Do You Write Memoir or Self-Help? Life at the Inflection Point

by Joel Friedlander on May 6, 2013 · 40 comments

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Several times in recent months I’ve had consultations with authors that really surprised me.

These typically happen at writing and publishing conferences. One of the best reasons to go to these events is to get a totally new take on your book from someone inside the publishing industry.

What makes their opinion so valuable?

Their day-to-day intimacy with books and the book creation process. Watching year after year as some books do well, while others sink without a trace.

Like a baker with a loaf of bread, these people have an instinctive—sometimes intuitive—way of responding to books, built on top of a lifetime’s experience with them.

For instance, at one of these recent events an author handed me a proof of his cover design and asked what I thought of it. At a glance, it looked like a law book, some kind of legal reference material.

I asked what kind of book it was, and he replied that it was a thriller, a really exciting story.

Puzzled, I asked him what exactly was thrilling on the cover? How would a prospective reader know what to expect from his book?

We had a good talk and I think he’s going to re-think his cover.

Bigger Misses Create Greater Inflection Points

But that kind of incongruence may be relatively easy to fix. There are other situations that can create a inflection point in an author’s career.

What do I mean by an “inflection point”?

This usually describes the point at which a complex curve, like an “S” curve on a road, turns from one direction to the other. First you’re turning right, then the curve switches direction and at some point you go from turning right to turning left. That exact point, where you go from one direction to the other, is the inflection point.

Think of an author, and the solitary world she occupies as her manuscript gradually takes shape over the months. Eventually she gets to the point of having a finished manuscript.

She may have received help from other writers in a critique group or writers workshop, but she soon comes to the time to think about publishing, and that’s a completely different pursuit for most authors.

Moving towards publishing means expanding her thinking beyond the writing process to thinking about who are the readers who will respond to the book once they know about it.

We Are Coming to That Point I Told You About

Most of these conferences have some kind of “ask the experts,” or “ask a pro,” or “talk to an editor,” or “meet the agents,” feature, where attendees can sign up for a brief one-on-one.

For many authors, this is the first time they’ve talked about their publishing plans and the concept behind them.

As someone sitting on the other side of the table, by this point you expect that an author will have some or all of these things worked out:

  • Their pitch, the tightly encapsulated, 30-second summary that will tell you what the book’s about, what other books it’s like, and what market the book is intended for.
  • Their category, niche, or genre, the exact shelf, either real or virtual, where their book will be at home, and the books against which it will be compared.
  • Their persona, the specific aspects of their own personality that they will be projecting as an author in promoting and marketing activities.

After all, launching a book and, by extension, a publishing career, is a complex task with lots of layers of meaning and action all rolled into one.

None of these attributes is cast in stone, unchangeable. But authors still know they need to have thought about these things when they get ready to step over the threshold into public view.

The trouble comes when one or the other of these traits is out of whack. And that’s what I’ve run into in recent weeks.

One area where I’ve repeatedly seen a lot of confusion is between memoir and self-help books.

You Wrote What?

A woman approached my “Ask a Pro” table with a comb-bound manuscript, complete with a prototype cover. She’s a nonfiction author with 3 books in print, now she tells me she’s written a memoir and wants advice on how to market it.

I look at the book. I don’t recall the title, but the subtitle said something like “The 3 Steps You Can Take to Achieve Happiness.”

When I suggested it sounded more like self-help, the author assured me that the lessons in the book came out of a difficult experience she had been through several years ago, and she had written the book partly to tell that story.

All well and good, I responded, but the “origin” story is a regular component of many self-help books, and rightly so.

It’s a story arc that we know, and to which we respond. (click to enlarge)

writing

This got us talking, and I pointed out that while it’s pretty difficult to sell a memoir unless it’s really, really well written—or it has a lot of celebrities in it—it’s much easier to sell a self-help book.

  • With self-help you can identify your target market, because they are the people with the problem that your book solves.
  • You can establish authority as someone who overcame that problem.
  • You can create trust by being reliable and staying on topic and always treating people with consistency.
  • And you can show yourself as likable through your interactions, by being helpful, and generally avoiding criticism and negativity.

Keyword searches, a blog on the subject, targeted marketing, and lots of other tactics present themselves when you’re organizing the marketing for a self-help book.

Here Comes the Inflection Point

As we finished our 15 minute appointment, it was obvious my message was finding friendly ground. I pointed out that the author had something real and tangible to offer the world, or at least that segment of it that would respond with delight to her book.

