Learn Much about Self-Publishing by… Blogging

Blog First

Hands-on Self-Publishing Experience

Blogging at WordPress can teach you more about self-publishing than you might realize.

Think about this, and strive to get the most out of it.

It would be wise to blog before self-publishing for the hands-on experience every authorpreneur needs to be successful.

But even if you’ve already self-published, it’s not too late to make the connection between blogging and indie publishing.

Here are several ways that blogging at WordPress can help you become a more successful authorpreneur:

  • Crafting the title. You have to write titles for your blog articles, so you get plenty of experience trying out titles and seeing how much attention your posts get. The title is a very important part of your book. Without blogging, most authors would have no experience or practice writing titles and seeing what interest they stimulate. Study the titles of articles from popular bloggers.
  • Content popularity. Writing about different topics, you can see which seem to be more popular or less popular among bloggers. The best way to learn what people like is through first-hand experience.
  • Keywords and categories. Gain experience choosing categories and tags for your articles at WordPress. You’ll need to choose categories and keywords when you publish. For your blog, you can type phrases in Google to see how popular they are, and for your book, you can try phrases out at Amazon’s home page. When you come across popular blog articles similar to what you write, check out the tags and categories that they used.
  • Cover design. Preparing or linking to images in your posts gives you some feedback regarding how to attract an audience visually. You also see images that evidently attract much attention to popular blog articles. The more you prepare your own images, the more you learn little tips.
  • Look Inside. In the WordPress reader, people only see a short sample. Bloggers strive to learn how to use the beginning of the article to create interest in the article. Similarly, at Amazon, you need to write an engaging blurb and Look Inside.
  • Writing practice. Blogging offers writing practice for self-published authors. You can even try out a new style or genre, with real readers to offer feedback.
  • Build your brand. At WordPress, you strive to build your blogging brand. This will carry over to becoming an authorpreneur, where you need to develop brands as an author and for your books.
  • Learn about marketing. You get firsthand experience trying to market your blog, which will carry over to book marketing. You get to see what other authors do in the way of marketing. Plus, blogging helps you build helpful relationships that can help you with your marketing when your book comes out. Some of your followers will serve as your initial fan base, too.
  • Monitor traffic. WordPress shows several stats that help you analyze your blog traffic. This can help give you a sense of the potential of your blog to help with marketing—a small percentage may be your initial fan base, but more importantly, the search engine traffic helps you see what frequency of outside visitors discover your website daily. The number of likes per post gives you some idea of your active following, which can pale in comparison to your total following; the search engine traffic is the number with the greater potential.
  • Get support. Relationships that you build on WordPress can support you with advice, reblogs, feedback, and more when you begin your self-publishing journey.
  • Explore formatting options. You have to format your posts here at WordPress. As you try new things in your articles, you gain some formatting experience. An e-book formats much like a webpage.
  • Test an idea. Got an idea that you want to test out? Try a sample on your blog and get some feedback.
  • Meet your audience. A thin slice of your WordPress following will include readers from your target audience. These interactions are golden.
  • Device management. Over time, you happen to view your blog from your pc, laptop, a friend’s iPad, a cell phone, etc. This gives you some idea about how various things format on different devices. That’s good experience for the challenge of formatting e-books that read well across all devices.
  • Analyze stats. Stats at Amazon are pretty limited—royalties, sales rank, reviews. You get many more stats here at WordPress—countries, views, likes, follows, shares, comments, etc. Such data can be valuable. You could even make a graph of your blog views for the month and compare it with your sales graph to see if there may be any correlation.
  • Website development. Indie publishers need to have websites, Facebook author or book pages, author profiles, etc. The experience you gain transforming your blog into a website will help you anytime you need to create a webpage or website.
  • SEO. You write articles hoping to pull in traffic from search engines. You gain experience with SEO as you try out categories, experiment with how to include keywords in headings and body text, etc.
  • Grow a following. You’ll develop a following here at WordPress. Setup an author page at Facebook and link to it at the end of your posts, and feed your WordPress posts into Facebook (but don’t also feed Facebook into WordPress or you’ll get double posts). Similarly, feed your blog into Twitter (but don’t feed from Twitter to WordPress or Facebook, or again you’ll get double or triple posts). Create profiles at Google Plus and LinkedIn, and your WordPress traffic can help you grow a following everywhere.
  • Build connections. Meet fellow authors, editors, graphic designers, small publishers, and more in your WordPress interactions. Indie authorship is a supportive community, for the most part.
  • Create buzz. When you release a book, your blog will help you create buzz for it.

Of course, there are many other benefits to blogging. For example, you can make some great online friends, and you can find some excellent material to read for free here at WordPress. Arguably, friendships and great reading material are the BEST parts of WordPress.

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2014 Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

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Authors, You Are Amazon

Me yes you

Why You

Because your book is available for sale at Amazon.

Amazon does sell many other products, but most customers think of books when they think of Amazon.

Millions of customers will buy other books besides yours, but some will (hopefully) buy your book.

When those customers read your book, your book—for that period of time—represents Amazon.

If the customer enjoys the shopping and reading experience that your book provides, the customer doesn’t just think highly of your book and you, but Amazon, too.

A poor buying or reading experience produces the opposite effect.

Of course, you have your own reasons for wanting to create a positive reading experience: You want the customer to recommend your book to others and to look for more of your books.

You want other authors’ books to create positive reading experiences. The more customers who enjoy shopping for books at Amazon and reading those books, the more likely those customers are to buy more books from Amazon and recommend Amazon to their friends, which improves the sales potential of your own books.

So it’s in your interest to support your fellow authors when they need and ask for help. (Offering unsolicited advice isn’t always received well, though.)

It’s also in your own best interest to help brand a positive image for Amazon, Kindle, and CreateSpace. The more customers who shop on Amazon, the better for all authors.

It’s even in your best interest to have good things to say about books similar to yours because those books are likely to appear on your customers-also-bought lists, and even if they don’t, most customers buy multiple books that are similar, not just one of them. Similar books can thrive together (or they can sink together).

When you hear negative things about Amazon, Kindle, or CreateSpace, take a moment to calmly and concisely say something good—and then let it be. Don’t get into a confrontation. Brand a positive image for yourself, too.

If you ask a customer what Amazon is, he or she will probably mention that it’s a huge website with an enormous selection of well-priced books.

