This month, we’ve asked experts in the field the following question: What advice would you offer to new authors just getting started?
The best advice I would offer to nonfiction authors just getting started is to do research.
- Is your topic relevant?
- How much is already written about it?
- What makes you the expert to write about it?
- How will you market the book?
- Self-publish or traditional publish?
- Are you really prepared to do the work in getting your idea to a polished
Writing a book can be fun. Part of the time. The rest of the time is editing and rewriting and polishing the manuscript to get it good enough to be published. It is painstaking hours to where, if you look at the manuscript one more time, you want to throw a brick at your computer. And
then you review it again and seven more times after that. If after knowing all of this you still feel you want to write a book, then good luck. You might have a gem after all.
If you want readership, you must make sure there is interest in your content. Since so many people read digital materials, I recommend using a keyword research tool. There are many, but Ahrefs is the best. I also recommend KWFinder, which is easy to use and understand. Make sure there is high monthly search volume and low online competition for readership.
MozBar is a free Chrome and Firefox extension that tells you the Domain Authority of any website, including your own. Make sure your DA is higher than any authors writing on your topic.
Publishers today want to see there is interest in your writing, so you need a website. Follow these strategies to generate interest in your writing and please publishers.
I would advise new nonfiction authors that a contract is not always as it seems. One of my contracts specified that I agreed to make promotional appearances on behalf of my book, yet I was never asked to do so. Other lessons from the trenches? You may be amazed to learn how few free copies of your book your publisher agrees to provide you and/or that, while a publisher may have its own publicity team, that doesn’t mean the team will publicize your book.
Publisher/Executive Editor Stacy’s Music Row Report
Once your book is published, and ideally well before, approach marketing as an organic, long- term conversation with your readers. Play to your strengths as a writer—share behind-the-scenes stories from the writing of your book, release previously unpublished pieces of your book and other reader exclusives, and above all, aim for a real, human conversation with your readers vs. “buy my book” generic, spammy posts. Remember, author brand is a fancy way of reminding you to be the unique and fascinating human being behind your book.
My final piece of advice: don’t take your foot off the gas once launch day has come and gone. I’ve seen far too many authors excitedly pump their book for months prior to launch, getting their audiences all riled up, and then after launch day…crickets. Your next crucial step after writing and publishing your book is to craft a long-term editorial strategy to keep it in front your readers for years to come!
CAROLE BRODY FLEET
The most important advice that I can provide to a new nonfiction author includes:
1. Develop a solid pitch; one that is to-the-point and will intrigue without giving away too much. Keep it brief—tough to do for authors, but keep it brief anyway (between 500-600 words; including contact information). If you have truly intrigued the recipient, they will ask
2. You will hear the word no more often than you hear the word yes. That’s OK. Step over the no’s and keep going—every no that you receive takes you that much closer to the yes that we all want to hear. Also remember that no can also mean *No, not right now*; rather than *No,
never*—in other words, there is *always* hope.
3. One of the wisest things that I learned early on is that agents and publishers want to represent careers, not simply books. Do you have an idea for your next book? How about the one after that? Could your book/idea be turned into a movie (theatrical or made-for-TV), a miniseries, or a television series? You *will* be asked about subsequent books and multimedia possibilities—have answers ready when the question is asked.
My first piece of advice for new nonfiction authors is that they shouldn’t focus so much on themselves. Your story is important and has the power to change people’s lives, but unless you’re Oprah or Michelle Obama, no one is going to buy your book off of Amazon because they want to read your story. Readers are always asking themselves what’s in it for them, so make sure the message you’re conveying changes your readers’ lives in some way, instead of simply detailing your life’s story. Additionally, make sure you put some unique twist on your topic so that it’s something the market hasn’t seen before. For example, there are a million books on weight loss for women out there, so how can you make your book unique? Can you focus it on weight loss for women over 60? Weight loss for vegan women? Use your book to share a new perspective with the world instead of just regurgitating what’s already out there.
My second piece of advice is to understand that the cover is just as important as the content. As nonfiction authors, our focus is generally on conveying knowledge to our readers, not on the artistic necessity of the cover, and as authors in general, our focus is generally on writing, not marketing. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it!), visual artistry and marketing are essential parts of being a nonfiction author, and they’re both largely dependent on the cover. The cover is probably the biggest thing that will cause readers to stop their scroll and click on your book on Amazon, yet I cannot tell you how many nonfiction books I’ve seen out there that have horrible, non-eye-catching covers. Your book’s cover is your content’s business card. It’s what gets people in the door so they can experience the transformation your book has to offer. Don’t skimp on it.
