Jason Hartman talks with self-publishing guru Dan Poynter who spent eight years researching a labor of love. Realizing no publisher would be interested in a technical treatise on the parachute, he went directly to a printer and â€œself-published.â€ The orders poured in and he suddenly found he was a publisher himself. More at: http://www.speakingofwealth.com/category/podcast or […]
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Jason Hartman: Welcome to the Speaking of Wealth Show. This is your host, Jason Hartman and this is Episode Number 3. Today we’ve got a special treat. We’ve got self publishing guru expert, I’m sure you’ve heard of him. I’ve been following his work for many years and that is Dan Poynter, and he is joining us from Santa Barbara today and he will be sharing some great tips on how to self publish your book. We’ll be talking about the new electronic media, the Kindle, the I Pad, etc., and I think you’ll find this interview to be very valuable, a lot of resources here and a lot of good stuff.
So, we will be back with that in just a moment.
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Jason Hartman: It’s my pleasure to welcome Dan Poynter to the show. I’ve been following his work for many, many years and he runs a group called Para Publishing. It’s Parapublishing.com. You have probably heard of Dan because he is the undisputed guru and the guy who’s really revolutionized these self publishing industry. Dan, it’s a pleasure to speak with you today.
Dan Poynter: Oh, it’s a great pleasure on my part to be here. Thank you, Jason.
Jason Hartman: So, tell us what’s going on in the industry. I mean, talk about a changing industry. I discovered you maybe 11 years ago when I published my first book and I remember back then these publishers didn’t know where they were going and they were concerned about protecting their turf and all of that. And now days with the Kindle, the I Pad, etc., etc., things are really just changing so quickly.
Dan Poynter: Oh, these are exciting times, Jason, and what we see in the book publishing industry is growing at an accelerated rate of change and the reason is they haven’t changed the way — the big New York publishers haven’t changed the way they’re doing business since 1947. I was reading something that Seth Golden wrote this morning. He said since 1907. So, in other words, they’re playing catch up at an accelerated pace and they’re very resistant to change. You see, all the big publishers know how to do is have your book manufactured and they don’t do that. They send it out to a printer and then they send your book out to book stores. That’s all they know how to do and we’re going vertical today.
I mean, just for example, Amazon wants you to publish with them. They’ll be your publisher if they can be your printer. They can produce your audio and of course, they’ve got the big websites and the distribution. They do the shipping, so they’re very vertical. They take you right from the beginning and they cover all the steps whereas the big New York publishers only cover the two steps.
Jason Hartman: And so there’s something still to be said for having your book on that bookshelf in the store, isn’t there? I mean —
Dan Poynter: Oh, absolutely and you can get your book on the bookstore. You simply use a distributor. I use National Book Network, the largest one and my books are in all the book stores. That’s not a problem. Also, something we discussed before we went on the air is in addition to the e-book, you do need a p-book, a printed book because you need to print it — well, people take you more seriously if you have a printed book. You see, if you have an e-book they think, well you wrote an article or something. But if you did an e-book, people think it’s nice. If you’ve done a printed book, oh, you’re an author, and the word “authority” contains the word “author”, so you’re an authority by definition. People hold books and authors in high esteem, so you have to have that printed book and you have to send a printed book out for review.
So, bearing in mind that I’ve also moved from print to online, that’s why the newspapers and the magazines are downsizing, consolidating, going out of business. The advertisers have put their money into online promotion. We have to promote our books online, but we don’t spend money doing it. We send review copies to anybody who has a blog on our subject. We send review copies to anybody who’s got a website on our subject, to anybody who contributes and answers questions on forums and listers. These are the opinion motors. These are the thought leaders. These are the people that make things happen and people listen to them and they do what they’re told.
So, if you send them an e-book, a PDF, they’ll look at it and say, oh Jason wrote a book. Boom, it’s gone.
Jason Hartman: Right, right.
Dan Poynter: If you send them a printed book, they take it out of the bag, they look at the front cover, they look at the back, they look inside and then they put it on their shelf, and it is still there communicating, that constantly reminding them and these thought leaders, these opinion motors then are recommending your book to the people that — well, down below them.
Jason Hartman: That’s definitely good advice. I’m just wondering, is there any easy way or systematic way to do that for example, do you have a recommendation for a fulfillment service where they can hold a bunch of your books. You can click a link, say send it to this guy, send it to that blogger or send it to that person in the media, or is it just stick them in an envelope and send them off yourself.
Dan Poynter: Well, I recommend that everybody handle their own fulfillment initially, just so that you learn it and that way when you go to buy service, you know what you’re getting for your money, and I will also say that I have never been overwhelmed. We all dream of going to the post as the old days, you know and having the postmaster say, oh I’m so glad you’re here. We had these mail sacks full of quarters for you. That was the old days when we dealt with the post office. But I’ve never been overwhelmed because the orders come in and spread out incrementally.
