One of the hardest things about being a self publishing facilitator is seeing the disappointment many of our clients have to face after releasing their first book, no matter how much effort they’re putting into book marketing and sales.
In my blog post Why publishing a book is like having a baby, I likened publishing a book to giving birth – how books and babies both start with a seed/the seed of an idea, which is implanted, nurtured and grown prior to being delivered to the world. But the similarities don’t end there.
The lead-up to your book’s release
If you’ve ever had a baby, whether you’re a father or a mother, the first time around will have been almost all-consuming. There is so much to learn when you have a baby on the way, so much to discover, and everyone around you seems interested: Have you chosen a name? Will it be a boy or a girl, or aren’t you telling? What sort of birth are you going to have? Where are you going to have it? How are you feeling? Not long now, is it? The list goes on.
If you’ve been there, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. And it’s the same when you’re writing a book. As soon as those around you know that you have a book in development, they’ll be checking in with you, keeping you accountable: What’s it about? Where will I be able to get a copy? How long is it? Will it have pictures? How much will it cost? When is it going to be finished? And yes, the list goes on.
Publication of your book
Then comes the delivery. The baby, the book, is delivered to the world. Everyone around you congratulates you, makes a fuss, tells you how wonderful it is, how clever you are. And then they go home and get on with their lives – leaving you holding the baby. And that’s when post-publication depression sets in.
The simple fact of the matter is this: babies are born across the world every minute of every day. Yours is special, 99 times out of a hundred, simply because it’s yours, which means it’s special only to you. And it’s the same with books. Thousands of books are being published every day across the world, and when yours is first released, chances are it’s special only because it’s yours. Which is why nobody cares about your book.
So what does that mean? When can you expect sales? The answer? Don’t. Don’t focus on sales. If that’s why you wrote a book, then you wrote it for the wrong reason. You are about as likely to make money from writing a book as I am for singing. Or dancing.
Don’t expect your book to be an overnight success
After you have a baby, when all the excitement dies down and everyone goes back to their daily lives, it’s your job to look after your baby and to consider giving it brothers and sisters, if you feel that you have that in you. As your baby ages, if it starts to become relevant to the world – perhaps it provides a special sort of enjoyment to others with its piano playing, or its tennis playing, or perhaps it opens other people’s minds with its innovative take on reducing greenhouse gases – whatever special qualities your baby displays are what will get it attention. If it has brothers and sisters who also lead their own lives, then it will be easier for people to recall your baby’s name. It’s much easier to remember a new football player’s name if he already has a brother playing in first grade, isn’t it?
Your baby generally won’t be noticed by people who don’t already know you until it starts to grow and leave its mark on the world in a unique way. Some children leave a really big, positive mark. Others leave a tiny little grey scratch which most people, sadly, won’t notice, while yet others leave a big, horrible, ugly scar and are a talking point for all the wrong reasons for years to come. But it takes a while before people can see what sort of baby you’ve given birth to, what its impact on the world is, and how they feel about it.
And it’s the same with your book. If you write more books, along a similar vein, each book will help the others to get noticed – the way one sibling can draw attention to a whole family. Each book should be an improvement on the one before, the way your parenting should improve with each additional child. The more we have, the more we (should!) learn.
And if one of your babies starts to show promise, it won’t be at six months of age, it will be when they’re school age. Or perhaps high school age. Or maybe when they’re 25. Or even older. Indicators of success don’t always show straight away. Some people are meant to make a lasting impression only at a certain point in time, and the same goes for your book.
So give it time. Don’t let it get you down if no one is buying your book. What’s more important is that people read your book, and that they like it, that they get something out of it – whether that’s entertainment, knowledge, inspiration, an emotional charge – whatever. And that they talk about it – over time, embedding your book in other people’s psyches.
Word of mouth is the best book marketing and sales technique
Let it grow. Yes, apply marketing techniques, but be circumspect. Stay in it for the long haul. I mean, would you give up on your five year old if they weren’t showing signs of being prime minister one day? No. Listen to what’s said about your book. If you believe you need to improve it, release a revised edition after a year or two, capitalising on what you’ve learned, and pull the original from the shelves. But give it time! We all know Rome wasn’t built in a day!
And don’t try to please everybody. Aim to write the best book you can for a niche audience – then you’ll get raving fans. If you write something to try to please everyone, it will just be a vanilla bland-out and no one will be interested.
My father used to say, ‘Expect nothing from no-one and you won’t be disappointed’. I’d like to adapt this to:
Expect no sales, and you won’t be disappointed. But celebrate every single sale you make until you’re averaging at least one sale a day.
And then you’ll know people care about your book.
If you’re having trouble getting sales of your book off the ground, consider grabbing a copy of Rayne Hall’s Why Does My Book Not Sell? – 20 Simple Fixes for some assistance. I have a copy of this book and it’s very sensible and practical and written from experience, not theory – making it the best kind of book. Rayne is not a client of ours, we have never met, and I have not been asked to promote her book. I am mentioning it simply because I believe it offers great value to the beginning writer.