But that’s not how the customer feels about Amazon. How the customer feels depends on shopping experiences and reading experiences. Each sale of your book contributes to a customer’s perception of Amazon.

You are Amazon.

We are Amazon.

Even the customer is Amazon. Anyone who enjoys the great selection, convenience, and prices benefits from helping to brand a positive image for Amazon.

Of course, indie authors must be thankful for the opportunities that Amazon has created.

Indie authors account for a significant share of Amazon’s book sales.

Indies are Amazon, too.

And the best indie books have shown that they can create wonderful reading experiences.

Beyond Amazon

You’re more than Amazon.

If you sell books on Nook, Kobo, Sony, Smashwords, etc., you’re all of these.

Wherever your book is sold, your book represents that retailer.

You want to brand a positive image for all of these outlets, and for whatever publishing service you use.

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

Can You Be too Professional?

Pro Am

Amateurish!

There are many ways that a book or author may be perceived as amateurish.

Many of these correspond to doing what seems intuitive or convenient:

  • Commenting on reviews.
  • Not realizing that the cover is a visual representation of what quality to expect.
  • Including the word “by” before your name.
  • Using the default settings in Microsoft Word.
  • Creating indents with the spacebar or using the Enter key to pagebreak.

Others are more subtle:

  • Not seeking editorial reviews to earn buyer confidence.
  • Typing two spaces after a period.
  • Poor font selection.
  • Not using Word’s style functions and First Line Indent from the Paragraph menu.
  • Getting a free .wordpress.com site instead of buying a domain or using .org.

Add to this at least 90% of the things done in the name of “marketing.”

Too Far?

If it’s not professional, does that make it amateurish?

Unfortunately, I see comments about other books and authors of the sort:

  • “That’s so amateurish!”
  • “You need to enroll in Publishing 101.”
  • “What a newbie!”
  • “Nothing says ‘amateur’ like Times New Roman.”
  • “Didn’t you preview your book first?”
  • “That book is in bad need of editing help.”

In a moment, I will come to an alternative to professional and amateurish.

First, let’s consider some of these points:

  • If there is something reasonable that you can do to improve the formatting of your book, you should do it. A better-formatted book makes a better impression. It’s certainly harder for readers who enjoy a story to recommend a poorly formatted book. A better-looking Look Inside is more likely to close the sale. However, once the book looks pretty good, for most buyers who support indie publishing, there will come a point where the formatting is good enough to earn the sale.
  • Some of the people who are avidly complaining about grammar, spelling, and writing style, and who are pointing out editing issues, are themselves editors. They want to advertise the importance of editing to drum up business. If they love editing books, naturally editing will be quite important to them. But it’s also important to readers. Frequent mistakes will lose reader interest. Not just in spelling and grammar, but using a vocabulary and style that suits the audience, having the book flow well, even improving the storyline and characterization. There are many different kinds of editors, and all editing is important. However, like formatting, customers who support indie books have some degree of tolerance. The important thing is to be on the safe side of where this line is drawn for the majority of your target audience.
  • A lousy cover suggests a lack of effort. Who wants to read a book where little effort was put into it? If the cover reflects much effort, the cover should, too. The cover is also a valuable visual tool. Customers searching on Amazon see the thumbnail among many others before deciding which books to check out. Most of the thumbnails don’t receive any attention. The cover is also a valuable branding tool. An effective cover makes the genre and content immediately clear to strangers in the target audience and appeals to the target audience. In nonfiction, sometimes large keywords can be effective with little imagery. If you interact with people personally, this can offset not having a great cover. But a fantastic cover opens many doors, and is a must for selling fiction through discovery online.

Option 3

If not professional nor amateurish, what else?

Stephen King is a professional author. Sold millions of books, traditionally published, famous.

You don’t expect to see Stephen King use his children’s school artwork for his cover. You don’t expect to see him commenting on many of his reviews. You expect his books to be professionally edited and formatted. You probably have really high expectations for the quality of his stories. Stephen King can easily get a ton of editorial reviews, famous authors to write forewords, professional book reviews, etc. His author site is stephenking.com, which looks very professional.

You’re not Stephen King. (If you were, why on earth would you be reading this blog?)

But you don’t need to be.

In fact, you can do some things that you wouldn’t expect Stephen King to do. (I’m not saying he doesn’t do them, just thinking what average expectations are.)

Personalization.

It’s your asset. You can interact with your fans, your target audience. Stephen King can interact personally with fans, too, and probably does. You can easily interact personally with a much larger percentage of your fan base. By the sheer numbers, Stephen King is pretty limited percentage-wise.

The Personal Touch

I see some authors with an AuthorName.com website without a blog. I’ve even see a few authors switch from the free WordPress .com site to .org, and I’ve seen the Likes and Follows disappear to be replaced by Facebook and Twitter options only.

I perceive this as an attempt to appear more professional (and .org may also offer more flexibility, although .com has everything I feel that I need). Also, displaying a tally of views, likes, and follows might show that a website isn’t too popular, so perhaps some aim to hide this data.

But it seems less personal.

In addition to personalization, humility may be another factor.

We like to discover the small guy, with a humble book that tells a great story, that we can support.

By the way, WordPress.com is huge and may help, rather than hurt, with search engine traffic compared to .org. See here: http://onecoolsitebloggingtips.com/2014/05/05/no-metadata-required-for-good-seo/. There is a lot of helpful info there; for this point, look at the end of the first paragraph under “Keyword Use in Branding.” I have .com (with the WordPress extension in it) and draw in over 100 views per day from search engines, so .com seems to work well for me.

Readers who want a professional, impersonal reading experience can already find that with traditional publishing. One of the advantages of self-publishing is the opportunity to provide a more personal experience to a larger percentage of readers. There are disadvantages, too, so it’s important to take advantage of the benefits.

Readers can also choose a personal experience, with a perhaps more humble book and author. I’m not saying to not worry about being professional. Get the formatting, editing, and cover to look as good as you can. Marketing-wise, think personal. That’s your advantage.

An interactive blog, where it’s easy to interact and follow however the fan prefers (WordPress, Facebook, Twitter, Google, Pinterest, email, etc.), with the convenient option of commenting from WordPress without having to sign into Facebook or Twitter, encourages participation. A simple Like while logged into WordPress offers a quick and easy show of support.

Think of ways to find and interact with your target audience. Readers who personally interact with an author, online or in person, and who enjoy the experience are more likely to buy the book, and to recommend the book to others if they enjoy it.

