Peter Bowerman is a highly-regarded full-time writing guru with over 30 years of experience in sales, marketing, copywriting and publishing. His latest book is The Well-Fed Self-Publisher, and it provides the most timely and actionable steps to take if you’ve ever wanted to go the self-publish route that so many business book writers are taking today. When Bowerman set out to write The Well-Fed Self-Publisher his whole goal was to tackle that often difficult and challenging world of self-publishing in an easy-to-understand format so that anyone who chose to take this route would have the best road map available in order to not only self-publish, but do it successfully. And after reading the book, I can tell you, he´s succeeded.
Before we get into his advice and insight into exactly how to succeed as a self-publisher, one caveat to keep in mind: You have to write a great and saleable book. Not just a mediocre book, a great book!
As Bowerman says, "I talk about that in the book early on, in big letters: WRITE A BOOK THAT PEOPLE WANT TO READ! It all starts there. Successful book promotion starts with writing a good book, and writing it in an engaging manner. If you can do those two things, and the subject of the book is in demand, then you´re already ahead of the game, and the marketing end of things will be vastly easier."
One of the key takeaways from the book is that if you take the self-publishing route, you´re going to have to work hard, way beyond the writing of the book itself. But that´ll be true, he points out, even if you went the conventional publishing route: "A lot of people who go with a publishing company are unpleasantly shocked when they realize how little support they´re going to actually get from their publisher. With self-publishing, yes, you have to do the marketing as well, but at least you stay in control of the process and the timetable, while keeping the rights AND most of the profits, all of which ISN´T the case with a conventional publisher."
Bowerman´s book takes the reader step-by-step through everything from design, titles, articles, web site outreach, online and offline book distribution and promotion. It´s the one-stop guru guide for authors who really want to take the less traveled road of self-publishing — and thrive at it.
It´s all about marketing!
Bowerman´s insight and guidance in regard to marketing your book is invaluable. He makes a strong case that, as a self-publisher, your only job after you´ve written the book is to BUILD THE DEMAND FOR THE BOOK. He recommends outsourcing anything that diverts you from that main task: web site, fulfillment, and even, as we´ll see in a moment, some of that very marketing. His chapter on sales and marketing — called, "Learning to Love S&M (Sales and Marketing)" in a nod to, and designed specifically for the "creative type" terrified of the very terms "sales" and "marketing" — is so concisely written that anyone reading it can understand how to tackle this often weighty and daunting task.
Unlike most books on the subject, which advocate hitting up mainstream media as the focal point for any book marketing campaign, TWFSP recommends an online approach to promotion. He observes, "If you´re an unknown author, the mainstream media, as a rule, doesn´t care about you. You´re far better off understanding what your one job is, determining who your audience is, finding them on the Internet, contacting them, getting review copies into their hands, and working to get reviews, blurbs, mentions, interviews, and green lights to write articles for their site. And then just repeating that over and over and over again."
That means, says Bowerman, taking massive action, saying, "You can´t just send out 20 review copies and expect to be successful; think in terms of hundreds." And a secret weapon, Bowerman says, in getting a lot of the promotional grunt work done, is to use interns, something he´s done quite successfully with his last two books. For his current book, he says, "I set her up with an existing list from my last book to start, gave her guidelines to hunt for other targets, along with standard cut "n paste email pitches, and let her loose. Being a young college student, she´s ultimately web-savvy, so all the web surfing is second nature."
The result? According to Bowerman, she´s built a list of 225 qualified people, all of whom have responded with an unqualified "yes" that they indeed want to see a book and will help get the word out. He´s invested about $800 to get that done (paying her $10 an hour), while spending his time on things he can´t so easily farm out, as well as ongoing commercial writing projects that pay him many times that per hour.
The future of self-publishing?
I predict in the future that this book will engender a whole new flurry of self-publishing. And what does Bowerman predict?
"As the Internet becomes more pervasive and continues to offer tools for the little guy to basically level the playing field, if I was in the conventional publishing world, I would start getting a little bit concerned, because it´s going to get easier to bypass the system completely. If you´re serious about getting your work there, the potential for using the Internet is huge."