Straight Talk from a Publisher
The publishing world has changed! An explosion in printed books, E-books, and self-publishing has contributed to more new titles coming to market than ever before. With so much happening, how does a new author stand out from the crowd? Not to mention turn a profit.
In Think Like a Publisher: 33 Essential Tips to Write, Promote, and Sell Your Book, Randy Davila, President of Hampton Roads Publishing & Hierophant Publishing, explains the nuances of the publishing industry in plain English, and gives authors all the tools necessary to be successful in today’s rapidly changing publishing world.
Broken down into three easy to follow categories of Editorial, Marketing, and Business specific tips, Think Like a Publisher offers invaluable insight into how publishers think about manuscripts, marketing, and their partnership with the author.
You will also learn:
- What publishers (and readers!) look for in a manuscript
- The most common new author writing mistakes—and how to avoid them
- The makings of a great book title and cover
- The pros and cons of self-publishing vs. traditional publishing
- How to build your author platform and gain a following
- The ins and outs of the business side of publishing—contracts, royalties, agents, and more!
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About the Author
Randy Davila is the president of Hierophant Publishing and Hampton Roads Publishing Company. He has published many New York Times best-selling authors, including Eckhart Tolle, Byron Katie, Neale Donald Walsch, Richard Bach, Jack Canfield, and more. Visit him at www.insighteventsusa.com.
Read an Excerpt
THINK LIKE A PUBLISHER
33 Essential Tips to Write, Promote, & Sell Your Book
By Randy Davila
Hierophant PublishingCopyright © 2013 Randy Davila
All rights reserved.
Editorial, Marketing, and Business
A New Look at an Old Business
The publishing world has changed, and the authors who are successful have changed with it. For you authors committed to getting a book deal from a traditional publisher, I have news for you: The days of just writing a manuscript, sending it to your publisher, and then going home to sit on your couch are long, long gone.
The same is true for authors who plan to self-publish. It surprises me how many authors who choose self-publishing think that all they have to do is get their book into print, list it on Amazon, and somehow it will magically "take off." It actually takes a whole lot more to make a book successful in today's publishing world. Why is this so? Lets take a look and find out.
Twenty years ago, if you wanted to buy a book, how did you do that? It was easy. You went into a bookstore, proceeded to the appropriate section, and chose a book from the limited number they had on their limited shelf space. This was effectively your only option!
In the publishing days of yesteryear, if you were one of the relatively small number of lucky authors to be published you were almost assured that your book would sell to some degree, as there were far fewer books being published. Limited shelf space meant that just the very act of getting your book into a bookstore almost assured you a certain number of sales!
In today's Information Age, the method by which readers find and buy books has changed in incredible ways. I am not just referring to how we buy books on Amazon.com, BN.com, or other e-tailers; which books we choose to buy has changed too.
Rather than going to a bookstore to pick from a limited number of titles on a particular subject, more and more readers use the Internet to research a topic and books before making a buying choice. Readers' choices are influenced by which books come up first in search results, reader reviews, and competitive pricing. Combine this with the fact that advancements in technology have made it easier and less costly for traditional publishers to bring more titles into print, and it's no wonder the number of books available today is in the millions. These same technological advancements have led to the creation of a new billion-dollar industry within the book business: self-publishing.
So compared to even just a few years ago, more books are coming to market than ever before, and the way in which readers select and purchase books has drastically changed, too. Overall, I think these are good changes for authors and readers. We have access to new voices that in years past would not have been heard, and readers have access to ideas they would otherwise never have been exposed to. But this also means that authors and publishers have to work harder than ever to create the best books possible, promote them effectively, and come up with unique ways to sell them!CHAPTER 2
Author Platform: What It Is and Why You Need One
With more books being published than ever before, it takes a lot of marketing and promotion by the author and publisher to get readers to choose your book over all the others. So now, more than ever, an author's platform is vital to the sales success of the book.
What is an author platform? This is one of the most commonly asked questions at my author workshops. An author's "platform" refers to the people who are already familiar with you and your ideas and will be willing and ready to purchase your book as soon as it is published. This is often referred to as your "tribe," or what I like to call your "home team."
Breaking this down even further, when I am considering publishing a manuscript and it comes time to evaluate an author's platform, I look at the who and the how. The "who" is the people who are already in your tribe and are familiar with you and your ideas because you are connecting with them on a regular basis. The "how" is how you are connecting with these people. Do you hold workshops and seminars? Do you have a strong Internet presence via your own website, blog, and/or social media websites? Do you have a large email list and do you regularly send out electronic newsletters or other communications? These are just a few examples of how an author can connect with those on his or her home team.
Sometimes your profession comes with a built-in platform. For instance, ministers, teachers, radio show hosts, or public figures are naturally communicating with an audience nearly every day. But for most authors that's just not the case.
In this book we'll cover many of the ways you can build your platform as an author, but first let's look at some real-life examples so you can see exactly what I mean by author platform and how it relates to selling your book.
