Copyright © 2014, 2015 by Derek Doepker
This book and the items it distributes contain business strategies, marketing methods and other business advice that, regardless of my own results and experience, may not produce the same results (or any results) for you. Derek Doepker makes absolutely no guarantee, expressed or implied, that by following the advice or content available from this web site or provided by Derek Doepker, you will make any money or improve current profits, as there are several factors and variables that come into play regarding any given business.
Primarily, results will depend on the nature of the product or business model, the conditions of the marketplace, the experience of the individual, and situations and elements that are beyond your control.
As with any business endeavor, you assume all risk related to investment and money based on your own discretion and at your own potential expense.
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Do you wish you knew…
• Why struggling authors sabotage any chance of success before they write a single word… and how to virtually guarantee you’ll have a bestselling book, before you even begin?
• Why struggling authors spend countless hours and hundreds of dollars publishing their dream book, only to find it gets lost among all the other self-published “wannabe” books… and how you can make sure your book stands out from the competition?
• Why struggling authors often never get their book or series finished… and how you can hack your motivation and creative inspiration to get your book done fast?
• Why struggling authors’ creativity can be what leads to their failure… and how you can combine one simple thing with creativity to give you an edge no one else has?
• Why struggling authors turn off potential readers before they’ve even had a chance to read their book… and how you can utilize simple psychological tactics that practically force browsers to purchase your book?
• Why struggling authors can’t create a long-term business… and how you can set things up from the start to ensure you’re thriving off of book sales for years to come?
In this book, you’re going to discover the little known insights only a handful of bestselling, self-published authors know. I want to make things very clear from the start, you can know 80 - 90% of the information presented out there about what it takes to be a successful author, and it may only be one or two little things you overlook that will kill your success.
How do I know this? Because I’ve coached thousands of students all over the world in self-publishing. While many of them are highly educated, well read, and have attended many publishing and marketing seminars, they’re still struggling because of a few missing links I can catch right away when I look at their work.
I’ve written this book to provide you with clarity and insight about the big picture of book publishing for both non-fiction and fiction books based on my experience helping aspiring authors turn their businesses around. While it will be filled with practical tips and tools you can take away to immediately improve your book’s quality and book sales, I want to make it clear there’s a few things this book is not.
This is not a book about improving your writing skills, specific marketing tactics, or how to go through the technical process of publishing a book. There will be occasional tips for all of these things, but that’s not the point of this book. There are plenty of other books that cover these subjects in depth.
Instead, this book is meant to explain why even if you’ve read all those other books for authors, you might still be struggling to get results. It will show you the principles successful authors follow and struggling authors don’t.
Learning these things, while a prerequisite of success, is not an assurance of it. While becoming a successful author is achievable for many who are willing to put in the time and effort, it’s a skill that needs to be practiced. So don’t read any book, including this one, and expect it to make you successful. Instead, all any book, training, or mentor can do is point you in the right direction and show you some blind spots. After that, it’s up to you to take action to fix things.
This means most of the learning won’t take place while you read the book. Rather, my hope is that you’ll go through this book asking “What’s my lesson?” and “How can I apply this to me?” This is particularly true for the areas you don’t think apply to you. As a #1 bestselling author, I can say I’ve made all of these mistakes and more. I have to continuously refocus myself on the basics. I truly believe this book will be one of the most valuable books any author will read if they look for the lessons within these principles.
I created this book to make sure all the mistakes I’ve made and have seen other people make don’t go to waste. By learning from others’ failures, you can quicken the road to success. I caution you, however, to not let that fool you into thinking you can’t or won’t fail when trying things yourself. Most of my breakthroughs have come because of my failures. As you’ll learn later in this book, you must develop a certain level of comfort with failure as it will be with you all along your journey.
With that being said, you can be successful without reading this book, but you can’t be successful without learning the lessons in this book. You can either learn them the hard way, wasting a lot of time and money, or you can shorten the learning curve by identifying and correcting these mistakes as soon as you finish reading this book. So where will you be a year or five years from now if you don’t change what you’re doing? Keep reading to become the very successful author you were meant to be.