However yes, there are fulfillment services out there and you want to make sure that you get a fulfillment service that is as close to your printer so that you’re not paying a lot of trucking fees and those fulfillment services are listed in my book. You want to find one that is in the fulfillment business of shipping books, so they know how to do that. They’re not doing all kinds of products and there are a number of them that specialize in that. So, they’re listed in my book.
Jason Hartman: So, any more on the industry? There’s just so much I just want to kind of get that back drop established before we get into more of the details of how to publish, how to promote, etc. But you’re definitely right about the p-book, the printed book, the good old printed copy, no question.
Dan Poynter: So, what’s going on in the industry? The brick and motor book stores are going out of business. There are about 1,000 to 1,100 independent stores left. You know, 25 years ago it was only independent stores and they’ve been going out of business at the rate of three per week for years now. Then we have the chain saws like Borders, Barnes and Noble, Books a Million. They’re in deep, deep trouble. They’re going to go out of business and the reason is, these brick and mortar stores are downtown and their location is where the properties are very expensive. They cannot compete with an online store that’s got a warehouse out in the country.
Look and see what people are doing. What’s happening with people? They go into a Borders or Barnes and Noble, they look at a store, they pick up their I Phone, they click onto Amazon and they check the price and it’s 30 percent cheaper and they hit the buy button and they walk out. So, Borders, Barnes and Noble, the independent stores are showcasing casing books for Amazon, and that’s what the — the star truth of it.
Jason Hartman: Right, they’re just turning around and basically showcasing them for free, actually, so that’s why it’s kind of a bad deal for the brick and mortar person, but Barnes and Noble, for example, do you think they have a good chance of sort of a come back, if you will, with their e-book reader? I can’t — what’s that called, the Q or something?
Dan Poynter: Canuck.
Jason Hartman: The Canuck, yeah.
Dan Poynter: Well, they’re a little late. They got into the e-books about a year and a half ago, that’s when they bought a fictionalized, which is a very good e-book distribution company, and then this year they came out with Canuck, and they’re trying, but they’re probably going to — well, they’ve already closed down all the Walden stores and all the Dalton stores, the ones that were smaller out in the suburbs and now they’re just concentrating on the super stores and they’re going to continue to run the numbers. They’re business people and they just might have to close those down because the future really is buying things online.
I don’t know about you, but I travel a lot and I hardly ever go into a store of any kind. I just go buy things online that somebody delivers it.
Jason Hartman: And I think that’s definitely true of everything but clothing, and even clothing I buy online too, a little bit, not as much but no lines, massive selection, lower prices and no sales tax. So —
Dan Poynter: Well you know, you’re absolutely right. Of course there’s a difference between the way men shop for clothes than women shop for clothes. We find a pair of shoes we like, we go online, we order a couple of extra pairs and we have them banked in our closet. A women would never do that.
Jason Hartman: Right.
Dan Poynter: She’s got to go try it on and look at it, but I think for men, that’s really the new way to shop.
Jason Hartman: No question about it. So, why would someone want to self publish verses going to a publisher? That’s sort of the retail side of the book industry. Are there some big self publishing success stories that you want to share, or what sort of constitutes even success in the world of publishing with the publisher or self publishing?
Dan Poynter: Well basically, unless a publisher’s got some great connections and can sell four times the number of books you can’t, you don’t want to go with a publisher. The big New York publishers are in serious trouble, while New York publishing is both broken and broke. And I’ll tell you, they’re going to go out of business very quickly and if you don’t think they can go from the top to the bottom overnight, just remember General Motors.
The big New York publishers, the six of them, are going to be replaced by Google, Amazon, Apple and maybe a Barnesandnoble.com. They’re going to be the new publishers and it’s going to happen very quickly. The big publishers, if they know what’s going on at all, are scared to death. I mean, just for example you publish with Kindle Book today and Amazon gives you royalties. What is it, 70 percent? Big publishers can’t compete with that. I mean there’s no way they can handle that. So, the only time you want to go with a publisher is if you can go with a medium sized one.
Let me give you some numbers. Six large publishes, New York, three to four hundred medium sized publishers, 86,000 self publishers. Now the medium sized publishers and the self publishers are specialized. They may just do travel books on islands in the South Pacific. I mean, very, very specific. So, that means they’re plugged into that market and they’re selling those books not just through book stores, but if it’s a travel book, it would be two travel books, and travel stores and they have deals with travel agencies and they go to all the travel conventions and you know, they’re on the travel websites and they’re all plugged into — all specifically.
Well, now a medium sized publisher is pretty good, so you want to go to a book store, go to Amazon, Barnesandnoble.com and look for books in your category and find books as close to yours as possible and see who publishes them. And if it’s a medium sized publisher, you can go to their website and check it out and see if things fit. That might be a good way to go.
The other choices however, are the vanity presses which are very bad and self publishing. And self publishing just means you do it yourself. You’re going to make more money. You’re going to get the press sooner and you’re going to keep control of your work.
