You have an idea for a book, but you know nothing about the publishing industry or how to become a successful author. So you begin to research online. Maybe you take an online course or read a few books. At that point, you think you’re good to go, and perhaps you are…unless you’ve been given incorrect or incomplete information and opted to believe some common publishing myths.
Indeed, the writing and publishing industry is full of myths. For example, it’s easy to publish a book, anyone can become an Amazon bestseller (if only for a day), and traditional publishing is dead.
In this post, I’d like to dispel four common publishing myths. In the process, I’m also going to teach you my 4 Ps Framework for Publishing Success.
Publishing Myth 1: Publishing is just a creative process.
In fact, publishing is a business process. Writing is a creative process.
If you self-publish your book, you become a publisher. In fact, you open a publishing business. Therefore, you need to approach this creative activity from a business perspective.
If you traditionally publish your book, you go into a business partnership with a publishing house. The publishing company becomes your venture capital partner. Its executives expect you not only to produce the manuscript, which they then manufacture (turn into a book) and distribute to bookstores, but to be a good business partner. They want to work with a writer who can help sell the book.
No matter which publishing route you choose, you need a business plan. And that’s the first P: PLANNING.
The nonfiction book proposal is a necessity for nonfiction writers who want to become traditionally published authors. But essentially, it is a business plan for a book.
Additionally, it’s not only a tool for agents and acquisitions editors to determine the marketability of a book, but also for all types of aspiring authors to do the same. It’s your way to determine if your book can sell in large enough quantities to make it a viable project.
Your Book’s Business Plan
A business plan helps you craft a book that will sell. Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, create a business plan, and use it to:
- Get clarity on your idea, the market for that idea, and what makes your idea unique and necessary. This requires that you complete a market and competitive analysis. The latter is often overlooked or undervalued by writers—especially fiction writers.
- To strategize what other books you will write (and when) and how to market them. Your business plan should include a list of “spin-off books” you plan to write—books that logically follow from the first book. When you take the time to brainstorm additional books to write, you can plan your career as an author.
- To determine how and if you can help your book succeed (sell). Your book’s success depends on your ability to reach your target market using a marketing plan—a plan within the broader business plan.
- To determine the best content and structure for your book. As you plan your book, you create a table of contents, chapter summaries, or a synopsis. These items help you write your book effectively.
If you self-publish, your business plan includes costs, budget, break-even point, printers, editors, proofreaders, designers, and subcontractors you will hire.
You can do all of this by the seat of your pants, but planning will help you increase your chances of writing a great first draft and, ultimately, producing a book that sells.
Publishing Myth 2: You just need a great book idea.
Not all good book ideas sell. In fact, some of them don’t sell many copies at all. Yet, other books—ones that aren’t based on a good idea and aren’t well written—sell tons of copies.
What’s the difference? Typically, the author has done a better job of creating an audience for the book before the book’s release.
Selling your book is your job—not the publisher’s job. And you can’t sell your book effectively if you haven’t created an audience ready and willing to purchase your book when it becomes available.
That’s why all writers need the second P: PLATFORM.
More simply said, platform or author platform is your built-in readership for your book in your target market.
Why has platform become so important? Because publishers rarely put funds into book marketing. Therefore, they rely on authors to help sell books. And you can’t sell books if no one knows who you are. You have to be visible in your target market. Your potential readers need to know who you are and be paying attention to what you say and do. Only then will they hear and notice your marketing messages—and take action (buy the book).
If you market your book without having built platform first, no one will be listening when you tell them your book is available for purchase. That means no one will notice that you have launched a book, which makes it hard to sell books.
Start building Platform from the moment you decide to write and publish a book. Do so with social media, blogging, speaking, writing for publications, media appearance—any activity that gets you in front of an audience and helps them get to know, like, and trust you enough to later buy your book.
Build a Platform Based on Writing
I know many of you balk at this task. You want to write rather than build platform.
Here’s my advice: Start with writing-related platform building activities.
Start a BLOG! From your author website, you then can share your own work on social networks. This is absolutely the best way to start building a platform with the potential to reach readers worldwide.
