And how to extend your book’s 15-minute shelf life
If you’re currently clutching a half-written manuscript or in possession of the first seven pages of what you’ve deemed the next best-seller, you might have caught yourself daydreaming of that day when your polished novel is presented to the world. And the world rejoices. You kick off your publicity tour with a stop at the Today Show Studio 1A, where Hoda and Jenna can’t get enough of you as you humbly admit that your incredible talent and lovable personality have allowed you to break through the sobering fact that debut novels are rarely commercially successful. While these daydreams are fun, statistics show that debut novels rarely catch fire. Still… can you beat the odds?
The answer is… maybe.
While a miniscule proportion of talented and well-positioned writers are able to secure a literary agent who eventually leads them to the bliss of publication with one of the traditional publishing giants, the remaining wishful authors often travel down a different path with much heavier traffic. Some may go down the road of self-publication while a growing number of writers are securing publication with the ever-popular hybrid publisher. Working with a hybrid publisher carries the benefit of validation, in that your work is vetted before the company agrees to publish your book. The expenses and sales are then shared between author and publisher. The upside of this collaboration is the book being available online wherever books are sold (Amazon, Barns & Nobel, etc.) and in your local bookstore, just as with books published in the traditional manner. The downside? Lots and lots of money out of your pocket. Let me say it again…
Lots and lots of money.
The initial investment for the printing of your book is just the start of a well-oiled machine that cranks out invoice after invoice until you’re convinced that you’re never going to make back the money you’ve put into supporting your ridiculous addiction. And you’re probably right. As the publisher of one hybrid publishing company puts it, the path to success for writers is an ongoing process. In other words, the probability of Kim Kardashian being our next President is more likely than you, recouping your money from your first published book.
But that’s not why writers write.
There are several actions you can take to keep your book on the minds of readers and go beyond your allotted 15 minutes of fame before the window shuts on the selling opportunity of your book. Working on these five things will keep your book relevant, and your name top-of-mind with readers…
- Don’t blow it all, on the launch of your book – It’s easy to think that you need to come out of the gate screaming, but it’s important to think of your book’s shelf-life in terms of a marathon instead of a sprint. While we all want a successful book launch, there’s a benefit to spacing out your appearances at area libraries and events. By focusing on just a few appearances during the launch period, you allow for the public to warm up to your book, and for you to grow as an author. In fact, by letting a year go by, you will have the luxury of hindsight, allowing the appearances you schedule down the road to bring you real customers, not just the same familiar batch of friends and family.
- Understand the difference between publicity and marketing – Knowing what I do now, I would have saved the thousands of dollars spent on publicity that garnered little impact throughout the country. Instead, think about investing in a conservative yet consistent campaign in your niche market on social media. Whether it’s a geographic area (I chose to market myself as a local author, advertising only in the state I live in.), or a particular segment, like travel enthusiasts on the east coast. You may not become a world best-seller (Or you might!), but you can dominate a niche category or geographic area.
- Become an expert – By that, I mean, figure out what your schtick is. Librarians and event coordinators are looking for someone who brings something to the table other than, “I wrote a book, and it’s a great story.” While the book I wrote is a novel, it borrows heavily on my childhood with my sisters. By bringing my sisters along for appearances, we have found that we are quite entertaining. It’s quirky and different, and readers love getting to meet the characters in person.
- Keep investing in YOU – Speaking at libraries and other events isn’t just about having books on-hand. It’s also about presenting yourself in the most professional manner and highlighting your attributes. Go a step beyond the basics of bookmarks and signage. Having a mini media-wall not only promotes your presence at events, but it also serves as a wonderful backdrop for fans to take a selfie with their new favorite author. Don’t forget to encourage people to post the photos on social media with your chosen hashtag (#NameOfYourBook).
- Above all, keep writing – It’s all about keeping you and your book relevant beyond your allotted 15 minutes. Every article, post, and blog circles back to growing you as an author. Whether you’re penning articles on a favorite topic for online magazines, blogging about current affairs or your journey to publication, or starting your next writing project, the key to successful writing is to keep writing.
Writing is an addiction that must be fed for it to grow. To ensure your longevity as an author, it’s also helpful to put your earnings from book sales into an account earmarked for marketing your current book and for publishing your next. While you may not make back your initial investment, by feeding your writing addiction, you will not only grow sales, but you will also grow yourself as an author – and the likelihood that your next book will be even more successful is a given. Because there will be a next book!
Heidi McCrary is a writer and author of Chasing North Star. Keep up with her at https://heidimccrary.net/ and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/HeidiMcCraryAuthor