How to Research for Good Market Niches – The Unscientific Approach

There are two approaches to figuring out What to Write

  1. The Scientific Approach. This involves using keyword tools, researching what searches are popular on Google, and researching the Kindle Store
  2. The Unscientific Approach. This involves going through the store and the bestseller lists and getting a ‘feel’ for what is selling and what might sell

It’s very similar to Baseball

  1. Analytical People believe the best way to find a good baseball player is via advanced analytics. That it is all a science
  2. Scouts believe the best way to find a good baseball player is ‘the eye test’. By seeing the player play and getting a ‘feel’ of what kind of player he is. That it is all an Art

Similarly, with books and when deciding What to Write, you can take

  1. The Analytical Approach – use precise figures and analytics and see exactly what is selling and where the competition is low and where it is high. Use ‘Science’ and Data to figure out what to write
  2. The Scout Approach – go through the store and look at books and see what is in the bestsellers list and what is ‘hot’ and ‘trending’. Then leverage your sixth sense and intuition to figure out what to write

We will write about the analytical approach separately

This post is all about the ‘Feel’ approach based on Intuition and Your Experience as an Author and your Sixth Sense

What is Sixth Sense and Intuition for an Author

To better understand what Intuition and Sixth Sense are, it is good to read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho or one of the Law of Attraction books written at the turn of the previous century i.e. Thoughts are Things, How to Get Rich, Thought Vibrations, etc

Your Sixth Sense and Intuition are a combination of

  1. Everything you have learnt as an Author and which has gone into your conscious and subconscious – an ‘imprint’ of all your experiences and learning
  2. What the Universe is telling you to write
  3. What your instincts tell you will sell

Basically, it is everything that you know and feel and yet cannot put into ‘scientific’ and ‘rational’ terms

Very Important: The more experience you have in writing books and marketing books, the better you will be at intuiting what will sell and what you should write

There is very strong precedence for Intuition and Sixth Sense in the Creative Arts

If you come from a rational background you will find this all to be perplexing. You have to factor in that in the creative arts it is very common to write based on what you feel and what your intuition tells you

  1. Kublai Khan was written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge after a dream (albeit opium induced)
  2. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stephenson is another book which came to the author partially in his dreams
  3. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley is another

So, as opposed to the sciences, where everything is ‘proven’ via scientific tests –

In the Creative Arts it is very common to get inspiration from unusual places and to do things that are completely illogical

The ‘Intuition’ approach to figuring out What to Write involves letting go of everything you think you are supposed to do

Analytics can only tell you what currently exists, it cannot help you create a new market

You can spend a lot of time looking at what is in the store and do a lot of analytics

It will tell you – what currently exists, how competitive it is, what is hard to succeed in, what is somewhat straightforward to succeed in

To create a new niche or a new market – you have to combine market research with all your experience and with what your gut is telling you will work

The Process to Research for New Good Markets based on Intuition and Feel

You have to do a few different things. As this is a very ‘feel’ based process they can be done in any order

  1. Familiarize yourself with the market that currently exists
  2. Pay particular attention to what is on the fringes and beginning to become mainstream and/or break through
  3. Start looking at the big successes in the book genres you write in. Pay special attention to what is hot and trending
  4. Find some time to free your mind of your every day worries and concerns. Meditation is one good option. Taking a mini vacation or a mini stay-cation is another
  5. Speed Write Ideas – the main step being to write and speak FASTER than you can think or overthink things. You want to say what is in your subconscious and not let your conscious filter it. One very good way is to just start writing things out on a piece of paper without stifling yourself in any way – write whatever comes to mind
  6. Get a voice recorder and take voice notes where you speak out ideas and thoughts without applying any rational or logical filters to them
  7. Go through Bestseller Lists with the angle of – what is The One Thing that sets this book apart. Look only for what is the Unique Quality of this bestselling book that makes it a success
  8. Go through categories and subcategories solely to understand the interplay between them. Often at the intersections of multiple genres is where you can find magic and a whole new market
  9. Look at the world around you and see what stories are happening which no one is writing about. What are the changes in society and in technology and in culture that are not yet captured in books

This will give you a good, long list of some crazy and some sensible markets to explore

Now we have the Distillation Phase

The Distillation Phase – To Throw out all that makes Sense and Keep all which does not

When working ‘by feel’ you do not keep what makes sense. Because that you would find anyways via Analytics and by Scientific and Logical Approaches

The Real Prize are the Crazy and Illogical Markets – focus on the markets which you think might not exist and the markets that seem to make no sense

Distill everything into a list of crazy and niche markets, markets which you think might not exist at all, markets that are perhaps way too small, and markets that no books have been written for

Now use your intuition to derive a priority list – which of these crazy markets do you feel most strongly about

The Product Market Fit Testing Phase

At this stage you have a prioritized list of 5 to 15 crazy markets which you feel very strongly about

Now, and this is the most critical part, create two lists

  1. Those markets out of your list, for which a flourishing market actually exists. Even though you used a ‘feel based approach’ you somehow managed to find some crazy markets which actually exist and are flourishing
  2. Those markets out of your list, which you feel very strongly about, and yet no market exists. For these do a bit of research and strike out markets where the books exist and readers don’t. Leave only the markets where books do not exist i.e. people simply aren’t writing for these markets

These two sets of markets are the ones to focus on

Your Best Market which will bring you great success will lie either in the first list (more likely) or in the second list (less likely, yet possible)

 

Good Book Descriptions & Bad Book Descriptions

Book Descriptions are incredibly overrated

Book Descriptions are so overrated by authors it is remarkable. Authors tend to have this magnificent vision of what they think happens when readers reach a page –

  1. That the reader forgets everything else and reads the Book Description
  2. That the Book Description tells the reader – the book is well written, like the description
  3. That the Book Description has a synopsis of the book or something about the book – and the reader thinks – Yes, this is the book I wanted to read. And the reader purchases the book – almost solely on the strength of the Book Description

None of that happens. Over 80% of readers do not read even a single line of the Book Description

What actually happens BEFORE the reader reaches your book page

  1. Readers see the cover of the book, usually in a sea of covers
  2. If your Book Cover is not well done and attractive, it will not even catch the eye. So an excellent book cover is imperative
  3. The Reader decides if they like the cover or not – an almost instant decision
  4. The Reader decides if the book is in one of their favorite genres or not – another instant decision (based on whether or not the cover matches genre conventions and genre expectations)
  5. (If review rating is shown) Reader looks at the review rating of the Book

Reader decides to click on the cover (or not)

Your cover has to ATTRACT the eye of the reader and then WIN them within 1 to 3 seconds and get them to click on the cover

What actually happens AFTER the reader reaches your book page

  1. Reader looks at the review rating (the most important factor) and the number of reviews (2nd most important factor)
  2. Reader looks again at the cover in large size and confirms that the cover looks good and seems to be the right category (4th most important factor – high quality cover with high attention to detail and high level of clarity)
  3. Reader looks at categories and confirms it is in the right categories (3rd most important factor)
  4. Reader reads reviews
  5. Readers reads a bit of the book sample
  6. (If reader likes the book) Reader buys the book

Most of the time (80% or higher) the reader does not read the book description at all. 99% of the time the reader does not press ‘Show More’ to reveal the entire Book Description

An indicator of the importance (or lack thereof) of the Book Description is that Amazon does not show the entire Book Description. Amazon shows just the first 1 or 2 paragraphs. If the Book Description were critical, do you really think Amazon would hide most of it?