She began to see that to really make the most positive change in the world, the change that her experiences had lead her to, and for which she had taken on the task of writing this book, she would have to change her stance toward the book, toward the world, and toward herself.

  • She would need to add a bit of new copy to the book to explicitly show readers how to use the lessons in the book in their own lives.
  • She would need to re-position the book as nonfiction self-help instead of memoir, and this might also mean adjusting the cover design.
  • And most of all, she would have to start thinking of herself as a self-help author instead of a memoirist. One has a much more active stance toward the world than the other, and has a strong reason to reach out and connect with an audience.

As a self-help author she would also have many more chances to translate her work into different formats, and to monetize it in many ways.

I could tell the wheels were turning.

She had arrived at the conference going in one direction, only to hit an unanticipated inflection point.

Now she was headed in a different direction entirely, one that seemed far more intriguing and exciting.

Instead of facing the question all memoirists face when it comes to appealing to readers—why would they be interested in someone else’s life?—she could start working on connecting with a potentially huge audience looking for help with a specific life issue.

So if you’re writing a memoir, think long about whether there are lessons in your story for others, and whether you can see yourself as someone who could deliver those lessons in your book, in presentations, in workshops, webinars, or other ways.

Or maybe you’re sensing that you may be approaching an inflection point of your own. Tell me about it in the comments, I’d love to hear about it.

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    { 37 comments… read them below or add one }

    Steve Carle November 20, 2014 at 9:47 pm

    Thank you so much for this incredible article. Words can not be written to tell you how helpful it is. I am a brand new writer entering into a cutthroat world. I recently had a cardiac arrest which I died for 5 minutes and was brought back to life. I have started writing a book which started out as a memoir but also is a self help book and have 15 chapters complete. I recently spoke to a best selling author who told me that getting a memoir published without my first name being Bono or my last name being Clooney would be hard to sell unless my writing leaped off the page and punched someone in the face. Although I think it is an incredible story of a miracle. I have some incredible things (from experience) that would really help a cardiac arrest victim. Now, I think I would be better off writing this as a self help book. He (like you) said there is a fine line of what category my book would fall under. My question to you is, would it be easier to get an agent and this booked published if I wrote it as a self help book? I have reached this “inflection point” in which you speak of, and I no longer think that I can market this both as a memoir AND a self help book. Can you PLEASE give me advise on how to proceed? It would greatly be appreciated.

    Reply

    Cindy October 22, 2014 at 10:43 am

    I’ve written a trauma-recovery memoir and plan to facilitate workshops, but I’m not sure how to incorporate having the book available for puchase at the workshops without looking like I’m aggressively marketing, or like I’m just using the workshop to plug the memoir…

    Reply

    Anita Diggs May 27, 2014 at 2:07 pm

    Great article, Joel! Memoirs can be tricky. I’ve learned your memoir is not always what you set it to be. I was in a class with someone who was writing about their mother’s fight with Alzheimer’s, but every time she came to workshop she shared a lot of information of her mother’s early life. Her mother was a soap opera star in the 1950s, early 60s, and this was a world, the way she described it, the way she put us right there, I wanted to know more about that part of her life. That’s what her memoir was truly about.

    Reply

    LuShawn April 7, 2014 at 11:53 am

    Hi Joel,
    I started my book out as a memoir, creative non-fiction. However, I am finding that it is preventing me to do what I really want to do which is illuminate the path ahead for people who are dealing with similar issues. My potential published suggested I write the book as thought I was telling the story to a younger me or someone going through the same problems. Specifically, she said write it as if you were going to start out by saying, “LuShawna, sweetheart, let me tell you what lies ahead and what will make it easier.” The reflections that are necessary to do this really interrupt with the literary vignettes. I’m wondering how to blend the two in the sub-genre described by some as the self-help memoir. What do you think about that? Do you have to pick one or the other? The power comes from the action in my stories, but the practical value comes from pointing out important components and resources needed to navigate the path of trauma healing more effectively. Thoughts?

    Reply

    Tony Vanderwarker May 28, 2013 at 11:54 am

    Joel–Provocative article that got me wondering if my book “Writing With A Bestseller” is a memoir or self help book. It’s the story of John Grisham mentoring me writing a novel. It’s targeted at both aspiring writers and Grisham fans and is coming out from Skyhorse in January. Because it has lots of tips from a master in crafting fiction, it has a self-help dimension but because it’s the story of my experience and what happened to the resulting novel and my life, we’re always thought of it as a memoir. Any reactions

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander May 29, 2013 at 1:33 pm

    Hi Tony,

    I wouldn’t exactly call it self-help, it sounds more like a straight-on book on writing since you have lots of writing tips and the story of your own book, too. I think you’ll find it easier to interest people in the book that way. Good luck!

