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Read Any Good Books Lately?

by Carl Weiss

We've all started off a conversation at one time or another with, "Have you read any good books lately?"  It may have been at a cocktail party or a mixer, but it always elicits an answer that's far more interesting then you would have gotten had you chosen to ask about the weather.  That's because asking someone about their reading habits is something personal.  Their response will tell you a lot about who they are and how they think.  It will also clue you into their innermost thoughts, yet it usually won't put you in conflict, as you might find were you to ask about their political or religious beliefs.

That being said, the world is full of good books. While there are only two types of books - fiction and non-fiction - there are dozens of categories, including art, biographies, cookbooks, drama, fantasy, guidebooks, horror, journals, poetry, self-help and travel, just to name a few.  Last year alone there were 304,912 books published in the US alone. (That puts us at #2 behind China with more than 440,000 books published.)

How Much is Too Much?

Talk about too much of a good thing.  It's no wonder that so many fledgling authors have trouble finding their way to publishing success.  Face it, when it comes to choosing a subject, not to mention an author, what do most people do?  They rely on the BIG publishing houses (on and offline) or the NY Times to pick and choose the books they read.  Or, they read reviews and blogs published for the most part by minions of the self same multinational companies.  Talk about the fox owning the henhouse.

What this does is create a funnel effect where only the chosen few hundred books get media attention at any one time.  Does this mean that these books are necessarily the best books on the subject? Not hardly.  Does it mean that high profile authors have a lock on the market?  Yes and no.  Yes, in that bestselling authors through their publishers and publicists have made it to the big game, where the lights are bright and the accolades run deep.  It's a good job if you can get it, right?  However, for every author who hits the big time by finding an agent and a publisher, there are hundreds of thousands who wind up wallpapering their homes with rejection letters.

Until the launch of the e-publishing industry, many authors who could not find a home with a 
publishing house decided to be their own publisher by going the vanity press route.  This meant shelling out several thousand dollars or more to have their books printed in limited quantities.  (You'd be surprised at the amount of space 500 paperbacks take up.)  Not to mention the fact that once printed, these authors turned entrepreneurs would then be forced to be their own publicist.  Very quickly they found out there is a big difference between printing 500 books and selling 500 books.  The printing part is relatively easy.  But having to write press releases, not to mention calling bookstores in the hopes that someone will carry your title is a daunting task. 

Even if you do succeed at getting your books on the shelves, next thing you know you're making like the Road Warrior as you drive from town to town to do book signings.  And all this on top of your regular 9-5 job.  it sounds like a recipe for a nervous breakdown, if you ask me.

E-Book Millionaires

With the advent of the Internet, e-publishers such as and became game changers in that anyone can get online shelf space for their print and/or  e-books.  Instead of packing up the family sedan, many online publishers beat the path to success by posting blogs, press releases, videos and social posts galore all from their comfort of their own home.  While it saves on windshield time, the process of online promotion still takes time.  More importantly, it takes a plan that not only includes the time it takes to write blogs, press releases and social posts, but it takes money to distribute all the above.  Without distribution all you really have is a billboard in the desert.

For those who create and execute their plan successfully, there's gold in them thar hills.  During the past few years there have been a number of unknown authors who have made 6-figures per year self-publishing online.  There have even been several that have made more than $1 million per year.

John Locke - New York Times best-selling author John Locke is the international best-selling author of 28 books in six different genres. He is the 8th author in history (and the 1st self-published author) to have sold one million eBooks on Kindle, which he achieved in only five months. Locke has had four books in the top ten at the same time, including #1 and #2. Foreign rights to his books have been acquired by major publishing companies all over the world. Translations include: Spanish, Catalan, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Hungarian, Russian, and Lithuanian. Literally every e-book he has published has gone into become a bestseller.  In 2011, four of the top 10 Kindle bestsellers were novels written by John Locke.

Amanda Hocking - Amanda Hocking is a lifelong Minnesotan obsessed with Batman and Jim Henson. In between watching cooking shows, taking care of her small menagerie of pets, and drinking too much Red Bull Zero, she writes young adult urban fantasy and paranormal romance.

