Part 2 in this Book Marketing series covers, for most new authors the uncomfortable truth, that your books aren’t going to go viral, and that you need a solid marketing plan to reach the kind of sales to be a financially self-sustaining author. In this article, I’ll tell you why. The rest of the series falls into this plan, so don’t skip, you’ll want to read this next.
It’s pretty sucky I know, that you can’t make a living from your first book, but as we’ve already covered in the previous segment, in seven years the internet, Amazon and eBooks have rocketed newly-published books from effectively 200,000 a year in the UK market, to 350,000 a month, and the rate is growing at 120,000 a year. There’s just no way to be found in such a flooded market without a strong enough and long enough book marketing programme.
Most Authors Plan to Fail
For most new authors, the idea is set in your head that your book will (or at least, might) simply take off without any more than telling friends and family. Word of mouth will do the rest, or some process within Amazon. You publish, have a small blip at launch, as friends and family buy your book, and perhaps you shift 20 to 50 copies. But that’s it for month one. You’re disappointed. Hey, but month two, things will pick up, right? My friends and family need time to finish the book, of course, and tell others how great it is!
Month two comes…and goes. You’ve met a few more people and sold a half-dozen more copies. You start to worry.
Month three you try news things. You set up a Facebook page and tell everyone on there about your book, and provide a link to the book page on Amazon. You might set up a website and dabble in the mystic arts of google SEO.
You try yet more things, and maybe sell a handful more books, becoming despondent. Why didn’t it sell? I can’t be good enough a writer.
You still have a stack of books in cupboards, under the bed and in the boot of the car.
Around six months later – you give away as many books as you can, and discard thoughts of being an author…
Five-Year Plan – Year One
Becoming a successful author isn’t about writing one good book – even a great book! It’s about writing a good book, and marketing the hell out of it. You should be executing your book marketing campaign six months before your book is published. Your plan should reflect this, to set up a book marketing process – let’s call it your Author Platform, including some online payment system to take pre-orders. You might do this through a website dedicated to the book or you as an author, or maybe through Amazon (they allow pre-sales). So Year One of your plan should look something like the inset illustration.
At the end of your first year, when your book is ready, you publish, and depending on how comprehensive your platform, how slick your marketing patter and the size of your fanbase, you make sales accordingly. If you do well, you might make enough money to pay for the self-publishing, printing and other costs, and have a few pennies left over. But don’t count on it, you need to budget for a loss – for now. You then carry on, spending the first three months of year two, marketing book one and writing book two.
Months five and six of Year Two, you go quiet. It adds a little tension for your fans (Don’t be rude though. If you’re asked a question, answer it. Nothing puts off fans more than being ignored). In the second half of the year, begin building interest in the new book. Your fans will be keen to know more, and you’ll soon see pre-sales coming in – and more than for book one.
At the end of the year, publish the new book. You’ll see a nice increase in the spike in sales compared to book one, as you’re now selling both books one and two. You will also see a greater number of ongoing sales before things die down.
Happy days, but don’t get carried away – it’s still not enough to sustain you.
Years Three, Four, Five and on…
Now you rinse and repeat the year-two strategy. If your books are good enough and there’s a large enough market for them, you’ll experience exponentially increasing sales for the same marketing effort. Around book four you’ll have enough money coming in to call yourself a self-sustaining author. If you carry on to publish book five through twenty+, you’ll eventually end up with a five or six-figure income.
No no quite. There’s still the HOW to discuss… And we start with one BIG caveat in the previous section. I said – if your books are good enough.
And so we come to part 3…
Part 3 – Are My Books Good Enough to Sell 1000’s?
Miles changed careers in 2008 from Senior Systems Designer in aviation to become a self-published fantasy author. His first book hit No 1 on Amazon for Epic Fantasy and knocked The Hunger Games from the top slot in Waterstones. In 2010 he started a self-publishing business, and began creative writing meet-ups in Kent called NAGS which have been running bi-weekly for four years.
He now writes, runs NAGS, and teaches a range of frank and honest courses for new authors on creative writing, self-publishing and book marketing, including for the Canterbury Christchurch University and North Kent College.
“It was great having Miles teaching to us today.
It’s given me some fantastic things to
think about – a very inspiring speaker,
thank you for a brilliant session.”
Emily Dorsett Beard
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