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Publishing On Serial Platforms, Finding A Cover Designer, And More Questions Answered By Michael La Ronn And Sacha Black In Our Member Q&A Podcast

Publishing on Serial Platforms, Finding a Cover Designer, and More Questions Answered by Michael La Ronn and Sacha Black in our Member Q&A Podcast

In this month's AskALLi Member Q&A with Michael La Ronn and Sacha Black: does publishing work on serial platforms like Wattpad make it “previously published?”

Other questions include:

  • What do I do if Amazon terminates my account?
  • Where to find the best cover designer?
  • What is the best way to create a box set?

And more!

Our Members Q&A Podcast is brought to you by specialist sponsor Kobo Writing Life, a global, independent ebook and audiobook publishing platform that empowers authors with a quick and easy publishing process and unique promotional opportunities. To reach a wide audience, create your account today! We'd like to thank Kobo for their support of this podcast.

Find more author advice, tips, and tools at our self-publishing advice center. And, if you haven’t already, we invite you to join our organization and become a self-publishing ally. You can do that at allianceindependentauthors.org.

Now, go write and publish!

Listen to the Podcast: Serial Platforms and More

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Watch the Video: Serial Platforms and More

In this month's #AskALLi Member Q&A with @MichaelLaRonn and @sacha_black: publishing on serial platforms and finding a cover designer. Share on X

Show Notes

About the Hosts

Michael La Ronn is ALLi’s Outreach Manager. He is the author of over 80 science fiction & fantasy books and self-help books for writers. He writes from the great plains of Iowa and has managed to write while raising a family, working a full-time job, and even attending law school classes in the evenings (now graduated!). You can find his fiction at www.michaellaronn.com and his videos and books for writers at www.authorlevelup.com.

Sacha Black is a bestselling and competition winning author, rebel podcaster, speaker and casual rule breaker. She writes fiction under a secret pen name and other books about the art of writing. When Sacha isn't writing, she runs ALLi's blog. She lives in England, with her wife and genius, giant of a son. You can find her on her website, her podcast, and on Instagram.

Read the Transcripts: Serial Platforms and More

Michael La Ronn: Hello and welcome to the Self-Publishing Advice and Inspirations podcast. The podcast where we answer your most burning self-publishing questions. I'm Michael La Ronn, and I’m joined by Sacha Black. How are you, Sacha?

Sacha Black: Hello, I am chaotic. If I'm honest, I'm utterly chaotic at the moment. Everything, you know when you just have weeks and it's just like the universe just flings stuff at you? That's what this week is. So, I feel very fractured, but apart from that, I'm delightfully positive and I'm feeling very good about everything.

So, yeah, how are you? How is your health? How are you feeling? Are you back to wording and all the rest of it?

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, I'm feeling much better, thank you for asking. Yes, I had a little health incident last month and things are better, so I'm feeling better now, and like I said, just had to take some time and just relax for a little bit and kind of just prioritize my health. So, I'm glad to be back.

Sacha Black: I'm glad you're back.

Michael La Ronn: And I hope that your week is a little bit better, all the chaos happens.

Sacha Black: When's the weekend again?

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, we're only on Tuesday, unfortunately. Well, at least by the time people listen to this, it'll be Friday.

Sacha Black: Yeah. So, I'll have survived. Hi, future me.

Michael La Ronn: Everybody will send positive vibes your way. Yes indeed.

Sacha Black: Oh dear, yeah. So, what have we got today?

How do I create a box set, and then how can I sell it in China?

Michael La Ronn: Well, we have a lot of questions, and the first question is from Leonid, and Leonid says, I'm an Amazon publisher, I would like to create a box set, eight children's books in this box set, and I just want to know what the best way is to do this.

First off, how to do a box set, and then do we have any thoughts on how to sell this box set in China?

Sacha Black: To sell it in China?

Michael La Ronn: Yeah.

