Dear Gifted Not-Yet-Published Writer Who Has A Timely Message Audiences Need,
I think your writing is fantastic. You’ve allowed me to peek and I think that you have an important message and that you can deliver it well. I wish that was enough. It should be, right?!
It’s not enough.
In today’s publishing world, publishers who want nothing more than to publish great writing aren’t able to say “yes” to every book with a great message that’s written well if the writer has not worked diligently to build an audience. Some publishers do take that risk on a book they believe in, knowing that it might not pay out for them.
And if you’re like me—with way more confidence than might be merited—you believe that your awesome book will be the rare shining exception. Once the first reader reads it and tells all her friends, you figure, it’ll start selling like...a bestseller. And possibly it will. Much more likely, though, you’ll not find an audience for your writing unless you work to build one.
So—momentarily abandoning my signature irrational optimism—I’m just going to outline the bad news so that you have access to the facts you need.
1. Agents and publishers need to sell books.
Every agent and publisher I know loves great writing. In order to stay in business, though, they must publish and sell books that sell. It would be great if these two were synonymous, and sometimes they are. Not always.
2. Writers with audiences sell books.
Whether you publish with a traditional publisher or decide to self-publish, you must have access to an audience that trusts you in order to sell books.
3. Demonstrating an Audience is Requisite to Securing an Agent or Publisher
For an agent or publisher to consider representing you or publishing your work, you need to demonstrate that you’re reaching an audience.
4. Building an Audience Takes Hard Work
Occasionally someone will build an audience with seemingly little effort—because they win an Olympic gold or are elected as President of the United States. (Okay…there was some effort.) The rest of us have to work REALLY HARD to grow an audience. Smarties, like @jeffgoins, with much more experience than I have can teach you how to do this. (Mention other smarties in the comments, below.)
5. Selling Books is Really Hard
Whether you publish with a traditional publisher or self-publish, selling books takes work.
Now start at the top of the list and read them all again. Congratulations, you now have a handle on the bad news.
The Good News
The good news is that there’s always something you can be doing to build your audience:
- Pitch article after article to editors.
- Speak to audiences, for free at first, about your subject.
- Offer a freebie download at your site to build your mailing list.
- Guest post on blogs of folks you know.
- Make friends online by sharing their great stuff. (They will love you for this. And owe you.)
If you were bummed out by all the bad news, do one thing today to build your audience.
Cheering you on,