Tuesday, August 21, 2007

I'm looking for advice!

I feel a little like a used car salesman as I write this post, but I really am looking for some help. Shortly after I began this blog, I admitted in a post that I had started blogging in order to promote the book I wrote, In the Trenches: A Teacher's Defense of Public Education. The book did okay, especially in Minnesota, and there are 1,200 copies--some given away, but most of them sold--out there floating around somewhere. (I've been told that a self-published book has done very well if it sells 600 copies.) To tell the truth, although there are some people who bought the book because of my blog, that didn't exactly move it to the best sellers list.

Since the book was self-published, I ended up putting a lot more money out on the book than ever came in. One problem I had, from a marketing point of view, is that the book is short--117 pages, so it doesn't take very long to read and I'm told that it has gotten passed around by faculties in quite a few. Being the marketing guru that I am, I sent out a lot of sample copies to principals and staff development committees, so that probably backfired. It would have been wonderful for me if everyone who wanted to read the book had bought a copy, but I really am happy that so many people have read it. That's why I wrote it.

I never expected to make my fortune on the book, and the overall experience is one of the most enjoyable and rewarding that I ever had. For a few months after it was published, I was actually somewhat of a celebrity up in my neck of the woods. There were articles and editorials about the book in regional and state newspapers, speaking engagements, radio interviews, and even a TV interview for a very small station. I had never, ever thought of myself as an author, so whenever I was introduced as one, I was tempted to look behind me to see who it was they were talking about.

My problem is that I've got 800 copies left, my last royalty check was three months ago, so now I'm paying in every month for storage and other administrative crap. I'd like to get rid of most of the copies, but I'm about out of ideas. I'm not thrilled with the idea of hauling them home to have them sit in my basement, but it would really hurt to start throwing them out. I could give books away, but I'm tired of paying postage. Does anybody have any ideas out there?

Oh, I have been getting some swell offers in the mail lately. People and companies who say they've seen my book, think it has great potential, and for a mere $10,000 or so, they'll be happy to market it for me. Yesterday, I got one that takes the cake. A company called Airleaf sent me a letter saying that they've seen my book and "believe it has the potential to be a feature film" in Hollywood. No, I'm not kidding. They actually said that! And for just $1,295 they'll have a Hollywood director review my book! Now, I tend to be a little gullible, but I'm not that gullible. How in the world my book could ever be a feature film is beyond my imagination, and I'm sure that no one from Airleaf has ever seen more than the title of it. In any case, those are NOT the kind of ideas I'm looking for.

Now, I hope you'll excuse a little shameless self-promotion. I really do think the book is good, and the feedback I've gotten has been almost entirely positive. Teachers, especially, seem to like it, and the best compliment I've gotten--and it is one I've heard a number of times--is that it says exactly what other teachers had been thinking. The Grand Forks Herald education writer told me that after she read the first half of the book, she said to herself, "This guy's got way too much common sense; no one will ever listen to him." I'm still not sure how to take that, but I think it was a compliment. In any case, I do think if I could get those other 800 books out there, people would enjoy them. Some schools have used them for door prizes for staff development workshop days, and there have actually been schools who have bought copies for their whole faculty. I personally thought that was a swell idea!

If anyone has any great marketing ideas--or any way for me to get rid of most of those 800 books without losing more money on the deal, let me know. And if you want to read the book yourself, you should probably buy one or borrow one from someone who already has it. If I were you, I wouldn't wait for the movie.

16 Comments:

Blogger Mr. McNamar said...

I picture your character as a Dennis Quaid type. I hope he gets the role.

8/21/2007 12:44 PM  
Blogger Dennis Fermoyle said...

Mr. McNamar, thank you for not saying Jim Carrey. And thank you for not saying Stan Laurel, like my wife did.

8/21/2007 1:05 PM  
Anonymous Matthew K. Tabor said...

Dennis,

Have you thought of using the book as a foundation for another project? Using it as a platform for more speaking engagements on extensions of your book - even topics more loosely related, such as the value of self-publishing for educators - would be worth your time. In the process of Round 2, whatever it is, you'll find plenty of ways to sell your remainders or provide some surprise value by giving them away.

8/21/2007 2:52 PM  
Anonymous Matthew K. Tabor said...

Sorry, one more thing since I didn't see an e-mail address on your profile.

I've got two reviews in the queue right now [one teacher book, one NCLB book] but would be happy to put yours next in line. If you're interested, shoot me an e-mail at mktabor@gmail.com .

8/21/2007 2:54 PM  
Blogger Dennis Fermoyle said...

Matthew, thank you for your ideas. I did get asked to give a couple of presentations after my book came out, one of which was to the Minnesota School Boards Association. The feedback I got was all positive, the evaluations that were turned in were very good, and I came away from them feeling great. I thought I might get asked by other groups, but that hasn't happened. I did some things to make it known that I was available for presentations, but as I indicated on my post, I'm not exactly a marketing guru.

