Yes, it is possible to win a major book contract on your own.
It’s actually no secret that authoring a book on your subject of expertise lends unmatched credibility. And self-publishing and digital publishing are making authorship increasingly common, which makes it harder to stand out from the crowd. Thus, there’s more compelling reason than ever before to attract a top publisher if you possibly can. Here’s how entrepreneurs are using PR to attract them.
Consider self-publishing first.
Ian Balina is a self-published author with sights on the top six publishers for his next book. His up-front investment in providing valuable content serves as a data capture on his website to establish an engaged and targeted following. The proof of an existing following appeals to publishers more than ever before.
Balina’s first book, The Complete Freelancer Guide, started as an ebook compilation of blog posts on the topic of freelancing. Ebooks have no up-front costs and are easy to distribute, so they’re basically pure profit. And as Balina reminds us, some of the greatest current publishing successes began as self-published ebooks. Fifty Shades of Grey, he says, “sold over 250 thousand copies first before the mainstream guys picked [it] up.”
Following ebooks, consider getting physical copies of your book through a print on demand service. Balina recommends Createspace, an Amazon subsidiary. However, he suggests self publishing your book through a second channel as well. IngramSparkis a competitor of Createspace, but Balina acknowledges them for better print quality and stronger distributing power. Createspace, on the other hand, is fully integrated into Amazon. By publishing through both companies, you get the best of both worlds.
After he has physical copies printing on demand for his readers, Balina’s next step is audiobooks. The simplest way to accomplish this is to read your book into a microphone and upload the audio files to ACX, another Amazon platform that helps authors create audiobook versions of their existing books or ebooks. Or, if you prefer, ACX will help you find and hire a voice actor to do the throat work for you.
Develop thought leadership.
Getting coverage in top tier publications as an expert in your space is great, but there’s no better way to prove you have a following for your writing than to write it yourself. By securing a column and writing as a subject matter expert, you can grow an engaged following and show publishers you know what you’re doing.
For example, author Rohan Thakkar, founder of Orca Financial, writes columns for AOL and Thrive Global on millennial finance education. This is a niche market, but when it comes to positioning yourself as an expert, the more niche your subject, the better. In addition to credibility, Thakkar’s columns drive traffic directly to his company. Think of it this way: if there’s another company just like yours in the market, but you’re the one writing a regular column about your field, who do you think customers are going to seek out first when they need the best?
When you’re the expert, it’s easier to pitch publishers. You have a body of work already built up that demonstrates your specialization. Publishers can easily acquaint themselves with your tone and style, and see that you’ve already developed a voice — and hopefully, a following. Which leads us to the last step.
Step up your social media game.
Sherly Sulaiman has an established Santa Monica practice called New Stress Relief. She writes about self-improvement, stress relief, mindfulness and meditation for the Huffington Post. Her next step is doubling down on her social media strategy in order to grow her followers and show publishers that people will buy what she has to sell.
There are many techniques for building a social media following, depending on which channels you’re using. Choose your channels according to those your target customers are more likely to use. Don’t assume all your customers are on Facebook. Will you reach them better through Snapchat? Or does your content lend itself more to Twitter? Play to the strengths of each format, and try a few promotional campaigns specifically designed for each. With an active and engaged social media following, Sulaiman becomes a valuable asset to any publishing house that focuses on self-help, meditation and wellness. Followers who click through on social media are potential buyers waiting for the book.
Put them together.
All these steps, building content, developing thought leadership, and growing a following, are techniques to generate buzz. When there’s a lot of growing buzz around you and your work, publishers will want to sign you before the competition does. But none of these tactics works well in isolation. A triangulated strategy that uses these techniques together is a surefire way to get attention from publishers. With all of these techniques in use, imagine the pitch you’ll be able to write:
Dear Publisher, I have developed a body of great content in a variety of formats. I’m the leading expert in my very specialized niche, and I have a massive and devoted following of more than 200,000 subscribers, so far. Would you be interested in visiting as I prepare my next book?
It is highly likely that multiple publishers would say “yes.” Now your job is simply to select the best publisher and deal (perhaps the topic of another post coming soon.)
If you enjoyed reading this post, please share and recommend it so others can find it!
Would you like to be a published thought leader?
If so, get my free Definitive Guide to Thought Leadership ebook here. This guide will teach you everything you need to know about turning your knowledge into business. Additionally, you can download the 7-Step Thought Leadership checklist and subscribe to the free Snappington post newsletter here.