Many of the ways that books are bought are inaccessible to new authors: bestseller lists, showing up high in a category, professional reviews, name recognition, etc. But one of the big ways that books are purchased is following personal interaction with the author. Every indie author has this opportunity.

How about editorial reviews and advance review copies? This is very common among traditionally published books. Should indie authors be copying what traditional publishers do? I know, there are some incentives to reviews, as some sites that promote indie books set a bar to reach.

Some customers don’t like to see numerous reviews show up shortly after a book is published: It can create buyer suspicion. Some disregard all those quotes of how wonderful a book is. At the same time, customers want to see an assortment of neutral opinions. Ah, what is neutral? Are all those glowing remarks inside a top-selling book really “neutral”?

Is it possible for a humble book with a personal touch, along with a possible personal experience, to have more appeal than a book that seems “too” professional? Food for thought, perhaps.

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

Authors, What Are You Selling?

Selling

The Question

Aren’t you selling more than just a book? much more?

If all you’re selling is a book, that’s a big problem for you: It’s easy to find books. The library has thousands. You can find thousands in bookstores, millions on Amazon, and hundreds at yard sales.

It takes more—much more—than just a book to make it worth reading.

  • What more are you offering than just a book?
  • Who is likely to benefit from what your book offers?

You want to identify the benefits your book offers, the people most likely to appreciate those benefits, and figure out how to match those people (your target audience) with your book.

Well, duh!

But many authors either aren’t doing this, or aren’t taking full advantage of this seemingly simple logic.

Features vs. Benefits

People don’t buy anything.

People don’t buy features.

People may buy benefits (if those benefits are a good fit for them and they perceive the benefits as a good value).

Example: Someone asks you, “Was self-publishing your book easy to do?”

  • Nothing special: “The writing was fun, but the editing and formatting were nightmares.” You missed a golden opportunity here to introduce a benefit.
  • Features: “It was because I really enjoyed the writing, which took two years, and I hired an editor for the tedious part.” This highlights two features: Ample time spent on the writing and having your book edited.
  • Benefits: “I really enjoyed the months that I spent studying swordsmanship and how to describe it in fiction, and I hired an editor to make sure it reads very well.” First, if you’re really into swords and sorcery, this sounds authentic. Second, people don’t care for the editor (that’s a feature), but they may appreciate that it will read well (that’s the benefit).

You might be thinking, “Well, if you mentioned the editor, it should be obvious that the book should read well.” But not necessarily. For one, there are different types of editors. Some customers might interpret mention of the editor to mean that there are no spelling mistakes, but that doesn’t mean that it will read well.

And not everyone will make the connection. Sales people have better success when they describe benefits than when they list features, especially when they describe specific ways that a product will benefit each individual.

Example:

  • Nothing special: “This television measures 27 inches diagonally.” Everyone is thinking, “So do many other televisions.”
  • Feature: “This television comes with picture-in-picture.” Many customers are thinking, “Well, I don’t need that. I’d rather save money.”
  • Benefit: “With picture-in-picture built-in, your husband won’t have to change the channel during your soap opera to check the score of the game every few minutes.” Now if this applies to you, you may be starting to consider the benefit that this feature offers. You might not have considered this benefit just from the feature itself. You might have interpreted the feature to mean you could watch two shows at once, which you didn’t intend to do.

Just-a-Book Marketing

If all you have to offer is a book, then it should be satisfactory to just:

  • Tell people that you have a book. That should do it, right? Maybe tell the genre, too. But a romance novel is still one of thousands. What makes it special?
  • Keep mentioning the title so that people can remember it. But if they do remember, why should they read it?
  • Show people the cover so they can see it. But if they do see it, why should they care to find out what’s inside it?
  • Advertise that it’s on sale. But people don’t buy prices. They need a reason to want the book before price helps to create value.

Branding is important, and branding does involve getting your target audience to see your cover, your title, and your name multiple times over a long period so that they recognize it.

But branding is more effective when they associate some benefit with your book.

When you hear Sony, do you think high quality? When you hear Costco, do you think large quantities and good savings? When you hear Disneyland, do you think your kids would be happy to go there? When you hear McDonald’s, do you expect fast service and low prices? When you hear Bounty, do you think absorbent?

You want to associate some benefit with your brand. Then, when your target audience is shopping for a book in your genre and remembers your book, they will have some positive quality to associate with it.

They might not buy your book just because they recognize it. But if they recognize it and a benefit comes to mind, this greatly improves your chances for a sale.

But it’s not just about the book. It’s about you, too.

More-than-a-Book Marketing

There are two ways to offer more than just a book:

  • Mention a specific benefit that your book offers.
  • Remember that the author is an important part of the book and marketing.

This second point can make a big impact on marketing effectiveness. We’ll get to this in the next section.

Your product description is a valuable marketing tool. Think about the important benefits that your book offers your target audience. These benefits should be clear from reading your blurb, but fiction is a little tricky because the benefits generally must be implicit.

The author’s biography provides a chance to show how the author is qualified to write the book. For nonfiction, this is often a relevant degree or experience. For fiction, if you have a writing degree, you should play your card, but if not, you may still have relevant experience. Have you traveled to the place where part of your book is set? Have you spent a significant amount of time learning or studying a relevant skill, like forensics for a crime novel?

Instead of trying to brand just your book’s title, you might develop a concise phrase to serve as a hook. Use this to create interest in your book and to associate your book with a positive quality. Anywhere you mention your book’s title, you could include the hook next to it, such as at the end of blog posts, emails, or on business cards. You can even mention it in person, at readings, signings, or anytime you get the opportunity to interact with your target audience and the subject of your book comes up.

Example: Instead of just mentioning the title, A See-Through Relationship, you could also include the hook, “What if you fell in love with a ghost?”

It’s not easy to come up with a clever, appropriate, effective, very short hook, but it can really be worth it if you pull it off. It’s definitely worth spending time thinking about this.

I bet you recognize some company slogans. The hook works for authors much the same way.

When you have the chance to describe your book, online or in person, you want to make the benefits of your book clear. The better you know your target audience’s interests, the better you can show them how your book may benefit each individual.

The Author

It’s challenging to get people interested in your book.

Imagine you’re at a cocktail party, but it’s not an ordinary cocktail party. 90% of the people in attendance are sci-fi enthusiasts, and you have a science fiction book.

