Season 1 Episode 2: Monkey C Media CEO Talks about Book Creation and Marketing for Business Authors
Derek: Ladies and gentlemen welcome back to Behind the Business Book. Today I have with me a great publishing professional, Jeniffer Thompson. She is the founder of Monkey C Media. There is a whole story behind that name, which I love, but I think it fits. She’s based out of San Diego. She is the founder of a branding design firm. You do branding in general, but you specialize in working with authors, right Jeniffer?
Jeniffer: That’s right. That’s right. I like to work with entrepreneurs and thought leaders who are already an expert in their field but they’re looking to take their business to the next level, and that often involves writing a book, and really polishing their brands, whether it’s a logo or just their overall personal brands website and all the visuals that go with that. Also the voice and the messaging. Starting with those critical questions like, “What are you really selling?” A lot of people think maybe they’re selling a product or a book, and I think we’re really selling the authors. We get to the bottom of what makes them unique and special. We really talk about who their core audience is, their target audience, and their unique goals. That kind of helps us create a roadmap and a lot of times that involves a book.
Derek: Yeah. That’s one of things, since I’m a ghost writer, as much as I would love to pretend that a book is all that you need, I’ve come to recognize that a book is I think the cornerstone of a solid thought leadership platform. It’s just a cornerstone. It’s not the scaffolding, and the walls, and the roof. It’s just a big piece of the foundation. You’ve got to have the rest of it. That’s really where your firm comes in.
I love what you said, “The visuals and the voice,” those two words, I guess, really sum up the way that I think of what Monkey C Media does. You all do everything from publishing consulting, marketing strategy, cover design, interior layout for a book, websites, and especially author marketing, websites, and even something that I really want to get into talking about today, book movie trailers, which are just … It’s just a cool idea. I’ve never worked actually with a book movie trailer before. I’d love to hear just how that process in general works.
Derek: You’ve got a whole group of, you call them monkeys, of book cover designers, code monkeys, videography monkeys. You’ve got the whole shebang.
Jeniffer: Yeah, we have a team of 9 including myself. We have code monkeys. I’m the head monkey.
Derek: Head monkey, of course.
Jeniffer: We have fun. In fact, we recently went to the zoo for one of the birthdays of one of my code monkeys. It was really fun. I think there were actually 8 of, because I have one gal that moved to Boston. We got to go to the zoo and look at real monkeys. It was fun.
Derek: Any resemblance?
Jeniffer: A little bit, yeah, yeah, a couple of us. We’ve turned into real monkeys. We’re just a barrel of fun. I believe in teamwork. If you enjoy the people you work with, and you enjoy people you’re working for, you’re just going to do a better job. I love doing team-building exercises, and taking people out and just really talking about what we’re doing. That a big part of, I think, what you do too is helping people put all that into a book and why that’s important. I love that. I think that’s so critical for us entrepreneurs, who don’t have really anyone else to talk about what we’re doing, so books inspire and I think that’s pretty awesome.
Derek: Talking about the collaborative approach, one thing that I was thinking of about it’s kind of different to the way that Monkey C Media has to approach work with authors. If publishers go the traditional publishing route most of the time the publisher that they sign with exercises almost complete control over the design of a cover. Whereas with an author who goes the self-publishing route, or outside of the traditional publishing route, whatever that is … That’s a lot of your clientele are self- publishing, whenever they come to you, it’s really got to be this collaborative approach because you on the one hand know what it takes to put a professional business book together, what the cover has to look like. You have all the conventions and the standards they go with a market standard book.
On the other hand, you are working for the author. You do have to have this “1 plus 1 makes 3” approach with the author. You’ve got a foot in both camps. You have to make sure that the book looks like a professional book, because otherwise you’re doing an injustice to your client, but you also have to make sure that the client’s vision is, if not incorporated, at least addressed. How do you effectively do that, have a great book? Most authors don’t know what it takes to make a great book cover as they have blatantly discovered a couple of years later whenever people finally point out to them-
Jeniffer: Tell them.
Derek: Yeah, spending $5 on a book cover or $99 on the book cover, it is probably the worst money you’ve ever spent.
