Writing & Selling Books

There are many who would like to write a book, but they don’t know where to begin. They lack the knowledge of the industry and cannot even guess at where the editors and publishers have located the starting blocks. They might do a little research and begin thinking about self-publishing. Then they start seeing dollar signs. They will look at the sales literature of various printers and other electronic outlets and think, “Maybe I can make a lot of money at this!”

Perhaps. There is a possibility.

They think that if they produce and sell their “masterpiece” with a profit per sale of $4 per unit, and they think they might sell 2000 units per month – well, that’s $8000! They quickly start wondering about all the things they can buy when they start rolling in the cash. Some even do their math to the point that they quickly make more than a million dollars.

More than likely, they are probably not going to be rolling in the cash. They believe they will, but more than likely, they won’t. And if anyone tells them that, they may ask indignantly, “Why not?”

Here is the why not. And please, if you are going to be a writer, don’t be offended. One thing required of all writers is tough skin because you, like all the writers before you, will collect many rejection letters.

Here is the first reason most writers will probably not make a ton of money – the odds are stacked against them.

Secondly, their last name is probably not famous, like Hemingway, Clancy, Steinbeck, Grisham, or something similar. Consequently, they cannot count on name recognition for sales.

Third, since they have an unrecognizable name, if they do manage to get their book into bookstores, the managers typically display their books on the lowest or highest shelves in the back of the store, rather than in a prominent place. Hence, no sales.

Fourth, because there are no sales, the author who is acting as the publisher, has to pay for the returns, if they have so agreed to accept back the books as part of the deal to get their books in the bookstores.

Fifth, they probably don’t have a marketing plan or the resources in place to make their name and book known.

Sixth, more than likely they lack the knowledge of printing resources to effectively produce their book.

Finally, they are involved in the production of their book and probably have little patience or time to take on the jobs a publisher performs.

Everything mentioned above are the problems every writer faces who wish to pitch their books to the public. These are traditional problems and they have resolutions. Here is something else to consider: there are other, non-traditional methods of approaching the question of how to publish. One that is developing exponentially is e-publishing.

Even though this new field of e-publishing is evolving rapidly, writers using this method still face some of the same problems noted above. While some new authors have garnered success with e-publishing, the majority have not.

Authors have to keep in mind it is not the platform, the publisher, or the marketing plan that sells their work (although all these things help). It is the work that sells itself and it is the public that buys it – only because the work stands on its own merit. If the work does not stand on its own, the public will not buy it.

As a small publisher, we always carefully evaluate each project we take on. We would not waste our time with books we thought might not sell. Everything we produced, we believed had a chance in the market. However, here is what I will tell you. While some projects have sold well, a couple have not sold one copy. Again, I want to emphasize it is the public that votes on each book with their dollars.

The same thing is happening in the emerging market of e-books. The public either likes or dislikes a title. They will either put out their money, or not. There have been authors who enjoyed success in the traditional world of books who did not do well at all in the arena of e-books. At the same time, there are other, completely unknown authors, who have done so well in the e-book market, they were able to purchase their first homes within three years of publication – for cash!

The bottom line with any writing project is to find the niche market that is in demand. Then you have to write a solid manuscript and find the perfect vehicle for getting it in front of the readers who want it. And here are other keys to success: you must become an expert speaker on the topic and start a blog on the topic and write in it once a week or so. This formula is not really meant for novels, but good, well-written, non-fiction will return solid monthly sales. And if you are publicly speaking on the topic, more than likely you will enjoy a good return in speaker fees.

At least once a month, you should speak to a group, an audience, people who are as passionate about your topic as yourself. You need to blog. You should have your book in both formats, book and e-book. And you should have enough copies to sell and sign at every presentation where you meet your adoring public. If you follow this format, you can make a good living as a writer and speaker.

And – who knows, you may even become a millionaire.

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©2013 J. Clark

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2 Responses to Writing & Selling Books

  1. Harrison says:

    Joe, it’s all true and it takes a little luck. The harder you work, the luckier you get. Besides that, it’s a lot of fun. I attended one of Diane’s functions recently where they held an auction as a fund raiser (where ever she goes I must follow for I am her leader). She donated two of my books to be auctioned and I’m wondering what to say if no one bids on them. My concern is increased when the speaker points me out as the author and it’s too late to slink out the back door. Long story short, the high bid was $42 and six people who lost the bid approached me to ask if they could buy the books. I signed books for them at a cost considerably less than $42. Of course Diane caught me and told me to get over myself because we were donating all the money to the cause. She doesn’t know about the email orders I recieved later. It’s tough to be profitable in this environment and it has nothing to do with the economy.

    • Joe Clark says:

      Harrison, I have to agree with your – it is fun. Too many would be authors, however, may see it differently. They don’t understand that part of the work is writing the book, another part editing, another is marketing and meeting the public. And yes, it does take a little luck.

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