Suppose you set your book on a table in the center of the room and leave. I bet a few people will pick up the book, if the cover has good appeal, and check it out. But it’s just a book, and people didn’t attend a cocktail party looking for a book. They went to the party to meet people.

If instead you leave your book at home, but this time you stay at the party, there is a good chance that you will meet many people and get people interested in you.

You have a pulse. You move around. You talk. You interact. Unlike your book.

It’s easier to get people interested in you, the author, than it is to get people interested in your book.

Once people become interested in you, let them naturally discover that you’re an author, and their interest in you may translate into interest in your book.

By discover, I mean waiting for, “So what have you done lately?” instead of volunteering, “I just published a new book.” Wait for the prompt.

Use this to your advantage: Interact with your target audience, both in person and online.

You have a personality; your book doesn’t. You can interact with people; your book just sits there.

People in the target audience who personally interact with an author are more likely to check out a book, buy it, and leave a review than some random stranger who happens across it.

Online, a large number of people can come across your book. But to most of them, it’s just a book they see while passing through.

On your product page, your description may help to show the benefits, but first you need them to find your product page.

In person, your interactions can help to get people interested in your book through their interest in you, and then you can show them the benefits personally. Now you’re selling more than just a book.

You can also provide the personal touch online. You can also let people see that you’re more than just a name; you can help them discover the person behind the book.

More Than Just an Author

Chris McMullen, more than just the author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

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Authorpreneur vs. Writing Artist

Authorpreneur

Authorpreneur

All authors—indie and traditionally published—are being labeled with this new term, authorpreneur.

This is easier to see for the indie author, who must not only write the book, but must also arrange the editing, formatting, cover design, publishing, and marketing. However, the term also applies to traditionally published authors, who write query letters and book proposals, still need to market their books, and have a better chance of getting published if they tailor the book to the needs of an audience.

There is a growing perception that an author must write and function like a businessperson in order to succeed as a writer. Publishers are in the business of writing: They want ideas that will sell. Even the indie author may perceive writing as a business, feeling that’s what it takes to sell books.

Writing Artist

Let’s look at the other extreme—the author who writes passionately without regard for sales. In the utter extreme, the author doesn’t write for an audience, but for his or her own reasons. This author is driven by passion, not business. Getting the book right, carrying out the author’s vision… this author cares for this more than sales. Yes, this author would like to share his or her passion. This author won’t give the book away for free because he or she wants the work to be valued, yet this author is driven by the art of writing, not the royalties.

Which Are You?

Most authors probably aren’t extreme authorpreneurs—focused solely on business—or extreme writing artists—completely disregarding the business aspect. You might feel like you fall somewhere in between, and presently you’re trying to gauge which way you lean and how far.

Would you like to write as a businessperson or as a writing artist?

Most authors feel that they must do one of the following:

  • Sell out, so to speak, writing for business rather than pleasure.
  • Write as an artist and then publish and market as a businessperson, sort of combining the two aspects.
  • Write purely for pleasure; don’t worry about the business side at all.

However, there is another important option that most authors don’t consider.

The Art of Success

You don’t have to turn your art into a business. Instead, you can turn the business into an art.

Here’s what I mean: View marketing not as a business strategy, but as a means of sharing your passion with others. Put your imagination into it and carry out your marketing as an artist. Just like you write with passion as an artist, find a way to feel like an artist when you market your work and become passionate about marketing as a way to share your writing with readers.

It’s a matter of perspective. Consider the following definitions.

Perspective

book

  • business: a product designed to create profit.
  • art: ideas fueled by passion and crafted by a wordsmith.

cover design

  • business: a tool that helps direct traffic to your book’s product page.
  • art: a reflection of your work that helps readers find what you so passionately wrote.

editing

  • business: reshaping an idea to sell better.
  • art: perfecting the art and craftsmanship to get it right.

formatting

  • business: improving the design of a book to attract more customers.
  • art: visually complementing the beauty of the writing.

marketing

  • business: strategies for delivering the product to the target audience.
  • art: motivating yourself to share your passionate creation with others.

Readers, too

As a reader, would you rather read a book that was written for an audience and designed to sell or would you rather read a book that was fueled by passion and shared passionately?

Of course, the question is never put like this. However, as a reader you do buy books. When you buy books that were written and published under a business model, you support the perception that writing should be a business. When you buy books that were written by artists and craftsmen, you support the perception that writing should be an art or craft.

The choice is yours. Each purchase counts as a vote.

Publishing Resources

I started this blog to provide free help with writing, publishing, and marketing. You can find many free articles on publishing and marketing by clicking one of the following links:

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

Authors, Do You Know Jack?

Jack

Jack-of-all-Trades

Is this a problem for indie authors?

I’ve seen this term used with regard to authors in a variety of contexts over the past couple of months. There are two common cases:

  1. The self-published author who does all the writing, editing, formatting, cover design, and marketing independently.
  2. When the books involve a variety of subjects, categories, genres, writing styles, etc.

But Master of None

The common implication is that the jack-of-all-trades knows something about many subjects, but is the master of none.

I would like to challenge this assumption:

  • Every year I encounter several students who not only ace one of my classes, but tend to earn top scores in all their classes. I interact with many people who have expertise on several subjects. I’m not just talking about double and triple majors, or necessarily students. Do you have any know-it-all acquaintances who you would rely on for information on any number of topics?
  • Authors need to be well-versed on several matters. For example, in addition to storytelling and writing, fantasy authors also need to understand weaponry, fighting, mythical creatures, and a host of topics seemingly unrelated to writing. Nonfiction experts need to know more than their subjects: They must also be able to explain things in a way that the audience can understand, which is a much unrelated skill.
  • Many famous authors would be described as a jack-of-all-trades. For example, consider Robert A. Heinlein, who primarily wrote science fiction and fantasy. He spent ample time doing research on biology, chemistry, medicine, rocket science, astrobiology, geology, mathematics, and many other topics. The level of detail that show up in his stories is amazing when you consider the variety of expertise that is entailed in his many novels. Other famous authors weren’t just self-published, but ran printing presses and were involved in a variety of hobbies and business ventures. Almost all of my favorite authors would be considered jacks(or jills)-of-all-trades.
  • Life experience, both range and depth, can provide valuable insight to authors. Writers who know much outside of their domains have more resources at their disposal for writing their books.

Which Trade?

