Interview: Author Carol Denbow
Interview by Bruce Cook
Bruce Cook: How can an international writer get noticed in the American market?
Carol Denbow: The good news is, now more than ever before, an international writer has many more international opportunities for exposure thanks to the World Wide Web. It has been predicted that eighty percent of book purchasing will take place through the Internet by the year 2020. Personally, from the trend I’ve noticed recently, I feel it will be even sooner yet. Amazon.com is one of the best book-selling sites on the Internet and has expanded to include Joya Amazon.cn (Chinese), Amazon.fr (French), Amazon.de (German), and Amazon.co.jp (Japanese). Barnes & Noble booksellers online have followed suit with international sales. Their brick and mortar book stores now stock foreign publications as well, including Vogue Magazine in four different languages.
International writers need to use the resources available to them the same way American writers do in countries foreign to them. When I Google my books, I find them advertized in languages I can’t even begin to identify. Building and maintaining a good Website to promote your work, in any language, and then following up with submissions to the major search engines will get you noticed. It takes time, but will be well worth the effort, especially once the time arrives when cyber space book sales override our traditional sales methods here in the U.S. and the world.
Bruce Cook: Do you recommend self-publishing a book?
Carol Denbow: Well, there are advantages that go along with traditional publishing, primarily, the cost—there really isn’t much when compared to self-publishing. But you do give up a considerable amount of control in exchange. For instance, I genuinely dislike the cover that was designed for my book, Stress Relief for the Working Stiff. I don’t feel it represents the contents of the book as well as the title being difficult to read from any reasonable distance. To me, this breaks the first rules of a good book cover design. But regardless of my efforts to change it, I have a contract with the publisher, and that is concrete. So even though it’s my book, I lose the power and control I would have had I self-published the book. Because of these things, I prefer to self-publish.
When you self-publish a book, and here I’m excluding print-on-demand publishing, you maintain complete control, but, in turn all expenses and a lot of work falls on your plate. Self-publishing requires an enormous commitment to what can equal years of preparation. After spending what may seem like endless hours writing your manuscript, there will be many more devoted to editing, layout, cover design, finding a reliable printer, marketing, and promotion. But of course, when you do-it-yourself, all profits are yours to keep.
Print-on-demand publishing is when you pay a publishing house to do a considerable amount of the work for you and make your book available to most buyers. But with POD publishing you still have to pay for copies of your own book. Also, your book is rarely “returnable” by retailers such as Barnes & Noble, so they are reluctant to order it, limiting your sales market.
Publishing options are something each individual author must choose according to their personal needs and expectations. For me, yes, I prefer to go all the way and self-publish on my own.
Bruce Cook: Is a marketing plan necessary?
Carol Denbow: If I said no, I’d be shot dead! Writing is a business and as with any business, you need to have a plan. There is no point in writing and publishing a book unless it will sell. Since more than seventy-five percent of books are self-published, I would like to direct this answer to those. On average, a self-published book sells only 120 copies. Are these statistics from published authors who lacked a good marketing plan? Absolutely!
I’d like to point out as well that book marketing is an ongoing effort. A new release can take up to three years to show signs of success. Some authors give up long before their book has the opportunity to really “get out there.” My first book, Are You Ready to Be Your Own Boss? was released back in September of 2006, but didn’t evolve into what I would consider a “successful” book until early this year. It takes a good and ongoing plan with aggressive and unique ideas to properly market a book.
Bruce Cook: If a writer invests $100 in promotion, will it be possible to earn that amount back in profit? (If not, is there a point where sales might equal the investment?)
Carol Denbow: It’s pretty well known that paid advertizing doesn’t typically sell books. Potential customers prefer to touch and feel, or at the very least, get a good glimpse of what’s inside the book.
First let me say this; when you submit your manuscript to one of the bigger name traditional publishing houses, they expect you to have a promotional budget of at least $5,000. But when they accept your script, they also expect to sell at least 5,000 copies of your book. If you self-publish, you can spend the same $5,000 but not have the resources available to you that the traditional publisher has.
Now after all that, $100 doesn’t seem like much to invest. But do the math. If you write a book, publish it, and order or buy 200 copies, what do you have invested in each copy? If each copy costs you $6.00, and your cover price is $18, your distributor or retailer gives you 50 percent of that, you profit is $3.00 before shipping costs. So you’ll need to sell at least 33 books to make up that $100 investment.
