THEE biggest challenge is marketing. I am not normally comfortable with 'self promotion' so the biggest challenge for me is finding the time and the will to do the leg work and networking that is apparently necessary in promoting my book. When I got my first book published last year, I was naive enough to think that the rest would take care of itself. Boy, was I wrong!
In terms of the actual writing process, my biggest challenge is time management. I go for long periods without writing at all due to other commitments (job, family etc...) Then I will go on a 'writing spurt' and find it difficult to stop to eat, drink, sleep, or even just give my eyes a rest. I've read some blogs recently that talk about DISCIPLINE and BALANCE. I think those are two areas that I need to start implementing in my quest to become a full time author. Writing for two weeks straight without stopping has its merits, but then its hard to get back into it once you stop. I read somewhere that setting DAILY writing goals (or weekly?) is a good idea, be it word count or just time spent.
Tracy I feel your pain. We all go through writer rehab when it's clear we aren't famous enough to have fans clamoring for our books without the marketing legwork. Publishing a book is like Fuller when he made his first brush. You have to go door to door peddling the darn things like a slave to ever get the numbers up. Ooh, that's an idea - brushes AND books. Maybe if I add a line of brushes... No.
My biggest challenge with all three of my books is that I published them myself. Consequently, I have trouble with large-scale distribution. All three are up on Amazon -- actually, two are and the last one will be soon -- and my book on hip replacement surgery does quite well on Amazon alone. But my fiction title hardly sells at all there, yet everyone who reads it likes it. I just can't get the word out despite being on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and running eleven blogs!
At the moment, I am discouraged about social networking and have returned to just using it to socialize. I feel like a used car sales woman when I try to sell books on there, or one of those kids who jumps out in front of a red light in order to wash windows (squeegee)!
I have an agent in Nashville, Tennessee for my fourth book and I hold much more hope for that one. But does anyone have any ideas for those who self-published? How can I get my books into libraries, school systems and bookstores? I have sent out multiple letters to wholesale distribution centers across Canada and made a good connection with one in Kitchener recently; I hope to sell some books through them.
But when I add up the hundreds of hours that I've put into social networking, and compare that to the number of books that I've sold, to say that it is *not* cost-effective would be a gross understatement! I really need another approach. Same with my blogs.
First, let me say that if you do make money in writing, you will move up into the top two or three percent of all writers. Modernization affords just about every human on earth the opportunity to become an author and sometimes it seems like that is about how much competition we have. But, don't get discouraged just yet, it gets worse.
Most of us do as much social networking as we have time for and in many cases this has proved to pan out. What we have to do is find out from those we network with, who has bought our work, who is interested and who will work with you to sell more of your product. You can build from a small nucleus like any new company and expand from what you have. I don't think there is anything wrong with this, it works for me. Not all the people who buy my books are on the same social networking site which leads me to believe you have to cover all those areas you mentioned. I usually try to keep them close to me by inviting them to join my personal readers site.
You mentioned schools, libraries, and bookstores, there is nothing wrong with that, but if these places just bought one of every book available, they wouldn't have room for one more. There are just too many of us. But again, there is nothing wrong with that. I have several school teachers on my "bought' list. Here is part of the message from a school teacher in Tampa Fl. ....."By the way I just finished "Secrets of Paradise", what a great saga and adventure. You told me not to read these books, thinking about you as the author, but I can't help not thinking of you as the writer. Your writing is very refreshing and interesting. I look forward to reading "Paradise is Where You Find It". Thanks".....This teacher has bought five or six of my books and is looking for the next one which is due out in three weeks and then another four weeks after that. I send out cover pictures as soon as I get it and usually before the book is published.
We are your competitors, we will help you when we can, what works for us might not work for you and that goes both ways. To me it is important to find a niche and work that area. I have had one major company buy sixty of my books for use with their customers and prospects. If you can find seminars, large groups that relate to what you write, and one other place, I contact are the local book and reading clubs, you will sooner or later find a niche that works for you. One of your areas seem to be medical, I would think you could really hit the hospitals, doctors and medical schools with that one. But, try the niche challenge, try collecting friendly helpers and keep trying. None of us find this a walk through.
Good luck. I hope this finds you well and anxious to keep moving ahead.
Dr Robert E Mcginnis
Now, don't remind me how many millions of authors are out there.
You make some excellent points and I will bookmark this page to go back to them.
My first book is all about how to recover from total hip replacement surgery. That book has a clear niche market and has always sold well -- I've sold thousands of copies, but it's not a bestseller! In Canada, a bestseller is 5000 copies, but I'm not that popular. Still, it has sold at least 2000 and perhaps 3000 copies. So, I consider my original marketing on that book to have been quite successful. Now I do very little to market it and it still sells.
Recently, I had it formatted for Kindle on Smashwords because I want to keep up with the supposed surge in e-books.
None of the tactics that I used for the first book, including book signings, lectures, seminars, real life radio and TV appearances, book reviews, newspaper features, ad infinitum, was in any way helpful for the second book.
