But, Can You Sell It?

“My story is perfect just the way it is.”

These words were spoken to me by an aspiring author. I was meeting with this lady on the request of a friend. This aspiring author had penned a lovely rhyming story for children aged three to six. She was seeking feedback and direction.

At the start of our meeting, the author informed me that she thought she should find herself a literary agent for the book. She asked me how she would go about finding one.
I let her know that I could give her information on finding a literary agent, but I could also save her some time by giving her some feedback on her story that would help her in securing the services of a literary agent. This is when she made the statement that her story was perfect.

I attempted to explain to this aspiring author, that while her story might be wonderful, a literary agent and a publisher look at potential books from a number of angles. One important thing they always consider is the sellability of a book. In other words, literary agents and publishers evaluate first and foremost whether people will buy the story or topic in the format presented.

To begin with, this author’s story was 1,600 words in length. I explained to her that this length was much too long for a picture book for her target age group. Therefore, for a literary agent to be willing to represent it, she would need to cut the story length.

This author then suggested that instead of one book, she would make it into a series of seven books. Again, I talked about the ability to sell a book. Selling one picture book is much easier than selling a set of seven picture books. Parents are more likely to invest in one book than in a set of seven.

Stuck on her original idea, this lady really did not want to change her story. Hence, she began to have the same thought as many authors: “Maybe I should just publish it myself.”

The truth of the matter is, sellability matters whether you publish a book yourself or someone else publishes the book.

Readers have expectations. They have expectations about how a picture book should read for their child’s age. They have expectations about the flow of a story. They have expectations about the layout of a book. A book needs to meet these expectations to sell well.

If you are publishing a book, ask yourself: Can I sell it? Will people buy it?

The answer to this makes all the difference.

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Are You Following the Five-Hour Rule?

Many an Indie author has lamented to me that they can’t do all the marketing tasks that full-time, best-selling authors do to promote their books. The simply do not have the time.

These Indie authors work a full-time job and then write and publish their books in the hours that they are not devoting to their job or family. Most feel pinched for time.

One of my suggestions to these authors is to implement the five-hour rule into their marketing plan. I suggest that they set aside an hour each work day (before or after work) to engage in marketing activities for their books.

Can five hours a week really make a difference?

I believe it can and so does Michael Simmons, co-founder of Empact, and the man who coined the five-hour rule.

Michael Simmons came up with the term after learning that, throughout Benjamin Franklin’s adult life, he consistently invested roughly an hour a day to learning.

Benjamin Franklin had to leave formal schooling at age 10 to become an apprentice to his father. Hence, most of his learning came through reading books.

Michael Simmons realized that the most successful people were the ones most likely to devote time to reading. After looking at other successful people like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Elon Musk who consistently read a book a week, Michael Simmons concluded:

“No matter how busy successful people are, they set aside at least an hour a day (or five hours a week) over their entire career for activities that can be classified as deliberate practice or learning.”

Similar to setting aside an hour a day to read and increase your knowledge, you can take just five hours a week and apply it to marketing activities.

Just like the five-hour rule reflects the very simple idea that, over time, the smartest and most successful people are the ones who are consistent and deliberate learners. So too, the most successful Indie authors are those that consistently and deliberately market their books.

One of the things I like about the five-hour rule is that it is manageable. Everyone can carve out an hour from their day to read a book or conduct deliberate marketing tasks.

I challenge you to apply the five-hour rule to your life for the next month and watch the difference it makes.

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Are You Ready to Give Up?

Sometimes I feel like quitting. I know I am not alone. We all have those days.

We all have days where we feel that what we have to say does not matter. Days where we are discouraged and wonder if our message is making any difference in the world. We all struggle at times feeling like all our hard work is for naught.

When this happens, I remind myself that God has called me to this task and I must continue until He tells me to stop. I remind myself that I that I will overcome and that better is coming as Revelation 3 says:

Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown. Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.

So often, we don’t see the results of our hard labor. Yet you never know, tomorrow might just be the day that everything comes together or you hear from a reader just how important your message was in her life.

If you are having one of those days where you feel like quitting, then read this poem is for you.

Don’t Quit
By John Greenleaf Whittier

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,

When care is pressing you down a bit—
Rest if you must, but don’t you quit.
Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns.

And many a fellow turns about
When he might have won had he stuck it out.
Don’t give up though the pace seems slow—
You may succeed with another blow.

