If you had a chance to do it all over again, what would you do differently? That's the hook in Bruce Spitzer's new book, Extra Innings. Bruce has worked as a writer his entire adult life - his resume includes journalist, business writer, marketer, magazine editor, and columnist - but this was his first foray into fiction. His novel may question what a person would change if given the chance, but Bruce was determined to get book publishing right the first time.
A cross-genre novel that is part sports, science fiction, and military thriller, Extra Innings is a story that imagines baseball legend Ted Williams returning to life through the science of cryonics (Williams' remains were frozen when he died 10 years ago). Bruce considered traditionally publishing his book, but after conducting extensive research on the state of the publishing industry and on the advice of his editor, Alan Rinzler, he decided the independent route was best for him.
"I published independently to maintain more control over my project and to reap more financial benefits," he said. "These days, publishers require you to build your own author platform and complete most of your book's PR and marketing on your own. I figured if I'm going to do all of that, why not reap the lion's share of the benefits."
CreateSpace gave Bruce the tools he needed to make a professional book and bring it to market easily, particularly through the use of CreateSpace's wide range of services, detailed royalty reports, and print on-demand.
"In my professional life, I often analyze business partners and work only with those that are the most professional and responsive," he said. "Companies should bring value-added service to whatever we're working on. CreateSpace did that for my publishing project. Its people were there for whatever handholding I needed, and the superior distribution and higher royalties were a huge plus."
To maximize sales, Bruce also created an eBook version of his title using Kindle Direct Publishing: "I thought it was important to produce both a physical book for reviewers as well as to get the novel into bookstores, and to offer an eBook to give readers a choice. CreateSpace made it happen. Having an actual book for sale on Amazon and elsewhere was particularly important for publicity."
As a communications professional, Bruce knew that good marketing would be a key factor in his book's success. He developed a website, a YouTube channel, and a book trailer, and then started on "teaser" publicity prior to the book launch. He also got active on Facebook and Twitter to engage with his readership via social media. He continues to update his website regularly with publicity, appearances, and good reviews, which continue to roll in.
"My best advice related to marketing: think out of the box," he said. "Yes, that sounds like a cliché, but it is essential. One example of this for Extra Innings is when we couldn't decide between two pieces of music for the book trailer soundtrack. We put both versions on the website and let viewers vote for their favorite, which produced great results."
Bruce hosted a book launch party in Fenway Park, which garnered media attention. With the help of a publicist, he is also conducting book signings and a blog tour nationwide, with publicity attached to each one. He highlights all interviews, appearances and press mentions on his novel's website and in social media channels to build buzz, create greater search engine relevance, and to communicate that his book is more than just a baseball novel. Extra Innings was even featured in Sports Illustrated, twice in Publishers Weekly, and it appeared on the giant electronic Thomson-Reuters sign in Tim es Square.
All of those marketing efforts are paying off. Since it was published, Extra Innings has sold more than 10,000 digital and trade paperback copies in just a few months.The novel also reached the Top 10 list for sports fiction in the Kindle Store, right behind John Grisham and Stephen King and ahead of James Patterson. The sales are still streaming in, but that's not what Bruce considers his biggest success.
"Probably my most satisfying result is the number of complimentary fan emails I receive - particularly the large number from women readers, given the genre - and I answer all of them," he said. "It's all a part of the new marketing par adigm. Don't talk 'at' your target market; instead, engage in a dialogue. The sales reports provided by Amazon's Author Central also indicate that Extra Innings is being read in all 50 states and the U.K. That's very satisfying."
Given his publishing success so far, what does Bruce say when asked to answer the question that serves as the theme of his novel: what would you do differently?
"My only regret is that I did not work with CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing sooner," he said. "I am a big believer in working with partners who have the expertise to help you. CreateSpace and Amazon were wonderful and responsive in my effort to create a great-looking book, prepare it for sale, and manage distribution."