MARKETING MY BOOK

FOR OTHER WRITERS

This article is of course about the marketing for my book. I hope you will gain ideas and insights to help you with marketing your book. If you have insights or suggestions to give, please please use the comments section to share them.

THE PRODUCT

The book is "Guide To Packaging and Labelling Law 2011". It is about the law of the UK and EU. There is currently no other book dealing with these areas.

The chapters deal with contract, product liability, recycling, waste, intellectual property, fraud, labelling, weights and measures, and goods produced by slave labour or child labour. There are so many problems affecting pallets that pallets have a special chapter.There is a chapter on how to conduct your own legal research and how to manage your lawyers. In the appendices is all the legislation about materials in contact with food, the law relating to food labelling, and about specific foods. The original 1996 legislation on food labelling has been amended by over 30 pieces of legislation, and was a real pain to get right. There are 112 pages of text, 47 pages of legislation on materials in contact with food, 85 pages of legislation on Food Labelling, and 53 pages of legislation on individual foods, organic foods, and genetically modified foods. There is an index and sets of tables including 4 pages listing European Directives and Regulations.

To accompany the book is a web site dedicated to keeping readers up to date with developments in the law. If I check developments weekly,, readers can always be confident that the site is up to date.

There are a few hiccoughs around the proof copy, but I expect to have a stack of the book in my study ready to sell by the end of June

PRICING POLICY

What price should the book sell at? Many legal books of this size sell at between £50 and £90.

My grand plan is to bring out a new edition every January, hence "2011" in the title. In each year there are relatively few changes, although some of the changes are very significant to some businesses. I believe there is a psychological barrier on pricing, but what that barrier is would take some experimenting to establish. However, one manager told me that most managers have discretion to spend up to £50 without seeking permission from a superior. So I have priced the book at £40, plus postage and packing, which still comes out at under £50.

£40 is under the psychological barrier mentioned above. If the book becomes the industry standard work, many managers will regard having the current edition as a necessary tool for their job.

Users are asked to register to be notified of updates to the web site, and to be informed of new editions. I plan to make an "early bird" offer in December for January 2012 so those who buy by January 15 receive the new edition as soon as it is out, and at a reduced price.

The aim is to make the book the industry standard book as quickly as possible so it will be very hard for competitors to achieve significant sales. I am trading immediate profit now for more profit in future years.

PUBLISH OR SELF PUBLISH?

When I first conceived the book I had to make a decision about publishing or self publishing. The reason for this was that if I had to seek out a publisher I would have to spend time on that task. I was reluctant to use a publisher.

The first reason was that I knew there was a market. I knew I would write a good book. I was blessed (euphemism) if I was going to allow someone else to decide whether it should be published or not.

The second reason is that with a first book by an unpublished author the publishers are usually very stingy. If the book sold for say £40, I would be lucky to earn even £4 a copy. The publisher's publicity would simply be to include my book in its catalogue and mailings. Copies sent for book reviews would probably be paid for by me. I am not knocking publishers, because they have their cost structures and their own problems.

I was also worried that a publisher might think "that's a good idea" and get one of their established authors to write such a book while I was still hawking my book around other publishers. A really sneaky publisher might accept my book, get another one written, publish the other one and then say I was too late. Sneaky people exist in every walk of life - in the cutthroat world of publishing they are bound to exist and it would be my luck to find one.

And of course the publisher would wish to set the price. They would set the price according to their priorities rather than mine. I wanted to set the price to maximise sales and profit, in that order. They would also be figuring in the general price they charge for books and might move my price up or down from the optimum figure to be consistent with their other offerings.

The publisher also expects the author to put some effort into publicising the book. If I am going to do that I should have more of the profit.

With the availability of Print on Demand publishing self publishing has become a real option.There is no longer a need to buy 500 or 1,000 books at a time.

SELF PUBLISHING

There are a number of self publishing providers. Some of them are essentially vanity publishers. Some of the vanity publishers and some of the genuine businesses seem to me to be charging unrealistically high prices for their services.

Lulu was recommended to me, but on viewing their "community" site I was appalled by the litany of complaints about Lulu on Lulu's own site. Clearly Lulu do not even look at their community site, or they would be making some responses. One of the complaints was that emails are unanswered and the telephone complaint line is only open for a few hours each day. And you apparently get nowhere when you telephone! Complaints about non-delivery and high shipping charges did not please me.

Moving to createspace was possible. Their publications are very cheap. Assuming their shipping charges are reasonable, if I order 50 or so a time, the total cost to me should be about £5.00 per book.

There are complaints about createspace on a non -createspace site. My experience with createspace is that they are fairly efficient and acknowledge emails with a query reference number. The substantive reply comes within 24 hours, which is reasonable, particularly as there is a time zone difference.