Jason Hartman: Dan, can you distinguish for the listeners? I just don’t want to let you go in and before you just make one distinction if you would? A lot of people don’t understand what a vanity publisher is and the other one, they kind of don’t understand sometimes is what a subsidy publisher is. Can you just explain those?
Dan Poynter: Vanity subsidy is nearly the same thing and it’s really confusing, and of course these vanity persons call themselves self publishing companies, because they’re trying to capitalize on a recognized term. The only self publisher is the author. Nobody can be a self publishing company unless it’s the author.
Now, the problem with these vanity presses is that they’re very expensive. I had a lady come up to me recently with a book and she said, can you help me sell this, and I looked at it and it had a name of a vanity publisher on the back. I said, how much are these books costing you? She said $11.00 each. I said, but you haven’t sent out too many review copies. She said, I can’t afford to send out review copies. Why would you pay $11.00 verses something you could buy for less than two. I mean, when you’re paying $11.00, you can’t afford to give a book store a discount so they’re not going to carry it, are you? You can’t even afford to send them out four review copies, because they’re too expensive. And these vanity presses, they have boiler rooms full of people calling authors every day.
They always have a deadline and they just wear people down to get their money. Now, before you deal with anybody in the publishing industry, and for that matter, before you buy a car or have your house painted, do yourself a favor, make a Google search. That company name and the plus sign and scam company name plus fraud, company name plus Better Business Bureau, company name plus rip off. And if there are problems with a company, you’re going to read about it.
You know, I dealt with a plumbing company, just recently, and I went online and checked them out and there were no bad reports on them. You know, I put the company name plus fraud, but no bad reports. Okay, they must be okay, but you — with these vanity presses, you’ll read all kinds of horror stories. I mean people are really upset out there and some have been sued and of course that’s why you do company name plus Better Business Bureau. And if you know anybody else who’s thinking about going — who’s writing a book and thinking about going with one outfit or another, tell them to do it. You’ll be doing them a great, great favor.
Jason Hartman: Yeah, they’re just taking advantage of people appealing to their ego, no question about it. So, people should self publish. I definitely get the point of that because even a legitimate publisher, I mean, they don’t really offer any promotion, do they?
Dan Poynter: No, publishers don’t promote books. As a matter of fact, the big publishers won’t even take you on unless you already have a following. They’re only publishing celebrities, people who do have a following and there’s a — they’re going to sell a number of books to the fans of that particular celebrity. But they won’t even take you on unless you can demonstrate that you are out there and you’re selling books yourself.
Jason Hartman: So, the way to go is self publishing. What are the steps?
Dan Poynter: Well, first of all it’s much, much easier today. It’s far easier, it’s much faster and the reason is the computer and the internet. You can do all your research right at home. You’ve got access to the world’s largest library. It’s called the internet. You don’t have to drive downtown to the library and if you do you’ll find the library doesn’t have what you want anyway. So, all of the research can be done there. You could contact people through forums, list surfs, to get more information. A list surf is the cheapest consulting you can buy because it’s free and you can ask any question and all these wonderful people will answer you and I’m talking about forums on your particular subjects.
So, for me, it would either be on books or it would be on parachutes because those are my two areas. And then after a while, you can — you’re doing research on your book and you’re focusing your message and you’re thinking about your readers. And after a while, you can start answering questions on these forums, these list surfs and you always sign your entry with your name, your coming book title and your URL, or you want to [inaudible] back your website.
Now when your book comes out, you have a whole bunch of people out there on your subject who know you, like you and want to buy your book. So, you’re going to do your research online and you’re also going to sell your books right back to those people online. I have a book, the title is writing on fiction that shows you step by step of how to take your idea and take it all the way through until it’s ready to publish, publish yourself or send off to an agent and a publisher.
So, the first step is the research part, then you do your rough draft, after you take all your material and just roughly get it into the computer and put it into a binder so you can carry it around. Then you go to your second draft, which is your content edit, where you clean it up, and the third draft is where you take each chapter and you send it out to at least four experts on that chapter, people you don’t even know, and then you get feedback from them.
I’ll tell you, 10 percent of your really good up to date stuff comes from other people, because you prompted them to read your 15 page chapter and it gives them all ideas and they start scratching things in the margin.
Your last draft is the fourth draft that’s your copy edit. That’s where you send it out to a picky English pro, somebody that — English it up for you. We all use editors. Well, we all should use editors, and then you’re ready. You’ve got it ready to go.
Jason Hartman: Good. So, one question on that last point you made about sending it to an editor, how do you find a good editor? This is a very subjective world when it comes to writing. I mean, you know good writing —
Dan Poynter: All right.
Jason Hartman: — when you see it.
Dan Poynter: You know that.
Jason Hartman: I mean, you know bad writing when you see it. I real — a lot of people say they’re a writer, yet they couldn’t compose two sentences together and have it be grammatically correct. How do you find an editor?
