Recently one of our authors attempted to schedule a signing at a book store near him. When the store owner asked if he was self-published, he said he didn't know. Hence the call to my office asking if he was self-published.
I can't begin to emphasize more strongly that every author must learn the publishing industry. You wouldn't consider joining the military and not learning its structure, being employed by the tourism industry and not learning what tourism is, or for that matter, becoming employed by any company and expect to coast through, being promoted almost immediately to the top, and not have a clue what the company does or how it gets the product to the consumer.
Yet, that is precisely what a lot of authors expect.
I see it all the time: first-time authors who do not know the difference between traditional and self-publishing; authors who don't know how books are produced, how they get into the marketplace, how money is made - or that money is expected to be made - how books get to the bestseller lists, how to reach their target or even that they should have a target audience.
To make it in this business, you need to understand the business.
You don't get your first book published and find yourself on the New York Times bestseller list. Oh, sure, you can find an author where that happened, and I guarantee that a lot of money was spent in a promotional and marketing campaign (six figures), targeting those book stores that report their sales to the New York Times. It could happen to .001% of all authors who will ever be published. You have a better chance of winning the lottery.
Yet, time and time again I see authors who don't seem to understand that they have to work to succeed in this business - and publishing IS a business. You have to work at the craft of writing, work to establish your platform, network with others in the industry, work to understand the way it operates, make an effort to stay on top of changes and technology, marketing and promotion.
If you want to succeed and truly earn an income with your books, learn as much as you can. Reach out in every direction - to other authors, to readers, to booksellers, to retailers, to industry experts. Subscribe to their blogs, network with them on social media, attend conferences and functions. Read books on the subject, subscribe to industry magazines, and learn, learn, learn. That is precisely what other authors are doing, and they're doing it day-in and day-out. You'll be left in the dust if you don't do the same.
And what happened with that author?
The author who didn't know whether he was self-published or traditionally published made such a poor impression on the bookseller that when he returned to report that he was, in fact, traditionally published, the bookstore said they were not interested in him or his book. The door closed in his face. They'd made up their mind before he'd come back to report his findings.
Had he known up front that traditional publishing means the publisher pays all costs in producing the work in book format and self-publishing means the author pays all costs themselves, he could have confidently reported he was traditionally published and had a better chance of booking a signing.
Instead, he just looked stupid.
Don't let this happen to you. Learn the publishing industry. Pay your dues. And work your way to the top - the way every other industry works.
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