Sacha Black: Right, okay. Well, I mean, I'm not sure about selling in China unless you are located in China. I know that one of our members is located in China, but I don't think their market is China. This is somebody who writes children's books. Do they mean print it in China?

Michael La Ronn: Well, it didn't say, I think it just says, put together a box set, and they reference KDP.

Sacha Black: Okay. Well, digital box sets are nice and easy because you can just use your normal formatting software and you can compile them together. With Vellum, for example, you just literally drag and drop other files in, and it will compile the whole thing. So, you can, if you've already formatted the other books, then it's a two-minute job to create a box set, and change the front and back matter, and take out the middle bits of back matter in the books.

In terms of physical box sets, that is harder unless you are going to include all of the books in one physical bound copy. If you're going to bind them all together, that's decidedly easier because you just create the formatted file, like one book after the other, and then you adjust the spine width and you get a cover designed with the right spine width for all of the books.

If you are wanting a literal box in which the books slide into, I don't actually have experience with that, but I do know that some of the printers will do it. I don't believe Ingram Spark will, but if you go to some of the more niche printers and distributors, then you may find that they can do one-off runs for you. So, for example, Book Vault, I'm pretty sure I remember seeing, because I went and toured the venue, I'm pretty sure I remember seeing them do a box in which a hardback slides in and out of. So, you could look at that.

Then in terms of distributing into China, I would go one of two ways. I would either look at a foreign translation agent, and if you can get some kind of Chinese publishing house to look at potentially purchasing sub-rights for Chinese translations, or even English language, but with a distribution into China, and if you really want to stay indie, then you could look at PublishDrive, because I know that they do have access to Chinese retailers and the Chinese market, or the Asian market in general.

But what I would say is, with PublishDrive in particular, is that they focus on, even though they do print books, they focus on eBooks really with indies because that's the market that we can sell to the easiest.

So, I don't know if you want to add anything to that?

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, no, you answered it pretty well. I was just going to reference PublishDrive and also that if you're going to go into China, you just have to know the market. It's a different book market than anywhere else, and there's also, everything there has to be approved by the government. So, you really have to make sure that if you're going to go into China, that your books are going to be approved there, and I've heard that the approval process can be lengthy, so something to keep in mind.

Sacha Black: Yeah, and I know that they are somewhat conservative as well, because my agent can't sell some of my LGBT books there. My point is, you do need to know the market and what will sell there.

Michael La Ronn: Absolutely, and that's going to require a lot of research. So, getting into China just to get into China, there's probably other more effective ways you can sell your book, but if you're getting into China because that's your target market, then different story, you've just got to make sure you do your research, and an offset printer can help you with some of the unique things if you really need to go that route.

Sacha Black: Yeah, absolutely.

Can ALLi help to reopen my terminated Amazon KDP account?

Michael La Ronn: Okay, all right. Next question is regarding a KDP ban. So, we get these questions from time to time, and the question is that KDP said my print version of my book violated the metadata rules and removed it, but the Kindle version was fine. I emailed them asking what was wrong so I could fix it, I received an email a couple of hours later, and they had terminated my account. Only after that did they say that the cover was misleading. I've emailed them and emailed them, and they won't reinstate my account. What can I do?

Well, certainly first, I just have to empathize with the situation. I mean, that's the email that I think, Sacha, you and I can agree, nobody wants to get in their email inbox.

Sacha Black: Yeah. Dread it.

Michael La Ronn: I think we've all had nightmares about that. So, if you are struggling to get an answer from KDP, and you've tried every avenue, you can certainly write to us in confidence. You can go to our contact form. If you're an ALLi member, go to our contact form and fill it out, and we would be happy to try to glean some of the details and see if there's anything we can do from a KDP perspective. That's another, benefit to ALLi membership, is that we try to advocate for our members in those situations.

Sacha Black: Yeah, absolutely, and just be persistent as well.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, persistent, and make sure that you read the terms of service, see if there's any other avenues that you can follow, and we will certainly keep our fingers crossed for you.

