This week, Rebecca Rodskog--founder of Rodskog Change Consulting--asks Maria Ross, author of Branding Basics for Small Business and founder of Red Slice--five questions about working with a small press, marketing, and the support people are dying to give.

1. This is your first book. Why did you decide to write a book about business when I understand your passion is on writing lifestyle articles, memoirs and the like?

You know how they say “when opportunity knocks, answer the door?” Well, that’s what happened to me. I was actually out pitching a humorous memoir about growing up Italian. I had formed a small writing group with two friends, one a published author, and had created a great proposal which I was shopping around (and which was getting rejected). One of my friends got an agent for her business book and since we were sharing resources, I pitched this agent as well. The agent, who works with the big publishing houses, said she was really looking for marketing or business books with fresh perspectives. Given that I am a branding and marketing consultant, I said, “Well, I have this 15 page eBook that I could turn into a full book….” Before I knew it, she offered up her husband’s newly formed publishing house as a potential partner and we signed the deal! So it was not the book I was intending to write initially, but I had my 15-page eBook already started – I just turned it into a full length book called Branding Basics for Small Business! The great news is, that this book is totally getting me street cred with my business and I’m hoping to parlay it into paid speaking gigs to finance my dreams of other books I’d like to write! Plus, now I can say I’m published. My lesson learned: when an opportunity to get published comes along, just do it! You can always get back to what you want to do with that under your belt.

2. You were published by a small press. Why did you make this choice?

Well, they were excited about my book, they seemed very friendly and on the up-and-up and the timing was right for me. I had some experienced writers review my contract and they said it was very fair, and gave me advice on some things to ask for in exchange. I had a lot of flexibility in contract negotiations -- they were giving me as good of a deal as a big house -- and my time to market was super-quick. I turned in the manuscript in April and the book was published June 2. Bigger houses can take 1-2 years to get your book to market. And because I had a personal introduction to the woman’s husband, I did not need to create a full proposal – the eBook was enough.

3. You compared the pros and cons of publishing with a small press, self-publishing and a large press. What can you share with us about that research?

Wow, so much. And I’m still learning all the time. I think you need to be really clear on your reason or objective for publishing. I was very clear that I wanted to publish a book quickly, I didn’t want to front the money for printing, I didn’t care that much about “making money” on it, and I wanted to have it backed by an actual publisher for credibility. Self-publishing carries a bit of a stigma and you have to front the money for printing and distribution, plus do everything like get your ISBN and get listed on Amazon or through a distributor all on your own. With self-publishing you get to control the process from beginning to end and keep all your profits, but you have to front the money. Vanity presses are a step above self-publishing, but you still have to front some money and don’t get as much control. However, they will handle some distribution aspects for you and you have quick time-to-market. With a small publisher, you can get to market fast, gain more flexibility on the contract, and they support the distribution and printing details. They take the financial burden to publish the book as well. But, you don’t get an advance and you still have to do most of your own marketing yourself. A big publisher can possibly get you an advance and their books get more attention in the distribution catalogues, but you still have to do quite a bit of your own marketing and grassroots efforts anyway.

For me, marketing is my business and given that a big house would probably not do much for a first -time author, a small press was the best option. I didn’t care about making money from this book, so I preferred to have someone else keep most of the profits if they dealt with all the distribution and printing. Again, it all depends on your reason for publishing.

4. What kind of marketing support have you gotten from your publisher? What have you done on your own?

I have done most of my marketing on my own. My publisher took care of getting the book listed through Ingram, and on Amazon, Borders.com and bn.com. They also created a flash website page to purchase the book through all options. They got the book listed in Ingram’s catalogue as well. But I hired my own publicist (Sarah Wilson from She Writes!), hired a firm to put together an online media strategy for me and create my book page off of my own website and I did much of my own pitching to bloggers, writers, etc for reviews. Sarah did a pre-launch review press release and the publisher agreed to send some copies out for free. She also did the launch press release and sends me little notes about places and blogs to comment on and promote the book.

She and I are working in tandem to pitch local media in certain markets as well. My small publisher does none of this.

I also use HARO to get press inquiries every day where I can promote the book. I write and coordinate those email pitches myself.

I also hired a designer for my book cover. The book publisher would have done this but I was concerned about my brand and they agreed to let me do this myself (usually unheard of with publishers). I also created my own media kit. Publishers can guide you on these types of things but may not do them for you as part of the contract.

Lastly, I found my own endorsements. This is key and usually where first-time authors without a big publishing house fall short. Aim high and ask some bigwigs. You never know who will want to support you and take you under their wing! The worst that can happen is that they say no.

5. As a marketing expert, what top tips can you give to authors on promoting their book in a grass-roots kind of way?

Definitely subscribe to the HARO emails, which come to your inbox 3 times daily, and skim for press opps where you can tout yourself as the expert, interview subject or author to promote the book.

Also, I threw my own launch party here in Seattle where I invited my entire network but also partnered with a local business who has a huge mailing list of small business owners – the perfect audience for my book.

I used Facebook and Twitter a lot to promote the book and made sure I was following all the right marketing gurus, as well as independent bookstores. I also started writing some guest blogs a few months ago on a small business site in the UK for the express purpose of promoting myself and the book. So based on your book’s topic area, find websites where you can guest blog or contribute relevant articles for the community. And let them know you are available for audio or video interviews as well.

I plan to visit local bookstores with my book and media kit in hand to see if they are interested in featuring a book by a local author. I heard this is one of the best ways to get local presence and support, especially if you pay a visit yourself.

All of us have pretty big networks when we sit down and think about it. So tally up your Facebook friends, Twitter followers, Linked In contacts and just your friends, family and neighbors (or any groups you belong to) and send out a communication. Give people links to buy, give them pre-written Tweets to help promote you, ask them to share on their own social media networks. Maybe offer a special incentive to anyone who promotes you. It’s amazing what people will do when you just ask them. They want to support you, so let them!

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