huge bag of cash.

So, if you write and enjoy Vampire Genre, my column may not give you any new marketing ideas.  You’ve been lucky enough to hit upon a trend.  Being light on your feet and enjoy lucky timing is a rare and can be a profitable blend of skills, but it might not be something you can learn.  It may not be sanguine enough, or sexy enough, or….you get the idea. Still, the idea of Millions Sold…Millions! Just the thought makes my mouth water for the griddle-fried goodness!    Read the Full Article...

The Old, Mean, Re-formatting Blues

After working on a computer everyday for more than 25 years, I usually feel pretty confident tackling software issues.  I’m a real, nuts and bolts kind of guy anyway, so fixing whatever comes up is really second nature for me.

Well, today I have to be honest – I’ve been laid pretty low by the need to reformat my first book manuscript for wide, e-book use.  Most of the problems I’m experiencing are my own creation. I only have myself to blame, so along with the mea culpas, I’ll share what has led me to the re-formatting blues, so you won’t need to go there yourself.

Sales of E-books, in a range of formats, have increased steadily at a rate eclipsing paper books consistently this year.  The growth figure I recently read in an interview with Smashwords founder, Mark Coker, is 58%.  58% is a number too large to ignore.  Now personally, I’ll probably never read more than a couple of pages online – I’m old school when it comes to pleasure reading.  But, as every writer should know, potential markets can’t be ignored if you intend to sell your books.  So, it’s time for the old guy to embrace some new ideas.

If you’re happily writing away and converting your documents to e-book-useable formats without a care, then you may only find this week’s column mildly entertaining.  If you’re like lots of other writers, pretty set in your work habits and the software you use, then read on…but don’t do as I’ve done. It’s not pretty.

Word Processors are Not Equal

I’ve been working with my trusty, old word processing program for more than 15 years now.  I really like it.  There aren’t any real bells or whistles to annoy or distract me, and for chapter-based writing, the organization has always been very workable.  I’m speaking of Word Perfect.  Now, I’m not a luddite – I keep it updated and use most of it’s rich feature set.  I produced my first book’s print design using it, short stories, articles for press and online media, pitch letters, advertising copy, business correspondence, and the results look good, and read well.  No problems at all.

I just didn’t see them coming.  MS Word is the preferred word processor in use today.  Believe it. For those who grew up in the Microsoft era, there has never really been any other choice.  I’ve always used MS products grudgingly.  I don’t like the cute icons, spinning symbols, or (what I consider) really arcane menu layouts and placements.  I like my basic WP, but all that has had to change.  Read the Full Article…

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