Jason worked in the nonprofit space for 20 years. In 2008 he helped his wife set up a small home-based business. She designed and produced clothing for dolls and sold them on eBay. They got really good at selling on eBay for ultra premium prices ($200 for a doll outfit.)
After 18 months she burned out on the business model. They had to figure out a different way to make money.
They realized they could sell her patterns as PDF files. They started the business in 2009 when they sold 11 patterns their first month. By 2014 they’d created a marketplace for doll clothing patterns, and they sell 10,000 patterns a month at www.pixiefaire.com
Jason got involved in the publishing space because of the affiliate team he set up for pixiefaire.com.
Getting a Traditional Book Deal
When Pinterest came along he decided to write a blog post for his affiliate team of 1,300 people. Rather than email them information in their private newsletter as he usually did, he decided to make the blog public.
He created marketingonpinterest.com in December 2011. He set up the site as an $11 WordPress blog (here’s how to setup your own WordPress blog). In the first 3 weeks he published 24 articles about marketing on Pinterest.
Karen Lacey found his blog. She contacted him and said, “I’m an author and I’d like to write a book on Pinterest, but I don’t know enough about it. You seem to be the expert. Would you like to co-author a book together?”
After he agreed, Karen said the next step would be to contact her agent, Marilyn Allen, and get a deal together. That’s when he knew she meant serious business.
After the first publishing deal went south, Marilyn marketed the book that would become Pinterest Power to her contacts in the publishing industry. They put a book deal together in a few weeks.
After Pinterest Power was published Jason realized he had a lot of online content in the email newsletter that he was sending to his pixiefaire affiliate team.
Jason decided to rework some of his email newsletter content into How-To content that he could self publish on Kindle before Pinterest Power came out. That’s exactly what he did.
He published EBay Auction Power, Email Marketing Power, and Craft Business Power (his best-selling self published title) all before Pinterest Power came out.
“There are trends. There are waves of how the economy goes. If you can become an expert in something that’s just starting to peak in interest with the public, then when you write a book or blog post on the topic you can get noticed really quickly.” – Tom Corson Knowles
Jason experienced gurus like Guy Kawasaki, Chris Brogan, and Joel Comm writing their own books about social media platforms. He saw it as a model to follow, never expecting that it would lead to a book deal with a traditional publisher.
He chose blogging because he wasn’t an industry leader in any way shape or form, but he knew he had information to share that could help people with their business.
In the traditional publishing space, acquisitions editors are out there searching for authors writing about subjects that are in the public consciousness that they think will sell well.
When a topic that captures the public’s imagination like Pinterest comes along, there’s a real arms race among the big five publishers.
It’s a race to get the right author and the right book out there first because first mover advantage is huge in traditional publishing.
When Jason pitched his publisher on Instagram Power they were very excited about it because it was a new and popular social media platform. It was also the first traditionally published book on Instagram.
When he pitched YouTube Power the publishing company was much less interested but they accepted the two-book proposal.
Jason’s publisher was less excited about YouTube Power because it didn’t have the fresh market appeal of Instagram Power
Working with Traditional Publishers and Agents
One thing Jason didn’t understand before he started working with his agent is different agents work in different ways. Jason’s agent Marilyn used to be a vice president at a traditional publishing company before she struck out on her own to create her agency representing authors. Now she functions as a sort of talent scout looking for authors who can write about particular subjects.
You don’t always have to write dozens of query letters to form a business partnership with an agent.
Delivering The Book Once The Deal Was Done
Karen’s agent Marilyn already had a template she wanted Karen and Jason to use when writing their book. She told them she needed the book written and back to her within three or four days.
Using the template that’s what Jason and Karen delivered. Jason says that because of the template they were given, the hardest part of writing that book was writing the table of contents.
Beyond writing a good book, the other thing the traditional publisher wanted to know was how big Jason’s audience was, and how much help he could be in marketing the book.
Jason believes that they still would’ve used him as a co-author on the book if he had no audience because they were so excited to have a book out about Pinterest. However, there’s no doubt that the fact he had an audience already helped sell the book to the publisher.
Traditional Publishing and Marketing
When you’re a traditionally published author, the publishing company assigns you to a publicist. Whether your book is at the top of their agenda or not depends on a lot of factors.