Dan Poynter: And we all use editors and some people are — they know their subject, but they’re not good writers, or maybe English is their second language. It doesn’t matter. You get all the material down, somebody else will clean it up. And even great writers use editors. Where do you find them? Well, on my website in the supplier section I’ve got a list of about 12 or 15 of them. You need to call up most of them and the questions you ask is what do they charge, when can they fit it into their schedule and the most important thing, have you ever worked on a book in this category before?
You want to find somebody who likes the subject, somebody’s who’s excited about it, and somebody who can bring ideas from previous works. Now Jason, have you ever thought about this, and I read this about this somewhere and have you ever read about that and that’s — so they’re not just doing a punctuation, grammar style, but they’re doing a little bit of content and give you a feedback as well.
Jason Hartman: I know that people tend to kind of buy things by the pounds sometimes. Is there any feedback on the optimal size of a book? And by the way, before you answer that, I want to say thank you for writing and sending me this short book, self publishing manual volume 2, because I think a lot of books are a lot longer than they really need to be. What do you think about size?
Dan Poynter: First of all, you need to go to a book store, go over to that shelf where your book is going to be and look at the books that are — that will be right next to yours. You will find that books in different sections, different categories in a book store have a different look and feel and format and layout. So for example, maybe all the books there are 5 1/2 and 8 1/2. Well, don’t make your book 8 1/2 by 11. It’s not going to fit on the shelf. You’re going to find out if the majority of them are hardcover or are they soft cover. Respect the category. Make your book look like it belongs there. It’s what people who are buying that kind of book are used to. If you came out with a computer book in hardcover, it would stand out as being kind of weird because —
Jason Hartman: They’re all soft cover now.
Dan Poynter: — nobody needs a computer book that’s going to last a long time.
Jason Hartman: Right. Well, that’s true, it shouldn’t last longer than the computer.
Dan Poynter: Which isn’t very long, so you’ll find that cook books tend to be wider than they are tall so they openly lay flat on the counter. Many travel books are tall and skinny and have rounded corners or on very light weight paper so they can be slipped into a pocket or a pack. You want to respect the categories, so definitely go there.
Now, what about the length of the book? That’s what I think is one of your questions.
Jason Hartman: How many pages, yeah?
Dan Poynter: How many pages? Well, you wanted a number, 144. The reason for that is that —
Jason Hartman: One forty four, okay.
Dan Poynter: — on many, many presses — I’m talking about book printing presses, they — a big sheet of paper through and they print 24 up and 24 down. That’s 48 page total. And then it’s folded into what we call a signature. So, we have to look at increments of 48. Forty eight would be a skinny book. Ninety six pages was just not across that magic 100 number. It’s hard to charge a full price for a 96 page book. So, the next increment would be 144. All my books, for several years, have been 144 pages, including that one that you just mentioned, Volume 2. So, publishing —
Jason Hartman: I just looked at the last page, it’s 144.
Dan Poynter: And that’s for all the printed pages. I mean that’s all of your front matter, your text and your back matter. So, that’s very efficient. Now, if you want to add half of that 24 pages, that can be done, but the most efficient paper is the most expensive part of the book. Press runs are not inexpensive, and so really the most economical size is 144.
Jason Hartman: Saying that though Dan, it’s kind of interesting because what if your idea is more than 144 pages, or what if it’s less than that? I mean, how do you really make it fit?
Dan Poynter: Well, most people want to know what happens if it’s less than that? Well, you’ve got about 10 pages of front matter to start with. I mean, you’ve got your testimonials, your —
Jason Hartman: Your endorsements.
Dan Poynter: — title page, your copyright page, your table of contents, your acknowledgments, your — something about the author, your four word. I mean, you could have 10, 12, 13 pages right there. In the back of your book, that’s only one thing to have an appendix, which would include your index. So, you must have an index. I mean, people want that and libraries want it and book stores want it.
Jason Hartman: How do you do in indexing? I’ve heard that libraries and academia will not take a book without an index.
Dan Poynter: That’s right.
Jason Hartman: Any recommendations on [inaudible]?
Dan Poynter: But you can index yourself very, very quickly. There are indexing programs, but they’ve a lot of work.
Jason Hartman: They don’t really work, do they?
Dan Poynter: No. You know your book because you wrote it. All you have to do is — right there in Microsoft Word, you start skimming your own book and you start typing in words and page numbers, then you sort it — auto sort it and you keep on writing or reading, and adding more words and page numbers and auto sorting it. You can do that 144 page book — for me it would take less than hour for somebody the first time, it certainly would be no more than one hour and a half.
Jason Hartman: To do the index, you mean?
Dan Poynter: Now, if you get somebody else to do it, they don’t know the book. They have to read it very carefully. But you know where everything is.
Jason Hartman: Speaking of which, you said something that I just wanted to bring up because I know a lot of speakers are kind of busy, they’re traveling, they’re trying to get more gigs and book more engagements and they just want to hire a ghost writer to write on the topic. Talk to everybody about ghost writers for a moment, if you would. Bad idea?