Sacha Black: Yeah, absolutely. I think we missed one just above.

Where do I put the barcode on my book cover?

Michael La Ronn: Did we? Oh yeah, Ingram Spark. So, I just got a little scroll happy today. So, okay. The next question is from member, Lee, and the question is, I'm preparing to submit to IngramSpark, and I have a jacketed case laminate cover. It's a hardback. It will have the jacket cover on the hard side and a few other details, and I have the barcode on the outside jacket. Do I publish the barcode on the inside cover as well?

Sacha Black: So, the first thing to say is that I don't do anything with barcodes, because IngramSpark and Amazon will both print the barcodes for you. So, you don't need to worry too much about that, if you don't want to worry about it.

The second thing to say is I can actually double check, because I have a hardback right here and it is printed on the jacket, and it is also printed on the case laminate, but that was not put there by my designer, that was put there by IngramSpark.

So, I download the correct spine size and correct dimension templates, hand them to the designer, the designer leaves a space for the barcodes, and then I upload those templates to either IngramSpark or KDP, and then KDP print the barcode and ISBN and everything onto that. So, I don't worry about that. But what I will say is yes, it is on both my jacket and the case, if that helps.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, that is helpful. I've never messed with barcode, in all the hundred books that I've published. So, you don't need to. It's never come up, not one time. So, like you said, I mean, you just leave a space for it on the template and there you go. So, let that be your guide.

How can I learn more about cover design and choose the best cover designer for my book?

Michael La Ronn: All right, next question is from James, and James asked, how can I learn about cover design, and how do I pick the best cover designer for me?

Sacha Black: Two very different questions. So, in terms of how to learn about cover design and what your cover should look like, I'm assuming that's what they mean. The first thing that I would do is study the market. We've got a great article by one of our partner members from this last year on what's working in 2022 on cover design, so we can link to that in the show notes.

But the other thing that I would say is, I mean, the way that I learn about cover design is by studying the market. So, I go onto Kobo, I go onto Apple, I go onto Amazon, and I look at the best-selling books in my genre and my sub niche within that genre, and then I analyse the similarities and differences in all of those covers. So, what's the tone? Are there characters on the cover or are they object-based covers? Are they photo manipulation? Are they illustrations? Are they bright colours? Are they dark colours? Are the fonts similar? Are they swirly whirly or are they nice and clean? Are they square fonts? Are they rounded fonts?

And I look at all of those elements of the cover, like every single element on the cover, I look at the similarities and the differences, and then I build a brief for my designer based on that, and I will often download covers and put them into the brief to say, look, these are the 10 covers that I want to emulate, but here's what I want on my cover, and here are all the parameters and all of the similarities that I want to follow.

Then in terms of how to find the right designer for you, I would say the best thing to do is to look at their portfolios. So, any designer worth their salt will have either a website or some kind of social media platform where they are displaying their previous designs. Have a look, look at the pricing, because often pricing is a barrier to using a cover designer anyway.

So, if you find some designers who are within your price range, then have a look at, are they able to create designs that are similar to the ones in your genre. You can have a look in the covers of indie books and have a look on sort of the copyright pages around there, because often they will list the designer, and then you can go looking for that designer's website or socials. But yeah, have a look and see what they have done previously and whether or not you feel that they would match the style that you're after.

Then, of course, we have the ALLi partner database, which is the first place, when you are ready to look for a designer, that's the first place we would recommend you go because all of the partners have been vetted through a really rigorous process. So, they go onto our approved list of trusted designers. So, I would go and look at that. That's in allianceindependentauthors.org. That's the ALLi member website. Log in, go to services or approved services, I think the title is, and then you can go and search by different the service that you're after.