Jason’s agreement with his co-author was that he do the bulk of the heavy lifting when it came to marketing Pinterest Power. Karen’s focus was simply to get the final manuscript turned into the publisher.
In traditional publishing your success really comes down to your prelaunch strategy, and what types of promotion you do with your email list.
One important element of your prelaunch strategy should be to get early reviews from people who know, like, and trust you.
McGraw-Hill was particularly helpful was in the networking aspect. Jason was introduced to top-tier people in the industry to network with and get his book in the public eye.
8 Great Things about Traditional Publishing
- Jason likes the revenue structure of traditional publishing. Traditional publishing works on the model of paying authors an advance. This advance is against future book sales. In traditional publishing those advances are getting smaller and smaller, but Jason still likes the idea of getting a chunk of money upfront to do the book project.
- Traditional publishing companies have professional editors, typesetters, and formatting people. This allows you as the author to simply write the book without worrying about formatting the book or distribution.
- They also have cover designers, so the entire job of packaging your information is taken off your shoulders.
- When you sign up with a traditional publisher, you agree to a deadline and a timeline for publication. This accountability piece is huge. You don’t want to be one of the authors that doesn’t submit your manuscript on time.
- When you work with a traditional publisher you get a PR team that will help you network with industry leaders.
- You get a sales team when you work with a traditional publisher. The job of the sales team is to get your books into Brick and Mortar bookstores.
- Publishing with a traditional publisher gives you authority and opens doors for you as a speaker and thought leader. Jason has been invited to speak at conferences because of his traditionally published books.
- Credibility and legitimacy. There’s still a sizable part of the population that believes a traditionally published book has more credibility than a self published book. The ratings on Amazon don’t prove that out, but there’s still a subset of the population that likes traditionally published books more than self published books.
7 Great Things About Self-Publishing
- The greatest advantage that self published authors have over traditionally published authors is speed. If you have any kind of back catalog at all you can quickly put that up on Amazon and reap the rewards.
- With self-publishing you have total control over the topic of your book. When you work with a traditional publisher they have to approve the topic of your book. They’re buying your book to sell to others, so they have to believe the topic has commercial appeal. As a self published author, you have complete freedom to put your ideas into the marketplace and see what works.
As a self published author you have total control of the content inside your book. You control the length of the book. McGraw-Hill set the length of Pinterest Power at 55,000 words. Most of Jason’s best-selling indie published books are much shorter than that. Craft Business Power, Jason’s best-selling indie published book runs to 27,000 words which is enough to print a copy at Createspace, but much shorter than the traditionally published book.
- You also have control over the packaging (cover design, interior layout, and product description that will sell your book.)
- Pricing control. When you’re a self published author you have complete control over the price, over when you discount the book, and over what promotions you run during the launch phase of your book, and going forward.
- The ability to coordinate a pre-reader campaign. The pre-reader strategy is very simple. Get your fans and followers to read your book before it goes live on Amazon. Then when it goes live ask your pre-readers to give you a review on Amazon. This strategy works really well. It helps you gain Amazon rank and expand the size of your audience.
If you publish with a traditional publisher they won’t let you release your book to your audience before it goes on bookstore shelves, because they don’t want the book out there in any major way before the formal publish date.
- Get books at cost. As the author of the published work that you put up on CreateSpace, you can buy a print version of your book at a significant discount. This allows you to use paperback copies of your book as promotional tools.
Author copies of traditionally published books cost the author the same amount of money they would if the author bought the book at a traditional bookstore.
- Your profit per book as an indie publisher is better than if you publish traditionally.
Why Traditional Publishers Are Falling behind in the E-Book Market
The reason why traditional publishers are failing in the e-book market is their pricing scheme. Traditional publishers have agreements with their distribution channels which prevent them from selling their e-books at market competitive prices (between $2.99 and $5.99). Traditional publishers are trying to move their e-books at prices over $10 which severely limits their penetration into the e-book market.
With Jason’s traditionally published work he sells more paperbacks than e-books. With his indie published books he sells more e-books than paperbacks. That’s a function of the price points of both books.
Jason believes the best marketing strategy is to have one book that is permafree. That’s not something you can do with traditional publishing.
