By Marly Cornell, LightaLight Publications

This is a second installment of IBPA-University Delivers from Marly’s fruitful experience of attending the IBPA Pub-U conference, “Discoverability: How to Reach Your Reader and Sell More Books,” in April 2013.

[First, a P.S. to the previous blog entry on the IBPA conference: The person to contact for more info about Ingram’s “easy to use online print and ebook distribution solution” (called SPARK) is Pam Dover, 615-213-4890, contactpam@ingramcontent.com]

One of the key advantages of being associated with the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) — and its affiliate, MIPA — is the opportunity to interact with, network, and associate in a generous atmosphere of collegiality with others involved in similar endeavors. The work, particularly by smaller independent publishers, is often done in relative isolation, away from the bustle that is typical of most businesses in the corporate world, where more interpersonal interactions take place throughout the workday.

In addition to the new people I met at the conference in April, and along with the various “celebrity” faces in publishing, I was fortunate to run into a colleague from home. Tom Kerber, publisher at Beaver’s Pond Press in Edina, MN, was attending Pub-U for the first time as well. I found his presence an added advantage in that we compared which workshops to attend and could fill each other in on what we learned when we saw each other next, or when we attended some of the same workshops.

As we gathered so much worthwhile information from so many experts, we also heard a great deal that confirmed our own experiences and beliefs, and underscored the observations and impressions that we have been aware of in recent years about the changes in publishing as well as the amazing new opportunities.

Tom and I both have a special interest in book marketing techniques. Tom and I glanced at each other from time to time and nodded and laughed when we heard an especially funny or effective tip, such as new “tricks” some publishers use with metadata to gain attention to their books. (A future blog entry will focus on that topic.)

The opportunity for helpful feedback was woven throughout the conference program. On the second day, attendees were invited to “Ask the Experts”—in the form of private, fifteen-minute consulting sessions offered by dozens of the speakers, influencers, and specialists, covering all facets of publishing. Since LightaLight Publications is preparing to publish a new book, and the author and I have been struggling with things like the subtitle and cover images, I chose consulting sessions with different book cover designers, while Tom met with Dan Poynter to thank him for the endorsement comment he wrote for a recent Beaver’s Pond Press publication.

Speaking of generous experts—the presentation by Brian Jud, of Premium Book Company,  on “Niche Know-How: Marketing and Promotion Strategies for Reaching Your Unique Audience” was jam-packed with concrete and useful tips and resources. The description of this session as “content-rich” was an understatement. As the author of a “niche” book, I was eager to learn some new techniques to reach my book’s audience.

Brian advised, “Consider who has the need for this information.” Think about who they are, what they want, and where they shop—consider the potential of nonretail opportunities. He presented a laundry list of nonbookstore formats to consider (depending on the target audience) that included corporations, schools, associations, the armed services (nonservice personnel and families as well), community libraries, university libraries, book clubs, shopping catalogs, museums, national parks, gift shops, airport stores, segments of government agencies, daycare centers, toy stores, home schoolers, children’s libraries, etc.

He pointed out that places such as prisons and military bases tend to buy things like books in quantity—versus libraries that buy one book at a time. Check out www.shopmyexchange.com/doingbusiness/. The same is often true for corporations, associations, etc. Consider business and trade shows (www.biztradeshows.com/).

Does a product or service feature in your book? Consider those associations as you pitch your publications. You may be able to obtain some up-front sponsorship. Check out www.manta.com/ where 13 million US companies are listed by industry and category. Sort and locate the areas that relate to your book. A company called Copernic has a free version (as well as a professional version) of search products to do this type of mining. Check out www.copernic.com/en/company/index.html.

For selling to associations, go to http://weddles.com/associations/index.cfm, sort by industry and topic. Go to the websites of associations that might have an interest in your book topic; contact the meeting planners and the membership chairs to arrange for speaking engagements, and to negotiate fees and book sales.

Authors are often advised to start a blog to promote their books. Brian pointed out that it can take years to develop a large blog audience. Why not instead be a guest blogger to those blogs that already have a large audience? Go to http://blogtoplist.com/ and sort by category to find your target audience. When guest blogging, be creative; be sure to add some new, useful information; and always include a link to your website in your signature. Check out http://blog.readinggroupchoices.com/ and http://choicebooks.org/.

The above only touches on the plethora of information Brian Jud shared with his audience that day—so I invite you to check out audiotapes for his session and for all conference sessions at http://vwtapes.com/ibpa2013.aspx.

At the end of his session, Brian asked if anyone had a “niche” book with them that could use some feedback on where to sell more books. I raised my hand immediately. He had me come forward with my book, and 1) give a fifteen-second elevator speech on the topic of my book, and 2) give a fifteen-second description of my target audience. Then he let loose the audience, and Brian and publisher attendees from all around the US offered suggestions. Sweet!

Marly Cornell is the author of The Able Life of Cody Jane (www.theablelife.com).