Maybe you’re already working on yours – in your spare time, late at night, and on weekends.
Or maybe it’s something that you plan on getting to “eventually”.
Either way, I’m willing to bet that at the back of your mind and bottom of your heart, you dream about becoming the next Seth Godin, John Grisham, or Beatrix Potter – complete with the six-figure book advances, and the hordes of raging fans.
But then, reality sets in…
Most New Authors Release Books That Sell Fewer Than 100 Copies
First of all, writing the book is way harder than you thought it would be.
Outlining, drafting, revising, editing, editing again, getting someone else to edit it for you (painful!) and finally, submitting your manuscript to a few carefully selected small publishing houses. And a few of the big ten because – maybe, right?
Your expectations are modest.
You dream of being the next runaway hit, but you know you’re more likely to sell a respectable steady stream of copies, be able to find your books in local and international retailers, get some decent reviews in national press.
That kind of thing.
So when none of this happens – it can be a shock.
Most new authors sell less than 100 books.
In total. Ever.
That means they’re lost deep in the mire of uncategorized Amazon, and never make their way to a bookcase at all.
The nature of the industry is that there are a select few books that sell hundreds of millions of copies, and those revenues allow publishers to produce books that won’t break a few hundred – which they need to do, just so there’s some variety.
But even if they do publish your book, the fact is that bookshelf space in stores is incredibly scarce, and the competition for those spots is fierce. If you’re lucky enough to be stocked, you’re looking at a time slot of about six weeks, during which you may not sell any copies at all.
And if that’s the case, out you go.
Bricks-and-Mortar Book Deals are Dead
“Book Deals” as they are so fondly dreamed about, are almost non-existent.
Six figure advances are only available for the Stephen Kings and Jim Collins’ of the world. It doesn’t work like this for most authors – even when they’re accepted by a big publishing house (which is rare).
Many authors still act as if this is the lay of the land, however, imagining that once a book is accepted by a publisher, the rest will all be taken care of by a publisher that will push the book to stores, and to the waiting masses beyond.
Nope. Not going to happen.
Even the biggest publishing companies require authors to do most of the marketing for their new book themselves. A far cry from our daydreams about cross-country reading tours and reviews in the New York Times!
The whole industry is in crisis, with brick and mortar companies having to compete with services like Amazon who can offer pricing and selection that a traditional book store just can’t match. The big publishing companies have to save money, and they do it by handing the marketing and promotion to the author.
Which is a tall order, because now authors are expected to be popular and have a distributions system in place before they release their book.
That’s a lot to ask of a wordsmith!
Of course, just because you don’t know how to market and promote your book right now doesn’t mean that you can’t do it. While companies like Amazon have made it more difficult to get noticed as a new author – they’ve also made it possible to do so without throwing yourself on the far from tender mercy of a big publishing concern.
Where there’s a will, there’s a way, and if you’ve managed to write a book – I can assure you that getting an audience for it is more than possible.
When to Start Promoting Your Book (It’s Sooner Than You Think!)
Ideally, you’ll want to start generating interest in your book before you even write a word of the sucker.
“What?” You may be asking yourself. “Is Danny crazy? How on earth do you promote a book you haven’t written yet?”
I’m absolutely serious. The best time to start generating interest in your book is before you write it.
You have to know what it’s going to be about, of course, and a title (a working title, anyway) wouldn’t hurt either, and you absolutely, positively have to know who it’s going to be for.
That’s the key right there: knowing who your book is going to be for, who your ideal reader is.
Once you know who will eventually buy your book, you need to connect with them and develop a relationship before you write it, so that when you do, they’ll be ready and waiting to grab their copy.
You’ll want to have a blog or online gather space to talk about your ideas and concepts, and then you need to get as many people to that space as possible, where they can sign up to a mailing list to be informed of how it’s coming along, and when it’s ready so they can go out and get it.
You’ll draw people back to your list by blogging frequently about topics that interest your ideal readers, and by guest posting on other blogs that they read. Comment on articles, get involved in forums, and generally make yourself a known entity in every space where you think your ideal reader will be online.
Once you have a community going, the time will be ripe to bring up the idea of the book you want to write.
Even better, you can get your audience to help you, and offer you their input so it’s exactly what they want to see in a finished product.
That sounds pretty good, right?
It gets better.
You can get a group of people together and have them crowd-fund the book itself. You can get paid more than some authors ever make before you write a word. I know. I crowd-funded my book to the tune of $9,101 – *before* I started writing it.
It’s not easy, but it works.
You just need to have a community interested in what you want to say – and if you can’t get that, then you’re not writing about the right thing anyway!
Crowd-Funding and Self-Publishing: The Way of the Future
Amazon KDP and print-on-demand (POD) services like Lulu have democratized access to the means of production, and even to the readers themselves – and services like KickStarter and IndieGoGo make it possible for you to get paid for your writing. All that you need to do is harness the power of a crowd, and ask for their support.
Oh, and then deliver a kick-ass final product – but you already knew about that part. 😉
This is one of those things that is very simple – but not exactly easy. There’s so much involved in blogging, community building and crowd-funding that if it’s new to you – it can seem overwhelming.
And then self-publishing! As dead as traditional publishing may be, for many authors it feels like the safer, more respectable option.
But that really isn’t true anymore. Not even a little.
Whatever your industry, whoever your readers, they will be just as willing to buy a book from you (probably much more, come to think of it) than from a giant publishing company. You just need to get them on board.
About the author:
Danny Iny (@DannyIny) is the co-founder of Firepole Marketing, the “Freddy Krueger of Blogging”, and the co-author (with Guy Kawasaki, Brian Clark, and many others) of Engagement from Scratch! (available on Amazon, or as a free download).