There are a few things that I believe qualify me to teach the subject of becoming a successful author.
I’m a #1 bestselling author and have had multiple #1 bestselling books in a variety of highly competitive categories. I say this to point out that I understand from personal experience what it takes to becoming a bestselling author. However, I believe my biggest skill is my ability to deconstruct why certain books and authors do so well and convey that in an easy-to-understand way to other authors. I currently have over 1,300 students to whom I’ve taught self-publishing tactics. I regularly receive testimonials from students about how my training has helped them increase their book sales.
I also network and learn from other bestselling authors. I’ve spent hundreds of hours researching what other authors are doing and hundreds of dollars buying high-end training courses. I also personally talk with other authors, coaches, and publishers to learn what they’re doing to achieve success. You can always say one person’s success was a fluke, but when you see consistent patterns of action among numerous bestselling authors, doesn’t that indicate there’s probably something to it?
I haven’t ever used a pen name, so you can track down my books and see exactly what I’m doing. You can find me on Facebook. You can send me an email, and although I don’t offer personal coaching for free, I’m always happy to help in whatever way I can.
If you don’t want to take my word for it, here are a few things others have said about me:
“When I am all booked up, Derek is the Kindle coach I send my clients to. In the world of publishing, you are going to need someone on your side. Derek is that secret weapon.” – Paul Coleman – Founder of
“Derek’s content helped me to optimize one of my books so well that it now outsells all of my previous books combined by 5 to 1!” – Phil Pierce – Martial Arts, Self Defense and Fighting Fitness Books
“It’s not an exaggeration to say that I owe much of my personal and professional success to Derek Doepker. That’s because Derek’s books – “Why Authors Fail” and “” – introduced me to some of the most important and useful concepts that I continue to use to this day with my highly successful 6 Figure Kindle program.
In a little more than a year, my friendship with Derek has paid off in all sorts of ways, not just in terms of improved profits and higher revenues. Derek’s friendship goes beyond a profit and loss sheet. He has been genuinely interested in my success in online marketing and is constantly pointing me in better, more fulfilling directions.
I’ve come to rely on Derek for both direction and support and I can’t imagine trying to navigate the complicated world of online marketing without his guidance. He’s been both a mentor and an inspiration for me and I’m forever grateful for having encountered him.” – Emran Saiyed founder of Six Figure Kindle Club.
“Derek really knows his stuff about publishing and book marketing. Not only is he one of the few people I recommend he’s also someone whose advice I trust when I’m marketing my own books.” – John Tighe founder of
“Derek Doepker is a rare breed of author/artist/entrepreneur who understands that the key to success is great relationships. He’s a pro when it comes to creating great work, marketing and making money, and he also has a servant’s heart and is always looking to help others, make a difference and give back. If you have a chance to learn from Derek’s experience, do it.” – Tom Corson-Knowles, founder of
“Your success as an author depends on avoiding costly mistakes, and Why Authors Fail saves you the time, money, and headache of making those mistakes yourself by learning from the real deal.” – Darrin Wiggins Bestselling kindle author and founder of
“Authors today have more control and more opportunities than ever before, but if you want to be successful, you must avoid costly mistakes. Derek Doepker is a self-publishing expert who walks the talk. His bestseller Why Authors Fail saves you the time, money, and headache of making those mistakes by learning from the real deal.” – Vikk Simmons of
“If failure is not on your author’s checklist then this book is a must read! A powerful, business-saving wealth of knowledge for the serious, result driven author. Derek cuts to the chase and gives you the real meat to help you avoid errors across the board, take your work to the next level and ultimately reach your success goals.” – Vivian Jokotade of
If you feel in your heart that you have a book to share with the world, you must implement this . Otherwise, you’ll end up like so many others who had a great idea they let fall by the wayside, never able to cash in on what could have been theirs.