On a grand scale, take a talk show host like Jon Stewart, host of The Daily Show, a political satire that airs on Comedy Central. His viewers are the "who," the people listening to him, and his show represents the "how," or how he connects with them. If Jon Stewart writes another book, the people who are most likely to buy it are his viewers. He can use his show to tell them about the book and ask them to buy it (and he surely will). Again, this is an extreme example, because you don't need to be a famous talk show host to have an effective platform.
Hierophant Publishing author Sunny Dawn Johnston, who penned Invoking the Archangels: A Nine-Step Process to Heal Your Body, Mind, and Soul, steadily and consistently built her platform over time by doing lectures, workshops, and teleclasses and creating an online social networking presence. (You can visit her at www.sunnydawnjohnston.com to see an example of a very effective author website.) She was also vigilant about doing radio interviews with any show she could, regardless of their media reach. She was careful to collect email addresses of those she spoke with about her ideas whenever possible. The result was that by the time her book came out she had built a nice platform, and her book has sold very well.
We will have lots of tips about creating and building your platform in the pages that follow, because that is an integral part of getting your book to as many people as possible. But before we leave this subject, one more note on platform building. To be effective, your book topic should match your platform following.
For instance, Jon Stewart has written comedic books on the history of American politics, which matches his platform perfectly. Sunny Dawn Johnston is a psychic medium and angel communicator, and her platform is built around this role. Her book is about angel communication, so this matches perfectly.
Occasionally I meet authors who have a decent platform but their book's topic does not correspond with the reason people are listening to them. For example, what if Jon Stewart had written an academic book on the origin of pedagogy? Or what if Sunny Dawn Johnston had written a book on auto mechanics? In both cases, their current platforms would have been of little help in the selling of their books.
When I discuss the importance of an author's platform at my workshops, invariably one attendee will bring up a now famous book or two that was written by an author who was completely unknown prior to the book's publication. While this can and does happen, it is by far the exception and not the rule. I want you to realize that for the vast majority of authors, a strong platform is a big part of creating a widely read book in the modern publishing world, and this is true of both fiction and nonfiction alike.
Platform can be so important that in some cases a publisher will actually reach out to someone with a good platform and ask them if they want to write a book, instead of the other way around! The truth be told, I have made those calls myself!
This is the power of platform. If you already have a large number of people listening to you and your ideas, that's wonderful news for your career as an author. If you don't yet have a strong platform, it's time to begin building one, and many tips in this book will show you how.CHAPTER 3
Focus, Focus, Focus: Know the Purpose of Your Genre and Stick to It
On a macro level, there are only two types of books, fiction and nonfiction, with numerous categories underneath them (nonfiction: self-help, business, philosophy, etc.; fiction: young adult, romance, historical, etc.).
The primary purpose of nonfiction is to educate or share information. The primary purpose of fiction is to entertain. Now, I realize that some of the best nonfiction books also entertain, and some of the best fiction books also educate, but these are secondary goals and should remain secondary in your mind as your write your manuscript.
You would be surprised at the number of submissions we receive each year that violate this basic rule.
For nonfiction authors, you must remember as you write that your future readers will be picking up your book to learn something. Consequently, including superfluous information, going off on tangents, and the like are not helpful to your reader and diminish the value of your book. This is especially true in today's publishing world where nonfiction books are very topic specific. As you write, be sure to ask yourself if what you are about to put on the page furthers your cause of educating the reader on your topic. If the answer is no, then you need to seriously question whether or not it should be in your book.
Unfortunately, this type of problem finds its way into books by traditional publishers. Let me share with you an example. A friend recently gave me his review on a book he read about the basics of Buddhism. He was unfamiliar with Buddhism and wanted to learn more, and the book's title and back cover text indicated that it would teach him about this Eastern religion's basic tenets. I had actually heard of this particular book myself but hadn't read it, so I was looking forward to hearing his take on it.
"It was just OK, an average read," he offered.
"How so?" I asked.
"Well, I did learn a few things about Buddhism, but I had to wade through pages and pages of this guy's personal story to get to it," he replied.
Aha! And here we have a case in point for the need to remain focused. The author of this particular book had included a lot of his own personal journey, and because it was presented as a nonfiction informational book about the basics of Buddhism, my friend was disappointed. He picked up a nonfiction book about Buddhism to learn more about the topic of Buddhism (imagine that!), and what he got was a book that contained a good portion of memoir and not enough about the topic advertised. Perhaps you have had a similar experience of picking up a book that was advertised to be about one topic, only to find that the author spent a lot of time telling you about something else too, and that made the book less appealing.
This is a very common problem for first-time authors, especially in the self-help genre, because as you struggle with the craft of writing, it is easy to write about the one topic you know best: you! And while there is nothing inherently wrong with relying on your personal experience to support your ideas, in a nonfiction teaching book you want to be sure to write primarily about your ideas and use your story to support those ideas, instead of the other way around. You don't want to fall into the trap of writing about your own personal experience just because it is comfortable and easy for you to do.
If you are a nonfiction author, remember that the purpose of your book is to convey information and educate the reader. (That's why they picked up your book!) You consider yourself an expert on a particular topic, and now it's time to act like it. (Or perhaps I should say write like it!)