Important Note: This also means that the first 3 to 4 lines of your Book Description are exponentially more important than the rest of the Book Description. The latter will not get read 99% of the time. Don’t bury the lede – make sure the 1st 2 to 4 sentences of your Book Description clearly state what genre it is, your credentials as an author (if any) and HOOK the reader into the story

One Edge Case Scenario where Book Description matters

The one edge case scenario where Book Description actually matters

  1. If the reader is on the fence because the reviews are borderline (3.5 stars instead of 4 stars or higher)
  2. If the reader is on the fence because the cover and categories don’t seem to match what the reader is looking for (in terms of genre)
  3. If the reviews are all one liners and don’t give details on the book

In that case, and usually only in that case, the reader will go through the Book Description.

General Note: Despite the fact that a Book Description is not important, it’s still nice to write a good Book Description. Because obvious flaws in the Book Description can take a reader from ‘ready to buy’ to ‘not ready to buy’. Because you should make every element of your book page polished, even aspects that do not get read much

Why Authors overrate Books Descriptions

Authors tend to be focused on words and writing and ignore the actual packaging and polish of the book i.e. the cover, what the book page looks like, the typesetting of the book, what their author photo looks like, etc

In that worldview, where words are the most important element, it is natural to think that words written by the author (the book description) are the most important and overrule

  1. Cover designed by the cover designer
  2. Words (reviews) written by the readers
  3. The layout of the book
  4. The layout of the page
  5. The other elements on the page

However, those other elements are actually very very important and usually take precedence over the Book Description

Why you should still write a Good Book Description

There are a few reasons you should have a good book description

  1. As an author, you should have the discipline to not have any part of your book page or website or book be unpolished
  2. If you don’t have reviews, or if the reviews are sparse in content, the book description will get looked at
  3. If your book cover is terrible or mediocre, then readers will look to the Book Description to convince themselves your book is worth reading
  4. Writing Book Descriptions is very good practice of writing ad copy. It’s also good to practice hooking readers into your story (something your book should have)
  5. As an author, you should have a rule/guideline that every single thing you write, you write it well and polish it well

For a small fraction of readers, especially those on the fence, a good book description can be what gets them to buy your book

Things to Avoid in Book Descriptions

Absolutely must avoid

  1. Spelling mistakes
  2. Grammatical mistakes
  3. Having it all in one long paragraph. It must be small paragraphs of 2 to 3 sentences each
  4. Putting the key details in the middle or the end. NO ONE clicks on ‘Show more’ to see the entire description. If they read the description (they don’t, usually) they just quickly look at what can be seen without expanding the Book Description
  5. Anything political
  6. Adult language or Foul Language or cursing
  7. Selling too hard in the Book Description
  8. Writing a synopsis of the book. Please don’t do this. Try to Hook them, not reveal what happens in the entire book

Things to Definitely Include in Book Descriptions

Here are things the Book Description must have in the first paragraph itself (above the fold). Things which readers should be able to see without pressing the ‘Show More’ button

  1. What book category the book is in
  2. One main hook to get reader to buy the book. At the minimum it should get the reader interested enough to click on the book sample and start reading the book sample
  3. Absolutely no spelling mistakes or grammatical mistakes
  4. Who the book is written for
  5. Awards if any. Only big awards
  6. Big Author recommendations, if any. Only from New York Times Bestselling or Big Award winning authors or USA Today Bestselling Authors
  7. Which popular authors your books and writing style are similar to

You have to fit all of that into one paragraph of 2 to 4 sentences. Everything beyond that will get hidden ‘below the fold’ i.e. after the ‘Show More’ button

Here are additional things the Book Description must have (in the remaining paragraphs of the book description, ‘below the fold’)

  1. Multiple hooks to get the reader interested
  2. Absolutely no reveal of the actual story of the book and what happens in the book. Do not spoil the surprise
  3. Clarity on what genres the book is in
  4. Keywords section close to the end which lists the key genres and categories and key ‘keywords’ for the book
  5. Recommendations from established authors
  6. Reviews from happy customers – please only add ‘review snippets’ and not entire reviews
  7. Which popular books and popular authors your books are like. If you like X then you will love this book
  8. Paragraphs of 2 to 4 sentences each. Never more
  9. Each paragraph has a specific function i.e. either hook the reader, or provide validation that a reviewer loved it, or some such specific function

Book Descriptions fall much lower in Importance than Book Covers, Reviews, Book Samples, and Book Categories

A main thing to remember is that although you do want to write a good book description, it falls much lower on the scale of importance than things such as Book Covers and Book Editing and getting Reviews. Please do not spend more than a few hours polishing the book description – After that focus on the stuff that really drives sales

Author Budgeting & Finances Guide – What to Prioritize if You Have a Limited Budget for Creating Your Book

The Rough General Guidelines

In General, you want to prioritize your Budget for your Book in the following manner

  1.  40% to Creating a Very High quality product. This includes editing, proofreading, cover, and everything else involved in creating a polished final product (your book)
  2.  30% to Marketing via External Channels
  3.  30% to Building Your Own Marketing Channels. This includes your email list, website, and social media accounts

All three are absolutely critical

The First (creating a very high quality product) is the most critical

The Second (marketing via external channels) is critical as it takes time to build your own marketing channels

The Third (building your own marketing channels) is the biggest determinant of your long term success. It’s painful to take money out of your book creating budget and your book marketing budget to build your own marketing channels (email lists, website, etc). However, this is what will give you long term sustained success

Let’s look at different scenarios and how you have to move around the priorities of the above 3 Key Elements

If you have No Money At All

Contrary to popular opinion, we will be blunt – If you have no money at all, you cannot create a high quality product

Everyone who is telling you – you can create a high quality book without spending anything at all – is mistaken

Be prepared for failure and tough times. Here is how you handle each part if you have no money –

  1. To Create a Very High Quality Book without having money. See if you can get a high quality cover in exchange for some editing or writing work i.e. have a cover design do a cover for you and in return you write out some pages for their website or do some copywriting for them. Do an author exchange for editing and proofreading (with the understanding that it is not going to ‘same as if a professional did it’)
  2. To do marketing without having money. There is no way. What you can do is find blogs and small promotion sites which will feature your blog as they are starting off. The Bloggers might do a review or mention in return for a free copy of your book (which costs you nothing as you can send them an ebook). The small promotion sites will offer you a free mention in the hope that when you become successful later, you might spend money with them. However, all the marketing channels that work cost money
  3. Building Your Own Marketing Channels without money. This actually is not that bad – you can get a free website and blog and build that up gradually. You can get a Twitter and Facebook account and slowly build a reader base. Some email list providers don’t charge for the first 1,000 to 2,000 email subscribers. Do keep in mind that the website and blog and email list are what you own. Your social media pages on Twitter and Facebook are completely controlled by Facebook and Twitter and you can’t depend on them

You basically end up with a product that can be, if you put in a ton of effort, a decent product. What sucks is you will have to compete with people who have money and can put out a very high quality product

If your Total Budget is $100 for Book Creation, Polishing, and Book Promotion

This is not much better than the previous scenario

Resist the pipe dream that $100 of marketing is going to buy you a miracle. Instead put the $100 into getting a book cover or getting editing. One of those two is the much better investment (as compared to marketing)

If your Total Budget is $500 for Book Creation, Polishing, and Book Promotion

Split up the $500 as

  1. $300 for editing
  2. $100 for proof reading
  3. $100 for cover

You will have to do a LOT of searching and analysis to get decent to high quality editing and proof reading for those rates

Covers is easier as sites like www.GoOnWrite.com and www.CreativeParamita.com offer pretty high quality premade covers in that $30 to $100 range