Often the goal is nearer than
It seems to a faint and faltering man;
Often the struggler has given up
When he might have captured the victor’s cup;

And he learned too late when the night came down,
How close he was to the golden crown.
Success is failure turned inside out—
The silver tint in the clouds of doubt,

And you never can tell how close you are,
It might be near when it seems afar;
So, stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit—
It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.

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How to Capture Attention from the Beginning

Attention spans are shrinking! In this era of multi-tasking, our attention to any one particular activity is getting shorter. One British study found:

  • The average British person has an average attention span of just 14 minutes.
  • While watching television the average adult loses concentration—usually to look at a mobile device—after just seven minutes.
  • A good book keeps the average adult’s full concentration for 15 minutes.

Eight seconds! Studies show that this is the amount of time you have to engage people online with your content.

We live in a world where people read more headlines than they do articles. As a result, grabbing your readers’ attention with your headline and your first few sentences are more important than ever.

Any content you create—a book, an article, a blog post, a newsletter, a podcast, a video—needs to capture people’s attention from the beginning. Strong starts are not only important in a book, they are important in any content that you create. A strong start draws people in by seizing their attention so that they want to read, hear, or view more.

With so little time to snag someone’s attention, a strong beginning is extremely important. You can use the following five ideas to hook people into staying for more in your next piece of content.

A quote
An interesting quote that creates an emotional connection, especially from a famous person, is a good hook. An emotional pull will keep your reader engaged.

A question
Draw your reader in and create intrigue with a question that resonates with your target audience. The reader will stay engaged to get the answer to the question.

A surprising statistic
A statistic that startles your reader grabs and holds attention. It is a great way to keep your audience reading to learn more.

A controversial statement
Nothing grabs attention like controversy. That’s why the media tends to highlight contentions. You can hook readers with an opening statement that is controversial and emotional for your readers.

An anecdote
People relate to stories. Sharing a short and amusing or interesting story about a real incident in your life or someone else’s life connects the reader to the material you are sharing. People love to read about life-changing moments or moments that create an “aha” experience where clarity is gained. Funny or embarrassing stories also draw readers in.

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Photo courtesy of Olivia Spink.

Are You Using Social Media Correctly?

Contrary to popular belief, social media is not a marketing channel.

You are probably thinking, “What?! I thought social media is how you build an audience for books.”

Exactly! Social media is an audience building tool, not an advertising tool. Unless you are purchasing ads on social media sites or offering your followers an announcement or special on your books, the information you share via social media should not be broadcast marketing messages.

Many authors don’t understand this concept. These authors use social media to shout about their books. Recently, an indie author had the courtesy of asking if she could post about her book on Christian Small Publishers Association’s (CSPA) Facebook Page.

This author wrote:

“Good evening! I’d love to post a blurb about a faith-based children’s book that I wrote and published on your Facebook page. Is this something you allow publishers to do?”

I wrote her back and informed her that the purpose of CSPA’s Facebook Page was a place for sharing information and encouragement related to publishing and marketing Christian books, not a place for book promotion. The author then asked:

“Do you happen to know of any Christian associations that do allow promotion for books of faith? I have self-published and am having a hard time getting the word out there.”

This author was not a Member of Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) nor are the Members of CSPA her target audience. She has no relationship with the audience for the CSPA Facebook page and was simply trying to use the Page to advertise her book.

Getting the word out about your book is not an easy task. However, posting information about your book on various social media pages, wall, and feeds is not the answer to this problem.

Social media is not a sales channel. Rather, social media is a marketing support. It is best used as a channel to amplify your message and broaden your visibility and exposure.

It’s like being a speaker at an event. As a speaker, you are there to share information and entertainment with the audience. Yes, you can mention your books, but that is not the focus of your talk. Instead, you are sharing your knowledge and experience with the audience.

Social media is to marketing what the microphone is to your speaking. The microphone allows more people in the audience hear what you have to say. The same is true for social media. It makes what you are already saying louder so more people can hear.
People do discover products on social media and then buy them. In fact, one survey found that 78% of surveyed adults discovered a product on Facebook (compared to 59% on Instagram and Pinterest). Over half of these people ended up buying the product later, but only 11% did so immediately.

As an author, you want to use social media to develop an audience that trusts you and looks to you for answers. These answers come in the form of your books. If you use social media correctly, you will enlarge your audience and expose more people to your books—and some will buy!

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