I’ve spent the better part of the last eight years teaching authors about the ins and outs of the English language book publishing industry through my books, sales coaching webinars, and conference workshops.

My primary focus has been on educating people about the sales and marketing aspect of this dynamic business.

Authors are entrepreneurs. Always have been. Always will be.

Well, to clarify, the most profitable authors are; and I’m going to share some of their proven tips and strategies for long term success in this blog post today. Before I do, though, there’s something you need to know.

 

The Truth Revealed by the Trade Publishers Themselves (Book Excerpt)

As I discuss in the below excerpt from my most recent book titled T-Shaped Marketing for Authors, it has been an uphill climb to get the message through to people that the most successful authors are the entrepreneurs who treat book writing, publishing, sales, and marketing as their own businesses.

You have to sell your own books. Don’t like the sound of that? Don’t believe it? Perhaps if it comes “straight from the horse’s mouth” then it will be a little easier to accept…

There is a lingering myth among aspiring (and some established) authors that the ultimate goal is to have one’s book “picked up” by a traditional trade publisher, not only for the associated recognition but also because these publishers will sell your books for you… you won’t have to do any heavy lifting at all.

In reality, to be a truly successful author you must treat book publishing, sales, and marketing as your own business. The same holds true whether you self-publish, take today’s hybrid (e.g., supported self-publishing) route, or sign with a traditional trade publisher.

If you doubt this, then I strongly recommend you pick up a copy John B. Thompson’s Merchants of Culture: The Publishing Business in the Twenty-First Century (Thompson, 2012, 263-265). He busts that stubborn myth through a series of interviews with “The Big Five” trade publishers—Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Hachette, Macmillan, and Simon & Schuster—themselves.

Here’s just one quote from his book to whet your appetite: “As soon as a book shows signs that it’s going to take off, the sales, marketing and publicity operations mobilize behind it and look for ways to support it with extra advertising, trying to get more radio and TV appearances, extending the author’s tour or putting together a new tour to cities where the book is doing particularly well, and so on. … the sales, marketing and publicity operations are geared and resourced in such a way that, when they see that a fire is starting to ignite, they are able to pour generous quantities of fuel on the flames.

… But if further appeals fall on deaf ears and sales fail to pick up, then the marketing and publicity effort will be wound up pretty quickly – ‘In two to three weeks we might pull the plug,’ … So how long does a book have out there in the marketplace to show signs of life? How many weeks before it becomes a dead fish that will be left to float downstream? … I would say the life of a book today is about six weeks. And quite frankly it’s even shorter than that, but you probably have six weeks and that’s it.

So, that’s it. That’s the most time a trade publisher will spend on selling your book for you: six weeks. After that, it’s up to you to sell your own book … or let it die with all the other ignored and forgotten back list titles. Are there any Canadians reading this?

If you’re doubting this, then visit the Association of Canadian Publishers’ (2017) website for more details: “Many publishers have a publicity department that will handle this while the book is on the front list. However, once the next season is published, or you have published the book on your own, the job of getting publicity exposure for the book falls to the authors themselves.”

Here’s the bottom line. If you enter into this venture with the expectation that you won’t have to invest much of your own time or money—or that your publisher is solely responsible for these investments on your behalf—you’ll most likely be disappointed by how few books you sell. However, if you go into this with an entrepreneurial spirit, you might just find your wings.

A lot of writers and authors don’t want to hear that. They don’t want to believe that. They resist it because they’re still holding onto their fantasies, romanticizing about their futures as “discovered authors” whose only job is to spend time leisurely creating the next masterpiece, in whichever exotic locale they find most inspiring, while the publisher bustles about in the background, managing all the logistics—advertising, marketing, sales, and distribution—on their behalves.

Of course, their books are flying off the bookstore shelves with very little effort on their parts, earning them millions of dollars in royalties in the process. Their biggest concern is somehow answering all those fan letters and selecting the perfect attire for each upcoming sold-out book signing event. (Sound familiar?)

Back to reality…

Now that I’ve given you the “bad” news, I hope you’ll continue reading this blog post because here’s where I give you the good news—the great news! That success you want is possible!

All it requires is a tweak in your thinking about who needs to be in the driver’s seat with your book, some belief in yourself regarding your own sales and marketing abilities, and a willingness to spend at least one hour per day focused on selling your book. That’s it. That’s all. Are you ready to learn more?

 

T-Shaped Marketing for Authors

What is T-shaped marketing, you’re asking? I invite you to click on this link because it will bring you to a diagram that depicts the T-shaped marketing concept really well: The T-Shaped Web Marketer.

To quote the author of this Moz blog post: “T-Shaped basically refers to having a light level of knowledge in a broad array of skills, and deep knowledge/ability in a single one (or a few).

Now let’s relate that concept to authors. Essentially, your deep knowledge/ability (the stem of the T) is the content you’ve written about in your book(s) whereas the flat, horizontal part at the top represents the various other creative and analytical skills you can learn to best utilize the Internet in selling your book(s)… blogging, social media marketing, email marketing, forum marketing, PPC advertising, et cetera. The list goes on.

