You are not your book

It’s never about you or your book. It’s about what potential readers think your book can do for them. Think I’m wrong?

You are not Steve Jobs.

Does a memoir about your life or a few grand experiences you’ve had relate to your readers? Probably not. Considered writing an autobiography to share how exciting and unique your life has been? Please don’t. It’s not an original concept, no matter how original your life has been. And it surely won’t relate to your readers — even if you get some interested nods after telling a few detailed stories at a local gathering.

“And yeah, fucking everything I say is intended to be quoted (so long as I’m properly attributed).” — A writer I’m not going to properly attribute at this time.

When you make a book all about you (the author), it becomes unmarketable, and publishers don’t want to touch it. Or they’ll persuade you to rewrite your stories with practical information that can relate to the masses, a.k.a make it less about you and more about the readers. This is smart.

Every book needs a lucky break. (This is bullsh*t).

“There I was, speaking at a conference with major authors like Garrison Keillor. You know why I received an invitation? A year or so earlier, the director of the conference bought a copy of my book online and found it helpful in his self-publishing process. Every book needs lucky breaks to really make it. That was mine.” — Mark Levine, Author of The Fine Print

Bullsh*t. Don’t wait for your lucky break to happen. Create it. You want someone important to find your book? Share it with them, over and over and over again. Find the people that benefit from your words and get your book in front of them. Do you think the director of a major conference just ran across Mark Levine’s book and decided to make a purchase? No. It required hustle and persistence in getting his book out there that made the sale to the right person at the right time. He calls it a lucky break, but he’s just being a modest prick. I call it commitment to his own success.

Who needs to read your book?

Not sure how to answer that question? Then stop writing. Fiction writers should be the only writers who don’t know who their target audience is. Non-fiction writers better not put that pen to the paper until they know who they are writing for. Otherwise their words will have no connection with their readers because they’re not writing for anyone but themselves. (Go back and read You are not Steve Jobs).

Press doesn’t move the needle.

“I was quoted in The New York Times on major stories about the self-publishing industry. Both reporters found me through my website. After each story had been published, my book sales briefly skyrocketed.” [Briefly.]

While press can turn your noteworthy story into public appeal, your fifteen minutes of fame do little for long term effects. Yes, word of mouth will get a kickstart from mentions in major publications, but traffic and sales will drop off just as quickly and steeply as they started.

Get press. But don’t rely on it for book sales. If anything, rely on it to motivate you to live up to whatever fancy shit the hotshot journalist has to say about you. Get out there and hustle. Sell your ass off to every man, woman and millennial who takes the time to listen to you. And don’t be afraid to talk about it. If you think people won’t be interested in what you’ve written, then you’re not ready to become a bestselling author.

Vanity publishing is for suckers.

If you don’t plan on spending any significant time or money to properly edit and design your book, whatever time and money you’ve spent on publishing is wasted, and you’re vanity publishing.

If you are talked into pricing your book at below $2.99 to obtain a bestseller status even though you have no real marketing plan or dollars to spend, then you’re a sucker.

Those who sit around all day admiring themselves for having published a book are the vanity publishing crowd. Those who spend quality time marketing their book, and understand that sales opportunities down the road may be hatched by marketing ideas today, are what the spirit of publishing is all about.

But you just know this book will sell, right? Right…

The bottom line is that paying for competent publishing services will make your book look and read significantly better.

Marketing your book takes mad skills.

If you don’t market your book, your publisher loses. But so do you. Nothing comes free — especially not book sales. Superb writing will make a book a classic, but it will not give it short term sales. That’s the job of the author.

Typically, the traditional publisher eventually breaks the bad news to the author that their budget doesn’t allow for a marketing campaign or book tour. Which means this insanely heavy task is left to the author. (Are you a fiction author? You should be very afraid).

No problem, you say? You can sell your book as good as the rest of them? Sure. But consider that if you do kill it at selling your book to the masses, your publisher (since they hold the higher percentage in book revenue) is going to benefit a great deal — more than you (the author) who made book sales happen in the first place.

Marketing is typically the most expensive part of the book publishing process, so while not having to pay for upfront production expenses is attractive, that alone may not be a sufficient reason to sign with a traditional publisher.

Is distribution and editing worth 80% of lifetime sales? You be the judge.

So then, you want to self-publish?

This is not a bad option. This reader-powered publishing company will get you ten or so — on average — to express interest in just your book proposal (not to mention a few major traditional publishers). I’d check them out.

Self-publishing can certainly be a happy medium that many authors choose to take. They take a smaller percentage, which means more money in your pocket at the end of the day.

The downfall?

Less credibility than a traditional publisher. A major publisher may take more money from you, but they’ll get your book in WAY more hands than you or your self-publishing company probably ever could.

It’s all a game of opportunity cost — and the more hands you have in the pot (and I’m not talking about readers this time), the better off you’re going to be.