Mistake #6: Assume the World Will Beat a Path to Your Door!
You’ve written your book, had it professionally edited, a graphic artist has created the perfect cover and you’ve laid out the interior beautifully. You’ve created a first-class book! Wow! Congratulations!
At this point, many new authors think their work is pretty much behind them; now we just let the orders roll in!
Time to wake up and smell the coffee.
Other than mom, sis and your pastor, who else knows about your book? Here’s a tough question: Who else cares? Thanks to Amazon there are 14 million reading choices just a mouse click away.
How will potential readers find your book? If they did find it, why would they buy it, as opposed to one of the 14 million others? To me, these are the two most important questions in the book business; everything else is just details.
As its author, you are your book’s single most important, most responsible advocate. Not your publisher, not the distributor, not the local bookstore, not Amazon, not the ‘market’ – you. You are responsible for the commercial success (assuming that’s your goal) of your book. And your book will only be a commercial success if your potential audience knows about and is willing to purchase a copy. And, you’re the one who is supposed to tell them. Why you? It’s your message to the world; not your publisher’s, not the distributors or local bookstore’s, not Amazon’s and certainly not the market’s.
If you still wonder why the responsibility of your book’s success is on your head and not on the heads of everyone else on the list, let me break down everyone’s jobs for you:
Publishers: A publisher’s job (in my opinion) is discern whether or not the author’s message is appropriate for and wanted by the market, and then to create a product from the author’s raw material (the manuscript) that is both aesthetically pleasing and effectively communicated in all the formats most accessible to the market. And to maintain relationships and infrastructure (distributors, retailers, thought leaders, information, etc.) necessary for the author’s work to move easily through the/to the market.
Distributors: Book distributors exist to transfer books from the publisher to the retailer. They warehouse books from many different publishers and fill orders to many different bookstores. Distributors receive books, warehouse books, and ship books, but they don’t buy or sell (at least to readers) books. Their business is storing and moving books; they really don’t care if it’s your book they’re moving and storing or anyone else’s.
Bookstores: Brick and mortar bookstores (the kind you can actually walk into) have a big problem – they exist. Let me explain the two factors of ‘existence’ that makes it a problem:
Because bookstores exist (take up physical space) they’re limited to how many books they can inventory (100,000 titles would be considered a superstore). Taking Amazon’s 14 million titles as an example of the total books available (including yours) I can promise you now, your self-published book has as much chance of being stocked in bookstores as my dog has of winning the lottery.
Because bookstores exist, they must exist somewhere. That means, even if your book, by some miraculous turn of events, wound up in a bookstore’s inventory, the potential audience for your book would be limited to just those who walked into that particular store, in that particular town.
Bookstores, because they exist in time and space, limit their inventory to only those books they know from experience will sell in their community or those books the publisher is paying them to stock in hopes that the local customer base may buy them. It’s not a bookstore’s job to sell your book; it’s their job to sell the books their customers want. It’s your job to make sure your book is wanted.
Amazon: Amazon is the world’s largest book retailer … and the world’s largest book distributor … and (wants to be) the world’s largest publisher. Their job is to cut out all middlemen and sell everything directly to everyone. The good news is that Amazon will keep your book in inventory, along with 14 million others. Think of Amazon as the world’s largest haystack and your book as a very small needle.
You – the author: Your job is to sell your book to the world – not ‘sell’ like make each individual cash-for-copy transaction (although that’s okay too). What I mean is that you’re ultimately responsible for sharing your message with the world; one reader or a thousand readers at a time. You are the steward, the advocate, the primary representative of the message contained in your book. You are responsible for selling your book to your audience. It’s your book, your audience, your message; everyone else – the publisher, the distribution system, retail stores, even Amazon – are just there to help facilitate selling your book to your audience.
How you sell your book to your audience would take another book or two. The important thing to remember is this: There are several players involved in successfully reaching your audience with your book, all or most of them are helpful or even necessary in some way, but you alone are ultimately responsible for reaching your audience with your message, and that, in my opinion, is success.
What do you think about this self-publishing mistake? Any ideas? We’d love to hear from you, please comment.
I’m a self-published author. My first self-published book, Breaking the Treasure Code: The Hunt for Israel’s Oil sold about 20,000 copies … okay, I guess. Since then, between the self-publishing companies I started and bought, we’ve sold close to one million books.
Let me tell you, in the beginning, I didn’t know much about writing a book, and knew nothing about publishing, printing, marketing and selling books! If I had known anything, I might have walked away, overwhelmed with the whole process. Successfully self-publishing can, at times, seem hopeless. But I stuck to it, learned a lot about publishing, even more about marketing and selling, and, through lots of practice, sharpened my writing skills.
Even so, there are countless, land mines, booby-traps, dead-ends and just plain mistakes a self-published author can make. This is the sixth of ten weekly blog posts. They come from my e-book: The Ten Biggest Mistakes Self-Published Authors Make. This little book captures ten of the most common, most detrimental mistakes you can make as a self-published author and, hopefully, how to avoid them. I wanted to put these mistakes out on a blog format so you can comment, ask questions and we can discuss ways to make your book as successful as it can possibly be.