Friday, April 27, 2007

Author Interview: Shel Horowitz

When I was approached by Dorothy Thompson of Pump Up Your Book Promotion PR to host Shel Horowitz on my blog I’ll admit I was a bit leery. Shel’s book was self-published and my years as a bookseller concerned with processing returns left me not without my hang-ups in that regard (I’m working on them, I promise). Given the specialized nature of his title, however, I decided to give it a try.

Wow. Shel packs a lot of bang for your buck and offers a truly unique perspective that differs from all the other Author/Publisher marketing books that I’ve read.

Bookseller Chick: First off, tell my readers a little about your book. What are they getting when they buy your title?

Shel Horowitz: Grassroots Marketing for Authors and Publishers was described byMidwest Book Review as "An informed, user friendly, 'how to' book marketing seminar/workshop in a single volume...The ideal reference manual for anyone having to promote a book with little or no available capital for publicity and promotion."

Among the goodies: two actual marketing plans I prepared for paying clients (and a third one accessible online, included with direct orders) different models for building a book-focused website... eight actual press releases--including one that got 63 major media!--and six successful media pitches. Not to mention a huge resource section and a full index so folks can find things again.

B.S. Chick: When I was starting my research into the world of author publicity, I read a lot of different books from John Kremer to Lissa Warren. How does your book differ from the other marketing books out there?

Shel: It focuses more than most on strategies that authors or publishers can implement without spending very much--and I think there's particular strength in the chapters on working with mainstream media and in harnessing the full power of online strategies beyond the Web. It looks at numerous overlooked but very powerful resources: as oneexample among many (page 66), I've gotten a lot of mileage out of starting correspondences with newsletter editors and other influential people, and I describe how I do that and how that translates to more books sold. It includes a whole chapter on theadvantages and disadvantages of various publishing models. There's another whole chapter on the dismal realities of working with bookstores, followed immediately by one on how to make bookstores work despite the odds. Google and Amazon each rate a chapter, exploring some of the lesser-known marketing strategies on those two sites...and it's the only book on book marketing I'm aware of that really looks at Book Expo America as a marketing opportunity for independent publishers and authors.

Also, it includes over 40 success stories from ordinary authors who were able to achieve something through unusual or persistent marketing.

And I think it's the *only* book to be endorsed by most of the top names in independent publishing--my "competitors": John Kremer (1001 Ways to Market Your Book); Dan Poynter (The Self-Publishing Manual); Fern Reiss (The Publishing Game series); Rick Frishman (Author 101 series); AND Marilyn Ross (Complete Guide to Self-Publishing--as well as several publicity and marketing experts (among them Joan Stewart, Marisa D'Vari, and TJ Walker) and various others. It's also getting very nice reviews. So far, in addition to Midwest Book Review, the book has been praised by Norm Goldman of Bookpleasures, Bob Spear of Heartland Reviews, John Culleton's Shortlist of Recommended Books for Self-Publishers, Armchair Reviews, Tom Nixon of the Small Press Blog, and another blogger, Ted Demopoulos. Not bad, considering it's only five weeks since publication. If my previous books are any indication, reviews will continue to come in for years. You can see them all here. (Midwest just came in today and hasn't been posted yet.)

Incidentally, the bit about turning your competitors into sales ambassadors is something I discuss at length in my award-winning sixth book, Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First—which is all about harnessing attitudes of ethics, cooperation, service, and ongoing relationships to build a successful business. I took my own advice for that book and for book number 7, which is the author/publisher book. It's very good advice.

Oh yes, and I think it's one of the few books that's specifically designed to be useful to authors who publish traditionally, with a subsidy press, or with their own imprint.

B.S. Chick: What made you go the self-publishing route?

Shel: Each book has its own best path. As it happens, my first, third, and fifth books were published by traditional publishers, with an advance and the whole bit--and my second, fourth and sixth were self-published. If that had come about through any sort of pattern, I'd have had a publisher for my seventh book. But knowing how little marketing help I would get, and knowing how well-branded I am in my key market, it certainly made sense to self-publish this one. One of the biggest reasons to do a book with a traditional publisher is to establish credibility--but having already published with Simon & Schuster and other houses, I already have that credibility. There are other books I'd like to do that I would only write if I get a good publisher and a big advance, because they would require a whole lot of research and legwork, and because one of them in particular really needs mainstream distribution--but for this one it made sense to do it myself.

