How is a list price set for a book?

I was recently asked the question, “How do you set a list price for a book?”

Sometimes our authors want their books to sell at a certain price, mostly because they want to make the book affordable for readers. And that’s definitely an important goal to keep in mind.

But a list price isn’t something you can just pull out of thin air. There’s actually a formula you need to keep in mind to make sure you can financially justify the price that’s set. That’s why it’s typically the publisher setting the list price rather than the author. The publisher has key information about production costs that need to be factored into the final price.

Understand the Market

At Emerald Lake Books, we start by looking at the prices of other books in the genre. From a reader standpoint, if two books on the same topic or of similar interest are both of good quality with positive reviews, the price may be a determining factor in their purchasing decision. So you don’t want a list price that’s too much of an outlier compared to other books on the shelf with yours.

Different genres have different “norms” for anticipated list prices as well. If you’re setting the list price yourself, you should be able to figure out the norms based on your research of competing titles. If not, use Google or another search engine to look for something along the lines of “average list price for books” or “average list price for paperback books,” etc. based on the specific information you’re looking for.

While this will help identify a range of potential price points, eventually, we need to decide where your book falls within that range.

Often, that’s based more on the author’s platform and perceived sales potential of the book. If the author is a first-time author or has a small following, the list price may be in the lower half of the range to entice potential readers to take a chance on it. A-listers or well-known authors can anticipate more sales simply because of their name recognition, so it’s easier to justify a higher price point for their books.

Run the Numbers

Once we’ve identified a range of prices we think might work for each format of the book, the next thing to do is “run the numbers.” As with any business, we want to make a reasonable profit on a sale, and we certainly don’t want to lose money on the sale of a book.

So, we have to identify the production and delivery costs of a book and factor that into its list price. These costs differ based on format, obviously, which is why there’s such a difference in pricing between eBooks and printed books.

Pricing eBooks

For the most part, the pricing of eBooks has to do with the genre. But we also need to consider the delivery costs of the eBook and that’s based on its file size.

The formula to calculate the list price for eBooks is:

(Royalty rate x list price) – delivery costs = royalty

For Amazon, the delivery fee is calculated by multiplying the file size by 0.15 (Amazon charges $0.15/MB at the 70% royalty rate).

Therefore, to set the eBook price, we calculate the delivery charge and adjust the list price until you reach your desired royalty rate.

Let’s say we want to receive a royalty payment of $2.00 on an eBook that’s 9MB. We can easily calculate the delivery charge (9 * 0.15) to see that Amazon will charge $1.35 to deliver the book.

Now our formula looks like this:

(0.70*x) – 1.35 = 2.00
Add 1.35 to both sides.
0.7x = 3.35
Divide both sides by 0.7.
x = 4.79

Therefore:

(70% * 4.79) – 1.35 = 2.003

Once we’ve identified what we think the list price should be, we go back and compare it to the range of prices for competing titles and adjust as necessary. Does it fit? Does it make sense? Does this author have a large enough platform that we can justify being in the top end of the range?

Pricing Printed Books

While you don’t have delivery charges for printed books, you do have printing (and possibly shipping) costs that are incurred to produce the book. And this is where authors can get into trouble if they’re hoping to distribute their book beyond just Amazon.

If a book is sold directly to a library or retailer, their anticipated wholesale discount is 40% off the list price. However, if a book is sold to a retailer through a distributor, the distributor receives anywhere from 5–15% of the list price (on top of the retailer discount). So, books can conceivably be sold wholesale to retailers via a distributor for up to 55% off list price.

Therefore, your royalties might be calculated on only the remaining 45% of the list price. But, wait! We haven’t accounted for printing and shipping!

It is essential when setting the list price to make sure that all printing and shipping costs (commonly referred to as just “print costs” or the “price per book”) can be covered and still have something left over. I’ve seen some authors price their books in such a way that they are actually losing money if a retailer wants to sell their book. And that’s no way to stay in business long.

Amazon, like other retailers, gets 40% off the list price. The publisher’s royalty is calculated on 60% of the list price, less the printing costs.

So, the formula to calculate the list price for printed books is:

(Royalty rate x list price) – print costs = royalty

To settle on the list price then, we need to estimate our print costs (most printers have calculators where we can check that quickly).

We’ve a simple spreadsheet that shows us the royalties of a book whose total print cost is x and list price is y. All we need to do is plug in those two numbers, and we can see immediately what the royalty will be when the book is sold at both 55% and 40% off the list price.

We continue to play with the numbers until we know we’ll earn at least $2.50 (preferably $3.00) when a book is sold at a 55% discount. We focus on that specific number knowing that if we can make that work, then books sold at a 40% discount will simply produce a larger profit for us.

Setting the list price for a book is all a numbers game. Know your numbers and adjust them until comfortable.

We Book Like a Boss, and You Can Too!

Building a business often involves a few growing pains, whether you're a writer or you sell some other product or service. Demands on your time begin to outstrip the time you actually have available to give, and it becomes necessary to find solutions that help you manage your business better.

As a tech lover, I get excited each time I come across a product, service or tool that I believe can help reduce my workload. So, for awhile there, I became a real AppSumo junkie. As soon as I turned the alarm off on my phone in the morning, I'd check out what the latest AppSumo deal was.

If you're not familiar with AppSumo, it's a platform where you can buy lifetime deals to neat new products, tools and services. And I was definitely addicted.

I'm not complaining, though. (Although my business partner might grumble a bit about how much I spent during that phase of our growth…)

This was where I found many of the solutions that helped us grow our business in ways that protected my sanity and allowed us to serve our customers best.

