"The universe is made of stories, not of atoms."
—Muriel Rukeyser

Guest Post: 10 Surefire Ways to Succeed in Publishing by Penny C. Sansevieri

Penny C. Sansevieri


I've written a lot of pieces on publishing success. I've talked about picking the right publisher, finding an editor, etc. All helpful, for sure, but this time I wanted to dig a bit deeper.

I've been coaching authors for years on publishing, marketing, and idea creation. You name it, I've probably addressed it in a coaching session. The topics I'm addressing in this piece are issues that seem to come up again and again when I'm working with authors and while this might sound more like a goal-setting or Ra-Ra Tony Robbins piece, believe me when I say that often the difference between a successful author and someone who just dawdles on the fringes of success lies in these tips -- so here we go:

Start early: I say this all the time, but clearly I can't say it enough. Start early, get your website up, craft your message, do your research. I've done scads of articles on this topic so I don't want to belabor it, but I did think it was important to start here.

Invest in your success: It's funny how authors often think that being an author doesn't require an investment. Hey, you wrote the book and that should be enough, right? Decide on your investment and then ask yourself: How much money am I willing to lose? Yes, I said lose. You may earn your money back in book sales, but you may not. It's impossible to predict how any book will do so make an investment that you are prepared to lose if things don't go as you'd hoped.

Step out of your comfort zone: Literally I mean get out. Step out. Network. Go to events, listen to speakers, pay the money to go, travel and stay over. Trust me if you pick the right event it will be completely worth it. Why? Because getting out of your comfort zone will not only gain you valuable contacts and networking, but it could also lead to new ideas or a new path that could lead to some additional success. Author events, conferences, whatever you feel is right for your work are fantastic ways to connect with like-minded people in the industry. A lot of folks favor virtual events, I like them too. But there's nothing like sitting in a room with a bunch of folks doing the same thing you're doing to get those creative juices flowing.

Stay focused: This is a big one. Very big. I find in my coaching that the one thing that can separate the successful author from the author who just sort of flounders and does not find his or her way is focus. If you have to work with someone to stay focused it could be the best money you spend -- ever. Let's face it, authors are creative and as such, we have minds that are fertile and active. We have no shortage of ideas, but we do have a shortage of time. Most of us don't have an infinite number of hours to complete everything we want to, that's where focus comes in.

Set clear, definable goals: This ties into focus but deserves its own mention because it's key and very, very important. As with any business or venture, you want goals. Ideally you want to create a list of goals, five or ten at the least, that you wish to attain by publishing your book. Then, once the book is out, what are the goals surrounding your marketing? How many bloggers do you want to reach? How many events do you want to do, etc.? Oh and one final note on goals. Book sales should be at the bottom of your list. Why? Because you won't get sales without exposure and marketing wisdom tells us that people need seven impressions to your book, message, or product before they will consider a buy. Your goals should be aligned with that focus: getting as many impressions or pieces of exposure as you can. Get enough exposure and book sales will follow. It's simple math.

Bring in objectivity: I sort of address this with the team, and later on in being able to take feedback, but trust me when I say that having people on your team who can be objective is often the difference between success and failure. Your family, friends, and neighbors all love you, but the likelihood that they can tell you: "Sorry, this cover really stinks" is minimal. Find someone or a team of people who can be wildly objective, not only can it help you attain your success, it can save you a lot of money in the process. How? By giving you insight, tips, guidance and things that you might otherwise have to learn on your own. Read: the hard way.

Follow similar authors: Success leaves clues. Follow and get to know other authors in your market. This will help you accomplish a few things. First off, authors are very generous and if you're connected with someone who has written in the same genre, I'm betting that he or she is open to giving you guidance, tips, and advice; if not, they are still great to follow and observe. Second, watching what a successful author does will be helpful to you when you're defining your own goals and objectives. And finally, get Google Alerts on the authors you aspire to be like, every time they pop up on a blog comment on the post they've been referenced in and comment or congratulate them on a review or feature. This will get into networking mode with the author and the blogger. The blogs they are featured on might be great contacts for your work, too.

Read your contracts carefully: I am amazed at how often authors just sign up willy-nilly for stuff out of excitement or the need to gain attention for their book. Read the contracts, do the research. Know what you're getting into. You'll be glad you did.

Hire a team and respect them: If you're hiring professionals to help you, remember that you are bringing them in because you need and value their expertise. Respect their work and respect their time. No one can create miracles for a book, least of all a hired team. They work hard, respect that. If things go wrong, don't blame everyone from the person who designed your cover to the guy who sold you your first pencil. Take responsibility for your success or lack thereof. Be proactive and be willing to take feedback. Which brings me to the following point.

Welcome and encourage feedback: I can walk into a room of 500 authors and pick out the ones who will be successful. Is this magic? No. It's called feedback. Authors who are willing to listen and learn and get valuable input to make their work better are often miles more successful than authors who refuse to listen to the advice of professionals who have been in the industry forever. Look, not everyone will be right, but if you respect someone's work, respect their input. Gather this data, then sit with it and see which direction you want to go. Accepting feedback is huge. I've had authors scream at me for not liking their cover. I refuse to feed into an author's ego just to make him or her happy, that's not what people pay me for. You should surround yourself with people who aren't afraid to tell you something you don't want to hear. This will help you more than any ego-stroking in the world.

If you follow all of these tips are you guaranteed success? I'd like to say yes, but success is a very personal venture and means something different to all of us. The tips described in this piece might be the same ones I would suggest to anyone going into business and that's the key. Publishing is a business, packed with the same demands, risks, and success that any business brings with it. Understand the basic principles of business and you've now understood how to be successful in publishing. Not only that, but using a solid model for business will put you light years ahead of most of the other authors out there, and with 300,000 books published a year, you need a strong model in order to succeed. Applying business principles to your campaign can help you do that.

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