Regardless of whether your story is picked up by a traditional publisher, an agent, or you decide to self-publish, this step is crucial to your success as a writer. If you want to sell books, you’re going to have to convince people to read your story.
How Do I Do That?
To attract fans of your story, you must be the first fan. You must be the one to tell people over and over that this story is awesome, and they should read it. Remember when you wrote that story? Remember falling in love with your secondary character? Remember how awesome that ending was? Great! Now use that same “Yeah! My novel is perfect!” feeling to convince others that your story is not only interesting, but something they’ll want to read. (Sure, you’ve learned by now your novel isn’t perfect, and you’re secretly horrified at how many things you’ve discovered wrong with it during your bazillionth editing sweep. But your future readers don’t need to know that. They must think the same thing as the publisher – you’re brilliant!)
Your friends and family will obviously be the first ones you will turn to for help. They love you, and most of them probably know your story already, since you’ve been yammering about it forever. Forget the fact that they might be sick of it. They love you, right? And they want to help you succeed in this writing thing. So let them get excited about the book, too. Have them tell their friends and family. And while having others help in the promotion of your book, you will also have a big role in this, too.
You Must Be Your Own Champion
I cannot stress the importance of believing in your own work enough to sell it yourself. Regardless of which publishing path you choose, the majority of your marketing will be left up to you.
Let’s say for a moment that you reached the right editor on the right day with your query, and they loved it. After reading through your manuscript, they offer you a contract. When the happy day comes and you have your own book in printed form, your next challenge is before you – how to sell your book.
We talked last week about being a nobody. Yes, a publisher decided you had the potential to be a somebody and has invested in your work. While that’s amazing, the problem remains of what to do with the box of books in the trunk of your car. How do you sell your work? I know you’re wondering as you’re reading this, “Isn’t that what the publishers are supposed to do?”
Yes, the publishers are supposed to sell it. But you’re a nobody. They aren’t going to spend a lot of money on you until you prove that you can be a success without them. Remember when I mentioned that writing is crazy and sometimes things don’t work logically? The same principle applies to publishers. They are a business, and have already spent money on you. You aren’t getting another dime of their money until you earn back that advance and prove to them that you can be a success without them. Then the publisher will step behind you and champion your work. Like the writing process, it is a little backwards. But unfortunately, that is the way the publishing world works.
So, back to that box of books. Find a way to promote and sell them. Whether you choose to host a giveaway, raffle them off, sell them at a friend’s store, print out flyers, or rent a vendor booth at your community event, you must sell your book. You must prove to the publisher that not only you can write an awesome book, you are indeed the brilliant person they thought you are. You can sell the book all by yourself. Without their help.
If you can sell your book without any help, you can certainly sell more copies with their help. And the publisher will remember that the next time you want to write a book. “Huh? Wonder how well they’ll do if we promote this one a bit? They’ve made some money on their own. They might be worth some of this marketing budget.”
Now, publishers are full of wonderful people who fulfill dreams of many authors. But the industry is changing, and publishers are working with less money to search through the slush piles of hopeful writers, looking for the writer that will make them more money. It is a bit of a gamble to take on a new writer. When books are published, the author will receive an advance, money that they would usually earn from royalties. Once your take from royalties on your sales adds up to more than your advance, you’ll start getting checks again on a basis predetermined by your publisher (I want to say it’s quarterly). Before you get mad at the big bad publisher for not promoting your work, please note that most writers don’t earn enough to total their advance. So each time the publisher takes on someone new, they’re taking a gamble with their money.
We’ve established your story is awesome, and you’ve convinced someone you’re brilliant. If you think you can be the next somebody, go for it. But you have to prove yourself and be your own champion. Sell your work. Get people talking about your story. Get people interested. Make that box of books disappear.
That Doesn’t Apply to Me
You may have already decided that the traditional publishing world is not for you. Your story is ready, and you want it to reach the masses at once. Fabulous!
Unfortunately, the scenario I’ve described with the publisher who will eventually get behind you is the best-case scenario. For those who self-publish, the marketing and promotion of your book will be all on you. Getting that box of books in your trunk first requires money to get whoever it is to print them first.
However you accomplish getting your book out there, once the story is published, it will be up to you to market, promote, and sell it. One day, someone may see your success and choose to help you in this area. But in order to meet this magic person who believes you will make them money, you have to do it on your own.
Be your own champion. Promote your work. And stay excited about your story. Regardless of how hard it is to make a sale, keep at it. That’s the only way you can let others get just excited about your story as you are. If you want word of mouth to get out about your book, you must get the word into the right mouth in order to start the phenomenon.
Ready to do that? Awesome! GO!