Don’t assume the process of writing a book finishes with writing the book! I thought the hardest work was behind me when I submitted the final manuscript, but there was much more to come. As an author, you need to stand behind your work as it goes into the marketing and publicity process. You need to tell your audience why it’s worth reading! And you need to sustain your own energy and motivation throughout the process.
New nonfiction authors should make sure to thoroughly proofread their book before publishing. It’s significantly harder to make changes to your book after it has been published. This is especially the case when publishing a hardcover book versus a digital copy. For this reason, it’s absolutely essential to thoroughly proofread your book before you send it through the publishing process. You might also consider getting a separate set of eyes on your book—they’re liable to spot certain mistakes that you may have missed.
This extra step in quality control that make all the difference when it comes to your book’s reception and your success as an author.
Co-Founder & CTO
You need to have a calendar with decisions to make. I remember I was so excited last year amid the pandemic, that I wanted to launch it without considering whether it was the best moment to do it or not. Do the people need it right now? Will the people understand what I want to share without being able to organize round tables and discuss it? In fact, I was so obsessed to have it available for purchase so I could start writing the next book, I simply decided to launch it. I was saying to myself: writing and publishing a book is not for fortune, it is about knowledge to share so readers could change their business when they wanted to make it.
My advice for new nonfiction authors: sometimes, simple is better. As a new writer, it’s normal to want to dazzle your audience with impressively verbose language. However, this doesn’t always make for the best written book possible. The way it sounds in your head is not always the way it comes across to other people, and sometimes, it can actually lead to readers putting down your book rather than reading on. The solution is simple: don’t be cryptic. Keep it simple.
Short sentences and digestible vocabulary reign supreme when it comes to a binge-worthy book. A pleasant reading experience shouldn’t leave the reader stumbling on every other word. Every paragraph should be approachable, elegant, and seamless. Even though it might take you a little more time, set out to simplify as much as you can in terms of the structure and syntax of your sentences. That way, people will be able to read as much of your book as they want in one sitting without getting fatigued.
Chief Technology Officer at ConvertBinary
REV. MARTIN L. DUNNE III
Create an aesthetically pleasing “one-stop-shop” website with an easy-to-recognize name encourages high traffic.
A website can be the easiest, most efficient, best way to promote your work the exact way you feel is best. In social media and interviews, you lack complete control on the direction your promotions take. On your website, you have absolute control of your realm. Many hosting services offer factors to facilitate the creation and maintenance of your website, and allow you to periodically track its trafficking to help you ascertain what is working and what’s not. I feel my website is a great example of what a one-stop-shop website can be. First, the domain name is catchy and easy to remember. Once at my site, the graphics and presentation pleasantly guide you through my argument on why my books are worthwhile. The site is organized by book, retail venue, publicity, respective release date, and social media handles, so that not only is any and all pertinent information available at one’s fingertips, but the website is most conducive for the person to immediately respond with a purchase during this opportunity for peak interest.
The advice I would share is to research, research, research options for publishing and marketing before committing. Look at the cost to produce, editing services, marketing, distribution, etc. In my first book I overpaid (not knowing any better) for marketing ploys that would never have generated a payback. I have been over-solicited to participate in book fairs, author events, advertising, and other promising campaigns and a few times I over-paid for the services. The first book I initially went through a self publisher and bought the “base” package. I ended up paying more than three times the amount, with little to show for it. One example is they printed bookmarks, cards, and mini-posters, and I later learned I could have done it myself at a print store for a mere fraction of the cost. Also, I would research reviews for programs that state they can help you sell thousand of books. Start with a low-cost class or seminar first so you can learn some of the “do-it-yourself” techniques to see what may be effective before committing to an expensive service.
I republished my first book in 2018 with an independent publisher and the experience was much smoother. Lots of options, but they were a book publisher—not a marketing company trying to enhance revenue by offering “add-on” services. I did my second book through them and I was thrilled.
Another strong suggestion is to enter your book into as many award programs as you can. Usually they are inexpensive (free in some cases), and with several categories available you might be surprised. My first book won two awards and was rated 5 stars from the Dove Foundation. Being an award-winner can give you added benefit and credibility far beyond traditional marketing. I highly suggest buying the Writer’s Market. It is a fantastic source of information, and in addition also includes almost a hundred pages of awards and contests to enter for virtually any nonfiction topic.
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