If your Total Budget is $1,000 for Book Creation, Polishing, and Book Promotion

This is getting close to the amount of money you need to create a good product. However, it is still a bit short

  1. Assign $700 for creating a good quality book. $500 for editing. $100 for proof reading. $100 for cover.
  2. $300 goes to External Marketing Channels
  3. Your Own Marketing Channels you would have to depend on free options

The Monetary Value of Time

At this point (after looking at how tough it is to create a high quality product with a small budget) it is worth stressing on The Monetary Value of Time

  1. Figure out what the value of your time is. Is it $10 per hour? Is it $0 per hour? Is it $30 per hour? Is it $100 per hour?
  2. When determining your budget to create your book, don’t make the mistake of spending far more in time (and the associated monetary value of your time) than you would in money if you just hired an expert
    1. Example: Don’t do your editing yourself and spend 100 hours on it and it costs you $2,000 (assuming your time is worth $20 per hour). Because you can get a professional editor to do it for $500 to $1,500 (in some cases) and that editor would do a MUCH better job than you would
    2. Of course, if your time is worth $0 per hour, then it costs you nothing
  3. If you are having trouble getting $500 or $1,000 for your book budget, perhaps the REAL opportunity is to find some work that pays you well – you will be happier and you can take out a little bit of money each month and use that to build a high quality book

One Key Point: Writing and Selling Books is NOT going to solve your Financial Problems. Sorry, if you don’t have a good financial situation – writing books is NOT the answer. Going into an extreme lottery ticket profession like writing is just about the worst thing you can do if you are looking for a steady source of income, or a financial pot of gold

If your Total Budget is $3,000 for Book Creation, Polishing, and Book Promotion

This is where you really are looking at a very realistic chance of creating a very high quality book

  1. Assign $2,000 to creating a very high quality product
    1. $1,000 to $1,500 goes to editing. Focus on getting the absolute best editor you can afford
    2. $300 to $400 goes to proof reading
    3. $100 to $700 goes to cover. Again, focus on getting the absolute best cover you can afford
  2. Assign $500 to marketing and sales through external channels
  3. Assign $500 to building your own marketing channels. Focus on email list and blog growth

One important note: Do not assign any of your budget to ‘things I want for myself’. If you are rationalizing and thinking your Book Budget can go into things like laptops, tablets, phones, bicycles, cars, etc – you are doing yourself a disservice

Your Book Budget should go only to things that help you create a very high quality book, things that help you market and sell it, and things that help you build your own direct channels to customers/readers

If your Total Budget is $5,000 for Book Creation, Polishing, and Book Promotion

This (and the next level) is a bit of a sweet spot. Here the focus shifts from ‘finding the best service provider in the bargain section’ to ‘finding the best service provider’. This is where magic starts to happen – when you for the absolute best

  1. Assign $3,000 to Book Creation
    1. $2,000 for Editing
    2. $500 for Proof Reading
    3. $500 for Cover. In some cases you can assign $1,000 for Cover and $1,500 for Editing
  2. Assign $1,000 to promotion and marketing through external channels
  3. Assign $1,000 to building your own channels

The absolute most important thing is to be very careful with every cent. Once you go higher you get two main types of service providers

  1. Those who will sell you a $1,000 service and provide $1,000 to $10,000 worth of value
  2. Those who will sell you a $1,000 service and provide little to no value
  3. There is, surprisingly, very little middle ground

Make sure you pick service providers that are proven to work. Be as careful with your money as if you had just $100 to spend

If your Total Budget is $10,000 for Book Creation, Polishing, and Book Promotion

Use a similar allocation as for the previous level. Same things to keep in mind

  1. Assign $4,000 to Book Creation
    1. $2,000 for Editing
    2. $500 for Proof Reading
    3. $500 to $1,000 for Cover
    4. Rest for Book Interior Design and Book Formatting and Typesetting
  2. Assign $3,000 to a Launch Expert service. This will ensure that you get a Bestseller Ranking and some good reviews and sales at the start and greatly increases your chances to success
  3. Assign $1,000 to Follow on Marketing
  4. Assign $2,000 to Building Your Own Marketing Channels

It is critical to pick a Launch Expert service very carefully. These are completely different from promotion sites (though they often build their service as a collection of packages bought from promotion sites). Look for one with demonstrated results – at least 100 and ideally 1,000 success stories and case studies

If your Total Budget is $30,000 for Book Creation, Polishing, and Book Promotion

Put away $20,000 for later, when you know more about the market

Take the remaining $10,000 and look at the section on $10,000 Budget

If your Total Budget is $100,000 for Book Creation, Polishing, and Book Promotion

Put away $90,000 for later, when you know more about the market

Take the remaining $10,000 and look at the section on $10,000 Budget

If you have an Unlimited Budget

Put away everything. Take just $10,000. Look at the section on $10,000 Budget

After testing out with $10,000 focus on these three areas using increments of $10,000 of your money

  1. Great External Marketing Channels – Figure out which channels are giving great Return on Investment ($3 or more per $1 you put into marketing). Put more money into them gradually while keeping the 3:1 ratio of money you make to money you invest
  2. Good External Marketing Channels – Figure out which channels are giving good Return On Investment ($1 or more per $1 you put into marketing). Put more money into them slowly. Remember, even though these channels seem ‘break even’ they are very valuable because you are increasing your reader base. Additionally, when you have more books, these ‘Good’ channels with 1:1 ratio, can turn into Great channels with 3:1 ratio
  3. Your Own Marketing Channels – Any channel you own which is break even is worth investing it. It is particularly important to focus only on those of your own marketing channels which actually break even or give positive Return on Investment

Having an Unlimited Budget is actually a curse if you are not very careful about focusing ONLY on internal and external marketing channels which are break even or have positive return on investment

The Importance of Proof Reading

Proof reading and proof readers occupy a very interesting place

  1. Proof Readers don’t do something that is very VISIBLE and in your face. They don’t design covers which you see right on your book page every time you open the page
  2. Proof Readers are not like Sales and Marketing which gets you book sales – that sweet rush of someone buying your book
  3. Proof Readers are not the Book Store – which connects you with readers and thereby occupies such an obviously critical place as the bridge between you and your audience

Proof Readers occupy an almost invisible and yet extremely critical position – they ensure that your book is well polished and fit for sale. They ensure that when readers buy and read your book, they can enjoy it to the fullest, and are likely to love it and leave a review and buy your other books

Because of their role as this ‘hidden gamechanger’ most new authors, and even a significant part of not-so-now authors, greatly underestimate the importance of a good proofreading. In this post let’s go over the Importance of Proof Reading

Which Book would You Buy?

Here is Book 1 (that has not been proof read, except by the author)

  1. Book Description has 2 spelling mistakes, one error in placements of Quotes, and 1 grammatical mistake
  2. First Page has 3 errors and 1 grammatical mistake
  3. First Chapter has 17 errors and mistakes

Here is Book 2 (proof read by a professional proof reader)

  1. Book Description has zero errors
  2. First Page has no errors
  3. First Chapter has 3 errors

It should come as no shock that very few people will buy the first book. A few people might buy it by mistake or might overlook the errors. However, the vast majority will not buy the book because all those spelling mistakes and grammatical errors suggest the author does not care about the book (so why should the reader?)