    Reply

    Gail Bones May 21, 2013 at 6:44 pm

    Hi Joel,
    Thanks for your insightful post!I just discovered your site and it provided just the direction I needed today. I have just finished a manuscript that I now can see is best described as self-help. My topic is navigating transition, something that became real for me when shortly after finally earning my doctorate in education, I was laid off from my job as a college professor. The unwanted transition proved difficult, but it gave me a start in writing this book . I used many stories of my own life’s transitions, so I thought it might have been memoir.
    I have been immersed now for the last three years in the world of writer’s conferences and critique groups, learning about platform and realizing that I am actually going to have to learn about marketing. I have just made the decision to self-publish because I want to have my book available quickly in order to obtain more speaking engagements.
    Do you have any advice for how to best approach finding a traditional publisher once one has self-published?
    Thanks so much!
    Dr Gail Nelson Bones
    http://www.gailbones.com

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander May 29, 2013 at 1:31 pm

    It seems to me that if you take your stories and derive any kind of steps or actions that others can follow, you’ve moved from memoir to self-help. The best way to find a traditional publisher is to demonstrate with your self-published book that you are an author capable of driving sales, and that you have a robust platform to support you in marketing your book.

    Reply

    Sherrey Meyer May 7, 2013 at 10:12 pm

    Joel, I’m a fairly new subscriber here, and this post is the best I’ve read on this topic. As a memoirist (and no, I don’t think it’s actually going to reach an inflection point and become self-help), I find your analysis and examples extremely helpful. I’m especially drawn to your diagram of the story arc. Well, OK, it’s all so good I’m going to store it away in Evernote so I can read it again and again!

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander May 8, 2013 at 11:27 am

    Thanks, Sherrey, and it’s great to have you as a reader. I made the diagram because I’ve been thinking about this alot and wanted to try out some new software I’m evaluating, I’m glad you got something from it. And thanks for taking the time to comment.

    Reply

    Amy B. Scher May 7, 2013 at 9:14 am

    Hi Joel,

    Great post, as always. Your insight rocks.

    I’m sort of a case study for what you’re sharing. First, I bought a book called “How to Make a Killing on Kindle,” which totally made me re-think the title and cover of my self-published memoir. I was so resistant at first, but the changes are proving by my “test group” to be just what the book needed to really stand out. Then, that same self-published book garnered the attention of a top literary agency and I was picked up! My book falls into the mind-body-spirit genre and they’re asking for me to expand the last section on how I healed myself to really help the reader draw parallels for their own journey. This is the “self-help” aspect you speak of. My agent says a publisher is looking for that in order to round out memoirs, especially without the fame of being a celebrity, etc.

    Anyway, I think the more we allow our books to transform through time just as we do, the better the product will be and ultimately, the more people we will reach and help. And that was the whole point of writing the book in the first place, right? Re-framing what “advice” or “critique” means for our growth make us much better authors and people.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander May 7, 2013 at 11:12 am

    Amy, that’s a great result, exactly what I was talking about, and I can’t help but think that the interaction you’ve been having with readers is going to continue to help you make your book—and future books too—better and more attuned to your readers’ needs. Way to go.

    Reply

    J.M. Ney-Grimm May 7, 2013 at 7:43 am

    Interesting!

    I think some inflection points must be strong and dramatic, bending the traveler on his journey from east to west, while others are more subtle (yet profound), bending one’s course from north to northeast. Either way, one heads toward an entirely different destination!

    I believe I may be encountering a more subtle inflection point myself.

    All through writing my first novel, and then on through another novel and a novella and a handful of short stories, I considered myself to be writing fantasy. Certainly the tropes are fantasy tropes. The world wonder is a fantasy element.

    But most of my readers speak of the lyricism and flow of the writing itself. They enjoy it and find it to be as important as the story. Others speak of the realism of the interactions between characters, and how that pleases them. Still others remark on the depth of my creations.

    I’m realizing that my marketing tends to present the surface story and the genre, but leaves these other elements – elements very important to my audience – unmentioned. I believe this lack in my marketing, really a lack in my communication, means that many of my potential fans remain unaware of my books.

