How to Succeed in Publishing: Be Great, Work Hard, Love It, Adapt, Keep At It Longer Than Everyone Else, Get Lucky
Oh, is that all I have to do?
I met an author the other day who’s been working on a book for 7 years. He’s almost finished with it and he’s starting to investigate all the non-writing pieces of the publishing puzzle. As we talked about BookBaby, he asked if we offered an easy marketing solution.
I told him that no one ever has an easy marketing solution (not even the big publishers); that every book and every author requires a different approach for connecting with readers; that success takes talent, tons of elbow grease, thick skin, dedication, and a willingness to change your goals mid-stream without getting overly discouraged.
That seemed to resonate with his suspicions about the industry, so I suggested he check out this blog and others like it to gather tips and advice and begin to create his own book marketing solutions. He then asked, “Do the tips you give actually work?”
“It depends,” I said.
That answer wasn’t quite right, though. It’s easy to say that the harder you work, the luckier you get. But plenty of writers work their butts off and still don’t meet their earlier goals or expectations. There simply isn’t enough cultural bandwidth for every talented author to be rewarded according to the biased scales of his own ambition. To quote the Stones, “You can’t always get what you want.” And even hard-working geniuses “fail.”
Every failure is a learning opportunity…
… as the cliché goes. It took Steve Jobs essentially getting fired from Apple in order for him to return with the ideas and energy that boosted that company to its later heights. In the literary world, I’m sure many of your favorite authors experienced similar “failures” along the way. You never know what doorway (open OR closed) might lead you to the next milestone– so when it comes to the tips we offer on the BookBaby Blog, and whether they work or not– it depends.
The more you love what you’re doing, the harder you’ll work. The harder you work, the better you’ll be. The better you are, the greater the chance that readers will take notice. And if you stay great over a long period of time, the odds will be even more in your favor. Then sprinkle in that secret ingredient: luck– which can also grow out of failure.
Let’s take it back to the idea of a book marketing strategy. Pretend you’ve spent 100 hours on Twitter and Facebook, and for all your hard work you’ve only got 50 followers who are NOT buying or sharing your writing. Perhaps you then give up social media for a while and concentrate on giving public readings, and during your readings you get so good at delivery that you actually go back and revise your book to have a more theatrical or performative tone, and suddenly a bunch of festival and public speaking opportunities have opened up– all because you “wasted your time” on Facebook.
Maybe you spent a small fortune on a book trailer that turned out to be a disaster, but in the course of writing the script for your 2-minute teaser you came up with a dozen great snippets of dialog for your book’s main character, and you use those to start a Twitter feed for that character which really catches on.
Maybe your first two novels fall flat altogether, but each time out you get closer to that X Factor which makes your unique voice really speak to the reader.
You get the point: the secret to publishing success is that there isn’t one.
But what’s the secret to enjoying your writing life?
1. Begin with passion and you’re off to a good start.
2. Don’t let frustration or disappointment drain your creative spirit as you follow or fight against life’s twists and turns.
3. Work hard all along the way.
4. Work harder for longer than anyone else and something good will come your way.
5. Remember that “success” might be a different flavor than you originally hoped for when you first reached into Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates, but it’ll taste just as sweet.
And when you try out some of the tips we offer here, let us know what you learned.
[Cloud image from Shutterstock.]