Dan Poynter: That’s perfectly okay, you have the content, but maybe you don’t have the time to do the writing. I mean, you don’t think Leo Iacocca wrote those two best sellers by himself, do you?
Jason Hartman: Yeah, and I don’t think Donald Trump writes any of his.
Dan Poynter: Well — and these celebrity books are very rarely written by the celebrity. I mean, it’s just another product with their brand name on it. I have ghost writers listed on my website in the supplier section. You hire them the same way you do an editor. How much do you charge and when can you fit it in your schedule and have you ever worked on my subject before? If you have a business book, you don’t want to give it to somebody who thinks that business is crafts and commercial. You know, you want to give it to somebody whose done other business books and just loves business, somebody’s who’s going to wake up at 4:00 in the morning so excited he or she can’t wait to work on it.
Now, the more you give them, the better and you can go to my writing non-fiction book and it shows you how to gather your material and lay it out in piles, one pile for each chapter. Again, the more you can give them, the better. You could just give them transcriptions of your speeches and give them something very general and let them go with that. It’s going to take them a little bit longer and they’ll have to do a little more organization, but there’s nothing wrong with turning something over to a writer.
I often say, do you like to do bookkeeping? And I say, what do you do with your bookkeeping? I hire it out. Well, with you’re writing, you can hire it out. It’s the same thing, there’s nothing wrong with that and you brought up professional speakers. Now generally speaking, professional speakers tend to be more gorgeous, more outgoing and more extraverted than writers like me, I’m an introverted writers. So, on a scale of one to ten, writers tend to be three or four and many of the professional speakers are up around seven and eight. Sales people tend to be nines and tens.
So, I always have to ask people who they are, what’s this book about, where do you want to go with it, and I try to determine where they are on that scale of one to ten and if they’re terribly extraverted, then I give them permission to get help. Hire a writer. You don’t have to do that. Do what you do best and hire out the things that you don’t want to do.
Jason Hartman: Since we’re on that subject, I’ve got to just ask you a couple of questions about it, and people have asked me this question, they’ve said, I found some ghost writers online but they won’t tell me what they’ve written because it’s confidential. They might have a confidentiality agreement with the “author” who hired them and they can’t say and there’s nothing on the book that says who actually wrote it, a lot of times, so how do you actually know if they’re any good?
Dan Poynter: Well, you’re absolutely right. Sometimes it is confidential. They are ghosts. They’re not supposed to be —
Jason Hartman: Exactly, by definition.
Dan Poynter: — but that’s why I say you want to ask if they’ve worked on your category of book before, and I mean if they can’t tell you, they’re not going to tell you, but I’d spend a little more time on the phone and ask them how many books they’ve done, how have the books done, how have the books sold and if they didn’t sell, why didn’t they sell? Because the publisher didn’t do it — promotion, and I’d chat them up. I mean, I want to make sure you like the person because you’re getting married in a short period of time.
Jason Hartman: One last question about the ghost writer, how much should someone expect to pay for hiring a ghost?
Dan Poynter: Well, it’s all over the block and the ones that are more successful charge a lot more money. And I can’t give you a specific figure. I’d say it’s $5,000 to $50,000 dollars. Of course, it depends on what they charge for. The first ghost that worked with Leo Iacocca and the names are on the cover in that case, by the way, he wasn’t sure the book was going to go anywhere, so he wanted to get paid outright, and I’m not sure how much he was paid. Maybe it was 30 grand or 50 grand or something. Well, the book took off like a homesick angel. Bad decision, and the second ghost writer, he wanted a piece of the action.
Now, if this is your first book or you’re not a celebrity like Leo Iacocca, it’s not likely you’ll get a ghost writer to work on your book, but on spec for a piece of the action, they want to get paid outright, but there are two ways to go.
Jason Hartman: What about design, Dan? There’s two aspects to design. There’s the cover design, obviously, then there’s the interior design, the layout of the book. Do you hire someone to do that? Do you do it yourself? Any suggestions on formatting? You talked about formatting before.
Dan Poynter: Yes, you do hire somebody. The typesetter is also the designer, but you have to give them guidance because nobody knows your subject as well as you do. Nobody knows your audience as well as you do. So, you go to a book store and you look on that shelf where your book is going to be and you find a book that you really like. I mean, you like the size, you like the color of the paper or you like the type style, or you like the way the chapters start off. It just makes you feel better, and you’d like that book to look like that book. Buy that book, that’s your model. You’re going to take that to your typesetter or you can take it to the printer and you can say, I want my book to look like this. They’ll make a few adjustments and so on, but you’re giving them the guidance. They say, nobody knows your audience as well as you do. You know what they want, what they’ll accept and somebody has spent a lot of time and money designing that book so you can just adapt the design.
Jason Hartman: Is there any like, software that you want to recommend to the listeners other than just typical work — you know, Microsoft Word, anything that helps you come up with ideas? Anything that — I now they have this for fiction. They have all kinds of software programs for screenwriters and novelists and things like that, and then anything on maybe design, if you want to do the design yourself?