They also suggest that the reader will not be able to enjoy the book – with the errors constantly breaking the flow of the story

Bad Proof Reading or Missing Proof Reading means your book does not even get a chance

If your book is not proof read well, people never even look at the CORE of the book i.e. the story

They never even give it a chance

Just the fact that you could not be bothered to have your book proof read suggests to the reader that it is not worth reading. The fact that you don’t respect readers’ time or their hard earned money, means readers will just bypass your book

It is not just ‘Selling’ which gets affected by bad proof reading

If you do a lot of marketing and promotion, even a book without proof reading will sell to an extent

However, that is a pyrrhic victory

  1. When readers start reading the book they will run into typographical errors, grammatical mistakes, and other errors
  2. This will lead to bad reviews
  3. Now you have a book that is even tougher to sell because the bad reviews scare off readers

Hopefully you get what the cost of skipping on proof reading is

  1. The First Battle of Getting Readers to Buy the Book is very hard to win if you don’t have a well proof read book. People are very reluctant to buy if they see even one error in the book sample
  2. Even if you throw a lot of marketing at the book and win the Battle to get Sales, a lack of proof reading will lose you the war. Because when readers actually read the book, the errors they run into, will make it hard for them to enjoy it and will cause them to leave bad reviews
  3. Those bad reviews will make it tougher to sell the book

So, sooner or later, the lack of proof reading will sink your book

The Importance of Proof Reading is that without Proof Reading you cannot find Success

You can get a great cover and do a lot of marketing and get sales, even without your book being proof read

However, you cannot find long term sustained success because the product itself is flawed

It is like a Phone whose battery keeps draining in half an hour

No matter how good the phone itself is, the battery issues will kill the phone. Even if it sells at the start, it will stop selling because no one can enjoy the phone due to the battery issues

We have seen a lot of authors try to force their way to success. Skipping on proof reading because they think ‘readers don’t care about a spelling mistake or two’. Their books sell slowly, accumulate bad reviews, and die out. We cannot point to a single author who has had sustained success with books that are not proof read. Not a single author from 11 years of curating between 50 to 300 books a day

There are things more important than proof reading (editing, covers, strong story, great writing, etc). However, missing one of those does not prevent success. Proof reading is neither glamorous nor a top 5 priority – However, because a lack of proof reading leads to errors and totally kills reader satisfaction, proof reading is the broken horse shoe because of which the entire kingdom is lost. It kills your chances of success because your customers (readers) cannot enjoy the product (your book) and that kills any chance of success

If you do not get a professional proof reader, you are killing your chances of success

Things that Scare Readers Away AKA What Authors should NEVER do

This is just a Grand List of things we see Authors do, which totally kill their book sales and their happiness. As far as possible, avoid doing these things

Writing Something that No One Wants to Read

This is by far the biggest mistake you can make. Before you spend 6 years researching and writing a book on the mating habits of newts, do a few hours of market research and check whether

  1. 270,000 people bought a book on the mating habits of newts in 2019
  2. OR
  3. 27 people bought a book on the mating habits of newts in 2019

You don’t want to be the person who spends 7 years writing a book which becomes the #1 bestseller in its category … only to then find out that the total addressable market is 27 people

Please do your market research BEFORE you start writing your book. It is precious precious years of your life which you can NEVER get back

Spend at least a few days doing comprehensive market research BEFORE you spend 1 to 5 years of your life writing a book. A few days of proper market research can save you 2 years of your life spent writing a book that no one will ever buy or read

Getting the Book Genres/Categories Wrong OR Not Knowing what Book Genre/Category your book is in

The second biggest mistake you can make is putting your book in the wrong category OR not knowing what category the book is in

  1. Make absolutely sure to put your book in the RIGHT CATEGORY
  2. Make sure to also put the book in the Right Sub Categories. This is sometimes just as important as putting it in the right category
  3. Do not try to game the system. Don’t try to make a fool of readers or of the store. Nearly every trick you can think of, has been used and abused to the point that it no longer works
  4. Do not put your book in lots of categories. If you put your book in Romance and Mystery and Fantasy and Thriller – NONE of those 4 sets of readers buy it. Because you confuse the heck out of them. In 2010 and 2011 you could fool readers by putting your book in 5 different categories and getting sales in each. It does not work now
  5. Do not put your book into a category which will get it bad reviews. This is absolutely critical – there are certain categories where readers are frustrated with authors trying to game the system and will give your book a bad review. This is especially true for Young Adult authors trying to force their YA book into adult categories such as Thriller, Fantasy, Mystery, Romance, SciFi
  6. If you do not know what category your book goes in, figure that out BEFORE you burn money advertising a book in the wrong categories
  7. Make the category and sub categories clear in the book description and also add keywords

One important note: When making a book free it is Doubly Important to not mess up the categories. Because free books get downloaded a lot and those readers have very little patience if you get the category wrong. It’s free – so they don’t really check as much as readers who pay. They are more likely to get tripped up if you get categories wrong or if you try to game the system. And they are much more likely to complain and 1-star your book

Messing Up Your Cover

People mess up their cover in every possible way imaginable. Here are a few guidelines

  1. Have a Cover. Do not just put up a blank page with a title, or a pattern with a title
  2. Hire a professional cover designer
  3. Make the cover very nice and bright and well detailed. Most people will see the cover in the following situations – small thumbnail size on tablet, very small thumbnail size on phone, thumbnail size on a list page or a search results page, on a black and white eReader screen. The cover must be high resolution and bright and clear
  4. Make the cover with ONE central them and one main image. Don’t put in 20 things
  5. Do not get a $5 cover unless you want your book to sink like a rock
  6. Do not go for a black and white cover. Black and White covers do not sell
  7. Do not make a very artistic or very abstract cover. You are not going to hang it up in an art gallery
  8. Do not ignore the font for the book title and the font for the author name
  9. Do not leave out things readers like to see (human beings, beautiful things, bright colors, clear and sharp images) for things they do not like to see (patterns, modern art, hazy or fuzzy images)

Really, really messing up your cover

Here are the absolute most important things

  1. Do not make the cover dark and gloomy. No one can see your dark cover on a small screen. Nor will such a cover catch the reader’s eye. You are basically making your book INVISIBLE if you make it dark
  2. Do not make a cover yourself. Regardless of how talented or artistic you are
  3. Do not make a cover that does not clearly indicate what the book category is. The cover must clearly indicate what category the book is in by matching the genre conventions for covers

Not getting an Editor and Proofreader

If you do not get a professional editor and a professional proof reader you are sabotaging your book

  1. Missing an editor will prevent your story from having the right structure and flow – which means readers will not enjoy it as much as they could
  2. Missing an editor and proof reader means your story will have lots of errors – errors in the story, spelling mistakes, grammar mistakes – which will lead to bad reviews. Even people who like the book will either not review the book or leave middling reviews
  3. Most people who visit the book page, will not buy the book because the lack of editing and proof reading is apparent even from a one chapter sample
  4. Everything you do for marketing will be wasted. Not only will it not work, you will not know WHY it did not work. Did your book not sell when using Marketing Method 1 because that method does not work for your book. Or did it not work because your unedited, un-proofread book scared away readers who would have bought it if was more polished?

