As an author, and speaking on behalf of all of us collectively, our primary goal in writing a book is to achieve blockbuster sales and mega success. It’s the ultimate dream happy ending for authors, even if the novels and books we write don’t require a happy ending for the readers. For some, it may even be the reason for writing it.
However, the marketing part is often an afterthought for many authors. Instead, we write about a topic or story because we like it, thinking that everyone else who reads it will automatically like it, too. “Of course people will love it!”
Problem is, how will they know about it? How will they realize you have written a book so likable that it will hit the bestseller lists? They won’t.
So, we boldly tell our family, peers and friends about our book. We expect that announcement to propel sales. Surprisingly, only a few will buy it. That’s because your peers are not your target audience!
Well, then, isn’t that a smack of reality? After that last word is edited and the cover has been created and the book is finally ready to publish, what’s next?
The hard part. Selling it.
Book marketing is different than book writing
Sadly, most books don’t make it on the bestseller lists. Some may reach marginal sales, at best. Even the best intentions made by authors to push their book sales to new heights can be halted by the very things that kept them from writing it in the first place.
Time. It takes a lot of time to promote a book, as many authors quickly realize. It also takes a special kind of expertise, one that many authors don’t have (yet). Marketing and writing are two completely different skill sets.
However, that should not discourage any author from living the dream of putting pen to paper, so to speak. Marketing can be learned and there are a ton of great resources out there to do it.
Authors have to think about their books differently, almost in a backwards fashion. By putting emphasis on the “happy ending” from the very beginning and keeping the end result (sales!) in mind, every author can create a marketable book. Hence, rather than simply focusing on writing about a topic that you think is great ñ only to discover that it’s very tough to break into any market with ñ it’s often smarter to determine a specific niche even before making all of that effort.
The most important forethought before writing a book
Consider this. As an author, you have an idea or story that you wish to share. But instead of thinking about it traditionally, perhaps you could adopt an outsider’s perspective of your work? Ask these three questions before ever typing so much as one sentence of your book:
- What makes my story different than any other story on the planet?
- What type of readers would be interested in my story?
- What is the best fit/audience for me to market my finished book?
For example, as a ghostwriter I have written a number of autobiographies for non-celebrity people who had a compelling life story. It is a dream of many people to share their life stories, both to inspire others and to feel a sense of accomplishment.
However, before ever agreeing to write the book, I sit down with them and ask, “To which type of market(s) do you wish to sell your book?” This leaves them dumbfounded. They have just spilled out their awesome story, secrets and near death experiences. They think that everyone in the world will want to buy the book just because the story is so captivating, and of course, it should be made into a movie shortly thereafter.
Most of the people who have a story to tell do not have any clue as to where they will sell it. They just want to tell the story. It is a common misconception that writing a book alone will equate to sales.
Honestly, marketing is not one of those bridges you can just cross when you get to it. Instead, propose several markets and intertwine these ideas through the words chosen for the book.
How to think of markets
BE MORE SPECIFIC about your target audience. Instead of just saying that you will write a “children’s book” in general, try to zero in on specific age groups, target audiences, etc. to make your book more attractive to buyers after it is finished. There are thousands of children’s books! So, think about other avenues to sell yours. School fairs? Church fundraisers? Academic events? It is highly unlikely that Barnes & Noble will be blowing up your phone, so think elsewhere!
In this fashion, you can leverage specific industries that are lacking competitiveness by writing about a topic that is sellable, rather than just “likable” by you, the author. This one thing could mean the difference between stellar sales; or lack thereof.
So, instead of waiting until the end of your book is completed ñ only to have wasted (years of!) time and effort ñ jot down the Top 5 Markets you could potentially sell your book. Then, while you’re in the midst of writing the next, biggest, greatest all-American novel, make sure you add subject matter into the context of the book that will fulfill its purpose within those segments.
Also, do some research about the book beforehand. Don’t choose a topic that has been done a hundred times with recycled information. That’s not so original. It’s also difficult to market. Find a completely unique title, subject matter and angle than other authors have used. You’re a writer, for crying out loud. It’s your job to be creative.
Let’s see some fresh, new, invigorating niche topics. Let that be your happy ending to a marketable concept as an author. Maybe, just maybe you can land a spot on the bestseller list. Kudus to you if you do!
Anne Violette is the owner of AWESOME WRITER, a freelance writing and marketing company. She is also the author of MEN ARE LIKE WINE, a humorous creative fiction book that compares the world’s favorite wines to the personalities of men. Anne is from Eliot, ME and Delray Beach, FL where she lives with her small tribe of three young sons.