Tuesday, August 15, 2006

A few minutes with Dan Poynter, author and sky diver.

Dan Poynter fell into publishing. He spent eight years researching a labor of love. Realizing no publisher would be interested in a technical treatise on the parachute, he went directly to a printer and "self- published." The orders poured in and he suddenly found he was a publisher himself.Over the years, Dan has developed a system of writing that makes it all so easy and fun. His books are loaded with facts and figures and contain detailed inside information. They are always up-to-date because he revises them before going back to press. Dan has sold millions of his books, including several best sellers, for ten of millions of dollars in sales. Many of his books sell at the rate of 10-20,000 copies per year, every year. He is the author of The Self-Publishing Manual: How to Write, Print, and Sell Your Own Book, 15th Edition His website http://www.parapublishing.com has literally hundreds of resources to help writers, authors and publishers become successful.

What is the biggest mistake most authors make in marketing their book? Not promoting. Most people think the only way to promote a book is with radio, TV, and autographings. Most writers are introverts. They do not want to go public. So they do nothing at all. There are many other ways to promote books and these ways should be done by both introverts and extroverts. Too many authors write for themselves and their book fails in the marketplace. The secret to sales success is to write for your potential reader-an identifiable and locatable reader.

Everyone should read your book? Yeah, right! Look I write books on skydiving. For me writing books is not just a profit center, it is a passion center. I want everyone to jump out of airplanes and I want them to enjoy themselves. But I am realistic — everyone is not interested in skydiving. Who is interested in your book? Who is your primary audience, secondary and so on? Make a list of the groups or types of people who need and should want your book.

The next secret is to narrow your target audience. Here is an example: Marilyn Grams, MD, wrote a book about a technique she developed so that a new mother could breast-feed and return to work. She wanted to sell her book to every new mother. But there are lots of breast-feeding books so we suggested she title her book "Breastfeeding for Working Mothers." She resisted, insisting she did not want to limit her market. We discovered that over 55% of the women who give birth return to work within one year. So when new mothers see eight books on breast feeding on the shelf in the bookstores but one is specifically for working mothers, guess which one 55% will identify with and buy? The other seven generalized books share the remaining 45% of the customers. Don't aim for the whole pie—you won't get it. Target 100% of a large slice!

Self published and Publish On Demand authors often have difficulty getting their books stocked in bookstores. Any advice for them? Some publishers can't get their books into bookstores because of their business model. They can’t afford the 40% discount to stores. My advice, change the model. All self-publishers have to do is get a distributor. Bookstores no longer order directly from most publishers. They prefer fewer vendors and quicker service. The best way to reach the book trade (independent bookstores, chain bookstores, estores, wholesalers and libraries) is with a distributor.You need a single distributor on an exclusive basis. They have sales reps who visit the stores, show your book (cover) and take orders. Stores do not want to deal with individual publishers because they do not want to write 15,000 cheques each month. Now the question is how do you find the right distributor? The secret is to match your book (or line of books) with a distributor that already offers titles of the same type. They will have a relationship with stores that have major sections of that type of book and they may be serving other appropriate stores outside the book trade.

You have written 100+ books, lecture, give workshops and run a publishing company, how do you find the time? Automation, organization, discipline--and I do not have a family. I do not feel guilty being away.

How did you get started sky diving and do you still participate? I was taking finals in law school when a friend suggested skydiving. It sounded like a great idea. One jump and I was hooked. I am very active in the association and events.

The publishing industry has gone through a major consolidation, what changes do you see for the next three to five years? Consolidation? 8-11,000 new ISBN blocks are issued each year. The industry is growing. The larger publishers are struggling but the smaller ones are proliferating. I project more large print runs moving to China and more books printed here on-demand.

My thanks to Dan Poynter.

Co-author of
Over Time Money, Love and Football: All the Important Things in Life.
co-author of Over Time, Money, Love and Football: All the Important Things in Life.

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