Interviews


Sue CollierMarketing remains the toughest challenge for self published authors and publishers in a world where hundreds of thousands of books are published each year.   There are many channels and venues to consider and usually a  limited budget of time and money with which to address them.  We recently had the opportunity to talk again with book marketing expert Sue Collier and get her thoughts on how book marketing has evolved during the last 3 years and how authors and publishers can effectively promote their titles.

Complete Guide to Self Publishing book coverSue Collier is the president of Self-Publishing Resources, a firm that provides book writing, book production, and book promotion services for authors, entrepreneurs, professionals, and corporations. She is coauthor of The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing, 5th Edition (Writer’s Digest Books, 2010) and Jump Start Your Books Sales, 2nd Edition (Communication Creativity, 2011).  She is an active blogger and writes about self-publishing and the occasional off-topic rant at SelfPublishingResources.com.

FPP:  What are the most significant changes have you seen in book marketing over the past 3 years?

SC:  The use of social media, no question. Three years ago, I suspected social media would have its place in the future in terms of marketing, but I did not expect it to become so important in such a short amount of time. Writers, many of whom tend to be more introverted, have massive opportunities with this softer approach to promoting.

FPP:  What are the most effective ways for authors and / or publishers to use social media marketing?

SC:  They have to participate actively. It’s not enough to simply start a Facebook page or a Twitter account; you’ve got to reach out and build relationships. Set up Google alerts on your topic so you can participate in the conversation. Social media marketing is not about blatant promoting; it is about establishing connections with people.

FPP:  What time investment should authors should plan on for promoting their book via social media?

SC:  Losing track of time is one of the biggest challenges in using social media. You start chatting on Twitter about your new book, and the next thing you know an hour or more has slipped by and you are clicking on links that have nothing to do with promoting yourself. Some experts recommend spending twenty minutes or so in the morning and another twenty minutes in the late afternoon to respond to the day’s activities. I advise authors to make a decision on how much time they will spend–and stick with that.  Another problem is not defining your purpose for using social media and making a plan before you get started; this will serve as another way to help limit time.

FPP:  E-books have steadily increased in popularity.  Are there major differences in promoting / marketing an e-book vs. a print book?

SC:  There are the obvious differences between the two–and perhaps you will miss out on opportunities to promote to those who are still resistant to e-readers–but promoting is still promoting. I don’t think there are major differences in promoting one over the other.

FPP:  What do you think are the most essential elements for a book marketing plan today?

SC:  A good author platform. This many-sided book marketing mechanism is hands-down the best way for authors to reach their potential readers–and to sell books.

FPP:  If they go the traditional (vs. self publishing) route, what should an author expect the publisher to do from a marketing perspective and what should they plan on doing themselves?

SC:  They shouldn’t plan on the publisher doing much. In fact, publishers today will expect that any authors they sign on will already have a large network and strong author platform in place–well before the book deal. This is probably one of the biggest misconceptions today by authors seeking traditional publication. The fact is that the “trads” will spend the bulk of their marketing budgets on their biggest named authors; the midlist author is usually left languishing in a catalog and/or on a website. It’s up to the author to be proactive when it comes to marketing and promoting–whether they decide to self-publish or are picked up by a traditional publishing house.

FPP:  How do you see books being marketed three years from now?

SC:  Online communication between authors and readers will continue to grow. One’s online “influence,” including the use of social networks, will become more and more valuable both as a way to harness that influence–and to promote one’s self and one’s book.

You can reach Sue at sue@SelfPublishingResources.com.


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Successful authors – whether intentionally or not – usually develop a strong brand identity for their work and themselves.  In the past, this often entailed an expensive PR and marketing campaign.  Now, the advent of social media has made brand building  more accessible and affordable.  Social media marketing is still in its infancy and the playbook seems to be rewritten daily. To learn more about this evolving area of book marketing, I decided to consult a public relations expert, Patricia Vaccarino.

Patricia Vaccarino has over 20 years of experience working with a wide range of national and international clients, in all areas of public relations: managing worldwide campaigns for global companies and developing strategy for small companies, startup ventures, non-profits, foundations, and individuals. She is especially well known for her talents in strategic planning and branding for individuals who are experts in their respective fields. She owns her own public relations firm Xanthus Communications.  Patricia has also published a book, PR for People, that provides people all of the pieces they need to create a solid brand identity that will help them to get hired, develop their careers and increase their business.  She currently represents over 150 individuals, many of whom can be viewed on http://www.prforpeople.com.

I recently asked Patricia about the impact social media marketing is having on book marketing.

FPP –  How has the emergence of social media affected book marketing and PR during the last two years, if at all?

PV – Social Media has evolved to be one of the most important components of book marketing and PR. Not to oversimplify the matter but book marketing and PR is like a stool with three legs: Press, Networking and Social Media. You can’t be effective unless all three “legs” are strong and balanced.