Her New York Times best-selling series the Trylle Trilogy has been optioned for films. She has published over fifteen young adult novels, including the Hollows and the Watersong series. Her latest trilogy - the Kanin Chronicles - is complete, with all three books - Frostfire, Ice Kissed, and Crystal Kingdom - out now. 

JA Konrath - JA Konrath is the author of ten novels in the Jack Daniels thriller series. They do not have to be read in chronologically to be enjoyed, but the order is: Whiskey Sour, Bloody Mary, Rusty Nail, Dirty Martini, Fuzzy Navel, Cherry Bomb, Shaken, Stirred, Rum Runner, and Last Call.

Jack also appears in the novels Shot of Tequila, Flee, Spree, Three, Timecaster Supersymmetry, Banana Hammock, and Serial Killers Uncut, as well as the short story collection Jack Daniels Stories, and the novellas Floaters and Burners.

Other novels include the thrillers Origin, The List, Shot of Tequila, Disturb, and Timecaster.

Konrath writes horror under the name Jack Kilborn, including the bestsellers Afraid, Trapped, Endurance, Haunted House, and WebCam. 

Forget WWW - Focus on PPPPP

While viewed as overnight sensations, these authors all had one thing in common: a marketing plan.  When it comes to working the web, you need to forget about the three W's and focus on the five P's instead:  Poor Planning Prevents Peak Performance.  By that I mean that you need to stop treating your book like a hobby and start treating it like a business.  If you are an aspiring author, I'm sure you spend a great deal of time reading books that show you how to write and edit books.  You probably also read magazines and blogs that help you hone your writing craft.  But how many books have you read on such things as online marketing, publicity, and blogging?
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How many of you have put together a business or marketing plan for your book?  Have you decided on a yearly budget for your book launch?  Do you have a website or blog set up and populated?  Do you know what you are going to do in the pre-launch and launch phases of your campaign?  Have you made contact with other bloggers so you can generate an audience?  Do you have tens of thousands of social followers to whom you can post your book release?  While it may have taken you months or years to write your book, it is going to take you even longer to establish a beachhead and fight for readers.

Make no mistake about it, the business of publishing is war.   As Sun Tzu wrote in the Art of War,"Every battle is won or lost before it is fought."  Before you rush off to publish your book, you had better have a battle plan that can stay the course for the next 12-months.  Because you don't want to win the battle only to lose the war. 

Remember, your adversary (BIG publishers) literally have an army of editors, designers, publicists and writers at their disposal.  You are an army of one.  Going in you need to realize that you are going to have to  use guerilla tactics if you are going to have any chance of winning the war.  It also means that you need to marshal your troops.  This means two things: allies and outsourcing.

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Whether it takes going to writer's conferences, joining local writer groups or connecting with bloggers online who can help you generate exposure, a certain amount of grassroots campaigning is a must if you hope to prevail.  It also wouldn't hurt to pick up the phone and call select members of the local press to see if they would be interested in interviewing you.  (Having written 5 books myself, I have been interviewed in print and broadcast more than 100 times.  Not bad for a few phone calls.)

TThe other and even more vital task you need to decide on before hitting the beach is to choose which tasks you wish to carry out yourself and which you can delegate.  Stretching your forces too thin is a recipe for disaster.  There are numerous companies across the country that can do everything from handle your press releases, to growing your social following, to distributing your blogs.  Click on the link to see a list of resources.  Depending upon your budget, these providers can help level the playing field in the battle against the bigs.  They can also help you generate, engage and sell to an ever growing audience of followers.

This way, the next time someone ask you if you have read any good books lately, you can look them in the eye and say, "I not only read good books, I write them."  Now tell me that isn't a great ice breaker?

Carl Weiss is president of Working the Web to Win and publisher of GoodBooks.Online.  He has also written hundreds of magazine articles and blogs, plus 5 books.  

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