Guest post by Elizabeth Claire
By 1996 I had written five or six books in the field of English as a second language that were published by Prentice Hall and others. I was poking along, poking along at a 5% royalty, not making much money for me.
I decided to give my books a boost by starting a newspaper for immigrants (the likely target of some of my books) that would be given out free in Bergen County, New Jersey. I bought books from the publishers at the resellers discount and promoted my books in the newspaper. As a result, I made 40% for myself in addition to the 5% royalty.
Thus began Easy English NEWS, a 12-page tabloid-size freebie newspaper that I wrote and with a partner distributed to high schools, adult schools, libraries, ethnic book stores, etc. It was full of useful information that immigrants need to know, in short sentences and simple vocabulary. My 20 years experience teaching newcomers made me an expert in what English language learners want to know - and how to write that in simple English. We were going to fund the newspaper with ads in addition to ads for my own books.
A year later, and a few book sales later, my partner convinced me to give a try at selling Easy English NEWS by subscription rather than give it away. We changed it to a national paper for immigrants, sent samples out to high schools and adult schools with ESL programs and, quite honestly, I hoped no one would buy it, as it was far too much work.
But teachers ordered it. It filled a need in this niche, and there was nothing else on the market like it. Compliments kept me going for the first five years that it took us to break even and start to build up enough money for a salary for me.
Seventeen years later, it is still going strong, a half million dollars in subscription sales each year, with a circulation of 45,000, and a readership of 120,000. An ad in the paper invites teachers and students to my website where I sell the 26 books, games, and CDs I have produced by now.
Easy English NEWS became the breadwinner, and although I offer specials and sales at the website, many schools with meager budgets buy only one copy of the books and photocopy them - but it is very hard to photocopy a tabloid size newspaper!
To market the newspaper has been easier than marketing the books. Reason? When you print 45,000 copies on newsprint, the cost per each paper is low enough to give away samples, even class sets to teachers, whereas it's prohibitive to give away samples of books that teachers are going to photocopy and never buy any more.
When teachers have a copy of Easy English NEWS in their hand, they can see its value ... and want to get next month's and the month after that edition as well. I have a graduated volume discount, so the larger the class size or the district, the lower the price. This makes it a no brainer for them to subscribe. While the typical order is for 20 copies a month at $1.40 per copy for ten months, New York City Dept of Ed Adult Education Program orders 6,000 copies of the paper every month. At 90 cents per copy, they get a fantastic bargain, and I do OK as well.
Of course, the down side of this is that I have to produce the product over and over and over: plan, research, write many articles, get photos and illustrations, rewrite to simple English, define difficult words, send to copy editors, enter edits, layout and design each page...and all by a deadline. That doesn't leave a lot of time to market my books other than to send out free samples twice a year to a list of ESL programs across the country.
I haven't missed a deadline, though, in 17 years, through computer crashes, lightning strikes, broken elbow, broken heart, cancer surgery, family emergencies, new love, and moving to Virginia. I almost sold out three times, but I am getting good at it, get lots of accolades and appreciation, and have decided to keep on keeping on.
In addition to covering my grandkids' dental bills and helping with tuition, I have a paid-off sea captain's house for a summer retreat on the Bay of Fundy, and a winter headquarters on a lake (with two kayaks) in Virginia Beach, which will be paid off in another two weeks.
I wake up each morning so happy to have created so much work for myself, doing what I love, contributing to others, creating jobs for others, in a place of great beauty and clean air, having fun, and paying my bills. And working most days in my pajamas. Until it's time to kayak.
Life is good, and I have to say, I owe so much of getting started to you, way back with my first book, Dangerous English, in 1981. Thank you!!
About the Author
Elizabeth Claire is the author of numerous books on English as a second language but her greatest success is her job as editor and publisher of Easy English NEWS. For more about Elizabeth's books and newspaper, check out her website at http://www.elizabethclaire.com.
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