|This is a guest post by very publishing-savvy Lisa Tener. She is an author, trainer and four-time Stevie Award winner, including the Silver Stevie Award for Mentor/Coach of the Year 2014. Lisa serves on faculty at Harvard Medical School’s CME publishing course and blogs on topics like how to choose a literary agent. You can also find her posts on the Huffington Post. Follow Lisa on twitter @LisaTener and Facebook.|
Over a decade ago, I signed my first publishing contract for my first book. In those days, many aspiring authors complained it was impossible to land an agent and a publishing deal—and yet even someone like me with little experience and a bit of pluck managed to get traditionally published.
In some ways, not much has changed. It’s always been challenging and yet many new authors succeed. I work with first time authors all the time who land book deals. Others are self-publishing for a variety of reasons—and successfully publishing award-winning books.
At the same time, publishing has undergone a transformation—one you can benefit from if you understand it. Let’s look at six trends and savvy strategies to turn a potential negative to your advantage.
Trend 1: A More Competitive Market.
If you’re looking to traditionally publish, competition has grown fiercer, since fewer books are published by traditional publishers.
How to Deal:
- Grow your author platform: Publishers are looking for first time authors who have a large, loyal following. Don’t wait until you write your book to develop a strong platform. Start now.
- Target a large, focused, needy market: When thinking about the market for your book, if you have several options, think about a group that is focused and easy to reach—and who desperately needs what you have to offer.
- Get a bestselling author to write your foreword: Of course, a bestselling author, beloved by your target market, will open their hearts to you. Even bigger, though, Amazon considers the foreword writer an author. When readers search Amazon for that bestselling author, your book comes up alongside their own. This can translate into book sales and publishers know this. A bestselling author for your foreword is a huge selling point.
Trend 2: Cheap books.
While many quality books are being published, the trend is to save money and cut costs—at all costs. The worst books fall apart easily or the ink smudges. Many traditionally published books are printed on low quality paper and the fonts and layouts are designed to decrease the number of pages, resulting in a cramped look—and a less-than-ideal reading experience. You will also find that publishers offer skimpier resources for editing, promoting, designing and printing your book. I recently bought a writing book published by a respected publisher. The paper was newsprint quality and the cramped design did nothing to “woo” me as a reader or make the reading experience inviting. In fact, I haven’t read it, even though I was interested in the information it contained!
How to Deal:
- Make sure your agent will fight for your vision: An agent carries more weight than an author, particularly a first time author, and may be able to insure that sufficient resources are spent on your book, including quality design and printing.
- Self Publish: Take your book’s future into your own hands. I recently received a self-published book that was well-edited, beautifully designed and printed on quality paper. Although the subject was not something I’d generally pick up, I immediately opened and read it. I enjoyed it so thoroughly, I went on to recommend it to several friends. Which brings us to one of the biggest shifts in publishing:
Trend 3: You as Publisher.
Self-publishing gives you control. You can bring your vision to life and control the quality—and have your book quicker, to boot.
How to Deal:
- Make It Quality: Research the best editors, designers and printers. Your book represents your brand. Get it right. One advantage of print books over digital is that they offer a fuller sensory experience—quality paper, beautiful design. Use that to your advantage when you print your book. Generally speaking, freelancers will put more into your book than self-publishing houses, which compete on cost. However, only by seeing sample books and speaking to references can you really know who’s the real deal.
- Update Your Book: If you use publishing on demand technology, you can update your book regularly to account for change in your subject/field or to make corrections.
Trend 4: Digitality.
I thought I made up this term, but apparently not. We’re talking ebooks, here, which offer many advantages—from zero printing costs to no need to inventory or ship to the awesome things you can do with technology. Take advantage!
How to Deal:
- Be resourceful: Link to resources for readers who want more—both on your websites and other related sites. Perhaps those sites will help support your book promotion.
- Be social: Think about how your readers can interact with the book. Can you link to a quiz on your website? Have them watch an embedded video? Share their experience on your blog?
- Be creative: Unlike with a print book, you can use full-color images without impacting price—why not? Find other ways to use technology for creative design.
Trend 5: The Amazon Factor.
As authors, we may have mixed feelings at best towards Amazon and its tactics. However, the fact remains that readers buy more books on Amazon than anywhere else.
How to Deal:
- Be keyword-savvy: Find the keywords your prospective readers type in to find books like yours. Use these keywords when listing your book with Amazon. If you traditionally publish, make sure your publisher is as Amazon-savvy as they should be.
- Get a bestselling author to write your foreword: Again, readers will find your book when searching that author’s name.
- Know Amazon availability for your publisher: If you choose to self publish with anyone other than Amazon’s CreateSpace, see whether Amazon lists their books as temporarily out of stock. Amazon can make it harder to buy your book if you don’t publish with them.
- Be a bestseller: Is it gamey? Yes, but many authors benefit from Amazon’s system of hourly bestseller status for specific niche genres. You can find books and online marketers who will teach you how to do this; just be wary of services that promise to line up authors to promote your campaign; many times the authors never fulfill on their end. Get references before you sign on.
Trend 6: Noise and More Noise.
So many books, so many authors, so many blogs…how do you get potential readers to notice your book?
How to Deal:
- Start now. It takes time to create community and grow a following. The more time you give yourself, the easier it will be.
- Leverage other people’s following: I often counsel my clients to blog on their website to begin with and then pitch to a national source like Psychology Today, The Huffington Post or the Financial Times. In this way, many clients of mine have positioned themselves to get 5- and 6-figure book deals.
- Be you: Don’t try to sound like someone else. Keep your writing authentic. At the same time, it’s okay to experiment with your voice and be a little edgy. Your voice may vary from audience to audience and still be authentic. You’ll know when it’s not.
What do you think of these trends? Does the idea of being your own publisher thrill you or scare you to death? Have you noticed new trends? Share in the comments – and don’t forget to connect with Lisa on Facebook and Twitter!