FPP – You’ve often spoken about the “slow-cooked” branding process. Could you explain what you mean by that term and how social media plays a role in that process?

PV – The man who wakes up and one day and finds himself suddenly famous was not an overnight success. It takes a minimum of five years to build a strong brand. Take Facebook, for example, this is a company that is now celebrating its sixth birthday. For the first three years of Facebook’s life, it gained momentum over time among twenty-somethings. It wasn’t until its fourth year that the company gained traction among all the rest of us. It took five full years for this brand and business to become firmly entrenched in our psyche and to get many of us to become users.

FPP – What are some of the essential things an author should do to leverage social media in the marketing of his / her books?

PV – Set up a Facebook page that defines your persona as an author and clearly distinguishes how you are different from other authors. Facebook should tell the story of who you are personally and how you live without being maudlin or stupid in what you reveal. Use Twitter in a way that strategically points followers to your book. Create a tweet platform composed of all the individual tweets that you will post over a sustained period of time. Your tweet platform should have a theme and not just be a rambling of disjointed tweets that are purely self-promotional. Be creative come up with tweets that are saying something powerful and important and yet are all connected thematically.

FPP – Is there a rule of thumb publishers should follow regarding the investment in traditional marketing versus social media marketing for their titles?

PV – Every book and every author needs to be assessed according to the target audiences that they are trying to reach. For some books it may make much more sense to rely more heavily on traditional media whereas in other instances heavy use of social media is the most effective tool. Always ask yourself who is your audience? What do they read? What do they watch? Are they using social media? Let the audience dictate the type of media that you will choose to use.

FPP–  There are so many different social media venues these days.   How should an author prioritize his or her use of social media?

PV – You need to be very discipline d about using social media. Before you sign on to any social media site, you need to first decide exactly what you will do. If you are not clear and focused, you will spend more time than you should and that can seriously damage your overall marketing strategy. Remember time is your most valuable asset.

FPP – Is there a minimum time investment in social media that an author should plan on each week to maintain an effective presence?

PV – When you are in the building phase i.e., acquiring a following or gaining friends, it can take an hour or so a day. After your infrastructure or network has been established, you need to get your time down to a maximum of 15 minutes a day.

FPP – Are there social media venues that are more effective for marketing or PR purposes in non-fiction, fiction, or certain genres?

PV – It is different for every genre and there are new social media sites popping up every day. You need to do your research and keep it current.

FPP = How can an author avoid mixing personal and professional messages when using social media to promote a book?

PV – We have entered a time when there is a tremendous blurring of the boundaries between what is personal and what is professional. Anything you post, or tweet must be subject to a test: The test is what do you stand for? What you stand for defines your professional brand. Your professional brand speaks to who you are both professionally and personally, and must connote integrity, value and strength. So before you post, always ask yourself what do you stand for?

FPP – Are there guidelines to measure the effectiveness of social media marketing in selling more books?

PV – The thing speaks for itself. Are you getting an increase in book sales?

FPP – What trends do you see for the use of social media in book marketing during the next few years?

PV – The good news is social media and book marketing will help good to great books achieve a success that lasts. There is no longer the six-week shelf life to promote books. Good to great books can be promoted indefinitely and achieve classic status. The concept of Slow-cooked brand will endure.

1.  How has the emergence of social media affected book marketing and PR during the last two years, if at all?  Social Media has evolved to be one of the most important components of book marketing and PR.  Not to oversimplify the matter but book marketing and PR is like a stool with three legs: Press, Networking and Social Media.  You can’t be effective unless all three “legs” are strong and balanced.

2.  You’ve spoken about the “slow-cooked” branding process.  Could you explain what you mean by that term and how social media plays a role in that process? The man who wakes up and one day and finds himself suddenly famous was not an overnight success.  It takes a minimum of five years to build a strong brand.  Take Facebook, for example, this is a company that is now celebrating its sixth birthday.  For the first three years of Facebook’s life, it gained momentum over time among twenty-somethings. It wasn’t until its fourth year that the company gained traction among all the rest of us. It took five full years for this brand and business to become firmly entrenched in our psyche and to get many of us to become users.

3.  What are some of the essential things an author should do to leverage social media in the marketing of his / her books? Set up a Facebook page that defines your persona as an author and clearly distinguishes how you are different from other authors. Facebook should tell the story of who you are personally and how you live without being maudlin or stupid in what you reveal. Use Twitter in a way that strategically points followers to your book.  Create a tweet platform composed of all the individual tweets that you will post over a sustained period of time.  Your tweet platform should have a theme and not just be a rambling of disjointed tweets that are purely self-promotional.  Be creative come up with tweets that are saying something powerful and important and yet are all connected thematically.

4.  Is there a rule of thumb publishers should follow regarding the investment in traditional marketing versus social media marketing for their titles?  Every book and every author needs to be assessed according to the target audiences that they are trying to reach.  For some books it may make much more sense to rely more heavily on traditional media whereas in other instances heavy use of social media is the most effective tool.  Always ask yourself who is your audience?  What do they read? What do they watch? Are they using social media?  Let the audience dictate the type of media that you will choose to use.