    So I am thinking hard about the issue, trying to devise how better to communicate what my stories offer. I have not yet arrived at a solution, but I suspect that when I do, my experience may change dramatically.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander May 7, 2013 at 11:09 am

    J.M., great comment, thanks for that, and for taking up the challenge to “think hard” about this subject. Perhaps quoting some of the responses from readers that point out selling points you haven’t mentioned would be a graceful way to introduce this into your marketing.

    Reply

    Betty Ming Liu May 7, 2013 at 6:48 am

    Joel, you make it seem so simple! What you’re suggesting is an elegant storytelling solution. But the hardest part of making it work is the struggle involved in extricating myself from the details of my own life.

    Ie, Memoir would seem to allow room for more personal blah blah anecdotes. Self-help, by contrast, has to be really sharp, focused. Every anecdotes serves the great how-to god, right?

    Thanks for the reminder. I’m working on it!

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander May 7, 2013 at 11:07 am

    Hi Betty, thanks so much for visiting. And sure, see my reply to Keith Skinner, above. Some memoirs are simply that, and that’s what they ought to remain.

    In your case, even though you’re struggling to extricate yourself from your own life, you also aim to inspire, entertain, and instruct readers from your hard-won wisdom.

    There may not be a bright line to draw in all these cases, but I think anyone writing a book like those described here, including yours, should think about this distinction. It really does matter.

    Reply

    Alysson May 6, 2013 at 5:45 pm

    Joel,

    I attended your talk at the NAMW telesummit last Friday. Thanks for sharing your wisdom!

    What if the topic of one’s memoir/self-help book is on a health-related topic? My understanding is that only those with MD or PhD after their name should author a health book. The book I am soon to begin writing is about my journey with gluten issues. I do envision including lessons learned that I would like to share with readers. However, I am not a medical professional. Would you still suggest I write a self-help book? If so, would you suggest I still write in scenes? Thanks!

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander May 7, 2013 at 11:04 am

    Hi Alysson, that was a great discussion we had, and I’m grateful to Linda Joy Myers for inviting me on.

    A memoir that describes events in your life does not necessarily prescribe solutions for others, which is where you can have problems. It would be important to have a disclaimer in the book that lets readers know you are writing only from your own perspective, not that of a health professional.

    But there are many books like this, and you are totally justified in describing what you did, what worked for you and what didn’t.

    Reply

    Michael May 6, 2013 at 12:33 pm

    I did the exact same thing: I had a great ‘collection’ of anecdotes and I wanted to use a biographical story or timeline to string them all together (a narrative). And it worked out great. But I didn’t want to call this book a Self-Help book. Why? Self Help sounds cheesy. It sounds kooky. Woo-woo. It sounds like my readers (and probably me) are demented and need ‘help’. And none of us want to call our readers that.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander May 7, 2013 at 10:11 am

    Michael, “demented and need help” is pretty funny, but I think the concept of “self-help” is a lot broader than that. Personally, I don’t think that offering readers wisdom gained from your life experience and tools to put that wisdom into practice demeans them—or you—in any way. On the other hand, you don’t have to call it “self-help,” either, that’s up to you.

    Reply

    Keith Skinner May 6, 2013 at 9:24 am

    I was nodding my head in agreement as I read this article up to the point where you said it’s difficult to sell memoir. As someone who writes shorter creative nonfiction and is planning a novella-length project for the future, I was taken by surprise. Agreed that a 75,000 word “all about me” book by an average Joe probably wouldn’t sell, it seems people are achieving success with books about personal experience that are well focused and observe all the rules of great storytelling.

    Or am I misreading the market? I ask because I don’t think my project would translate well to self-help. It could easily be converted to fiction but I thought keeping in nonfiction would actually enhance sales.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander May 6, 2013 at 10:41 am

    Keith, what’s unsaid in the article is that many memoirs ought to stay memoirs, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. I do think they are harder to sell because you start out facing that obstacle of why other people should care. However, a memoir that’s engaging, well written, has a “hook” that grabs a reader’s attention and really delivers a good story? That’s a good thing.

    Sometimes the story is the book. But in this case, and a few others I’ve encountered recently, the author was 95% of the way to a really useful self-help book, but kept relating to it as strictly a memoir.

    If you’ve explicitly drawn lessons from your experiences and somehow organized them so they are useful to other people, then I think you should strongly consider this advice and at least give it some thought.

    Reply

    Tracy R. Atkins May 6, 2013 at 8:37 am

    This is a great article. It seems that people sometimes don’t consider the quality of the advice they get depends on the people hat they ask.

