The Truth About Book Marketing by Jonathan Fields - HTML preview

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“The publishing worlds is in mass upheaval right now.”


Lies, Damn Lies and Book Deals

It’s an amazing dream…

You wake up at 2:00am with an idea. A story, a vision for a book. You’ve been writing, journaling, maybe even blogging for years. Pen to paper, fingers to keys…it’s in your blood. You’re genetically compelled to craft literary  magic. But, now. Oh now. You’ve finally got the big idea!

The one that’s pouring, no tumbling at breakneck speed onto your screen at 2am, clawing and spinning to get out. This book will change the world. Change your life. It’s a guaranteed slam dunk.

During a momentary pause to catch your breath, you see yourself ambling confidently into a cocktail party  bursting with friends and soon-to-be admirers. “So, what do you do?” they ask. “I’m an author.” comes the beaming reply.” “And, what have you written?” As you reveal your book’s title, all eyebrows arch in awe… “That was YOU?!”

It’s a wonderful vision. One every one of us who’s compelled to write has replayed endless times, with endless variations. Problem is, these days, it’s beyond a vision. Or, even a fantasy.

For all but a few, it’s an outright lie…

Being a great writer isn’t enough any more. Nor is having a killer book idea. Or, even a few successes under your  belt. Years ago, you could craft a great proposal, land an agent, write the manuscript, polish it, hand it over and let the publisher roll with it.

Those days are long gone, never to return. The publishing world is in mass upheaval right now. Nobody knows what the “right” format is anymore. Print, kindle, ebook. What’s paid? What’s free? And, even after you sell your book or retreat to self-publishing, the good old days of issuing a press release, setting up a book tour and calling” on a few friends for a review are gone.

With some 500,000 books published every year (200,000 through traditional print and another 300,000 a combo of self-published, print on demand “POD” and electronic books), the battle for attention, coverage  and sales is epic…leading 99% to be huge flops. According to industry wonk, Morris Rosenthal, the average  mainstream published book sells a mere 2,000 copies. And, though estimates vary widely, most self-published and POD books cap out at anywhere from a few copies to a few hundred.

In fact, a recent New York Times article revealed just how bad even the top publishers in the world are at guessing which books they sign will become bestsellers and which will bomb. Reading that made me wonder just how much of the problem is in picking the right books…or picking the right authors.

And, it seems publishers are asking this very same question…

More and more, authors are being tasked with the job of not only writing books, but becoming the primary marketing vehicle. In fact, if you write nonfiction and you don’t have a serious marketing plan, proven  promotional chops (or the money to hire people with proven chops), deep relationships and a big fat platform, it’ll be next to impossible to get anyone to sign you.

And, even if you do sell your book, advances have been plummeting and initial print runs are often slashed to under 5,000 copies, because publishers are so freaked out about not knowing how to make a book succeed these days, they don’t want to risk any more than they have to (and who could blame them).

My last book’s print run was cut to 7,500 two months before the pub-date, because, even though I was with a  major publisher, the economy was crashing and my book’s message—leave your job to build a passion-driven career—was the last thing most people wanted to hear (even though it was what they “needed” to hear) and the media wanted cover.

Fortunately, because I wasn’t relying on mainstream channels and I understood the power of digital tribes, I was able to engineer a campaign that I’ll detail a bit later that increased that number dramatically before release time.

So, what’s an author to do to sell a serious chunk of books?