I have a 40-year career managing and implementing technology systems, most frequently as they relate to media businesses and publishing. Prior to founding Sellbox Inc. in 2002 (parent of AuthorImprints), I held C-level positions with a college student website portal and a VC-backed college sports media company known today as the CBS College Sports Network.
The latter was founded after I left Times Mirror where I served as a VP of multimedia. Prior to Times Mirror I managed technology for the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.
I am a frequent speaker and trainer, including engagements for the Independent Book Publishers Association, the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi), the Independent Writers of Southern California, and the Santa Barbara Writers Conference.
I especially enjoy advising business owners and business leaders about how to use publishing as a marketing strategy.
Three things I know for sure
Rather than more detail about my experience, I’d like to share some perspectives. After spending 40 years using various types of technologies, here are three things I know for sure about today’s self-publishing environment.
1. Creating content is easy, distribution is hard
Today’s publishing opportunities are possible because anyone can distribute the content they create. This is true whether you define publishing as a Kindle eBook, a Facebook post, or a YouTube video.
The tools and skills necessary to create the content are secondary. If you want to sell it, or get your content in front of people, you need distribution.
I created two eBooks in 1989 but electronic distribution was virtually impossible. I considered marketing them on one of the online networks at that time—CompuServe, Delphi, Prodigy, AOL—but I’d still have to mail the floppy discs. This was assuming I could figure out a way for people to pay me and a way to provide technical support.
It really wasn’t until the Kindle arrived that we had the end-to-end solution necessary to foster the growth of a market. You could create your book in Word, upload it to DTP (later renamed to KDP), and reach hundreds of thousands of potential readers.
This democratization of distribution has been similar for print books. Today’s self-publisher can list his or her paperback alongside New York Times bestsellers by using Ingram’s print-on-demand service. Notice I didn’t say Amazon. Ingram has 16,000,000 books in its database and those are available to thousands of stores around the world.
That’s the power of distribution.
2. Multimedia is overrated
When l left Times Mirror in 1995 I was publishing multimedia CD-ROMs in categories like sports and science. Multimedia was a big deal in the early 90s because people figured out you could combine video, text and audio, make it interactive, and store these massive files on a CD-ROM.
Once again, we have the distribution problem. Everyone creating CD-ROMs were essentially self-publishers and we faced the same challenges self-publishers face today when trying to get our physical books into traditional bookstores. It was complicated and shelf space was limited.
It was also difficult and expensive to produce all the necessary multimedia elements (video, text, sound and programming). Our college sports start-up spent $1.5 million dollars to publish six CD-ROMs. We “printed” 30,000 copies and sold about 1,000.
Perhaps most instructive of all was the reception. Either people didn’t care, or they got bored after the novelty of it wore off. Besides that, the world wide web came along to do essentially the same thing and far more efficiently.
Unfortunately, people have short memories.
You may have heard of the company Pronoun, an eBook distribution service owned by Big 5 publisher Macmillan. Pronoun began its short life as Vook in 2009, “a digital book publisher that combined text, video, and links to the internet…” First Vook went out of business, then Macmillan closed Pronoun in 2017.
With rare exceptions, multimedia eBooks are a technology in search of a problem.
3. Online marketing as a CSF
At the risk of stating the obvious, each year we read about how more shopping is done online than in the prior year. I don’t know about other industries, but for books, we crossed the halfway point a few years ago. And it is accelerating.
Consider that all eBooks, most audiobooks, and now well over 50% of all print books are sold online.
Clearly, a Critical Success Factor for any publisher is their online marketing savvy. Either you develop it, or you hire for it. And this is truer for self-publishers than it is for any other size publisher.
Every aspect of self-publishing either happens or begins online. Social media, websites, marketing on (or to) Amazon’s website, and perhaps most important online marketing tool of all, email.
This is one of my favorite quotes about the power of email:
“When it comes to online marketing, most people are overlooking their number-one biggest asset. Social media activity, off-site ads, and all other tricks are a drop in the bucket compared to the power of the email list.” —Amy Porterfield, author of Facebook Marketing for Dummies, from a post titled Three Strategies to Rapid List Building.
How can I put my experience to work helping you?
Are you looking for experienced and honest advice about self-publishing and book marketing? Start here.
Scroll up to check out my books or contact me about what you need.
I look forward to hearing from you.
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