So many authors write for their love of writing or their desire to share their story or message, but if we want to sell books, it's important to treat publishing like a business. In today's guest post Stacey Aaronson discusses the mindset of thinking like a publisher.
Why Self-Publishing Authors Must Think Like a Publisher
After working with over twenty independent authors over the past two years as their editor, book designer, and publishing partner, one glaring issue has come to light:
The majority of self-publishing authors don’t realize that they can’t merely think like a writer; they must think like a publisher—if, that is, they want to sell books.
The thing is, it’s not easy for writers to shift into this mode of thinking—and I would venture to guess that most writers don’t even know they should be thinking this way before they even begin a manuscript. As a writer myself, I confess I didn’t consider the publisher’s mentality until I became a book production professional in the indie publishing realm, so I know firsthand how foreign it can seem.
But here’s the unsavory truth: the various self-publishing portals that have opened the door for would-be authors to get a book into readers’ hands are great, but many writers are running to upload all degrees of manuscripts—from the languishing and rejected, to the unedited and poorly designed—without honoring the legacy of traditional publishing. In short, thousands of substandard books are entering the literary marketplace because a multitude of writers are sadly stuck not only in ego mode, but in the belief that producing a book is somehow not a craft and an art. If we don’t want to destroy the reputation of books altogether—and if we want to reap a financial benefit as an author—this mindset has to change.
The problem is, we as writers are so frequently wooed by the romance of seeing our name in print, or of having a book to sell in the back of the room at a conference, that we’re not thinking about the reader. What we actually want—credibility on some level—often isn’t fulfilled by our actions, leaving us with a wholly unmarketable book. Why?
Because as writers, we too commonly focus on what will benefit us as writers (being able to say we’re published, cutting corners on production to save money, putting “author” next to our name on social media), while publishers care about what will benefit the reader (excellent writing and editing, polished and professional cover and interior design, an established audience who’ll receive a tangible reward in reading the book, sales that reflect the book’s overall high quality). There’s a huge difference between the two.
So how does a writer make the switch?
Simply think about it this way: Does a publisher ever agree to partner on a book because they can’t wait to grant the writer’s wish of having a published book to show off? Certainly not. They only accept manuscripts they believe have a strong benefit for or interest to readers, as well as a clear audience, and will therefore make a profit. Do they likewise skimp on editing and book design because they don’t believe those elements are necessary? Of course not; quite the contrary. But authors don’t see a bill for the thousands of dollars publishing houses invest in their book; they simply get their (typically) small advance and then wait months or even years to receive a single royalty check.
Writers, on the other hand, often forget that the goal of writing a book shouldn’t be self-serving, but rather audience serving. Now while a discussion on the details of exploring your book’s audience and subject matter and building a platform as an author is way beyond the scope of this post, what I can offer you is this crucial piece of advice:
Before you ever put your fingers to the keyboard, you must establish why you’re writing the book. Make an honest list of the reasons. If you realize the benefits are all about you as a writer and neglect to be focused on the reader, you won’t have a book to create—and therefore to market—until you do some serious homework to discover why a reader will be inspired/be guided/learn/be entertained/become better for buying and reading your book. What’s more, you have to explore how your book will stand out in its genre against those already in existence; you don’t want to write a book that’s been written, perhaps better than the one you endeavor to write. You must ensure that your book will have unique selling points and clear benefits for the reader that will make it irresistible. Once you do that, you’ll be well on your way to thinking like a publisher, which is when a marketable book—and credible published author—will be born.
About the Author
Stacey Aaronson is a professional book doctor who takes self-publishing authors by the hand and transforms their manuscript into the book they’ve dreamed of—from impeccable editing and proofreading to engaging, audience-targeted cover and professional interior design—rivaling or exceeding a traditional house publication. She has been a trusted book production partner for some of the most accomplished coaches, educators, entrepreneurs, and writers of inspirational non-fiction and memoir, and she is the author of the blog “The Self-Publishing Scoop” at TheBookDoctorIsIn.com.
To preview Stacey’s upcoming online course, “How to Pinpoint Your Book’s Uniqueness and Audience for Maximum Marketing Success,” visit SavvyAuthorMastery.com for a free gift!