With fiction, a common problem I see is that the author has an agenda. They have ideas about the way the world is, or how they think it should be, or other information they wish to share, and they impose those ideas and information on the reader throughout the story. Remember that readers pick up fiction primarily to be entertained. For many, fiction offers an escape from everyday life, a chance to live in someone else's world for a few hours. Now, great fiction books educate their readers and have something to say about the world and the human condition; I am certainly not disputing that. However, you will notice that in great fiction, these ideas are always derived from the story and are deftly interwoven into the tale. As a fiction author once said, "Teaching in this way is akin to slipping a bonus gift into the reader's pocket during his or her journey through the book." Educating the reader is not intrusive on the story.
Fiction writer, before you pen your next sentence, ask yourself if what you are about to write moves your story along, or if you trying to "teach" the reader something. If it's the latter, remember that if you teach in an obvious way, your reader will probably not appreciate it. They may feel they are being lectured, or even deceived.
An excellent example of combining a compelling story with teaching is the Percy Jackson & the Olympians young adult adventure series by Rick Riordan. Maybe you're familiar with the first, and most popular, book in the series, The Lightning Thief. These novels follow the adventures of young Percy Jackson, a modern-day hero whose character is based on the Greek demigod Perseus, as he trots the globe battling the forces of evil. Readers have devoured these action-packed books since publication.
But Riordan, a former middle school teacher, does something extremely clever along the way. He uses the series to teach his readers all about Greek mythology in a way that is not boring or textbook-ish. This is because the story is dominant throughout the novel and the teachings are secondary. Nonfiction books about Greek mythology received a huge boost in sales after the release of the Percy Jackson series, and those lucky authors have Rick Riordan to thank for that.
So remember, a nonfiction book's primary purpose is to educate, and a fiction book's primary purpose is to entertain. These conventions should be respected by all authors, as readers have come to expect it and will be very unforgiving in their reviews of your book if you do not.
The memoir is an exception to this rule. From a writing standpoint, the memoir is the bridge between fiction and nonfiction. Because while the information you are sharing is true (you, as the author, are stating, "these things happened to me!"), it is your story that you are telling for the reader, and they will only stay with you if your story is told in a compelling, intriguing manner and entertaining throughout. That's why the best memoirs are said to "read like a novel." In a memoir, you are taking the reader on a journey, and while you can certainly teach them something along the way, in the end, it's all about your story. An excellent example of this is Elizabeth Gilbert's best-selling book Eat, Pray, Love.CHAPTER 4
What's in a Name? Only Everything
If your book is to reach a wide audience, it is nearly impossible to overestimate the importance of a good title. I have seen poorly written books sell pretty darn well simply because the title was so promising. And I have seen what I think are good books languishing on the shelves in part due to a poor title.
Excerpted from THINK LIKE A PUBLISHER by Randy Davila. Copyright © 2013 Randy Davila. Excerpted by permission of Hierophant Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
TIP #1: A New Look at an Old Business,
TIP #2: Author Platform: What It Is and Why You Need One,
TIP #3: Focus, Focus, Focus: Know the Purpose of Your Genre and Stick to It,
TIP #4: What's in a Name? Only Everything,
TIP #5: Did I Mention the Importance of Focus?,
TIP #6: The Time to Start Building Your Platform Is Now,
TIP #7: Target Your Market,
TIP #8: Know Your Hook,
TIP #9: Pitch Your Book,
TIP #10: Most People Judge a Book by Its Cover,
TIP #11: Using Social Media to Build Your Platform,
TIP #12: The Importance of E-books,
TIP #13: Start Your Book with a Bang,
TIP #14: Clarity Is Key, Except When It Isn't,
BONUS TIP: Readers Love Anecdotes and Short Stories!,
TIP #15: The Benefits of an Early Readers Group,
TIP #16: Learn to Speak Effectively about Your Book,
TIP #17: The Role of a Book Editor, and Why You Need One,
TIP #18: Drown Your Darlings,
TIP #19: Speak Directly to Your Potential Readers,
TIP #20: Find the Right Editor for You,
TIP #21: What Makes a Book a "Best Seller"?,
TIP #22: The Return of the Brick-and-Mortar Bookstore and the Distribution Model,
TIP #23: Parlez-Vous Français?,
TIP #24: Understanding the Role of a Literary Agent,
TIP #25: The Benefits of a Coauthor (and What Is a Ghost?),
TIP #26: Traditional Publishing versus Self-Publishing: The Major Differences Explained,
TIP #27: A Financial Litmus Test for Comparing Self-Publishing Companies,
TIP #28: Royalty Rates and Advances in Traditional Publishing,
TIP #29: Marketing Your Book via TV, Radio, and Print/Digital Media,
TIP #30: The Role of a Contract Publicist or PR Firm,
TIP #31: Start Selling Your Book before It's Published,
TIP #32: What's the Best Way to Advertise Your Book?,
TIP #33: The Author Business Model,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is a book for those who are serious about publishing. Davila, a publishing company exec, spills the beans on the book business, telling you step by step what is needed to make your publishing dreams a reality. I have more than one book published already, and I learned a few new things here too.