Even worse, than not getting a professional editor and proof reader, is doing it yourself. Because then you think editing and proof reading is covered and spend your time banging your head – why is my book not selling. The real reason your self-edited and self-proof read book is not selling is that you cannot edit your own book well enough for it to be a polished product that sells well

Focusing on What You THINK works, even though you have no experience in this market

Authors tend to fixate on what they THINK works. Listen to what the experts and professionals are telling you – they have decades of experience of seeing what works. You cannot just come in and GUESS and get things right

You are killing your book sales if you

  1. Start telling the editor how to edit your book
  2. Start telling the cover designer how to do his/her job
  3. Start thinking your experience of half a year, promoting 2 of your books, makes you more of an expert than marketing companies who market thousands of books a year

Learn and figure out what actually works in the market. The large Publishers (Macmillan, Harper Collins, Random House, etc) have survived by following best practices. Learn those and follow those. Do not assume that what you are guessing or assuming trumps what actually works

Following what you learn from people with limited amounts of success

To the largest extent possible, do not follow the advice of

  1. People who are Unsuccessful. The reason why should be obvious
  2. People who have very little success or very sporadic success. In most cases, they don’t know why they were successful occasionally and unsuccessful the rest of the time
  3. People whose profession is to sell marketing courses, especially Get Rich Quick courses and courses that offer ‘shortcuts to success’
  4. People who have had some success and have not properly analyzed why they were successful
  5. People who are pushing what they THINK is the reason for their success (of whatever magnitude), as opposed to what they have repeatedly found to work and are 100% sure of

You will notice three main problems

  1. People who are very successful will rarely share their secrets to success
  2. People who are successful very rarely know EXACTLY what caused them to be successful. They always romanticize their success and attribute it to what they think made them successful
  3. People who are unsuccessful and/or have very sporadic success are the loudest and are the ones usually espousing success strategies the most – However, their success strategies are the least effective

That leaves us with a few very hard solutions if we actually want to figure out what makes authors successful

  1. Study only successful and very successful authors
  2. Study what they actually do, and not what they say. Do not follow what they think has made them successful or what image they are selling. Instead, look at what they do
  3. Study as in depth as possible all three categories of authors – those who are very successful (to learn what to do), those who are somewhat successful (to see both sides), those who fail (to see what to avoid)

Basically, you have no option other than to spend a lot of time analyzing what works and what doesn’t. No one is going to give you success in return for $400. No one is going to give you free advice that will make you successful

However, a lot of people will promise you illusions – to be successful you must avoid them as they will waste both your money and time

Avoid Spending a lot of money on something that does not exist i.e. Shortcuts and Promises of Overnight Success

There are a heck of a lot of courses and packages that offer you the promise of

  1. $26,000 and you will become a successful author
  2. $15,000 and you will get your book made into a movie
  3. $400 for all the secrets to sell a million books

None of them work

If people had something that really worked, and which could be scaled up and replicated easily, why would they choose to not be James Patterson?

Let’s say you found a way to easily pump out bestseller after bestseller. Why not make all that money yourself? Why not make millions per bestselling book? Why not become one of the most successful authors in the world?

Why would you instead go out to the Internet and start giving away this super valuable secret/strategy for $100 or $400 or $1,000?

Spoiler Alert: They are selling their ‘super magical secret’ because the only way they can make money from it is by selling it to you. The only people who get rich from ‘Get Rich from Kindle Books’ courses – are the ones selling the courses

Bringing Politics into it

Unless you are writing a book specifically about politics, please

  1. Do not add politics
  2. Do not try to tell people they should convert to your line of political thinking
  3. Do not tell people they are idiots for believing their line of political thinking

Write a book, not propaganda

Ignoring the Importance of Reviews + Not Asking Your Best Customers for Reviews

A Review is a lot of things

  1. It’s Social Proof – someone bought your book and liked it enough to recommend it (via the review)
  2. It’s Preselection – other people are buying your book and liking it
  3. It’s a recommendation from the people readers trust the most and whose opinion they value the most – other readers

Without reviews, it is very hard to sell your book

The biggest mistakes authors make are

  1. They give up on getting reviews because it’s hard. Push through the initial pain and get those first few reviews. Then it will accelerate sales and get you further reviews
  2. They don’t ask their best customers for reviews. Your best customers are the ones who finish the book and buy your other books. They are the ones who visit your website to check what other books you have. They are the ones who write in to you
  3. They don’t learn the rules for getting reviews. A rough listing would be – Have a well polished book. Promote it to the right genre. Keep polishing the book. Ask INSIDE the book for reviews. Ask your best customers for reviews.

Not Making yourself Likable and Human

All things being equal, people will be more likely to buy your books if they see you as a real person – a real person they can relate to

Even all things not being equal, people will be more likely to buy your books if they feel they can connect with you

You have to reveal a little bit about yourself – who you are, why you write, who your favorite authors are, a little bit about your family, your life

If you don’t come across as approachable, people are far less likely to buy your book. All those physical books had happy smiling author photos on the back for a reason

A lot more to come later

We will add more to this post later. For now please do avoid as many of these mistakes as possible

Selling Books is an Art and a Science – and one of the most important things is to learn from the mistakes authors have made in the past

 

 

Does Your Book need an Editor?

One of the most interesting questions that some new authors ask is – Does My Book Need an Editor?

That is equivalent to the Scriptwriter for a movie asking – Does the Movie Need a Director?

If that seems an exaggeration to you, then chances are you do not have enough experience as an author to understand and recognize the absolutely critical importance of having a very good editor

Please read through this post and then consider for yourself whether you can actually skip on having a book editor for your book

The Author and the Editor are the Co-Directors of the Book

When you write a book, you have basically written a story with some characters and there is a structure and a certain flow to the story. You need someone who does all of the following

  1. Makes sure the characters play their part right
  2. Makes sure the story flows smoothly and makes sense
  3. Makes sure the structure of the story is coherent, and the characters fit into that structure
  4. Makes sure the language and wording fits the story – both in terms of ‘making sense’ and in terms of ‘conveying the message correctly’
  5. Makes sure the narrative is powerful

The person who does all of that is Your Editor

You, as the author, must also participate in the process. However, without the Experience and 2nd Set of Eyes that an Editor brings, you will be unable to create a Very Good version of Your Book

What the Director is for a Movie, the Editor and Author are for a Book

Basically, you the Author, and your Book’s Editor, are co-Directors for Your Book

The Editor is absolutely critical because you are too ‘close’ to the book to be able to direct it yourself

Can the Author be the Sole Director of their Book?

Definitely not

You can’t be Rambo/Chuck Norris and do it all yourself

  1. Firstly, it’s humanly impossible to develop the skillset of being a great writer and at the same time develop the skillset of being a great editor
  2. Secondly, even if you somehow manage to develop both skillsets, there is no way you can actually perform both roles for a book – at least not until the Chinese perfect human cloning
  3. Thirdly, one of the biggest benefits of having an editor is having a new, separate set of eyes on your book

It’s very common for new authors to have the mindset that they can do it all themselves – writing the book, editing it, proofreading it. It’s just not possible to do a good job if you are trying to cover three different roles, which require three different skillsets

Worst of all – instead of getting 3 different people taking a look at your book and providing their critical perspectives, you get just your own perspective on the book

Can my Friend/Brother/Aunt/Cat edit the Book?

  1. Friend – No
  2. Brother – No
  3. Aunt – No
  4. Cat – depends on how much editing experience your cat has

After a new author acknowledges that editing is necessary and avoids one landmine (of publishing an unedited book), the new author tends to promptly step on a different landmine – believing that someone with little to no editing experience and skill can edit the book

It is a specialized skill. It improves dramatically with experience

An editor with a lot of good experience of editing books and creating good, powerful books and stories will help create a powerful book that sells well and gets you great reviews

A person with no experience will help you create a book that isn’t a good read and doesn’t get good reviews and doesn’t sell

You cannot replace a highly specialized skill and experience with wishful thinking that someone who is free/convenient can do the editing for you

Can my Editing Software be My Editor?