Dan Poynter: Well no, use Microsoft Word and I do my books and I’ve done this since 1981 when I got my first computer. I do my books on what I call page layout format. So, in the middle of your 8 1/2 x 11 sheet, you’ve got a column that’s about four and a quarter wide and about seven long. And by the way, in my non-fiction book, it says go to page setup and put in these numbers and then your page will come out just right. But anyway — so then you can import your pictures, put in your captions, change the typeface for your quotations and things like that. You could see exactly what you’re reader is going to see and then when you take it to your typesetter, it’s already trial typeset, and you know that you have exactly how many pages you have and then you can adjust the type size and the type style a little bit to make sure you come out with 144.
Now, you also talked about where do you get ideas? The most important thing to do is sufficient research before you write one word. One thing that you do is you get document 116 from our website, which is free, which shows you how to lay out your back cover of sales copy. It’s paint by numbers. It’s also in several of my books, document 116. Do the research.
This is a great story. About three months ago, I was speaking in Durbin, South Africa. A week later I spoke in Johannesburg but — a guy came up to me in Johannesburg one and he said, I was in your class last week in Durbin and boy, that idea about Amazon, that was fabulous. I said, what happened? He said, well you told me to go and look for books as close to mine as possible and I did that, and then I started reading the reviews. It was fascinating. I found out what people want and what they don’t want. I found what they like and what they don’t like. I found out what to put in my book and what to leave out. You can’t do too much research. Fine — you know, get as much information as possible, and this is motivating, and then you print out a lot of that stuff and a lot of those ideas you’re going to put into your book.
Jason Hartman: Good advice. Let’s maybe switch gears to the area of promotion here Dan, and that’s a hugs topic, obviously, and we don’t have time to cover it now, but what are the basics of book promotion?
Dan Poynter: First of all, all your promotion is going to be done all online. Do not pay for advertising in any respect or in any media, but most of your promotions are going to be done online, because I’ve also moved from print to online. Forget magazines, forget newspapers, don’t send review copies. It’s not worth it. All of that will be done online and it’s very inexpensive, very cheap today. You’re going to spend some more time contacting people online. Spend more time online, not less. I’m not talking about frivolous time, but you’ve got to do several things a day for your book and that might be, you know, emails and a blog posting, a posting that a forum — a contribution to a website, posting articles, but do at least five of these a day and promotion takes time. It’s not going to happen overnight, but it’s so easy today to get the word out on your subject if you do it online. It’s all computerized. It’s all internet. It’s all fast, easy and cheap.
Jason Hartman: What do you think about things like radio, TV and internet report in these — you say no advertising but they really cater to be small self publishing authors. They’re trying to get their business for getting interviews and so forth to promote their book. And what do you think about radio promotion and things like that, in general?
Dan Poynter: Well, two things. If you like to do radio, the only way to get on radio or television is with a book and anybody being interviewed, 95 percent of them don’t have a book. They might be a celebrity, they might be an unknown, but towards the end of the interview, up comes the book. So, if you want to do those, you’ve got to have a book to get on.
Now, here’s an interesting concept. People who read respond to print. People who listen, respond to audio. People who are visual, respond onto video. So, I don’t really feel that UTube is a good place to promote your book, because one is visual and the other is print. You could do things in blogs to promote your book because they’re both print. You have different kinds of people. You have people who are at home a lot and they love printed books. You have people who are behind the wheel. They’re sales reps, they’re long haul truckers, they’re long distance commuters, they listen to audio, because they’re driving, they can’t read a book.
I travel. I fly more than 6,000 miles every week. I’m all over the world. I’m out of the Country 40 percent of the time. For years and years, I’ve been reading e-books. I read a lot of historical fiction. I love reading e-books. I can’t carry books with me. Sometimes I’ll download an audio book and put it into my I Phone, but mostly I’m reading print. And I love to go to a place where I’ve got to stand in line for a few minutes because I just whip out my I Phone and continue to read. It’s a gift, so you have to realize that there are different kinds of people and e-books don’t replace print books and audio books don’t replace something else. They’re going to a different segment of the population.
That being said, if your book is not available as a print book, an e-book, an audio-book, and audio book, then for any promotion that your do you’re going to miss some sales because some of those people just can’t consume it.
Jason Hartman: Any tricks on — in terms of like where should they get their book printed? I mean, I know the p-book is a very important element. Do you just go to your local printer, short run as a thing that in the past 10 years really evolve? I mean, you can print one book now or you can print 10 books. What’s the perfect print quantity?
Dan Poynter: Well, you’ve got three segments there. You’ve got your print on demand which is one book at a time. There are times when you want to do that but it’s really expensive. Printing to quantity — and again and the more you print, the lower the per unit cost. Up to about 2,500 copies, you deal with a digital printer. There are 24 of them across the U.S. — across North America. Over 2,500, you use a standard offset printer and there are 42 of them across North America.