And of course, last but by no means least, make sure you have a look to see if there are any discounts and deals, because quite often our providers will do a discount if you are an ALLi member. So, that's in the same member's website.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, super. That was great. There's a couple things I would add. The one thing about finding cover designers is a lot of people say, how do I find a cover designer? The question is, which I think you said really well is, look for cover designers in your genre, and when you're looking for a cover designer in your genre, you really have to be looking at other books in your genre and your subgenre, and in some cases your sub-subgenre.

So, you have to go as granular as possible when you're thinking about cover design. So, there's a big difference between finding a fantasy cover designer and an urban fantasy cover designer. So, ideally you want somebody that has designed a ton of covers in the urban fantasy subgenre, if that's what you write. You want somebody that's designed a ton of space opera covers, because otherwise you don't get that perfect fit, and the more covers they've done in your genre, the better.

Yeah, you have to do all that competitive research that that you mentioned, Sacha, and another thing that I think is really helpful is, when you do find those comparable covers, what I like to do is I like to put them all on a Pinterest board, and I like to send that to my designer along with the brief that you just mentioned, Sacha, and I like to say, design me a cover that fits on this board, and then make sure you put the draft of that cover on the board, and you can see from, like you said, all the fonts, you can see the colours, you can see kind of everything, and you can see if it works.

Sacha Black: Absolutely. Yeah, I love doing that.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, it's fun, and I'll, I guess end this with the follow up to the potential question, right? So, the question is, how do I think about cover design and how do I find the cover design designer that's best for me?

But then the question is, well, what happens when you get that designer and how do you know that designer is right for you? So, sometimes I've ordered covers from designers, and it turns out that the designer just wasn't a good fit. So, don't be afraid to tell the designer, hey, this design is not working for me, and be sure to tell them why, and when you're giving them feedback, you make sure you give them feedback using bullet points and be very specific, and break your feedback down to each element of the cover. Because what I often find is that people will say, well, this designer wasn't working for me, but it also boils down to communication styles.

So, you have to be able to communicate with your designer to tell them what you want, and that's, to me, critically important.

Sacha Black: Yeah, I think a lot of people are often afraid to provide feedback to designers, and actually the only way that you get the cover that you want is just that brutally polite honesty with a designer.

We don't have to be rude, but you know, just be polite and, convey the direction that you actually want to go in.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, I've had covers where the designer has sent me a first draft and I was like, no, this isn't it? This isn't going to work, and you have to tell them that because they want to make you happy, and sometimes I've had covers where I've had to go through two or three drafts, and the designer, it just is what it is.

But if you're getting to that point and you've got that second draft from the designer, and they've started over, and it's still not meeting your expectations, then maybe you need to find a different designer.

Or sometimes and this is what happens, actually it happens most of the time, I give my feedback to the designer and the second draft is amazing. So, there was something in that first draft that just didn't quite work and they tweaked it based on my feedback and it just, that was it.

So, it's not just about finding a designer, you have a responsibility as well to make sure that you're communicating with your designer in a way that's going to create an effective cover. So, really important.

If I publish fiction excerpts on Wattpad or similar, does it constitute published work?

Michael La Ronn: Okay. The next thing is about serial fiction, and it is a question from member, Dora. The question is, if I publish excerpts from a series on Wattpad, or Radish, or Kindle Vella, does that constitute published work? What are your experience with these sites?

So, when we reference published work, it means, can you submit that to a literary magazine or a traditional publisher?

Short answer is no.

Sacha Black: Yeah, because the way that I look at it is, well, could you publish that into KU? No, you can't, because it's out there and readers can access it in another platform.

So, yeah, published is published. If it is accessible to the general public, or even accessible behind some sort of easily opened login, then it's published. So, unless it's dramatically changed or taken down, then I would say no. You would have to take it down, but even then, first rights are gone because it's already published.