5.  There are so many different social media venues these days.  How should an author prioritize his or her use of social media? You need to be very discipline d about using social media. Before you sign on to any social media site, you need to first decide exactly what you will do.  If you are not clear and focused, you will spend more time than you should and that can seriously damage your overall marketing strategy. Remember time is your most valuable asset.

6.  Is there a minimum time investment in social media that an author should plan on each week to maintain an effective presence?  When you are in the building phase i.e., acquiring a following or gaining friends, it can take an hour or so a day.  After your infrastructure or network has been established, you need to get your time down to a maximum of 15 minutes a day.

7.  Are there social media venues that are more effective for marketing or PR purposes in non-fiction, fiction, or certain genres?  It is different for every genre and there are new social media sites popping up every day.  You need to do your research and keep it current.

8.  How can an author avoid mixing personal and professional messages when using social media to promote a book?  We have entered a time when there is a tremendous blurring of the boundaries between what is personal and what is professional.   Anything you post, or tweet must be subject to a test:  The test is what do you stand for?  What you stand for defines your professional brand. Your professional brand speaks to who you are both professionally and personally, and must connote integrity, value and strength.  So before you post, always ask yourself what do you stand for?

9.  Are there guidelines to measure the effectiveness of social media marketing in selling more books?  The thing speaks for itself. Are you getting an increase in book sales?

10.  What trends do you see for the use of social media in book marketing during the next few years? The Good news is social media and book marketing will help good to great books achieve a success that lasts.  There is no longer the six-week shelf life to promote books. Good to great books can be promoted indefinitely and achieve classic status. The concept of Slow-cooked brand will endure.


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Electric Literature will begin a new venture in microserialization by ‘tweeting’ Rick Moody’s new story, Some Contemporary Characters, from November 30th to December 2nd.  Mr. Moody wrote the story expressly for Twitter. 

Rick Moody  

As Andy Hunter, Editor in Cheif of Electric Literature remarked in his announcement of the Twitter story:   

It is broken into bursts 140 characters or less, each clearly labored over with a precision and lyricism that floored us.

 Rick went head-to-head with the 140 character limitation of Twitter and used it as a source of creative inspiration. It reminds us of the film The Five Obstructions, wherein an artist’s acceptance of an arbitrary constraint leads to innovation. We feel Rick has taken something that could seem gimmicky – “Twitter-fiction” – and created something transcendent.

The Four Fingers of Death book coverRick Moody is one of the most celebrated American writers of his generation.  He is the author of four novels, three collections of stories, and a memoir, The Black Veil which won the PEN/Martha Albrand award for the Art of the Memoir.. In 1994, he published The Ice Storm, which became a best seller and was made into a feature film of the same name, directed by Ang Lee.  His new novel, The Four Fingers of Death will be published in July 2010. He also plays music in The Wingdale Community Singers, whose new album, Spirit Duplicator, is out now.We had the opportunity to ask Rick about Some Contemporary Characters and the challenges this new medium presents to authors.

FPP:  What inspired you to write a Twitter story?

RM:  I think my contempt for Twitter is what inspired it, initially. In general, I think the way to describe the world is to get longer not shorter. Twitter, by virtue of brevity, abdicates any responsibility where real complexity is concerned, because it forbids length. This seemed to me like a challenge, then: how to get complex in a medium that is anathema to complexity and rigor. And a challenge is always thrilling.

FPP:  What is the most difficult part of writing a story 140 characters at a time?

RM:  That’s it’s 140 characters at a time! Is that not difficult enough? It’s very difficult to get real traction and real change into that space.

FPP:  What is essential to carrying the story line in this new species of storytelling?

RM:  I think you have to imply a lot of story because there’s just not that much action you can get into the character-count box. You can’t dramatize a scene so much on Twitter. Or, you have to cut up scenes into the little hunks available. To the extent that you can imply action rather than depicting it, you’ll have more room available for doing other bits of fictive work. Description, dialogue, character, and so on.

FPP:  How does character development change in the Twitter format?

RM:  It didn’t change that much for me. It’s still central to this piece, as it most often is, in my work.

FPP:  Did you create Some Contemporary Characters as a Twitter story originally or take a full blown story and trim it down for the Twitter format?

RM:  It was absolutely written ground up on Twitter, for Twitter, about Twitter, with the character counter page open the whole time, to keep me from going OVER.

FPP:  Would you consider using Twitter as a means to preview future stories for your readers?

RM:  Never say never. But I sort of think that if you mean to use Twitter well you should use it from the start, rather than carving up hitherto existing text to fit into its strictures. That seems slightly obscene to me. It’s cheating.

FPP:  What did you learn as an author from creating “Some Contemporary Characters”?

