How to Become a Successful Author in Today’s Marketplace

When I first hit upon the idea of writing a novel, I imagined a publisher throwing piles of money at me while weeping for joy over the awesomeness of my book.

If that ever was the way of the world, it’s not anymore. Creating your novel is but the first in a long sequence of steps, and I’ve devoted considerable effort in gaining understanding of those steps.

Before I get to that, though, let’s define “successful.”

1. Megawealth – At some point, a book reaches a level where people buy and read it simple because everyone else is buying and reading it. Did I read Harry Potter, Twilight, or Hunger Games because I said, “Hey, this looks like a book I will enjoy?” No. I bowed to social pressure. How do you get your book to that level? I have no idea. If you happen to know, please clue me in. Truthfully, it’s unlikely that any of us are going to reach those kinds of levels.
2. Quitting my Day Job – As an engineer, I make a pretty good living. Salary-wise, I have no complaints. That success also makes it harder for me to replace my income. Through hard work and by gaining a better understanding of efficient marketing/promoting, I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility for me eventually to gain this level.
3. Extra Income – While replacing my salary would be difficult, a couple of extra thousand bucks a month would certainly come in handy, and I think it’s probable, with hard work, for me to attain that level of success.

While I’d love to get to (1) and I’m shooting for (2), I think that (3) is the more realistic, relatively-short-term objective.

So, how do I get there?

Step 1: Write a Good Book

One path to selling a lot of books is to devote a lot of money to marketing. If you have enough books out and enough resources, I think this would, eventually, pay off for you. Frankly, though, it’s risky, and I don’t have the necessary (huge!) resources to devote to it.

Since I have a day job, I also don’t have time both to produce new work and spent hours and hours marketing.

Without money or time to promote my work, the only path to success I see is to turn my readers into salespeople. If each person who reads it tells others, that’s the “force multiplier” I need to turn my meager marketing efforts into something that launches a successful career.

The first step in gaining my readers’ help is to write a book worthy of them recommending.

Step 2: Implore

The simple fact is that someone is much more likely to do something for you if you ask them to do it. Expecting a stranger to buy your book, read it, and spontaneously proclaim its virtues to all their friends on their own initiative is unrealistic.

If, however, you write a letter to your readers saying, “Hey, I’m an indie author. The only way I have to get word out about my book is through people like you. If you can do any of these things for me, it would help so much, and I’d really appreciate it.”

Then, list things like:

• Tell your friends – in person, on Facebook, and on Twitter
• Write a review on Amazon, your blog, B&N, Goodreads, and any other place you can think of to put it
• Add it to any “Best Book You’ve Never Heard of” list that you can find
• Like my Facebook page

A more comprehensive list is the subject of a future post, but you get the idea.

Step 3: Promote, but Not too Much

Each hour you spend marketing and promoting is an opportunity to reach new customers who in turn have the potential to tell their friends about you. At the same time, each hour you spend marketing and promoting is an hour you’re not spending writing.

Step 4: Write Another Book

As you create and market new products, you:

• Give your “fans” another chance to purchase from you
• Have the opportunity to reach new customers
• Create marketing efficiencies

If you spend an hour promoting your first book, you only have the potential of selling that one product. For the second book, you now have the possibility of your marketing campaign reaching back and selling both your books. Efficiency, to a point, increases with more books.

One book simply is unlikely to ever net you much of a profit, much less make you extra income. Keep writing.

2 thoughts on “How to Become a Successful Author in Today’s Marketplace

  1. Hey, just saw something the other day that reminded me of something you mentioned once in regards to Craigslist book listings and is at least somewhat related to some free marketing. There’s a maximum of posting to 5 Craigslists (about 90% certain that’s the number). I saw this looking for jobs — you can actually get jobs spamming Craigslists on Craigslist, although seemed a bit scammy.

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