Jeniffer: There’s a couple pieces to this. I think that in a collaborative effort, the author helps make that cover better, because they’re coming at it from a different perspective of feeling. What kind of a feeling do you want to create? That has a lot to do with visuals. We judge a book by its cover. We judge all brands at first glance. What we’re trying to do is make it look professional, engaging and not tell the whole story on the cover. Although with the business book you do want to tell the whole story. You want it to be very clear what it’s about.
Authors will bring to the table something we hadn’t thought, because they’re coming from that different perspective. Sometimes that doesn’t work out. Sometimes they have that sacred cow that they’re so intent on keeping, that you don’t understand it into you’ve read the book, so when people look at it they’re like, “I don’t get it. I don’t understand what that means,” and they don’t buy the book. We try our best to really guide them to create something that’s captivating and engaging and tells people what the book is about, but not too much. Most of the time it really is a fantastic process of getting to know that author and getting to know their niche, because they know their topic way better than I do. I would never pretend to know their topic. What I have to do is translate it, and look at what is in the industry already, and what’s working, what the audience is responding to. It’s a lot of fun.
I think a lot of authors are realizing that traditional publishing route it’s kind of a bummer, because you get back your book and there’s a different title, there’s a totally different feel. In fact, I talked with an author recently who was published by Simon and Schuster 20 years ago. He was convinced that his book didn’t do well because they changed the title, and that title didn’t make sense. They wouldn’t listen to him. Then the visuals of the book didn’t make sense. His heart was no longer in it. It was hard for him to get out there and really sell that book and be passionate about it when he felt like he was always making excuses for his book.
Your book is your baby; you need to be proud of it.
Derek: I can understand where publishers are coming from because, by and large, they do have the experience. 95%, 99% of authors that are not graphic artist, they’re not typesetters. They don’t understand that there is a difference between the content of a book and the packaging. Just like with any product, if you have … What’s a good example? What’s a good example?
Jeniffer: Fast food. No, no, not fast food, frozen food. When frozen food first came out … I don’t know if this is the kind of example you wanted, but it makes me think of it. All frozen food packages were ice blue and they looked frozen. There was Arctic blues and white. No one was buying frozen food, and so they went to some audiences and they really talked about, “Why aren’t you buying this.” Well, it wasn’t appetizing. Then when they started putting hot food in the packaging and using the color red, which simulates hunger, all of a sudden people started buying it. While they were very accurate to what was in frozen food and that seemed to make sense, that’s not what sold it.
Derek: Yeah, that is. That’s a really good example. There’s a marked difference between the product itself and the packaging that sells it.
Jeniffer: That’s right.
Derek: The problem that most authors have, I guess that every author has, is that they start in the middle of the book and then they work their way out. They write the book, then they think about what should I do for a forward, or an epilogue, what are the blurbs maybe that I should have endorse the book. Then at the end of the process is what should the cover look like.
Derek: Whereas the consumer it’s completely the other way around. The cover has to draw them in first before they look at the title, and consider maybe the table of contents, and then buy it and then actually read it. It’s the author coming at it from the opposite standpoint of the reader. Because of that, I understand why a publisher oftentimes wants to use their experience to override the author’s ideas for the title and for the cover.
Jeniffer: I think it’s critical that an author does bring in someone to help them step away from the book. Writing back cover copy is such an art form. Typically, authors will come to us with back cover copy that’s just not enticing. We typically turn it upside down, shorten it by a third. They need that perspective to help them write that copy in the best way.
Even endorsements, when authors bring us endorsements, they’ll give this maybe they have 5 for the book and they want to put 3 blurbs on the back, or they’ll tell me, “I want to put all 5 of these,” and each one of these is a paragraph long on the back cover. I’m like, “Okay, that’s not going to entice anyone because it’s too much to read through. We need blurbs. We need sound bites. Something that jumps off the page and says, yeah. What’s in it for me? Why should I read this book?” For an author to cut down an endorsement is really difficult because they’ve got this beautifully long well written endorsement, but from the reader’s perspective it’s just too much.
You’re absolutely right. You can’t go it alone. Writing a book is a lot of work.