One of my favorite early finds is Book Like a Boss. We still use this tool all the time.

Back in June 2017, I wrote this testimonial for Book Like a Boss:

I've spent decades working with software developers, and an unfortunate trait of many programmers is that they focus on their great idea rather than what the user wants or needs. BLAB is refreshingly open to user feedback. They started with a great idea that's been made even better by its user community and, in the end, we all benefit. BLAB has made it that much easier for me to coordinate my client meetings and payments in ways that work for me and my organization. BLAB has a lifelong customer in Emerald Lake Books!

Since that time, they have grown to over 12,000 users in over 100 countries. And that approach to customer service continues to this day, making it an easy solution for us to recommend to others. So, what is Book Like a Boss (or "BLAB" for short)?

It is your online personal booking assistant. It provides an all-in-one solution for entrepreneurs looking to create a booking page that sells products or services, takes appointments, and collects payments.

It allows you to skip the frustration of playing email tag, and makes scheduling meetings and selling your services effortless with an all-in-one, simple, custom booking page.

For a detailed look at what's available, check out this review video.

Emerald Lake Books' review of Book Like a Boss

As you can see, we're pretty pleased with all that Book Like a Boss can do. And their development team is continually seeking to make it better.

When Emerald Lake Books contacted the creator of Book Like a Boss to let him know that we planned to write a review of his software, Nachum Kligman provided us with an interview for our readers.

Since our main focus was to provide our authors with a great tool to simplify their business lives, we asked Nachum if he had any advice specific to authors. Little did we realize at the time that Book Like a Boss was developed after Nachum's own book came out and he experienced firsthand the need for a simple scheduling platform that allowed people to both schedule appointments and sell products and services.

Listen in while Nachum shares his story.

Nachum Kligman, creator of Book Like a Boss

So, if you like what you see here, we encourage you to get your copy of Book Like a Boss at emeraldlakebooks.com/blab* and use the coupon code "EmeraldLake" for a significant discount.

[Note: Please note this* is an affiliate link. If you purchase Book Like a Boss, Emerald Lake Books will receive a small commission at no cost to you. Rest assured, though, that we only promote products that we use ourselves and can recommend without hesitation.]

What’s In Your Writer’s File?

Perhaps you’re familiar with Samuel L. Jackson’s punch line in his commercials for Capital One. After he tells you everything that the card is not, he tells you what it is and asks the viewers, “What’s in your wallet?”

I’m going to ask you a variation on the question, though, and it has nothing to do with your credit cards or your wallet.

I’m going to ask instead, “What’s in your writer’s file?”

“What’s a writer’s file?” you might inquire in return.

While its form may vary from one writer to another, its purpose remains the same. 

A writer’s file is a repository of thoughts and ideas too good to risk losing, but that don’t have a place to call their own yet. Sometimes, they are things that strike us funny throughout the day. Other times, they’re thoughts or emotions that we know will fly away if we don’t capture them before they flee.

My guess is that the popular book Anguished English, by Richard Lederer (otherwise known as “An Anthology of Accidental Assaults upon Our Language”), probably started out as a stack of scrap paper with scrawled notes recording such assaults discovered by Richard or sent to him by his friends and students.

These notes would have all had a home in his writer’s file, until such a day and time when he realized that his file was spilling out onto the floor and he needed to do something with them. Unable to bear the idea of parting with these precious gems of humor, he decided that an anthology was just the thing for them! And writing an anthology would then justify his continued hoarding of such dastardly assaults on the English language so that he could go on to write other books in the series.

These days, though, we have the benefit of using digital writer’s files. (My personal favorite is Evernote.) No more senseless cutting down of trees or household safety hazards from runaway scraps of paper.

Of course, some of these tidbits just tickle my funnybone and would never make their way into my writing. Things like the auto detailing shop I once saw while I was traveling with a large banner hanging outside advertising “Clear Bras!” To get the full sense of this, though, you have to understand… I saw the banner before I had any clue what the store was. So I was a bit puzzled by what these odd Midwesterners were up to.

Or another entry memorializing the day I found my cat licking a page of my erasable notebook. To get the full impact, you have to understand that the pages of this notebook are erased by wiping them with a damp cloth… So, when I saw my cat licking an open page, I had a momentary panic wondering if his rough tongue had blotted out all my client meeting notes. (Thankfully, it hadn’t!)

As a nonfiction writer, I have no idea when I might ever use those entries in my writer’s file, but they’re too precious to just let slip.

So, what’s in your writer’s file? Share your favorite entry with me. I’d love to hear it. 

Is writing a book right for you?

Way back in 2010, I started a small struggling business called “Aleweb Social Marketing.” It had started out as a consulting firm teaching small businesses how to get ahead by using social marketing. The problem was, many small businesses were still trying to figure out whether they even needed to incorporate social media into their businesses. (Can you believe it?)

But one segment of my client base was growing organically: speakers who were authors.

It took me a year and a half to clue into the fact that working with small businesses wasn’t getting me anywhere, fast! But when I finally did, the focus of my company shifted to figuring out the best ways to help authors and speakers market their books and presentations.

Knowing that I needed a unique way to reach this target market and convince them that I was the best resource for them, I decided to write a book.

Within three months, I wrote and published my first eBook, The Plan that Launched a Thousand Books, in May 2012.

It took a lot of hard work to pull together the content, get a cover designed, and figure out exactly just how to create and publish an eBook, but I did it. And I was proud of the results! (Although I’m a little embarrassed by the 1st edition of the book these days…)

My primary goal with the eBook was to use it to establish a relationship with my readers–all of whom were potential future clients for me.

