In the future, I predict publishing books will take on the business model of commercially produced products: The public will buy the books they like regardless of how they are published. As a popular commercial sums up, it’s not complicated.
While many rules have changed, others are non-negotiable. You better write a good book, hire a top-notch editor, and grace the front of your book with an outstanding cover. You will need a rocket full of energy to launch it and not enough hours in the day to promote it. Otherwise, your book may end up in the slush pile of broken dreams.
In spite of the challenges, the new norm is a win-win for both the producer and the consumer (the author and the reader). But for the uninformed, it has also created a void that needs to be filled. The biggest problem with this new norm is the lack of training for self-published authors. As the founder of a network of authors (John 3:16 Marketing Network), the lack of training in what it takes to market and the unrealistic expectations of what can be achieved is a legend. I could give you many stories, including my own. While consumers will slap down a debit card for a Starbucks latte without a second thought (including me), ask someone to spend 99 cents on a book from you, an unknown author, and you will feel the parting of the Red Sea. You wonder if you have B.O. or bad breath.
As a self-published author, I have made my share of mistakes. One of my books had an amateurish book cover and a well-known author told me so. I quickly learned that I can’t sacrifice quality to save money. I grew up a lot that day—people notice the good, the bad, and the ugly in books. If I am in this for the long haul, I better not be looking for a quick buck, or I will be disappointed.
To that end, I would encourage writers and hopeful authors to think of writing as a business endeavor—approach it with that attitude. It’s not a hobby, it’s a job. Talent and willingness to learn will serve the serious writer well, along with some good business savvy.
The goal should be to build a platform and seek out readers who will fall in love with your book this year and come back and read future books—and share your books with friends and family. That mindset will serve those authors well who are serious about writing and marketing. It’s a business. The industry deserves that kind of quality.
Despite the challenges, I am glad the publishing world of the future won’t be controlled by a few highly successful companies. In the past, those publishers held a monopoly on the market. If I were a betting woman, I’d say they missed some real gems. What other answer is there for why some authors had so many rejections for excellent books? No wonder many writers gave up. The world will never know what books they didn’t get to enjoy. Not every wannabe author has the gumption to keep knocking on closed doors.
I can tell you that traditional publishers have never looked twice at me. I am too old for them to invest their cash in but too young (or stupid) to believe I can’t start another career. When I crawl into bed at 4 a.m. or 5 a.m. in the morning, after writing a few words on the computer following several hours of broadcast captioning, I sometimes wonder if I am insane. Still, I wouldn’t trade what I’ve learned for any contract from any publisher.
Why? Because knowledge is power. While some information just doesn’t stick in this old brain of mine as I wish, that doesn’t mean I am going to give up. After all, we live in a world of information overload. I sometimes tell my daughters the C-drive in my brain is full. I need to delete something before I can take in any more information.
But with that power come opportunities. Today is a readers’ world in spite of television and computers and smartphones and tablets. In fact, it’s because of the plethora of these gadgets that more people are reading. Perhaps we make our hopes and dreams too small—too many rejection slips have convinced some they can’t make it at all. The journey is what it’s all about. And for me at least, I know the outcome is in God’s hands.
I published the above article a couple of years ago and my reflections on this topic are the same, actually truer now than back then. However, I want to add a few more practical suggestions.
Save your money and don’t spend a lot on advertising. Build your Twitter following, blog regularly, and grow your email list.
The KDP Lending Library has hurt all authors, and I don’t think it’s a viable business model over the long haul. Authors will eventually figure out that readers aren’t stupid. Why should consumers buy your book when they can borrow it from Amazon for free?
My advice: Take your book out of KDP Select and make your book available all over the web, and write more books. Eventually, if you are patient and your books are good, you will build a following of loyal readers, not just Amazon fans who want YOUR books for free.
Give readers one or at most two free books, and sell the rest. Consumers appreciate quality, and if they like your books, they will buy them.
Be as free as the water – and let God take you along.
Three more suggestions for marketing:
Don’t write books to sell – write books that make a statement about what you are passionate about. Success shouldn’t be construed only in terms of numbers. Authors can’t make people buy their books. Success should be about writing them. Focus on the process, not the outcome. Leave the result with God. Ultimately, your real success should be measured in what you have given back to God with the gifts He’s given you. Whatever rewards He’s laid up for you in heaven will far surpass anything monetarily you might receive here.
Join a small community of writers – like Word Weavers, a Facebook group. the John 3:16 Marketing Network (we will open back up in the summer), the Author Independent Network, or some other group where you can be encouraged. Don’t be a loner. Become part of a “tribe.” And learn as much as you can about writing and marketing.
My Word Weavers Group in Gainesville, Florida
Lorilyn Roberts is a Christian author who writes children’s picture books, adult nonfiction, memoirs, and a young adult Christian fantasy series, Seventh Dimension.
Lorilyn graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Alabama, which included international study in Israel and England. She received her Master’s in Creative Writing from Perelandra College and is a graduate of the Institute of Children’s Literature.
Lorilyn is the founder of the John 316 Marketing Network, a network of Christian authors who are passionate about promoting books with a Christian worldview.