Derek: I think of it kind of like as a movie trailer. I heard this great quote from Will Smith. He went out to Hollywood but after a period of time he said, “I realize that we don’t sell movies, we sell trailers.” If the trailer can persuade somebody to buy the ticket, then even if they hate the movie they’ve still bought the ticket. That’s really akin, I think, to the packaging for a book, because you can get all the … Maybe you could get the trailers, you could get the reviews, rotten tomatoes, and this that and the other, but to actually buy the ticket, and sit down and spend the 2 hours to watch the movie there’s not really a way to get around that. Same thing for a book, there’s no way to get around sitting down and reading through the whole thing. Whenever they’re doing a movie trailer, they don’t give you the whole review from the Rolling Stones or from Siskel and Ebert.
Jeniffer: They give it 3 words.
Derek: Two thumbs up.
Jeniffer: [Life changing 00:12:28]. Yeah, exactly.
Although, I sort of disagree with that in away. I think that’s the beginning, and that’s how we get a book out into the world and we get people interested, but then it’s word of mouth. I think word of mouth is really what sells books. I read a book because someone told me to read it, because they loved it. The same is true for the book, which is why we need editors and writing coaches. We need to figure out what our message is and make sure it’s really clear. There’s so many important elements.
Sometimes people say to me, “What do you think is the most important thing to concentrate on with your book?” I would say, “The book cover,” because that’s what’s going to draw people in just like you said. Then there’s the editing, and there’s the content and there’s everything. Every piece of a book is so critical. If it’s well done then it will find its audience.
Jeniffer: Then there’s also timing, the amount of the time. Did you hear about that story, there was a guy lost at sea for 400 days? He was Mexican. He was out fishing and he got caught in a storm and he lost his engines. He had someone with him, and the other guy died. It’s an incredible story. This journalist had also written the book about the miners that were trapped in the mine.
Derek: In Chile?
Jeniffer: In Chile, yeah. He writes these amazing stories. His book was released at the same time when something massive was happening in the media, and I forget what it was. It just killed any attention he would have gotten to his book. Sometimes timing can just be the thing that ruins your book no matter how good it is.
It’s really a gamble writing a book. It’s a lot of work and you just never know what’s going to happen with it. By the same token, if you do it well, your chances are must better, and if you have that whole platform and it’s more than just your book, like you were saying earlier, then it’s your credibility. It makes you an authority on a subject. It’s a glorified business card in a lot of ways.
Derek: Actually that’s a perfect segue into what I was going to ask you next, which is to say an author either has a book or is in the middle of writing a book, what are the basic steps that you see successful authors take to create that whole platform around their book?
Jeniffer: Okay, so we’re talking about someone who’s already written a book and they just want to create a platform to get visibility? I’m assuming that’s your question.
Derek: Yeah, let’s go with that scenario.
Jeniffer: Okay. The first thing we do is we look and see what they’ve done for their platform as of now. Typically you don’t start from zero if you’re a thought leader in a particular area and you do have some sort of a following. I have seen people who maybe they’re doctors and they want to go in a different direction and they’re starting from scratch. The first thing we do is we look at their budget. How much money do they have? How much time do they have and what’s their emotional budget? By emotional budget, I mean, are you willing to blog. Are you willing to write articles? Are you willing to do video? Do you like to have your photographs taken? What is comfortable for you? We don’t want to create a brand and a plan around something that’s really uncomfortable and you’re going to hate doing.
Derek: That drains the life out of them. I love that.
Derek: What’s your emotional budget?
Jeniffer: It’s your emotional budget.
Derek: I love that Jeniffer.
Jeniffer: Hopefully, the emotional budget does allow for all those things because writing, blogging, and being top of mind with your audience is critical. Maybe social, are you on social? Then we have to find out where their particular audience is. Are they on Facebook, or Twitter, or LinkedIn, or Instagram, or Snapchat or Periscope? It really depends on where their audience is, and then are they comfortable being in that environment.
One of the first things I do with all of my branding clients is I start setting up spreadsheets to figure out who your supporters are. There’s 3 pieces to your supporters. There’s the person who thinks you’re amazing, who loves everything you do. We need that person because sometimes as authors it’s hard. There’s so much self-doubt involved with-
Derek: Yeah, we’d love everybody to be that way. I’d love for my wife to be like that.
Jeniffer: She might be in the second category of supporters, which is the person keeps you honest and holds you accountable and makes you better.
Derek: That would be her.
