Red Bike Publishing, an Interview

Red Bike Publishing, an Interview

Every once in a while I like to do interviews on my blog. So when a friend reached out to me with the idea for the following interview on self-publishing, and with a local author, I had to jump at the chance. The author is Jeff Bennett and his company is Red Bike Publishing.

Please enjoy the interview…

JeffRedBikec.a. Marks: How long have you been writing? What is your specialty or genre?
Jeff Bennett: I have been writing professionally since 1993. I remember my first assignment and how much fun I had writing articles. I then thought, why not a book? I published my first novel in 2000 and have kept going since. I’d love to be a famous novelist, but right now, my “how to” books are keeping me busy.

I noticed on your website that you have a lot of technical writing listed, tell us more about that.
This was kind of an accidental success. If I hadn’t paid attention to the events that occurred, Red Bike Publishing would have never existed. I began in 2006 when I studied to pass a security certification exam. There was not a study guide at the time, so I began documenting my study habits and writing my own review questions. My personal study helped me overcome obstacles other test takers had commented on and I ended up breezing through the test. The next logical step was to teach others. I compiled my notes and began selling a workbook online to a grateful customer base. The reader mail and success of the eBook led to forming a publishing company to print this book as well as other book opportunities and some spin off product ideas.

But you do want to branch off into other genres such as creative nonfiction or other fiction? In other words, would a contemporary fiction writer be welcomed?
I would love to expand my business to include other contemporary writers. However, the authors should understand that they need to have a solid marketing plan and speaking / teaching platform. In niche publishing, there is no budget for marketing and we all pitch in our best efforts to get the word out. Our books are only available online or in our speaking engagements, so we have to find unique ways to make the books known to those in the niche. In other words we have to answer the questions: Why would anyone buy our book and how would they find it?

The old adage of “if you write it they will come”, just isn’t true. There are a lot of competing books and the more general the book topic is, the more competitive it is. However, if an author is a speaker then they can relate the topic to the book, they will generate sales. A good example of this is John W. Davis. He is selling his book Rainy Street Stories, a non technical memoir, very successfully. He does this by speaking at many different venues and is getting his name out. So, if an author has a sports novel in production and they are actively engaged in Fellowship of Christian Athletes or other community sports organization, they can leverage their speaking and mentoring as selling points for their novel. Novels are harder to sell, but wrapping the genre with a true life message helps.

Please explain the niche market publishing concept.
I have a lot of rejection letters from publishers. Many rejections had no explanation other than the “…book does not meet our editorial needs”. However, a few explained that though my ideas were good, the customer base was just too small. I soon understood that my ideas had merit, but the traditional publishing model wouldn’t work. For example, suppose an author and train enthusiast sent a proposal to a large book publisher. At first the publisher might be interested as the genre of trains is a popular subject matter. However, they might reject a book focusing on German train cars of 1984-1986 as just too narrow of a niche.

Sometimes traditional publishers cannot earn a return on investment required for publishing in specialized markets. For them, book publishing is expensive and requires a larger customer base than may not currently exist. If it takes $20,000 to edit, design, market and sell just one title, then there has to be enough of a potential customer base to make a profit. A lot of folks need to buy books to earn back the investment. If the customer base is not there, they can’t take the risk.

This creates an incredible opportunity for the print on demand model. The size of the audience isn’t as important as the books are only printed when ordered. An initial investment of a few hundred dollars is all it takes. The doors are wide open for publishing in small and specialized industries and hobby groups that are often overlooked by the traditional publisher. The author can publish the book on German train cars of 1984-1986 with little financial risk. In fact, they just have to sell 10-20 books to recover their investment. The rest is gravy and all that is left is a great marketing concept to find those enthusiasts.

Are there any particular types of writers/authors you are looking to work with right now?
I would love to work influential people in their industries, hobby groups, churches and clubs. They may not be authors yet, but if they teach, write blogs or otherwise share their knowledge, I’d like to work with them on their books. For example, someone who teaches Sunday school could develop Bible study material to present to their classes. Everytime they teach, they can sell 10 -20 books. A safety expert who teaches industrial safety topics could write based on their teachings. If they have sound ways of doing business cheaper and safer, there is a market. An athlete who inspires the best in others or other specialized experts who have something to offer their small niches are perfect. Their audience is just too small for traditional publishers to reach, but Red Bike Publishing’s business model can help.

Of course, I have to ask, name some of your favorite authors, or what authors have influenced you the most?
I like spy and detective novels. Jack Reacher novels have captured my attention the most out of current fiction. I have to admit that my favorite books are Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte and The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub. I’ve read those books several times. Out of all books, I’ve read through the Bible the most times.

Can you walk us through the first few steps of publishing? What should the newbie expect?
I have a book Get Rich in a Niche -The Insider’s Guide to Self-Publishing, which explains the authoring, self-publishing and marketing concept for new authors. The reason I mention the book is that it has exercises the author can use to determine whether or not they want to publish themselves or partner with another publisher. Red Bike Publishing would love to be that partner and help facilitate the birth of their books.

However, if the reader chooses to publish their own works themselves, they will have some decisions to make. The exercises help the reader make decisions of what to write, how to gain influence, how to publish and finally market. It is important for the author to determine whether or not to form a publishing company or just publish as a do it yourself author with Amazon’s CreateSpace or Kindle.

There are many books on self-publishing that unfortunately promise authors that if they just write their book the book will sell itself. I couldn’t disagree with that logic any stronger. My thesis is for the author to become an expert in their field or otherwise engage fellow professionals or hobbyists with writing, training or speaking. Whether or not a book is in development, the author can create a plan to become known and sell books. Establish credibility, write a book, and then sell. However, this isn’t the only way, another option is to write a book then establish credibility. A plan I recommend for those who haven’t written a book is to speak, blog, write articles and develop a subscription based newsletter. Then, accumulate enough articles and blog entries to write a book while developing the audience. The goal is to have a following that trusts the teachings, recognizes the author as the expert and finally buys their products. I believe that my focus on niche publishing is refreshing.

In your own words – what other information would you like to get out there to the public that I didn’t cover in this interview?
Research and marketing is key for book sales. I recommend great marketing, but no advertising. A specialized niche doesn’t require paid advertising. Advertising is best reserved for items of food, clothing and shelter. Everyone needs this stuff. So, spending money on ads is a sound investment.
A niche is different. If your target audience is just a few hundred to ten thousand, you will waste your efforts in broadcasting the message to millions. You are hoping that these specialists will be watching at the exact time and place. Hope is not a good strategy.

Niche authors are vulnerable to marketing efforts that exploit these hopes. We get bombarded with those who contact us to pay for book reviews, mailing lists, get our books on library distribution lists and other paid advertising efforts that just don’t work.

Niche marketing requires either finding the meeting place where your market is, or developing one that attracts your market. Speaking, blogging, newsletter writing, websites, social media and other online venues work best. These are all free and effective and should be explored before spending any money on the predatory offerings of others. Again, you can find these ideas and more in Get Rich in a Niche


Thank you for reading and happy writing!

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