This is a very strange question

  1. If you think you the author can be replaced by an automated software ‘writing’ books, then – Yes, an Editor can be replaced by Editing Software
  2. If you think software cannot write a book – then you should appreciate the fact that software cannot edit a book either

People who think Editing Software can replace an Editor don’t realize all the roles the Editor plays. Your Editor is your Co Director. It is not just checking spelling and grammar

If you truly believe that your role can be replaced by a computer, then it is OK to believe the editor can be replaced by software

In all other cases – use Editing Software as just a rough proof reader. Please remember – Editing Software cannot replace the Editor. What is more, Editing Software cannot replace the proof reader either

An Editor is One of the Irreplaceable Parts of Writing and Publishing a Book

Many of the Authors we work with, prioritize Editing as the #1 expense. Before everything else

We think this is a very smart attitude to take

  1. A well edited book is considerably better than the same book without good editing. That means more sales, better reviews, and more peace of mind
  2. An Editor is your Co-Director and one of the most important people in the book creation process. Perhaps second only to the Author
  3. Editing is absolutely critical. It is what takes a Good Book and turns it into a Great Book
  4. An Editor is an absolutely irreplaceable part of the Book Creation process. You cannot skip on an Editor. You cannot replace an Editor with a friend or a spouse
  5. All the marketing you do, gets amplified if the book is a high quality book. As good editing is one of the main components required in creating a high quality book – A good Editor is absolutely critical

Closing Thoughts

An Editor is your Co-Director

An Editor is a very valuable part of the creation of your book – Look for someone with a lot of experience and someone who has helped produce beautiful and well crafted books

Missing out on an editor OR hiring a low skill editor -> an instant death sentence for your book

 

 

The 6 Stages of Competence – How to Assess Where You Are In Your Journey to be a Great Writer

Please Note: This only applies if you want to be a Great Writer. If your primary aim is something else, such as Becoming Famous, or Becoming Rich, then this post does not apply. Please read this post only if you want to become a very very very good or even great writer

In this post we will cover how to assess how good of a writer you are

The 4 Stages of Competence

  1. Unconscious Incompetence
  2. Conscious Incompetence
  3. Conscious Competence
  4. Unconscious Competence

The 2 Advanced Stages of Competence

  1. Supreme Competence with No Humility/No Recognition
  2. Supreme Competence with Humility/ Recognition

Let’s go through each of these 6 Stages

Unconscious Incompetence

This is the stage where you suck as a writer, and yet are convinced that you are an amazing writer

The Rule: The less a person know about what it takes to be a good writer, the more likely it is that the person thinks they are already a very good writer

Most new people coming into writing think it’s pretty easy and assume that they can very quickly become a very good writer

  1. Mostly this is young authors (20s, 30s) who don’t realize it takes decades of writing to become a great writer
  2. Sometimes this is people who are very good in another profession, and think that it magically gives them the abilities of Wodehouse and Proust
  3. In some cases it can be people who figured out a good marketing strategy or some marketing ‘trick’ and just ignore the writing aspect (believing they were born great writers)
  4. It is rare, and does happen, that some one writes a book for which there is huge demand, and even before perfecting their craft they become very successful. These authors, if not forthright with themselves, start assuming that their success is due to their writing skills
  5. Authors in the ‘Unconscious Incompetence’ stage make their ‘unconscious incompetence’ apparent by skimping on/ignoring critical aspects such as editing and proofreading. Just the way that they think they are automatically very good writers, they also think their first or second draft is automatically perfect and doesn’t need rewriting or editing or proofreading

Because Books is a tough and punishing industry for people in the Unconscious Incompetence stage, you will often see such authors flame out magnificently. Their vision of themselves as ‘the next great Author’ clashes with the reality that they know very little about writing. That results in an identity crisis/cognitive dissonance

Most authors will at this point (when they clash into the Cliffs of Reality) give up on writing

A few will realize that they are actually not very good writers, and they need to work on their writing skills, and will start working on becoming good writers

Conscious Incompetence

This is the stage where you realize you suck as a writer

It’s a very difficult and humbling period

  1. You realize that most of your early work is brutally bad
  2. You realize that you know only 1% or 2% of everything there is to know about being a good writer
  3. You begin to see ways in which you can improve
  4. You will often have a crisis of confidence where you wonder whether you should remain a writer
  5. You will also question yourself (i.e. your very identity and raison d’etre)

During this stage, the majority of people will drop out

Those who remain will drastically adjust their attitude to being a writer. They will start thinking of it as a craft and as a business

Conscious Competence

Out of the people who decide to stick with it, roughly a quarter will get through the struggles and become good writers

This is the stage of Conscious Competence

  1. You can write well now
  2. It does, however, take all your conscious energy and effort to write well. Many times you will find yourself completely drained after a writing session
  3. You have to constantly be focusing on, and thinking of, every aspect of your writing
  4. You have ability and yet you do not have ‘flow’ (the ability to just go into a trance and create beautiful work non-stop)
  5. You have to constantly be aware of every little aspect, if you want to produce good work. Think of it as – having to have all the lights in your brain on, to make sure the work produced is good

Conscious Competence is a very encouraging stage – because now you can create very good work

Conscious Competence is a very frustrating stage – because it takes 100% of your energy and effort. It is a very deliberate style of creation

Unconscious Competence

A small percentage of authors who reach Conscious Competence, are able to keep improving and reach the stage of Unconscious Competence

  1. Everything flows very naturally now – you go into trance states where you just forget everything for hours or days and just create amazing work
  2. You do not have to be ‘thinking’ about what you are doing
  3. Your first draft is as polished as what your fifth draft used to be
  4. Your work quality seems to keep improving with every new book you write
  5. You begin to understand exactly what your editor means when he/she suggests changes
  6. The entire process is internalized – it’s INSIDE of you
  7. The entire process is very smooth. You have almost no internal struggle. You are completely congruent in what you write

This is an amazing stage – nearly all the work you produce is amazing. You produce it almost effortlessly. Writing energizes you, instead of draining you. Your writing speed and output increase greatly

This is a very dangerous stage – If you start thinking ‘this is it’, then you will be stuck forever in ‘effortlessly very good’ stage and never reach true greatness

Supreme Competence with No Humility/Recognition

Out of the people who reach Unconscious Competence, a very small number, will realize there is something ‘higher’ and push through and reach ‘Supreme Competence’

  1. It has all the characteristics of Unconscious Competence mixed with an almost painful focus on excellence
  2. You demand a lot more of yourself
  3. You produce work that goes from being ‘very good’ to ‘truly great’
  4. Basically, you are a Maestro, a wizard composer, a grand magician. Words are at your command now – morphing into powerful things that can create entire worlds at your bidding
  5. You realize you are painfully short of time

Hand in hand with this Supreme Competence comes a sense of ‘I know everything now’

This is the dangerous side of Supreme Competence – everyone else seems mediocre in comparison. Everything seems banal and unrefined. Only your own work seems worthy

You are, for lack of a better comparison, the best martial artist in the world. Unbeatable. Close to immortal

At this point, you can either revel in Supreme Competence and enjoy feeling you are better than every other author

OR

You can reassess and push yourself more and reach the next higher stage

Supreme Competence with Humility/Recognition

A portion of authors who reach Supreme Competence will have their ‘there is no spoon’ moment. The moment when they meet a master who can move things with his mind

At that moment they will realize that their lack of humility on reaching Supreme Competence was actually them hiding from the reality that there is always a higher level. That we know only 5% or 7% of all there is to know. Even in Supreme Competence, we still have 93% of our craft left to learn

This leads to reaching a stage of Constantly Improving and being in Supreme Competence that includes becoming better every day at what you do

In this stage there is a certain humility, a certain recognition of how much more there is left to achieve and learn

 

 

SiteMap for Write0

The current sitemap of articles at Write0 is

  1. What To Write
  2. Write Your Book
  3. Apps for Authors
  4. Polish Your Book
    1. Book Covers
      1. What Is the Most Important Function of a Book Cover
  5. Publish Your Book
  6. Promote Externally
  7. Build Channels
  8. Sell Your Book
  9. Build a Career
  10. Improve Your Skills
    1. Author Advice
      1. Top 10 Reasons Authors Fail to Sell Their Books
  11. Build Trust
  12. Support System

Why This Structure?