    It’s like asking for directions. The people in the car with you might have a map, or have made the trip a time or two, but when you get lost, your best bet is to stop and ask a local for directions. They know the area because they live it.

    Now, you may say, with fancy GPS systems, asking directions are a thing of the past. However, informed self-guidance can sometimes lead you down the wrong path. We have all heard horror stories of people following their GPS directions over a cliff, or out into the desert like Clark Griswold on the way to Wally World (National Lampoon’s Vacation).

    So the lesson is this, even if you have the best tools for self-guidance, having someone with an expert opinion to weight in is a good idea too.

    I say this from personal experience. After some consultation and advice, I found my own book worked best in Epistolary form, instead of as a fictional memoir. I actually re-wrote much of it to go a different direction. Just as Joel mentions, that advice lead to an inflection point for me. Sometimes that is just what we need.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander May 6, 2013 at 10:37 am

    Thanks, Tracy. Recognizing that you are at an inflection point, and that change will take you in a profitable new direction is most of the struggle here. If you resist, it makes everything harder. This is not to say that every change that someone—even a book publishing professional—suggests to you is a good idea or something you should pursue. But I find authors do recognize the truth when they hear it. The hard part is getting over resistance and doing something about it.

    Reply

    Ben Parker May 9, 2013 at 9:42 pm

    I have to agree with you Tracy. I think we all need some help at times. And stopping and looking at the big picture and not just what’s at hand can really help. I love this post.

    Reply

    Linda Bonney Olin May 6, 2013 at 7:51 am

    Hmmm… I WAS the woman at the conference! Not literally, but I had a similar experience at a writers conference last year, receiving a professional critique of my manuscript about personal puppet ministry. My book included scripts and how-tos, with everything discussed in terms of what my preteen son and his puppet had done. Their names were even in the book title. I thought letting readers get to know them would exemplify the cozy relationship quality of personal puppet ministry and encourage other parents of quirky kids to try it.

    Well, the critiquer told me flat out that nobody cared about my son and his puppet. I should stick to the scripts and how-to content and mention my son’s experiences only as occasional examples. Ouch!

    That advice (after I simmered down enough to see the truth in it) redirected the whole project. Taking the focus off my son actually freed me to add material that goes beyond his particular experiences. It gave me more work to do, but the final product will be a whole lot more useful and marketable.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander May 6, 2013 at 10:34 am

    Linda, that’s outstanding. You made rich use of the shock that created that inflection point, and I’m betting your book is stronger because of it, and also of much more use to other people.

    Reply

    Aileen October 19, 2013 at 2:02 pm

    I can’t stop laughing. That is so funny and the industry is so cut throat but totally true. I have to get over myself and my kids too!!! Thanks for sharing. Love belly laughs and straight talking…hope you succeeded. Aileen

    Reply

    Alison Gillespie May 6, 2013 at 5:27 am

    Joel, thanks once again for a great and very helpful post. Your blog is so valuable.

    Journalists often face inflection points, and I think as a freelancer writing small news and feature stories during the last few years I learned to trust those points and roll with them. A lot of new or young writers (including me, once upon a time!) get freaked out when they come to such a point. Typically it works something like this:

    1) they get assigned a story (yay! celebrate!)
    2) they get an idea of how the story will unfold (relief! this will be a cinch!)
    3) they do some research and conduct some interviews and find out that the story is different than they thought — either the topic is richer or more complex or the angle they had at the beginning turns out to be a dead-end (freak out! this is not going to be the story I thought it was!)

    At that point they have to decide how to take up and incorporate the new angle… if they have already written the story in their head and fallen in love with it and don’t want to adapt to incorporate the new information then they sometimes write a very bad story. Sometimes this is when a good editor will help you dissect and re-configure things. Sometimes this is when you take a long walk and stop writing for a while to clear your head and re-think it all.

    If you don’t have a good editor you need to find people who are willing to listen to you talk through these problems — people who are willing to be honest with you and give you some intelligent feedback. It helps if they read a lot themselves. (That’s when a freelancer needs to leave the home office and go have lunch with colleagues, by the way.)

    I’m now writing my first book and finding it is very much the same path — I keep having to remind myself to remain open to those new inflection points. In a short assignment it may happen once or twice. With a non-fiction book it sometimes happens twice a week, or more!

    Your advice in earlier posts about having a good outline has helped enormously — I met a lot of those inflection points when I was drafting my detailed outline and was able to adapt and change my book concept before beginning to write the actual text. But it can be tiring.

