The Magic Word for Authors Is Compelling

Not a week goes by when an author-in-waiting doesn’t say to me:

I want to sell a million copies.
My book is like the ones James Patterson writes.
My writing is like Sandra Brown’s.
I want to be published in New York.

Alrighty … goals are always good to have … and reach for. When I hear comments I like the above, I know—yes, I know, that the author-in-waiting hasn’t done his or her publishing homework.

My Truthiness: In most years, less than five books sell over a million copies. Name-dropping is okay, but have they studied the works of Sandra Brown or James Patterson? The odds today of a noncelebrity being published with a New York publisher are .oo625—quite small.

There’s a reason anything with Patterson’s name on it hits the bestseller list. Ditto for Brown and those who kiss the magic million mark. The magic word that describes their page-turners is compelling.

Two words can be the kiss of death for authors.: mundane and boring. In their writing. In their storytelling. In their marketing material. In how they pitch themselves to potential buyers.

Eyes are turned off. Ears are turned off.

Could that be you?

If you are convinced that there is a book in you, that it is wanted, and that it should be published by a traditional publisher, here’s more of My Truthiness to noodle on:

  • Over 1.6 million books are published every year. You’ve got competition. How will you and yours shine through and above them?
  • If traditional publishing is in your dreams, understand that less than 10,000 of those 1.6 million books comes from traditional publishers. What makes you and your proposed work special to attract one?
  • Outside of being a celebrity, few “advance money” is directed to other authors. Do you have financial resources to support you and your book project?
  • Most authors published by traditional publishers sell less than 5,000 copies of their books over the book’s lifetime. With royalties paid twice a year, usually with holdback to allow for store returns, the non-celebrity author earns less than $4,000. Is your time and energy in creating your book worth more?
  • Most traditional publishers are primarily interested in the number of emails and social media follows you have. Do you have mega thousands of them?
  • Most traditional publishers expect the author do be the primary book marketer. Are you in the mindset that you will and can do this?

Serious statements that require a serious response. From you.

Publishing … whether under the New York traditional model or the indie/self-publishing model … requires a lot of work. A lot of work. If the traditional path is your quest, then start with Knowing …

  1. That if you haven’t already published a book, not only will you most likely be completing the entire book, but also supplying a full book proposal.
  2. You must prove that your concept is tangible, has a market desiring it, and that you can write.
  3. Your writing must be compelling and outstanding it’s the elephant in the room. If you don’t grab the agent or editor in the first paragraph, the odds of further reading are dramatically reduced.
  4. You can’t be a social media resister … get on it now and start building. Discover which platform “like-minded” books in your genre are using. Get your name, your handle, and start building. As in today. Secret sauce: social media is a marketing town hall—it lets a publisher know you can reach out to readers who are book buyers.
  5. You need to dump the cute or odd email address your goal should be to look and sound professional. And be findable.
  6. You can’t be a computer resister … you will be communicating with many communicating with you via online and needing info. Anything relating to your book should be stored in a BOOK folder with sub-folders broken into categories. Easily assessable.
  7. You must build a website … it doesn’t have to be massive, but it does have to be present. You … about your writing … your book in the works … your social media sites … how to connect with you. It’s a start. Your online presence.
  8. Knowing that if your manuscript is picked up … titles may change; your input of editing changes once in a publisher’s hands is significantly reduced; and that timing for publication will not be imminent—think 18 months to two years out.
  9. Being unique sets you apart. If your book is a memoir and your story is surviving cancer, they are as common as a cold. Yes, there are millions in the same boat. But your writing and storytelling must be unique … even with a twist. Is yours? Ditto with another book on leadership, cooking, or health. Mega thousands already exist. What makes your vision snap, crackle, pop, and stand away from the crowd?

What happens, if there is a bite and then an agent or publisher remarks that the market is too small? I’m always reminded of Colorado Authors’ Hall of Fame inductee Carol Fenster. A pioneer of 13 gluten-free cookbooks, her unique twist was creating recipes for those who couldn’t consume gluten. She was rejected by multiple publishers saying the market was too small. Carol turned to self-publishing her first book, Wheat-Free Recipes & Menus … until Penguin Random House saw how well it was doing and bought it. Morale: sometimes smaller is better.

Final Thoughts: If your vision is New York and traditional publishing, I must ask, “Why?” If you think that they will do all the work and you can be “kept,” you better think again. Yes, a publisher will absorb the costs of production. It will make the book available to distributors. You will get anywhere from 7 to 15% of net sales, depending on the binding of the book and contract. Much of any marketing will come from you, the author. Along with your time and the money spent to get there.

When I first started publishing in 1981, I was a publishing snob. Only legitimate authors were published via New York. Only. The rest were in the vanity press, slap it out, who cares about editing crowd. That was then … this is now.

To publish with New York, the odds are not with you—1.6 million books published annually with 10,000 coming from New York. That’s less than one percent. Few buy a book because of a publisher’s name—they buy it because of the author and/or the topic. My question for you: Could your goal to be published by New York be your ego guiding you?

My Truthiness: Whether you publishing with a traditional publishing house or take a different path, you must know WHO you are writing for; WHY you are writing; understand your INTENTIONALITY with what you write; create a COMPELLING story, problem-solver, or insight; and that 10% of your BOOK SUCCESS is in the writing … 90% in the marketing.

Never forget it. You have options in ways to publish. If you build on the five components above, New York may come to you as it did for Carol Fenster.

Dr. Judith Briles is a book publishing expert and coach. Often, she must roll up her writing sleeves and become a Book Doctor, juicing up storylines and author words. She empowers authors and works directly with authors who want to be seriously successful and has been writing about and conducting workshops on publishing since the ’80s. Judith is the author of 37 books including Author YOU: Creating and Building Your Author and Book PlatformsSnappy Sassy Salty: Wise Words for Authors and Writers, and How to Create a $1,000,000 Speech. Her personal memoir When God Says NO-Revealing the YES When Adversity and Loss Are Present is a #1 bestseller on Amazon. Collectively, her books have earned over 45 book awards. Judith speaks throughout the year at publishing conferences. 

Throughout the year, she holds Judith Briles Book Unplugged in-person and online experiences: Publishing, Speaking, Marketing, and Social Media. All are two-day intensives limited to a small group of authors who want to be seriously successful. Join Judith live for the “AuthorU-Your Guide to Book Publishing” podcast on the Toginet Radio Network HERE

Follow @AuthorUYOUBooks and @MyBookShepherd on Twitter and do a “Like” at AuthorYOU, and join the Facebook group Book Publishing with The Book Shepherd. If you want to create a book that has no regrets, contact her.

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