Here’s why your brilliant book might not be making money for you.
You’ve written a mini-masterpiece — or at least something which you think is both readable and sellable, and upon which you were basing your retirement plans, perhaps. You dressed it in a professional-looking cover and followed all the marketing advice. You even got it displayed on Amazon. Why isn’t the cash pouring in?
With so many large and small presses, experts offering services, specialist editors and cover designers and everything else that is out there in this current period of booming self- and independent publishing, providing you with wonderful design and marketing templates right out of the box, it is possible to have a nice-looking book and website at minimal cost to yourself. Writers are one-person businesses, whose beautiful websites often look like they represent a very successful author— and yet they are frequently struggling to get any readers at all.
How can this be?
In order to answer this, we need to take the conversation about your work to the next level. You probably already realise that selling a book is about more than the font you use for your titles or the colours and images on your cover, important though those are. It’s even about more than an advertising campaign, getting a place on Amazon, or having a few friends give your book five-star reviews.
What may not have dawned on you is that your book is not, and cannot survive as a standalone creation. You strike problems as soon as you view it as such. You have to start looking at your book as a living, breathing, growing child: publishing is the birth, but growth, including sales, is an ongoing process.
While Clarendon House Publications publishes books in a standalone manner, we are only building the foundation of the book when we do so. We’re helping writers find and articulate their voices. Honing the tone of voice, the central themes, and, yes, then the promotional look and feel of the book is all part of this. There’s also such a thing as a business strategy. But when we’ve done all that, no matter how much we push it, the writer is at the beginning of that book’s journey and evolution. Having a published book means that you, the writer, starts from a solid place, and your efforts going forward have a chance of moving you in a successful direction, rather than you getting lost in a forest of marketing confusion — but the real work begins after this foundation is laid.
That’s because in order to take your fabulous book and build it into something that everyone is talking about and telling their friends about, you have to back it up with some kind of proof.
Proof is what builds a book’s reputation over the long term.
Proof comes in many forms. It can come in content that shows the nuances of who you are and what you do as a writer — extracts, chapters, quotes, bits of dialogue.
It can come in the form of social proof from lots of readers encountering your book and telling their friends.
It can come in another form of social proof, like guest appearances on social media, mainstream media or in workshops or book events where your presence establishes credibility.
You need to put in time and effort to obtain all these forms of proof. Unlike designing and building the book itself, which is a one-off thing, gathering proof takes years. However, the more proof you have, the more credibility you have, and the stronger your book’s reputation will be.
You really cannot have too much proof — especially when it's focused on the same, very specific theme or themes that you are the go-to writer for. We've discussed the importance of theme in earlier articles entitled 'A Vital Point to Consider If You're Trying to Get Published'. Theme turns out to be even more vital than that.
Want an innate understanding of human nature in a variety of circumstances? See a Shakespearian play.
Want a mixture of melodrama and comedy in a Victorian setting? Reach for Dickens.
Want to tackle complex philosophic themes in colourful environments? Read Rushdie.
Fancy a space adventure to get your pulses racing? Edgar Rice Burroughs.
You get the idea - writers carve out thematic territory for themselves and become the ‘opinion leader’ or go-to author for specific publics when they do.
It’s hard to gather lots of great proof of what your writing is all about when you don’t know yourself, which is why it’s critical to get your own themes and messages clear in your own mind first. Once you’ve cleared all that up, though, your ongoing mission is to gather proof for your book and then keep on gathering it. Consistently. For years.
Collecting proof is what builds your author personality and reputation over time. A beautiful, effective reputation can be built intensively, but the part that so many writers seem to miss is that the continuing act of creating and gathering proof of your writing’s promise, voice, focus, and reputation is what will give your writing career life and power. And make you money.
We’ll look at some specific ways of building proof in forthcoming articles.