Suppose you discover that you have a medical condition. The first thing you might do is buy a few books to learn more about it. When you shop for the book, you must often make a decision:

  • Although some books are written by medical experts, the layman sometimes finds the language unclear, the content intimidating, and the reading impersonal.
  • Some books are written by non-experts, but although the author may lack expertise, the author may make up for this through ample research, speaking from personal experience, or having a knack for clear explanations that the layman can understand.

The ideal case is that the author excels at both—expertise in content combined with clear, personal language. Hey, that’s a jack-of-all-trades who excels at both.

An alternative is a book with two coauthors, one who has the medical knowledge and one who can explain well to a general audience. This sounds great as an ideal, though in practice it doesn’t always work out as well as it sounds. While teamwork has much potential, it also entails cooperation and coordination. Finding the best expert and best expository writer to collaborate on the book is a challenge, too. For one, those with the best-looking resumes don’t always deliver results to match.

Either way, I appreciate the time and effort authors invest to provide helpful information. In my experience, sometimes the single author’s technical book helps me more than a similar book that was coauthored, and sometimes it’s the other way around. As a reader, I haven’t observed any reason to automatically disregard an author who tries to fill too many roles. The best criteria I see is the Look-Inside-the-Book; that seems to be a much more reliable indicator than whether the author has coauthors, has a relevant degree, hired an editor, etc.

Indie vs. Self-Publishing

Just because you don’t see a coauthor, editor, cover designer, or publishing label mentioned on the product page or copyright page, this doesn’t mean that the author didn’t seek and obtain valuable help.

It’s really indie publishing, not self-publishing. The indie author acts independently, coordinating the publishing of the book. The indie author doesn’t have to do it all by him- or herself. Although the author writes the book, he or she may recruit help in many ways:

  • Several pairs of eyes may be used to provide feedback on the writing and to edit the manuscript.
  • The author may hire an editor who doesn’t want his or her name publicized on the product page or copyright page.
  • There are numerous resources for all facets of self-publishing online and in books. Most indie authors research several publishing topics.
  • Authors can get much help from the supportive indie author community, such as formatting instructions, advice, feedback, tips, and even “I’ll be happy to help you with that.”
  • After publishing several books, each indie author has gained much experience with all aspects of publishing, often becoming not just a jack-of-all-trades, but also excelling in many areas.

What Does Your Author Page Say?

Do you have different kinds of books on your author page? Will readers wonder if you are a jack-of-all-trades?

If so, you might wonder if you may be losing sales from readers who assume that you must not have mastered either trade. Will including different books on your author page deter sales?

Maybe, maybe not, but there is another point that may be more important: There will also be readers who check out your other books and buy multiple books, whether they are similar or different. You’re more likely to get multi-book sales from similar books, but you will get multi-book sales from different books, too, provided that the first book pleased the reader.

It’s easiest to market books in your own name. You could adopt a pen name for different kinds of books, but then it’s really hard to market multiple names. Many people know you or know of you; every day, you meet new people and have the chance to mention that you’re a writer. You lose your name recognition when you adopt a pen name.

Unless you write children’s books and also write books with mature content, it may be better to put all your books in your own name than to separate them using a pen name. You might lose a few sales due to the jack-of-all-trades perception, but you might gain even more sales from people who know or meet you and from multi-book sales (perhaps not all at once, but readers who enjoy one book now and check out a much different one months from now).

Do I Know Jack?

I have a Ph.D. in particle physics; that’s my area of expertise as far as degrees go. However, I’ve published a variety of books:

  • I started self-publishing to share my passion for a fourth-dimension of space. You have to excel at mathematics to get a degree in physics, so the geometry aspect fits right in. I also coauthored a half-dozen papers on the collider physics of extra dimensions, which are published in professional physics journals, such as Physical Review. This fits right in with my expertise; plus, as a teacher, I have experience explaining abstract concepts clearly (though not all teachers excel at explanations).
  • My Improve Your Math Fluency series of math workbooks is also closely related to my expertise. I observed that many university and high school students lacked fluency in fundamental arithmetic, algebra, and trigonometry skills. This series is my effort to help improve math fluency.
  • My science books also relate to my background in physics. I have a basic conceptual introduction to chemistry, a basic introduction to astronomy, and an advanced physics textbook.
  • But my blog isn’t about physics, it’s about self-publishing, and I have written books on the matter. Does this make me a jack-of-all-trades? I don’t think of myself as just a teacher, but a writer and a teacher. I’ve self-published dozens of books, which gives me some experience. I prepared my first book over 20 years ago, although I first published in 2008. I have also drawn thousands of technical illustrations on the computer, written and edited numerous articles (the half-dozen I wrote for physics journals are quite technical, and came with a set of formatting guidelines that paralleled self-publishing in many ways), and used several software packages to write, format, and illustrate, including extensive use of most editions of Microsoft Word since 1997. I’ve become just as passionate about self-publishing as I am about physics and math (perhaps more so): I love to share and discuss ideas here at my blog.
  • At first glance, the word scramble books that I’ve published may seem out of place. How does this relate to physics? This actually started when I was staring at a periodic table while giving a final exam: I realized that I could make thousands of words, like ScAtTeRbRaIn (scatterbrain), using only symbols from the periodic table. I shared this idea with my mom, and we decided to make some word scramble books. My mom loves word puzzles, especially word jumbles, and she is very meticulous (she used to be a technical writer), so she was a good fit to write these books. I’m a coauthor of these books, but my mom deserves most of the credit. As an added benefit, it was a family project.
  • My most unrelated books are on golf stats and chess. I thought about using pen names for these, as they don’t relate to physics, but I’m glad that I didn’t. Thousands of people know my name, and while most people who know my name who buy my books pick a math workbook, science book, or self-publishing book, I still sell a significant number of golf and chess books to people who’ve heard of me (plus many who haven’t, who apparently weren’t deterred by the variety shown on my author page). I actually wrote these books for my own personal use, but published them thinking that others may find them useful, too. Also, these were among the first books that I self-published, and they gave me some valuable experience before formatting my more technical books.

Do You Know Jack?

If yes, good for you!

If you feel like a jack-of-all-trades in various ways, my advice is not to sweat it too much. You have more important things that you can worry about. But jacks-of-all-trades tend to work hard, so you should be keeping yourself too busy to worry anyway. Go get more work done, as that will be more significant than this issue.