RM:  That, despite my contempt for Twitter, it IS sort of like writing haiku all day long. And I like writing haiku. Twitter’s brevity, that is, started to have some sublime qualities.

FPP:  Do you think micro-serialized Twitter stories can find a permanent place in literary fiction or is the format too restrictive to be viable long term?

RM:  It remains to be seen, really, because the form is still in its infancy. I’m betting it’s a flash in the pan. I’m betting Twitter itself is a flash in the pan, and that as soon as video is more readily available a lot of these text-based media on the web will be a thing of the past. That’s good, because the word “tweet” is really embarrassing.

FPP:  Are you planning to do more Twitter stories in the future?

RM:  As of right now, I am not. But you never know.


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By almost any reckoning, e-books are a fast growing segment of the book publishing industry.  Many self-published authors and traditional publishers who have been reluctant to publish in e-book format are now considering it.  However, because there are many competing standards, navigating the technical / logistical ins and outs of e-book publishing can seem a bit daunting at first. 

We recently had the opportunity to discuss print to e-book conversion and the outlook for e-books with Virginia Thomas, the Business Development Manager at Olive Technology, a leading provider of eBook conversion services. Virginia has lived and worked in Alaska, Argentina, Oregon, California, Texas, Hawaii, India and Colorado and was previously in corporate sales with Paradigm Engineering.  (One of her favorite book genres is confessional memoirs.)

FPP:  What e-book formats should a publisher consider absolutely essential for their titles?

VT:  Since the arrival of ebooks and eReaders, the number of digital content retailers has significantly increased. Each retailer would want to cover most device formats. Since the two most popular readers, the Amazon Kindle and Sony Reader use ePub and Mobi, it is recommended that Publishers should at least have these two formats available.EPUB is an open standard created by the IDPF, and is used on numerous devices such as the Sony Reader, the Barnes and Noble Nook, and the Stanza iPhone app. Mobipocket, or .mobi, can be read on the Kindle, but also on a Blackberry, Windows Mobile device, Symbian or Palm device. .azw is Amazon’s proprietary format for the Kindle, for which they provide free conversion when a title is listed in Amazon.com’s eBook store. Like .azw, .mobi can be read on a Kindle, but unlike .azw, it can be sold in a number of distribution channels including Symtio and a publisher’s own website.

FPP:  What steps a publisher should take to prepare for submitting a title for conversion into an e-book?

VT:  Publishers looking at reaching a wide market should first develop a basic idea of planning their marketing and decide on how they would like to take care of the digital rights management. Subsequently, they should identify a reliable technology team that can do a high quality conversion work that can replicate the original book experience into digital format. As they identify the team, the publisher should have their high priority titles organized by the different available format such as hard copy, PDF, Quark Express, InDesign etc. This would allow the conversion team to organize their own conversion steps.

FPP:  What occurs during the process of e-book conversion?

VT:  Depending on the format, the conversion process involves:

  1. Converting the original source format (such as PDF) into a editable format, such (MS Word or HTML)
  2. Reformatting of the editable format so that it can be seamlessly ported into a conversion tool. Depending on the type of book, this step may involve extensive coding to re-create the formatting from the original book. Aspects such as clickable footnotes, endnotes and images are all taken care of in this phase.
  3. The formatted file is then ported into a conversion tool that can then generate the needed extension required. Aspects such as Table of Contents, book details and Metatags are taken into consideration at this phase. (Metatags are information about information—they help identify and position the digital content in order of relevance. For more information see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metatags).
  4. An eBook conversion team then takes a thorough line-by-line comparison with the original book to make sure that all the needed formats and expressions have been replicated in the converted book. This is a very important step as it ensures a good reading experience for the reader. Depending on the service provider, a conversion team would have multiple quality checks by different members of the team.

FPP:  What are the most common problems that occur in e-book conversion?

VT:  Formatting errors can come in easily, especially inserting spaces into words. This is why Olive Technology does not rely solely on software for corrections. Olive’s proofreading team pores over every word in the eBooks they convert.

FPP:  What is the typical turnaround time for an e-book conversion?

VT:  Average turnaround time for a 200 page book is 2 working days. However, it may take additional time if there are lots of footnotes and endnotes that require extensive coding of tags or there are lots of images that need to be edited before including in the eBook.

FPP:  How much should a publisher budget for converting a title into the most popular e-book formats?

VT:  This depends on how long the book is, how many titles are being converted in the batch, and how complicated it is to convert. Most conversion companies provide a price per page. The more special formatting, pictures, charts, graphs, sidebars, etc. a work has, the more difficult it is to convert.As for a ballpark, conversion of a 200 page novel with a few illustrations from PDF to EPUB and Mobipocket, Olive Technology would charge $160.

FPP:  What limitations / differences in appearance should a publisher expect when going from print to e-book?

