adaption, Author tools and hacks, Faith, ingenuity, Laura Bartnick, op-ed

Ingenuity Colors a Wall

By Laura Bartnick
Managing Partner, Capture Books

During the holidays, I had the opportunity to host the inventor of a well-received artists’ pastel, the Terry Ludwig Pastels and his lovely wife in my home.  I learned how his creative need for widening a small array of pastel colors to vastly more colors begat an ingenuity to create them himself.

For Terry, learning how to mix and shape these new pastels for personal use led to bulk mixes of the pastel shaped chalks and also to the business of selling them to other artists. Soon, the success he received outgrew his ability to paint and to run the pastel business. Fortunately, in retirement, Terry’s son, Geoff, continues to run the family business.

INGENUITY COLORS THIS WALL

Soon after, another company came to my attention, an innovative and ingenious company that actually grew in lean times when other companies gave way to the competition.

Braun Brush Company is one of America’s oldest family-owned industrial brush manufacturers. From the start, Emanuel Braun, a German immigrant, implemented handmade, quality manufacturing techniques to produce brushes as effective household tools. They became popular.  Who doesn’t need a variety of brushes, right?

However, at the turn of the century when the industrial revolution started, the factory, like most small manufacturing businesses, fell on hard times. Mass production by machine, whether inferior in quality or not, overwhelmed them. Authors and publishers might relate to the phenomenon as they experienced the mass marketing of self-published books took over the marketplace.

Again in the 50s, when China began mass production of common household items to America, Braun, could have given up production of his homemade brushes.

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Photo by Dom J on Pexels.com

Instead, Braun began identifying a person at a time needing one unique brush. He could still fill that market of one each time he designed a unique brush making his mark up, because the machines were making multiples for the masses, not unique needs. Finding one-of-a-kind niches, inventing brushes for commercial institutions such as NASA and nuclear plants for cleaning silos, sustained Braun’s brush business.

Braun cylinder brushREINVENTING THE WHEEL – A GOOD INVESTMENT?

Artisans and business people are often warned not to waste time or resources in trying to reinvent the wheel. In this instance,  I’ve learned the opposite is true. It helps to be willing to reinvent the wheel for different purposes and vehicles.  Thinking about this, it may be common sense that the same wheel would not suit all purposes, nor does the same brush.

Braun understood that not all designs were for all people, so he turned the tables and specialized. Ingenious. Sometimes it isn’t the quantities, but the value of rarity. Due to the improvisation and determination of the family owners and managers, Braun continues to design, craft, and sell brushes in new markets.

I have discovered, time and time again, that one person may be a visionary while others must get on board with the business sense, varieties of production needs, or sales in order to make the business succeed. Each person must use ingenuity to succeed in creating a full picture from the puzzle pieces.

NOT EVERY CREATED THING IS PRODUCED FOR ALL

Some people mass-produce their art for those who decorate personal spaces with reproduced poster art printed on less quality paper, sold, and appreciated en mass, ie. think the paperback novel or Kindle readers.

Some people want to see their own work up on the wall, ie. think the vantage press hardcovers or those who use their books for establishing a legacy.

Some only want to produce enough work to give gifts to friends, club members, and business associates.  Others need to make a living and are able to gain the aid of professionals to either become a classic household name in a genre or form.

In readers as in the art world, there are those who collect, those who invest in local artists and masters.  You understand, if you have an original signed and dated piece from a local artist, author, or a master in any era, it is safe to say that only those who come into your space will likely see it.

Like showing off a beloved library, an original art piece may be the dictating factor for how the rest of the space is decorated and furnished.

KEEP UP WITH HUMAN APPETITES

Finding and selling to the markets basically means that the creator has discovered a way to feed someone’s appetite. It comes down to that.

It’s great to create new stories and new things, but there are some things that are universal patterns and needs requiring  some pattern of format or reformatting. This is true in writing a widely read book.

A novice author dreams of seeing his or her book mass-produced. For me, when the self-publishing phenomenon happened, when all manner of marketing and social networking advice overwhelmed me, I floundered and moved into low gear. The transformation of the bookselling industry was about to spit out the hobbyists from the author-entrepreneurs. And, I wasn’t ready to give up.  In digging in my heels, I had a lot to learn.

One of the things I learned related to finding a niche of readers, and describing my book as the answer to their appetite for discovering the source of creativity and learning to follow a true pattern of success.

In 2020, when I approved the final revision of my book, Welcome to the Shivoo!, I smiled thinking, “That’s a book I want to buy and read myself!”

Authors and publishers aim for more readers and merrier times. Whether this dream becomes fact, real art always comes from the heart. When an artisan believes in his or her process and skill, adapting ideas to reproduce stories in a bigger way and by a preferable means becomes real-world work.

What a delicious assurance.

 

Occasionally, authors believe they have written their only masterpiece.  With the work and expense required to establish themselves, it feels unlikely that another manuscript so heartfelt and well-researched will ever pour from their fingertips again.  They want their books to be mass-produced, and when at first this fails to happen, spirits fall in chorus like a requiem.

It’s simply the excitement and pathos of a first book singing out a delicious moment. But, there is a whole new career awaiting.

