By Sandra Beckwith
One of the most common posts in the self-publishing and book marketing group I co-moderate on Facebook is some variation of this:
“I just wrote my first book and I’m so excited! What do I need to do now to get it published? Can anyone tell me? I really want this to be a best-seller!”
Group members typically share advice about what they’ve learned, often the hard way.
They address formatting and ISBNs and uploading to Amazon. But members rarely venture beyond the mechanics of publishing to offer advice about what’s required to sell books to more than your cousins and the folks in your writers group.
New authors are often focused on the mechanics of publishing, plain and simple. It doesn’t occur to them that getting the book into the system is only one piece of successful book publishing. So, when the book doesn’t sell, they’re confused.
To be successful as an author, you need to know about more than how to upload to Amazon or what to price your e-book.
Here are three author essentials that will lead to the success most authors seek.
1. Write and publish an excellent book.
Your book should look and read like a traditionally published book.
To achieve that quality, you’ll have to spend money on:
- An editor (and possibly more than one, depending on how much help is needed)
- A proofreader who reads the book once all editing is finished
- A cover designer
Be selective about who you hire so you get the quality and professionalism you need. Just last week, I saw typos in the Facebook profile Intro of an “editor.” That’s not a good sign.
Because beginning writers often struggle to recognize the difference between good and bad editing, I recommend starting the search for an editor and/or proofreader with organizations for serious professionals. Try the Editorial Freelancers Association and the American Society of Journalists and Authors.
Look for a cover designer with experience in your genre or category.
2. Know your audience.
Here’s the key question to ask: Who will love my book? (Clue: It’s not everybody.)
When you ask that question, be as specific as possible. You want as narrow an audience as possible.
Why a narrow audience? Doesn’t that limit the number of books you can sell?
It would seem like that, but in reality, the more focused you are with your marketing, the more likely you are to reach the right people. When you zero in on a narrow, targeted, audience you’ll waste less time and money. Only the right people will see your book marketing messages.
Let’s say you wrote The Complete Guide to Urban Container Gardening. Who is more likely to buy it?
- (a) Everybody
- (b) Gardeners
- (c) Gardeners in urban settings
The answer is (c), of course. “Everybody” is too broad. While “gardeners” comes closer, it still includes too much waste. Rural and suburban gardeners with acreage and yards won’t need urban tactics.
After you’ve defined that narrow audience, learn as much about them as possible. Take into account both demographics – age, gender, marital status, income range – and psychographics such as lifestyle and life stage. Are they active or reclusive? Young couples or empty nesters?
The more you know about them, the easier it will be for you to focus your marketing on where you’ll find them both online and offline.
3. Monitor your marketing.
Your goal with book marketing is always the same: Do more of what works and less of what doesn’t.
You won’t know what’s working and what isn’t if you aren’t monitoring what happens after you use a marketing tactic.
This applies to more than book sales, too. If your goal is to get more readers on your email list, you need to watch your list size every time you do something designed to help you get more subscribers.
Are you looking for more Twitter followers to boost your platform in anticipation of shopping around a book proposal? You need to know which tactics are getting you more connections and which aren’t.
If you’re traditionally published, watch your sales rank online as you try different marketing tactics. If you’re self-published, you can monitor book sales in your Amazon account every time you do something to promote the book.
Monitoring is most effective when you try one tactic at a time. Otherwise, you won’t know which activity is responsible for the outcome, whether it’s a step forward or no change at all.
Hobbyist or professional?
How much attention you pay to these three essentials might depend on whether or not your goal is to sell books.
If you’re simply writing the book that’s always been in you without expectation that anyone will want to read it, you’re a hobbyist. You just want to say you finally wrote that book.
Professionals write for other reasons:
- to earn money
- support another aspect of their business
- attract clients
- even win awards
To achieve those results, they must be constantly focused on quality, audience, and marketing results.
With these three essentials firmly in place, you will be well-positioned to achieve success – however you define it.
What advice would you give a first-time author just starting out? What have you learned that could help others?