Jeniffer: Then I say good for her, because we all need that person. We have to know who they are. Do you call the person that’s going to tell you how great you are, because that’s what you need to hear? Are you ready to take it to the next level and really analyze it and make it better? The third piece are the thought leaders in your industry, the people who are already movers and shakers, who already have the audience that you are seeking.
I think really big. I dream big when it comes to this kind of thing. It can be anyone. Keep this spreadsheet of people that … Wouldn’t it be amazing if I had a relationship with this person, and how do I do that. First of all you’re sort of stalking them. You follow them on social. You subscribe to their blog. You watch their video podcast. You watch what they do, and then you see how people are interacting with them, and commenting, and sharing and engaging with them on social. Then you take notes.
All this along the way is helping you set up a plan so that you know from your own emotional budget, and your time budget, or maybe you have someone you could hire to help you, so your financial budget, you know how to get to that place. I look at it as we’re drawing our own line. As we’re walking that line we’re going to waver a little bit, but those spreadsheets help us stay on target and help us reach those goals. Of course, sometimes it’s going to change a little bit. It has to be fluid, but by the same token it gives you a plan, and it’s research. Why is this person so successful in this arena and how can I also be successful, or I think I can do it better and here’s how.
Derek: I really like that. It’s really working backwards. Most of the things that I read about author marketing, and book marketing it’s really had to get from point A to point B. Your approach is really about identifying where point B is and then working your way back to point A.
Jeniffer: Yeah. I would even call it point Z, because it’s a long road. The first thing I do with my authors is we put together 1, 3 and 5 year goals. The 5 year goal is, “Where do I really want to be? What do I have to change or improve to get there? What kind of visibility do I need? What visibility is actually going to help me, and not just in selling book but becoming a thought leader in my own right?” That’s the hardest part. It’s very difficult for us to admit that I want to be famous. I want to be a bestseller. I want to effect change. Whatever it is we have to be really honest with ourselves if we want to get there. That’s kind of like an uncomfortable but fun part of the journey. It’s cool.
Derek: It’s neat that you find that too. I found most of my authors they have a real problem with showing the world how impressive they are.
Jeniffer: Right, yeah.
Derek: Things that I wish I could be whenever I grow up. Uncomfortable is the word. They don’t really like to bring attention to themselves.
Derek: If you’re selling, like you said, if the product is yourself then you have to get comfortable with putting your best foot forward with that product. If that’s your accomplishments and the things that you’ve done that’s what’s got to be……
Jeniffer: Yeah, absolutely. Sometimes we determine we really are just selling a book. That’s a lot harder. Selling one book is very difficult. Selling a series is a little easier. I think of every author whom I love, I read every one of their books. I seek them out. I want to know more about them. I want to know where they are. I want to go to their book signings. I get excited about the author, because the book is just a small piece of it. If that author never wrote anything again I would automatically forget about them. They’d fall off my radar because I would move on to other books and other authors.
Derek: That’s a good point. Versus pre-ordering their book on Amazon if it’s-
Jeniffer: Exactly, because I’m on their newsletter, and I know it’s coming out, and I’m excited, and I know they’re doing a book tour. Yeah, absolutely.
Derek: Yeah, right. I’ve got 3 or 4 authors right now I’ve pre-ordered their book. I don’t think George R. R. Martin’s next Game of Thrones book I don’t think it’s available for pre-order yet, but I would pay $100 to have the privilege of knowing whenever it was going to come out.
Jeniffer: Oh, totally. Oh yeah.
Derek: It’s like buying the hardcover, yeah.
Jeniffer: You are not alone. Absolutely. Same with Harry Potter.
A lot of times I’ll tell my authors when their writing their first book, “Saying the expectation is really important.” My belief is that your third book sells your first book, if you’re doing it right. If you building that platform, and you’re starting to get your following, and you’re really engaging with your audience, by the time your third book is out you’ve had 2 opportunities to promote and draw people in who are sharing the message, telling other people about your work. The whole word of mouth. By the time that third book comes out then there’s people … You have a tribe really, a tribe of people who are trying to make it bigger and share the love and tell their friends. That first book can be tough. It can be a little challenge. That’s not to say it wouldn’t be wildly successful. Not every book is wildly successful, in fact very few are.
Derek: That’s why plenty of authors they write a couple of other books before you get around to … Most of the business authors that I’m fans of … Dan Kennedy, a copy-writing legend. I’ve picked up one of his books, I don’t know, it was his 21st book or something, and then I went back and bought the other ones leading up to that.