Now, any printer can print your book, but you want to deal with a book printer. You’re going to get price service and quality out of a book printer. That’s all they do is one book behind another, true gain printing. They’re going seven days a week, 24 hours a day. The glue doesn’t cool down. Paper is the most expensive of a printed book and so these people are buying their paper by the multi-car loads and they’re only stocking five or six different types.
If you go down to the local printer, any printer can do your book, but he’s going to get in one pile of paper and he’s going to pay two to three times as much and then it has to be passed onto you. And then he really doesn’t know how to do books because he doesn’t do them very often. He likes them because they’re a high ticket item, but maybe your pages don’t come out in the right order. It’s just not worth fooling around. You want to deal with a specialist.
Jason Hartman: So, I assume you’re going to say there’s a resource for that on parapub.com, right?
Dan Poynter: Well, all printers are listed on the back of my books.
Jason Hartman: Oh, that’s fantastic.
Dan Poynter: Yeah, and then I’ve got reports on it and I’ve got their email addresses so it’s easier to send out the requests for quotations. And — oh, and which is the best printer, the lowest bidder. You use my list and you take the lowest bidder. Everyone is set up a little bit differently. I mean out of those 42 hardcover — I took 42 offset printers, there’s probably only six or seven that do hardcover and so that’s why you have to send out the RFQ to all of them and see what they do.
By the way, you also wanted to ask about e-books?
Jason Hartman: Sure.
Dan Poynter: E-books are the way to the future but they’re not for everybody. Some people want audios, some people want print. They’re not going to replace the print books, but e-books are very exciting. The sales are absolutely sky rocketing and the best way to get your book into the e-book is to upload it to smashwords.com. s-m-a-s-h-words.com. They will put it into nine different formats PDF, LIT. Moby, pocket palm, e-pocket palm, Sony, Kindle and so on. No charge. They put it up at their website. When they sell one, they send you 85 percent, they keep 15 percent.
You’re paying for performance. They’ve also made deals with Amazon, Apple, Sony, Barnesandnoble.com, Google and so on. Now there you have to give away a little more but you have got the whole e-book market completely covered and when I came out with that self publishing manual Volume 2, I finished at 6:00 o’clock at night, it took me 20 minutes I think, to upload it to smash words and three more weeks to have it printed. So that e-book came out first. Then later on, if you decide that you want to deal directly with Amazon or you want to do something, you can opt out initially. You just can’t beat this. The price is right and it happens just immediately. You’re up online in about an hour.
Jason Hartman: So, they’ll take care of your content creation in terms of formatting it?
Dan Poynter: Well, they have a style guide and there’s something — for example, you have to take the numbers out of your table of contents because the pages will be different and you have to delete your index because people will use a word search to find what they want. There are certain things that you have to do to make it compatible so that their meat grinder can turn it into nine different formats.
Jason Hartman: One of the problems with the e-book or the digital version is the images, tables, pictures, illustrations. I find those are somewhat problematic on my own Kindle, I’ll tell you that much.
Dan Poynter: Well sure, and you’ve got a choice. You’ll just check out the boxes that say you know — I’m not going to check off Kindle because I have color photos, but I want it in e-pub and I want it in PDF and you go down the list like that. It’s very exciting. The new Apple I Pad, boy I’ve seen a lot of those on the airplanes lately. You know, they’re revolutionizing the comic book industry because they’re large format and they’re four color — next will be the children’s books and maybe coffee table books downstream. They’ll be some of those but it’s going to just absolutely revolutionize the comic book industry because of the large format and the four color.
Jason Hartman: Let’s go back to the old traditional book publishing industry. Before a self publisher, Dan, if you just want to — if you think it’ll be a good thing for your promotion, for your bottom line, can you get your books in the book store as a self published guy or is that — are you locked out from that unless you have a publisher?
Dan Poynter: Well absolutely. 78 percent of all the books published are self published. The big publishers only do 23 percent. Everybody down the line, whether it’s a distributor or a wholesaler or a book store, another publisher, they want books that are going to sell. Nobody cares who the publisher is. People buy non-fictional for one or two reasons. It’s to learn something or solve a problem. They go into a book store and they see your book on the shelf and they’re asking themselves, is this book going to answer my question? They might look at the — about the author page, the biography, to see if you’re a credible person. Nobody ever looks to see who the publisher is. People of the buyer doesn’t know one publisher from another, it’s just not an issue.
Jason Hartman: But how do you get in?
Dan Poynter: It’s —
Jason Hartman: Do you just walk into Barnes and Noble and say, hey, will you carry my book?
Dan Poynter: Yeah, there are two ways. The best way is to go with a distributor. There are 90 distributors and some are very specialized, only computer books, only children’s books, some are more general and they focus on six or eight or ten different categories. You know, getting them listed in my book, they’re listed on my website and you want to go to their websites and just kind of check them out and see how many books they have on your subject. This is important because they have sales reps that go out to the stores.