Thank you also for the offer regarding the review. I'm very interested in that, and I've sent you my email addresses.

8/21/2007 3:40 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

How about contacting independent bookstores yourself? You can create your own marketing materials: Send them a summary of the book and excerpts from positive reviews.

8/21/2007 6:54 PM  
Blogger Dennis Fermoyle said...

Thank you for a good idea, Elizabeth. I do have all of the materials necessary for that, including a list of independent bookstores.

8/22/2007 2:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lower the price. $15 for a 117-page self-published book* is steep.

*I haven't read your book, so I'm not accusing you of this, but in my experience "self-published" means "no professional editor or proofreader worked on this book, so expect a lot of typos and repetition, and probably some grammatical errors." Typos and grammatical errors make me gnash my teeth, and I won't pay $15 for that.

Reduce the price by half or even two-thirds and I'll bet you'll be able to move those last 800 copies a lot more easily. It would also help to add "Buy my book!" under the clickable cover image on your blog so people know that you not only wrote a book but that it's easy to order a copy. That may seem obvious to you, but it's not immediately obvious to someone who comes here for the very first time from a link on some other teacher's blogroll.

8/22/2007 8:41 AM  
Anonymous Roger Sweeny said...

Having read the book a few weeks ago, I can happily report that it does not have "a lot of typos and repetition." Quite the opposite.

It reads a lot like the blog. I consider the $15 well spent.

8/22/2007 12:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

>It reads a lot like the blog.<

Again, I haven't read the book, but the blog isn't exactly typo-free. (Sorry, Dennis, but it's true.)

Not everyone even sees typos. A lot of readers mentally correct errors as they read.

Anyway, Dennis was asking for ideas about moving the books, and I still think lowering the price is a good start. If he sold even half of his stock at a much-reduced price, he'd still have more than he's getting for them now.

8/22/2007 8:30 PM  
Anonymous Ian H. said...

The price is lower - when I visited the distributor, it was on for $9...

8/23/2007 7:09 AM  
Blogger Dennis Fermoyle said...

Roger, thanks for the support, and Anonymous, I do appreciate your comments. I think I write reasonably well, but you're right--my work is not typo free. I do think, however, that the self-publishing company I worked with was a very good one, and the editor they had me work with was excellent. I don't know how anyone could examine the book and come to the conclusion that any aspect of it was not professionally done. Typos should not be a problem with the book. Regarding the price, I was an amateur at this, so I went with the advice of the people at the company. As Ian said, it now sells for $9. I dropped it down to that in April. It had been selling for $12 for a number of months before that.

8/23/2007 10:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's Liz from I Speak of Dreams.

It's priced at $11.74 at Amazon, and $9.24 used:

http://tinyurl.com/2ou9un


1. Send a version of blog post to Marty Manly, CEO of Alibris, as an email. martymanley at gmail dot com, and recruit his help.

www.alibris.com


2. Drop the price to [cost of mailing + cost of packaging + the dollar value of the time for preparing the package + 15% markup]

3. Boil down the relevant points to a few related op-ed pieces, and send those out to small-town newspapers across the country. If that appeals to you, I will get you some addresses.

8/26/2007 5:37 PM  
Blogger deonne said...

Dennis,

I'm not sure if he can help with the marketing of your book, but you do have a kindred spirit in Rob Wilder, a fellow teacher who has just published a book called Tales from the Teachers’ Lounge. Rob genuinely loves his chosen career, but that doesn’t mean he can’t see both the humor and pathos inherent to the profession. Rob tells it like it is, with wit and insight.

Like his essays, Rob is funny and engaging in interviews, and he’d be happy to do a Q&A with you on your blog. Here’s the publisher’s link to his book, which includes an excerpt:

www.randomhouse.com/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780385339278.

Please let me know if you’d like more information about Rob or his book, or to set up an interview.

Thank you for your time,

Deonne Kahler


Robert Wilder, author of Daddy Needs a Drink and Tales from the Teachers’ Lounge. Visit www.robertwilder.com for more info.

8/27/2007 8:06 AM  
Blogger Dennis Fermoyle said...

Liz, thanks for your ideas. The Martin Manly idea is definitely worth a try, and your pricing idea is something I will do when I close things out with Bookhouse Fulfillment. I think I'll keep working with them until Christmas, though.

And Deonne, I will be sure to check out Rob's book.

8/27/2007 4:35 PM  
Anonymous Sylvia Martinez said...

Dennis,
Sometimes authors work with districts or conferences to do paid workshops where part of the incentive is that every attendee gets a "free" copy of the book.

8/29/2007 10:09 AM  

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