The one that's different is, if it's taken down, then you could release it into KU exclusively because obviously it's then not accessible anywhere else.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, I agree. I mean, I think the only exception is if a publisher approaches you and says, hey, we really love this thing you're doing on Wattpad or on Radish, then all bets are off, different story. But yeah, just assume it's published, unless there's, on the submission guidelines, a publisher says, or a magazine says it's okay if it's on a Wattpad, which I don't think I've ever seen. I don't think I've ever seen that.

So, yeah, I would just assume it's published, and if there is something that you want to pursue with a publisher or a magazine, then just keep that in mind at the very beginning, and I probably would not publish that on a serial fiction platform.

How should I price my children’s paperback books?

Michael La Ronn: Okay, next question is from member, Jan. I have two children's books published on Ingram Spark. There were 10 different countries with different prices and different amounts of royalties to choose from. I chose a 40% discount, I gave myself modest profits, but I don't know if I priced the book too high. Does anyone out there have a formula for pricing children's books, paperbacks?

Sacha Black: Okay, so there's a few things here. The first thing to say is that you should check the market. Everything always comes back to the market. So, I would have a look at what other children's publishing indie authors are doing and how they are pricing their paperbacks. That's the first thing that I would say, because if you go onto Amazon, or wherever, you may find that all of the traditionally published children's books are cheaper than what is realistic for you to be able to publish, and that's often down to the fact that they are doing these very large orders and so they have economies of scale and they can therefore bring the price down of the book. So, what you want to do is be looking at what other indie authors are pricing their paperback books for. Now, I price my paperback so that I earn as close to $2 as possible per copy. The reason for that is you still need to earn something from it.

I don't think $2 is a lot, and that means that the price of the book stays as low as it can whilst also, you are not then suffering in terms of the amount that you are earning. And, of course the more you more pages your books have, the more it's going to cost to print, which means the higher you have to price the book. With children's books, that's not going to have too much of an impact because they're only going to be very short.

The other thing that I would say to do is to have a look at Karen Inglis's book. Karen is the ALLi children's publishing advisor, and she has written two books. One is with ALLi, and we have a book on, I don't quite remember the title of it, but I'm sure Michael is going to tell me in a second, and then the other one is a book that she has written herself which is called, How to Self-Publish and Market a Children's Book, and that's a second edition and it's very chunky and it's very detailed and excellent. But we also have a book that ALLi wrote with Karen, and do we have the title of that one?

Michael La Ronn: I am getting it. It's called Self-Publishing Children's Books: ALLi's Guide to Kid Lit Publishing for Authors. So, I'll put a link to that in the show notes.

Sacha Black: Perfect, thank you. So, of course, yeah, you can read that one for free as a member, you can go into the member website, allianceindependentauthors.org, and navigate your way to the publications section, and download that for free. I suspect you'll find lots and lots of guidance in there.

The last thing that I would say is that I don't give discounts as high as 40%. I give them, usually at the minimum, which is around 30% to 35%. The reason for that is because I can keep the price slightly lower of the paperback books, because obviously the higher the discount, the lower you are going to earn. So, it's kind of like a bit of meddling your way through to get a good average.

But I keep the price down at 30% to 35%, mostly because it's unusual for indies to make a huge amount of sales in paperbacks anyway, and I know children's publishing is slightly different because obviously the market that you do tend to sell a lot of children's books in paper, but anyway, I'm just explaining. I tend to keep the discount around 30% to 35% just so that I can keep the overall price down.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, I'm the opposite. I do my discounts at I think 55%. Now that I think about it, I don't necessarily have a rhyme or reason for it. It's just that, if a bookstore did want to buy the book, you would want it to be as attractive as possible. So, being able to give them that discount would potentially make some booksellers say, yeah, okay, yeah, I'm willing to take this on.

Sacha Black: Do you sell a lot of paperbacks? So, because of TikTok, I'm selling quite a lot of paperbacks at the moment. So, if I make the discount too high, I have to price the book higher in order. So, it's tricky because I'm selling paperbacks in a way that I didn't use to sell paperbacks. So, that's why I've reduced the discount so that, because the readers are buying rather than bookstores. So, I suppose it depends how your market is.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, well it depends on who's buying. So, when readers are buying your paperbacks, are they buying them on Amazon, or are they buying them on Ingram?