Here are my suggestions:

  • Ensure that your blurb and Look-Inside-the-Book show your strengths. Work on your weaknesses. Get help shoring up your weaknesses. Not just in the Look Inside, but throughout the book (because a sudden change after the Look Inside will impact reviews).
  • Where plausible, using your own name carries a marketing advantage and can help you with multi-book sales.
  • Every once in a while, help spread the word about the benefits of being a jack-of-all-trades or mention a story about a famous author who was a jack-of-all-trades. Help paint the perception that it’s not necessarily a bad thing; it may even carry some benefits.
  • If you hire an editor or cover designer, mention of their names on the product page (through the editor or illustrator fields) or on your copyright page (traditional publishers often only list them on the copyright page) might help to show that you’re willing to seek help when you need it. The inclusion of a references section for nonfiction can show willingness to do research. But if you don’t have any help to show, instead of worrying about it, start working on your next book or do some marketing; those things are more important.

Learn More about Jack

(No, my name isn’t Jack.)

I started this blog to provide free help with writing, publishing, and marketing. You can find many free articles on publishing and marketing by clicking one of the following links:

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

Authors: You’re not Alone

Alone

Alone

It’s easy to feel alone:

  • You sit down and write your book all by yourself.
  • If you self-publish, you do it yourself.
  • Marketing is up to you.

Indie ≠ Alone

It’s really indie publishing, not self-publishing.

  • Indie = independent. Independent means you’re the boss, you make the decisions, you have freedom, etc. Independence doesn’t mean you have to do it yourself. Choose not to be alone, if you wish.

Where Is Everyone?

Get connected:

  • Meet fellow authors. Interact with them. Read about their experiences. Discuss your publishing experience.
  • Ask for help. Others have worn your shoes. Advice is easy to give. Search for ideas. Post a question.
  • There are many free, helpful, positive, interactive author communities on the internet. You just have to look.
  • Need professional help? There are many editing, formatting, and illustration services available by many editors, designers, small publishers, and businesses. You can find affordable and reliable service if you search thoroughly. The more you interact in the author world, the more likely you are to know someone you can trust to recommend a service.

Struggling?

You’re not the only one:

  • Writer’s block is a common affliction. Search online for some creative ideas for getting past it.
  • Many other authors have been frustrated with the exact same formatting challenges. Post a question on a publishing forum.
  • Did sales take a nosedive, or never even start? You’re not the first and won’t be the last. Get advice on your cover, blurb, front matter, and first chapter.
  • Get slammed with a bad review? Ouch! Unfortunately, most authors can relate. Experienced authors can help you deal with it, and avoid making matters worse.
  • Need a shoulder to cry or lean on? Reach out. There are authors everywhere; many are happy to lend a shoulder.
  • No clue how to market? Everyone has been there before. The internet is loaded with marketing suggestions.
  • Struggling with your blurb? Check out some top-selling blurbs. Seek feedback on your draft.
  • Want feedback on your writing? Join a writer’s forum. Put on a thick skin before you leave the house.
  • Cyberbullying got you down? Check out this post. You can find some great ideas and a valuable resource there.
  • Almost get run over by an elephant on your way to a book signing? That’s probably happened to someone else, too. Share your story.

Choice

You can choose not to be alone. It really is that simple. 🙂

There are millions of writers. You’re not alone.

Once you have some experience, be a positive influence to others; show your support, share your wisdom, and offer your encouragement.

Misfits

Feel like a misfit? Many authors do. Get together and form a band of misfit writers.

You might discover that you’re not a misfit after all—that you fit right in. 🙂

Read one of the many novels where the misfit protagonist saves the world.

Publishing Resources

I started this blog to provide free help with writing, publishing, and marketing. You can find many free articles on publishing and marketing by clicking one of the following links:

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

The Other Side of Taking Your Time with Your Book

Fast SlowI’ve been a recent advocate of taking your time with your book: showing patience, getting help as needed, perfecting your work, doing pre-marketing, etc.

Let me balance this by referencing an article in the Wall Street Journal regarding self-publishing at a fast pace:

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303640604579298604044404682

I have some trepidation that authors might read this article, especially given where it was published, and interpret that to mean that writing and publishing as quickly as possible is a successful business model.

No matter how you publish, it will take a special brand of content and packaging to attract a large readership, and discoverability is only becoming more challenging each year.

If the book isn’t attracting readers, having thirty such books probably won’t help.

But if you have a special book that’s just a magnet for readers, those readers will crave more, and the faster they can get it, the better.

The getting-more-books-out-there-quickly plan may have some merit.

Let me emphasize that there is more to it than just a large number of books; content is especially important, and so are packaging and discoverability.

I’ve mentioned previously the power of a backlist: Most authors who put out many titles in a few years already had much of the work done before publishing.

I benefited from a backlist, a coauthor, and publishing many workbooks that don’t compare to writing a novel. I know that it can help to have several books out. The more marketable books, the better. Having a large number of books that aren’t too marketable won’t help much.

What’s right for you? That’s the million-dollar question you’ll have to figure out. 🙂

Publishing Resources

I started this blog to provide free help with writing, publishing, and marketing. You can find many free articles by clicking one of the following links:

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

Building Credibility as an Author

Trust 2

Have you heard stories about plagiarism, authors behaving badly, review abuse, major formatting problems, or books with spurious typos?

If such stories are circulating, readers may be aware of them, too.

Would those readers grant you credibility simply because your name is in the author field? Or would credibility be something that you must earn?

Let’s imagine that we’re shopping for a book and consider some ways that we might assess an author’s credibility.

Packaging Display

We see the cover, blurb, and Look Inside on the book’s product page.

What does the cover say about the author?

  • Is an appealing cover a sign of an author who likes to do everything right? Does it show that the author believes in the book? Is it a symbol of professionalism?
  • If the cover seems to lack effort, is it a sign that the book is similarly lacking effort?

The answers to these questions are not necessarily, “Yes.” For example, the author might believe the adage that one shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, or might have The Catcher in the Rye in mind as inspiration.

However, the shopper doesn’t know the author’s true motivation; the shopper only sees the result. Cover appeal does make an impression.

What can we learn about the author from reading the blurb and Look Inside?

  • Are typos, formatting issues, or writing mistakes a sign that the author didn’t take the work seriously? If these short writing samples have problems, how does that bode for hundreds of pages?

There may be a reason for it. For example, the author might be a gifted storyteller who just doesn’t have the gift of grammar. Regardless of the reason, doesn’t this impact the author’s credibility?

