November has become a month that is buzzing about writing. Whether fiction or nonfiction, either mainstreams work have their spotlight with both marking the halfway mark this week: National Novel Writing Month and National Nonfiction Writing Month.
Those on the #NaNoWriMo are in the midst of creating 50,000 words to celebrate a draft of a novel for authors carrying the fiction DNA. For the Nonfiction DNAers, you may be deep in the heart of #NaNonFiWriMo, the National Nonfiction Writing Month challenge.
When the writing is done, do you close the file in your computer or stuff the writing in a drawer with a “tomorrow’s another day” to think about it scenario. Will you allow yourself to get snagged into a cycle of perpetual tweaking? Or, do you seriously start to plan the “what’s next”?
What Is Next?
The author who wants to be seriously successful is good at creating the “what ifs” during:
- the germination of a book
- the writing of a book
- the production of a book
- the marketing of a book
- the life of a book
Books are exciting … and when it’s in hand and available, euphoric. It’s a newborn. Of course you want it to do well, to soar.
When do the “what ifs” become a reality? In one word, you need a plan, or maybe several. Author success is rarely stumbled upon. All you need to do is hang out with some who have been on the author circuit. It’s not like winning the lottery where you put a few bucks in for a chance at the mega-million-dollar pot. Realistically, you know that the odds are humongous against winning, but hey, someone has to and why not “you”?
Authoring and book selling isn’t the lottery. You don’t buy a chance. The truth is that the creation of a book, even though it took years to do, is a mere fraction of the time, energy, commitment and money needed to teach it to walk. Eyes roll back when authors hear this … because:
- I just want to write my books. That’s all I want to do.
- If I just didn’t have to do all this “other stuff” to support the book; to market the book; to sell the book, I could write more fabulous books.
- My books are awesome; people just need to find them.
- I hate marketing.
- Why can’t I just be left alone to write?
And, gulp, what happens if your newborn doesn’t walk—it barely crawls? That definitely wasn’t in the plan. Or, was it? If you failed to put together a plan post the book birth that would train your baby to walk, then run, you failed to plan. And if you did have a plan, and it didn’t work, what did you have in place for Plan B? Plan C? Plan D …?
Plan from the Beginning
Finishing the final sentence of a book that you’ve poured your unbelievable hours into, not to mention almost every waking breath into, is something to stand on mountain tops about. Yes, it’s huge … and just the beginning.
You may think it’s awesome, the next off-the-charts bestseller is … but is it? Is it saleable? Is it buyable? What are you committed to do to get the word out? Buyers to the cash register?
When you are ready to look beyond the words you have written, you are ready to have a “come to book” meeting with yourself. Will the readers you wrote for buy your book? Is it saleable?
Start with Your Pre-Search
The latest stats from the Book Industry Study Group is that 74 percent of all books are now bought via Amazon. Amazon is a terrific tool to search for competitors and like books, and for selling books. I want you to do a book face-to-face. Go to a local bookstore and do some espionage work. If the store isn’t swamped when you go in, ask one of the clerks to help you find similar books to yours. In my home base of Denver, Colorado, we’ve found that stores like the Tattered Cover and the Bookies welcome local authors with their questions and become allies in their quest.
Buy a few of the books that are suggested—not on Amazon, support the bookstore that just helped you. You are going to study their books:
- What works?
- What is missing?
- How about design? Anything pop out that gets your attention?
- You will want to check out online reviews—especially the one and two star ones.
- What do readers say the book lacks (and now that you can supply with yours)?
This is all part of your research. There are few new, new ideas. What there are is new ways to research them and engage the reader.
Monitor Other Authors in Your Market
Yes, you need to know who you are competing with. Who else is writing on your topic—it’s the rare exception when any author is a soloist is a field.
- Determine who your competitive players are—the sooner the better.
- What are they writing and how often do they publish books?
- How do they market themselves?
- Do they have a website?
- A blog?
- What social media platforms are they using?
- How do they describe themselves in their profiles?
- What keywords and phrases do they use in their profiles on social media?
- What key phrases pop up on their websites?
Start with following your competitors.
- Subscribe to their blog. Make comments when appropriate.
- Consider writing a blog using their blog as a springboard and link to it.
- Follow them on Facebook, Twitter or where ever they post.
By becoming active in their world, when your time comes to launch, they just may come in and support you and your book. A win-win.
Study their profiles and mimic yours where appropriate. When you see what the top players are using and doing, your learning curve is shortened.
And yes, you need a website and you need social media presence. Otherwise, you are kissing off your time, energy and money.
Have You Created an Ideal Reader Profile?
Knowing who your readers are does two huge things: it streamlines your marketing efforts and if you are ever stuck in writing, visualize who they are—have an imaginary conversation—it will help to refocus.
- What is their age range?
- Are they male or female?
- Are they married or single?
- What’s their pain … what problems are they trying to solve?
- What hobbies do they enjoy?
- What kind of movies or TV shows are they attracted to?
- What’s their favorite genres to read?
- Do they read or subscribe to specific magazines?
- What other publications do they subscribe to?
- Are they Super Readers (meaning they devour anything in the genre)?
- What authors do they read (meaning are they Super Fans of any)?
- Do they buy on impulse or are they coupon clippers?
- Are they sports fans?
- What social media platforms do they hang out on … and are you using them?
Identify a Book Launch Time Frame
It’s November, the heart is beating for the holiday selling season. In book land—there are three key seasons:
- the New Year from January through Spring (you will see a mass of titles coming on health and finance during this time)
- Summer (beach reads are hot)
- Fall (business and many of front line fiction authors debut new books and, of course, the major Christmas push)
BUT, there are so many other tie-ins. Star Wars’ Rogue pops up next month—anything sci-fi or fantasy could hook on to it; there’s always a kids’ movie that gets plenty of hype; or a holiday heart string. What about a popular TV series that you might connect with? Or a media story that goes viral?
What you want to do is pick a time … then a date. And, just because New York launches most of its health and diet books in January and yours competes with it doesn’t mean you have to. One of the most successful books in that genre was The South Beach Diet. The publisher did two unique things to set it apart: it bypassed January and launched in the Spring. Nothing new was out to compete with it. With sales of approximately 1300 books, it grabbed the #1 spot on the New York Times. And, it didn’t use a “traditional” health/diet book cover—after all, why not include palm trees and a hint of paradise to the reader? Off-seasons can be your friend, it’s less crowded.
It’s What You Don’t Know and Do That Can Sink a Book
Knowing who your competitive authors are and knowing what makes your readers tick will enhance your author success quotient. Gathering this information early on creates a solid author infrastructure. Any information that you can gather creates power for you and your book. It will save significant amounts of time … and of course, money.
Launching your book is just the beginning. Author and book success comes with building momentum with legs. It’s fun to do a fast sprint … but it’s the marathon after marathon that endures.
If you build it, your readers and buyers will come. Author success comes with a plan, not a wish. What’s yours?