By Ashley Stahl, Originally Published in Forbes
When I first set out for a book deal, I was apprehensive—and for good reason: by all accounts, it’s tough to sell a book these days.
There’s a reason people think of the word “struggling” when they think of writers, and I’ve been on a mission to prove to myself that this doesn’t have to be the case.
I either got lucky or happened to have hit on something because, after a nerve-wrangling month, my agent let me know that Hay House—among a couple of other publishing houses—made an offer on my book and soon I had a bidding war, which inspired a solid book deal.
Still, I was clear about one thing: it wasn’t just luck or my idea that helped me rise to the top of the pile: the fact is I have a large email list, a great deal of interaction on social media and marketing experience. My agent and publisher affirmed that these were key factors in my success.
So, what do you do if you have a book living inside of you, and you don’t have such assets to sell yourself to publishers? How, in short, is the person with the story to tell but a lack of tools to tell it, supposed to take advantage of the fact that publishing a book pushes careers into the stratosphere?
I asked Anna David, CEO of Light Hustle Publishing, to shed some light on the self-publishing process. Anna David is a master at facilitating the process, and I knew she’d have answers. In fact, some of her recent business projects include Darren Prince’s international bestseller, Aiming High: How a Prominent Sports Agent Hit Bottom at the Top and the soon-to-be-released The Gorga Guide to Success by Real Housewives of New Jersey star Joe Gorga.
She herself is also a New York Times bestselling author of seven books, four of which were published by HarperCollins and one, which was published by Simon & Schuster. In other words, in her own words, she’s a die-hard for traditional publishing turned self-publishing fan. In the wake of her transition, she says, “I accepted the fact that publishing was broken and this actually presented an amazing opportunity for thousands of people that had always been excluded from the publishing world before.
According to David, there are five key mistakes people often make when it comes to creating success with self-publishing:
1) Don’t try to save on the cover. Gone are the days, she says, when book authors can download an already created cover from a site like Canva, and David also recommends avoiding sites like 99 Designs, Upwork or Fiverr to get someone to craft a cover at a bargain basement price. “It’s sort of like saying, ‘I’m going to go in sweats to an important business meeting because when they hear what I have to say, they’re going to respect me,’” she says. “You only get one chance to make a first impression and people’s attention spans are so short that you pretty much guarantee you’ll be ignored if you look unprofessional.”
2) Don’t just do an e-book release. While it may be tempting to just release an ebook because it’s easier, David points out that the majority of book sales for entrepreneurs happen when they either speak to large crowds or receive bulk orders from companies. “Think about the difference between giving a keynote and saying at the end, ‘Go download my book for your Kindle’ and ‘Pick up a copy of my book here’ in terms of how seriously the book will be taken,” she says. “Why put all this effort into doing a book only to make it sound like some sort of a high school project?” David points out that printing books is so inexpensive today (she uses a printer that charges less than $4 a copy on books that authors sell for up to $20), there’s no excuse to do e-reader only.
3) Don’t have your friends and family review your book on Amazon. Like it or not, one of a book’s major credibility factors today is the number of Amazon reviews it has. It can therefore be tempting to ask your family and best friends to throw a review up there. But those tactics belong to the days of yesteryear. “Amazon uses both bots and people to scan for reviews they consider biased,” David says, citing a time an acquaintance—someone she’d met less than a half-dozen times—reviewed one of her books and received an email from Amazon that they believed the review was biased. The review was deleted and the acquaintance felt admonished by some sort of an Amazonian Big Brother who, she guessed, combed social media and determined she and David were better friends than they were because they’d appeared in a photo together. Whatever the reason the review got yanked, it stands as a strict warning about having anyone close to you review the book. Instead, David recommends compiling an Advanced Reader Team made up of supporters (this is a process David guides clients through, as Amazon’s rules about reviews are constantly changing).
4) Don’t put crap out there. This tip is very much in line with tip #1 and may seem obvious but David reports, “You’d be astounded by the number of people who come to me after they’ve released a book that is riddled with errors or just doesn’t seem at all professional. They want to know what to do.” According to David, there is a solution, which is why a healthy portion of her clients hire the company to do re-releases. This can involve everything from coming up with a new title to designing a new cover to radically altering the copy inside. Re-releases that are professionally done can perform well, David says, and in some cases, she and her team are able to work behind the scenes so that reviews from the initial release are transferred.
5) Don’t just use any old keywords and categories on Amazon. “The right keywords and categories mean the difference between becoming a #1 bestseller in your category and having the book essentially flop,” she says. While she swears it’s not difficult once you’ve spent some time researching how Amazon works to figure out which keywords and categories to us, she adds that the back-end of the everything store isn’t just plug and play. “It’s best,” she says, “to have someone with experience advise you on how to set yourself up for success.
Needless to say, everyone has a story to tell…but it doesn’t mean they know how to share it. That’s why I’m grateful for self-publishing, the ultimate solution for the writer who knows they have a book meant to make it out in the world.
For a FREE course to land a new job you love, launch your dream business, or find your purpose, visit https://ashleystahl.com/