Author Tips: A Manuscript and A Plan
After experiencing several years of working with authors in a variety of genres—those we published and many more we passed on—we recognize a consistent theme borne from an outdated view of the publishing process and, at times, a misconception about what is expected from an author and what is the role of a publisher.
Many authors try their hand at self-publishing—only to realize the shortcomings of limited (or no) distribution, and the need for marketing a title so it stands out from the crowded field. Many then attempt a shift to traditional publishers—for what they believe will be broader access to institutional book buyers and a global platform for potential sales. While the benefits of traditional publishing do indeed exist, what many authors miss is that even the field for published authors is exceedingly crowded, and all those institutional book buyers will still require evangelizing in order to make a commitment to carry your title.
An important aside here is these entities (libraries, book stores, etc.) will not market a title or an author to their base of customers (whether it be through in-store or online awareness campaigns). Through the trade-based efforts of a publisher, they may be enticed to try out a small amount of a work and see if it sells. For bricks and mortar stores, titles have a short shelf life to make their case. For online stores, they merely service demand.
The lesson here is it really doesn’t matter how you’re published, the marketing efforts of an author are crucial for success.
Writing an exceptional, well-edited manuscript is the easy part, believe it or not. (If you’re meant to be a writer, you have a gift that keeps on giving and you’re smart enough to rely on a professional editor to produce quality content. If writing is a chore and each manuscript requires massive editing, or perhaps it’s so perfect you refuse editing advice, maybe the mass market is just not for you.) For the serious, prolific writer:
If you want to be published, you need more than an exceptional manuscript, you also need a plan. What kind of plan?
- A blueprint for how you will become a “franchise” worthy of investment by both your publisher and the marketplace.
- A plan that displays not just one title, but numerous titles—each leveraging your brand and your concept with every subsequent work.
- A plan that shows:
- a formula for author self-promotion via online social media platforms;
- a robust and vibrant author website that performs well in search engines;
- the ability to regularly communicate with fans and readers through prolific, attention-grabbing, well-written blogs;
It also helps to have a likable personality and great, not just good, communications skills (i.e., an ability to engage the public and compel media attention).
If this sounds daunting, that’s because it is. Not every author boasts tens of thousands of Facebook likes and Twitter followers, secures radio interviews, is seen on television, or even commands ticketed author events at major book stores around the country.
But every author who does started somewhere at the bottom, in relative obscurity.
It takes a special drive and an inherently authoritative presence for an author to stand out among peers in any genre or sub-genre. This is where success is borne.
Merely getting published is not enough. Yes, a traditional publisher will (or should) help create the best version of your title and help market the book to the trade via widespread distribution and a finite advertising budget. However, that’s basically where the marketing ends—the cost of getting to this point is already extremely high. If an author can’t keep momentum going (and rising with each new title), the reality will likely be stagnant sales or even a high rate of returns (returns will be addressed in another blog).
It’s not only bookstores and libraries that are chasing demand. So are readers. They’re bombarded with choices every single day, in every single genre. One cannot expect your book to be found or championed simply by its mere existence in the marketplace. Not when that marketplace sees hundreds of thousands of books published each year (almost a thousand new titles a day). The beauty of creativity and art, however, is there’s always an appetite for more.
Serious writers with a gift for communicating a message that resonates should never give up. Gear up instead and
treat yourself like a brand—Author Inc.
—and you’ll have a much better chance at success.