What is a book? It is a product. What is a painting? It is also a product. Case-and-point: the sooner you accept that the moment you self-publish your book you are a businessman and not an artist (at least during the process of promoting and selling), the less frustrating the experience will be. I am not here to tell you about the authenticity of your writing.
Flooding The Market
I respect even the most annoyingly-opinionated retorts and disordered reactions to this frame-of-mind, but if you want to sell a book in a market saturated to the ceiling with thousands of self-published books entering the industry each and every year, you need to sell them in the same manner you would sell a product or service; you just happen to be the inventor. But this can be a difficult task, and I would know; I struggled with it for years. Then I had to decide between leaving my art in the dust and left for dead, or if I could succeed by changing my left eye for my right one, meaning perhaps we are looking at this the wrong way. So how do you change your initial outlook?
I know, it is your baby; you created magic; you wrote it from scratch and the idea is lovely, yada-yada-yada. No one really gives a worthy shit unless you can get them to read the fucking book! It is always a good idea to start understanding some of the foundations of the business. Start with art, as I like to say, but then you have to move onto the next step, which is selling your book – whether for monetary gain or simply to release your baby to the world. It is unfortunate that it comes down to this, but hear me out: once done with the manuscript/formatting phase it is no longer a book; it is a product you are trying to market and sell, as truthfully, you need to be able to catch the reader’s attention from the cover onward.
This is called “consumer bias” and was coined by Eris Ries.
Discussion On Covers
Though they say you cannot judge a book by its cover, the truth is that most people actually do. According to BookSmugglers.com, around 79 percent of people will base their opinion of a book based on the cover itself. According to the same survey, 26 percent of readers feel that a cover is a marketing tool, which it is. Once done with writing, proofing, and formatting the book, your job is simple: to make it as marketable as possible. But 10 percent of the market represents 90 percent of all sales. This is simply something we have to live with, and rise above. I will try and help string that along, but again I relied on luck and a bit of networking to sell my work. It is up to you to determine what you will need to do to either a) become part of that 10% or b) take as much of the remaining 10% as you can. For now, let’s pivot to one rather obvious reason why self-publishing is so hard.
We Are Kinda Stupid…
The fact of the matter is that, most self-published authors are not exactly naturally-born businessmen or marketing coordinators. This leads to what may perhaps be a very well-crafted novel, but then what? Unless you know how to write a marketing plan (and I mean a real one – not the caustic shit you will find online specifically for books, which is not how to approach this; you must approach it in the same manner as a corporation would), or understand how to write a press release, or have any sense of salesmanship, you are at a disadvantage, and may have to accept that you will not be able to succeed at this – no matter how great the book is.
Niches = Problems
That is why you will also be reading a lot online about niche markets and target demos, i.e. target customers that you are selling to, thus narrowing down your overall marketing approximations. There is a widely-held belief by almost every self-published writer and it is a very simply one (it is also very wrong if not taken as an option): have a niche market. That is all they say about it. They never say how to find a niche market, just that you need one.
Apparently, it is true, but what if it is fiction? What if it is not qualified for a niche market? For non-fiction books, it is a bit less painful than fiction, as you have a clear-as-day target demographic laid out the moment you so much as ponder the idea of writing a book about the subject in question. This is because non-fiction is less abstract and not narrative. Writing a cook book? I can name ten demographics off the top of my head that this would be marketable to.
Non-Fiction Vs. Fiction
Here, I’ll prove it.
- Chefs and cooks at restaurants,
- People who essentially burn water,
- Dads looking for healthy meals for kids,
- Moms looking for healthy meals for kids,
- Anyone and everyone who can use a grill,
- People who want to learn how to cook,
- People who want to learn how to bake,
- Inmates at prisons with a bad library,
- Single males who enjoy eating meat,
- Individuals who enjoy food culture.
But God forbid you write a psychological thriller or an action and adventure fiction book. What possible niche market is there? And is it anywhere close to the segmentation you would find with non-fiction? This is not meant to discourage fiction writers; I am simply making a point that the idea of publicizing to a niche market is great when you have (and pardon my lack of better wording) “fluff” non-fiction books that are 86 percent of the self-publishing market; the rest are all struggling fiction novels. But there is something you can do about it.
[What do you think? Do you feel this is the wrong mindset for selling your book?]