VT:  Because of limitations in the eReaders, it is not possible to enforce the original font types into the eBook formats. However, some eReaders allow the fonts to be changed. Since the reader has options to change the font size to large print or smaller print, there are no set page numbers in an eBook. Also, the style of s Table of Contents is limited to one column. All required images would render as black and white in most eReaders, but in smartphones they can be in color.

FPP:  Do you think we will get to a single e-book standard in the near future?

VT:  That’s the question of the hour. Members of the IDPF would scream “YES! EPUB!,” and the industry has already seen a great adoption of the EPUB format. However, Forrester has said that of the 3 million eBook readers predicted to be sold in 2009, 60% of them are Kindles. While Bbeb may be a dying breed, I think .azw and Mobipocket will be around with EPUB for years to come—especially if Amazon keeps making mobile apps. Unless, that is, Jeff Bezos decides to become an open format fan. That will probably occur the same day Steve Jobs endorses Windows 7.

FPP:  Does having a title in XML format simplify e-book conversion?

VT:  Not necessarily. In fact in our experience the reformatting of DocBookXML can be even more challenging and costly. However, the use of XML allows quicker conversion to any future formats that would be made available.

FPP:  How important are mobile phones in the e-book market now?

VT:  According to research done by Nielsen in 2008, younger people favor the idea of books downloadable to mobile phones or iPods over eReaders or PCs (A third of 16-30 year olds compared to 23% of over 30s). The mobile phone market share is relatively small, but growing. The most popular mobile phone for eBook reading now is the iPhone, which only had 6.5% of the eBook downloads in the first two quarters of 2009. However, in a November 1 report the research firm Flurry predicted that with thousands of eBook apps being produced, the iPhone will be in a serious position to steal market share from the Kindle in reading the way it stole from the Nintendo DS in gaming.F

PP:  How do you see the e-book market evolving in the next 3-5 years?

VT:  With the fast adoption rate and decrease in price of eReaders, the only certainties I see are growth, increasing involvement of Google, and device convergence. According to Association of American Publishers, eBook sales have grown by more than 300% in last 2 years. While eBooks are still a small portion of book sales, they more than tripled from the second quarter of 2008 to the second quarter of 2009, and the exponential growth is predicted to continue.

Also, I think it’s a matter of time before foldable/flexible mobile devices cause device convergence to occur. The problem now is that eBook readers are too big to be phones, and phones are too small to read on without a whole lot of scrolling. However, when mobile phone manufacturers roll out devices that can be folded or unfolded to the size of a phone or eReader, consumers will probably opt for the convenience of only carrying around one device. Motorola is said to be hard at work on their line of flexible devices.


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espresso_book_machine_version_2The Espresso Book Machine, manufactured and distributed by On Demand Books,  has created quite a stir since it was launched a few years ago.  The book printing system has been compared to a “book ATM.”  It can print books, stored in a digital repository, in a matter of minutes.  Essentially, the system provides the capability to produce books at the point of purchase. 

Version 2.0, a smaller and more efficient version of the Espresso Book Machine is now available and is helping drive sale at On Demand Books.  In addition, the company has recently announced deals with Lightning Source and Google which give it access to a greater catalog of books.  The video below demonstrates how the Espresso Book Machine produces a book it has retrieved from a digital repository.

Google Books: Classic Books Available via the Espresso Book Machine

Dane NellerDane Neller is the CEO of On Demand Books LLC, which he co-founded with publishing legend Jason Epstein.  He has extensive operating experience in the retail sector as former President and CEO of Dean & Deluca for over 8 years.formerly.  Future Perfect Publishing interviewed him a couple of years ago, and he recently updated us on the company’s progress since that time and the outlook for the Espresso Book Machine.

FPP – Originally, mostly libraries were purchasing the EBM. Now it seems that more bookstores are acquiring the EBM. What do you think has caused the shift?

DN – Our primary market continues to be the University Setting both campus bookstores and research libraries. Independent Trade Bookstores also are buying as they recognize the value of localized self publishing programs being able to respond immediately to their customers.

Bookstores benefit as well from an increase in their sales per square foot, increase inventory turnover, derive new customer traffic to the machine, eliminate out-of-stocks and free up shelf space for faster moving, higher-margin inventory. For libraries, the machine enhances the academic experience for students/faculty and makes more books available to more patrons. By allowing the library to acquire a title for its collection on demand when requested by the patron, the EBM helps make the library’s acquisition strategy more efficient. Our technology also enables the library to reproduce rare books in physical form, provides a vehicle for University Press titles, and improves the inter-library loans process.

FPP– Have you begun to see interest from non-bookstore retailers?

DN – Yes, as they see the Espresso Book Machine enables them to add books as a new product line.

FPP – What’s the easiest way for publishers to make their titles available through the EBM?

DN – We are committed to adding content to our network and will accommodate whatever method is preferred by the publisher. There are three methods for publishers to make their titles available to us:

(1) Through our partner Lightning Source. This is our preferred way – publishers add their content to Lightning’s POD repository, and it becomes available through the EBM at the identical pricing offered by Lightning.

