Today’s Topic: Self-Publishing Chatter - Continuing to Clear Up the Myths
This episode is kinda a hodgepodge of topics floating around in the publishing world, so lets see if I can bring coherence to any of it. Several times a week I receive messages from a variety of different book publishing coaches and businesses. I often laugh when I see how they are selling their services and then I get upset that people are buying what they are selling. I also get upset that I continue to tell my listeners the truth and I don’t know if they believe me yet.
I’m all about being positive, but I’m also unable to sell a lie. I’m a realist and a practical person and the way I see it, there is going to come a point where you’re book will be compiled, printed, and produced and you’re going to be out trying to market and sell it. It’s unfortunate that at completion is likely where you will see that many of these organizations are selling false promises.
Truth eventually comes to the surface. However, most of the time the author thinks there is just something wrong with them, their subject, the way they are marketing, or perhaps the cover design isn’t appealing. They think they just aren’t good enough or they are doing something wrong. It’s an interesting phenomenon when I see an author standing at the finish line wondering what went wrong. I see it all the time. It always makes me quite sad. So much time and money goes into the process and the new author ends up unfulfilled.
It’s generally not until the author is holding their book in their hand where they start to realize that nothing happens with their book unless they do something about it. In other words, it doesn’t sell itself. And, many times at this stage authors realize the content should have been modified as well, but re-printing isn’t a viable financial option once it’s complete. It’s truly sad to see an authors high expectations flatlined by reality, false expectations, a bad publishing model, or an inexperienced coach.
Lots of marketers will tell you that it’s everything to have a best-seller, but what about securing a future outside of the business of selling books? When you’re producing a book, you aren’t often coached on how to integrate a book with your business. It’s often rare that it even becomes a topic of discussion while you’re writing out the manuscript. Most publishing models assume you know your business and that you write your book accordingly. But, many authors don’t make the connection with a book and their business. Many others don’t even think their subject aligns with a business or simply don’t care. If it’s a passion project it just might not, but when it can it always should. I’ll talk about this in an example in a bit.
I’ve got one of these book publishing guys emailing regularly… telling prospective new authors that they will earn $1M with their book! Of course, as you read you learn that you’re only doing that if you sell a high-ticket item… uhhhh, really? I mean, duh! Right? Their premise is that your book draws attention and you can sell it or give it away but, you need to be selling a business that offers a transformation of some kind that is worth $5K or more to your ideal client. Basically you’re running a successful business and not making this kind of income form book sales. So, it’s deceiving!
Of course, any successful entrepreneur knows what works for their business and most are probably not looking to start up a career as a full-time author. Most new authors really just want some guidance on how to produce the book successfully. But, I will say there is a challenge as a coach with how you explain to a new author that they don’t know what they don’t know. You have to explain in all new relationships that you have to have a certain level of trust in the coach and the process. This can be a bit of a sticky point with a busy entrepreneur because they have a preconceived notion of why they are creating the book and yet there is a fundamental breakdown on the publishing industry realities. There are also some things that should be done a particular way in the publishing industry and better ways of laying out content to support business initiatives. There has to be a symbiotic relationship where the coach learns what the author is trying to accomplish with their book project and the coach helps the author achieve these goals while knowing the publishing industry.
People come to me with a variety of weak points and they are looking to me to guide them on creating a solid book. But, many don’t understand that it’s not just about producing a book, but aligning a book so that it best works for you and your predetermined “why”…and supports you and your why for many years to come.
Maybe you’re struggling with how to write content and for many of these book marketers they believe amassing quantity quickly is the key. I don’t think it’s as much about speed as it is about working smart. Passion and purpose will always be a driver to build more than enough content. With neither of these you won’t get very far. As I’ve also said on many podcast episodes, you also should be thinking through your business model as you’re writing. It really doesn’t matter on the genre. A book will always be more successful when it’s purposefully aligned with something else you’re the expert of.
Many of these book marketers or publishing systems tell you that a book will grow your status (thus your income) as it becomes a lead generating tool. Now, there is a level of truth to this, but it also comes down to determining your audience and their needs and building out your content accordingly. If you try to push something on your audience that doesn’t provide value or help them out in some way you are simply going to be annoying them or you might even embarrass yourself because they will believe you are rather ego-centered and it’s about you. Note: you can’t make this all about you. It has to be about the value you are offering. The best kind of book is going to be one that clearly identifies and serves a need. I mean, it’s no different than being an entrepreneur, right? If there’s not an obvious benefit to any offer you aren’t converting prospects to customers. What people really want to know is how you can help them. Even if you have a story of inspiration or something you’ve conquered or come through, you always have to keep the reader in mind… what value are you providing them?
