I’ve said before how risk averse publishers are. The profit margins most work with are pretty small, so a book that takes a loss is devastating to a publisher’s yearly budget. That means they aren’t eager to take a leap faith on a ton of projects.
So, how can you help yourself? By creating yourself.
Most people outside of publishing only see the tip of the iceberg as far as authors go. Stephen King, Koontz, Baldacci, and all the other well-known authors get paid more money than most, and usually by a lot.
That’s because they have huge platforms. Most readers already know who they are and what they do because they have built large platforms for themselves.
There is little risk in a publisher publishing a Stephen King book or a memoir by Barack Obama. They know those books are going to sell, and they don’t have to worry as much about that.
When it comes to writers like us, well, there’s more risk involved.
Fewer people know us, so the publisher runs the risk of having to promote both the book and the author, which makes marketing a book exponentially harder.
The way you can ease some of those fears is by building your own brand and platform.
I’ve already talked about how to choose your target audience. That’s vital. You need to know exactly who your readers are. If you’re writing a book about caring for an ailing parent, your audience is people who are doing just that or who may have to. You aren’t targeting everyone, but everyone isn’t going to be interested. It’s not an indictment of your writing. It’s just the nature of reading. There are anywhere from 500,000 to 1 million books published each year. We can only read so many of those, so we have to be particular about what we chose as readers. That means you need to know exactly who you are going after.
That means positioning yourself in all the places your audience will be. That means blogging, speaking engagements, joining organizations inside that topic. What you are doing is positioning yourself as an expert.
Many authors recoil at the idea of calling themselves an expert, but you are, in ways. You are the one who has this knowledge. You’ve done all the research and all the hard work. If you’ve done it well, you are an expert in that field as it pertains to your book. So don’t be shy. Take pride in what you’ve done.
You’ll want to get your name associated with the topic your writing on in as many ways as possible.
That way, when it’s time to find your publisher, you have plenty of receipts to show for how plugged into your industry you are.
That also means being very selective in what you choose to write on.
Just because you are enthralled with a topic doesn’t mean you are the person to write that book.
Here’s an example. I live in Charleston, so we have lots of visitors. Sometimes those visitors come here and learn about the Gullah Culture. Quickly, that formed from a group of slaves brought to this area from very specific countries in Africa. They have a long and storied culture here.
Sometimes people visit, become fascinated by that history, and want to write a book on them. But that’s usually not the book for them to write. If there is a book written on the history of a specific culture, it should be written by someone deep in that culture. That makes sense, right.
So, once you’ve chosen your topic, you should do everything you can to position yourself as a real thinker in that industry.