The articles in this blog are arranged and structured in the same manner as Review0.com

There are 12 top level categories. Each top level category has 10 to 30 sub categories. The Top Level Categories are –

  1. What To Write
  2. Write Your Book
  3. Apps for Authors
  4. Polish Your Book
  5. Publish Your Book
  6. Promote Externally
  7. Build Channels
  8. Sell Your Book
  9. Build a Career
  10. Improve Your Skills
  11. Build Trust
  12. Support System

What is the Most Important Function of a Book Cover

If you were to ask authors – What is the Most Important Function of a Book Cover? – you would get a wide variety of answers

Most of those would be wrong

The Book Cover has 1 Main Function before the reader has visited the Book Page, and it has 1 Main Function after the reader is on your book Page

The Most Important Function of a Book Cover BEFORE The Reader is on Your Book Page

Before the reader has gone to your book page i.e. when the reader first encounters your book on a search page, or on a bestseller listing, or anywhere on the Internet

  1. The Most Important and The ONLY Function of a Book Cover is To Get the Reader to Click on the Book and Visit the Book Page

That’s it. That is the one and only critical function of your book cover – it must COMPEL the reader to click on the book cover and visit the book page

This requires a few very critical things to ensure IT CATCHES THE EYE and IT COMPELS READERS TO CLICK ON IT

  1. Your book cover must catch the eye – it must literally and figuratively outshine the other book covers. It must attract the eye and compel the reader to focus on it
  2. Your book cover must fit the book genre/category. Because if it does not meet the category then the reader will focus on it, and then get confused and look at something else
  3. If you are a brand name author and/or a very big author and/or a celebrity, then you must have your name large enough to see even in small thumbnail size. As your name alone is enough to get the reader to click on the cover
  4. If your book is part of a famous series or is famous or well known, then the book title must be large enough to see even in small thumbnail size. The book title alone will be enough to get the reader to click on the cover
  5. If you are not a brand name and the book is not famous, then you must have a very beautiful image and very beautiful font AND the book cover must be bright and eye catching
  6. Your book cover must compel the reader to click on it. This can be done by having a very beautiful image to convey quality (of the book), by having a very catchy title, by having a design very appropriate to the genre, by having a brand name author, by having a famous book series, and so forth. Remember, the REAL battle is to get the reader to click on the book cover and visit the book page
  7. Both aspects are critical – To Catch The Eye in a sea of books AND To Compel the Reader to actually click on the book cover

For authors who think picking a book cover is something they do to ‘make themselves happy’ or ‘show a scene from the book’, all of this should be an eye opener. The Cover is FOR READERS, it is not for you. The Cover is meant to GET READERS TO LOOK AT IT. The cover is meant to compel readers to CLICK ON IT

The Cover is a COMPOUND VERB – LOOK & CLICK. Let go of your own desires for what you want on the cover and focus on what will get readers to Notice It and then Click on It

The Most Important Function of a Book Cover AFTER The Reader is on Your Book Page

After the reader is on your book page, the function of the Book Cover changes dramatically

If you have a lot of good reviews, and if you have put the book in the right categories, The Book Cover has secondary importance –

  1. The reader is going to check that the book is in their genre of choice. Hopefully, you have selected the right book categories and your book description clearly states the main book category. Those are enough to reassure the reader that they have the right book
  2. The reader is going to check that the book is a quality book. The Reviews are the number one determinant of this. Second determinant of this is your book sample – it being well edited and free of errors is critical
  3. Secondary to the above two factors, the reader will look at the Level of Detail on your cover, and the Attention to Detail on your cover, and whether it fits the genre

Once the reader is on the book page, if you have good reviews and a well edited book sample, the Book Cover does not matter very much at all. Just make sure it has good attention to detail

If you do not have good reviews, or if you have no reviews, or if your book is in the wrong categories or in too many categories, then your Book Cover again becomes critical

  1. If there are no reviews, then your Book Cover must have incredible attention to detail and clarity. Readers will assume (whether rightly or wrongly) that your writing will have similar attention to detail and clarity
  2. If there are no reviews, then your Book Cover must be well thought out and must convey a strong impact. Readers will assume that your writing will be similarly well thought out and impactful
  3. Amazingly, a very well done Book Cover can overcome a lack of reviews
  4. Unfortunately, nothing can overcome a mistake in genre selection
  5. If the genres are wrong and confusing, then most probably the battle to get a sale is lost. However, if the Book Cover very clearly indicates genre, you might be able to salvage things and still get a sale – a minor chance, and a chance nonetheless

Please Note: You absolutely have to put your book in the right categories. Don’t try to game the system. don’t be careless. The biggest determinant of whether you get the sale or not will be – Is the Book in the Absolute Right Genre?

Top 10 Reasons Authors Fail to Sell their Books

It’s not easy selling your books, especially if you’re a new author. Here are the Top 10 Reasons Authors Fail to Sell Their Books

  1. Writing for the wrong market, or for No Market
  2. Not polishing their Product and not packaging it properly
  3. Not focusing on Product Quality
  4. Ignoring Marketing Or Doing Ineffective Marketing
  5. Believing they are already great writers
  6. Not trusting the Experts and/or Thinking they already know everything
  7. Assuming their success in another field translates automatically into Selling Books
  8. Not listening to Feedback from The Market (i.e. readers)
  9. Not focusing on getting Reviews
  10. Treating it as a Sprint when it is actually a Marathon

Let’s jump into each of these

Writing for the wrong market, or for No Market

This is by far the most common reason an Author will fail to sell her/his books

  1. Is there an ACTUAL market for the book you are writing?
  2. Does your book meet what the readers in that market are looking for?
  3. Does your book satisfy the most important criteria for that market?
    1. Example: A Romance must generally have a HEA (Happily Ever After)
    2. Example: Historical Fiction must generally be historically accurate (you can’t have the Earl of Sandwich using a microwave)

If you don’t take away anything else from this post, please do take away the most important thing – You Must Write a Book for Which An Actual Market Exists

Not polishing their Product and not packaging it properly

This is a very common reason authors fail to sell their books. Infuriatingly, for everyone involved, authors will refuse to accept this reality even when it is painfully obvious

  1. An author will spend 2 to 4 years writing a good book with an interesting story line
  2. Then the author will do the ‘polishing and packaging’ in a rush and ‘on the cheap’. Instead of a professional cover designer they will get a $5 cover from Fiverr. Instead of a professional book editor they will have their wife/friend/dog edit the book. Instead of a proofreader, they will use Microsoft Word spell check
  3. So they have a good book hidden behind a terrible cover, poor editing, and lackadaisical proof reading

Would you go watch a Movie if the movie poster was done using crayons by a 10 year old? Probably Not. Yet you expect readers to somehow look beyond your homebrewed cover and somehow realize the actual story is a good one