(2) By providing us with an API that allows our network to access the publisher’s digital repository – in effect, we “pull” the file from the publisher any time a book is purchased on one of the machines.

(3) By the publisher “pushing” their digital repository to us and allowing our servers to host their files. In this case, we host the publisher’s digital files and perform a regular reconciliation to keep the titles and their associated metadata up to date.

FPP – What does an EBM cost? Are there lease as well as purchase options?

DN – We sell the EBM for $97,500 plus the cost of the text printer (note that the EBM comes equipped with the full-color cover printer). The price of the text printer ranges from a little over $4,000 for the mid-speed printer (35 pages a minute – or a book ever 7-10 minutes) to roughly $28,000 for the high-speed printer (120 pages a minute – or a book every 3-4 minutes).

FPP – How do you anticipate the agreement with Lightning Source and Google will impact sales of the Espresso Book Machine (EBM)?

DN – Both Lightning and Google represent significant sources of high-value books. They’ve made the EBM more attractive to our customers and are helping sales.

FPP – What are the barriers to getting all publishers to sign on with ODB and what is the company’s strategy for growing the number of books available via the EBM?

DN – Distributed printing clearly is attractive to publishers who see the advantages of a greener distribution and sales channel. There may be some technical barriers on the publishers’ side to aggregate their printable files but most are creating or outsourcing Digital Asset Management repositories. Our strategy is to make our customers successful by going after content that will sell well through their setting. Academic content for the University Bookstore, for example.

FPP – Do you see a potential market for magazines, journals or newspapers using the EBM?

DN – Absolutely. The Espresso Book Machine will print, bind, and trim absolutely anything that a laser printer can print. In addition, customers have used the machine to print journals with personalized covers and lined pages, technical manuals, custom anthologies, professor-created textbooks, lab journals, study guides, coloring books, conference documents, corporate reports, recipe books, collections of (digitized) letters, and the list goes on . . .

FPP – E-books have been steadily growing in popularity. Do you see this as competition for the EBM?

DN – No. The growth in e-books has helped us in several ways. First, to the extent that growing e-book sales help publishers and booksellers, then we are helped, since these represent our partners and customers. More concretely, the digitization of backlist books for e-readers has made more titles available to our machines. Also, with the growth in e-books, publishers and retailers have grown more comfortable with nontraditional methods of book distribution, including our own.

FPP – What new features would you like to see in the next version of the EBM?

DN – We have no major upcoming changes to the EBM. In summer 2009 we began our full commercial rollout of the new EBM, version 2.0 (previously we had installed earlier-generation machines to test the market and the technology). At 3.8′ x 2.7′, the new 2.0 machine is half the size of the previous model. Interest in the machine has been fantastic, and we expect our installations to accelerate significantly in 2010, with an early emphasis on trade bookstores and the university bookstore and library market.

FPP – What do you see as the biggest challenges ahead for On Demand Books?

DN – Managing rapid growth is the biggest challenge. Other challenges relate to selling internationally. It is an exciting time for On Demand Books and our customers and we are very confident about our ability to meet challenges as they arise.


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village books-BellinghamFuture Perfect Publishing has been following the Espresso Book Machine for the last several years.  The Espresso Book Machine, sometimes called the “book ATM” is developed and marketed by On Demand Books.  The system, about the size of a photocopier, allows a book to be selected from a digital catalog, then printed and bound in just a few minutes. 

Now it is beginning to make serious inroads into the bookstore community.  Two of the latest installations are going to be right here in the Pacific Northwest.  One is at Third Place Books in Bothell, Washington, just outside of Seattle.  The other is at Village Books. It is a community-based, independent bookstore located in the historic Fairhaven district of Bellingham, Washington, and was honored as the 2008 Outstanding Philanthropic Small Business in Washington State.

 

Village Books, Outstanding Philanthropic Small Business 

Chuck_Robinson_Village_BooksChuck Robinson has been co-owner, with his wife Dee, of Village Book in Bellingham, WA, since June of 1980.  Chuck has pioneered many causes in his community so it seems only natural that his bookstore would be one of the first to make this innovative new way of producing books available.  He’s a former board member and president of the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association and the American Booksellers Association and currently serves as a board member of the Community Food Coop and as a trustee of Whatcom Community College.  He is currently writing a book about the history of Village Books to be published–on the Espresso Book Machine–during the store’s thirtieth anniversary next June.

Lindsey McGuirkHelping him with the installation is Lindsey McGuirk, Digital Marketing & Publishing Manager.  Lindsey has been in the book industry for over 5 years, beginning as a bookseller at Village Books where she eventually became the Events Coordinator. After a short stint on the publishing end of things with Algonquin Books, she returned to her true love as an independent bookseller at Village Books.  She now does the online marketing for the bookstore and will be the go-to person for Village Books’ Espresso Book Machine.