Contributors

I read a thought-provoking article1 by former publicist Sandra Beckwith last night, which inspired this point.

If the author receives help from an editor or a cover designer, does this lend credibility to the book?

  • Does the presence of an editor suggest higher quality?
  • Do other contributors show that the author is willing to work with others, recognizes his or her limitations, and is serious about perfecting the book?
  • When the author does everything alone, does this suggest that there may be some aspects that are lacking, that the book could be better?

These are all tough questions. I’m not suggesting that the correct answer to each question is necessarily, “Yes.” What I’m wondering is how such things may impact readers.

Public Relations

What can we learn from how an author handles criticism?

  • Does an author lose credibility when he or she comments on a review? I’ve heard from several reviewers who say that they strongly dislike it when an author invades this space. So even if you comment tactfully, this may lose credibility with some shoppers.
  • Let’s go a step further. Suppose that the author comments, sounding defensive. Does this make the author seem needy, immature, or unprofessional?
  • What if you check out an author’s blog, and the author is lashing out at a reviewer there? Although the blog is the author’s own site, it is in the public eye. How does this look to a prospective reader?

The toughest public relations challenge may be cyber-bullying, which poses a serious threat to authors, both indie and traditional. Ionia Martin, an avid book reviewer who often provides helpful advice for authors, suggested in a recent article2 that authors who are unfortunate enough to encounter this should deal with it using intelligence, honesty, and tact.

Perhaps intelligence, honesty, and tact, would go a long way toward building credibility in all of an author’s public relations.

Author Photo

Assuming you’re looking for a book you’d like to read and not for an author you’d like to date, does the author photo matter?

  • Do you need to look like an author in order to be a great writer? Or do you just need to look professional?
  • Or is it the quality of the photo that matters, not so much how the author looks? Do things like lighting, red-eye, blurriness, and pixilation impact the author’s credibility?
  • Does a touch of personality appeal to you? Does too much personality put you off?

These questions might be worth considering, even if they aren’t easy to answer.

Author Biography

What do you look for in an author’s biography?

  • For nonfiction, do you want to see the author’s relevant qualification?
  • For fiction, does it matter to you if the author has a writing degree? Should the author have taken a writing class? Should the author belong to a writing group? Do you want some sign that the author has received feedback or help from others?
  • Perhaps, for fiction, you don’t want to see a resume, but want to learn something about the writer’s relevant life experience or personality.

Not all of these questions may be straightforward. For example, some people have strong opinions about writing classes. I don’t want to open that can of worms, but would rather simply state that opinions on this differ. My concern here is just whether or not this impacts an author’s credibility with some prospective readers.

We probably have different expectations for what should be in a biography, especially for fiction. An effective biography will lend the author credibility with the target audience.

Did you know that CreateSpace has free marketing resources? One of these includes tips for writing an author biography.3

Marketing

When the author interacts with the target audience, both online and in person, the author has a chance to build credibility with prospective readers, but the author also has the opportunity to detract from it.

What do you look for when you meet an author?

  • Do you like to see signs of professionalism? Suppose you visit an author’s blog. Your first impression could be, “Wow, this author really knows what she is doing,” or it could be, “Umm, uh, well…”
  • If the author’s writing samples in a casual setting appeal to you, does that help to create interest in the author’s book? If there are frequent writing mistakes, is that a red flag?
  • Does the author’s character impact your buying decision? How about the author’s personality? Or the author’s writing persona? After all, you’re going to read the book, not go on a date with the author.
  • Do you like to see a few signs of the author’s humanity? Do you want to learn more about the author as a person?

References

1. http://buildbookbuzz.com/author-social-media-persona

2. http://readfulthingsblog.com/2014/01/07/the-legacy-you-leave-a-few-thoughts-on-literary-hate-packs/

3. https://www.createspace.com/en/community/docs/DOC-1871

Resources

I started this blog to provide free help with writing, publishing, and marketing. You can find many free articles by clicking one of the following links:

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

Don’t Just Throw Your Book Out There (Why not?)

Cross Your Fingers

The Temptation

Joe’s muse inspired him with a great idea for a book. Thus, Joe sat down at his computer for several months, typing up his story. Now he’s ready to publish it.

Sure, he’d love to have a fantastic cover, excellent editing, and effective marketing. However, Joe is self-publishing, has no budget, doesn’t have artistic or photography skills, and doesn’t know anything about marketing.

Like many authors, Joe doesn’t feel a need to perfect these things. For one, he doesn’t see how he can afford to hire anyone. For another, he has no idea if his book would sell; he’d loathe to waste months more time and money he doesn’t have only to see a trickle of sales.

It occurs to Joe that he could publish the book as it is now and the cover, editing, and marketing can wait until later. If the book sells well, then he can afford these things, and then he won’t even need the marketing; and if the book doesn’t sell, he will be glad he didn’t waste more time and money.

Putting the book out there will give Joe some initial feedback, help him build a fan base, allow him to test the market, and provide some extra income that he can really use.

Everything seems to suggest that Joe should publish as soon as possible. This will also relieve a great deal of stress that had built up while he was writing the book, and which became nearly intolerable when he started to learn the publishing ropes.

The Problem

There are a few important points that Joe hasn’t considered (or perhaps he has considered them, but either ignored them or convinced himself that they don’t matter):

  • Sales rank. It’s really challenging to overcome a slow start. The history of no sales factors strongly into the sales rank (which weighs sales from the past day, week, and month). Sales rank quickly climbs to the millions with no sales, then when the book does sell, it rises quickly. In contrast, when a book sells frequently with its launch, its sales rank climbs much more slowly when it doesn’t sell. It’s much easier to keep sales consistent when they start out well than it is to generate sells after a very slow start.
  • Reviews. If the book needs significant editing, formatting, storyline, character development, or writing help, this may be reflected in critical reviews. You can revise the book later, but any negative reviews are there to stay. With only a few reviews, if any are bad, it can hurt the book’s prospects for sales, which makes it challenging to get new reviews to offset the bad one. Perfecting the book before publishing and marketing it effectively can inspire helpful early reviews.
  • Discovery. There are millions of books out there. People need to discover your book before they can buy it. Early sales, customers also bought lists, reviews, and bestseller lists improve a book’s exposure. Perfecting the content and pre-marketing can greatly help with this.
  • New release. When a book first appears on Amazon, customers are more likely to discover it by using the Last 30 Days or Last 90 Days filters. If your book is in its best condition and effectively marketed prior to publishing, you can take full advantage of this. If instead you wait until you realize that the book isn’t selling, you’ve missed this golden opportunity.
  • Image. You only get one chance to make a first impression. If people check out new releases in your genre and discover your book only to think, “Ugh,” they probably won’t click on it months down the line after it’s been revamped, and they may have already told their friends not to bother with your book. It’s important, yet challenging, to successfully brand the image of the book and author. Strive to brand a positive, professional image from the beginning.
  • Satisfaction. Customers are investing time, and possibly money, to read your book. With this investment comes a set of expectations. Whether your book merits reading, recommendations, or criticism largely depends on how well the experience satisfies customers. A quality book with good packaging improves the chances that the book will be read and that some readers will recommend it to others. A book with problems discourages sales and encourages a disproportionate number of critical reviews.