I held nothing back. I gave them the best ideas and resources I had at that time, knowing that it would either:

  1. Convince them of the hard work necessary so that they’d hire me to do it instead, or
  2. Help those who couldn’t afford me to make enough progress with their marketing to send the rest of it to me once they’d raised some funds.

And it was actually quite good for that. I started receiving emails and phone calls from readers all over the world who were getting a lot out of my book, and who wanted more.

What I didn’t bank on was the fact that my methods and resources are continually changing, just as the technology and publishing industries are. And some of the recommendations I made in the book were outdated two short years later. So, I updated the book and published it as both an eBook and paperback this time.

What a huge difference that made! Little did I realize at the time, but eBooks would eventually account for only 29% of our sales. The paperback was where it was at! 

And my business continued to grow. I’d learned my lesson well though and I listened to what my peers and clients needed.

More and more, I heard that they wanted help not just promoting their books and creating websites, but also with publishing their books. So, I started a second company to supplement the first, and Emerald Lake Books was born.

Little did I know that in the space of twelve months, Emerald Lake Books would become my primary business, and Aleweb Social Marketing would be absorbed into it.

Yet all of this came from writing a book that served the basic needs of the type of person I wanted to work with most. (I actually went to a couple of my favorite clients and asked them what they needed!)

If I’d never written The Plan and established myself as an expert in book marketing, Emerald Lake Books wouldn’t exist. And one of the most satisfying parts of my life would be missing.

This is how I discovered the power of a strategically written book.

The Plan that Launched a Thousand Books has gone on to win numerous awards, it’s built my mailing list, garnered me speaking engagements, and justified increasing my consulting fees. It’s established my expertise in a way that is genuine and authentic, and that came from a position of service and giving. If a reader was inclined to do all the work themselves, they had enough information in the book to be able to do that. And that made me feel good!

It meant that the readers who contacted me were those I truly had something to offer. I wasn’t keeping the magic ingredient to my awesomesauce secret. Anyone could pick up the book and follow the instructions. But those who felt their time was better spent elsewhere and could afford to work with me contacted me about working together.

I wasn’t out there chasing leads. I was giving back, and feeling good about it, all while building a business that could support my family.

Two years later, I was able to bring in my best friend, Mark Gerber, as my business partner, and Emerald Lake Books has grown even more since then.

We’ve defined a unique process that combines business coaching with publishing so that we can help others do exactly the same thing that I was able to do with my book.

We’ve hired people to help us, both as coaches to help us grow and as team members to support our increased workload. While Mark and I are the only full-time permanent people in the company, we have a team of ten other hand-selected people who work with us regularly on our projects.

Our six-figure business grew from one little book idea that was strategically written, carefully crafted, impeccably designed, and properly positioned.

Just as important, I knew exactly what I wanted my readers to get out of the book and what I wanted the book to accomplish for my business. And I was clear about the overall impact I wanted the book to have.

These three factors have become crucial elements of our Publish with a Purpose framework, which we use with all of our authors as part of helping them create books that get results.

If you have been wondering whether a book is right for you or how to write a book that serves a specific purpose, I invite you to schedule a call with us.

How to Use Your Book as a Powerful Marketing Tool

Join Tara R. Alemany of Emerald Lake Books and host Robert Imbriale as they discuss how a book can be used to solve some of your worst business problems. This video was originally recorded for the 2018 Marketing Thunder conference, hosted by Marketing Motivation author Robert Imbriale, and aired on September 18, 2018.

We help positive people create effective books, using our experience to get your message across, establish your expertise and build your business!

How to Write a Good Review on Amazon

Let’s say that you just finished reading a book that you loved. Perhaps it was even one of Emerald Lake Books’ latest titles. Whatever it was, following it up with a review is a good habit to get into.

Reviews provide encouragement, feedback and constructive criticism for authors, which is something we all stand to benefit from.

But reviews also serve to help future buyers and prospective readers decide whether a title is right for them or not. Your honest review can help them decide whether to invest their time and money in a book.

So let’s take a few minutes to understand how to write a compelling review for Amazon.

Every review consists of three parts: a star rating, the review itself and a headline or title for the review.

Understanding Star Ratings

Every item on Amazon can be quickly critiqued by selecting a star rating from 1 to 5. So as you’re thinking about the book you’ve just read (or any other product you’ve just finished trying), the first step is to figure out what star rating to assign to it.

Amazon’s definition of each of the stars is:

  • 5 – I love it
  • 4 – I like it
  • 3 – It’s okay
  • 2 – I don’t like it
  • 1 – I hate it

Short and sweet, but easy to decipher.

As much as every author loves to receive five-star reviews, it’s also unrealistic to expect everyone to love the same book. A five-star review should be reserved for when the book has everything: strong writing, solid content, great editing, etc.

Ultimately, the test is this: If this is a book that you know all your friends and family should read, and that you know you’ll be reading again, then it’s five-star worthy.

Elements of a Good Review

Once you’ve chosen your star rating, you’ll be asked to write your review. This is the bulk of what you have to say about the book you’ve just read. While you can write anything you want here, you can make your review ultra-useful by including the following information:

  • Write the review as if you’re explaining to a friend why they should read the book. While the author is certainly interested in what you have to say about their book, it’s a prospective reader who’s going to base their decision about whether to read the book based on what you share.
  • Include something about the book itself so that prospective readers understand what it’s about.
  • Share something that stood out to you or resonated with you. What was it? Why did it impact you the way it did?

Remember, your review is about the book and how it impacted you. It is not about you or about any technical difficulties you may have had with downloading it. So make sure that you stay on topic if you want to write a compelling review.

