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Your Book, Your Business

Congratulations on completing your book.  For many people this is the achievement of a lifetime. More importantly, it is an achievement that required a significant investment of time.  Whether your book took you months or years to complete, this is not the end of the road.  It is in fact just the beginning.  Because you will find out in short order that writing a book is one thing, promoting and selling your book is another.

Most authors are well-equipped to write a book.  The problem is that unless their book is picked up by a major publishing house, they are woefully ill-prepared to promote their book.  That's why the average book on Amazon only sells somewhere in the neighborhood of 250 copies.  Sure there are some authors who sell thousands or even millions of copies.  But those are few and far between.  Many of those that reach the ranks of bestseller are backed by major publishing houses that have an army of editors, bloggers and publicists to help them get the word out.  But as I pointed out in my previous blog, "Read Any Good Books Lately" there have been a number of self-published authors that have sold more than 1 million books.

Bestseller or Bust

Image courtesy of GoodBooks.Online

So what differentiates the successful authors from the rest of the herd?  Research and marketing.  Every single self-published author that has cracked the million copy mark spent as much or more time researching and marketing their books than they did writing them.  The reality of the matter is that if you want to achieve bestseller status you have to think of your book as a business.  Unlike the fiction that says if you create a better mousetrap the world will beat a path to your door, anyone that sells mousetraps or any other product or service realizes that having a superior product doesn't matter a damn if you don't find a way to tell the world about it.  So why do most authors think that the business of book selling is any different.

John Locke, who was the first author to sell 1,000,000 copies of his books didn't just fall out of the sky.  He spent a ton of time and money promoting his books.  I know this because I read his book, "How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months."  Among other tidbits, John details the meticulous planning and execution that saw him publish 4 titles simultaneously, then follow publication up with an online media blitz that included blogs, social networking and interviews.  He also encourages readers to email him.  (All the better to create a mailing list.)  John Locke has become so successful a bookseller that he turns down offers from major publishing houses so he can retain complete control of the publishing process.

Unless you are merely publishing a book for bragging rights, you need to take a tip from John Locke as well as from businesses large and small.  If you want to sell anything, you need 3 things: Marketing, Advertising, and Publicity.  Fortunately for modern authors, especially those that publish eBooks, there are a number of no-cost and low cost solutions to all three of the above.

We Don't Need No Stinking Websites

Unless you intend on publishing only a single book, you need to have a platform that enables you to brand and promote you and your line of books.  This means creating some sort of web presence that includes everything from a "website" to blogs and social networks.  The reason I put quotes around the word website was due to the fact that there is more than one way to skin a search engine.  By that I mean that it is one thing to have a website and it is another to have your website appear on page 1 of a major search engine.  (Having worked as a professional online marketer for more than 20 years I know what I am talking about.)

Where generating a page 1 result on a search engine used to be a snap, in the last few years it has become exceedingly difficult.  This is due to the fact that most of the ranking factors that generate a page 1 result are not on the website itself.  Today a website is like the tail that wags the dog in that only 25% of the ranking factors are taken from the website itself.  The other 75% comes from off-site properties such as blogs, social networks, and videos.  That means that unless you are prepared to feed your blog once per week (or outsource the task), your social nets every day and shoot at least a video a month, the odds of your author page appearing on page 1 are slim to none.

Image courtesy of

However, that doesn't mean there isn't another alternative.  For many small companies I recommend creating a blog on Blogger (Google's free blogging platform).  In the first place, a blog can do everything a website can, including sell.  It can even emulate a website by creating multiple tabs, embed photos, videos and buying cookies, and you can even create a unique url for your blog.  The blog itself is easy to build and maintain.  Since it is a Google property, you can even get your blogpost to jump onto page 1 of the world's most popular search engine, provided you know how to optimize your post.  (If you don't believe me, google Working the Web and you will find my digital marketing company has 3 page 1 links: for the website, our radio show and the blog.)

If you're wondering if you can succeed with a blog-as-a-website, let me point out the fact that as I am writing this blog, our Working the Web blog has amassed 989,072 pageviews.  This figure dwarfs the traffic that the website receives, even though it is listed at page 1, position 1,  That's due to the fact that the blog, unlike the website, isn't at the mercy of the search engines.  You see, the prime driving factor to generating blog traffic are the social networks.  Again, this necessitates feeding and growing your social nets, as well as your blogs.  So there's no free lunch.  That being said, there are systems that can help you feed and grow both. (We'll cover this further on our show.)

Guest Blogging to the Rescue

Image courtesy of GoodBooks.Online

As I have pointed out to readers and clients alike, if you have the best blog in the world and nobody reads it all you have is a billboard in the desert.  What this means is that there is an easy way and a hard way to create blog readership.  The hard way is to go it alone in the pig-in-a-rut fashion where you diligently pound out blog after blog for week after week only to realize at the end of a year that you only have a couple hundred readers. (If we took that route with our WWW blog, we'd be lucky to be at the 10,000 pageview mark as opposed to knocking at the 1,000,000 mark.

The question you have to ask yourself is if you look at book publishing as a hobby or as a money-making enterprise.  If you opt for the former, then the pig-in-a-rut method could work for you.  However, as a money-making venture it leaves a lot to be desired.  If you want to sell thousands of books you need to up the ante.  Just as with an online business, online booksellers need to advertise.  This equates to spending money.

Just as John Locke learned the hard way when he first delved into the self-publishing game, throwing money at the problem does not always deliver the desired result. Sure, you can run pay per click campaigns on the search engines, as well as on social networks and author portals.  But what you have to understand is that in the pay-per-click arena, that is all that your money is going to buy you: a click.  Not a purchase, nor a registration.  In fact, unless your website, splash page, and/or blog is designed to generate a registration or sale, all you will find out in short order is that you can go through a pile of money with little to nothing to show for it.

Again, this is why, just like savvy entrepreneurs, you really need to seek the advice and assistance of an online marketing professional before you blow your budget.  While most neophyte business owners follow the point, shoot, aim school of marketing, a professional marketer will help you determine your ideal customers and which advertising media are most likely to engage them.  Next they will create an environment designed to engage and convert this traffic.  Only then will they begin to write copy and lay out a marketing plan that has a high probability of success.

Start the Presses

Advertising, while effective at creating an environment in which to sell your books, is neither the only nor even the best way to make a splash.  If you really want to jump from obscurity to the bestseller list you are going to need the cooperation of the press.  Face it, the quickest way to the hearts and minds of the reading public is by jumping onto the headlines or the morning news shows.  Fortunately, there is a tried and true vehicle to help you do just that.  It's called a press release.

Just as readers are constantly on the look for books that grab their attention, so are reporters and TV/Radio producers.  If you want to create a buzz about your book, the press release could be your ticket to the bestseller list.  That being said, there is a science behind creating and distributing press releases.  In a nutshell, editors and producers get bombarded with press releases.  Therefore if yours doesn't grab them by the throat, your release will quickly find its way to the bottom of the pile.  The 6 basic rules of press release creation are:

  1. Have a grabber headline
  2. Stick to the facts
  3. Less is more.  Keep it brief.
  4. Include a photo
  5. Use an approved format, such as the Associated Press
  6. Include contact information

Click here to buy Carl's book.

I could write a book on all the dos and don'ts of press release writing.  Since you are going to have to spend money to have your press release distributed, I would advise you to talk to a marketing professional who has experience at writing and distributing press releases. Click here to learn more about how GBO can help you write and distribute your press releases.

While there are a myriad of other elements that can help you create a brand in order to sell more books, the bottom line is that if you want to play with the big boys you have to start treating your books as your business.

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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