To make matters worse, Joe is aware of a few famous authors who improved their covers or editing later, and eventually found success. Unfortunately, Joe isn’t thinking of the millions of books that struggled to begin with and never overcame this.

It’s really challenging to succeed as an author when you put your best foot forward in the beginning. Making it even tougher on yourself isn’t the best plan.

Whether you just throw the book out there or fight to get it ready for publication can significantly impact the fate of your book.

The Solution

Authors who don’t have money do have time. We all know that time is money. There is also an abundance of free resources to help authors publish and market their books, along with a community of authors who like to help others.

For those who do have a little money, there are many low-cost services to explore.

It’s not the lack of resources or help that’s the problem, nor the expense. The problem is the choice to get the book out there when it’s not quite ready to succeed.

(I’m not talking about the perfectionist whose book is already extremely well-edited and has a great cover, or who keeps bouncing back and forth between ideas because none of them seem good enough. I’m talking about the majority who know deep down that they really need help with cover design, editing, or marketing, but can’t figure out what to do about it.)

Here are some things you can do to give your book its best chance of success:

  • Get the content publishing-ready. Give customers a quality product that they will enjoy, not something they will have to settle for; some customers won’t settle. You can put extra time into editing and formatting. You can find affordable ways to get many other eyes to read your book.
  • Find a way to get a cover that will attract the target audience. It needs to be visually appealing, but that’s not sufficient. It must signify your precise subgenre and content. This has a significant impact on whether or not people who see your thumbnail will check out your product page or pass. If your target audience favors your thumbnail among others in your subgenre, you have a distinct advantage.
  • Research and master the art of preparing a concise blurb that will inspire interest from your specific target audience. The cover, blurb, and Look Inside are your only salesmen at the point-of-sale. Make these inspire sales, not deter them. Study the product pages of top-selling books in your genre, especially those that are selling well without the benefit of the publisher’s or author’s name.
  • Seek feedback on your cover, blurb, title, Look Inside, and book before you publish. At a minimum, you should recruit friends, family, acquaintances, coworkers, and your online followers and connections. Ideally, you would also get feedback from your specific target audience. This not only helps you perfect your book, it helps you create buzz, too.
  • Setup a blog and social media pages several months before you publish. For one, you’ll have content already there when fans check out the websites listed on your About the Author page. For another, you’ll already have a following when you launch your book. A fraction of your followers will show support with a few reblogs or retweets, some likes, a couple of sales, and maybe even a couple of reviews. You’ll also have valuable connections that may come in handy for author interviews, blog reviews, advice, support, and inspiration (since you’ll see firsthand what others are doing). When readers check out your newly published book, they’ll see that you’ve already established yourself.
  • Generate buzz for your book weeks before its release date. Get people talking about your book online and in person. Feedback and your online following can help with this. Find bloggers and websites with traffic from your specific target audience where you might get reviews, interviews, or publish an article; allow ample time for consideration. Search for Facebook author groups in your genre. Explore free and low-cost advertising options for a short-term promotional sale and learn how to do this effectively. Interact with people in your target audience and let your passion show.
  • Find your target audience, interact online and in person, and make a favorable impression. Let them discover that you’re an author. Seek readings, signings, seminars, conferences, media exposure, websites where they hang out, and other ways to engage your target audience. Personal interactions are an asset to the indie author, who has the time and passion to offer this personal service. Use it.
  • Research effective free and low-cost marketing strategies. Consider which are most likely to help you reach your specific target audience and provide the greatest benefits relative to the costs (which include both time and money). However, also realize that some things that may not lead to many immediate sales may have a significant indirect benefit like helping you look like a complete, professional author.

The better your book is, the more seriously you’ll put effort into the book’s launch and success, and the more confidence you’ll show in your work and marketing.

No Guarantees

There is a risk; there are no guarantees that your book will succeed. Not all book ideas have the potential to sell well. There are some books that don’t sell well, where there isn’t much that could change the fate of the book. A very rare book will succeed with so-so packaging and marketing; the vast majority need effective packaging, marketing, and content.

However, there are very many books that are close, but no cigar, where a little help could go a long way. Maybe the cover or blurb are attracting the wrong audience. Maybe something in the Look Inside is deterring sales. Maybe customers are checking the book out, but are reluctant to try a book with a sales rank in the millions.

Can you remember shopping for a product when you were on the verge of making the purchase, where you were having a tough time deciding? Even a small thing could decide it one way or the other.

If the customer is viewing your product page, that customer is interested. He or she is deciding. The content and packaging will make or break the sale. Your cover, blurb, Look Inside, reviews, author photo, biography, and categories are the only marketing you have at the point-of-sale.

Do you believe that you have a marketable book, that there is a significant audience that will truly enjoy it? Do you think it’s good enough that many people will recommend it to others? Then you have to go for it and give your book its best chance.

Research books similar to yours to see what the prospects are. If there are books like yours selling well, and you can honestly see yours competing with those (make lists of things that those books and your book have going for and against them), then some extra tender-loving care before you publish may make a big difference down the road.

By perfecting your book, you will be happiest with it and so will your readers. You will be proud to share it. You will know it’s a worthy product, regardless of its fate. If you give your book its best chance of succeeding, you won’t have any nagging doubts about what you might have done better.

Disclaimer

Joe is a purely fictional character invented solely for the purpose of illustration. Any resemblance to any actual author is purely coincidental.

Free resources

I started this blog to provide free help with writing, publishing, and marketing. You can find many free articles, by clicking one of the following links:

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.