Interestingly, the book is actually jointly published by my own imprint and by Infinity. I sell my edition on the Web, through my newsletters, and personal appearances. Infinity's edition is on Amazon and is available to bookstores. This is my first time publishing with a subsidy house, and it came about because I showed the cover last year at BEA to two executives I know at Infinity—my hope was that they'd want to make a bulk purchase for all their authors. One of them, John Harnish, requested the manuscript and came back to me and said he really wanted to publish it-- but I also wanted to publish it. So, since I'm not all that good at selling through bookstores anyway and find it a big hassle, I gave them that market. And John made the numbers work for me; I will make out quite decently on any books they sell. However, I couldn't afford to get all my copies through them, as their edition is significantly more expensive to print than mine. Even printing as needed, I'm paying 2/3 as much per copy through my own sources--and if I went to offset I'd cut even that cost at least in half.

B.S. Chick: Do you think that is an option all writers should consider?

Shel: Yes, they should consider it. Each path to publishing has its own set of plusses and minuses, and each is right for some books and not others. I spend a whole chapter on this in Grassroots Marketing for Authors and Publishers.

B.S. Chick: Your book comes with lots of extras if they by directly from you: a free ebook, How to Write and Publish a Marketable Book; 20 Low Cost Ways to Promote Your Book on the Internet: Dan Janal interviews Shel Horowitz; How To Attract Customers To Your Website by Sean D'Souza; Framing by Kenrick Cleveland; The 7 Inner Secrets of Personal Achievement by Yanik Silver; Effective Online Marketing For Authors And Publishers; How to be a Great Radio Guest: 27 Tips by Brian Jud; and A Pirate goes Promotin' and Advice for Radio Guests by Jacqueline Church Simonds. What made you decide to provide so much more for your direct buyers?

Shel: Number one, I'm a big believer in giving a lot of value when someone buys something from me. In part, this is because I know a certain percentage of my readers will choose to hire me for copywriting and/or consulting on the basis of the quality of my books and supplementary materials. And in part it's just because as a shopper, I like to get more than my money's worth, and as an author/publisher, I want to deliver that experience for others.

Number two, I'd prefer that people buy the book directly from me, so that I can get the contact information (which I don't abuse--but some years from now when I publish book number 8, these folks will hear about it) and so that they can see and perhaps purchase the other fine books I offer on the same order page. The bonus package gives people an incentive to get it from me instead of Amazon.

Number three, I wanted to test out the "Internet marketing guru" theory that people will buy more easily with a lot of bonuses. This is not something I've tried before. It's really a winning thing all around: all I have to do is send one email with a link, and people can get whatever appeals to them. The people who supply the bonuses get additional exposure to new audiences, I provide and the reader receives more value. They're all electronic so there's no cost to me in postage, time, or anything else.

Number four, my wife, D. Dina Friedman, who publishes novels with big NYC houses, reviewed the manuscript and told me it was tilted too much toward self-publishers and not enough toward people like her. So I took five chapters that were about things like picking a title and getting a cover designed and separated them out into an e-book that I offer with every direct order, along with the other bonuses. And as it turned out, not printing those five chapters made the book much less expensive to print and to ship, and easier for customers to lift. As it is, it's over 300 pages counting front matter.

And number five, the bonuses and especially the e-book are mentioned all through the book--so this is one way to get people who bought the book elsewhere to go to my site and pay a nominal fee to get all the goodies.

And there's the ability to surpass expectations and provide instant gratification. There's one very special thing I include with the bonus link that is not mentioned anywhere but that I believe is very powerful, and provides that "oh, wow!"--which starts our relationship off on a good foot. And I very much believe in marketing by building real relationships (again, something I talk about in the ethics book).

Thank you, Shel for your participation.

I wasn’t Shel’s only stop, so if you’re interesting in doing more research into Grassroots Marketing for Authors and Publishers* you can visit any of the following stops in the virtual marketing campaign:

Tom Nixon, Small Press Blog (second appearance coming soon)

Ted Demopoulos, the Ted Rap

Denise Wakeman, The Blog Squad

Troy White, /**

Books by Shel Horowitz:

Grassroots Marketing for Authors and Publishers (AWM Books, 2007)

Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First (AWM Books, 2003)

Grassroots Marketing: Getting Noticed in a Noisy World (Chelsea Green, 2000)

The Penny-Pinching Hedonist: How to Live Like Royalty with a Peasant's Pocketbook (AWM Books, 1995--converted to e-book only in 2003)

Marketing Without Megabucks: How to Sell Anything on a Shoestring (Simon & Schuster, 1993--out of print)

Keep Your Money: How to Save Thousands in Advertising (AWM Books, 1985--out of print)

Nuclear Lessons (Stackpole, 1980--out of print)

*This link will also allow you to buy the book directly from Shel and receive all the really great extras he includes.

**Link coming soon.

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