Expert Round-Up Topic: For nonfiction authors who’ve already been published, what would you do differently next time?
I’m the author of The First Minute, and here’s what I would do differently next time I write a book:
I will record a practice version of the audiobook version BEFORE doing the final edit of the book.
Why? We’ve all been told that reading out loud is a good way to review a manuscript. But, the additional attention to detail needed when recording an audiobook makes it glaringly obvious when the text isn’t right. I read my book aloud when editing, but had a totally different experience when reading it for the audiobook recording. I found unusual word choices,
repetition, and text that didn’t flow well. All things I wish I could have caught before publishing the original version.
The process of practice-recording will take time, but it’s nothing compared to the overall time for writing the book. Plus, the end result will be much better.
If I were to do it all again a second time, I would take the marketing/promotion of the book more seriously and earlier on. With my first book, I treated it as more of an afterthought, which meant that I underestimated the amount of work required to promote it effectively—which, ironically, is probably more time spent than the actual writing/editing of the book in the first place.
Also, tying in with that, I’d be careful what topic I choose for the book. My first book was all about how to sell without being too salesy or self-promotional, which…made self-promotion difficult, haha! The more I promote the book, the more it goes against the core message of the book. I’ve been able to get it out in other ways (and it’s done well via word of mouth), but it’s something I hadn’t even considered when I wrote it.
Next time, I would put my content through two rounds of editing and proofreading.
Quality control is an immeasurably important process. It’s something that you really only get one chance to do per book that you publish. As such, making sure that mistakes don’t slip under the radar and end up in your finished product is crucial. For me, it’s well worth the investment to run
any book through at least two separate rounds of editing. This will ensure that more surface-level issues are dealt with by the first editor, such as basic spelling and grammar issues, and the deeper undertones of the book, like word usage, phrasing, and passive voice are dealt with by the second. After all, two heads are better than one, and others might be able to identify readability issues that you tend to overlook as the author of a piece. Never undervalue the power of an outside perspective—it can seriously improve the quality of your nonfiction book.
Founder of Performio
Writing the manuscript is the easiest part. Market research before writing your book is crucial. This is how you will know what to write about. Don’t worry about not feeling like the ultimate guru. You just need to help people who are a few chapters behind you in their knowledge. This will help you form an outline that will be easy to write using voice recording software and having a professional editor make it look good. Developing relationships with influencers and other authors/authority figures and gaining publicity for your book is a long-term strategy you should start IMMEDIATELY. They will promote your book for you to their audiences and help you have a successful launch that will help you sell as many copies as possible.
Nonfiction business authors should place calls to action in their books for readers to join their email list and purchase higher-ticket products. Unless you are a huge celebrity with a cult following, your book should be a lead magnet to higher ticket products. Readers are looking for answers to their questions and want it now! The book should be short (40-100) pages, beneficial to the reader, and the sales of it should be used to fund the paid marketing of your business.
I have published four books—all nonfiction. The first, a spiral-bound new business guide 20 years ago. Two later self-published business-related books: one electronic-only on Amazon; the other using Amazon’s then-book-production facility for a paper book. The most recent, The Payroll Book: A Guide for Small Business and Startups, was published late last year by Wiley.
I will use a traditional publisher in the future if at all possible. Wiley provided superb people in house and contractors out of house to help with copyediting, proofreading, design, layout, cover design, indexing, and more. My book is a substantially better book because of Wiley’s involvement.
Do I make less money off each book sold because Wiley is involved in the process? Absolutely. Am I able to sell more books because Wiley is involved? Absolutely.
The purpose of my book is to provide information to as many potential clients as possible rather than the general public, not necessarily to make large sums of money. The book is about businesses doing payrolls and all of the intricacies, problems, and traps involved in doing so; the general public is not interested. It is designed to be my business card and be of value to people who are interested in processing payroll. It is designed to generate business for my company and to promote me as a thought leader in the industry. Wiley has made it far better than I could have on my own or with my staff’s assistance.
I truly recommend a traditional publisher for nonfiction books if you can afford it. Their experience, skills, and people will make for a better book. I have done it multiple ways and have learned!
When I decided to write my book, Hire By Design, I wanted to learn the process and keep my cost low. I worked with different people throughout my writing process and handled a lot by myself instead of working with a company that specialized on nonfiction business book publishing and promoting. Next time, I will be working with one company to help me with producing, publishing, and promoting my book. Why? I want to use experts who understand my ideal reader as well as the business world.
I would like to share with fellow writers some things that have worked very well for me. One in particular is LinkedIn marketing. As a business leader I have a large LinkedIn network and I have been able to leverage that for many book sales and great Amazon reviews. Use that vehicle! Also, Instagram has been very effective. Have readers send you photos of them reading your
book and post them to Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Planning this ahead and establishing a following is important. You will be surprised by how many people send you pictures of them reading your book from interesting locations (the beach, an airplane, while on vacation, etc.).