Of course the claim most marketers make is that best-seller is king in the book publishing world. This just gets old. Who really cares? In the end, if you’re not offering value to the reader this mean nothing! Even if you are a speaker on stage… if people like what you are offering they will want more of you and that’s what counts more than the number of books sold.
When you’re a self-published author you get to determine your success factors. Success for you might come in the form of books sold or it might come in the re-booking of you as a speaker. There is going to be some pretty direct feedback you get when you’re doing it right.
I was listening to an author being interviewed on a podcast the other day and honestly, there was a lot about the whole interview I found very strange. The interview was about the success of self-publishing. The author wrote a book outing her husband as a cheater and referencing another man that she dated that dumped her. She goes right into the interview with a solid focus on this and it becomes clear it’s the entire premise of her book. The first thing I’m thinking is “aren’t there legal issues with personal privacy?” I can’t stop thinking this the whole interview. I’m listening thinking…OMG! She also says during the interview that she’s fine selling her soul for book profits! Wow!
As she gets talking some more she explains that she’s hopeful one day she will have kids and they can prosper from her book sales. She’s talking about the numbers she’s earning and the people following her on social media and the posts that have gone viral. I’m listening and thinking to myself how I’ve really held my tongue about relationships that have hurt me much worse but, because I’m a person of integrity, I have said nothing out of respect of everyones privacy. I’ve learned that what you put out there publicly (especially in a book) is how you get known. I just wouldn’t want to have my children (or anyone else for that matter) knowing me this way.
She’s continues on talking about the marketing she does and how it goes viral. She says this results in people buying her book, but of course I’m thinking… there’s nothing she does outside the book? I keep listening thinking perhaps she’s become a marriage or divorce counselor. Maybe she’s going to say she’s started a foundation to become some other kind of therapist or has a business she runs to help other women. There was nothing outside of books. Her entire campaign is about book sales. It’s not to say that it’s not coming one day. There is only so much life in a book campaign however.
If you have gained a lot of attention for something its a shame to not be able to capitalize on it in multiple ways. I hear these kinds of stories on these types of interviews more times than not.
It keeps the publishing industry thriving when new authors hear these stories about high dollar returns on book sales. It keeps new authors out there marketing in hopes of “making it big”. I don’t care how many sales your making, you’re still selling a small profit margin low cost item and it takes many to make a sizable profit.
Considering that the average author sells 100-300 copies of their book and profit margins are low after the cost of printing, shipping, distribution, and book design and editing fees are paid out, one might realize quickly that there are other easier ways to turn a profit. The sale of 100 books pays back the editor, the sale of 200 pays back the designer, a sale of 400 pays back the printer for only the books printed.
Book sales are limited and even large numbers of sales have a limited lifespan. There are no guarantees how long any kind of profit will hold on. These podcasts touting book sales with high incomes are generally not very realistic. Once you reach over about 500 books sold you begin to start looking into more profits. Lets say that your cost to produce your book is $15 each and you sell it for $24.99. You roughly make $10 per book and only pay out distribution fees after you collect a $7 shipping fee for each book sold. At 500 books sold however, you are already well above the threshold of the average number of books sold by most authors. If you sell 100 more books you’ll make about $5K, but is this very realistic?
If you’ve never done this before though, you just think your missing something. Numbers really don’t lie however. So, be sure that you are keeping a good eye on things and you’ll verify this as you go. If all of us in the book business came right out and told you all this we wouldn’t still be in business. Yet, people still feel the passion, purpose, and potential outweigh the costs.
It’s the smart authors that learn that you don’t start showcasing your book til you have a solid backend in place. Because, if your book doesn’t strike it big, and it’s not likely it will, then you have simply created awareness (in a different way) of the thing you do for an income. Of course, this is going to be different for those not writing a book to support their business, so keep that in mind as well. It may change up the focus as you compile your manuscript.