Jeniffer: Right, which is pretty exciting when you realize, “Oh, there’s more.”
Jeniffer: Yay. When you get the end of a really great book you’re like, “Dang it, I want more.” Yeah, you have to give them more.
Think about traditional publishers when they’re looking for a first time author, one of the first things they ask is, “Well, how many more books do you have in you?” If the answer is zero or very low, unless you’re famous, obviously, already but then that’s a platform. That’s what they’re looking for is longevity and how salable are you.
Derek: Yeah. Going back to our conversation on movie trailers, talk to me about book trailers.
Jeniffer: Okay. We’ve been producing book trailers for many years. I love book trailers because we respond to video. As a culture we really respond to video, but it has to be done right. There’s a couple things that an audience is looking for and there’s a couple mistakes that authors make. If you’re trying to make a book trailer that looks like a movie trailer you’re typically going to fail, because you don’t have the budget of a movie trailer. A movie trailer is slick, and impressive, and there’s actual actors, it’s well done. For an author to try and put together a budget and recreate something like that, the chances of it being successful are pretty slim.
We try and go for very short, 30, 45 seconds tops. Honestly, 30 to 35 seconds is kind of the sweet spot of the attention that people will have. I find that the most successful book trailers are an interview with the author, talking about why they’re passionate about it. Trying to tell what the book is about in a trailer is more difficult. With young adult and children’s books is a little easier, because we have illustrations to work with that we can animate digitally. For business books we really want to hear from the author, or maybe from people who have learned something from the book, so like a man on the street type of a thing that can be put into a book trailer.
One of the best book trailers I saw was where an author … I forget her name … She’s a comedian, went into the bookstore and found her book, and she was walking along and facing all of her books out, and moving them around the store. The employees of the store were like, “What is this woman doing?” They’re following her around fixing it, and she’d go back. It was hysterical. It made me really want to read the book because she’s so funny. That didn’t say anything about what the book was about, but it was effective because it gave me a peek into her personality and an idea of what I’m going to get out of that book.
Derek: That’s a great sideways look into it. I think that’s what so many people try to do with a cover of the book or the title; this is what the book is about, this is what you will find in the book, these are the benefits versus teasing you to want to read it. Not spoon feeding but just wetting your appetite enough.
Jeniffer: Exactly, exactly. I think you nailed it. It’s such a short amount of time. If it’s funny, if it pulls at our heart strings, if there’s something about it that’s pulling in we’re going to share that video. If it’s not, if we feel like we’re being sold to … We’re sold to so much in social media, and on the internet, everywhere we go. If we feel like it’s something that made us laugh, or that we can relate to in any way we’re going to share it. That’s the only way that a book trailer is actually successful is if people start sharing it.
Derek: Yeah. I would love to go find that video just to put it on my social media.
Jeniffer: I’ll send you the link. I’ll send you the link and you can share it with your audience. It’s great.
There were a couple. There was another one where the author … Another famous person, and this works if they’re famous too … Goes into the publisher’s office and they were telling him how awful he was and how he’d never get a book deal. It was really funny. I’ll have to find that one. That one is pretty old. I may not be able to find that one, but I’ll definitely find the one of the comedian.
Earlier you said something and I’d to comment on it. You talked about self-publishing. I have a movement I’m trying to change … We call it “independent publishing.” We have indie-music, indie-movies and indie-books. I feel like self-publishing still has-
Derek: A stigma, yeah.
Jeniffer: Yeah, yeah. People don’t want to be self-published. Independently published sounds kind of cool. It’s my mission to change that so that we now call it “indie-publishing.” Hopefully you’ll join me.
Derek: I will join your movement, Miss Thompson. I will try to lead with indie-publishing and then clarify with self-publishing.
Jeniffer: Or you could tell the story that we’re not self-publishers, we’re independent publishers.
Derek: Let’s pursue this for a second. What is the substantial difference between a self-publisher versus an indie-publisher?
Jeniffer: Honestly, just that it sounds cool. Think about it, indie-music is cool. It’s someone out there who’s professional, creating great music. They’re doing it on their own. They have their own label. When that started to happen … The music industry I think really mirrors the publishing industry in a lot of ways, so why wouldn’t we also be indie-authors.