The best ways to promote your book are free. As a self-promoter, a little time spent can save your small profits for something better (maybe your next book). There are thousands of ways to get your book noticed and sold without the expenses on traditional paid advertizing. Be creative and try to think outside the box.
Carol Denbow is the author of three books including A Book Inside, How to Write, Publish, and Sell Your Story, (2008). Visit Carol’s Website at http://www.BooksByDenbow.Weebly.com or http://www.freewebs.com/AuthorsBox.
Her Voice is Important... (continued)
It was spawned by a memory of my late brother who taught me two very important lessons.
- I am who I am, a female, a girl growing into a woman, and there is nothing shameful about that.
- I have a voice and I should use it to build myself and help my society.
The response I got from those who read was minimal. So I decided to just go out and ask it:
Is the African Woman's Voice important? How can she make sure it is heard? And in what areas especially is it important for her voice to be heard?
What is your perception of a woman's voice? Is it a nagging, overaggressive voice? If not, what is it?
One person immediately commented and declared that the Woman’s voice has an impact, has always been heard, and does not need to change or to compete with the man’s voice.
I agree only just partly. A woman’s voice does have an impact. She has been a mother to great and small men, good and terrible ones, too. She has been a sister, daughter, wife to these men. She helps them, whether actively or indirectly to make decisions. She is a part of their life. But has she always been heard?
Ramah Nyang, a radio journalist said, “Yes, she has, though that's a very general statement. In urban Kenya, it is a more or less foregone conclusion. In rural Kenya, it is quite the opposite. I've been to villages where women are literally captive to choice of their often drunken, morbidly conservative other halves.”
I suppose in most African urban societies, the woman’s place as a breadwinner, policy maker and leader is recognised and respected. As noted by Ramah, the woman in rural areas is held captive to a man’s choice, which makes her vulnerable to abuse, HIV infection and limits both hers and the society’s economic success.
But does that really mean that the urban woman’s voice really makes an impact and in the right way?
Simiyu Barasa, a writer and filmmaker had this to say, “A woman’s voice needs to be heard, and yet because her voice is so powerful, societies have invented ways of muffling it. Different societies have different ways of doing this, so different societies need different ways of tackling this denial of women's right to live a full life.”
Yes, the urban woman’s voice has more strength, but the urban society adjusts itself on ways to muffle it. The woman is frustrated by finding herself a lone parent with a single income in a lot of cases. The woman finds herself earning less than her counterparts. The woman has to struggle more than her counterparts to get recognition for her work. And the woman, having been socialised by repetitive circumstances, limits herself, by giving up on her endeavours towards financial and career success, by choosing easier but less rewarding careers and investments, by hiding her voice so as to be inconspicuous.
Every woman needs to recognise the importance of her voice, to herself, to her family and to society as a whole.
The woman finds herself in nurturing roles in many instances, as a mother, grandmother, aunt, older relative, which affords her the opportunity to be actively involved in molding the characters of future leaders, both male and female. Her voice can guide, correct and assist the young ones into identifying and being comfortable with their identities, as well as using their skills and talents towards better futures, their own and the society’s.
As a policy maker, the woman is psychologically equipped, generally, to see details that can help complete the picture. If a woman can break beyond barriers, society made and self imposed, she would be a valuable member of a team, and with the right qualifications even a leader. Take a look at the women who have made it into top leadership positions, from Queen Zenobia 3rd century warring queen of Palmyra, to Margaret Thatcher, former Prime Minister of England and Martha Karua, the Minister of Justice in Kenya. They all have 3 things in common.
- The courage and strength to walk into a traditionally male dominated field and make an impact in it.
- The ability to strive beyond common boundaries and excel even where their male contemporaries had failed. This is sometimes not because of exceptional ability but because of the keen awareness that she must prove herself an extra mile.
- Vocal and exceptional women leaders are humans, too. They make mistakes, elicit dislike and hate from that, or lose their empires all together. We notice more, because they are women.
And yet, without her voice, society is not. Ramah puts it like this, “The distinction lies in asking whether say, Caroline Mutoko (A very vocal and successful radio presenter) needs to speak out, as much as say, Atieno over in Homa Bay district with a drunken husband (who infected her with HIV I might add), needs to.”
Ramah concludes, “Sure, your species nags, and whines, and complains about things that I find perfectly normal (like a guy's obsession with soccer or cars), but the bottom line is this; - its part of who you are and that's what makes your species not only important, but special.”
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