The Secret to a Successful Book Publishing Career

Yes, I know there is more than one “secret.” But what is the most important aspect to garnering success as an author? Growing your audience or readership. And readers can’t glomp onto your books if they can’t find them online.

I’ve addressed this discoverability issue head on in my blog posts, my free Amazon success email course (click on the widget on the right), and in my Targeting Genre for Big Sales course.

This is a very personal issue for me because, once I got published, I thought my novels would jettison to the top of the best-seller lists. From all the great reviews and comments from agents and publishers and readers, I was confident I would see sales of millions of copies of my novels. Silly me.

I didn’t know then what I know now.

I have many author friends whose books sell in the millions. I don’t believe they write any better than I do, and I’m not trying to brag here or whine. I honestly believe my novels are worthy. I asked some of these friends to tell me how they grew their audience, and guess what? Some had clear strategies that worked for them, but most proverbially threw their hands in the air and said they hadn’t a clue. They’d been lucky, they guessed.

How helpful is that for an aspiring career writer? Not.

Those who did give me their “formula for success” assured me if I just did what they did, I too would prosper. But nothing worked. That’s what led me to think about genre, about supply and demand, and considering my books as products targeted to specific customers who had specific expectations.

And that was the game changer. Which is why I wrote all those blog posts and created those courses.

So you could see what I learned and why, and by applying the strategies that, finally, worked for me, you could see success too.

I’m sure many of you who say you want to know how to grow your audience would love a simple answer. An easy formula that guarantees success. Not gonna happen.

But let me lay out a few things I think will help you accomplish this. And you won’t be surprised by my first point.

You Have to Write a Great Book

You can’t grow your audience if you aren’t writing terrific books. Do I really have to say this?

Many writers hire me to critique their manuscripts, all the while telling me anxiously they’re hurrying to get published. They’ve already got covers and back-cover copy. They’ve planned book launches and Facebook parties. Or they’re reading publisher submission requirements and preparing query letters.

But they haven’t even written their novel yet. Or they have a rough draft that is a train wreck. They aren’t taking the time to slow down and learn the craft.

In essence, they’re in a hurry to fail. To destroy a career they haven’t even gotten off the ground yet.

Do you want to grow your audience? Yes? Then take the time to learn to master your craft. Study your targeted genre carefully to know exactly what your readers expect. Do your homework.

Maybe you’ve already done that. Bravo! But, like most authors, upon publishing your novel, no one noticed. You sold three copies, and those were family members. More than 90% of all books published sell fewer than a hundred copies. I’m sure there’s a more exact statistic for recent months, but we can agree that few books get traction and get discovered.

So let’s look at some other steps to growing your audience.

Find the Perfect Niche Genre to Write To

Then write to it. Meaning, study the best sellers in that genre and write a book that will fit in. This includes cover design, description copy, type of writing, length of sentences and chapters, POV, character descriptions and arcs, and on and on. I address all this in great detail in my online video course on targeting genre.

Why do I feel this is crucial? Because it wasn’t until I looked hard at this issue and chose a big-selling niche genre and wrote to it that I found success. Meaning, I started selling thousands of copies of my novels and steadily grew (and am growing) my audience.

If you don’t know your genre or the audience you are writing to and what their expectations are, it’s going to be super hard for you to sell your book. I see this all the time with my editing clients.

Just today I did a critique on a novel whose genre was entirely unclear. It had the kind of story that would most interest young adults, but the premise and writing was for an adult reader. But neither adults nor teens would read this book.

The sooner you understand that your books are products targeted to specific consumers, the sooner you’ll be on track to growing your audience.

Here are some blog posts that will help you:

How Targeting Genre Can Make the Difference in Your Writing Career

Tips on How Writers Can Deconstruct to Nail Genre

Nailing Your Novel’s Genre in Your Opening Scene

Targeting Genre with the KDSPY Kindle App

The fastest, best, and most thorough way (IMHO) to learn how to write a great novel to genre is to take my signature course 8 Weeks to Writing a Commercially Successful Novel. Hundreds of writers have taken the course since it launched last year and I’m hearing back from many every week how this course is teaching them exactly what they’ve needed to know but haven’t found anywhere else.

My course covers what I’ve distilled from more than 30 years of writing and publishing novels (and attending countless workshops, master classes, boot camps, and retreats). Not to mention the thousands of manuscripts I’ve critiqued over the last 17 or so years. I hope you will check it out and become a masterful novelist!

So … let’s say you’ve written a great novel and you’ve been careful to target genre, but you still need help growing your audience.

Build Your Fan Base One Fan at a Time

It takes time to build a fan base. Advertising and marketing can be a full-time job. And most of us writers would rather be writing than marketing.

So how can we make good use of our time and money and get the best results with the least amount of effort?

Good question, and I don’t think there is an easy answer. But I’m going to share some strategies that are working for me and other authors.

If you’re hoping to get some traction as an author, build a career and make a living off your books, you have to be productive. And that’s why I’m devoting Mondays to this big series on productivity, and I’ll be releasing a new ebook soon called Crank It Out! A Surefire Method to Becoming a Super-Productive Writer. Look for it in March.

Fact is, those authors who are successful in growing their audience will all agree on this one thing: you have to write a lot of books and crank them out on a regular basis.

Sure, sometimes an author will hit big on a single novel, like Andy Weir did with The Martian. Maybe he has no desire to write lots of novels. He probably can rest on his laurels with that one book, and deservedly so. It’s a terrific novel and solidly structured (though he says he never studied novel structure).

But not everyone is Andy.

These are just three key ways to ensure you grow your audience. What are you doing to successfully grow your audience? What hasn’t worked for you? Share in the comments.

Photo by Sander Sammy on Unsplash

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