The secret to writing a non-fiction bestseller
I met a new client at her home, and we stood in front of her spare wardrobe jammed with 1722 unsold copies of her book published 12 months before.
It was a depressing sight, especially considering 2000 were printed; she then turned to me with a puzzled look on her face and asked, sadly, what happened?
I took a deep breath and considered my answer carefully.
Because what happened is that she held the false belief that because she had written an excellent book on a fascinating topic, it would sell.
As a consultant who works with a select number of authors, this is the number #1 misconception I deal with.
The hard truth is that just having a good book does not guarantee success.
A bestseller or a publishing deal usually starts long before you write the first word of your book.
Yes, it sure does, the book business like any other business, if you want to write a best seller you have to make sure that you can differentiate and market it successfully.
For example, if you wrote a book tomorrow on house plants who would buy it? Why would they buy it? How would it compete on Amazon? Why would the media be interested?
If you cannot answer these questions, your book will struggle to sell.
This is why most publishing houses take the easy route and get a celebrity to write a house plant book.
Even though most celebrity books, in my opinion, are appalling, the books sell because they are easy to differentiate and market.
So what if you’re not a celebrity?
Having a large social media following or publicist helps market and sell your book.
However, you still won’t necessarily be a bestseller or even break-even given how expensive the marketing costs are.
A best selling ‘how to book’ (fiction is slightly different) is created by hitting a gap in the market.
This enables you when the book is published to target a particular audience, differentiate the book and author easily in a crowded marketplace, get media interviews, and cut through the noise.
This is why I choose to work with my authors at the beginning of their writing journey.
We discuss the book they want to write, assess their market segment, and design a strategy that will interest publishers, the media, and guarantee sales.
Let me give you an example of how I did it.
Before I wrote my first cake decorating book, I went to Murdoch Book publishers and asked for a book deal.
They were not interested as craft books had been selling poorly to a very narrow market.
They had not taken on a new cake-decorating author in Australia for ten years.
However, after studying the craft book market intensely and observing trends I came armed with a pitch, I knew they couldn’t resist.
The target market I was aiming for was utterly different from their craft book, cardigan-wearing grandma market.
I gave them stats for how well Martha Stewart books were selling and told them this was the target audience I was aiming for.
Then I showed them how I would differentiate the book by hitting the beginner market (this was the gap) and designing it with fashionable cake designs.
Murdoch Books were SOLD.
This may sound small, but the beginner market was a huge gap and a considerable market they had overlooked.
They were now very keen to target this market in the same way Martha Stewart had; there was a lot of money there!
My book was sold out within two weeks of publication; it was a best-selling book that has been re-printed for the last decade, distributed worldwide and translated into seven languages.
I wrote four more, and I am now writing my first business book, again using the same strategy of hitting a gap in the market and a target audience.
If you want to do this for yourself, my five-step method is as follows:
· Study the 20 bestsellers in your book genre and get as much data as you can.
· Identify 1-3 criteria as to why these books are bestsellers.
· Identify who these books appeal to (study the reviews on Amazon)
· Can you see a gap in the bestsellers list? (audience/topic/angle)
· How have these bestsellers been marketed?
This is how I create a formula for my clients so that when they write their book, they know who they are writing for and what makes their book appealing to this audience while still possessing the same criteria of a bestseller.
Returning to my client and us standing in front of her wardrobe I explained all of this to her very gently and that it was not a reflection of her book, but rather her strategy.
The good news she is now working with me, we will rework the book, change the cover and re-launch it next year and I believe it will be a massive success.
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