Self-Publishing

I spent much of the Fall and busy holiday season assisting local Philadelphia legend Steve Poses with marketing and selling his self-published cookbook and website, At Home.

Steve had sold more than 100,000 copies of his first publication, The Frog Commissary Cookbook, which has been in print for 25 years, through a local publisher. Steve is also a renowned restaurateur and caterer in the Philadelphia area. So there is already a group of loyal fans ready and waiting to read At Home.

With the help of a local public relations guru, Steve was successful in landing several high-profile publicity opportunities including radio, TV, newspaper and magazine spots. He also did a ton of blogging, built up an e-mail newsletter list of hundreds of subscribers and did e-mail marketing, direct mail and search optimization for his website.

But the sticking-points in making book sales were the low return on e-mail marketing (a 1 percent return is stellar) and the decision to use an online-only distribution channel.  The original At Home marketing plan relied heavily on e-mail marketing, but the channel delivered very little return.  Steve also wanted to sell the books via his online store only, to provide a direct, no-middleman transaction for customers. The problem is, that folks still want to touch and flip-through a book before making a purchase. Especially if it’s a new publication and they’ve never seen a copy before.

In the end we got through the holiday rush by partnering with several independent businesses including food co-ops, markets and an exclusive independent bookstore to provide some brick and mortar retail opportunities. We also used these retail locations as venues for book-signings, which gave customers a chance to meet Steve, get a signed copy of the book and hear about the publication directly from the author.

Marketing a self-published book is an uphill battle. There’s a related article in the Denver Post that really hits on the difficulty that authors face when they decide to self-publish. It sounds like these authors found that face-to-face events like readings and book signings, as well as building an online presence in a blog format, or e-mail newsletter, are two key strategies to self-publishing success.

It will be interesting to see how Steve alters his strategy in 2010 and how all kinds of authors, fiction, non-fiction, self-help, cookbook, etc. tackle self-published projects in the future.

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