Sacha Black: All different places, because I'm getting lots of sales through Ingram. But isn't this interesting, right? The point is there's no right or wrong way to do this.

Michael La Ronn: There is not. The only thing that works is what works for you.

Sacha Black: And to experiment.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, because, I mean, I sell a decent amount of paperbacks. I didn't start distributing on IngramSpark until a few years ago, but yeah, I've been pretty pleasantly surprised.

Yeah, experiment. Maybe you could raise your discount, maybe I'll drop my discount.

Sacha Black: You're welcome for the extra income.

Michael La Ronn: Exactly. So, I have to figure out what I do with my price though. It's the only downside.

How do you know what works in book marketing?

Michael La Ronn: All right, so let's move on to the next question here, and the next question is from author Dan, and Dan asked us about a service. We won't comment on the particular service that was asked about, but the question is good, which is, are there any tips on understanding the effectiveness of promoting fiction?

So, how do you know what works in marketing, particularly when you are looking at a service provider?

Sacha Black: I mean, I would look at sales. I mean, it depends on what you are doing, but the metrics that I use are, how many sales am I getting, how many pre-orders am I getting for the next book, how many signups to my mailing list am I getting, what's my rank, how many reviews am I getting? Oh, and the last one then is, what is reader engagement on social media? Am I being tagged in lots of things? Am I seeing lots of reels and posts and people, posting pictures of my books and stuff?

So, some of those are more tangible, specific, numeric measurements, and some are more gut feeling type measurements, but I would use a combination of those, and I would be measuring them from the moment they start doing marketing for you, for a period of time afterwards.

I would look at, was there an increase? How did that increase correlate to the days that they did specific activities? What was it like for two to three days afterwards, because obviously all of the purchasing systems take a little bit to catch up. Do my page reads increase? Do my paperbacks increase? Am I getting invited to do more events or more, whatever?

Any metric that shows a shift in the movement of your book is a metric that you can track and make an educated judgment on whether or not what they're doing is having an impact.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, and you also want to be careful to measure what they're doing versus what you're doing, and make sure that any sales that are coming, you almost want to, if you can, try to pull out what you're doing from them. If they're doing all the marketing, you can tell if there's something that they're doing, but sometimes you can see an increase in sales, and it might not be the reason you thought it was.

Like, sometimes I'll do an ad campaign and I'll start sending more traffic to my books based on ads, but there was one time where I started an ad campaign, but I did a podcast interview right around that same time, and I thought it was the ad campaign that was contributing to the book sales. So, I was thinking, okay, great, this is awesome, but actually it wasn't, it was the podcast interview. So, setting things up with links that you can track is also, I think, pretty important. So, if they'll share some of that data with you that will also get to helping quantify some of the data that you just talked about, Sacha.

So, that's the hard part about hiring somebody to help you with marketing. I just don't know that anybody has this a hundred percent figured out, and people can't really guarantee results, and that's the hard part. Exactly.

I mean, I think it comes down to simple math, like you said, Sacha. If you have more money in your bank account at the end of the month as a result of hiring this company, you're probably doing something right, or they're doing something right. If you have less money in your bank account as a result, maybe not, and so I wouldn't be afraid to pull the plug early if you feel like you're not getting results, because it's better to do it early than to do it late, but that's why we're such big advocates of learning how to do things yourself so that, if a marketing technique doesn't work, then you're just out some of that time and maybe a little bit of money, but it's not the same as if you were hiring somebody to do it for you.

How can I get endorsements for my book?

Michael La Ronn: So, okay, next question is from Roger. How do I get famous people to endorse my book?

Sacha Black: What a question.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah. Yeah.