Another attraction of createspace is the link to Amazon. I will have to explore this further, but Amazon's pricing policy seems to me to be unreasonable. If the book sells at £40, but cost £5 to produce, they charge £17.50 commission, and very likely make a small profit on the p&p. This reduces my profit from £35 to £17.50. If I link from my sites to Amazon I can earn a percentage from each referred sale as well as the £17.50. If I refer instead to my own site and self fulfil I can make £35 per sale.

My original thought was that it was worth something to me not to have to be bothered with processing the orders. At £17.50 extra a shot, I can be bothered.

WHO ARE THE MARKET?

Packagers, marketers, any business which packs or sells a product, and foreigners seeking to sell into the EU. Also businesses in other parts of the EU who have no book in their own language and who would rather have a book in English than no book at all. Had I thought about this market sooner I would have set out the book slightly differently. That is for the second edition!

Lawyers and accountants who serve these businesses. Students of business and marketing and logistics and their teachers. Libraries. People who want to set up in business.

HOW DO I REACH THE MARKET?

Of course this is several markets. I had intended to issue a press release, and say to publications in Packaging and Marketing and Food that if they would like to review the book I will send them a review copy. The same for the "quality" newspapers, the Law Society Gazette and "The Lawyer", Accountancy Age and so forth.

I had also intended to sell at a packaging trade fair, until I discovered how expensive a stall would be. As I get to know the industry I might meet somebody who will sell my book on their stall, but most exhibitors are trying to sell by the tens or hundreds of thousands of pounds and are not interested in relatively small profits from selling a book. If there is time to organise it, hotel receptionists where the trade fair participants sleep might be interested in "sale or return".

I am reluctant to use bookshops, because they take anywhere up to 50% of the price as their cut. A sale where I only make £15 is arguably better than no sale at all, particularly if in the following years customers buy direct from me. Waterstones and Blackwell have University branches. Wileys is the biggest legal bookshop in London, and there is a large legal bookshop in Leeds called Austicks.This is of course also an argument for using Amazon UK.

Publicity is obviously the key to success, so I have the possibility later in the year to make press releases such as "every UK supermarket chain has bought the book" or "7 out of 10 FMCG companies have bought the book".

Compile an address list and email every College and University Logistics Marketing Business and Law departmenent, plus the Packaging Industry tutorial college.

Ask the Packaging Industry organisation (The Institute of Minerals Mining and Manufacturing -IOM3 to its friends) if it will allow me to put a "flyer" in its next mailing. I will also be happy to speak at IOM3 regional meetings.

My niece has a recent degree in Marketing, and she tells me I can use Facebook to market the book. And I can Twitter, too! As I have never sent or received a text message, and barely use my Facebook account, I will have to be guided by her!

An online marketing seminar for self publishers suggested persuading a company to give away your book as part of its marketing programme. You have a bulk sale and no distribution costs. I have thought of a permutation on that where the company (perhaps a bank?) gives away a coupon for say £10 or £15 off the price of the book to its new customers. I still make more than with a bookshop or Amazon.

YORKSHIRE POSSIBILITIES

If all goes well I will be back in harness as a specialist Immigration solicitor before the end of February. My remit is to publicise myself and the practice, and the boss is open to publicising for packaging and labelling work as well as Immigration work. I will be targeting the ethnic minority media.

I have a few local contacts who will give me favourable quotes about the book as soon as I give them a copy to review. Nationally known people would be even better, and I am compiling a short  list of those.

THE TARGET

The target for 2011 is to make the Guide a popular and unique industry tool that managers have on their desk as a matter of course. I have a numerical target for sales but that is confidential at present.

I am really open to any suggestions for marketing the book!

More thoughts

Since first writing this piece I have had a few more thoughrs. Britain has a Federation of Small Businesses with 125,000 members, so there is a strong argument for getting into their monthly magazine or piggybacking on their fortnightly emailing.

I gather that according to the Writers Guild a book is regarded as a success if it sells 5,000 (fiction) or 7,500 (non fiction). 7,500 is higher than my original target. 7,500 x £35 is £262,500. I am motivated to make a significantly larger marketing effort than I had originally intended.

I had been thinking about marketing a reduced price for readers of a particular magazine, but I think anyone who will buy it at £30 will buy it at £40, so do not cause complication by having more than one price.. This then brings the "early bird" offer in December into question. I think I will stay with it.

Web Site Design

 I asked a friend who is a computing lecturer to suggest a student who could help me with the web site I am establishing www.contentpublications.com . The book is published by me trading as Content Publications. I have in mind another possible author for whom I might be willing to act as publisher, but I need to get my first two books out first.

