Sunday, December 1, 2013

So You Want to Write a Book? The Down and Dirty Details

There is a formula for everything. Writing is no exception. Selling a book is no exception. I wrote a book and self-published through an independent publisher. I gave them my money and they completed the process. I also paid a good amount for three things: book press release, advertising in a magazine publication, and an author WordPress blogsite. I was pleased with the book, happily so. The advertising was a bust, it generated very few sales. My first book, right? To be expected. The website had its problems, I couldn't manipulate it satisfactorily. To keep in the know, I tracked my book's progress via Amazon.  

Who bought my book? Mostly my friends, family, college friends, people who know me---my contacts. That was about it from what I can tell. A few more are buying it as my contact list expands. What now? I ended up giving away a lot of books, even a couple of books to solicit reviews for my Amazon site, a couple of these came through but most didn't. I found that people liked my book. I received wonderful comments in person and in notes. One man said it even did more for him than reading Oswald Chambers. High praise. I was glad it was well received, validating my ability to communicate effectively. 

It was discouraging to put it lightly. Most readers didn't post reviews and far too many books sat on the shelf waiting to find their readers. I figured that more people would like my book if they had a way of knowing about it.When you're an unknown and unproven author who is self-publishing in a flooded market, it is not surprising at all. People have to know about you and they have to know you have something to say is worth the time it takes to read your book. I believed in my message. In fact, I believed it was one of hope and help for the despairing---they needed it.

What to do? Six months ago I realized it was up to me. I decided to learn more about book marketing. I found out it's not just about having a blog and twitter (which I had been faithfully using), google plus or linked-in (I am also a part of) or facebook and blogging. These in themselves are not enough for an unknown author if they are a random hit-and-miss effort. It matters how they are used, in what way, in purposed endeavors and so forth. It matters if they are a streamlined approach with a consistent message, one that creates fidelity to its brand. This matters very much in getting a book noticed and in improving an author presence on the web---if one wants to be taken as serious in the book writing business, and if an author wants their writings to become known in the big business of books. Another element that is quite necessary is intentional contact with online communities and people in the field. Connecting with others in the field is critical to establishing an on-line presence.

I have learned that there are many formulas. A week ago I wrote in my journal the following list. I have to confess, I was feeling some burnout as I wrote it, a bit sarcastic in tone. Sort of smiling and venting at the same time, I chronicled my awareness of formulas necessary for book writing/marketing success. This came after completing a six week marketing class which was completed while I was also participating in another author's book launch team. Both endeavors consumed copious hours of my time. Both very helpful and challenging to me as a novice in the field. So much to learn. Amazing

What kind of formulas? There are literally . . .
  • Formulas for titles, that is, if you want search engines to pick them up. You will want to use words that emotionally connect with the reader to entice them into wanting that particular book, titles that say Buy Me!
  • Formulas for book covers, that is, if you want that instant eye appeal. Use that professional font which works according to the specific venue, book covers that show skill, visual appeal, expertise, (non-indie looking!), high-quality, like amazing!
  • Formulas for marketing, that is, if you want to get noticed in a high-octane world. This is essential---to sell your brand, to make a noise, to find your niche, to create a following that will open up a way for you to stake a claim in the overcrowded market of recently published books.
  • Formulas for networking, that is, creating a platform that gets noticed in a busy world, a place for people to find you, to recognize your product, to pay attention to your voice, and, did I say, to get your point of view across that will make you stand out in the crowded marketplace.
  • Formulas for a successful author enterprise, that is, that pays your way, this includes selling on the side, re-purposing content from teleseminars, publishing sets of ebooks, virtual blog tours to increase traffic to your site, audio conferencing in your field, podcasting and radio blogging for the audio listener, and video trailers for visual learners, google-plus interviews and expanding of author circles for the name association and contact base, and, the all important, making money through the links and contacts from your blogging site or other, and writing more books to sell your already published books, a worthy endeavor. Keep them coming! And, we’ll start/keep buying least that’s the theory. I’ll let you know if it works for me!
  •  Formulas for indies, that is, for the independent writer who self-publishes their work. You must do the work, become someone who knows a way to hone your craft, publish the work on a shoe-string, and have a chance at the global market place. It helps to know what an “indie” is, I didn’t know at first. Crazy!
  • Formulas for the book writing, that is, include the necessaries. Get the services and formats you need to propel a good book forward: book editing, book shepherds, Amazon book search words, book reviews, book launch team, book promotion agenda, and don't forget those ratings! Get those ratings to work for you so you can hit those coveted Best Seller rankings. And, did I say, sell lots of books. Do this. To sell your books you may have to give free ebooks away. It’s one more formula for success.
The list is not exhaustive. It includes many other possibilities: Author Central, Facebook author pages, and on-line book clubs exist. All to help the author and the reader find each other. A good thing, too. It all takes time and know-how. Keep on trekking, or should I say, keep on learning and applying.

If I have learned one thing in the last few months of gathering information about this author enterprise, it is this: In today’s world you can’t assume your book will sell on its own merit. A few get lucky, I know. But not most of us. You must do much much more. The author must wear another hat. Best seller rankings, number crunching in the Amazon categories, and a whole craft is devoted to this second side of authorship. Selling the book. The sales are up to you as the author. The newly published or soon-to-be published author must become savvy. No keeping the head buried in the sand will do. Life will pass you by. In your closet will sit stacks of books unsold, unread, unknown, a book unread by unknown readers who don’t even know your unsold book exists. They don't know you have a public offering written that will increase awareness in your area of expertise.

If I sound jaded, I’m not. Overwhelmed is more accurate. However, I am learning. One doesn’t try to do it all. You take one thing, and learn it well. At the same time, you begin learning the second step. Eventually, you determine what are the right areas for you. No one can do it all. Rather than do many things poorly, do a few things well. Books will begin to sell, at least, it’s my understanding that they will. I will continue to learn as I go and increase my visibility in the process. One of the best side-benefits is this, I am gaining some new friends on this book publishing journey.

The Down and Dirty business? Well, one has to do the hard work, put in the effort, become efficient and productive, get your feet wet. Keep at it. Do it! 

I wish you well in your authoring venture.


  1. I've been encouraged to write a book about my journey as a foster mom to a child with multiple problems who, despite my efforts, fell through the cracks. He did not get the help he needed, and got further abused by the justice system. His story is changing for the good as God promises. Both tragic and wonderful things happened along the way. I haven't begun. I know it is very challenging. You have been an inspiration to me and this article was very helpful. Don't give up! Blessings! Dianna Meinz

    1. I'd suggest getting some advice before starting the writing process. It will help you in many ways. I never published the first book I wrote because it had many mistakes that beginning writers make. The good news? You can do it. It sounds like a story that needs telling. Thank you, Dianna.

  2. Well said Norma, I've been doing a little bit at a time for the last 2 years trying to get platforms set up and build a network before I get something published and hopefully it will go semi-smoothly but I know there will still be a lot of work to do. At least I have the manuscript with an editor now so I'm on the way.

    1. Good for you! I am anxious to hear how it goes for you. The platform is a good place to start. It's what I've been learning about through different gurus in the book marketing world. Having an editor is a step-up in the right direction. Thank you, Linda.