Open Blog Weekend: Why Authors Need to Stop Blaming the Self-Publishing Industry and Own the Process by Dee Lockett
The last few years have proven difficult for self-publishing. Just troll any blog, LinkedIn group or GoodReads thread. Self-publishing authors have gotten fed up with expensive publishing packages and low book sales. Authors are placing the blame squarely on the shoulders of self-publishers, while those publishers are attributing the blame to poorly written material, unrealistic expectations and limited marketing budgets.
For years, I’ve been saying that you (the author) has to have a marketing budget, which should be at least three times the amount that you spent to publish your book. This includes books that are available exclusively in digital formats. The problem for many new authors is that they have no idea what financial commitment is going to be required for marketing and promotional activities, because most don’t start thinking about marketing their book until it’s already been written. That’s a big mistake.
I think the self-publishing industry would benefit as a whole if we all started looking at the contentions within it with fresh eyes. Which is why my company decided to offer a free book publishing package in addition to our other premium publishing options. It just made sense to us, if we were really serious about being a publisher that offers a better publishing experience we had to change. Now we are realizing that authors truly need real answers and mentorship as they enter this industry. My theory is that everyone needs to manage their expectations and work together to achieve a common goal.
Every author, no matter what your book is about has to think about your ideal reader, WHILE you are writing. Believe it or not, it is going to make your finished product better, show you where to invest your marketing focus and finances, and become a catalyst for book sales. Whether you want to build a fan base, sell a specific number of books or garner new clients for your business. The reason you wrote a book in the first place should start you on the road to discovering what success looks like for you where this authorship journey is concerned.
Let’s talk about why each of these items is important.
A Better Book
Thinking about the reader before you write your book is like getting a tailor to measure you for a garment. He must take a lot of detailed measurements in order to get a perfect fit. The more measurements, the better the fit of the final garment.
The same is true as you write a book. The more you know about the reader, the better equipped you are to write a book that they are going to enjoy, talk about and tell others about. If you are writing a novel for example, you should think about your main character first. Because your main character is going to be closely connected to your ideal reader. You should follow your main character in your head for an entire day asking yourself these types of questions.
• What time did the character get out of bed and why?
• What sheets does he or she sleep on.
• Do they have child(ren)? If so, what are the age(s)?
• What cereal does their child(ren) eat?
• What brand of toothpaste do they or their family use.
• Where do those this character live? How do they travel? What car does he or she drive?
As a writer, you are responsible for getting to know the characters of your novel intimately. One of my favorite novelists, Monica Mathis-Stowe was once asked in an interview, “Do you see yourself in any of your characters?” She responded, “Yes, I see myself in them, because I know each of them intimately. I can tell you what they would do in any life situation. I know them, so I can find me.”
You get the picture. Being as detailed as possible about your character(s) will work to your advantage after the book is complete, because it’s going to make your market research about your reader easier. Your ideal reader are people who can connect with triggers throughout your book. These people are most likely to purchase your book. because they can find themselves in it. Your challenge is highlighting those triggers.
Most of you don’t think about being that detailed in the presentation of your book, so you go about spending unnecessary money with little to show for it. Then you adopt the attitude that it’s the publishing industry, or it’s this or that. Instead, it’s really about how you positioned your book in the marketplace from the very beginning.
Another point that I want to make here is that some of you will need to go back and rewrite your book. I know you have it on Amazon, and Books-A-Million, etc. But, if you haven’t invested in purchasing more than 100 print copies of your book, I would consider going back to do this exercise, then tweak your book as needed; then and only then would I go back to marketing.
For those of you who have over 100 books in your possession or you just don’t want to start over at this point, my company offers a free marketing evaluation and an author mastermind mentorship program which are both great options to have your book evaluated by professionals in the industry, who can give you some creative and honest feedback from a sales and marketing perspective.
Who’s Going to Buy Your Book Anyway?
I had an author come to me one day to tell me that she had given over 50 books away. However, after nine months she had not sold one book. I couldn’t believe it.
I believe wholeheartedly in giving, but I also believe wholeheartedly in receiving. But when you have a product and are giving it away for free, you have to make sure that the free item is not the whole enchilada!
My very first suggestion to her was to have the first two or three chapters of her book printed in paperback. But on those copies I suggested that she put the words, “Wet Your Appetite with this Book Teaser”. I also told her to include a page with purchase information, ISBN#, contact information, and her bio. That’s it!
She completely ignored my suggestion and that was over a year ago. Instead, she started 17 book groups on Facebook and still, to my knowledge hasn’t sold one book.
The lesson here is to make sure that you are open to ideas, and make certain that what you are giving away is just enough to promote, inform and inspire the reader to want to get the rest of the story or information contained in your book.
This is standard practice on Amazon.com and Amazon Kindle. If you’ve ever purchased a book on Amazon.com, I’m sure that you’ve seen the ‘Look Inside This Book’ option. The entire premise is to allow the reader to get a taste of what the book is about before they purchase. Amazon does the same thing with Kindle. I can usually download a portion of a book to read before I invest in the entire book. For those who have print books, my suggestion to this author was the same theory just a different application.
I am slowly making this standard practice for Serenity Publishing + Communications‘ authors whose book has more than 100 pages. We don’t mind giving the first 20% of the book away, if it’s going to invoke a desire for the reader to come back and want the other 80%. It puts you in another marketing class completely when you sift your mindset this way. People purchase books, don’t ever think that they don’t. But don’t give everything you worked for away right up front. Make your presentation enticing and then wait on the book sales to start coming in.
Everyone of you has a goal for your book. The question is, “Do you know what that goal is?” There is nothing wrong if you find yourself without a real answer to this question. Some of you before today, didn’t write your book with your reader in mind. But that doesn’t have to stop your success moving forward. Maybe you just got up one day and said, “You know, I think I’ll write a book.” Believe me it happens more than you would think.
If that’s the case, I would encourage you to stop doing anything with your book until you CAN answer that question. Because whatever your answer , it will be the launching point for your next steps. It’s so important to know what the end looks like before the beginning gets started. You can’t accomplish a goal that you can’t identify. Knowing what you want is crucial before you enter this idiom called, self-publishing.
So whether you’re new to authorship or have several books under your belt. Blaming the industry is not the way to go. But being prepared, doing your research and partnering with a company that shares your goals and values is something that you can do before you even consider the title of your book.
I promise you, as you shift your mindset out of the blame game, you will open yourself (authors) and your company (self-publishers) towards success that can be established early on in the process. When that happens, self-publishing becomes a win-win for everyone involved.
Dee Lockett is the founder of Serenity Publishing + Communications. With over 14 years in the book and publishing industries. She is currently working on her eighth title, Why Your Book Marketing Isn’t Working, available on Amazon October 15th. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @deelocket