Gini Graham Scott, Ph.D., owner of Changemakers Productions, has vast experience in writing, publishing, and film, as well as consulting and marketing work. I decided to talk with her about her background in these areas and how indie authors can market themselves and their brands.
1. You’ve written over 50 books. Tell me briefly about some of them.
My books range in subject matter based on what I have been interested in at the time. Some of my earlier books deal with social issues and lifestyles, then with marketing and sales, after that creativity, success, resolving conflict, and personal and professional development, improving relationships in the workplace, and most recently with promotion, using the social media, and writing and producing indie films.
The most recent, coming out Nov. 29, is The Complete Guide to Writing, Producing, and Directing a Low-Budget Short Film, based on my experience in writing, producing, and sometimes directing over four dozen of these. I also started my own publishing company, Changemakers Publishing, which features mostly self-help and popular business books. The two most popular ones are The Complete Guide to Using LinkedIn to Promote Your Business or Yourself and The Truth About Lying.
2. How have your sales been?
Some of my most popular books have sold 10,000-20,000 copies, such as Mind Power: Picture Your Way To Success; The Empowered Mind: How to Harness the Creative Force Within You; and Success in MLM, Network Marketing, and Personal Selling.
3. You’ve been traditionally published as well. How does that compare to self-publishing?
With traditional publishing, you have an established company with its distribution network and publicist behind you. With self-publishing, you have to do your own distribution and publicity, or depend on people finding you when your books are listed for sale on Amazon or other sites. However, much of the traditional type of publishing is changing, with the rise of e-books and print-on-demand books. Plus, traditional publishers generally don’t do much publicity for authors anymore unless you are already famous, since traditional publishing has become much more celebrity- and high-profile platform-driven. It’s like the difference between the studios and blockbusters in the multi-millions that dominate the box office and the indie features with under $1 million or even smaller budgets.
Meanwhile, advances to other authors have gone down, and that is usually what you will see, unless your book catches on, and most authors now have to do much of their own publicity. So if you can actively do your own distribution and promotion and your book catches on, you can now make more as a self-publisher. Either way, be prepared to do a lot of publicity yourself.
4. What are some of the advantages of self-publishing that you’ve experienced?
One advantage of self-publishing is it’s much faster and you have control. With traditional publishing, it typically takes about a year or more to bring out the book, between the time to acquire it, and then there is a lot of back and forth between different types of editors, including developmental editors, copy editors, and production editors. There is also about a three month lead period for getting the book in the catalog and sending out review copies before publication. With self-publishing, you can have a book out in about a month, though you have to edit it carefully yourself. You can also make more when you sell it through other channels, such as through various e-book platforms where you generally make 70% of sales, and you get the full payment less the agent’s 10-15% when you sell foreign rights, instead of splitting those with the publisher.
5. What sort of marketing techniques have you used to sell your self-published books, and which ones have been most successful?
I have posted information about the books in various social media forums, such as on LinkedIn. I have also given workshops and seminars based on the books. I have created book websites for some of the books. I have done mailings to foreign agents, which have resulted in getting agents in different countries that have sold foreign rights to several of my books, including Enjoy: 101 Little Ways to Have More Fun at Work Everyday; The Truth About Lying; and Want It, See It, Get It! I have found these agents using a database of about 250 agents which I put together, and I can send out queries to agents for other writers, too.
I have also done mailings to the media, which resulted in about 40 interviews and articles about The Truth About Lying, and again, this is a database which I can use to do mailings for other writers who want to contact newspapers, magazines, radio, TV, or the Internet media. There are details of the mailings to agents at changemakerspublishingandwriting.com (go to Finding Publishers and Agents). The details on how to contact the media are at prandnetworkingconnection.com.
6. Are there any marketing techniques you intentionally avoided or discontinued, and if so, why?
So far I’ve been using a variety of techniques, since they tend to build on each other. Perhaps the one thing I dropped was hiring a publicist on retainer, since I found the expense greater than returns and the publicist wasn’t able to do anything I couldn’t do with my own mailings to the media. However, the value of a publicist to do hands-on personal contact PR can depend greatly on the type of book you have; it just didn’t work very well for me, though I might be open to doing this for a book that has the potential to break through to a mass market. Most of my recent books have been more targeted to a business or self-help market.
7. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about self-publishing that you didn’t know when you started out?
There are a wide variety of options, from print-on-demand to e-books, and they all have different policies, costs or fee arrangements and differences in distribution. I’ve worked with ASJA Press on many of my books, Smashwords, Kindle, and Apple for e-books, and most recently CreateSpace for my own Changemakers Publishing Company. What I have learned has, in turn, enabled me to assist other writers in getting their books ready for publishing, either as a consultant or doing it for them.
8. If you could do one thing differently in publishing your books, either online or in traditional media, what would it be?
For my own books, it might be helpful to have a co-writer as the lead writer, so they can do a lot of the publicity and promotion. Then, I could concentrate more on writing the books and creating the publicity campaign, rather than doing the workshops and seminars, too. I find it takes a lot of time and effort to do both, and I find it more satisfying to write the books – whether my own or for someone else to actively speak about them. It’s like having a different career path to become a high profile speaker and workshop leader, which involves a lot of travel and doesn’t leave much time for actually writing the books.
9. Independent authors face the obvious challenge of marketing their books without the resources of traditional publishers. What advice do you have for an indie author just starting out?
I would suggest looking at what’s already on the market to see if you have a book that’s different and better than what’s out there, if you expect significant sales. The market is very crowded in popular business and self-help books, so check if what you are doing is significantly different and then play up those differences in marketing. If you are using the book to develop a platform as a speaker and workshop leader to get people to come to your programs and sell at your events, this may not matter so much. But if you seek wider sales, you need a marketing hook.
10. What projects are you currently working on?
I’m working on a series of books that have great potential not only as books, but as films, so I have written scripts for these, too. One is a novel and script, Out of Control, about a wanna-be producer in L.A. who goes crazy and on a revenge vendetta. Another is a script, which will be a novel, too, dealing with the problem of middle-income people losing their homes and the growing suicide rate for people in this situation. A third is a memoir based on my two years of living in L.A. and getting into the film industry, while successfully selling a business, which I’m still involved with today as a writer and consultant. (It primarily involves connecting writers with publishers and agents).
11. If you could market your brand – not just one particular book, but your overall brand of writing – in one sentence, what would it be?
I see myself as being very creative, versatile, and prolific in writing about a wide range of topics, both for myself and for clients, and I’m able to write successfully in various genres, including nonfiction, fiction, screenplays, and lyrics for songs.
12. How can readers learn more about your books?
Readers can see my books listed on Amazon, Smashwords, Kindle, and visit my websites: ginigrahamscott.com, which features my books and promotion about me, and changemakerspublishingandwriting.com, which features the writing I do for clients. If they are interested in scripts and film production, the website for that is changemakersproductions.com.