The statistics are staggeringly discouraging: if you think that writing a book will automatically place you on the path to riches and fame, think again.
Having worked with a great variety of authors over more than two decades, we often seek to understand the underlying motivations of a would-be best-selling author before agreeing to an engagement. And, while authors can occasionally turn a tidy profit on their opus, for many, the definition of success does not always include turning a profit on book sales.
The key is to embark on your journey with the destination in mind. And, a helpful way of structuring that thinking is to answer these four questions before you begin drafting the first paragraph of your book:
How big is your audience already?
Between an extraordinarily crafted book written by an average person and an adequately written book created by a renowned individual, publishers will hitch their wagon to the latter every time.
If you have already established a strong and extensive network of connections, including influence-makers such as media professionals, then you’re already ahead of many of your literary rivals. One of the first questions any profit-minded publisher will want you to address is how many people you can bring to the party.
What makes your story inspiring or unique?
Research what others have already done in the space you intend to write about. Lean on the counsel of trusted advisers who can tell it you straight: does your thinking bring something that is especially inspiring, and adds something to the body of work that already exists on your topic?
To inspire sufficient numbers of individuals to invest time (and money) to read your book, you need to offer them something that’s unique and adds value, edging out the competition for their time and breaking through what’s an increasingly cluttered information landscape.
What is your (time and money) budget?
For most authors, it’s not about how much money they will make—but how much are they willing to invest in having their book idea become a reality? If you want to hire an agent to connect you with a publisher, be ready to spend thousands of dollars. Even if you go the self-publishing route, there are significant expenses involved.
Your hard-earned cash isn’t all that’s on the line. You will need to devote a significant amount of time to creating a well-done product, and then marketing it through a variety of avenues, from outreach to your existing contacts to lining up and appearing at speaking engagements.
The blueprint for this approach entails a return on that investment, over time, in attracting enough business to more than cover your initial outlay.
What’s your “end game”?
Is your goal to make money or to be regarded as a thought leader in your field?
This isn’t necessarily an either/or question—some people can achieve both, especially if they already have a huge following or are already a household name. Years, or even decades, in the spotlight will clearly translate into at least a baseline of book sales.
But if your name isn’t Bill Gates, Bill Clinton or Kim Kardashian, you may have a better shot at growing your thought-leadership credentials via social media than investing to make a bundle of dough through a book. For some people, a book is like a business card on steroids: a great way to enable your voice to rise above others in your realm.
And that, in turn, can open doors and lay the groundwork for decision-makers or consumers in your industry to hire you as a speaker or adviser and turn to you as their first source of information.
We have conversations often with individuals who are about to publish a book or are interested in promoting themselves and their already-published work. Our primary expertise has included working with authors who’ve written self-help business or mental health books, cookbooks or other books about food. Many of the brands we represent consider book publication as part of their tool kit to support and promote their work on a larger scale.
If you think you might be on the edge of your first chapter, or are ready to invest in pumping up your books sales and thrust yourself onto a global stage of thought leadership, then call us. We’d love to talk you through our step-by step methodology to get started.