We’ve talked to a lot of people who are looking for help marketing or publishing their book. Since it’s been almost the same conversation each time, we decided to make a list of the basic things you need to know if you want to publish a book, to save you aggravation because you didn’t realize how timely and expensive this endeavor can be.
First of all, congratulations on writing a book! This is no easy feat and no matter what happens with your book you should feel proud of yourself. Writing a book is a serious accomplishment, which you can add to your resume.
Now, onto the unpleasant part.
The publishing industry has been in distress for well over a decade. If you want to publish a book, before you do anything else, you need to decide why someone would want to read your book. What value will you be adding to their life? Is it informative? Entertaining? An innovative new idea? Honestly, you should be asking yourself why anyone would want to read your book
Before you write it, because if you can’t come up with a good answer, then maybe you shouldn’t be writing it.
Next, you need to look at your social media following. It’s a bad idea to wait until you’re manuscript is complete and then ask yourself, I wrote a book now what should I do to help promote it, because by then you are 6 months, if not more, behind schedule. Do you have thousands of followers on various channels that engage with what you post? If not, then you are going to have to start building a following. No publisher will take you seriously if you can’t show that you are a thought leader with people interested in what you have to say. Even if you plan on self-publishing, you need to have this following, because when you start marketing your book, you need to have an audience to market it to.
This ties in to my third point – money. Do you have $10,000 to spend on publishing and marketing your book? Even if you manage to get a publisher to, well, publish it for you, you’ll still be in charge of launching your book. Unless you are a big name in Hollywood or Politics, it is unlikely that your publishing company will invest any money helping you to promote your book. And, if you want someone like an agent to organize your book tours and other promotions, well you know they’ll expect to be paid.
As an aside, if you are writing a book to make money, you should probably put your pen down now. Steven King and Malcom Gladwell aside, publishing books is not a lucrative business. The general consensus is that for a first book, you can expect to be paid just royalties on what is sold. Also, royalty rates vary and can be impacted by how much a seller like Amazon or Barnes & Nobles decides to sell your book for. So, don’t quit your day job just yet.
Really, for someone like you, that is someone researching how to market a book and what takes to publish a book, the pros of approaching a publisher versus self-publishing can be slim. The biggest pro for having a publisher is that they take care of the editing, formatting, and cover design for you. They can also put your books in the big bookstores, but that doesn’t mean the books will sell. In either case, you’re going to have to build your own website promoting you and your book, know which podcasts and print media to approach for interviews, write press releases, etc.
In order for your book to sell, you need buzz.
You need impressive people talking about your book, you need people with impressive and relevant titles to write reviews of your book and exceedingly complimentary things about you, you need a budget to promote ads for your book on relevant channels. And by impressive, we mean impressive. For example, we were approached about doing a social media launch for a recently published book. The agent told me, “We have a review from Bono, we just need to know when and how to use it.” It’s ok if you don’t know Bono, but think about the most influential people in your network. Would they say something nice about you, or your book (even if they didn’t read it, because not everyone is ready to spend 6 hours reading your book, even if they like you)?
If you want to make it onto any of the bestseller lists, you’ll need to be selling at least 5,000 copies per week. Most books don’t sell this in a year.
You should also consider making an audiobook, since people love consuming information this way. This is another expense – having you or someone else (whom you’ll have to pay) read the book in a studio, and have it formatted for digital distribution. It’s another expense, but it’s also another way for people to buy your book.
To sum it up, whether you are asking yourself ‘How can I market my book?’, or perhaps more importantly, ‘ Should I write a book?’, make sure that you have:
- An idea worth reading
- Positioned yourself as someone who people would want to hear from
- The right people ready to say the right things to pique people’s interest in your work
- Deep pockets to promote you and your book
- The patience to do what it takes to launch your book successfully