My friend has come up with two bright young students who have already set up an e-commerce site as part of their studies. They had been talking about setting up a business building and managing web sites after leaving college, and are delighted to have me as their first customer. Like all young businesses they see the value of a tame lawyer. It is early days yet, but it looks like we may agree terms approaching barter. They have suggested I look for web sites I like, and in the mean time they are going to investigate my existing site and see if they can work easily with it.

Web Site Design II

I have met with the lads, who seem to be very down to earth guys who understand where I am coming from. They are of Serbian origin, and were very much taken wth the bottle of slivovitz (plum brandy) on the book cover. At the first meeting we agreed a barter arrangement where I will give them legal advice when they need it, and will of course be a reference for them. They told me to get organised with a paypal account.

At the second meeting they showed me their draft web site, which looks good. They told me I need a logo for content publications.

I have now thought out the logo. My first thought was a tin of beans to illustrate "content". Then I thought of a tin with a ring pull, to indicate the contents are easy to get at. The problem is that a tin is "vertical" and "content publications" needs to be horizontal. I was opening a tin of mackerel for lunch, and saw the tin was "horizontal" and has a ring pull. Problem solved! A family friend who is an artist do my logo for a plug in the introduction of the book and on the web site.

I have my paypal facility. Alas both my artist and my web guys are students and are a little slow because they have course work. But it is looking good!

More by this Author


Comments 5 comments

coachb51 profile image

coachb51 5 years ago from West Point, MS

Very insightful information for any writer wanting to publish their work. Thanks for sharing your experiences.


Rebecca E. profile image

Rebecca E. 5 years ago from Canada

very well done, I went to createspace myslef, and since it was out of the US it was a bit more expensive, but they did help me a lot with my book.


Merlin Fraser profile image

Merlin Fraser 5 years ago from Cotswold Hills

I write Murder Mystrey novels and have published three using Lulu without any major incident, or need for complaint. Orders are delivered promptly, at least to me here in the UK.

Depends upon the market you are aiming at and where you see your sales coming from, if these sales are going to be predominantly UK why not go for self distribution and cut out Amazon all together ?

As a novelist I am aiming at a broad market of Crime readers therefore to me Amazon is essential, not for me but my readers wherever they may be get a fixed price and the lowest delivery cost.

True Amazon take the lions share, Lulu have a similar service, albeit much less known to potential buyers it is after all a POD service.

Barnes and Noble have just started their POD system might be worth a lokk if you plan to sell in North America.

Otherwise use a Lulu type service POD purchase a small stock and replace as required, promote and sell direct to your customers.


Charles James profile image

Charles James 5 years ago from Yorkshire, UK Author

Martin - thank you for your comments and suggestions.

I am using createspace as a POD because they seem to be inexpensive. Createspace link to Amazon USA, from which the mailing charges are possibly significant. If Amazon UK sell it, they will take their significant cut, so I am not rushing to be with either branch of Amazon. Against this is that in future years I will make significant money on the repeat sales and pay no more to Amazon for that customer.

I am using Hubpages to publicise the book, and I have recently set up a site for self fulfillment called Content Publications www.contentpublications.com. Once I have sorted out with the bank, people will be able to buy direct from the site, pay my bank, and I will self fulfil.

This book is very much a UK and EU market, but I will bear your suggestions in mind for the next book which is an English language Chess for Children book. That will be out in March or April.

I found your hub very enlightening. As a crime writer North America is obviously a very important market for you. How do you market/ publicise?


Merlin Fraser profile image

Merlin Fraser 5 years ago from Cotswold Hills

I too came to Hubpages initially to help promote my books but more so to tell a wider world that I exist. I felt I also had a message to spread to help people steer clear of the expensive mine field Self Publishing can be if you go down the wrong road.

Promotions wise I have my own Web Site www.Merlin-Fraser.com but I am also active on other Writer Web Sites like Author's Den and business sites like Linkedin and so on. I have been luck to get a few local newspapers interested in me and have been on local BBC radio quite a few times as well. Talking to groups, the Women’s Institute, Book Clubs, Writer’s groups Etc helps to spread the word.

I try to get as many people to review my work and write honest reviews. Website Examiner on here has been a great Help as has Lynda Martin another Hubber and fellow author.

I find most people here on Hubpages full of enthusiasm and support and if I can just get them start a game of Chinese Whispers about me and my Books....Who Knows...

I know some people swear by Facebook, MySpace and Twitter but I really don’t know that many people to get going and those I do know on Facebook are that interested in books or reading.

My open message to all has always been ‘these days it is a lot easier to bring your work to print but the devil remains in the marketing, PR and promotion,’ and it remains the major issue to all of us wannabe authors.

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