How to sell a book: Step 1? Be famous.

In late January I signed up to take a Writer’s Digest webinar called “3 Secrets to Selling Your Nonfiction Book.” A few days after I paid for the session, I was invited to observe an open heart surgery scheduled the same day at St. Joseph’s Hospital & Medical Center.

It wasn’t a tough choice. The chance to stand in the operating room watching cardiac surgeon Brian deGuzman, M.D. do a double valve repair and maze procedure on a 60-year-old Valley wife and mom was a once-in-lifetime opportunity and an experience I will never forget. (Find related blog posts here.)

At one point during the six-hour surgery, Brian looked up at me and said, “Bet you thought I was kidding about all this heart surgery stuff!” It was certainly a different look at his life. Six months earlier, I was riding around Ethiopia in a white Toyota Land Cruiser with deGuzman and his wife Keri, who had just adopted their two youngest children. (I wrote about that experience, “An Ethiopian Adoption Story,” for our December magazine.)

I knew the audio transcript of the webinar would be available after the event, but it wasn’t until this past weekend that I found time to listen to it.

Jane Friedman, contributing editor for Writer’s Digest, had some really good advice — and some really discouraging realities for those of us who harbor fairytale dreams of simply writing a great story (as if even that part is easy) and then magically being “discovered.”

Like most other industries, I suppose, the publishing business is first and foremost a business. So the barriers to entry are not unlike that adage about how to make a million dollars: Step 1? Get a million dollars.

“When you approach agents or publishers,” Friedman said, “your only job is to explain clearly why your book will sell.”

If you’re not already a known author or celebrity, good luck with that. The best bet we non-famous people have, apparently, is to build a “platform” — an ability to sell and market yourself and a proven following that indicates reader interest in  your topic.

I started to perk up when I head that blogging regularly is one way to do that. Until she said, “If you’re regularly getting 50,000 to 100,000 visits a month, that dramatically increases your chances of landing a deal.”

Okay…so I have a way to go.

Clearly publishing a book isn’t a challenge for the weak of heart. It’s a marathon of the most demanding, and often demeaning, kind. Am I up to the challenge?

After 21 years of running a monthly magazine — through two recessions, chronic understaffing and innumerable challenges (including last summer’s office flood), I do know one thing: I’m tenacious. When something matters to me, I don’t give up.

And, as I heard someone say on a Super Bowl commercial while I was writing this post, “Winning isn’t everything. But making the effort to win is.”

Karen

P.S. I have subscribed to Jane Friedman’s blog, There Are No Rules, and I recommend it to anyone who is serious about publishing their written work. (I’m betting Jane does have blog traffic of 50,000 to 100,000 a month.)

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3 responses to “How to sell a book: Step 1? Be famous.

  1. postadaychallenge2011

    I am IN: P.S. I have subscribed to Jane Friedman’s blog, There Are No Rules, and I recommend it to anyone who is serious about publishing their written work. (I’m betting Jane does have blog traffic of 50,000 to 100,000 a month.)
    Much Thanks. Jackie

  2. Really enjoyed reading your post! Definitely agree that it’s a marathon. Even better if you can envision the whole thing as a journey, and the point is to enjoy the journey, rather than focus on the ending. 🙂

    • Thank you Jane! I’m honored that you took time to read my post and I will definitely keep your advice in mind. I am having fun researching my story so for now will just enjoy that… and keep taking webinars so I can learn from the experience of others ahead of me on the journey. Take care!

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