Chuck and Lindsey recently took the time to share their plans for the bookshop’s new Espresso Book Machine.

FPP:  How did you first learn about the Espresso Book Machine (EBM)?

CR & LM:  Though we had read about the machine in trade publications we first saw an early model of the EBM at Book Expo America a couple of years ago.

FPP:  What convinced you to put it into Village Books and how do you plan to use it?

CR & LM:  We’re convinced that “the times they are a’changing” and that we need to be on board or we’ll be left behind.

FPP:  What type of books do you expect to use the EBM to produce?

CR & LM:  Although we’ll have access to books through LightningSource and now Google’s public domain books, the bulk of the books we will be printing–at least in the short term–will likely be self-published. We have already been receiving inquiries from authors interested in having their books printed on the Espresso Book Machine and have a few projects lined up to print when the machine is installed.

FPP:  How many titles are available in the EBM catalog overall?

CR & LM:  Between LightningSource and Google Books, there are nearly 4 million books available to print through the EBM. There are also nearly 600,000 backlist titles that are in-copyright that we can print thanks to publisher’s permissions.

FPP:  Could you describe what happens when a customer places an order that requires the EBM?

CR & LM:  This could be an elaborate answer, but I’ll try to simplify it as much as possible. Assuming that an author brings us print-ready PDFs (those that will not need any additional layout changes or adjustments) of both the book block and the book jacket, we will simply upload those files to the EBM and let it do its work. It prints the book block, glues it, prints the book jacket, and binds it all together. It will then take the book and trim it to its specified trim size. It’s an amazing process!

FPP:  How does the cost of producing a book on the EBM compare with ordering it from a wholesaler or distributor?

CR & LM:  Pricing in print-on-demand, like that of e-books, is still shaking out. However, we expect the retail price for books printed in-store to be comparable to those ordered from distributors.

FPP:  Will having an EBM change how many titles you carry in your physical inventory?

CR & LM:  We believe the EBM will allow us to enhance our inventory by being able to offer books that would otherwise be unavailable. There will be some books that we may carry in smaller numbers because we can instantaneously print a replenishment copy and there will be other books that we won’t have on the shelf–just as there always have been–but, unlike the past, will be able to provide very quickly.

FPP:  What is the purchase model for the EBM? Is it an outright purchase? Lease? Per book fee?

CR & LM:   There are a couple of ways one may obtain a machine. We have chosen to lease ours.

FPP:  Will Village Books use the EBM to support self-published authors or small presses without distribution?

CR & LM:  We absolutely will be supporting self-publishing authors! We’ve been highly supportive of self-published authors for year—we have a strong consignment program and carry dozens of books by local, self-published authors. We haven’t considered printing books for small presses without distribution, but you have just added another element to our growing list of possibilities. Thank you!

FPP:  Are there any special logistical considerations for operating the EBM? For example, space, power, supplies, etc?

CR & LM:  We did have to provide 220V wiring to the site and we will be moving shelves around to accommodate the machine. And, we will, of course, need to stock paper, glue, etc.

FPP:  If you could design the next version of the EBM, what features would be on your wish list?

CR & LM:  It’s a little hard to say prior to our working with the machine for a while. We’ve spent some time with an earlier model and feel that the company has addressed many of the issues we would have had with that machine. I’m sure that this is a question we may have a better answer for in a few months.

 


 

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hometowntimes.com logoThe failure of newspapers in the United States has become a commonplace occurrence over the last few years.  Newspapers are in the middle of a perfect storm– declining readership, higher prices for paper and newsprint, and intense competition for ad dollars.  It is not yet clear how the gap left by these newspaper closings will be filled, but many experiments with new publishing models are underway.  One such experiment is the HometownTimes.com, an online newspaper franchise founded in 2003 by Paul Baron. 

Paul BaronPaul Baron is a successful serial entrepreneur who enjoys taking on tough challenges.  He relished the opportunity to create what’s next for the future of journalism.  Before starting the HometownTimes.com, he had already demonstrated his business acumen through telemarketing, mass-communication advancements, and even a popular New York restaurant.  Today he is focused on filling what he sees as the growing gap in community news throughout the country.   The company, headquartered in Georgia,  now operates more than 500 internet-based news sites across the United States.  I recently had the opportunity to ask Paul about his business and how he sees the emerging future of online journalism.

FPP:  How did you first get involved in online journalism and what was your motivation to start the HometownTimes.com?

PB:  The community in which I live, a suburb of Metro Atlanta, was being underserved by the regional newspaper. They were losing money, cutting costs, and the first areas cut to save money were the advertising, reporting, and distribution of the news and information relevant to the smaller local communities around the city.

FPP:  Can you briefly describe the evolution and growth of the HometownTimes.com since its inception?