Sacha Black: That was like a momentary, wow, okay. Well, with difficulty.

Michael La Ronn: So, Sacha, how do you get Michael Jordan to endorse your book? That's the question.

Sacha Black: I don't think you do.

Okay. So, we do have an article on influencer marketing. So, the first thing that I would say is we will link to that in the show notes, and that's quite a good article. The second thing that I would say is that, I mean, if you are a brand-new author and you are trying to pitch at somebody like Joanna Penn, for example, and you've written a non-fiction writing craft book, the chances of Joanna saying yes are quite slim.

The reason for that is that, by the nature of the fact that these people are famous, that means that they are very busy. They get an awful lot of requests like this, and so they say no a lot. Does that mean you can never get them to say yes? No, not at all, but just, I think the point here is to manage your expectations.

So, I would say start at a, I'm trying to be diplomatic, but a lower level of entry, and work your way up, because then you can get some social proof, and then that social proof then enables you to go to perhaps people who have a slightly bigger audience, because you already have some social proof and so they're more likely to look at what you are doing.

A couple of points. First of all, there's nothing like genuine connection, and so if you have been a supporter for a long time of this person, then the chances are you will have commented on their things, perhaps you've shared things to help their launches or to help whatever products they're selling. If you have built up a lot of good karma points by supporting things, being a champion, leaving helpful reviews, all that kind of stuff, then that's going to go a long way to encouraging that person to give you some of their time.

Another thing is to craft out a really well written personalized email. As a podcast host, I cannot tell you the number of pitches I receive, and how many are just blanket uniform pitch requests, nine times out of 10 I just delete them, because I know that either they don't listen to the show or they're just chancing their luck.

So, there are lots of ways to craft genuine, authentic emails, and even if you have listened to an episode, like just mentioning one episode can also be a little bit transparent in the fact that I will then know that you have just listened to one episode in order to pitch me.

There's a difference between doing that and actually really understanding the ethos behind a podcast and a genuine connection. So, I would look for really good pitch emails online, as examples and the kinds of things that you need to do, but the first thing that I would say is to build up some good karma points by supporting offering help, can I do anything, these kinds of things; offering your help to that person first before you just go in with a cold request.

Then after you've helped and supported, you are more likely to then receive that reciprocal help and support. Then just tailoring the emails, because it's so obvious when you really do listen or you have read somebody's books and you do understand what they're about, that comes across in the email.

I know this question isn't necessarily about podcasting, but that is the easiest way for me to, differentiate between good pitches and bad pitches is by how personalized it is, and I know that takes time, but you are asking about famous people, and they don't have a lot of time. So, I would say, use your time well.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, and why do you need famous people? I mean, that's the generally the first thing that people's minds go to, and yes, there are stories of famous people mentioning a book and then book sales take off.

I think one of the most famous ones is Tom Clancy. Somebody asked Ronald Reagan what book he was reading once and he mentioned, I think it was, The Hunt for Red October, and next thing books are flying off shells. But that's so uncommon. It's more common that everyday people just happen to mention a book to their friends, and the book is so good that, that person mentions it to their friends.

So, if anything, to me personally, I'd be focusing on how I can get this book shareable between people, not so much famous people. And if it just so happens that lightning strikes and you can get somebody who's famous or had some clout or some significant influence in your genre to mention the book, great, but I wouldn't plan a marketing strategy around that.

Sacha Black: Yeah, and look at reviewers who have a highly engaged audience. You don't need reviewers with a hundred thousand followers. You need reviewers with a thousand very engaged followers who are commenting all the time, sharing all the time. These are the people who spread the word. They are the Silent soldiers for all things.

Michael La Ronn: Exactly, and they're the ones, like I said, that tell their friends.

That's how book careers are made, not so much because Michael Jordan mentioned your book. I just can't stop.

How can I contact the copyright holder of a book?

