Write the book!

Sunday, July 29, 2018
Have you ever been given advice about creating a best-seller? I searched online for writing advice that covered lots of steps, tips, strategies and formulas. Here's a three-step plan that summarized what I found:

Step 1) Write award-winning Book
Step 2) Win Pulitzer Prize
Step 3) Go to bank, cash check, move to Hawaii

Done, done, and done! Sounds easy, right? Well, it's not. There's a difference between writing a good book and selling a book. Some of the effort may certainly overlap, and every step requires a lot of work. I am not trying to diminish the effectiveness a good marketing plan can have, but recognize the two are not the same. Marketing is necessary to sell books, but if you don’t have a good product, the best marketing plan won’t help you in the long run. Focus on the writing.

Business owners, restaurateurs, and entrepreneurs all deal with the problem of creating a product and finding a market, just like writers. The failure rate is incredibly high. So how many book failures are there? Too many to count, which means marketing is necessary, but writing a good book is essential.

When writing is ALL about selling, you lose sight of being a writer or author. A marketing consultant told me during a writer's conference that I could make $100,000 a year. She probably said the same thing to a dozen other writers that weekend. She hadn’t read my book, and saw it as a product that she can persuade people to purchase by implementing a marketing plan. I envisioned charts and graphs and spreadsheets.

There is nothing wrong with marketing, but, our goals were different. So, if asked how to write a best-selling book, my advice would look more like this:

Step 1): Write a book
     A. Write your bio
Step 2): Keep writing your book
     A. Start (or contribute to) a blog or other publications
Step 3): Write more of your book
     A. Develop a pitch
Step 4): Finish writing your book
     A. Build a website
Step 5): Edit your book
     A. Create a media kit, send it out

Writing a book is not just a step in a marketing plan. Writing a book is the plan!

Mary Horner is the author of Strengthen Your Nonfiction Writing, and teaches college communications classes online and on-campus.


Sioux Roslawski said...

Mary--I had to chuckle over your plan because (and rightly so) several of the steps involved writing... and more writing.

Also, I think it's wise you interspersed not-fun steps in between the writing. That way, the artist in each of us is not overwhelmed with the business-side of writing. We do one of the boring things we need to do, then get back to writing.

The chance to make $100,000 a year from your writing? I'm surprised you didn't immediately jump onto that crazy claim. ;)

Angela Mackintosh said...

Yes, writing comes first! It's the most important step.

It's possible to make 100k a year from book sales, but you'd probably need multiple books and to have self published or hybrid w/ a higher profit percentage per book. And that's probably less than 5% of all authors. I've made that a year from freelancing, but not just writing...graphic design and video also. It's pretty shady that the marketing consultant used that as her sales pitch! I'd ask to see examples of authors' books she marketed at that level.

I also like your plan of writing and building a platform in steps. It's manageable. :)

Mary Horner said...

Thanks Sioux, I'm working on becoming a better marketer, but lately it seems like every article or book I read about being a writer is really about marketing. I do think marketing is necessary, but it shouldn't be the only thing.

And Angela, I do think it's possible to make a lot of money from writing, but my one book didn't seem like a good fit for the type of marketing she was talking about. And I didn't see any examples of her other successes, but would never sign a contract without seeing a high rate of success with other authors, even though part of me did want to believe it!

Margo Dill said...

Writing well and more than one book is the biggest key in my opinion. :)

Pat Wahler said...

The trouble is you're supposed to squeeze out another book as quickly as possible, yet spend 8+ hours a day doing all the "recommended" marketing steps. It feels impossible!


Mary Horner said...

Margo, I agree, that's what I've heard, and Pat, it's hard to keep up with even one of these things, but both is a challenge!

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