Derek: Indie-authors, yeah.
Jeniffer: Yeah. Indie-movies as well, same thing. There’s so many indie-movies out there. When you hear about it you almost … There’s people that will follow indie-music and indie-movies exclusively because they want that kind of rawness. It’s not your typical Hollywood. It’s not your typical big 5 traditional publishing. You’re going to get something a little more real. I think just from the perspective of the way it sounds, is helpful for us authors to sort create our own niche and start our own following.
Derek: Jeniffer, I will throw this into the mix; I think there could be … I don’t know how you’d define it … a substantial difference between self-publishing and indie-publishing, because self-publishing can include not just authors who are doing it themselves, like you’re describing it, but also authors who have gone the vanity press route. That’s a term that we don’t hear too often anymore because they’ve thrown away that stigma and they’ve embraced the self-publishing idea.
Jeniffer: Right, yeah.
Derek: There are plenty of places out there that … Some of them reputable, some of them –
Jeniffer: Not so much.
Derek: Yeah. Their business model is based on getting as much money out of those authors as they can, and so they’ll charge $1000 for something that the market would probably charge $100 for. They will start with something small and do the bait and switch. They’ve embraced this idea of self-publishing because it has less of the stigma then vanity press. That’s not really the indie-authors that you’re talking about.
Jeniffer: I would agree with that. There’s still plenty of companies out there unfortunately that are taking money from authors. It’s a bummer. Then you’ve got the hybrid presses too that I think can be good, where it’s a partnership.
Jeniffer: Balboa Press is one of those that I’m not a fan of. They are owned by Hay House. I think them as the vanity press. Every author I’ve seen has spent so much money, got a cover that no thought was put into. The distribution wasn’t working. They couldn’t get their book ordered. I think of it as very vanity, just mostly because of all the money you have to spend, that you’re trusting someone that they’re going to take good care of you and then they don’t When you do it yourself you have to have so many vendors … For a lot people that’s just too much, it was just too much work.
I do a lot of work with people who want to independently publish. With print on demand you do the self-publishing through Amazon, Create Space, Ingram, Ingram Spark. I think those are fantastic options, because first of all Create Space is free until you actually order a book. Of course, you have to have it produced, so then you can pay them to produce it, or you can hire someone to produce it, or you can do it yourself. You can format your own word document and upload it, and you have an interior. It’s not as great, but it’s certainly a way to do it. It depends on what your goals are too. If you really want to be taken seriously and you really want to sell books then you have to hire a professional to help you make it great and to help you see past that sacred cow we talked about earlier.
If you just want to get your book out there then I think it’s a fantastic option. If you just want to see what happens or if you just want to give it to friends and family, then it’s a great option. It’s inexpensive and the quality is getting much better with print on demand.
Derek: Let’s talk about that too for a second. Talk about print on demand, which is … It’s an amazing time I think to be an author. I know publishing had this huge paradigmatic shift and almost imploded, and publishers are bemoaning the shifts in the industry, which is all true. For authors it’s a wonderful time, because there are so many options. Let’s talk about whenever you actually have your book designed and you’re getting ready to put it out into the world. You work with print on demand, which is like you say, you just upload the files to Amazon, and then Amazon prints one book. A reader goes to Amazon, they order a book, Amazon swipes their credit card, takes their money, and then goes and prints just that one book.
Jeniffer: That’s right.
Derek: It really blows my mind.
Jeniffer: I know it’s amazing.
Derek: Just one book.
Derek: The cost to Amazon is $3 or something. It’s mind blowing. You also work with offset printers. Educate us about what it’s like to work with that process and the difference between going to just any printer versus somebody who actually specializes in printing books.
Jeniffer: Okay. There’s a couple different parts to this. First of all, it depends on what your budget is. In order to print with an offset printer you typically need to print 2000 to 5000 books. You want to get that dollar amount down of what you pay per book down so that you can mark it up times 8. Let’s say you have a business book, and it’s a hard cover, maybe you can get away with charging $24.95. If it’s a trade paperback you want to get that down to maybe $9.99, which means that you can’t pay much more than $1.30 a book, $1.26 a book, because if you multiply it times 8, which is typically the model to make your money back.
