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Overcoming Pitfalls in Self-Publishing

Taylor Your Distribution Method to Your Audience
by Jef Bartow

If you authors are like me, it is exhilarating to actually receive your work back as a published book. The sense of accomplishment will put you on a high for at least a few days. Unfortunately, one truism in publishing is that getting your book written and published is 20% of the effort while 80% of the effort is getting it to market successfully. As we have been consistently discussing, a very key factor is knowing who your target audience is and how to get to them effectively with your book.

Assuming that you know your target audience, a key evaluation is determining where they will go to look for a book like yours. It also includes what will make them decide positively to buy your book and not others. For general book publishing, there are myriads of ways that individuals and groups get information about what your book conveys. A few these include bookstores, the Internet, gift stores, libraries, associations, television and radio shows, friends and neighbors, other books, catalogs, grocery stores, other retail stores, etc., etc., etc. 

Like most products going to market, specific book distributors make their money by buying from book publishers and effectively getting these books into those stores and locations were target customers go to shop. Traditionally, these book distributors take 15% of the retail price for each book as their fee. With most large chain bookstores, books are on consignment to the retail locations and if not sold are returned through the distributor to the book publisher. As a self published author, it is your decision on which and how many distributors to use. For books on spirituality and metaphysics, the reality is that one distributor, New Leaf Distributing, supplies 80% of the market. Regarding books on religion, DeVorss & Co. is a key player. New Leaf Distributing does not do consignment to bookstores. So once a bookstore buys your book, you get your royalty.

For a distributor to take your book, you must demonstrate why it is in their best interest and what you're going to do to market the book yourself. So even in picking a distributor, you must become a marketeer. Fortunately, most distributors have various programs that you can pay for to better promote your book. Examples include catalogs, flyers, magazines and trade shows which contact thousands of target retailers and consumers.

For myself who writes and self-publishes books on spirituality and metaphysics, I learned through experience that the sharpshooter approach is better than the shotgun approach. Getting in with the large nonspecific book distributors yielded no results. Focusing on New Leaf Distributing became a successful distribution channel.

Another key principle in marketing needs to become your overriding focus for success. Successful marketing is making a consistent series of multiple contacts, or touches, with your target audience. This means that when you choose to advertise, success usually come with a series of ads over a period of time. Utilizing a one-time program may work, but it needs to be part of an overall strategy that touches your target audience over and over again.

It is exactly on this principle that I chose (with my wife's generous donation of time and effort) to develop a database of metaphysical bookstores throughout the country. Then, with a sophisticated printer, we created postcards and brochures to send directly to these bookstores over a period of time. These multiple touches were to reinforce the contacts that New Leaf Distributing was already making. We have now also begun developing a national e-mail list of churches and centers that we can further get the message out to about our books.

Images on this page provided by Two Moon Artistry

The Internet has become a powerful marketing tool for most businesses. There are various ways to take advantage of it depending on your available budget and time. is determined to become the largest retailer in the world. Besides just marketing your book through, their “look inside” program and sophisticated cross-referencing of consumer trends and purchases would seem to be an ideal way of getting to many target audiences. Unfortunately for us, it seems that the metaphysical book audience still prefers the brick-and-mortar metaphysical bookstores to the Internet.

To conclude, our next pitfall in self-publishing relates to choosing the right distribution channel for your book. Much time and money can be wasted by not having the right strategy or just using the shotgun approach. We need to become the sharpshooter with a tailored ongoing program that touches our audience over and over again regarding the benefits of reading our book.