Which is worse – not having written a book, or having a garage full of unpublished books?
Some would say it’s worse to not ‘ship’ your book, or better to have written and lost than never to have written at all.
I disagree. There’s another option.
Instead of being a lone endurance racer with your book, consider a more strategic approach. Yeah, ‘strategic’ sounds less cathartic and more scary.
But a garage full of books (and 3 Kindle sales) sounds worse, right?
This approach isn’t for everyone, but I believe there are steps we can take to reduce our level of insecurity, be more attractive to publishers, and become better communicators!
A Case Study
Not every success story is a template, but there are principles that can apply to everyone’s writing aspirations.
Each person has unique insights and stories, so each one can create a book or blog that reaches beyond their circle of existing relationships.
But it takes more than just writing.
Recently, in the span of 16 months, I helped a hopeful nonfiction non-author go from an idea (more a cautious hunch, really) to a solid two-book publishing contract with a major NYC house.
On Day One, this writer didn’t have a blog – or even a Twitter account. I’d love to take the sole credit for this success, but the truth is that we followed a process, and we followed it rigorously.
The Road We Walked
1. Establish a brand
Who is this author? Why should I care?
Notice this has nothing to do with your book idea! Books come and go, so focus on your author brand. This can be as simple as having a website that is up to the standard of the career you want to have.
But let’s face it – intensive focus on self (photos, ‘About-Me’ text, logo, graphics) is unappealing, and brings out even more insecurities for a writer. And so many writers don’t invest in this area.
But if you want to be published, you will need an author brand. Remember, nonfiction publishers don’t just pick books, they pick people! This may also be true for the buying public.
With a website, instead of your going on a book tour, you can send your book out on an AUTHOR tour!
2. Develop one other book idea
Let this idea be different than your pet project.
When you think about what you’d like to be known for, what other unique insights are you driven to share? If it helps, play out this future scenario to spur brainstorming:
My book just flopped… what’s next?
Create a formal book proposal for both books. This is a business plan for your book. It is what a publisher wants to see.
I can see the artist in you squirming, but you need a business plan.
Create one by answering these questions:
- Why does this book exist? (Amazon already carries some pretty good ones on this topic.)
- What’s the reader-outcome you’re looking for? (“I loved this book because…”)
- The readers and their motivation – who will buy this book, and why?
- Who are your competitors? (And how is your book different from theirs?)
- How will this book strengthen your brand?
Another benefit of this process is that it helps you frame a self-publishing strategy.
Publishers can be like banks – only eager to lend money to people who don’t need it. If you don’t think you can get a return on your self-publishing investment, why would a publisher risk their money on you?
3. Write the book
Insecurity is something all writers share. It is natural for us to want to hide and write, only to unveil our massive works to an audience that… will probably feel too sorry for us to give honest feedback.
Instead, create simple focus groups in your target audience and send them sample chapters. (Yes – chapters, even ideas in your book proposal.) Then brace yourself. You will get numerous ideas to help you improve your writing.
Listen to their feedback. Let this pull better writing out of you.
Repeat the above until you’re both humbled and ecstatic about your book. It may take months. Sorry.
These steps are insecurity-busters because you’ll experience the satisfaction of both affirmation and constructive feedback!
4. Self-publish the book
Get a GREAT title, subtitle and cover.
Does this mean more pride-killing feedback? Uh huh. It also means you need to get professional help. You might be a great writer, but you are probably not a great designer.
The confidence you gained in the steps above will ooze into your marketing and sales!
5. Sell 10,000 copies in 7 months
Okay, that’s a stretch, but it happened in this case, with less than 500 social media connections. These sales would not have happened without following each step of the process in a disciplined manner.
Publisher conversations are much different if you are able to quote sales you’ve achieved by yourself. It helps remove the scent of desperation from the dialogue, and is often a game changer.
6. Get a nice TWO-book deal
When a publisher is reviewing one book, why not have a worthy second book for them to consider? If you were a publisher, you’d want to see this depth from an author.
However, this last is more the exception than the norm.
Most aspiring authors don’t succeed because they write first and ask questions later.
What if you follow the process outlined above and still don’t find a publisher? You’ll be a better writer, and in a much stronger position to be successful as a publisher as well!
Have you tried any of the above steps? What worked? What didn’t? Please share your reactions, questions, and ideas in the comments below.
About the author:
Mike Loomis helps people launch their dream projects and books. He’s strategic partner to bestselling authors, non-profits, publishers as well as startups, and aspiring messengers. He and his wife live in the mountains of Colorado with their pet moose.
Image: Published Author courtesy of Bigstockphoto.com