Michael La Ronn: All right, so we're going to go to the next question here, and it's from Anka and it is, how can I reach out to a copyright holder if I do not have their direct contact information?

So, I'm just going to infer some things from this question. It sounds like Anka is wanting to reach out to a copyright holder to do some sort of a deal or some sort of a license to be able to do something with that person's copyright.

So, how would you go about that, Sacha?

Sacha Black: I would check the copyright page and see who it was published by. I would scour the internet for company websites, publishing websites. I'd try places like LinkedIn. I'd try Facebook, even. It is highly unusual, unless this person has passed away, that there isn't some kind of record online these days.

The other thing that you can do, agents will often manage estates, so even if this person has passed and they don't have an active website anymore, you might be able to find an agent who's managing their estate and therefore their copyright. So, you could type in the books, see if there are any other books, see if it comes up with an agent that's like representing.

I think it's unlikely that there's no way of contacting this person, but I would go through either their publisher, I'd go through their agent, I'd go through some kind of, if they're alive, maybe they have a PR person. There will be someone connected to the books that you can find to contact them, but it will be a case of like really digging deep on the research and thinking laterally in terms of those pathways in.

But the first thing that I would always do is check the copyright page to see who the copyright owner is. Also, the acknowledgements, is there an agent thanked? Is there a publishing house thanked? What is the publishing house on the spine of the book, could you contact someone in there? Yeah, I think I'm out of ideas.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, and maybe you don't have to do that much digging at all. Maybe you can just go to the author's website and fill out a contact form, if they have one, and see where you can go that route.

If the author is in the United States and they have registered their copyright with the government, you can go to the Copyright Office's website and do a search, and when you fill out a copyright registration, you're actually required to put in your contact information or contact information for if someone has rights inquiries.

So, if the registration was relatively recent, then you maybe have another avenue to contact someone there. I mean, you can go to any copyright registration page and usually we'll see that.

Now, the more time passes, the less, because they're not required to update that, and you can't update it. So, if somebody registered something 50 years ago, that contact info's probably not going to be accurate, but that's another potential way to contact someone in addition to the things that Sacha mentioned.

All right. Well, Sacha, I think that brings us to the bottom of the question pile for today. So, yeah, a lot of good questions this month. So, a lot of fun.

Anything you're working on that you want to let people know about?

Sacha Black: Well, I have a book launch in a couple of weeks, which is fun and exciting. So, the second book in my fantasy romance series is coming out, which is called A Game of Romance and Ruin. How about you?

Michael La Ronn: I am working on a Microsoft Word course, believe it or not, teaching people how to use Microsoft Word.

Sacha Black: How interesting.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, I'm doing a talk on it in a few months, and I was like, oh, that'd be interesting, maybe I should just put together a course for people to have when we're done.

Sacha Black: Oh, that's so cool.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah. It's nothing sexy. I mean, Microsoft Word and sexy don't go in the same sentence, but people can find it, it'll be available by the time this goes live at authorlevelup.com/wordmachine.

Sacha Black: Amazing.

Michael La Ronn: So, we're always working on something new, right? New book launches, new courses, new everything.

Sacha Black: Never stop, keep going.

Michael La Ronn: Exactly, and like I said, hopefully the rest of this week for you is not too chaotic and good vibes, everybody listening, we're going to send good vibes all out there in the universe, it's all going to be good.

Sacha Black: A hundred percent healthy good vibes.

Michael La Ronn: Exactly. Well why don't we go ahead and wrap up. We'll talk to you all next month. Thank you for listening to the Self-Publishing Advice and Inspirations podcast. We will be happy to take your questions next month and we'll talk to you then.

Sacha Black: Bye.

Michael La Ronn: Take care.

Author: Howard Lovy

Howard Lovy is an author, book editor, and journalist. He is also the Content and Communications Manager for the Alliance of Independent Authors, where he hosts and produces podcasts and keeps the blog updated. You can find more of his work at https://howardlovy.com/


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