Not focusing on Product Quality

In the end, you are selling a product

Which shirt/skirt would you purchase

  1. Option 1: Very well tailored, crafted carefully, meticulously finished, a lot of thinking put into it
  2. Option 2: The first draft – assumed to be perfect

Now, translate that into a book that is high quality, versus one that is ‘assumed to be perfect after the first writing’

  1. High quality book: Very well written, crafted carefully, meticulously edited and finished, a lot of thinking put into it
  2. Low quality book: The first draft – assumed to be perfect

You are selling a product and the quality of the product is absolutely critical

Ignoring Marketing or Doing Ineffective Marketing

Marketing is Just As Important as Product

It does not matter how good your product is -> If you do not have very good marketing to support your product

You need a few things to get Marketing for your Book right

  1. It should be Marketing that is aimed at, and works for, the people who buy books exactly like yours
  2. It has to be Effective Marketing – proven to work
  3. Quality of Marketing has to be given Just As Much Importance as Quality of the Book
  4. Marketing has to be treated as an ongoing endeavor
  5. Marketing has to focus on building your own direct channels to readers

Believing they are already great writers

This is by far one of the most puzzling things – why is it that so many brand new authors and writers think they are already ‘Great’ and already ‘Know everything there is to know’?

  1. Do not be thinking you are Stephen King until and unless
    1. You have sold as many books as Stephen King
    2. You can write as well as Stephen King
  2. Do not think you are a great writer
    1. People who are actually great writers realize that there is so much more to learn and don’t think of themselves as ‘great’
  3. Do not think you have learnt everything there is to learn
    1. Publishing Books has been around for CENTURIES
    2. You read what some random people wrote on the Internet
    3. You did some research and drew some conclusions
    4. That does not mean you already know everything there is to know
    5. Your unconscious incompetence is going to sabotage you

No one is born a great writer. Being good at your day job does not make you a great writer

The only thing that makes you a great writer is doing a lot of writing AND selling a lot of books AND constantly improving your book writing and book marketing skills

Not trusting the Experts and/or Thinking they already know everything

This is closely linked to the previous cause for failure (thinking you are already a great writer). In this particular case it is authors who think they are the experts at everything

  1. Do you think you can design better covers than professional cover designers who have decades of experience?
  2. Do you think you can self edit your book and do it better than professional editors?
  3. Do you think you can re-read your book a few times and catch all typographical mistakes? That a proofreader is not needed?
  4. Do you think that 10 to 20 hours of browsing on the Internet makes you a better marketer than people doing it for 10 to 30 years?
  5. Do you think that this entire profession (Publishing of Books) is a joke profession and you can just trapeze in and in a few weeks to a few months understand more and better than all the PROFESSIONALS who have been doing this for DECADES?

Unfortunately, a lot of authors and writers come in thinking they know more than everyone else. Then they burn all their money on things that don’t work, burn out, and miss their opportunity to actually sell a lot of books

It is very important to show a certain level of respect to a profession

  1. In some professions it’s easy to have respect for the profession. Try to be a firefighter without training and you die
  2. In Book Publishing it seems easy and straightforward – a caveman could do it. However, if you start thinking you are already an expert at everything – your book and your career die

Assuming their success in another field translates automatically into Selling Books And/Or It takes nothing at all to succeed in Books

This one is very interesting

  1. Let’s say you are a very good doctor. One day you get up and think – I’m going to be an Air Traffic Controller. How hard could it possibly be? I’m a Doctor after all
    1. Would the Air Traffic Control tower let you in? No
    2. Even if they did, would you be able to land a plane safely? Almost certainly not
    3. In nearly every profession, you would not expect to go in and instantly succeed
  2. Yet, in Publishing everyone is telling you – you are bound to succeed. It’s so easy
    1. Publishing is different because Self Publishing companies and ebook stores are motivated to bring in lots and lots of authors
    2. As are all service providers who make money from selling services to authors – because they make money whether or not the author succeeds
    3. That creates a very strong motivation to push the mirage that success in book publishing is easy
  3. Therefore, we have a ton of people coming in to Books and thinking that becoming a successful author is like playing Guitar Hero
    1. They have been sold the dream that by playing ‘Guitar Hero’ in the Kindle Store, they are going to become the next J. K. Rowling
    2. No one points out that you have to write a very good book, for a market that wants exactly such a book
    3. No one points out that you have to do very good marketing

This creates a scenario where people are coming into books very ill-prepared. Thinking that they just have to press the ‘Publish’ button and they are set for life.

To understand just how absurd the situation is – Consider that now people are selling courses on how to make money from the Kindle Store using low content books and zero content books

Basically, they are saying that making money from books is so easy you can even do it with books that don’t have any content at all

Not listening to Feedback from The Market (i.e. readers)

When your book is in the Market and when you start promoting it, the Market (readers) will give you feedback

  1. Whether or not they buy your book is feedback
  2. If they buy but don’t review, then that is feedback
  3. If they buy and leave bad reviews, then that is feedback
  4. If sales are low and reviews are high in number (and good), that is feedback
  5. If sale are high and reviews are low in number or bad, that is feedback

Most authors ignore all this feedback and instead focus on – What they want to Believe

You have to See Reality As It Is, not as it was, or as you want it to be

  1. If the book is not selling – there might not be a market for it
  2. If book is selling and very few or zero reviews, then quality needs to be improved massively
  3. If negative reviews, then listen to the reason they are leaving negative reviews
  4. If sales are low and reviews are high and good, then figure out if the market is too small, or if you are marketing to the wrong people
  5. If sales are high and reviews are low – then improve the quality of the book

Every thing is feedback. Instead of getting upset or discouraged or feeling insulted, listen to what the market is telling you

One thing that is worth pointing out – Sometimes the market will tell you that you are not cut out to be an Author. If the market tells you that once, it is fine to ignore it. If that market tells you that again and again, you must listen

Not focusing on getting reviews

Readers, in the end, only care what other readers say about your book

  1. Reviews means someone bought your book and cared enough to write a review
  2. Reviews are from readers i.e. people like them

You have to focus on getting reviews. You have to focus on getting reviews from Readers who Like Your Book

We cannot stress this enough

Treating it as a Sprint when it is actually a Marathon

Finally, perhaps the joint biggest reason for failure (alongside writing a book for a market which does not exist) is when authors think it is a sprint and they have to do things as fast as possible

  1. Don’t spend all your money in the first few months. Why? Because at the start you don’t know anything. You don’t know what works and what doesn’t work
  2. Don’t spend all your money and effort on your first book. Why? Because your first book is most probably not your best work. In fact, it is likely to be your worst work
  3. Don’t expect a miracle and instant success. NOBODY gets instant success. Forget people selling you snake oil. You are competing against people with very big brands and with decades of experience. You are not going to become a super hit with your first book
  4. Don’t burn yourself out. The cycle of making an effort, getting painful feedback that your book is not yet good enough, then again giving it everything, and again getting more painful and valuable feedback – can really take a toll. Treat it as a marathon where every stumble and every failure sets you up for great success
  5. There is no Get Rich Quick. So no points trying and testing ways to do things super fast and bypass hard work and time and building a reader base

Closing Thoughts

We each hold in our minds a view of what we think it takes to be successful. It’s very important to align it as closely as possible to REALITY. To What Actually Works. Lots of people selling you $400 courses and $10,000 marketing packages that will get you ‘Fast Success’ and ‘Secrets and Tips’

Those are all feel-good things to part you from your money

The only real success is built on the Core Fundamental Principles – very high quality books, written for the right market, promoted with great marketing, and an ever expanding portfolio of books, with an ever expanding reader base