My third book is called Be Your Own Editor. It's a crash course in writing basics and grammar usage, which is targeted toward writers in general, as well as students. It has a niche audience, but the audience is too large. And Internet writers are so accustomed to getting information for free, but they don't want to buy it, even if I price the e-book very low.
Originally, I approached libraries one by one, which was very taxing; that's why I'm looking for distributors and larger centers now. I'm also using multiple affiliates, article blasts, blog tours and links on pages that receive far more traffic than my own. So far, no bites, but I believe that may be because my book is still on Lulu. I feel that there is a stigma against Lulu and self-publishing in general. Once the book gets up on Amazon, I believe that it will do much better.
I appreciate your tips, and you taking the extra time to provide such detail on a Saturday night. Enjoy the remainder of your evening. Pleasure to meet you. Sigrid
You asked, "How can I get my books into libraries, school systems and bookstores? I have sent out multiple letters to wholesale distribution centers across Canada and made a good connection with one in Kitchener recently; I hope to sell some books through them."
First, realize that the bookstore system is set up to order books published by large, traditional publishers. They get their catalogs, they get called upon by their sales team, they get paid by them to place their books in prominent spots in their stores. And they get the books on consignment. If books don't sell in a few months, they send them back for a refund.
Now they know that there are other good books out there, but they simply don't have time to read material coming out from the self-published world. And they certainly don't have time to order individually from thousands of independent publishers. They'll order through the huge wholesalers like Baker & Taylor and Ingram.
And bookstores are already full of books. They don't get any larger. So what books will they buy next? First, they'll buy the authors who are already best-selling authors. They know they will sell. Then, they'll buy a smattering of mid-list authors by major publishers. They know that the publicity will be out there to get people into the bookstores to buy the big authors.
I ate with a fiction writer last night who's with a small, traditional publisher. He writes good books. But he said that, even with his local Barnes & Noble, which has sold hundreds of his books through the years, that he has to go to tell them to reorder when they're out of his books. The only books they're set up to automatically reorder are the James Patterson/Stephen King types.
The more you think about bookstores, the more you agree with Dan Poynter: "Bookstores are lousy places to sell books."
So, as a small time author, I'm not even trying for bookstores. Instead, follow people like Brian Jud and John Kremer and find multiple ways of selling books outside of traditional channels. Example: I've got a friend who self-published his first novel. He put it up for sale at a local (not chain) restaurant in his home town. They sold over 200 copies in about 6 months, beside the cash register. (Think: there's no competition there with other books. People leaf through it while waiting in line. The cashier can comment, "Yea, that's a good book." You split the profit with the restaurant, which needs extra income.) Now if he tells other restaurants about this success and gets it put into other restaurants....
I've got some hints on selling books from a seminar I taught for small time authors with low platforms (like me!). It's free and here if you want it:
J. Steve Miller
President, Legacy Educational Resources
Author of Enjoy Your Money! How to Make It, Save It, Invest It and Give It
"The money book for people who hate money books." http://wisdomcreekpress.com/press_kits.html
Before five or six years ago, I took my daughter to the bookstores regularly, since then, we have been buying only self published books and enjoying our decision. The only reason I would go into a bookstore now is for something I had to have or to see if my books were there.
I too have used the book sales next to the cash register idea and it worked well for me. I even purchased the rack for the books which allowed me to keep more books available for sale. You will average about $100/mo profit from a small deli. Not only were we both happy, but I didn't complain about the occasional free meals that were given to me as a bonus. I was given a special outside table where on good days I could sit with customers and talk about my books. I have since moved from that area, but I think I have already mentioned that one restaurant in this area has placed a large picture of one of my better covers in their wall behind the cash register.
Life is fun and it is the little things that make it that way. Expectations have a way of leading us toward unknowns as we are but, imperfect planners in our own destiny. I keep a list of people waiting for the next book and it is not unusual for them to contact me with, "When, When, When is the next book coming out."
One other thing that I always like to mention, when you write for pleasure and not for wealth, you often get both.
Steve, thanks for the link and the advice. I will look at your page later.
I'm not really shooting for bookstores. When I mentioned them, I only meant Amazon, I haven't had any success with them. I'm targeting libraries, and most of them have packages for small presses. For example, the one that I'm dealing with in Kitchener, Library Services Center, has a whole program designed for the self-published, independent artist. They take information from me -- ISBN, volume discounts, price, biography, blurbs on the books -- and put it in their catalog, which goes out to over 200 libraries in Canada. It's a good bet.
Local bookstores have been a total bust for me. I've had my books in on consignment, done booksignings, spent a lot of unnecessary energy, and sold next to nothing. But libraries are quite promising.
In December and January, two distributors to libraries started requesting copies of my book (I give them a 55% discount and they pay shipping.) They contacted me because they'd started receiving some orders. I think the reason they started getting orders (I don't know for certain), is that:
#1 - I got a review at http://www.voya.com, which librarians supposedly respect and look at for reviews. (I pursued voya to get the review.)