So, my book has been published on digital outlets such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Apple for a little over four months now. It’s funny how our minds instinctively yet erroneously decide how our future will progress. I once heard a Christian joke that went something like this: if you wanna hear God laugh, just tell him your plans for your life. Funny.
A respected published author told me,”Don’t expect to get rich off of a single book. The fact is, most people don’t even earn back their initial investment.” I thought that statement was a bit morbid for my taste, and promptly decided to be the exception to that particular rule. But I gotta tell ya friends, this book business is a lot harder to crack than it seems. I’m learning more each day about the fine-line art of salesmanship associated with today’s self publishing business. And believe me when I tell you, you do need to put on your salesman hat if you expect to make a splash in an already oversaturated business. While I have yet to experience any super-dee-duper success (to date, my book has earned about $550 over roughly 23 copies sold), I’m still pretty optimistic on the chances of it landing in the right hands. I really believe I have a great story. I just have to convince the rest of the world of what I already know.
While I wait for the doors to open, let me share a few things I’ve learned to date. Maybe you’re an aspiring author thinking of going the self publishing route.
- Count the cost before you sign on the dotted line. Jesus told us to count the cost of what it meant to follow him. You should do the same when you’re thinking of signing with a self-publishing company. Pay particular attention to what is offered in your purchasing price. Is marketing included? Is the contract exclusive? How trustworthy is the author support team’s response time? Things of this nature could be deal breakers.
- Take note that writing the book is only part of the game. Since you’re going it alone, you have to be your own marketing team. That is, unless you have a couple hundred dollars to pay for a marketing package offered by your publisher. The marketing is crucial. I spoke with a “Family Christian Bookstore” manager who told me, “I can usually tell who’s done their marketing research during book signings. Some folks will come in here and sit for four hours, only to sell a single book.” If you’re thinking of going the self publishing route, you’ve got to come up with a successful marketing plan. These days, social media is the easiest route to take, to get the word out about your title. It’s still no guarantee, but it’s a start none the less.
- Stay prayed up. Yeah, it may not seem like a note worthy point to you, but believe me; it is. If you have a good story and you truly believe in it, you’d better ask God for direction on a consistent basis. If it’s his will, it will happen. Plus, the business can discourage you pretty quickly, so you need the Lord to strengthen you during the tough times anyway. Stay prayed up.
- Don’t be afraid to give something away…for free. This is a really tough point for a lot of people and there are many schools of thought on this subject. Some would argue,”I’m trying to sell this thing. I can’t afford to give it away for free!” Well…if you want people to show interest, you’d better be willing to give ’em at least a little taste of what you’re producing. Did you peep the 3 free chapters I linked up top? Be willing to give a little to gain some friends, who just might talk about your product to their friends, and so on. Domino effect. Trust me, you need it to push your book in a self publishing market.
- Don’t feel guilty about asking for reviews. This was tough for me at first. I was giving my book away but not asking anyone to commit to a review. Did you know that Amazon is as popular as it is, not because of its own steam, but because of word of mouth reviews? My friend, book reviews and word of mouth will be your strongest advocates when it comes to your self published works. You need people to get interested. If you have a bunch of positive reviews (even a few negative ones), you’re bound to attract more traffic. Don’t be shy. If you’re giving it away, ask for a review!
I think that’s all I can muster at this late hour. But before I hit the sack, let me encourage you friend. I know how hard it is to get your published work looked at and even taken seriously. But don’t give up. Believe in yourself and your talent.
Recently, I gave a book to John Bevere. He just happened to be in Kalamazoo, Michigan while I was there on work (as in day job) related business. I attended the church service he spoke at, and quietly slipped his assistant a copy of my book, with instructions to give it to John at an opportune time. I regularly harass Mitch Albom over Facebook. He’s either gonna acknowledge me one day, or report me for stalking. Jerry B. Jenkins actually sent me a few notes on some things he would change in my opening sentences of chapter 1. Of course, the book had already been sent to print, but the fact that Mr. Jenkins got back to me was very encouraging. James L. Rubart is awesome at returning Facebook messages and giving encouragement. Hey look, these are heavy hitters in the Christian writing community, who put their pants on one leg at a time just as you and I do. And they got their starts off rocky, just like us. So be encouraged, and never give up on yourself.
Oh, before I pass out, I do invite you to check out my free chapters. Sometimes the best motivation is reading someone else’s work. Stop by and visit me sometime also. You can find me on About.Me