You’re going to have to show up a number of times showcasing your message before someone seeks out more of you. You’re going to probably be doing a lot of free events to create interest. Even getting on stage, on the radio, or TV isn’t going to be likely to produce a direct income for you. Anymore this is kind of expected just to create awareness.
Don’t be fooled when these marketers mislead you that book sales directly correlates to an income. There is also no real advantage to the average author to being picked up by a publisher. There is no marketing perk in a typical agreement. The only difference is that you will be doing a lot of work for someone else to make a profit. It’s also likely to be more challenging to get access to your own books as you’ll have to buy them from the publisher. Being a self-published or traditionally published author means being a self-starter either way!
When I get a small break between clients I’m generally doing a little research and keeping a pulse on what’s going on in the publishing industry - for example, picking up some of the pitfalls and wins authors have had. Much of what happens in the publishing industry is a bit repetitive after awhile. Most of the stories I’ve heard many times before. But, perhaps you haven’t heard some of the experiences a new author has, here are a few stories I gathered that might be helpful for you as you go forward on your publishing journey…
In one story a young author was interviewed about her book and when she tried to work with a publishing company they had a book in mind for her that she claimed didn’t really fit her personality or align with her other content or goals. Interestingly, publishers have been known to find authors to play certain roles in the narrative they wish support or create. It’s like they have a group of topics and they just want to find authors to match bodies with books. In this particular case, the author turned to self publishing to be able to write her preferred book verses the one the publisher had in mind for her.
In another story of self publishing, it ended in a huge loss for a tech leader trying to use an executive book writing service. Some of these business book publishing systems will appeal to busy high dollar earners and business leaders by telling them that they can have a book for $30K that is pretty hands off with just a couple interviews. Basically this is called ghostwriting. Generally these busy leaders don’t care what it’s called and just want to pay a fee, do a few interviews, and showcase a finished product with as much hands-off as possible. However, the author ends up having to do far more work. (I wrote a podcast about ghostwriting a while back so you can look that up for more.) Essentially, the new author gets sold on the idea that this will be quick and easy and hands off but when they see their finished manuscript the writer has generally misunderstood, misrepresented, or misaligned the content and the busy exec has to now cross-off, change, and edit the wrong content and re-work the entire thing to get it corrected. They get frustrated and end up realizing that it’s impossible to have a few interviews and capture their voice and story accurately. This particular story re-affirmed all of this and the author was out around $50K and many months of re-work before he realized it was just easier to self-publish.
In an interview I watched, the author talked about how he gathered materials from books that were accessible to him. He said it’s important to take structure and ideas from books you appreciate. He had studied and saved a number of book covers he liked and worked closely with the designer on the cover design as well as the interior layout. I often tell design clients that they should go into a Costco, book stores, or search your genre on Amazon and study the book covers they like. I have a chapter in my Let’s Get Your Book Published book on cover design to elaborate a bit more so you can either buy the book or download the audio or ebook. Keeping genre and audience in mind is also important as you gather ideas for the designer.
Before I bring things to a close here for this episode, perhaps you listened to my episode on AI. There’s so much more to say about it, but just a quick note. When it comes to research for your book, understand that many research articles are now fed by bad AI content. You really have to cross-check all your content and rely on personal experience and intuition more than copying and pasting research material form the internet. It’s important to be able to recognize truth verses fiction as you compile your content. Check and double check your research.
And, when it comes to sourcing quotes to use in your book. I’ve been doing book layout and design for many years and I can’t even tell you how many times the same quotes get used in books. Try to think a bit outside the box when it comes to referencing quotes. I find that there is a great divide in the world right now and the sources you use for quotes really says far more than you realize. Political party preference is far easier to see in quotes than you realize. There are a lot of new truths being exposed about historical figures and celebrities so be sure you are careful how you are representing yourself. I often find it’s best to use more of the ancient masters to avoid creating animosity with your reader.
Alright, on that note. I have to say that’s it’s been a very busy week finishing up a large financial book for a repeat client and juggling things around for a simple car repair that took far longer than it should have. I hope that you are finding ways to find peace as we wade through some very unique events happening on our planet. Myself, I’ve been busier than ever putting in time on the yoga mat and diving in deep to re-align and study self. I feel like I’m really uncovering many layers in the process. Please be sure to schedule in more me-time than normal as being reflective and going within are great ways to heal the soul.
On that note, and as always, I’m wishing you peace, love, and light.
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