Getting a book published produces a bell-curve of an overwhelming high and extreme low of emotion before the reality of the artisan’s business work ethic sets in. However, it is unfounded to think that new inspiration can never spurt to the surface again considering the wellspring of ingenuity contained in the life events of any artisan.

Imagine logo Capture Books_smallWhen a writer has found one passion, another passion will likely emerge parallel to the appetites sparking at the time. An opportunity to produce a sequel or a similar brand of book will begin to tug at a sleeve. The question is, will the creator accept being the vessel in the future? Will the creator continue to find the hope and motivation as Braun found to prepare for a future society, to accept this new manuscript in the new language of a new people?

I like to keep a notebook, camera, and recorder nearby to document the interesting things that pass through my life so that I may one day adapt them into new art, or writing, or sales systems.

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Making investments of time, making new connections, encouraging and celebrating old friends, building a stack of different contact lists, figuring out new sales taxes, new applicable laws and trends, learning software and state of the art sciences, showing up to present at libraries and social clubs, and learning the ropes of publicity, are they worth the effort to you?

Every day, you and I are just like Emanuel Braun who was beckoned and wooed by life’s need to survive in New York’s transitioning society and the crux of needed creativity. You cannot blame your competitors who found a rung on the ladder before you did.  Learn from them. You cannot hold customers captive without new products. Keep inventing.

You and I are the ones who must continue to get gritty, work late nights and early mornings, research, edit, barter, and train.

Be Braun.

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The Primary Way a Fan Can Help

Hi, […] I can’t tell you the wonder that your book brought to me.  Thank you, thank you.  I would like to buy several copies.  How do I go about doing that so that you would benefit the most?  Thank you again for the sunshine you brought to us. – Love, Nettie

One of our popular authors at Capture Books received this message and then quickly sent a note to the agent, “When I answer her, I should say I’ll benefit the most from selling the books to her – outright — is that correct?”

nature-grass-leaf-green

This is a common question and dilemma for young authors. On one hand, you make more money off of the books you have in stock because you have removed the middle-man by selling them yourself. So, what would you do?

Well, let’s look at it another way.

If she buys directly from you, the author, you will have to

  • purchase a mailer for the book ($4-7) then
  • mail the book to them ($4-13)
  • make it look professional with a nice label, packing and tape. ($2-4)

How much will all of this cost you?

You incur double the shipping expenses if you mail books out again from your local post office because you’ve already purchased and shipped these books to yourself once.

Also, shipping them out again will cause you to have to replenish your personal stock sooner.

Not only that, but if you pay handling fees, you are wasting money by misusing the books you’ve sent to yourself.

Unless you are visiting someone in person, and you hand over several books in the process of a visit, shipping from your own home stock of books is not your best value. It is almost always best to use the books received at your home base for author appearances at events, stores, retreats, and occasional visits with people who ask for your book over lunch. Autograph parties and targeted promotional events or handouts for targeted charity events or clubs will diminish your personal stock of books quickly enough if you are doing your own publicity.  This is what you should be doing with your personal stock of books, author friend.

So, to answer the question posed by the eager fan to our author, the best way to benefit your grassroots reputation and movement of books in the wider market is to ask the fan to order from Barnes & Noble or from her own favorite independent bookshop.  Why?

It makes the store manager aware of your book. It has to pass through several hands before the bookstore clerk hands it over to our new fan, who ordered it.  See how many people have been introduced to it then? 

  1. the manager, (even if it is just listed as a book that was ordered on a sales sheet)
  2. the intake clerk who places the order, and
  3. the box clerk in the back who receives the order.

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And, you will influence a whole new store to consider shelving/stocking your book!  (Free publicity). Wait. Do I need to shout that out again? FREE PUBLICITY. Any business owner gets it.


If your new fan calls a bookstore, neither of you nor your fan have to pay shipping (Let her know this). Costs of shipping typically falls on a bookstore as their expense. You will still make your regular brick ‘n mortar bookstore money $1-3 per book, but you won’t have to do the work, or buy a shipping box and label, spend gas to mail it, and valuable time.

Primarily, it is the free publicity that you are after here. When someone wants to help you out, either ask them to ask for your book at their local library, or ask them to order the book from a store or both.

Ordering from an online source, such as Christianbooks.com is another way to establish a grass roots interest, however, these secondary online sites do not stock your book, and so they simply place an order with the supplier for the purchaser, and do not see the book itself since it is not handled by them.

It is the grassroots call for your book that makes thoseteam-motivation-teamwork-together-53958 controlling your book’s future, sit up and take notice.

Once you begin to experience the high costs of regular advertising, you will see the wisdom in this advice.

 

Be sure to thank you new fan honestly and from the heart. Her eagerness to help you succeed is a personal display of willingness to help you in the future.

  1. Perhaps, in your return communication you can ask them to give you the name of an event planner or retreat co-ordinator for a speaking referral.
  2. Perhaps, after you have established a happy customer, you can follow up and ask for a book review on Amazon or Goodreads or the Nook or ChristianBooks.com.

ALWAYS appeal to your widest market opportunity.