If You Write It, Will They Read It?
The classic movie with Kevin Costner, Field of Dreams, is centered on a man who builds a baseball field in an Iowa corn field. When he gets it built, players show up and then crowds of people. Throughout the movie the saying is echoed, “If you build it, they will come.” While the movie is a terrific story, it is a fantasy or a make-believe story.
I've seen many writers fall into this fantasy with their beliefs. They have done the hard work to write an excellent book and they believe when it gets published, then it will naturally sell—without any or little effort on their part. Is that true and have you fallen into this belief with your own writing?
Every book (nonfiction or fiction) must be built on a great foundation of excellent writing. You need to learn the skill of telling a good story and keeping the reader turning the pages. Also you must use an independent editor to work with you to shape the book and polish it to excellent. Then you must have the other details of publishing come together such as a great title, an attractive and professional cover design and interior. Finally you need excellent distribution in different formats (print, ebook, audio) so the reader can get what is right for their needs.
Ok, you have all of these elements that I listed above—whether you use a traditional publisher or self-publisher. You need one more critical element—an active author who works constantly and consistently to tell others about the book. The reality is you can have an excellent book but if the author isn't marketing or selling the book, then it will not be read. It does not magically happen without the author's effort. Yes your traditional publisher can sell the book into the bookstore yet all of those books can be returned, unsold if the author has no activity.
This week's issue of Publishers Weekly includes an article from New York Times bestselling author Hugh Howey called The Myth of the Lazy Writer. Howey explains there are two basic ways to get your work to readers—the traditional route or the self-published route. Howey has successfully taken both paths. Then he writes, “Successful authors work their butts off either way (traditional or self-published). There is no such thing as a lazy successful author. With a publisher or not, the author will be expected to market themselves.”
I encourage every author (or want to be author) to read this full article, study it but more importantly take action in your own writing life. I see many authors who write excellent books then want anyone else but them to do the work of marketing and selling that book. It is your responsibility and if your book is not selling enough copies, then you need to be creating a strategy for reaching new people and telling them about your book. But do more than create the strategy, you need to actually execute your strategy.
As an author, I'm also taking action on my own books. This past week I added an event to my own speaking schedule for next year and I'm constantly looking for new opportunities to speak about my books and work. Tomorrow night, I'm driving down to the library in Castle Rock, Colorado and giving a workshop on 12 Ways to Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams. If you are in the area, I invite you to come but notice the activity is tied to my book, Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams. While a large crowd is not expected, I'm still eager to get in front of some new people, meet them and open new doors of opportunity. This type of interaction does not happen if you stay at your computer and in your office.
Yesterday I recorded a podcast targeted to teen authors which will be released in a couple of weeks. It took some of my time on a Saturday afternoon but it is also another valuable way to tell people about Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams. You never know who will listen and respond to your visibility in a new venue.
For several weeks, I ran a Goodreads book giveaway. I offered five copies of three different books (Billy Graham, Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams and Book Proposals That Sell). When I set up the giveaway, I could select if the possible winners were just in the United States or widely available in the world. Hundreds of people attempted to win these books through Goodreads. The giveaway ended at the end of July and Goodreads selected the winners. Yesterday I spent several hours autographing and preparing the fifteen books to ship to the winners. Today I will go to the Post Office and mail those books (some in the U.S. and some overseas). I have several hopes and reasons that I did this Goodreads Giveaway. First that the winners will read the book and write an honest review and hopefully tell others about the book. Second the people who did not win the book will buy the book or track it down in their local library. The exposure is good for every book and every author.
As an author, I am continuing to write. I'm currently working on a study guide for individuals or small groups for my Billy Graham biography. Also I am planning the details for a new marketing campaign for Billy Graham which in a few months you will read about here on The Writing Life and other places.
Every day I'm working with different authors through my acquisitions editor work at Morgan James Publishing. This link is a new brochure about Morgan James so be sure and check it out. This year we have had three books on the USA Today bestseller list—and I assure you that achievement did not happen without active, personal effort from each of those authors. One of those three books is Shareology (currently at the top of the business bestsellers in the Denver Post. What active steps are you taking today to expand your visibility in the marketplace and tell people about your writing?