Do your homework before you meet with a book designer!
Recently, I met with an author at a local coffee shop. Dave started the conversation by giving me a detailed description of his book—verydetailed. I interrupted him by asking my standard first question: Can you tell me what your book is about in two or three sentences? He was unable to do so. It was obvious that Dave did not have a prepared elevator speech.* He wanted to tell me about his book, but he didn’t know how to describe it succinctly.
*Elevator speech: a short, compelling pitch that describes a book’s content, purpose, and benefit.
It’s easy to write a book for yourself but not so easy to write a book for others to look at and ultimately purchase—especially if you’re a first-time, self-published author who doesn’t have a plan or a target market.
I’m a book designer, and the second questions I ask an author is, “Do you have a marketing plan?” In other words, how are you going to sell this book? Dave did not have a marketing plan. I thought of the old adage, “failing to plan is planning to fail.”
My next questions were: who’s going to read this book, and who is your target audience? Dave’s answers included the word “everyone.” This was a red flag: Dave was not prepared; he had not identified his ideal reader.*
*By the way, there is a plethora of online articles about finding your target audience and book-marketing plans for authors.
It was apparent that Dave’s book has not been professionally edited. He admitted that a few editors had said it “wasn’t right for them.” There are several reasons why an editor might turn down a book: Perhaps it’s badly written and would require a complete rewrite (this is ghostwriting, not editing); it’s a book in search of an audience; or it would be difficult to market. My next question was about publishing. I asked Dave if he wanted an e-book or print? He didn’t know. Dave had not thought through the publishing process, probably because it was all new to him. This is not a project for me.
Since he was starting from scratch, I offered him this advice:
• Create a website, and add content from the book as short blog posts. (Dave said he had a URL and a site with GoDaddy but hadn’t done anything with it. The site was not live.)
• Post frequently on your website. Google loves new content.
• Make sure to have a contact page and a way to capture email addresses.
• Look for organizations, websites, or blogs that might want a short article about your topic.
• Consider cutting the current manuscript into three small books; make the story bite-size for readers.
• Seek out speaking events. There might be organizations or audiences that are interested in your topic.
Other questions to consider:
• What is your goal? Is your book just for family and friends, or do you want to try to sell it to people you don’t know?
• Have you explored less obvious audiences than your target market?
• Does your book have local interest, or are you seeking a larger market?
• Have you reached out to like-minded people who might have an interest in your topic?
• Have you read other books on your topic to see what else is out there and how yours compares?
All of these questions assume that Dave has some understanding of what to do once his book has been written. It did not appear that he had done much research. I suggested that he read a good book on the subject, take a course, or hire of a book coach.
Dave was not ready, but YOU can be! By now you know that there is much more to producing a book than writing a manuscript. Take the time to do your homework. Learn how to identify your ideal reader, create a marketing plan, and explore your publishing options. By the time you meet with a book designer, you should have your ducks in a row. In other words, be prepared to answer the above questions. The result will be a first-class book.
Thanks for reading!