I published my book, Winning the Fight to Be Happy, through iUniverse at the end of December 2015. Now, four months later, I’d just like to share some observations and tips for aspiring writers, on being a published author.
Recognition and status
I’d like to begin by saying that the feeling of recognition, even from friends, family, and colleagues, has been even more exhilarating than I had expected. When you write a book, people respect you for achieving a milestone. Usually, they have also hoped to write a book, but haven’t done so yet, so they really and truly admire what you have done.
People introduce you to their friends as an “author”, and you get an elevation in status. Being published also a great thing to be able to talk about, especially when people ask “What’s new in your life?” and you can reply, “Well, I’ve actually just published a book.” You feel a real “rush” when people want to have a picture taken with you and the book, and when they ask for a signed copy. Your book is fully and totally yours – it belongs to you and only you, and no one can take that away.
As my book is a self-help book, I’ve also found that more friends and acquaintances come to me for help in being positive, and for reassurance, and also to tell me personal things. It gives me a great feeling to be regarded as someone who can give advice on enabling people to live better and happier lives.
Typical questions you get asked
Aside from the recognition, people often ask you a few questions. The question I get asked most is “How is your book selling?” I am happy to report that sales are climbing steadily. While I didn’t expect to become an overnight sensation, I did write the book with the intention of selling as many copies as possible (or at least what my abilities as a writer deserved – of which consumers, and not the author, are the real judge.)
I’ve kept in mind that very few first-time authors — especially in my genre, self-help — have high sales at the beginning. There has to be time for market penetration and for the establishment of pervasive market presence. I didn’t expect to sell like Tony Robbins right off the bat. Even Eckhart Tolle’s book, The Power of Now, had a slow start. And Paulo Coelho’s novel The Alchemist — sort of a “self-help novel” — sold only 900 copies in its original print run. It has now sold over 65 million!
In short, it all takes some time, and the most important thing during the first few months is to keep your marketing moving forward. To this end, there are some helpful tips I can give, which have worked for me:
- Create an Author Page on Facebook. This is sort of a “business” page rather than a “personal” page, and you can give it a title and a description, as well as the classification of “Author”. These pages are free, of course. Facebook tends to give greater weight to these pages in its newsfeed, so make sure to use them for your book-related posts, rather than your personal account.
- Get an Author Website. One of the first things that people will do, when they hear about your book, is check to see if you have a website. Make sure that your website has a Blog section, as well as a section that enables visitors to buy your book. Purchase a domain name as soon as you can. I was lucky to be able to get www.tommckinley.com. I suggest naming the site after yourself, rather than your book’s title, as you may want to write more books – with different titles!
- Order some hard copies of your book for distribution. Despite the popularity of e-books, there is still a large percentage of readers who prefer a hard copy. In particular, you will find that the people who know you will want a signed, hard copy of your book. I’d suggest having at least 25 hard copies. If you plan on marketing to bookstores, get at least 50. Your hard copies will disappear rapidly, as many people will ask you for a signed copy.
Another question I tend to get asked is “So when is your next book coming out?” My suggestion here is to say that you are not sure, and that you are still playing around with some ideas. The reason is that you want people to talk to you about your current book. Otherwise, you end up with added pressure, and this takes some of the fun out of being a recently-published author. And being a published author is definitely fun.
I’d also like to offer some experience-based tips on your manuscript:
- First of all: Hire a proofreader. I am a professional editor, with over 20 years’ experience in proofreading, and I still missed an error on my own back cover! Fortunately a friend of mine noticed it in the proof copy. I was shocked – I mean, I must have read the same material over 50 times, and still didn’t notice it! What I learned, was that after about 5 or 6 readings, your brain will “autocorrect” what you read, so you need to entrust that material to another pair of eyes.
At the same time, don’t expect perfection from yourself. Your book is never going to be “perfect”, because your judgment of what is perfect will change over time. “Perfectionism is paralysis”, as author Tal Ben-Shahar says. Don’t let your manuscript suffer from your perfectionism and never reach publication.
- Make the format simple. One of the main compliments I’ve received on my book has been that it is easy to read. This does not pertain just to the use of language, but also to the spacing. I made sure that there was plenty of space between paragraphs, that the font size was not small, and that even the lines of text were not too close together. When people flip through my book, they are not intimidated by the way it looks; rather, it looks comfortable to read.
It has been a euphoric feeling to enter the status of being a published author, and I hope others can experience this situation as well. All you need to do is finish that manuscript! Please take my tips on board, and feel free to write to me with any questions. You can message me on my Facebook page, Tom McKinley Self-help, or on my website.