With offset presses your printing 5000 and you’re getting a distributor. We work well in advance, typically about 9 months in advance of trying to find a distributor. A distributor is different from a wholesale distributor. If I start to lose you please let me know. The distributor will actually go out … Here’s a good example. I have an author who has a book called, Sweets in the Raw. It’s a raw healthy cookbook, and it’s just a gorgeous book. I sent that out to 5 distributors, and they were so interested because it’s such a hot topic. What I was looking for was someone who already has books in whole foods, and already has relationships with the buyers of whole foods and those types of places; Barney’s and such.
Derek: By health foods are you talking about the grocery store or-
Jeniffer: The grocery store.
Jeniffer: Yeah, because the best place to sell that particular book is going to be whole foods, not Barnes and Noble. I found out whom would you work with in terms of buyers. What’s the schedule? Does this book meet your standards? Is the price point right? It did, and so we got picked up by a distributor. She’s doing the traditional route in terms of how we’re handling sales of that book. She’s doing relationships with Vitamix, and Superfoods that sell the Yacon Syrup. She’s got all these relationships in marketing, which makes her more viable to a distributor, which makes it more likely to be picked up by whole fools, which was our end goal.
Now, let’s say we have a business book and their audience is really people who take their seminars, or see them speak, and it’s really a credibility builder. They don’t really plan on that book being sold in airports. Although what business book wouldn’t want to be in an airport. Then we say, “Okay, well what’s our goal?” When we’re designing the cover we really look at where it’s going to be sold and who the audience is. If we want it in the airports then we want that distribution model. We want to make sure we work with a distributor who does in fact have relationships with buyers in airports. We have to get the price point down to $1.26 a book so we can have the price point, because a distributor will not take on a book that’s too expensive.
Now print on demand. These are books that printed, like you said, 1 at a time, but the price point is going to be a lot higher because you’d typically pay about $3.30 to $5 a book for print on demand, so you’re not really going to make very much money in the distribution model. We do 2 things with our print on demand authors. We put them into Create Space, which is Amazon and Ingram Spark. Ingram is the big wholesale distributor. The reason we do that is because you want your book to show always available on Amazon, and if Amazon has to order an on demand book then it shows it’s out of stock. That’s the only reason we use Create Space.
My book buyers … Just in my neighborhood this is what I’ll do a lot of times, I’ll have my book buyer look on Ingram to see how the book is listed, and then they tell me, “Oh, I would never buy this book. They only get 30% off and it’s shipping from so far away. It’s too expensive. It’s not worth it for me.” With the Create Space Amazon title it shows as a Create Space Amazon title in Ingram. Most book buyers won’t buy a self-published book. If we do it through Ingram Spark it’s listed as whatever your publishing company is.
My publishing in print is MCM Publishing, so they think they’re ordering from MCM Publishing. We have to lose money sometimes on these titles, or barely break even with the print on demand title, because if the price is too high they’re not going to buy it. We typically will make it 55% off for those wholesale orders from book buyers. I say reseller buyers. The chances of it getting put into Barnes & Noble aren’t very good because there’s not someone talking to actual buyers. The customer has to call the store and say, “Hey, will you order this book for me.” It’s not going to be everywhere. The distribution is really the crux of self-publishing but then it comes back to the fact of do you have enough money to invest in 5000 books.
For a lot of speakers I think print on demand is a great option. Again, it’s back to the rooms’ sales, and selling on your own website, and having the credibility, so why invest $20,000 when you can invest less and still get the same effect based on what your goals are.
Derek: Or take that same $20,000 to put towards the marketing, put towards a book trailer, towards promotion.
Jeniffer: Yeah, absolutely. That’s usually about what authors need to spend is about $20,000 or 40 depending on what their goals are, again. $20,000 is usually about a minimum if you want a good editor, a good cover, some marketing, which you really need to have, a good website.
Derek: Well Jeniffer, I could ask you questions about all of those topics but we’re running to the end, so I will put you on the spot and ask you if I can interview you again at some point.
Jeniffer: Oh yeah. I would love to. Absolutely, that would be fabulous. I love talking to you Derek. I think that what you do great. You’re such a fabulous service to authors. I’m honored to be here. Thank you.
Derek: I appreciate that, Jeniffer.
Derek: In case anybody’s wondering, no, we did not plan that.