Traditional Publishing Versus Indie Publishing: How the Money Works
Traditional publishing deals go something like this.
- You submit a book proposal to an agent or publisher.
- The agent agrees to represent you, or the publisher buys your book.
- If you have an agent, the agent negotiates your advance, and percentages for every book sold after you make your advance back from the publisher.
- You agree to a publication timeline and deadline with the publisher.
- You get one half of your advance before beginning the writing process.
- You get the second half of the advance when the manuscript is turned into the publisher.
Jason lucked out with Pinterest Power. The first publishing company offered a good advance for the book. Marilyn went to all of the other publishing companies in New York and allowed them to counter offer on the advance.
Jason and Karen ended up getting an advance four times the size that they were originally going to agree to.
The advance for Instagram Power was $11,000. Instagram Power and Craft Business Power has had a similar sales rank since they were both released.
The royalties on Craft Business Power have ranged between $700 a month to $1100 a month over the long term. Craft Business Power is earning Jason about the same amount of money as Instagram Power.
In Jason’s experience he can make the same amount of money self-publishing a book as he could working with a traditional publisher.
The other thing to consider is that with traditional publishing contracts, an author doesn’t get royalties on their book until their book has earned enough to pay back the advance. 90% of books don’t ever earn back the advance. So if you go the route of traditional publishing chances are your advance is all the money you’ll ever see from your book.
The Future of Publishing
Jason’s number one goal is to be one of the top 100 authors on Amazon.
He also wants to eventually do a book launch that gets his book into the New York Times bestseller list. His research says that he has to move 2,000 to 4,000 books in the first week to make that happen. He thinks that’s a number he can achieve.
It will depend on how large his list is, and how much money he is willing to spend to advertise his book.
Resources Mentioned in This Interview
EBAY Auction Power: The Crafters 9-Step Guide To Avoid Bargain Hunters, Ensure Dramatic Bidding & Achieve Ultra Premium Prices – one of Jason’s first self published books. He got the material for this book by reworking his old email newsletters to his pixiefaire affiliate team.
Email Marketing Power: 49 Email Marketing Secrets That Will Jump-Start Your Business And Produce Dramatic Results – another of Jason’s self published books that came from repurposing content that he had originally written in his newsletters.
Craft Business Power: 15 Days To A Profitable Online Craft Business – Jason’s best-selling self published book to date.
Craft Pricing Power – 12 Proven Pricing Principles For Small Business Marketers – Jason’s latest book about how to run a small business on the Internet.
Pinterest Power: Market Your Business, Sell Your Product, and Build Your Brand on the World’s Hottest Social Network – Jason’s first traditionally published book.
Instagram Power: Build Your Brand and Reach More Customers with the Power of Pictures – published by McGraw-Hill as part of Jason’s two book contract after Pinterest Power was a success.
YouTube Marketing Power: How to Use Video to Find More Prospects, Launch Your Products, and Reach a Massive Audience – Jason’s new book published by McGraw-Hill as part of his two book contract after Pinterest Power did well.
Marilyn Allen is Jason’s agent. He met her through his 1st co-author Karen Lacey. Karen Lacey was the author who found Jason’s blog and invited him to co-author a book on Pinterest with her.
Guy Kawasaki, Chris Brogan, and Joel Comm – Jason mentions these gurus when discussing thought leaders writing books on social media platforms.
Steve Scott – Jason mentions him in a conversation about the experts in the self-publishing space.
Robert Kiyosaki – Jason wants to be alongside or ahead of Robert Kiyosaki when it comes to sales rank in the business and investing category on Amazon.
https://www.pixiefaire.com/ – a place where you can get patterns for doll clothes.
https://marketingonpinterest.com/ – Jason created this blog for his pixiefaire affiliates. It’s all about how to market on Pinterest.
What the Plus! Google+ for the Rest of Us by Guy Kawasaki
http://makesellgrow.com/ – Jason’s marketing blog
Connect with Jason on Social Media
Tom Corson-Knowles is the founder of TCK Publishing, and the bestselling author of 27 books including Secrets of the Six-Figure author. He is also the host of the Publishing Profits Podcast show where we interview successful authors and publishing industry experts to share their tips for creating a successful writing career.