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Why authors don’t make money selling books and what to do about it.

I’m re-reading this rather lengthy article today which reminds me of all the reasons authors don’t make that much money with their books. Tim Ferriss highlights all the math and percentages so I don’t need to go into all of it right here. At the end of the article, he also suggests speaking as a side gig for authors…

Speaking: Particularly in the business category, if you target your Fortune 500 audience well enough, you can stair-step your way into $20,000 per 60-minute keynote without needing a miracle. Hundreds, if not thousands, of authors earn this kind of money. The higher echelon can make $80,000 or more per speaking engagement. Needless to say, this adds up fast.

Even with all the disclaimers in that paragraph one would think that this is all you need to do to start making the kind of income you want. Well yes and no. Authors who write in business, medical or self-help categories can parlay their book into a speaking engagement pretty easily. But what happens if you’ve written a cookbook? How often have you paid to go hear a cookbook author speak (and no, I’m not talking about those cookbook writers who also happen to host their own shows).

Consider that your book is but one component of your entire brand.

Your book is your calling card. It gives you entry into larger venues, and establishes your credibility. It should not however, be the only tool in your toolkit. Nor should it be the primary focus. You are the brand. Your life experience, knowledge, unique perspective, upbringing, training & education all combine to make you the brand. Anyone can write a cookbook, but there’s only ever going to be one you.

Plus a strategy centered solely around selling a cookbook is not as strong and looks something like this:

  • publish the cookbook
  • publish a website with the book on the front page
  • include links to sites that sell your book
  • send out periodic updates to your Facebook friends
  • schedule local or regional book signings
  • hope for the best

You’re left wondering why Amazon or Barnes & Noble are making all of the money when clearly you put a considerable effort into making the product. Plus who is reading your cookbook and are they enjoying it? And why on earth are you not pocketing more than $75k in sales?

Alternatively, a platform strategy centered around the chef or baker looks somewhat different:

  • Launch a platform that positions the chef as an expert
  • Create an endorsement strategy
  • Partner with key influencers
  • Publish the first of multiple cookbooks with a clear focus and special content that directs your reader back to your platform
  • Automate sales of your book and release an interactive product connected to your book
  • Capture all email addresses of your readers
  • Turn your readers into fans by sending them unique content
  • Plan your book launch, press junkets and events and collect more fans and create landing pages and websites for each event
  • Automate sales of products that are licensed to use your image/logo
  • Keep giving the media a compelling reason to promote you
  • Offer services that bring your brand forward – this could anything from cooking classes to custom menu/recipe development
  • Sell and promote your expert knowledge about ingredients, products, locations, cookware, style, etc.
  • Market and re-market products, services and ideas to your growing number of followers
  • Create new campaigns, products, events and mini-sites that you market with your industry partners (for example other chefs, restaurants, bartenders, celebrities, lifestyle mavens, designers, etc.)
  • Innovate

Happy writing, launching and selling!


Publicity – just one key to fame…

It’s amazing the number of times I hear from authors who announce that Oprah will remove all the barriers and make them well-known. Yeah, so that’s kind of true – About 6 million people watch OWN daily. Beyond the reach of her active and TIVO viewers, you’ve also got reverb from her network, website, magazine, satellite radio program etc. etc. There is little doubt that you would do quite well if you landed a coveted spot under the oaks. But that’s a big IF.

That said – in most cases, if you’re a professional wishing to promote your products or services  and you’re longing to make it to Oprah – your platform gives show producers the opportunity to find you, observe how people receive you, and seriously consider you for that guest seat. But the path to Oprah usually takes a detour through your local, regional and national news outlets.

If you’re attempting to build your presence online, use your press kit as a start and begin to draw attention through grassroots marketing and buzz building.

Your media kit should contain:
1. A well-written biography
2. Hi Resolution Photos of you and your products (include product logos where appropriate)
3. Questions the media can use when they interview you
4. Automated links to contact your media rep (or you)
5. Product or Service information
An excellent bio is written in a way that provides insight into who you are. A reader want to immediately gain a sense of connection to you.

To write a stand-out bio:
Share your Personal Story. 
If you are an artist, I want to hear about why you love making art; who gave you your first pencil and pen; where you grew up, and why you loved skating as a kid in your hometown. I want to learn about what motivates you to make your products or deliver your service and I want to some  of the unique detail – you know why? Because when I hear your story, it helps connect me with you and your products. A personal story will help you stand out when other people are focused on basic and lifeless information. When faced with so many choices, your personal story will help you stand out so your fans can find you.

Tell a Story about your Products and Services
Don’t just give me stats about your product. Here’s where I want to know about how you deliver your services, how you are using your business to reach people. I want to know how you started your business and what you were doing before you started. I want to know how what you do has  directly impacted your clients – describe the story to me so I can connect with you – make me crave the same results. When you describe a product or a service in this way, it automatically gives it more value. When a product/service has more value, people never question a higher price.