Give It a Compelling Headline

After you’ve written your review, summarize it by giving your review a compelling headline. Some reviewers use this as a call-to-action directed at a prospective buyer. Others use it to accentuate a key point in their review.

Whatever your preference is, use it as a means of capturing the reader’s attention so that they take the time to read what you’ve had to say about the book.

A Word of Caution

Amazon has a clearly stated policy against friends and family writing reviews for an author’s book. In their estimation, if you have a close relationship with an author, you’re unlikely to write an unbiased review.

Therefore, keep your review focused on the book itself and not on the author. Amazon does actively seek out reviews that give the impression of a close personal relationship with the author and removes them without warning.

So don’t let your review go to waste. Keep it focused on the book and its value to a prospective reader.

Want to Learn More?

Amazon has a great set of FAQs for customer reviews that answer many frequently asked questions as well as a clearly stated set of customer review guidelines.

What Should I Say in My Acknowledgments?

Some authors struggle with what to write in their Acknowledgments. Others know exactly what they want to say and how. If you find yourself in the former group and want a quick starting point for writing yours, here’s a brief summary for you.

Essentially, you want to create a list of those “without whom this book would not have come into existence.” It’s common to acknowledge friends who encouraged your research and writing, clients who inspired your specific subject, mentors and idols who set your thoughts aflight, beta readers who helped to improve the book with their feedback, and individuals specifically involved in the production of the book (namely editors, designers and publishers).

The simplest way to do that is to group people together based on the role they played in relation to the book and allow those specific individuals who played a more significant role to have a line or two of their own.

As for the tone, we like the advice of a friend over at Greenleaf:

Overall, the best way to write an acknowledgment is to make it personal, professionally casual, and descriptive (ie: don’t simply say “Thanks to my editor, Gil.” Tell us why Gil rocked.).

As for length, 1-2 pages is great. Any more and it can become too unfocused and rambling. A reader will lose interest quickly. But oftentimes what a reader is looking for in an Acknowledgment is whether they know anyone named in it, and why that person’s contribution mattered to you.

The best suggestion we can give you is to pick a few titles off your bookshelf and peruse the Acknowledgments there. See what resonates with you in terms of tone, style and length, and then endeavor to create your own version of it.

And if you’re still wondering if it’s really worth it, consider this:

Gratitude is contagious …and… No one succeeds alone.

Use your acknowledgments to give your readers a brief insight into who you are, what you value, and to remind them why they like you.

Using Author-Supplied Cover Designs

Occasionally, we are asked if we will accept a cover designed by someone else.

The short answer is, “yes!” But it requires a bit of explanation…

While our preference is to design the covers we use, as long as the covers provided meet our criteria, we’re happy to use them.

Per our publishing agreement, as the publisher, we hold all final approvals of the designs and images used. But your input and approval are significant to us.

Since the cover is a critical element of the book’s marketing efforts, we don’t begin its design until we’re sure of that direction. Therefore, we would ask that your designer coordinates with us regarding the appropriate time to start the design.

If you have a specific designer, illustrator or photographer you’d like to use, please send us relevant samples of their work or a link to their website. We will arrange a conversation to discuss concepts, direction and deadlines so we can collaborate with them on suitable ideas. Ideally, the process will include our approving submitted sketches or initial designs before moving to a final cover design.

The final size of the book (the “trim size”) is often not established until later in the publishing process. However, the design must adhere to the necessary specs for its use. Once the trim size is established, a template will be provided.

The final design must be submitted to us according to the following specifications:

  • The design will consist of the front cover only. Back cover content often changes until just before the release of the book and we require the flexibility to update the cover as needed.
  • The design must be based on the template we provide.
  • The design must be flexible enough to include a high-profile endorsement. Again, those endorsements may not be available until later in the process. We reserve the right to adjust the design to accommodate the endorsement, if necessary.
  • Acceptable applications used to create the design or image are Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. Neither Quark nor Corel Draw files are accepted. Contact us if your designer wants to use a different application so we can determine if it’s compatible with our workflow.
  • Submit all original source files, including fonts. Do not outline the fonts since all copy must be editable.
  • Provide licenses for any stock images used on the cover.
  • The ownership of the copyright is between you and the artist/designer, but the license must grant rights for us to use the design/image for the cover and in any marketing efforts. If you are using an original image or photograph, we can provide a standard license to be signed by its creator.
  • All images provided must be CMYK and have a minimum resolution of 300 dpi at the size used.
  • If the image bleeds, it must be sized to accommodate trim (indicated in the template).

Any cover presented to us must be suitable for the genre of the book and the category in which the book will be listed.

If the provided cover design is approved for use, your overall publishing fees will be adjusted as specified on the Your Estimate page later in this proposal.

What’s It Like to Become a Published Author?

Many writers dream of having their work published someday. And those dreams follow different courses to fulfillment.

Some attempts are met with piles of rejection letters from literary agents and publishers, while the rare gem finds its way through the slush pile and onto a bookstore shelf with the backing of a “traditional publisher.”

Other authors forego that route in favor of publishing their books on their own. Sometimes, this is because they have more time than money to invest in the process. And other times, it’s so that they can retain creative control of their work.

And then there are those authors who opt for a middle ground, where they hire the services they need performed so they can focus more on their writing than on the publishing process itself.

Become a published authorAs an author, our founding partner, Tara R. Alemany, has six titles to her credit, and each was indie published in a variety of ways. Some, she self-published. Two, she went with a so-called “vanity publisher,” and the others were anthologies she contributed to that were independently published by other people. And it was her frustrating experiences with each that led her to start Emerald Lake Books, simply to provide a better alternative to other authors than those she’d experienced herself.