Now, business books that tend to be sold in downtown stores. Books on parenting or relationships tend to be sold out at the malls. So, if you have a book on parenting, you don’t want to go with a distributor that only goes to the downtown stores. I mean they’re not even going to carry your book along, and it’s just a bad match. You want to be matched as closely as possible, but they’re constantly looking for more products, and one of the most important things, Jason is that, they want to make sure that you’re going to promote the book. They don’t want to say well sure, we’ll get it to the store, but what are you going to do to get customers into the stores, and this means spending time online and letting people know that you have a book and what it covers and it’s available. I mean it’s not a big deal but you have to get out there and promote the book.
Jason Hartman: Yeah, absolutely. So Dan, let’s just close with measuring. I find that in life, in general, and I’m certain it’s true in the book publishing industry as well, some people are kind of winning the game sometimes, yet they’re not satisfied with the results because they just don’t know how to keep score. I wanted maybe to share some metrics on what one might consider as a successful self publisher? How does someone know when they’ve done a great job of it or they need to do more, or there’s a million points in between? I understand that.
Dan Poynter: Well, the most important measurement is, are you making money doing this, and I will tell you, I’ve written 126 books. I have never lost money on a book. Now, it’s been a number of years ago, I wrote the right book at the right time. Sales took off like a homesick angel, and then I made a move back to California and buy this house on a hill overlooking the ocean. Now, I’m not going to tell you that if you write a book, you can buy a house with an ocean view, but I’ve never lost money on a book and that your book is passive income. It’s earning money for you when you’re working, when you’re not working. It’s even working for you when you’re sleeping.
One of the reasons I can spend so much time away from home traveling, I’m speaking is because I have these books that are just earning for me and I put my children to work. Now, another measure are the wonderful letters you get from people all over the world, thanking you for your book, your research, your insight, for helping them and so many people. You know, a book is a very inexpensive way to distribute what you know.
Many of your listeners are consultants and you know, a consultant can only talk to a couple of people at one time. Many of them are speakers and you can only speak to a room full, but your book goes all over the world and it helps people, individually, on their schedule. It also brings back more credibility to you and it brings in more speaking business, more consulting business. I mean, people want to deal with the expert and by definition, the expert’s the one who wrote the book. Then your book becomes your new business card.
So, we can measure our success by the amount of money it’s bringing in, the amount of business it’s bringing in and the wonderful letters that we can get.
Jason Hartman: Anything on numbers, though? Like the average published book, does it sell 5,000 copies or 20,000 copies if it’s with a big publisher, and then—
Dan Poynter: Yeah, the average numbers are terrible. I mean, the average number is 8,500 and you’ve heard of Harry Potter —
Jason Hartman: Sure.
Dan Poynter: — and some of these other best sellers, obviously there’s many books that are selling far fewer. Now, we also mentioned the vanity presses earlier. If you use the numbers that they’ve published, and you divide the number of titles into the number of books they’ve sold, they sell less than 100 copies per title. And most of those they sell to the author. So, that’s another reason not to go that direction.
Selling 8.500 copies, I don’t think is very good and one of the reasons that the big New York publishers don’t sell more than that is they are very reluctant — they hardly ever revise a book because then they’d have to start over. And for a professional person, for a professional speaker, for a consultant, our book is the same as our business and we’re constantly improving it, we’re constantly collecting information and every time we go back to the press, we make some changes to it.
You know, my self publishing manual’s in the 16th revised addition, the 22nd printing in 32 years.
Jason Hartman: Wow.
Dan Poynter: It’s constantly growing, it’s constantly changing, constantly getting better and you’ll find that the same people who bought the earlier one are now buying your current one because they know you like you and they want the latest information. They’re the best customers. So, your book is always getting better and you’re going to sell — you’re not going to sell 8,500 copies, you’re going to sell so many a year, year after year, after year, after year.
Jason Hartman: Excellent. Well Dan, this has been very, very interesting talking to you. I’ve been such a fan of your work for so many years now and it’s just great to talk to you in person finally and have you on the show, as well. What would you like to say to sum it all up?
Dan Poynter: In summary, the most expensive parts of publishing are the mistakes. You don’t have to make them. You know, other people have already done it. It’s a shame if somebody makes a mistake. It’s unforgivable when it happens twice. So, get out there, spend time online, talk to other people, go to conferences and listen to these video programs, read the books. You don’t have to make those mistakes. It’s a lot cheaper to do these other things and you’ll find it’s a heck of a lot of fun because you’re working in your own subject area.
Jason Hartman: Good stuff. Well Dan Poynter, the Self Publishing Expert. The website is Parapub.com. That’s P-a-r-a-p-u-b.com, and Dan I got to also thank you not just for being on the show, but your website is a wealth of information. It’s phenomenal, so thank you for your contribution to the industry and for joining us today.
Dan Poynter: Well, it’s been an honor and pleasure. Thank you, Jason.
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The Speaking of Wealth Team
Transcribed by: Debra