Jonny has calculated that he needs to sell one million copies of his book about a school boy with superpowers in order to make his target of a million pounds in income from it over ten years. Like many other authors, he starts bombarding the internet with ads for his book, while making little notes constantly like ‘If one million people see my ad, then 100,000 will click, then 10,000 will buy, and that’s £10,000 in the bank!’
Then he checks his website and PayPal account and finds that no one — not a single person— has bought anything. Hardly anyone has even clicked on his ads. What has gone wrong?
My advice to Jonny — and to those who sit in Jonny’s place at this writing — is step back: the hero of the story is the one with superpowers, not Jonny. If you want to make a million over ten years, then think in terms of a longer game: houses are not built overnight, empires take time, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and so on. Clichéd advice? Well, it’s a cliché for a reason: it’s true.
If you want to make a million from your writing, you need to confront the fact that the bulk of that money will probably arrive towards the end of your ten year period. The first two or three years will be laying the foundations so that the remaining time is productive.
First of all, answer this: would you rather have a thousand people view your book and do nothing? Or a dozen people view it and express strong interest in it, with three of those buying it? Yes, in platform terms the size of your e-mail newsletter list and the amount of your website traffic, blog comments, social media feedback and so forth is all important — but even more important are the qualitative elements: high-profile reviews, testimonials, lingering friendships that aren’t just a ‘like’.
The most important thing is to be visible to the most receptive or appropriate audience for the work you’re trying to sell.
In Jonny’s case, he wants to be visible to those readers who have already expressed a desire to read superhero stories. He shouldn't particularly be bothered whether or not he’s visible to those readers who read historical romances or anything else.
So where should Jonny build his platform? Where his readers will be able to easily see it. That’s NOT where ‘everyone’ can see it, necessarily. Just those who might be interested.
And what should he expect, once it’s built? Huge numbers of sales? Vast amounts of people clicking and downloading and engaging and raving about his book? No. He should expect slow growth.
That’s with repeating in capitals: SLOW GROWTH.
The rise of the internet with its fast-paced liking and clicking and sharing brought huge opportunities for worldwide communication on scales never before imagined in human history. It also brought some unreal expectations. Just because you can now chat easily to someone on the other side of the planet does not mean that you can sell in vastly increased numbers.
Real growth takes time.
Farmers don’t expect crops to appear overnight after sowing; human beings don’t expect children to be capable of driving cars soon after they are born; and writers should not expect their books to become instant bestsellers as soon as they are released.
The main cleverness in marketing fiction is in knowing where to plant the seeds, when to learn the lessons, and what to do to prepare for the success that will come, given time and a certain degree of quality in the work.
If you want to know where to plant your seeds, contact me.