Monday, March 18, 2013

Change can be good

I've been working toward becoming a Climate Master -- an expert (of sorts) on all things related to the climate and our environment. It's a lot like the Master Gardener program, just with a different focus. I've learned some pretty incredible things, and I'm going to spend the coming weeks sharing them here.

My main focus will be on things you can do to reduce your impact on the environment. And if you don't really care about the environment, or don't accept that humans are changing the climate, those things will still help you save money and eat healthier.

Change can be good--individually, locally, and globally.

Do you need to take out a second mortgage to install geothermal or solar? No. Do you need to trade in your car for a hybrid or electric? Nope. They're great if you can afford them, but they're not necessary.

See, change doesn't have to be difficult. It doesn't have to cost a lot of money. Change for the better can be as simple as a series of small steps that cumulate to become something greater. If everyone commits to making small changes, just think what our collective actions can do.

coremediagroup (source)

So to get you thinking, here's a breakdown of how a typical U.S. household uses energy (from Energy Savers):
45% - heating
18%  - water heating
9% - cooling (e.g., air conditioning)
6% - computers and electronics
6% - lighting
5% - other
4% - cooking
4% - refrigeration
3% - wet cleaning

How can you easily reduce your household energy use? 
  • Heating your house is by far the biggest chunk of that bill--Turn down the heat! For every degree you lower your heat, you save 3% off your heating bill. Set your daytime temperature at 68 and wear a sweater.
  • Get a programmable thermostat (one that's easy to program). Use it to turn the heat down 8 degrees at night, when you're bundled up under a pile of blankets (yes, if you're doing the math, that would be 60). Then have the heat kick in about 30 minutes before you get up, so the house isn't freezing.
  • Wrap your water heater with an insulating blanket. Yes, touching your water heater can be scary if you haven't done it before, but the insulation will make a big difference.
  • Hang your clothes to dry. This one is a huge energy saver. If you live in a dry area with lots of sun, you clothes will be dry in about the same amount of time as using the dryer, but with zero emissions and zero addition to your electric bill. (As an added bonus, sunlight will erase vegetable- or fruit-based stains. For serious, try it out sometime. It doesn't work on grease or dirt, but other stuff, like tomato or blueberry? Sunlight, baby, all the way.)

Those are things that will put a big dent in your utility bill. Line-drying clothing in summer will also help reduce the energy needed during peak times, which will help prevent an overloaded electric grid. That reduces the need to build new power plants, which saves you money in the long run (since the power company will pass on those costs to their customers).

See? Small, painless, and puts money back in your wallet.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Marketing Monday - Gail Gauthier

Marketing Monday is back!

Please welcome Gail Gauthier, author of eight children's books, including The Hero of Ticonderoga, an ALA Notable Book, and the Hannah and Brandon Stories series. Gail just re-released her book Saving the Planet & Stuff, this time as an eBook. She's here to share what it's like to go through the eBook marketing process with a book that was originally released in hardback.

So without further ado ... welcome, Gail!

Saving the Planet & Stuff first appeared in 2003 as a hardcover book traditionally published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons and marketed for grades 5 and up. This year it has been re-released as a self-published eBook marketed for YA and up.

Back in 2003, my marketing efforts were pretty much limited to the website and blog I was already maintaining and a few press releases that I sent out to publications in Connecticut, where I lived, and Vermont, where the book was set. The bulk of the marketing was done by my publisher, while I worked on my next book.

I am the publisher of the eBook, so this time I’ll be doing all the marketing. Ten years have passed and my platform is a little more extensive, anyway. In addition to the website and blog, I have a professional as well as personal Facebook page, an author page at Amazon, and I’m active on Goodreads, where I have a second blog.

Beyond that, my marketing plan has been developed around the fact that Saving the Planet & Stuff is now an eBook. The first marketing task was acquiring a new cover, which was created by Eric Bloom. This eBook cover carries a little more weight than the covers of my traditionally published books did. For one thing, it includes the tag line “An Eco-Comedy” because I wanted to make sure potential readers knew that this book is funny.

In addition, you’ll see “Gail Gauthier Author of Happy Kid!” printed at the bottom of the image. It’s not unusual to see an author’s earlier work noted on the cover of a traditionally published book. The reference to the earlier book could help sell the new one.

With eBooks, it’s supposed to work the other way, too. If readers like the new eBook they’ve just read, it’s possible they’ll buy another eBook by the same author, assuming they know it’s available. That explains why Happy Kid! is on the eBook cover of Saving the Planet & Stuff instead of my ALA Notable book, The Hero of Ticonderoga. G. P. Putnam’s Sons has published an eBook edition of Happy Kid! while Hero is out-of-print. With my new Saving the Planet cover, I’m trying to market two books, Saving the Planet, of course, and Happy Kid!.

I understand readers moving from one eBook to another because I’m an eBook reader myself. I’ve been known to finish reading one eBook and buy another in the same series in the middle of the night while I’m in bed. My own eBook purchasing habits have shaped another aspect of my marketing of Saving the Planet & Stuff. With an eBook, you don’t have to wait to go to a bookstore to purchase it. You don’t have to pick up the phone and order it from a store or go on-line to do so. You don’t have to wait for the book to arrive in the mail. You can order the book from your e-reader and be reading it seconds later. I wanted that kind of availability for anyone who saw or read anything about Saving the Planet & Stuff.

While I have been talking about this publishing project at my blog, website, and Facebook pages, I waited until the eBook had actually published before posting the book trailer to YouTube or approaching many bloggers to request reviews or guest posts.

I didn’t want people to see a trailer or early review and not be able to buy the book right at that minute. I’m making the assumption that other eBook readers shop the way I do.

I’m also considering doing some paid advertising through Amazon at some point. Because Saving the Planet & Stuff is an eBook, I don’t have to worry about making big sales right out of the gate in order to keep a traditional paper and print book on store shelves.

This whole project is an experiment for me. At this point, the experiment is going to involve approaching bloggers and continuing with on-line marketing for quite some time, instead of putting everything up front, at time of publication.

Thanks so much for the glimpse into the marketing differences between traditional and e-publishing, Gail! Best of luck with your marketing efforts. Saving the Planet & Stuff looks like a lot of fun--can't wait to read it!

 * * *

Gail Gauthier is the author of eight children's books, including The Hero of Ticonderoga, an ALA Notable Book, and the two volumes of the Hannah and Brandon Stories series, A Girl, a Boy, and a Monster Cat, and A Girl, a Boy, and Three Robbers, which were both selected as Junior Library Guild offerings. Her books have been nominated for readers' choice awards in six states, and published in foreign editions in Italy, Germany, France, and Japan. She has spoken in schools in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Vermont, as well as at professional conferences. She maintains the weblog Original Content, where she writes about children's literature, writing, and time management for writers.