An Authentic Brand is Constant
Your authentic brand is reflected in your logos, avatars, packaging material, receipts, emails, photography style, blog, twitter backgrounds, etc. All of these things can change over time but your authentic voice is constant throughout.

Tell a Story with your Photos
You’ve seen them. They’re pictures that look like they were taken last summer and uploaded with a .2-pixel camera phone. Poor quality and uninspiring pictures are a bad reflection on a brand. You’ve also undoubtedly seen press photos that caught your attention.  Your images need to be high-quality and professionally taken. You will use these pictures for the next 3-5 years. Invest in high-resolution black and white and color photos to highlight you and your products. You should also include a combination of casual and professional clothes. Consider also that the color of your clothes can blend to the color of your online platform colors. Buzz builders use the power of their images, combined with their descriptions to paint a compelling and authentic picture. Your images can be re-used in all your marketing materials and press that will help further establish your company as the go-to source.

Here are a list of other considerations as you build your media kit.
These elements should ideally be defined before you create or write anything about your company. But if you’ve already published your media kit take a look at the following list of considerations and see where you can tweak what you’ve already got.
1. What are your core values – What do you believe in? How are your values made apparent in your products, policies, services and marketing materials?

2. What is your Mission – What is your life’s mission? What is the mission for your company? How do these things come together? How are you communicating this information to your fans?

3. Who is your perfect fan? – We know that your perfect fan is one that will help tell your story and add to the buzz about your success. But what else do we know about them? Where do they live? What do they drive? What do they believe in? What blogs, tweets, magazines and books do they follow and read? What will get your perfect fan to act? When you begin writing the content for your shop, website, blog and tweets, speak directly to this perfect fan.

4. What is your tagline? – Though not required, your tagline is that memorable phrase that helps further define your company, services, vision or values. One famous tagline that can almost now be used interchangeably with the company name is  “Save Money, Live Better”.  Be sure to choose a good tagline that allows for growth – as you’ll want to use it consistently in all your marketing materials.

5. Create a character or mascot that exemplifies the personality of your company. This character helps visual thinkers define their brand. You aren’t required to use a mascot in your marketing materials, though some companies certainly do. Sometimes envisioning a character makes it easier to describe your company personality and can also help you see how you differentiate yourself and your brand.

General Interview Questions:
When booked for an interview with the media, don’t be surprised if they know very little about your background. This is why it’s crucial to provide a list of questions you feel highly comfortable answering. In fact, the answers to these questions need to be delivered in concise “sound bites”. If you’re not comfortable with these questions, develop replacement questions that you can respond to quickly and succinctly.

Here are some sample questions that we recently created for one of our clients:
1. What are the top three things we need to know about the diagnostic process?
2. Why do you suggest that parents act as independent and skeptical observers?
3. What are some alternatives to medication?
4. What types of support systems are available through the school system?
5. From your own experience, give me an example of what your son was like when he was on harmful medications? How has that changed now?
6. What are the long term side effects of these medications?
7. What are the top 3 questions you must ask your child’s health care provider on your next visit?

If you would like to schedule your Free Strategy Session or you have questions about managing your PR program please let us know.

Working Successfully with Creative Visionaries

Yesterday I was in the presence of a visionary. We began talking about one subject and found ourselves 2+ hours later in an altogether different place – with many stops along on the way. I enjoyed our conversation immensely. It’s what makes my line of work so interesting in fact – following a person’s train of thought and then distilling their ideas into a tangible product, brand or service.

That’s the key though – the distillation process. Where visionaries sometimes find frustration is in their attempts to create a website or a branding statement is when they attempt to include all of their ideas in one place. Sometimes this does work if it’s branded under a particular personality or larger entity. But what often ends up happening is that most people don’t follow, give up and move along. And that’s a shame – because there is so much to be learned by working with someone with an extraordinary vision.

If you are a person with many ideas and you don’t want to pick just one – here are a couple of quick insights to share with you:

  • I was reminded yesterday by Ms. Toni that all of your ideas don’t have to be thrust upon someone during a conversation all at once. If people follow and remain intrigued then by all means go forward with the conversation. If not, back off until they have reached common ground once again. I loved her insight (and her home-grown tea)!
  • This second issue comes up over and over with my clients – don’t let a single website be the place to dump every idea you’ve ever had without a clear delineation of your brand concept. Because even the best of us with the capacity to follow along a winding trail of thought will wonder what the heck you’re talking about. Instead consider your audience and then add another URL or sales page to detail and elaborate on your next idea. In this way you can capture the specific audience you want and then ask them to take the next step with you.

That’s it for now…



Brand Positioning for Designers and Product Companies

My daughter Kristen has just graduated from college with a degree in fashion design and has been tapped to design a line for a luxury sustainable wood eyewear company. (whoooohooooo!) And in a series of conversations over the past few weeks we touched on brand positioning – as each of the people involved is representing and nurturing their own emergent brand.