You can produce one or two blog posts per week related to the topic of your book. Or you can become an expert by sharing your knowledge consistently—have an “authority” blog. Find the theme that runs through all your work—especially if you write fiction—and blog about that.
You can also use your writing to pitch articles and essays to online and print publications. That will also build platform.
But do NOT think you do NOT need a platform…just excellent writing skills or a superb idea. Nonfiction writers MUST have platform to land a traditional publishing contract. It’s not a requirement for novelists, but those who write fiction will have a higher chance of success if they build a platform, too.
Publishing Myth 3: Authors are not change agents.
Whether you are a novelist, memoirist, or prescriptive nonfiction writer, or creative nonfiction writer, you can write a book that makes a difference.
Books inspire and motivate. And authors are influencers—they teach people how to think, challenge readers, and become role models.
Ask yourself why you write. What do you want to accomplish? Do you wish to say you are an author, or do you want to write a book that changes people’s lives? Nonfiction writers tend to want their work to have an impact—to solve problems, answer questions, reduce pain, and help their readers achieve their goals.
You may not think you have a purpose, mission, or calling, but you can choose to write a book that makes a positive and meaningful difference in readers’ lives. You can write to have an impact on the world as a writer.
Which brings us to the 3rd P: PURPOSE.
This is your Big Why for writing in the first place. It’s the mission or calling that gets you out of bed each day and to your computer to do your life’s work.
Write to fulfill your purpose, and your work will not only get read (sell) but leave a legacy. Write to contribute to your readers’ lives and the world, and your books will be remembered for years to come.
Plus, you will achieve a higher level of satisfaction when you know you fulfilled your purpose by writing and publishing books that make a difference. You’ll also be more likely to show up consistently at your desk to write and promote your books when doing so feels “on purpose” for you.
Publishing Myth 4: It’s not my fault that I’m not writing or getting published.
The only thing standing between you and success as a writer is YOU. It’s no one else’s fault. It’s not something else’s fault.
You can blame life for getting in the way. You can blame your kids, job, schedule, health, or finances, but blame won’t make you a published writer.
Some of the most successful and well-read writers had all the same challenges…and more. And yet, they succeeded. They got published.
How? They stopped making excuses and took responsibility for their own actions. Like most successful people in any industry, they worked on their own personal development and mastered their mindsets and habits.
P4: Personal Growth
That’s the 4th P: PERSONAL GROWTH.
However, last is not always the least. In fact, the 4th P is the most important thing you can do to succeed as an author.
By focusing on their own personal growth, successful authors make it possible to write no matter what life hands them. They become able to write consistently and meet deadlines. By changing their negative mental chatter into positive self-talk, they are able to continue submitting work despite rejection letters. As they step into the best version of themselves, it becomes possible for them to do whatever is necessary to succeed—and to do so despite all the challenges they face.
Work on your mindset and habits, you will become a more confident, courageous, and productive writer. To succeed, you need to stop blaming and making excuses. And you must develop the confidence to spot publishing myths.
If you want to be a successful writer and author, commit to getting out of your own way. Decide to write, publish, and do whatever is necessary to fulfill your potential and purpose. To accomplish that goal, you likely need to change.
Personal growth is the foundation for success in any industry. Give this work more focus, time, and effort than everything else you do, and you will succeed as an author and in life.
Commit to the 4 Ps
Now that you are aware of these four publishing myths, you have a better understanding of what it takes to get published and succeed as an author. Ultimately, though, to succeed as a writer, you must commit the 4 Ps:
- Personal Development
P4, personal development, serves as the foundation for everything else you do as a nonfiction writer. Out of the work you do on yourself, you will find your purpose—P3. Once you know how you want to contribute, you will find it easy to build platform and surround yourself with a tribe of people eager to buy your books—P2. And you’ll do the planning—P1—necessary to ensure your book succeeds.
Question everything you hear about becoming an author. When you look beyond the publishing myths, you can avoid getting mislead.
And remember that when your book succeeds, so do you. After all, when your book is read (sells), it can impact readers. And that’s how you make a difference and fulfill your purpose as a nonfiction writer.
Did you previously believe these four publishing myths? Have you put the 4Ps in place? Tell me about your experiences in a comment below…and share this post with another nonfiction writer!
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