With so many different avenues to go from a manuscript to a finished book, things that were once clear no longer are.

When we talk about publishing today, you’ll hear terms like “traditional publisher,” “self-publishing,” “indie publisher,” “vanity press,” “small press,” “service publisher,” and many other variations.

There’s a reason for all that murkiness…

Publishing itself has changed

The clearly defined roles and responsibilities of publishers and authors have changed.

We’ve been advocating for a few years now that it’s really all just publishing.

You’re taking a manuscript, designing it, publishing it, and distributing it so that it reaches the hands of appropriate readers.

All of the other terms used to refer to that process are describing the business model used in your publishing arrangement. Are you paying for services rendered up-front, like with a service publisher? Or are you paying for services rendered out of sales of your book, like with a traditional publisher? Alternatively, you may choose a blend of the two by working with a hybrid publisher, where you pay some fees up front and the rest from a royalty share.

Or you may not pay any fees at all by doing all the work on your own. For authors who have taken the time to learn how to create a professional product, this puts all of the money in their pockets, which is great! We see this work well for a lot of our friends who are fiction authors. Their business is the business of selling their books. So, they take it seriously, learn how to do it properly, and create some great, enjoyable material.

Unfortunately, it’s also an option that is often chosen by people who have no other publishing opportunities, but who also lack the skills to do it right. So it can be a source of lower quality material making its way to the marketplace as well.

So who is responsible for what?

A common lament of traditionally published authors is that they are responsible for the bulk of the marketing efforts. They find it frustrating to only see 10% of the royalties from book sales, while they do 90% of the work to sell it.

However, that’s a somewhat short-sighted complaint when you consider that the publisher invested the necessary money to edit, design, publish, print and distribute the book. They saw value in what was written and took a chance on it, which means you get to have your book published, but they need the author’s efforts to make back their investment.

At the same time, if the publisher has gone that far with it, why don’t they do more marketing themselves to ensure their investment works out?

Similar questions can be asked of the other publishing models. It always comes down to two things: time and money—and the best way to leverage them.

We are often asked why we charge fees up front and take a royalty share, and the answer is simple. Our business model is to be paid for services rendered. But our work doesn’t end there. Once the book is published, there are on-going things we do to support both the author and the book, and we get “paid” for that out of the results of our efforts. If we simply handed the book over to the author and had nothing more to do with either the author or the book, then receiving a royalty share wouldn’t make sense. But that’s not how we work. Instead, we build long-term relationships with our authors that are mutually beneficial. And when we’re both working to sell the book, we both should reap the reward.

That said, every author has to find the business model that “feels right” to them and that fits their current needs and circumstances.

Finding what works

How you publish your book is one thing. What you do with it afterward is another.

Marketing, promotion, social media, reviews—it seems like there’s a never-ending list of things that need to be done. This lead to a common complaint we hear from authors, “There’s no time left to write!”

The problem we see is that people aren’t certain what works and what doesn’t, so they try everything they hear about, hoping something will lead them to the Holy Grail of book sales.

And as the industry grows and changes, what worked last year may not work this year.

That’s what led us to wonder…

  • What was your publishing experience like? And how does it compare to other authors’ experiences?
  • What worked for you? And what didn’t?
  • Are you happy the results? Or would you do things differently if you were to do it again?

Rather than just wondering, though, we felt that information was valuable enough that it should be captured, recorded and shared. With enough insight into “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of the Authors’ Publishing Experience,” we might be able to help improve the industry for both authors and publishers.

As far as we know, there’s no other survey like this one around.

Sure, there are other industry surveys that cover sales figures, which formats sell best, and in which parts of the world. But we have yet to find a survey that assesses the author’s experience when publishing a book, no matter which publishing model they went with. We want to know: What worked? What didn’t? How can we improve what we, as publishers, do? Where can authors make more of an impact on the success of their book? Does the outcome improve with experience? What is the best use of your marketing budget?

An invitation for you…

All these questions and more are covered in our survey, and we are very interested to explore your opinions and ideas. It doesn’t matter how you published your book, or whether it’s your first or fiftieth book. All that matters is your willingness to share your experience with publishing your book, so we all may learn from it.

If you’d like your voice to be heard, please visit emeraldlakebooks.com/survey to get started. The survey itself will be open until February 14, 2018, and should take approximately 20 minutes to complete, but everyone who completes it will be given the opportunity to receive a copy of the results when the survey is done.

And if you’re inclined to share the survey link with others, we’d truly appreciate it!

Facebook Author Parties/Events and Why We Do Them

Over the summer, I participated in a Facebook event unlike any I had ever been to before. It was an online Women’s Fiction Summer Party. A collection of women’s fiction authors banded together to hold a Facebook event that lasted several hours (5!). By cross-promoting the event, these authors were helping each other to increase their fanbase and mailing lists.

This same group of authors is hosting their next event, a Facebook Author Holiday Party on November 7, 2017. So, if you want to see this phenomenon in action, check it out!

The idea seemed ingenious to me and was one I wanted to learn more about, so I contacted one of the participating authors, Patricia Sands, to see if she’d be willing to fill me in on the process behind the event a bit more. After spending a lovely hour talking with her, I knew I wanted to share this information with you as well, so I asked her to write today’s guest blog post–the first ever on the Emerald Lake Books website!

So, without further ado, here’s Patricia’s feedback on how to hold a successful Author Party on Facebook for your fans.


The key ingredient to success is organization.

After being a novelist for eight years, I have learned many lessons about interactions on Facebook with readers. The bottom line is that writers and readers all benefit from opportunities to connect with each other. Make them fun!

