Authors Need to be Realistic

By Terry Whalin 

Over the years, I’ve met many passionate writers. One brand new writer told me, “My book is going to be a bestseller.” This confident boast intrigued me and I wanted to know more details such as the focus of the book and the publisher. 

When the author said, “Balboa Press” I knew this author was headed for a rude awakening. Balboa Press is a self-publishing company and a part of Author Solutions. From my years in publishing, I knew this company was going to publish close to 50,000 titles this year. For this author to break out with a bestseller would be nearly impossible. To become a bestseller, the book needs broad distribution to online plus brick-and-mortar bookstores who report their sales to a bestseller list. Balboa Press is online, and their books are not sold in brick and mortar bookstores. Also with the large volume of titles each year, it is common publishing knowledge that the bulk of Author Solutions (and Balboa Press) employees are in the Philippines. I’ve seen a number of books from these publishers and their covers are poor (And good covers sell books) and the overall production is not good quality. I hoped this author didn’t spend a lot of money to produce her book. I’ve met authors who have a garage full of books from these companies and have spent $20,000 to produce them (no exaggeration). It is heart breaking to witness such scams and authors need to be careful. 

Here’s three steps to avoid the wrong publisher:

Use Google to see what is online. Type: Publisher name + complaint then read a page or two of the entries. Are the complaints new or old? Are there many entries or a few? 

1. A reality of the internet is every publisher has complaints and anyone can write anything about anyone with it online forever. 

2. Speak with some of the publishers’ authors and ask about their experiences.

3. Read and get professional help on the contract. Make sure you understand it.

These actions will help you avoid many publishing pitfalls. The publisher you select has a lot to do with getting your book into the right places online and in physical bookstores. Some authors believe they can make money if their book is on Amazon. While Amazon is a large part of the book selling market, there are many ways and places that people buy books: bookstores, airports, grocery stores and much more. You want your book to be in the broadest possible number of places to succeed, sell and make money. The publisher controls much of this distribution. 

Because many of these financial details are outside of your control as an author, what steps can you take? From my 30+ years in publishing, it does not happen without the author taking action. No matter whether a major publisher releases our book, or you self-publish, as the author you will bear the bulk of the responsibility to market your book. If they are honest, every author would like to delegate this book marketing responsibility to someone else. 

One of my favorite books is The Success Principles by Jack Canfield. I’ve read this book several times and I’ve also listened to this entire book on audio. Canfield has spent a lifetime studying the principles that people follow to be successful, and I want you to be successful as an author. The first principle in the book says, “Take 100% Responsibility for Your Life.” 

This principle applies to the constant wish for every author to have someone else market your book. Are you reaching out to your target audience? Have you identified your target audience for your book? Where are they and how are you reaching out to touch them on a consistent basis? It does not have to be daily but it does have to be regular. Give them great content on your topic and in that process point them to more information inside your book.

One of the best ways for you to take responsibility is to create your own marketing plans. Whether you self-publish or have a traditional publisher to get your book into the bookstore, these plans are important. Whether your book is launching soon or has been out for a while, you need to be creating and executing your own marketing plans. Every author needs a dose of realism combined with consistent action to reach readers.


Authors need to be realistic and combine this realism with consistent action. Get insights from this prolific writer and editor. Get the details here. (ClickToTweet)

W. Terry Whalin, a writer and acquisitions editor lives in California. 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. Get Terry’s recent book, 10 Publishing Myths for only $10, free shipping and bonuses worth over $200. 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, Platform Building Ideas for Every Author. His website is located at: Connect with Terry on TwitterFacebook and LinkedIn.


Karen Cioffi said...

Terry, this is an important article for authors. I've seen new authors spend so much money on self-publishing that they will never recoup. It always amazes me that authors still use these self-publishing services with all the information (warnings) online. I've had a couple of clients who bought the package and allowed the service to edit the story I had ghostwritten for them only to have the clients come back to me to edit the edit. It was obvious the editors didn't know how to write for children and English wasn't their primary language. I've seen authors pay for their marketing packages also. It's just sad.

Terry Whalin said...


Thanks for telling us about these experiences with new authors. I've seen similar sorts of wild expenditures before I get connected to an author. I've heard some authors tell me they paid $20,000 to get their book edited. I don't say anything but feel their pain for such an expense. You are right they will never recoup such an investment other than in the hard-knocks learning experience.


Debra Eckerling said...

Terry, I also help writers with book development and book proposals, so I totally get it. Years ago, I had a client, who had a wonderful concept, go with a hybrid, before fully exploring traditional routes. He was not happy with the result.

The bottom line: no matter how you publish, you need a plan for concept and marketing - a book proposal! You put so much work into your book baby, you want it to have every advantage. Doing research does not take nearly as much time as the creation process. Authors owe it to themselves - and their readers - to do their due diligence and find the best win-win for everyone!

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

Terry, I KNOW that YOU know how hard this is for newbies! They hear all the success stories of famous, rich authors and, though they might not assume it will be easy, they really have no idea. This is a much-needed article!
Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Terry Whalin said...


Thank you for this comment. The business plan or proposal is a critical document for every writer no matter how they publish it. As you said, due dilligence is an important aspect of this process.


Terry Whalin said...


Thank you for this affirmation. Breaking into the publishing world is not easy but every editor and agent that I know gets up every day and reads their email--looking for the right material for their company. Yes, they may say no a great deal but they are looking to say yes. Every writer needs to keep pitching to find that right place--the persistence and perserverance isn't easy but a necessary part of this journey.


Suzanne Lieurance said...


Great tips and advice, Terry.

In many ways, writing the book is the fun and easy part.

Marketing it is a lot of work. And most new authors don't really understand all it takes to sell a book.


Nina said...

That is great advice Terry, it is obvious that you know the ropes, and that you care.

Thank you!

Linda Wilson said...

Thank you for the great advice, Terry. What helps me in being realistic about writing is to have other interests as well as writing. It helps me keep perspective on what to expect from writing and selling books, and what not to expect.

Don’t Depend 100% on Your Publisher

By Terry Whalin (@terrywhalin) In 2007, America’s Publicist Rick Frishman invited me to participate on the faculty of MegaBook Marketing Uni...