Jeniffer: I was not paid to say that. I truly believe this, yeah.
Derek: I am Jeniffer Thompson and I approve this message.
Let me ask you the 3 questions that I like to try to wrap up an interview with. What is a great business book that you’ve read recently?
Jeniffer: Okay. I don’t read very many business books, first of all. I think in the last 5 years the one-
Jeniffer: I know, I know. This is going to change though. I’ve recently been inspired. I can talk more about that in the future. Rework from the founders of 37 Signals.
Derek: I love Rework.
Jeniffer: Have you read that book?
Derek: I love it. In fact, I’ve got it sitting right here.
Jeniffer: Oh, good. Yeah, it’s a great inspiration too. I love that cover. They did such a good job. Sort of no nonsense, doing less, which I’m still trying to figure out how to do that myself. I always create more work for myself then I need to.
Derek: I love the fact that they went such a different route. When you pick up the book and you leaf through it and it doesn’t feel like a normal business book. You know right off the bat that this is going to be quite different.
Jeniffer: Absolutely, yeah. I think that’s really their perspective too. We use Basecamp one of their products. Have you used Basecamp?
Derek: I’ve interacted with a couple of different people who have used Basecamp.
Jeniffer: Yeah. I like it. It keeps us organized and keeps people accountable, so it’s a good program.
Derek: That’s a great business book you’ve read recently. What about one of your favorite business books?
Jeniffer: I’m going to have to say that’s my favorite because I’ve read so few.
Jeniffer: I read literary fiction mostly.
Derek: Let’s turn the question … Let’s step sideways then. What is a great book that you would recommend for our listeners, people who are thinking about or in the middle of writing a business book? Either a book maybe to help inspire them in writing, or a book to help them think about how to put their marketing strategy together.
Jeniffer: Okay. There’s a book in terms of inspiration. I’m a big fan of being inspired. Judy Reeves helps people write memoirs, but her book is great for anyone. She has a book called, “A Writer’s Book of Days.” It’s a fantastic inspirational guide. Judy Reeves, A Writer’s Book of Days.
Derek: I have never come across that. I will have to put that on the list.
Jeniffer: Yeah. Another one that talks about structure, so helping authors structure their book, having character arcs. This is maybe not so much for business, but I still think it’s important for making sure you keep people interested and engaged. It’s called, “7 Essential Writing Tools: That Will Absolutely Make Your Writing Better (and Enliven Your Soul).” It’s by Marni Freedman.
There’s one more. There’s your book.
Derek: This was not planned either.
Jeniffer: No it wasn’t, but I read your book, I want to say was it, 2 years ago that you released your book?
Jeniffer: Awesome. I thought it was fantastic. I’m actually going to look it up right now, because I forget the title of it. Isn’t that awful. What is the title of your book?
Derek: The Business Book Bible.
Jeniffer: That’s right, The Business Book Bible. That’s so easy to remember.
I think those are 3 books for anyone who’s looking to write their own book, who wants to be inspired from just keeping the pen moving, to organizing it, and then to really putting that into practice for an actual business book.
Derek: Awesome. I haven’t come across the first two. I will absolutely put those on my list. The third one I’ve heard good things about. I’ll have to go check them out, see if he’s legit.
Jeniffer: See if he knows what he’s doing. It’s got a great cover too.
Derek: Jeniffer, again, there are so many other things that I could ask you but this is one of those times where we’re just going to have to leave them wanting more, right?
Jeniffer: That’s right. That’s right. It’s good. I like leaving it like this because we know we can come back again.
Derek: Always. Awesome. All right, thank you so much Jeniffer. I really appreciate your time today and being so candid, so transparent about giving people a look at … You read a business book and you see what’s there but the whole purpose of this show is to help people see what goes on behind that business book. What did it take to bring it to the point that the reader … It actually comes to the reader’s attention. The more that I dig into business books, and especially business book success stories, the more I realize just how much work it takes to really get a great book out there. It’s not just doing good writing. There’s a lot of planning and strategy and a lot of effort.
I love emotional budget. I’m going to start using that. I’ll give you credit.
Jeniffer: Well, I appreciate it. Thank you very much, Derek. Have a great rest of your day, and I look forward to coming back.
Derek: You will, all right. Thank you Jeniffer.
Jeniffer: All right.