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The Missing Links to Successful
It happened again today. A new author contacted me through the SPAWN Web site asking forno, begging forhelp with promoting his book. Like so many hopeful authors, he wrote the book of his dreams and then signed a contract with the first publisher who expressed an interest in his manuscript. In this case it was AuthorHouse, but it could have been PublishAmerica, Lulu, Trafford or any number of other self-publishing services.
Whats wrong with this picture? Isnt the authors ultimate goal to get published? Yes, but the author who goes directly from writing to publishing is omitting some essential and vital steps toward his successthere are missing links. If youve searched the Internet for a publisher within the last few years, you know how many companies are pushing to get your business. Type in book publisher at the Google prompt and your screen is filled with promises to publish your book for a fee. Choose one, almost any one, and they will tell you what a wonderful manuscript you have and quickly offer you a publishing contract.
Now theres a thrill. You call your mom, aunt Mary, cousin Sid and all of your former co-workers to share the exciting news. After giving it a quick glance, you sign the contract and then sit back and wait for your shipment of three (four or six) books. You order several more copies to give to mom, aunt Mary, cousin Sid and your favorite former co-workers.
In the meantime, Im counting the minutes, hours and days until you contact me (or someone like me) asking for help. Because, at some point, you will suddenly realize that it is your responsibility to promote your book and you dont have a clue where to begin. Its true! As the author, promotion is your responsibility whether you land a traditional royalty publisher, go with a fee-based POD publishing service or self-publish your book.
Some of you will also go back over the contract you signed and figure out that where it says, We will make your book available to bookstores, doesnt mean Your books will be sold by the thousands through bookstores nationwide. Instead, it means, If a bookseller comes asking for a book like this, we will tell them about your book.
Yes, I speak to many disappointed, disillusioned authors every year. Thats why Im currently on a mission to find authors before they start making expensive, heart-breaking mistakes. Now this is not to say that signing with a fee-based POD publishing service is necessarily a mistake. The mistakes occur when the author is not industry savvywhen he or she makes uninformed decisions.
So what constitutes the missing links I speak of? What are the steps an author should take after placing of the last period on his manuscript and before signing a publishing contract? See below.
Note: Actually, Id rather you follow these steps even BEFORE you write the first word of a novel, memoir or nonfiction book.
1: Determine your motivation for writing
2: Study the publishing industry.
Learn about the publishing industry by joining publishing organizations such as SPAWN (Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network) www.spawn.org, SPAN and PMA. Read magazines and newsletters related to the industry: SPAWNews, PMA Independent, SPAN Connection, Book Promotion Newsletter, RJ Communications Publishing Basics and many others.
Read books such as, The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book, The Successful Writers Handbook, (by Patricia Fry), The Self-Publishing Manual (by Dan Poynter) and The Fine Print of Self-Publishing, (by Mark Levine)
3: Write a book proposal.
4: Identify your competition.
How do you conduct a comparative study of similar books? Visit a major bookstore in your area and go to the shelf where your book might be. Look at all of the books shelved there. Read many of them. Determine whats different about yourswhat makes it better? Maybe youll discover that your book idea is quite similar to several published books. Can you come up with an angle or a slant that is differentone that makes your book more useful, interesting, entertaining or informative, for example? If your nonfiction book is just like all the others, why bother producing it?
How healthy is the fiction market? Your comparative study will most likely reveal what sort of fiction is popular today. Young adult novels are selling well, for example. There also seems to be a big desire for fantasy and thrillers.
Maybe you plan to write a memoir. If you are not a high profile person, you may want to rethink your desire to write a memoir for national distribution. Many authors write memoirs in hopes of using their own tragic stories to educate or inform others. You may well discover that a memoir isnt the best way to do that. Ask the hard questions and use the comparative study of similar books to get the answers you need in order to make all of the right decisions.
5: Identify your target audience.
If yours is a nonfiction book, you must identify the audience who wants the information you are providing or who is interested in the topic. This does not include those who you believe should read the book, but those who will want to read the book. If you are honest in the evaluation of your target audience, you may discover that it isnt a very large segment of people. This knowledge may even prompt you to change the focus of your book or abandon the project altogether. I cant even begin to tell you how many authors I meet who have written the wrong book for the wrong audience and now regret the money spent, the time involved and the emotions invested.
6: Locate your target audience.
If you discover that you dont have a solid target audience, take another look at your book idea. Maybe you need to refocus. Now doesnt it make sense to discover the truth about your book before you publish it?
7: Plan your promotional tactics.
Build a Web site related to your book. List magazines, newsletters and Web sites that might review your book. Outline articles/stories you can write to help promote your book. (Read, A Writers Guide to Magazine Articles for Book Promotion and Profit by Patricia Fry.) Obtain a list of civic organizations seeking speakers. Contact bookstores nationwide and plan book signings. Ask local radio/TV stations to interview you. Send press releases to appropriate newspaper editors throughout the nation. Discover many additional book promotion ideas in books by Patricia Fry, John Kremer, Fran Silverman and others.
8: Build promotion into your book.
9: Establish your platform.
Maybe your book is on an aspect of acupuncture. Your platform might include the fact that youve studied and taught acupuncture internationally for many years. Youve written articles for numerous magazines on topics related to acupuncture, you have a column in a local newspaper on alternative healing practices, you have a Web site and a newsletter that goes out to 20,000 people.
What if you have no platform? The time to establish one is before you write the book. Maybe you want to write a book on personal finances after retirement, but you dont have a professional background in finance. Here are some things you can do. Build on the financial background you do havejoin organizations, take classes and become known in financial and senior circles. Involve experts in your bookmaybe even share authorship with someone who is well-known in the financial field. Join Toastmasters to develop better public speaking skills and start presenting workshops locally for retirees. Write articles for a variety of magazines. Develop a Web site and start circulating a newsletter related to your topic.
If you hope to sell more than just a few copies of your book to friends and relatives, follow each of these nine steps and you will experience the success you desire.
Patricia Fry is the author of 25 books, including The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book. www.matilijapress.com/rightway.html. Visit her blog often: www.matilijapress.com/publishingblog.