Writing, publishing, promoting, publicizing. It all seems quite daunting, doesn't it? Well, it doesn't have to be. First you need to start out by doing the right things and knowing what can help, or harm, your success. Keep in mind that while there is always a creative element, publishing is a business. It's important to know your business to be successful. Here are a dozen ideas that I hope will help you on your journey from writer to successful author.
1. Waiting too long to market. When it comes to marketing, some authors wait too long to get the word out there. If you're sitting on top of your publication date wondering where to start with your marketing, you're about six months behind the curve. Book marketing is what I call the long runway of promotion. A great campaign will consist not only of a focused marketing plan, but a plan that starts early enough to support the ramp up that a good book marketing campaign needs. And this isn't just for the self-published market, any book that's being released these days needs a minimum of a six-month ramp up. This doesn't mean that you are marketing during that time, but ideally you are getting ready for your launch by having a website designed, starting a newsletter, building your mailing list, building your media list, planning your events, etc.
2. Not having enough money. I see it all the time; authors spend all their money on the book process (book cover, editing, etc.) and then don't have enough for the marketing. That's like opening up a store and not having money to stock it with inventory. Before you jump headlong into publishing a book, make sure you have the funds to do so. So, how much is enough? It depends on what you want to accomplish. Be clear on your goals and market, then sit down with someone who can help you determine a budget.
3. Not getting to know others in their market. Who else is writing about your topic? If you're not sure, then you should do your research. Getting to know your fellow genre authors is not only important, but it can really help you with your marketing. How? Because most readers don't just buy one self-help book, or one dating book, they will generally buy in multiples. So getting to know others within your market can not only help you market your book, but it could also help you connect with fellow authors, and there is truth to the fact that there is power in numbers.
4. Ignoring social media. While social media may seem confusing to most of us, it's important to know that it can sometimes be a make or break situation when it comes to marketing your book. If you can't make heads or tails out of Twitter vs. Facebook, then hire someone who can help you or guide you through your choices.
5. Thinking bookstores don't matter. While it's nice to think that most of us do our shopping online and via Amazon, bookstores (especially local stores) can really help or hurt your marketing efforts. If your book isn't going into bookstores, then you'll want to get to know your local area stores to see if you can present your book to them for consideration and/or do an event in their store. Having a local presence in bookstores is important, especially if you are doing local events and local media. If the bookstore won't stock the book (and many of them won't if you're a first time author), then make sure at the very least that your book can be ordered. You don't want people walking into your neighborhood store and being told "Sorry, we can't get that book."
6. Printing too many copies. In order to get large printing discounts, authors will often print huge numbers of their books. I've seen ranges from 10,000 on up. Generally I recommend a run of no more than 2,000. You can always go back to print and likely when you do, you'll want to make changes to the book, possibly adding new testimonials, endorsements, and reviews. Also, you have better things to do with your marketing dollars than spend them on storage space.
7. Not spending enough time researching their market. If you were going to open up a store in a mall, let's say a yogurt shop, would you ever consider opening a store without doing the proper research? Probably not. Yet every day authors publish books and haven't done market research. This research, while it can be tedious, could save you hundreds of dollars in promotion and/or cover design.
8. Not hiring a professional to do their book cover. In tight financial times, it's ok to cut corners in marketing or find less expensive ways to do things. But one corner you shouldn't cut is on your book cover. Your cover is important because it's the first impression your audience has of your book. Don't shortcut your success by creating a cover that doesn't sell. In the long run, the money you save on the cover design could cost you four times that in book sales.
9. Not having their work professionally edited. Your book is your resume; not only that but it's your reader's experience as well. What kind of experience do you want to give them? If the answer is a great one (and it likely is) make sure the work you do on your book mirrors that. Your work should always be professionally edited, no excuse. If you don't have enough money to do this, then ask yourself if publishing this book is really a good idea. Perhaps waiting until you have the funds to get the book released the right way is a better idea.
10. Expecting immediate book sales. Nothing happens immediately, especially book sales. The sales process for books can be lengthy, especially when you're dealing with multiple reporting agencies. Most authors don't know that places like Amazon, Baker & Taylor, and Ingram don't all pay on the same timeframe. They all have particular cycles to how they pay. For example, Amazon might pay 90 days after the sale, whereas some folks I've talked to say that Baker & Taylor sometimes lags five months behind. What this means is that if you are pushing your book in December and hope to see the fruits of your labor in January, that timeline isn't realistic. Don't end up disappointed if your royalty statements aren't reflecting the promotion you've done. It could be that the agencies just haven't caught up with your sales.
11. Not having a website. Someone once asked me if all authors should have a website, to which I responded: does your book need a book cover? Every author should have a website. It doesn't have to be fancy, lengthy, or expensive, but it's a 24/7 sales tool and the only way to build credibility online.
12. Giving up on their book too soon. Like anything, book marketing takes time. I see authors all the time who start to grow impatient after a few months, wondering where their success is. How long will it take? That depends. But you might not be the best person to determine that. If you've been marketing your book for a while and can't figure out why nothing has taken off, spend an hour with a professional who can tell you if you're on the right track. Do this before you decide to throw in the towel. You might be inches away from success; don't give up before you do your research.
Making headway in marketing is as much about the good decisions, as it is avoiding the bad. Good luck in your publishing journey!
Reprinted from "The Book Marketing Expert newsletter," a free ezine offering book promotion and publicity tips and techniques. http://www.amarketingexpert.com/