Freelance life, Maslen on Marketing

Five tips for getting your book published

Everybody has one book inside them, apparently. Maybe that’s why sales of digestive remedies are skyrocketing. It’s certainly a painful process getting them out.

Leaving aside novels, which, apart from the gilded few, are a route to long-term penury and waitering jobs, I want to talk about non-fiction. And, specifically, about what I will call proper publishing.

Anyone, including me, can publish an e-book. You just write it, turn it into a PDF and bung it on your website with a PayPal link or a free download button. This article is about real books that someone pays you for and then prints, promotes and distributes for you.

  • Tip 1 – Don’t write about what you know
    Or, to be more precise, don’t tell people everything you know. They’re just not interested. Instead, tell them what they want to know.

    You may be a world expert, the world expert, on worm farming. But people, even those interested in worm farming, don’t want a 1,000 page tome on every last fact about worm farming. You are more likely to interest a publisher with a book that solves a problem or meets a need in some way. Which leads us on to Tip 2.

  • Tip 2 – Identify the need first, then meet it.
    Sound familiar at all? It should. It’s what selling and marketing is all about. Maybe people want to know how to set up a cheap home worm-farm to make their own compost. There’s your hook.
  • Tip 3 – Come up with a great title.
    This might sound like putting the cart before the horse. After all, shouldn’t you write the book, then title it once you know what you’ve said? Er, no.

    You see, if you get the headline right, the rest of the ad is so much easier to write. And it’s the same with books. People buy titles, not books. Obviously the book has to deliver on the title’s promise. But you will interest a publisher much more with a title like:

    Wriggle room: how to build a cheap home worm farm

    Than you will with

    The principles and practice of cost-effective, sustainable worm farm design, build and maintenance for domestic usage

  • Tip 4 – Write with your reader in mind.
    Picture your ideal reader. Who is going to buy your book and why? What itch are they trying to scratch? What sort of language will they respond to? What do you need to tell them to garner five-star reviews on Amazon?
  • Tip 5 – Pick a publisher who already deals in subjects you want to write about.
    It’s no good sending your worm farming manuscript to a publisher who mainly publishes on spirit and destiny. Or your project management masterwork to a publisher who deals in illustrated children’s fiction. Get yourself a guide like the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook and do your research.

And I’m telling you this because?

Writing a book can be a great way of enhancing your professional or personal reputation. Of making some money (though not much – don’t order that Ferrari just yet). And of fulfilling a need you have to see your name in print. But it’s also a slog.

Many would-be authors forget that publishing is a business. Margins are thin and publishers can’t afford to publish unsellable books. Think like a marketeer and you’re much more likely to see the happy day when you attend your own book launch.

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