Facebook author events are always chaotic with many conversation threads going at the same time. It is essential to refresh your page regularly to keep up with the chat. Some people actually follow along on a second device, such as an iPad, phone, or another computer. I have not mastered that technique yet!

The Setup

There are Author Assistants (AA) who offer services to manage such an event. In my opinion, this assistance and experience are crucial to the success of the party. What our AA offers us is priceless. She helps put together graphics and makes suggestions with regard to the theme.

To participate in the event, each author commits to be present at a specific time and to provide at least one giveaway as a raffle prize for the readers.

Once all the authors are on board, the AA sets up a Google document or Excel spreadsheet. Each author enters their information into the spreadsheet, including desired time slot, name, giveaways, questions they want asked, website, Rafflecopter links, etc.

Facebook Author Event promo exampleWe typically have a theme for each Facebook author event (usually seasonal, for example, Summer Party) so our AA can prepare promotional graphics for us.

Each author shares about the event through all their social media platforms. We may even send a “save the date” message out first.

Our event is also cross-promoted as a Goodreads event. However, we hold off on serious promotions until a week before the event. At that time, each author invites all their “friends” on Facebook and Goodreads.

The Event

During the event, each author has a half-hour time slot (or whatever works based on the length of the party and number of authors) to be featured to the attendees. (Scheduling consideration is given for different time zones.)

The AA introduces each author at the appropriate time, including posting an author photo and book covers as well as other basic information about:

  • the author
  • the book being promoted at the party
  • their giveaway.

Ebooks and paperbacks are the standard prizes for giveaways. However, everyone makes an effort to add more creative prizes, from something as simple as Amazon gift cards or book bags to coffee mugs and candles.

At our last party, since my book was set in France, the biggest prize I gave away was a box of macarons (cookies) from France. It was a big hit.

For each giveaway, a question is posted by the author, always accompanied by a photo of something relating to the topic. The more fun you can make it, the better.

The AA monitors everything, keeping track of participants and winners. She comes in at the appointed times to introduce the next author and keeps everything to the established timeline.

The AA also sets up a Rafflecopter raffle, which fans must enter to be eligible for the BIG prize (established by the authors) and tasks must be completed to enter (such as subscribe to newsletter, “like” certain social media pages, “follow” on pages, etc.) Often the authors will all kick in an agreed amount for the “big” prize…say ten authors will each contribute $10 to offer a $100 gift card. Or $20 each and have a few smaller gift cards as well.

The After-Party

At the end of the event, the AA sends an email to the authors with contact information for the winners and a separate document with all of the new names.

Authors also go back into the event once it’s over and “like” any new person who attended.

Our experience with these events has been positive. We try to maintain meaningful topics for our questions that allow readers to tell us something about themselves, rather than us doing the talking. Each author attempts to respond to every comment posted on their threads…although this is not always possible when there is a high attendance.

The key thing is to make it fun, sincere and interesting…with good giveaways.

Patricia Sands, authorBestselling author Patricia Sands lives in Toronto, Canada, when she isn’t somewhere else, and calls the south of France her second home. I Promise You This, Book 3 in her award-winning Love in Provence trilogy, was published May 17, 2016. Her next novel, Drawing Lessons, was released by Lake Union Publishing on October 1, 2017.

Find out more at Patricia’s Facebook Author PageAmazon Author Page or her website. There are links to her books, social media, and a monthly newsletter that has special giveaways, photography from France, and sneak peeks at her next book. She loves hearing from readers.

Patricia is represented by Pamela Harty of The Knight Agency.

What to Look for in an Endorsement

Before the design work on your book can be completed, we want to incorporate any endorsements you have secured for your book. The earlier we have these, the better, since there are design decisions that have to be made regarding the use of your endorsements.

For example, do we include one (or a fragment of one) on the front cover? On the back cover, do we use more endorsements or an author bio? How many pages of endorsements do we include inside the book?

Endorsements can be a compelling part of what convinces a reader who doesn’t know you to try your book.

The ideal endorsement endorses you in a professional capacity and lauds the merits of the book as a natural reflection of your expertise. You can then use an endorsement like that both for your professional services (on your website), as well as for promoting your book.

Elements of a Book Endorsement

Therefore, a well-written book endorsement consists of a few different elements.

  • It typically consists of 1-3 sentences of clear and concise information that commends you and recommends your book to prospective readers. You’re not looking for a novel here. Just a few sentences that can easily be repurposed in marketing materials as well. If the endorser has more to say, ask them to use the lengthier version of their endorsement as a review on Amazon. But for the book itself, you just want 1-3 sentences.
  • It includes a specific call-to-action. For example, in this review left on Amazon for John Suscovich’s Stress-Free Chicken Tractor Plans, the endorser instructs the reader to “read it twice and build it.” The call-to-action is clear, specific and actionable.

I can’t say enough good things about this chicken tractor design, John really did his homework. It’s well worth the price, read it twice and build it.

  • The Plan that Launched a Thousand Books by Tara R. Alemany - endorsement exampleIt uses creative language that catches the attention of the reader. Sometimes that language echoes a key point of the book or its title. Other times, it’s just eye-catching because it’s unexpected. For example, for The Plan that Launched a Thousand Books, we prominently featured an endorsement from global business celebrity, Jeffery Hayzlett, on the front cover because it was exactly what we wanted a prospective reader to hear.

I have two bestsellers under my belt and I wish I had read this book before I had written them. This would have saved me a lot of TIME and MONEY. A big help to a new author!

Want to see some examples for inspiration? Here’s a good assortment of endorsements that contain the elements outlined above. They’re for a book called Take Their Breath Away.