From my outsider view – the eyewear company has a high-end, green/sustainable, kind of edgy but meticulously hand-crafted eyewear product/brand. (It’s a pretty cool product and I would like a pair myself… but I digress…)

My daughter’s brand perspective provides a global design aesthetic with a focus on the melding of color, creativity and texture.  So then in this collaborative environment, how can each new brand be positioned synergistically?

In this case, the eyewear brand should lead and the designer should follow because it is important that a new product company with a narrowly focused line not be diluted or eclipsed by a designer’s brand.

However, the benefit of bringing a designer in (which btw is a great idea for other micropreneurs to consider) means that the designer should influence and add to the product story. It then becomes a great angle for the product company’s marketing and sales materials – even for those launches with a limited time engagement. With proper handling even an emerging designer with a strong perspective can help craft the story for the product company. And the benefits for the designer will be numerous as well.

I think there are other cases where mature companies can take somewhat of a back seat and exist more as the platform. Take the Target and Neiman Marcus collabo for example – a rather brilliant program all the way around. They sought to bring in hot leading designers to launch “affordable chic” lines for the following impressive design roster:

Alice + Olivia, Altuzarra, Band of Outsiders, Brian Atwood, Carolina Herrera, Derek Lam, Diane von Furstenberg, Eddie Borgo, Jason Wu, Judith Leiber, Lela Rose, Marchesa, Marc Jacobs, Oscar de la Renta, Philip Crangi, Prabal Gurung, Proenza Schouler, Rag & Bone, Robert Rodriguez, Rodarte, Skaist-Taylor, Thom Browne, Tory Burch and Tracy Reese.

In this case, all of the brands were well known – and each lends its own credibility and depth to the experience. It also broadens the reach for both Target and Neiman’s.  The lines are introduced to an entirely new entry-level market and presumably as they mature (read: have more disposable income) they will seek out the true luxury buying experience with Neiman Marcus.

Ahhh…. yes, balanced collaborative branding takes a considered approach but as in these two cases, it can be a brilliantly executed experience for everyone involved – including the consumer!




Planning your Portfolio Career

A portfolio career can be defined as having a collection of projects that provide you with your active income sources. Portfolio careers are a great choice for those with a wide range of interests. Whether those interests are in the type of work you want to do, the industries you want to work in, or the people and companies you’ve developed relationships with over the years. Having a portfolio career means that you are never reliant upon just one source of income – and should one source dry up, you can go about replacing it with a bit more peace of mind knowing your other project revenue streams are intact.

So how do you create a portfolio career? You start with the portfolio itself. A portfolio is a book highlighting your expertise. It should be designed to be opened and shared with the people you wish to connect with. It shows your best work, your ideas, your creativity and diversity. To create your online portfolio to highlight your career and the opportunities you want to pursue – consider these 3 critical factors:

  1. Register your main website  and give it a name that will stand the test of time – this is a must if you don’t want to spend money and time re-naming your site later. Your site name should be as versatile as the projects you intend to pursue for many years. Picking your main URL with a singular focus in mind defeats the purpose of a portfolio careerist’s pursuits. Use this main site to collect examples of your work and projects, clients, promote your services, classes and events, and provide your reader with high-level/global understanding of what you do. As your interests change and your portfolio blossoms, the page names, navigation and content should be edited to reflect your next career strategy.
  2. Then go about creating additional URLs to highlight your skills for providing service or sharing ideas in various markets. If for example your main page is named XYZMarketingServices.com, and this year you decide you would like to narrow your focus to marketing for the food and restaurant industry – then your secondary marketing pages should be named and designed to connect with the best customers in that target market  – for example GoodFoodieMarketing.com. Any advertisements that you create to target your market should then link to these distinctly branded secondary pages.
  3. Understand your point of overwhelm and plan accordingly. Anyone that works independently and juggles their own clients, deadlines and opportunities in various stages of the sales pipeline knows that stress is definitely not limited to people with 9-5 jobs. Therefore, build your income sources wisely. Instead of taking on 5 clients – take on 2, and then create other leveraged, residual or passive income streams. At first these income streams may be more like a dripping faucet, but with time each can be nutured to grow to the point where you don’t have to pursue new clients unless you want to.



Four proven ways for a consultant to create residual income streams for her business…

Hey there. I’m back just jotting down my answer to a question posed to me today from one of my clients that I thought may interest you. She wanted to know what my top four suggestions were for adding residual income streams based on my own personal business building experience. Great question.

Here they are in no particular order:

1.  Create an application that will provide a solution for the core problems your own customers are facing.  Think automation, sharing/collaboration, or data mining.

2. Create and sell your own branded information products including e-books, white papers, how-to guides, etc.

3. In this same vein, create a self-guided online course for your clients.

4. Add a much needed/requested service that you don’t currently provide for your clients. Outsource it to a trusted and competent provider and keep a percentage of the income.

I have personally seen each one of these ideas grow business profits exponentially.