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 8 - Niche Picking
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Niche Picking

     Ha, !   I'm really enjoying writing these”How-To-Publish” tomes – In fact, they represent a genealogy of my books written.  To be sure – there are those of you that may be a bit bored at the special privileges I take in describing my experiences, but just possibly, there are others who may benefit from each of the endeavors brought about by my on-going quest in the "Do-It-Your-Self" self-publishing industry.  
     Next in my chronology – resulted in another departure with the previously mentioned  – “Pass Christian – Historic District and Lost Mansions.”   With my newly purchased laser printer, I decided to produce a book in the full glory of color.   I wanted to display the magnificence of the homes that stretch along Scenic Drive facing the Mississippi Sound for a six-mile distance (being a segment of a 26-mile sand beach).  Not by intention, but by pure circumstance, the book was released in November 1999 – just in time for Christmas buying.  On my home computer and printer I had produced 20 copies of the 95-page book, thinking that at $35 a pop, I would quickly exhaust the demand.  But, no, it was very well received – actually, I wound up printing each night for several weeks.  It took me all of eight hours to print just five books on the laser printer – thereby meeting the pressure of my local retailers by feeding them each a few at a time.  Result, I sold close to 100 copies of the color edition and finally had to call a halt to the printing process due to pure exhaustion.  Since, then, I have sold more than 200 books of the same edition, but in Black and White.  “Pass Christian – Historic District and Lost Mansions” became the local resident's ideal gift in showing their historic district home to friends and relatives.  The black and white version, as do all of my history series, sells for my standard retail price of $20 each.
     In selecting my next book topic, I first assessed the fact that I had remained within a geographic driving distance of 30 to 40 minutes.  I had covered the area to my west by 30 miles which included Slidell, Louisiana and Diamondhead, Bay St. Louis, Kiln, and Pass Christian, Mississippi.  To the east I had written on Gulfport.  Because there were other writers covering the cities of Long Beach, Biloxi, and Ocean Springs – I refrained from going head-to-head with them – so I decided on a different tack.  I made my next launch by covering the whole Mississippi Gulf Coast and produced “All About Camille – the Great Storm,” which I released in July 2000.
     In accord with my past books, I sought and collected more than 200 photographs and numerous stories and interviews about the happenings of the days leading to and the weeks following August 17, 1969.  Result – sales were brisk and the book continues as the only book in print about that disaster which is commemorated every year.  However, I did lose a wonderful opportunity in not having the book available for the 30th Anniversary of the Storm.

   Trailing right behind Camille, was my release of “Lighthouses and Islands – Gulf Coast” in November 2000.  It too, covered the three coastal counties of Mississippi.  However, I was disappointed in the early and even later sales of this book.  I thought that all the Lighthouse lovers throughout the world, would surely make it a winner.  But, that didn't happen – sales are slow and sporadic.  But, the book is good and receives great comment from those who read it.  As I see it, this is just a problem waiting for a marketing solution.

Back to – Marketing and Production
     From a marketing perspective, I had about a dozen and a half locations selling my books on consignment.  Not in bunches, but I have no reason to complain.
     As a result of developing a history with Kinkos Printing in New Orleans where my book files are kept in inventory, it has been made easy for me to simply call or email the Docutek operator and request a run on 5 of these, 15 of them, and 10 of such-and-such – with instructions that I will make a pick up the next morning.  Once at home, I print out the covers and bind them for delivery to my retail outlets.  So, in affect, I have created my own formula for Print-On-Demand.  And, I never have to stock more than the selling seasons require.  At most, I keep 10 to 15 of each of my books on hand for immediate delivery to retail outlets -- or to mail to those who request by telephone or email or through the internet.

Web Siting
     Sometime in 1999, I decided to design a website.  Even though for many years, I had been involved with computers as a business, I always had programmers to call on for design or to create whatever I needed.  But, after I departed from the computer business, I  became dumb or dumber than anyone – with the exception that I do have a good command of computer concepts and a facility for using word-processing.  Regardless, I am always amazed at the number of novices who take to the internet and website design with great facile.  So my word to you is that if you haven't charged yourself to adopting a web site of your own, check with a later Tome where I will discuss this further.
     Some people are easily misled into believing that a Web Site makes instant success.  It doesn't!  Nevertheless, a Web Site can be an essential tool for the Self-Publisher.
     By the end of the year 2000, I had completed 11 “history, heritage, legacy” books self-published.  In addition, I offer to speak anywhere and anytime called upon.  And further, if a media publication wants a "snippet," or what I call my Vignettes, I supply them gladly.
     So, as you can see – I found my niche!

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Self Publishing is a great experience!