Who to Ask for Endorsements

Usually, you want to ask for endorsements from individuals who are an authority of some kind, whether it’s because of name recognition or a title that’s visible. Oftentimes, they are in the same industry the book is related to, but not always.

There are rare occasions when you may use an endorsement from someone who isn’t well known, simply because the endorsement itself is powerful. For instance, when a client has gotten amazing results based on what you teach in your book, sharing that as an endorsement can be an effective marketing tool. Prospective readers will be able to relate to the desire for better results and want to repeat the success of your client.

So, as you consider who to ask to endorse your book, think about a good cross-section of people. They may be influencers in your industry, peers or colleagues who have a similar target market, or even clients. Ideally, you want to ask those people who are your raving fans, because their energy and enthusiasm will shine through in what they write for you.

As for how to ask for an endorsement, we go into detail in Sample Support Requests.

How Many Endorsements Are Enough?

There isn’t a magic number of endorsements to have. It’s more about the quality than the quantity. One well-worded, powerful and impactful endorsement can do more for your marketing than a dozen weak, lukewarm testimonials.

So as you decide who to ask and which endorsements to use, think about it from the viewpoint of a prospective reader.

  • Is the endorsement understandable and relatable?
  • Is the endorser someone I recognize or might want to emulate?
  • Is the language engaging and motivating?
  • Is the call-to-action clear?

If you can answer “yes” to each of these questions for the endorsement you’re evaluating, then it’s a good candidate to be used with the book.

We usually wait until we have all the endorsements back in order to rank them according to how impactful they are. The phrase or name that stands out the most to us typically goes on the cover somewhere, assuming the design allows for it.

The rest of the endorsements can fill a few pages in the front matter of the book.

If there are more endorsements than we want to use in the book itself or we receive some “really good ones” after we’ve already moved into production with the book, then we reserve the others to be used on marketing materials or on the author’s website. They can also be used in the book listing descriptions themselves.

As a rule of thumb, we typically try to have 2-4 pages of endorsements inside the book with 2-4 endorsements per page depending on their length, and 1 or 2 endorsements on the cover itself, which may be fragments pulled from the best endorsements used inside the book.

However, we don’t force it. We’d rather have fewer endorsements than to use poor ones.

And if we get a large number of raving reviews, we don’t limit ourselves either. John Suscovich’s launch team had so much to say that we included 6 pages of the best testimonials he received simply because people loved what he’d created and they were achieving great success as a result of following his plans. Raving fans are an author’s greatest joy.

Where to Use Endorsements

There are so many ways to use endorsements, and we’ve mentioned a few of them within the context of this article. But here is a consolidated list with a few other ideas thrown in.

  • Front cover
  • Back cover
  • Inside the book
  • Book listing descriptions
  • Website
  • Bookmarks
  • Social media
  • Launch team materials
  • Speaker banner
  • Press releases

And be sure to ask your endorsers to add their testimonial as a review on your book listing as well.

Sample Support Requests

Sometimes asking someone for help can feel awkward, making it difficult to figure out what to say. If you’re stuck getting started, here are some ideas and sample requests you can model your own emails after.

Of course, if the person you’re reaching out to is someone you know well, then these examples will only serve to remind you which details you need to share with them. They don’t need to be as formal and linear as they need to be when you’re talking with someone you have a more professional relationship with.

Influencer

Influencers are people you want for endorsements and to be part of your launch team. Their name recognition and authority can go a long way in driving a successful launch for you. Before you ask for your support, though, make sure that you are 100% prepared and respectful both of their time and reputation. The easier you make it for them to support you, the more likely they will if they can.

That means giving them as much time as possible to read your material, highlighting one or two chapters you think would be especially of interest to them. In your request, you might also offer to write two or three sample endorsements for them to consider and make their own or a theme you’d like them to touch on.

For example, when I asked Ivan Misner, the founder of BNI, to endorse The Best is Yet to Come, I asked him to specifically touch on the message of hope offered within the book. With all the other endorsements I’d received thus far, no one had mentioned it and it’s an important theme to the book.

The resulting endorsement read:

This book is about finding hope against all odds, even in the darkest of situations. We all face pain, disappointments, heartaches and struggles in life that can sometimes lead down a seemingly hopeless path of deep devastation; yet Tara shows us there is always hope. Through brave and inspiring honesty about her own difficult personal experiences, she shows us that hope is always within our grasp if we make the choice to embrace it and that, no matter our situation, the best really can be yet to come.

Ivan Misner, Ph.D., NY Times Bestselling Author and Founder of BNI®

So as you write your own request for an influencer’s support with your book launch, here’s an example of what you might want to say:

Dear <Name>,

Thank you for the work that you’ve done in <their chosen field>. As I’ve followed you online, I’ve learned <share some key things they’ve taught you> from you. And I’m truly grateful.

I’m writing today because I’m hoping that you might be willing to support me a little further.

My new book, <Title>, is being released on <Date>.

I was hoping you might be willing to take a look at it and possibly offer an endorsement for it, if you like what you see.

I’ve attached a pre-release copy. Chapter <x> on <subject> may resonate with you because <reason why>.

I know that your time is limited. But if you’d be willing to take a look and let me know if you’re able to help, I’d appreciate it. If I don’t hear from you by <date>, I’ll reach out to you again, just to make sure you received this message.

If it makes things any easier, I can provide a couple of sample endorsements I’d love to receive and that you can modify to make your own.

Either way, thanks for all that you do!

Regards,

<Your name>

If they agree to endorse your book, then when they send their endorsement, you may choose at that time to ask if they’d be willing to also post it on Amazon as well. If you do that, be sure to provide a direct link so that it’s as easy as possible for them to say “yes” to.

