Expert Round-Up Topic: What has been most surprising about being an author?
I have been privileged to write more than 200 nonfiction children’s books in a variety of series over the past three decades. What has surprised me most is how the basics of nonfiction writing can prepare you for such a wide variety of life’s circumstances—from pivoting through different professional careers to evolving your own personal worldview.
Although it is an extremely complex process, there are four basic skills that every successful nonfiction writer must possess:
- The vision to identify an issue.
- The discipline to research the issue.
- The analytic and creative abilities to piece (sometimes seemingly unrelated) facts together into a cohesive framework.
- The communication skills to convey all this information in a compelling story.
Now just think of how these skills benefit so many different professions and situations. Whether you’re a teacher, an entrepreneur, a stay-at-home mom/dad, or a CEO, you are constantly called upon to mimic this pattern of work because life really is your own nonfiction work-in-progress!
Award-winning author, senior publishing executive, and cofounder of Little Bridges (littlebridges.com)
I had not anticipated the personal learning through the process of writing my book. You learn so much while you spend hours researching, and this is the most fun part for me. I am not looking forward to eventual publishing of my book nearly as much as I am looking forward to all I will learn during the research process, and all the people who I will meet and learn from along the way, both before and after publication.
I think the most surprising thing and where I had to learn the most was with marketing and promoting video.
It is all very good to write a book, but unless you also learn how to promote it through all possible channels; email marketing, physical launch, social media channels, promotions in Kindle, etc. You will not get further with it.
I wrote the book to help other people, and I realised that unless I was willing to put the work to promote it, this wasn’t going to happen by itself, and realistically—and no matter how good the book is—if no one reads it, that is of no help to anybody.
So my advice is that you learn how to market your book so that all the hard work you’ve put in actually pays off.
Author of the #1 UK Amazon Best Seller Child-biting, Chorizo and Chancing Your Arm https://www.amazon.com/Child-biting-Chorizo-Chancing-Your-Arm/dp/1781331898/
The most surprising thing I learned about being a nonfiction author is that only one third of my time is actually spent writing. The rest of the time I spend promoting my books, scheduling events to promote my books, filming videos, recording podcasts, and writing blog posts to promote my books. I’m less of a nonfiction author than I am a nonfiction book promoter!
I self-published my book in 2017 and it was really a bucket list item. About a year later some colleagues suggested that since I had been going to Toastmasters for a few years, I should develop a sales training talk based off of the book.
The surprise came when I actually got booked to speak for a few real estate groups and civic groups. I was in the process of working on more speaking engagements when COVID struck, but I’m hoping to find more opportunities as things open back up.
After I became an author, there were a few things that were surprising. First, the amount of work afterwards to promote and discuss the books. Creating book trailers was tons of fun. One won three Telly awards!
The reactions from my friends and family were not what I expected. I thought everyone would be elated at how after years, my hard work came to fruition. Some didn’t react, not even a thumbs up, in response to my text. Some friends who I am not in close contact with were very happy for me, and a few bought my books. Regardless of anything, writing is something I have to do. These books have sparked more ideas I am pursuing and that is what makes me happy!
Author of Sassy Food
Co-author of Chasing the Surge
IAN RANDAL STROCK
I’m a science fiction short story writer, so I’m used to working with science fiction magazines. I’ve sold to Analog, Nature, and several others, where the top pay rate is 6–15 cents per word. So when I wrote my first non-fiction book The Presidential Book of Lists (Random House, 2008), I wrote several op-eds and feature articles as cross-promotion, and sold a number of them to newspapers and magazines, where they appeared around the book’s publication date. In half the cases, the editors accepting them responded by saying something like “I’m sorry, but the budget will only allow me to pay…” or “our budget has recently been cut, so all we can afford to pay is…”. The surprising thing to me was that, in each of those cases, the amount worked out to 50–90 cents per word. They were expressing sorrow that all they could pay was ten times what I was used to earning for my fiction.
Author of The Presidential Book of Lists (Random House, 2008), Ranking the First Ladies (Carrel Books, 2016), Ranking the Vice Presidents (Carrel Books, 2016)
When publishing a nonfiction book, most expect it to change the lives of others—whether professionally or personally. For me, the most surprising thing that came with publishing my first book in 2018 was how it changed me. I knew my book was something I was passionate about, but what I didn’t expect was that it would be the catalyst to a new career path … one that would merge my professional skillset (in marketing, PR and communications) with my personal passion (to write, to help others, and to empower and inspire people).
After 15+ years working for agencies, nonprofits and the like, I made the shift to start my own business—emPower PR Group—where I can help nonfiction authors ensure that the people that need to hear their message can and do through laser-targeted marketing strategies. I never dreamed of getting this opportunity, and it all stemmed from me writing something that I thought the world needed to hear.
I’d say the most surprising thing about writing a nonfiction book is the level of impact we’ve been able to make on people’s lives.. With nonfiction books, and self-help books specifically, you can truly give someone the specific tools to make their lives better.
Then, in today’s world of technology, you can actually hear how they implemented the advice from your book. We’ve been fortunate enough to receive almost 1,000 ratings on Amazon, and hearing how people’s lives have changed in the reviews always amazes and humbles me.
It’s also been surprising how huge the market is for self-help and nonfiction books. There are so many people out there needing help and wanting advice, and when you offer them well-written solutions, they can send your success through the roof.
Using Your Website to Create an Authentic, Actionable Connection with Readers
I have met many writers without a website and I though I had one, I didn’t understand its value. I wish I had processed the fact that emails are still the best way to increase sales, making your email list a prime marketing opportunity. Your website also connects you to readers between books. Check out J.K. Rowling’s website (jkrowling.com).
Leveraging Social Media in Better Ways
Having 41,000 followers on Twitter doesn’t mean I sold 41,000 books. Many authors create social media accounts expecting book purchases commensurate with the number of followers, which is not realistic. If you share content and interact with your followers, over time, you will develop friends and fans, which gets your book exposure. Fans promote your book and some of mine even created fan art, hashtags, and a community. Instead of counting on social media as a storefront, connect it to your website by sharing your blog posts, podcasts, videos, and news to build your email list, which has the strongest opportunity to sell your book.
About a year ago, we published our first book, SEO Blueprint, on Amazon. What shocked me about writing this book is that we lost money if we just look at how much we spent vs. how much we made from the sales of this book! Nevertheless, writing this book still stands out as one of the best investments for our business in 2020. Despite losing money in book sales, I was surprised by the indirect benefits of approximately $31,000 in revenue that we made because of publishing a B2B book.
What I’ve found surprising is how delighted people are to receive a signed copy of the book. It really means a great deal to people and is well worth the effort.
Twitter, Instagram, and Linkedin: @letsgrowleaders
The feedback from readers who have learned so much from my book has surprised me the most. As a nonfiction author, I was elated when I get to read their personal stories and how my ideas have shaped their decisions and improved the quality of their lives. You just don’t get any feedback like that in most jobs.
I’ve written a book entitled Growing by Knowing: Growing Your business by Knowing your Numbers, to help clients grow their business by teaching them how to start with knowing their numbers and understanding what they are mean for their business.
CEO @ The Bottom Line Group
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