Many of the most successful online companies of today used T-shaped marketing (also referred to as “growth hacking”) to grow their businesses when no venture capital was available to help them.

AirBNB utilized Craigslist users as part of their growth hacking strategy. PayPal paid people for referrals. DropBox gave people extra storage for referrals.

There are many more examples of this, as well. And now, there are examples of authors who are using similar online strategies to increase their readerships and earn significant profits in the process.

 

Case Study #1: This Independent Author Earned $450,000 Through Amazon in One Year

His name is Mark Dawson. I came across a Forbes article about him when I was researching best seller statistics for my authors one night, and I was not only inspired but absolutely blown away by what he has accomplished as an independent author.

You can find a link to that article within this blog post if you’d like to read more about his specific strategies: [Thinking Outside the Box] T-Shaped Marketing for Authors. This man is showing authors everywhere what is truly possible for those who are willing to get into that driver’s seat and call their own shots.

Essentially, Mark Dawson was first trade published. But then he saw how few books his trade publisher sold for him (remember: if the book doesn’t “take off” within the first few weeks, they give up on it and move onto the next book).

That’s when he made a conscious decision to take matters into his own hands, and he switched to self-publishing for his next book. He learned how to become an entrepreneurial author instead of a mere trade published author, and there’s nothing stopping him now.

His story is an example of T-shaped marketing at its best. (I strongly encourage you to click on the above link and read his story. It is eye-opening.)

 

Case Study #2:

This Independent Author Earns $150,000+ Annually in Online Book Sales

Her name is Liz Schulte. I met her at a conference I attended in Columbia, Missouri, recently: [2017 MWG Conference] When Traditional and Contemporary Publishers Join Together. There are so many things I admire about this woman from her sales abilities to how she’s breaking down the boundaries between the traditional and contemporary publishing worlds.

She’s the reason the Missouri Writers Guild now allows self-publishers to join their organization along with trade published authors … and this is an incredible feat in itself, let me tell you, because many in the traditional sector still have difficulty accepting and acknowledging the legitimacy of independent authorship.

Liz is also much of the reason why this conference opened its doors to contemporary faculty members (such as me) that were previously uninvited to speak at these types of events. People from the traditional (trade) publishing sector along with contemporary (hybrid) publishers and self-publishers were brought together to teach and learn side-by-side.

Attendees could draw information and inspiration from both groups to get a fuller picture of this dynamic industry. This is so forward thinking. We need to be doing this type of thing in Canada. In fact, we need to be doing it everywhere. It’s time.

And how was Liz able to accomplish this? She was able to provide real-world proof and statistics showing her level of success as an independent paranormal romance novelist. I was all ears when I sat in on her break-out session about how she earns $150,000+ as a self-publisher.

You can find a link to her blog within the above-mentioned blog post if you’d like to learn more about her specific T-shaped marketing strategies. She’ll also be guest posting on my blog very soon. Stay tuned for that.

 

Case Study #3:

This Independent Author Spent 60 Straight Weeks in the Number One Best Seller Spot on Amazon

Her name is Sheri Fink. I also met Sheri at the Missouri Writers Guild conference as she was our keynote speaker at the dinner that night. What an inspirational lady! What a natural, authentic, and engaging speaker she is.

And much like Liz, Sheri is breaking down so many of the boundaries that were put in place by the traditional trade publishers years ago; and she’s showing others that we can change these dated rules. This is what I admire most about her.

Here’s what I mean when I say she’s changing the rules. In the traditional publishing world, each publisher tends to stick to their own field (e.g., scholarly publishing, higher education publishing, literary publishing, professional publishing, illustrated art book publishing, et cetera), their own genres (e.g., children’s books, science fiction and fantasy books, romance novels, business non-fiction, et cetera), as well as their own geographic territories.

So, when Sheri told someone from the traditional world that she was going to write a romance novel after her success as a children’s book author, that individual was aghast!

“You can’t do that!” was the response.

To which Sheri replied, “Why not?” And then she did it. And now she’s a successful children’s book author and a successful romance novelist. (As someone who writes both new age fiction and business non-fiction, that makes me smile every time I think about it. Good for you, Sheri! Break down those walls!)

Sheri has also agreed to write a guest post on my blog in the coming weeks, so watch for it. In the meantime, you can find a link to her website within this blog post if you’d like to learn more about her specific T-shaped marketing strategies: [2017 MWG Conference] When Traditional and Contemporary Publishers Join Together.

 

Don’t Build a Wall. Break the Walls Down!

People like Mark Dawson, Liz Schulte, and Sheri Fink are changing the rules of this industry by showing the rest of us what’s possible when we’re willing to take the reins and sell our own books.

I’ve known this (and written about this) for years. In fact, I’ve spent much of the last eight years “preaching” about the importance of selling to every author I came across, but now I want to focus on sharing the possibilities of it like these three authors do.

I want to inspire others to take the necessary steps to improve their own sales which is why I’m in constant search of these types of success stories to share with my readers and subscribers.

So, if you’re one of these authors please contact me. I want to feature you on my blog. Let’s help each other change the rules, break down the walls, and enjoy more success.

 

* This post is taken from Kim’s Quora blog. Original post you can read HERE.