If your book listing isn’t up yet, then save this step for a later date. At that time, write to them letting them know that the release date is approaching and that you appreciate their endorsement of the book. Provide them with their endorsement text again (don’t expect them to remember where they put it) and a link to the listing, asking them if they’d be willing to post it on Amazon for you.

As your launch date approaches, you may choose to reach out to them with information about the resources you’re providing your launch team and asking if they’d be willing to participate as well.

If you ask for all three things up front in the same email, it will feel overwhelming and they’ll be less likely to say, “Yes,” if they don’t know you. By “stepping” the request, they can bow out at any time, but whatever help they do give you will be beneficial to your launch.

Reviewers

It is very important to have a strategy in place that drives book reviews. This goes beyond what you print in or on the book. It starts first with reviews on your book listings on sites like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, Shelfari and others. But it also includes bloggers, podcasts and more.

The focus of this particular outreach letter is to ask for reviews on book listings. The reason we’re starting there is because these reviews have the greatest potential to sway buying decisions.

Think about it like this…

When you go to the grocery store, the items nearest the checkout are frequently low-ticket items purchased as an impulse buy.

The closer you are to the point of purchase, the more likely a positive impression will tip the scales in your favor.

In addition, you can influence Amazon’s search algorithm and increase the likelihood of them promoting your title in their newsletters if you have a substantial number of reviews and a solid sales rank. Ideally, you want at least 50 reviews. 100 is preferable. The more you have, the more momentum you build and marketing your book simply becomes that much easier.

Reviewers don’t have to be people you know or who are familiar with your work. They simply must be people interested in your subject matter.

I’ll write more in future about how to get reviews using social media, but for this post, I’m going to focus on sending an email to someone you know to ask for a review.

Here’s a sample you can use as a template for your own message:

Hi, <Name>.

I hope you are doing well.

I’m writing because I have something I’m hoping you’d be interested in helping me with. My new book, <Title>, is coming out on <Date>. It’s been a long time coming and I’m really excited about it.

I need to find reviewers for it, though. The more reviews I have on the book listing when it launches, the better off I’ll be.

Would you be interested in reading it and leaving an honest review on Amazon, Goodreads or whatever other review site you like to use?

I can send you a pre-release digital copy if you’re interested.

I’m hoping to have as many reviews as possible already on the listing page by the launch date. But even if you can add it within the first month after its release, I’d appreciate it.

Let me know if you’re interested or not.

Thanks!

<Your name>

Some authors include an incentive in the message as well. For example, they might offer to send a printed copy of the book once it’s released or to offer bonus material.

Whether you offer an incentive or not is up to you. But if you have the resources to do it, it’s a nice acknowledgment of their time and effort.

Keep in mind, though, that you cannot offer to pay for a review, good, bad or indifferent. You’re seeking honest reviews, so you don’t want to make the mistake of giving the impression of bribing anyone.

While it takes a bit more proactive management, you may decide not to mention any incentive at all when requesting a review, but then circle back around after they’ve given one to send them a “thank you” gift of some kind. Acknowledging their time and effort is important, even if it’s only to say “thank you.”

Peers

Last, but certainly not least, are your peers. If you have colleagues who serve in the same industry or collaborators whose target market is the same as yours, having them introduce you to their following can expose you to a whole new audience already interested in what you have to share.

Depending on your relationship with your peer, this request can take many different forms.

You might want them to partner with you on a joint venture. For instance, perhaps you know someone whose own book is intended for the same reader. Why not bundle them together as a special promotion and offer both titles to each of your audiences for a discounted price?

Or perhaps they have a webinar or podcast that you could be a guest on that allows you to highlight the topic of your book and make a special offer to their audience?

Or maybe they’d be interested in an affiliate deal where they can sell copies of your book and earn a percentage of the proceeds.

There are plenty of ways that this can play out, so I’m not going to provide a sample email here.

Needless to say,  you’re going to want to demonstrate that you know who they are, what audience you share, why your material is beneficial to them and their audience, and what you propose doing together.

It may take some imagination, but it’s where the fun comes in. People helping people. You win. Your peer wins. And your shared audience wins.

Launch Team

Influencers, clients and peers all are welcome additions to any launch team.

Typically, you’ll ask people you know fairly well to support you. Or you may not know them at all, like your followers, but they feel they know you and they love what you do.

Either way, the “ask” here is fairly simple. You want to communicate your excitement about the book and its value to your readers. And you want to assure your launch team members that you’ll be making it as easy as possible for them to support you.

We often put together a page of content they can use with sample status updates, shareable images, links to book listings, contact information in case they have questions and more.

It also includes our launch schedule and various ways that they can support the process.

Here’s an example of what that email might look like.

Dear <Name>,

I can hardly believe it! My new book, <Title>, is almost finished. It’ll be released on <date>.

This book is for <intended audience>.

I’ve put a lot of my heart and soul into this book, and I’m excited to finally have it see the light of day. It’s going to <positive impact>.

I was wondering if you’d like to be part of my launch team? If you’re interested, you can sign up here: <URL>.

You’ll receive a PDF of the book so that you can enjoy it too, along with a link to a page with sample status updates, shareable images, links to the book listings, contact info for my publisher in case you have questions and more.

I know some people are very busy. So we kept things as simple as possible. Our status updates are designed so that you can prefill your social media calendar (like Hootsuite, Buffer or PostPlanner) and let it run on autopilot if you want. Or you can participate regularly in the different activities taking place.

I’m hoping that you’ll help me build a buzz about the book. So if you’re interested, please join my launch team here: <URL>.

I’d really appreciate it!

Regards,

<Your Name>