Most authors who come to Fideli Publishing have great confidence in their books and are sure they’ve penned the next best seller — and that’s a good thing. What’s not good is when authors have unrealistic expectations and/or requirements for their books that will end up impacting book sales in a negative way. I’ll give you a few real life examples:
• An author comes to me with a 10-book series and tells me they’re all ready to go. I take a look at the first manuscript, and within the first three paragraphs I find about 20 errors — everything from spelling errors to left out words to changing tenses repeatedly, sometimes within the same sentence. Now, obviously this book is not ready to go. It desperately needs editing and proofreading, and I tell the author this. His response was “it’s good enough and I don’t want to spend the extra money.” While I understand the financial side — editing can be expensive — it is an important step that will help earn sales. By saying it’s “good enough” and then expecting to sell a lot of books he is just setting himself up for disappointment. Ultimately, we at Fideli work for our authors, so we’ll do what he wants, but I know there won’t be many sales for this author.
• Another author has a relatively interesting book with lots of great images and content that will be of interest to a wide variety of potential readers. The problem here is that the author has decided he wants an oversized coffee table book with thick glossy pages. If he were a celebrity or well-known photographer whose book had been picked up by one of the big publishers, those specifications would be fine. He’s not; he’s self-publishing. I patiently explain to him the benefits of a standard sized book using standard paper, the biggest of which are Ingram Distribution through IngramSpark and the cost of producing the book (what he has planned will cost more than $30 per book to produce). He insisted he must have the oversized book printed on fancy paper. Doing this eliminates all easy retail outlets for his book, except Amazon. While initially this might not sound too bad, there are some variables at play that make this option less than desirable. His book can either be made available through our Amazon Reseller account, with a 30% commission to Amazon and no “sold by Amazon” buy button, or we can list it with our Amazon publisher account, which will give it the Amazon buy button but requires a 55% discount off the retail price. He just went from potential worldwide, multi-outlet distribution with a 30% discount to one store availability with restrictions. I don’t predict too many sales for this title, either.
• One final example covers the majority of authors I deal with. Nearly every one of them thinks that writing the book and getting it published means their work is done. I’m sorry to tell you this, but writing the book was the easy part. Now, you need to let the world know it’s available — and that’s going to involve a lot of hard work. Authors can hire experts to market and advertise for them, but ultimately the reading public wants to hear from the author. This means that you, the author, must actively participate in your book’s marketing. (We’ll discuss this more in another post.)
So, how can you bring your expectations and reality closer together? First, even before you start writing your next book, make a business plan. I’m talking about a detailed business plan, not just publish book, sell book, bank profits! There are all kinds of templates available to help you with this, including this one by Jane Friedman and this one by Jami Gold. If you intend to take your writing seriously, you need to treat it like a business and will need to find a way to balance your creative goals with a businesslike approach to making sure your books sell.
Next, study your market. Find out what other successful authors in the same genre are doing, what their covers look like, and what readers expect from this type of book. Making readers happy (not yourself) should be your goal. Failing to provide what readers expect will most likely earn you some bad reviews, which can be the death of your book!
Finally, begin your writing process while keeping in mind everything you’ve learned researching your genre and reader base. Once your book is written, go over it and over it and over it again to polish it to the best of your ability and then find a good editor and let him or her work that editing magic. (Remember, do not hold on to every word like it’s a precious gem, the editor knows what will make your book better.)
While all of this might seem overwhelming, you don’t have to do it all yourself. Educate yourself about the process and learn which tasks others can accomplish for you and which ones can only be done by you. Remember, Fideli Publishing is here to help you make your book the best it can be.