My first three books were published traditionally on small presses in Chicago. The very first title was regionally popular, gained a lot of traction really quickly, and put me and my co-author in front of eager audiences at libraries, bookstores, and client appreciation dinners. We were on the radio, on TV, and mentioned in all kinds of media. It was awesome. I figured sales would be through the roof. They were not.
Sales were, in fact, terrible. The book wasn’t bad. The publisher did a great job making it available to retailers. We had good press. But we didn’t have an audience and we didn’t have a business relationship with any chains. I’m writing my fourth book now and I’m doing everything differently. First, I’m developing an audience using BookFunnel. By giving away a chapter of the forthcoming book, I’m gaining an eager audience of readers who have taken the trouble to double opt-in to my newsletter. I send them something monthly (blog posts, etc.) to keep them interested. I also blatantly beg them to send their friends to the BookFunnel link. Well, not their friends. I ask them to send their “funniest friend” to the link. It’s a specific automated request that hits every new subscriber’s inbox after 30 days. It’s working. My list is growing by a measurable percentage. I know, when I publish Fat In Paris (hopefully in 2022), I will have an audience waiting to buy it.
I’m also planning to develop a relationship with regional bookstore chains in media markets where my target audience spends money on books and travel. I know selling online and selling ebooks is where the big money is, but working bookstores gives writers an invaluable opportunity to build relationships with living, breathing booksellers and customers. Having a couple of booksellers on your team leads to increased sales in the bookstore where they work, which leads to their store manager and their regional buyer to notice that bump. Morning meetings, when the team meets before the store opens, are a golden opportunity to meet booksellers, shake hands, talk to them about your book, and thank them for their work in the publishing industry.
My first piece of advice for self-published authors? Allow more time than you think you need to submit files to IngramSpark and get them approved. Also, order a sample copy to make sure everything looks good. Rushing the process often leads to errors, like submitting an old version of the cover file of your book and not noticing it until a box of books arrives a week before your book launch.
I’ve still got copies of my first book where my name is missing my middle initials. For the second book, I learned my lesson and made 100% sure I sent the correct files. And I ordered sample copies almost two months before my launch date.
My second tip is to get the index done earlier. (Any prescriptive nonfiction book needs an index, especially if you want your book in libraries). With both of my books, I circulated an advance reader copy that was complete except for the index. My idea was that readers didn’t need an
index to decide whether to provide a blurb for the back cover or write a review for their blog.
The problem is that some professional review sites, including Kirkus Reviews, want to see the finished manuscript. Indexing also allows for an additional proofread. Professional indexers are detail-oriented people who often catch typos that everyone else missed. Therefore, I waited and sent Kirkus the final version, complete with an index. The Kirkus review didn’t go live until a month before my launch. That wasn’t enough time to add a quote from the review to the cover and order a new sample copy.
Having published 5 books (so far), I can say that each book published is its own unique learning experience! One lesson that comes to mind was from the publishing (through an indie house) of my fourth book, Nuke the Elephant: From Ringmaster to Project Ringmaster. In the book, I share project management strategies with creative freelancers to help them up-level to bigger projects, bigger clients, and bigger payoffs.
While I’m happy with the content in the actual book, what I would have changed was my marketing strategy going into its launch. The issue was a mismatch between my target/hoping for audience vs. my existing audience. My existing audience has always been aspiring authors—mainly business owners, high-profile personalities, and others with both personal and professional reasons for wanting to author a book. My audience for Nuke, however, was a demographic that I had only recently begun reaching out to: freelance creatives, with the aim of sharing the lessons I’ve learned in my 20 years as a creative professional. If I had to do it again, I would have started the conversation with my target audience a lot sooner and a lot more aggressively before publishing my book. Lesson learned, which is always a good thing for authors!
Next time I publish a book, introducing a focus group into the quality control process would be a highly beneficial step.
While writing a nonfiction piece, it’s not easy to create a commentary and receive feedback during the writing process. These are the very insights that can guide your book in the right direction. Understanding whether the pace is too fast or too slow, or if certain concepts should be explained differently for easier reading, can drastically improve the quality of your finished product. Holding a focus group helps you ignite a flowing discussion around your book—something that many writers never obtain until their book is published and out in the open. To hear the perspective of your audience ahead of time—before the book even reaches the shelves—is immensely valuable, and can really give your book an edge. This entire process also reflects well on you as an author. Simply by listening to the feedback of your focus group, you can identify your writing weaknesses and use that feedback to improve over time. To me, this is an information-gathering process that can make your book truly great.
Founder & CEO at WordAgents
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