    It can feel as if you are being weak when you make those changes. Sometimes I have to talk to another writer or friend and work through it — I find myself in those conversations asking, “Am I being wishy-washy or should I change course here?” Counter-intuitively I find that it actually strengthens your work if you remain flexible. Sometimes the best story out there is NOT the one you set out to tell.

    I love to actually sit and write. Making the sentences, finding the right words, recalling the details of how something happened — that is lovely. What is really hard work for me is facing the inflection points! That is when it sometimes gets ugly and hard at the computer. But that is also when the best stuff gets written.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander May 6, 2013 at 10:33 am

    Alison, you obviously speak from hard-earned experience, and I thank you for that. Loved this:

    Counter-intuitively I find that it actually strengthens your work if you remain flexible. Sometimes the best story out there is NOT the one you set out to tell.

    Reply

    Ryan Petty May 6, 2013 at 4:42 am

    Joel,
    I’ve enjoyed reading you for two or three years and this is one of your best posts yet. You’ve given great advice and obviously done so in a way that was (and is) persuasive. We learn from one another, from characters real (in memoir) and imagined (in fiction), but there comes a point when the real life stories offer examples and explanations so explicit they cross over into the realm of valuable information. It’s a Yin vs Yang moment of inflection — but one with tangible implications for positioning and marketing… . Your advice was and is all the stronger because she’s already established herself to some degree as a how-to writer…. so, following your advice, she strengthens her brand.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander May 6, 2013 at 10:30 am

    Ryan, many thanks for your kind words. In this case the writer’s books weren’t self-help, so there was no connection with her existing audience. But yes, if we’re savvy, we learn from everyone we come in contact with. I hope she does take my advice, even though it’s a road that will require more of her as she moves forward, but I think it will offer much greater rewards.

    Reply

    Lisa May 6, 2013 at 4:16 am

    Joel, I’ve been reading The Book Designer for some time now and have learned a great deal. Thank you for all you offer. I may be approaching and inflection point. I have written and self published a self-help book that I titled Return to Chivalry. It’s about finding lasting relationship. It has not sold well and I wonder if the title and cover are my problem. But how can I tell?

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander May 6, 2013 at 10:28 am

    Hi Lisa, thanks so much for your comment. It’s difficult to offer you any feedback without knowing more about your book, who it’s intended for and what you’ve done with the book so far. Often authors get trapped in a specific idea they’ve created somewhat in isolation, and when it comes time to move the concept into the real world it turns out that it needs adjusting of some kind.

    Reply

    Lisa May 7, 2013 at 12:22 am

    Joel, Thanks for being willing to look at my work.

    The target audience for Return to Chivalry is young, single adults between 20 and 35 years of age. It is a self-help book that uses the metaphor of warriors and damsels, dragons and towers to illustrate how/why modern relationships often do not last. Using this metaphor allows me to introduces the timeless concepts of chivalry to demonstrate effective relationships that will stand the test of time.

    I self-published Return to Chivalry through KDP and CreateSpace in December 2012. I have researched everything I can find for marketing it and have followed through on what I have learned. I now realize I didn’t have a strong launching campaign and that hurt me right off that bat. But sales are poor, at best. I’m now wondering if the word Chivalry scares away potential readers. So I have been considering changing the title and the cover art. On the other hand, maybe I haven’t stuck with it long enough to see results. Any suggestions?

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander May 7, 2013 at 11:00 am

    Lisa, many books take time to find their audience, and your unique take on relationships is probably not immediately obvious to your intended audience. Is there a reason to believe that people 20-35 have some widespread interest in—or even know about—chivalry?

    Part of your platform worries might also be that you don’t seem to be building an email list from your blog traffic. Without many readers who would create a platform for your book launch, you also have only 1 review on Amazon, and your Amazon page is not very inviting to readers.

    In looking at your blog, I couldn’t find a cover image of the book anywhere either. My suggestion would be to try to build your blog audience around the ideas in the book, even if it takes a year or more. Use the interaction with your blog readers to find out more about how they intersect with your book and its approach. With readers and some marketing insight, bring out a new edition of the book and launch that instead.

    Reply

    lisa skabrat May 10, 2013 at 2:49 am

    Joel, Thank you so much for your feedback. You have given me a challenging “to do” list and I appreciate your insight and honesty. I believe I have also been rather impatient. It is clearly a work in progress.
    Thank you.
    Sincerely,
    Lisa Skabrat

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