The Six Secrets of Publishing Success by Bob Baker

When it comes to having a successful writing career, being in the right place at the right time has little to do with luck. It’s more about positioning yourself to be recognized when opportunity comes knocking. At least that’s how I explain the steps that led to two of my books getting published.

In the first part of this column, I related how my first book came to fruition through a series of baby steps that got me involved with book publishers while pursuing my area of expertise. If you missed it, you can read that column here:

This time around I’ll recap what led to my second book getting into print and give you a handy list of six things you can do to position yourself for publishing success.

By the spring of 2000 I had already spent several years writing articles and selling self-published reports and manuals for aspiring musicians and other creative people. Since 1997, I had been promoting myself as an expert in these fields almost exclusively on the Internet.

In May of 2000, I stumbled upon a book at the public library called “Poor Richard’s E-mail Publishing” by Chris Pirillo. It was one of a few books in the Poor Richard’s series by Top Floor Publishing. I enjoyed the book a great deal and noticed a plug for another Poor Richard’s book that covered Internet marketing and promotion.

I knew this topic was of interest to the people who subscribe to my e-mail newsletters and visit my web, so I e-mailed the company and asked for a review copy. A girl named Missy sent a copy right away. After reading and enjoying this second Top Floor book, I wrote a review and posted it on my web site. I sent Missy an e-mail to let her know where she could find the review online. A few days later, Missy sent a return e-mail thanking me for the review. Then she added a note that read something like …

“Say, we’re wanting to publish a book on Internet branding geared for individuals. I looked around your site and read some of your articles. It looks like you’ve been doing a good job of establishing an identity for yourself online, and your writing style is very much in line with the Poor Richard’s series. Interested?”

I had never thought of what I do as “branding.” I just considered it promoting an identity in my chosen niche. But that turns out to be exactly what branding is. The more I thought about it, the more I knew I’d enjoy writing a book on the topic. That was June of 2000. In July of 2001, “Poor Richard’s Branding Yourself Online” was born.

So, did I luck out by running a review at the right time? Perhaps. But I believe the groundwork I had been laying the previous several years made me an ideal (though unsuspecting) candidate to be handed this opportunity.

Here are six steps you can take to put yourself in a similar position of good fortune:

1. Get busy now. Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Do what you can, with what you have, right where you are.” Some people need a predetermined set of perfect circumstances before they’ll even think about taking a first step toward a more significant writing career. Don’t wait. Take some small step — any step — today. Then take another one tomorrow. Like compound interest in a bank account, these small actions build momentum.

2. Realize that size doesn’t matter. You don’t need a full-blown book to become an author. Take an informative article you’re written and sell it as a special report or an e-book. Take a series of articles you’ve written on a related topic and compile them into a manual. That’s exactly what I did when I self-published my “Guerrilla Music Marketing Handbook.”

3. Be flexible with formats. You don’t have to stick with .pdf or .exe files to produce your work electronically. If you’re technically illiterate and eager to start selling, offer your writing as a simple Word document or text file. And printed books aren’t limited to hardcovers and perfect-bound paperbacks. Consider printing a coil-bound version of your book at a local printer. Sometimes you have to trot before you gallop.

4. Focus on an area of expertise. You may have a wide array of interests, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But when it comes to your identity as a writer, you’ll be much better off being known as a specialist in one or two fields. Ideally, they should be fields for which you have a natural passion. Immerse yourself in your chosen field and try to master it.

5. Become a resource — not just another writer. Regarding my identity as a music marketing resource, I don’t think of myself as merely a writer or author. I consider my newsletter and web site to be a clearinghouse of information on the topic. I don’t just offer my prose; I also point people to useful web sites, helpful articles and news that help my readers accomplish the goals that my identity promises. Not only does this keep me sharp on the latest developments in my field, it also positions me as a solid resource on my area of expertise … with readers, with the media and with publishers.

6. Get into the mix. The overall message with this column is meant to encourage you to be proactive. Get busy, in some way, moving toward your publishing goals. Attend publishing events. Send introductory e-mails to your favorite authors. Promote yourself through the media. Don’t wait for others to give you permission or acknowledge that you’re worthy. You prove your worth through your actions and the quality of your work.

You’ll rarely get lucky as a writer without getting busy first.

In addition to being the author of “Poor Richard’s Branding Yourself Online” (, Bob Baker is also the author of “Ignite Your Creative Passion” (available through at and the “Guerrilla Music Marketing Handbook.” Visit for details. You can also listen to and download free MP3 audio book excerpts at