PB:  A local entrepreneur, who is now my technical operations manager, founded an online news site to serve the community of Cumming, GA. He created CummingHome.com, which due to my prior observation and the realities of the dwindling coverage from the print media, became a hit with the community. While attracting a large percentage of the local population and many local advertisers seeking to attract a community audience to their products or services, I realized this model of hyper-local online news could be expanded to serve any community in the US … or anywhere.

FPP:  How does the basic HometownTimes.com business model work?

PB:  I formed HometownTimes.com to establish added value to the CummingHome.com site that started this model. I also wanted to create the systems, training, and support that would make it attractive, affordable, and easy to manage as a ‘turn-key’ business for anyone from the experienced journalist wanting to stay in touch with the issues of importance to the community in which he or she lives, to the stay-at-home mom or dad with some basic creative writing skills or otherwise connected to the community through organizations like the PTA, government, chamber of commerce, Rotary, etc. We also leverage the national presence of our 520+ sites today, with national advertisers that would never be likely to advertise with a local paper, but being able to deliver a total national audience with local focus is a key differentiator to the Hometowntimes.com business model. A franchisee can acquire a single community site for only $4,995.00 – including complete setup, training, and support to get started. Ongoing support is included as well, for a small monthly fee that includes placement of all ads, coupons, images & video, and the software technology to deliver the content from local reporting or advertorials.

FPP:  What is the coverage area of a typical HometownTimes online newspaper?

PB:  A small community of 10,000 – 100,000 is the typical coverage area; although multiple adjacent communities can be “bundled” to offer a better business opportunity to the local franchisee and value to local advertisers.

FPP:  How does each HometownTimes.com paper establish its advertising base? Is the advertising all local or do you also supply ads through ad networks?

PB:  The responsibility of the local owner/franchisee or reporters is to acquire local ads. Many local establishments may be franchises (e.g. Subway, Jiffy Lube, Mr. Handyman, etc.) or national brand companies (like airlines, cable companies, Starbucks, Home Depot, etc.); and Hometowntimes.com, as a company, secures national ad agreements and shares that revenue with our franchisees at the local level. We encourage our local owners to market their sites to the local community through traditional means (direct mail, posters in stores, billboards, ads in local print publications, etc.), networking organizations, becoming involved in the community, and by building original content onto their sites to attract both readers and advertisers.

FPP:  How is content produced for each online paper in the HometownTimes.com family? Is there a basic formula to help determine the mix or is it up to each franchisee?

PB:  Our franchisees are provided our Hometowntimes.com Content Management software and training to use this very easy to learn, intuitive application. They write their own stories, solicit content from their advertisers, or others in the community. Our training includes identification of sources. We also have our own proprietary software that can capture information, events, and post this to the sites – that service carries a very small fee, but is very useful in getting such items as obituaries, concert events, and more.

FPP:  What is the profile of a typical HometownTimes.com franchise owner? Are there specific traits or background that you have found that make an owner more likely to be successful?

PB:  The successful Hometowntimes.com local publisher/franchisee can be a stay-at-home mom/pop, an executive retiring who wants to be connected to the community through networking, a college graduate out of journalism or business school, or an experienced reporter or ad salesperson seeking to work from home. It can also be a more experienced general businessperson seeking to manage a team of reporters and salespersons, and who can take over a larger territory to manage the smaller community sites within that territory or metro market.

FPP:  Many large daily newspapers have closed their doors in recent years. Do you see the same thing happening to smaller local/community print publications?

PB:  Yes, if they don’t take advantage of technology to reach the audience they serve through, minimally, a responsive online version that complements and adds value for readers and advertisers.

FPP:  What is HometownTimes.com competitive advantage against established community papers?

PB:  National presence with local footprints and focus. And our technology and features that have proven to gain traction with readers and deliver value to advertisers. We’re using social networking, not in the traditional sense, but to quickly report news or information that might benefit those who have expressed interest in specific events or activities. For example, we can use Twitter or Facebook to alert a community of subscribers who have requested notifications of weather warnings, traffic jams, or the results of Friday night’s high school football game. Mobile text messaging is used to drive customers to stores offering a special discount to our readers.

FPP:  How would you like to see HometownTimes.com evolve in the next few years?

PB:  We want to provide a path to employment or financial independent ownership to thousands of people across the US. We see 3,000 community sites with franchisees delivering high-value local news, information, and events to their local audience and driving customer traffic to help their fellow local small businesses succeed and thrive. Also, we want to promote communication and interaction and growth to our country’s small towns. And, of course, we would like to see financial rewards go to our employees, shareholders, advertisers, partners, and franchisees.

FPP:  What do you see as the long term future of news journalism in America in the coming years?

PB:  It will only thrive with the technology that continues to leverage real time reporting and interaction with audiences. Those companies and solutions that take advantage and deliver a quality product will thrive. Hometowntimes.com looks forward to a bright future for journalism, journalists, readers, and America’s small businesses and communities – we are grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this emerging business model to serve communities at the local level to improve the quality of those residents and businesses.


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