By W. Terry Whalin (@terrywhalin)
I used to cringe when I saw the mail or email from one of my publishers. It probably contained a royalty statement and experience told me many of those numbers would begin with a minus (negative balance). I’ve written for many different traditional publishers and have had this experience from a broad spectrum of types of books including how-to, self-help, biographies, gift books and children’s books.
When your book sales are off, it’s a natural tendency to want to blame someone. Maybe my editor has left and my book was orphaned inside the publisher with no champion or advocate. Maybe my publisher didn’t market the book to bookstores. Maybe they changed the title between what was printed in the catalog and what was published. Or _(fill in the blank). I’ve had all of these things happen to my published books. Good publishing involves a cooperative process and working with many different people. Much of this process is outside of the author’s control. I’ve also learned there are many pro-active steps authors can take to change their situation.
1. Take 100% responsibility for your own success. In The Success Principles, Jack Canfield makes this the first principle. Over ten years ago, I heard this principle and adopted it in my publishing efforts.
2. Be active in the promotion and marketing of your book. As the author, you have the greatest passion for your book—way beyond anyone else including your publisher. The great promoter, PT Barnum said, “Without promotion, something terrible happens—nothing.” Consistent promotion of your book is important.
3. Be Generous with your book. Reviews sell books but many authors have few reviews for their book on Amazon or Goodreads or Barnes & Noble. Give books to people who are willing to write a review. If they’ve never written a review, give them a tool to help them like with this form.
4. Ask for others for help. In the New Testament, James 4:2-3 says, “You do not have because you do not ask.” If you need endorsements, ask but make it easy for them to say yes (offer to draft it). If you need social media promotion, ask but create possible posts. Here’s an example of a page, I created to help others help me spread the word on my latest book.
5. Take the long view of publishing. Publishing and promoting a book is more like a marathon than a sprint. With the huge volume of published books, someone has to hear about your book seven to twelve times before they purchase it. What actions can you take every day to give your book this exposure? My Billy Graham book trailer has been seen over 11,500 times in the last five years. http://bit.ly/BGBookT
6. No matter what happens in your life, keep going. In Perennial Seller, New York Times bestselling author Ryan Holiday writes, “The hard part is not the dream or the idea, it’s the doing.” If there were a simple formula to create a bestseller, every book would be a bestseller. There are practical actions every author can take. Each part of the publishing process has challenges and as writers your persistence and consistency is critical. As #1 New York Times bestselling author Jerry B. Jenkins wrote in the foreword of my book, 10 Publishing Myths, “Only one of a hundred writers literally make their deadlines.” If you meet deadlines with quality writing, it’s an easy way to stand out from the crowd. I wrote 10 Publishing Myths to give writers realistic expectations and practical steps every author can take to succeed. Today, you can get the 11th Publishing Myth as a free ebook.
When you point a finger at others because your book is not selling, just remember: when you extend your pointer finger, four more fingers are bent back toward you. Take action today. Let me know in the comments below what actions you are taking on a regular basis and we can learn from each other.
What actions do you take if your book isn't selling? Get ideas here from a prolific editor and author. (ClickToTweet)
W. Terry Whalin, a writer and acquisitions editor lives in Colorado. A former magazine editor and former literary agent, Terry is an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing. He has written more than 60 nonfiction books including Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams and Billy Graham. To help writers catch the attention of editors and agents, Terry wrote his bestselling Book Proposals That $ell, 21 Secrets To Speed Your Success. Check out his free Ebook, Straight Talk From the Editor. His website is located at: www.terrywhalin.com. Connect with Terry on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.