Greg Cope White is a produced television writer. He also steps in front of the camera and hosts. The Pink Marine, his first book, just came out in November, 2015.
His writing credits include HBO’s Dream On, Norman Lear’s The Powers That Be and 704 Hauser, Fox’s Life With Louie, Sony’s animated series Jumanji, and Disney’s Social Studies.
I interviewed Greg almost exactly a year ago today. He returns to the podcast to share the lessons he’s learned from publishing his first book, the advantages of self-publishing over traditional publishing, and the marketing tactics that have been successful for him.
Here’s Greg’s story:
Greg began shopping his book, The Pink Marine around to traditional publishing houses in early 2015. Around April 2015 he narrowed it down to two publishing offers. The first was with a reputable publishing house, but in the offer letter they said, “we love his story and his voice, we’re just concerned his book will get lost in our list next year.” Greg didn’t want to get lost on any list so he opted to go with the publisher his agent had worked with before. The only hint of concern his agent had was that this person changed publishing houses four times in the last 20 years. Because they had a successful working relationship before and because Greg was told by the publisher that his book did not need editing they decided to go with that publisher.
Greg signed a contract with the publisher in April 2015. When he got the gallies from the publisher they were terrible. He started editing them as if they were a television script and sent them back to the publisher. The publisher informed him he would have no control over the design and layout of the book. Greg got his agent involved and took over control of the design and layout of the book.
The book was published in November of 2015 and the cover was blurry because the cover designer the publisher insisted upon purchased the lo-res image when creating the cover for the book. That’s when Greg and his agent started to get really concerned. Through November and December there was no e-book version of The Pink Marine available. Greg’s agent estimates that he lost out on 15,000 e-book sales because of this.
In mid-December Greg was in New York doing promotional stuff for the Food Network. He met with his Ingrams Representative and asked them if his next book was self published would they still work with him. They told him, “we’ll publish anything you write.”
On December 15, Greg told the publisher to cancel the contract and the publisher refused saying, because of Greg’s high-profile, the publisher would be ruined if Greg canceled his contract.
On January 7, 2016 Greg suffered a massive heart attack due to stress from this process. The doctor told him he had to get rid of all stress in his life and from the emergency room he e-mailed his publisher and agent informing them that the book contract was canceled. With guidance and help from his friends at Ingrams, Greg formed his own publishing imprint About Face Books and now publishes the book himself. He had an e-book version of the manuscript available in all the major online bookstores in about two days. Jason Story designed a new cover for the book with the appropriate high resolution image.
In February of 2016, while recovering from his heart attack, Greg auditioned for the job of narrating his audio book. He was happy to get the job, because it’s a SAG credit. And he was well paid for it.
Indie Publishing Benefits
After Greg canceled his contract he and his agent had a conversation where the agent offered to take his book to other traditional publishers who have shown interest before. Greg opted to go the Indie publishing route for several reasons.
1. Self-publishing gives you more control over everything including: cover design, interior design, price, and distribution.
2. You get far more money for each book sold as a self published author. Greg was getting about 80 cents per book in his traditional publishing contract. Now he makes about $5 a book.
3. Because Greg got so much more money for each copy of his book sold, he’s more motivated to promote the book and he’s tried several promotional strategies.
Marketing Your Book: Strategies That Work in 2016
1. Have an author website and/or an individual website devoted to the book for marketing. Create an Amazon Associates account and they will give you an associate link you can use to promote your book. On top of the royalty you receive will also receive a small commission for driving traffic to Amazon.
2. If possible, link a charitable organization to your book. Greg supports the Veterans Writing Project to help veterans write their stories down and get them published.
3. Make T-shirts and other related merchandise. Greg wears a T-shirt with the cover image on his book wherever he travels and especially to book and trade events. There are many websites that will allow you to make print on-demand T-shirts the same way you would make a print on demand book.
4. Publish a free e-book with ancillary material. This is like creating DVD extras and giving them away for free. In his book The Pink Marine Unloaded Greg has many letters that he wrote from boot camp. This is a free download at any of the major online booksellers. In the back of the book it has a link to The Pink Marine. This way people can try Greg as a storyteller out for free. If they like him they can easily buy his book.
5. Do guest posts on widely read blogs. Greg did a guest post on Huffington Post. it was seen by over 500,000 people. This gave him, his book and his brand exposure that wasn’t possible before the Internet.
Traditional Publishing Nightmare: Lessons Learned
- The profit percentage you get as an author is always negotiable.
- Make sure you have the final say in cover design, unless you’re not an artistic person and you don’t mind someone else doing it.
- Any contract can be broken.
- Get advice on your contract from a lawyer you trust and the wiegh that advice heavily before signing it.
- Writing a contract is about gaining clarity in a business relationship. If someone is dishonest and wants to steal from you or harm you in some other way, no contract is going to prevent that from happening. What a contract does do is define the parameters of the business relationship.
- Google your publisher. Do your due diligence. Don’t ever just accept someone else’s word that this publisher is a good fit for you.
- Rely on good communication. If the people you work with aren’t communicating clearly with you it might be time to find a new team.
- When signing a traditional publishing contract it’s best not to give the publisher the right to your next book. Deal with publishers one book at a time. Circumstances can always change.
- Act like the type of person you want to do business with.
- Save all your receipts until you publish. That’s when they become tax-deductible.
Books and Resources Mentioned in this Interview
The Pink Marine — Greg’s memoir about his time in the Marines
The Pink Marine Unloaded –This is free a collection of letters and pictures from Greg’s time in Marine Corps Boot Camp.
The Veterans Writing Project — helping veterans tell their stories
Greg’s viral Huffington Post article on Electric Cars
http://ingrams.com/ — A book distributor