Which is worse – having no book written, or having a garage full?
Some would say it’s worse to not “ship” your book, or “Better to have written and lost than never have written at all.” I disagree. There’s another option.
Instead of being a lone endurance racer with your book, consider a more strategic approach. Yeah, “strategic” sounds less cathartic and more scary. But a garage full of books (and 3 Kindle sales) sounds worse, right?
This approach isn’t for everyone, but I believe there are steps we can take to reduce our level of insecurity, be more attractive to publishers, and become better communicators!
Success stories are not always a template, but there are principles which apply to everyone’s writing aspirations. I truly believe every person has unique insights and stories – and therefore is a candidate to somehow create a book or blog that reaches beyond a circle of existing relationships. But it takes more than writing!
Recently, in the span of sixteen months, I helped a hopeful nonfiction/non-author go from an idea (a cautious hunch, really), to a solid two-book publishing contract with a major New York publishing house.
On Day One, this writer didn’t have a blog, or even a twitter account. Although it’s tempting to take credit for this success, some pretty basic disciplines deserve the attention.
The road we walked
1. Establish a brand – Who is this author? Why should I care?
Notice this has nothing to do with your book idea! Books come and go, so focus on your author brand. Many writers don’t invest in this area, but nonfiction publishers don’t just pick books, they pick people! This also holds true for the buying public.
But let’s face it – intensive focus on self (photo shoots, about-me text, logo, graphics) is unappealing, and brings out even more insecurities.
For authors this can be as “simple” as having a web site which is up to the standard of the career you want to have. With this foundation, instead of going on a book tour – you can send your book out on an AUTHOR tour!
2. Develop one other book idea – different than your pet project!
When you think about what you’d love to be known for, (per above) what other unique insights are you driven to share? If it helps, play out this future scenario to spur brainstorming:
My book just flopped… what’s next?
Create a formal book proposal for both books. This is a “business plan” for your book, and what a publisher wants to see. The idealistic artist in you is squirming, huh? Focus by wrestling with these questions…
Why does this book exist? Amazon carries some pretty good ones already.
What’s the reader-outcome we’re looking for? “I loved this book because…”
The Market and their motivation – Who will buy this, and why?
Who are “Competitors”? (And why is your book different?)
How will this strengthen your brand and business model?
Another benefit of this process is framing a self-publishing strategy. Publishers can be like banks – only eager to lend money to people who don’t need it. If you don’t think you can get a return on your self-publishing investment, why would a publisher?
3. Write the book – a little
Insecurity is something we writers all share. A natural tendency is to hide and write, only to unveil our massive works to an audience that… will probably feel too sorry for us to give honest feedback.
Instead, create simple “focus groups” in your target audience and send them a sample chapter. (Yes – one chapter, even ideas in your book proposal) Brace yourself. Listen for ideas to help you improve your voice, not compromise. Let this pull better writing out of you.
Repeat above until you’re both humbled and ecstatic about your book. It may take months. Sorry.
These steps are insecurity-busters because you’ll experience the satisfaction of both affirmation AND constructive feedback!
4. Self-publish the book.
Get a GREAT title, subtitle and cover. (Does this mean more pride-killing feedback? Uh huh. Professional help, too.) You might be a great writer, but you probably are not a great designer. (Don’t mortgage the house, and never purchase “pay to play” book packages)
The confidence you gained in the steps above will ooze into your marketing and sales!
5. Sell 10,000 copies in seven months.
OK, that’s a stretch, but it happened in this case, with less than 500 total social media connections. These sales would not have happened without the above steps.
Publisher conversations are much different with this fun fact on the table, and removing the scent of desperation from the dialogue is a game changer.
6. Get a nice TWO-book deal
When a publisher is reviewing one book, why not have a worthy second book for them to consider? If you were a publisher, you’d want to see this depth from an author.
Results not typical
Most aspiring authors don’t succeed because they write first and ask questions later. Heck – if you do all this above and don’t find a publisher, you’ll be a better writer, and be in a much better position for your book to spread on its own!
We’d love to hear your reactions, questions, and ideas – what did I miss?
(Photo Credit: CeeKay via Creative Commons. http://www.flickr.com/photos/ceekay/)