In both the title and contents of this book, I often use words like “success” and “failure.” Because of that, I want to quickly point out that these words can trap you and create a lot of frustration depending on how you define them.
Many people I’ve talked to define being a successful author as having a bestselling book. For some it is hitting an income goal such as making over $5,000 a month in book royalties. Still others simply want to get their book finished, published, and make the claim they’ve finally gotten their work out in the world without caring so much about how well it sells.
These are great goals, and there will be strategies to help you accomplish all of these things in this book. However, I want you to consider a few questions about goals that will help you better understand how you perceive success and failure.
Imagine a goal you have as an author that will make you feel like a success. Then consider:
• What would you feel like before you’ve reached that goal?
• What would you feel like when you have setback after setback delaying that goal?
• What would you feel like right after you’ve reached that goal?
• What would you feel like months or years after reaching that goal?
For many people, the typical pattern is that they’re excited and driven in anticipation of reaching a goal. Then their hopes and excitement get diminished whenever they have a setback. If they continue to have setbacks, they’ll often give up all together. If they do manage to reach their goal in spite of setbacks, they’ll feel successful… for a period of time. Then the feeling fades, often after just a matter of days, and they wonder “Why did I work so hard if I don’t feel different?”
This is typically what happens whenever someone defines success as an event. The alternative is to define success as an ongoing process that never really ends. It could also be considered a mindset or way of being.
From this perspective, having a bestselling book, for instance, would be a milestone, but not necessarily the definition of success. Every single day a person with this attitude would be feeling like a success whenever they’re taking steps towards their various daily goals of gradual improvement.
Another reason why I’ve found that it’s important to define success as a process and way of being is because it helps people push forward in the face of inevitable setbacks and “failures.” If we’re defining success as an event, then a consequence of not seeing yourself get closer to your goal is feeling like a failure. This, however, is an illusion because it’s typically through failures, mistakes, setbacks, or whatever else you want to call it that a person is given the opportunity to learn the necessary skills to become even more successful.
When I first got into writing, it was with a 350-page fitness book that I could barely sell to my own family. Months of work ended up creating few results. Then I got into blogging, which cost me more money than it generated. After that, I published my first two books on Kindle. I saw a small profit, but nothing that compensated for the time I invested into it.
Were any of these things failures? At the time I thought they were, but looking back now, I can see that I needed to go through all of those things to get me to my next step. I needed to fail at marketing a book to my own family and friends to realize “I need to study marketing.” I needed to publish a book on Kindle and not make any sales to ask, “How can I master this kindle book publishing thing?” Eventually those setbacks and the ensuing drive they gave me to improve myself led to becoming a #1 bestseller in one of the most competitive markets – weight loss. Not bad for someone who at the time was a dead broke valet and musician who could barely afford rent.
What if your setback isn’t a failure, but the exact experience you need to make your next breakthrough?
I’m grateful for the failures I’ve had because those failures made me more successful. When seen from this perspective, a failure is no longer a failure if it’s helping you in the long run. Failure, like success, is never going to be an event. To be a “failure” as an author really means to not embrace the process and way of being of a successful author.
For the remainder of this book, it is my goal to help you better understand the habits, skills, and perspectives that struggling authors have and contrast them with how successful authors are different in these areas. However, this is still only from my limited perspective. While I encourage you to adopt the attitude that success is a process, in truth there are many ways of looking at success and failure, and you don’t need to believe anything I say. Rather, to get the most out of this book or anything else someone is teaching, ask yourself, “What is my lesson here?” My ultimate goal is to help you discover the answers that reside within yourself for how you can accomplish what you want with your writing.
“The winner, after careful preparation, is confident he will win the war before he wages battle. The losers, without preparation, engage the enemy first, hoping they will win the fight.” – Sun Tzu
There are countless resources that can teach you the skills of marketing and book publishing, so why is it that so few achieve success? With few exceptions, the biggest reason I see authors fail is because they haven’t prepared themselves internally for what it will take to succeed. They’re holding onto limiting beliefs and attitudes that sabotage their success before they even put a single word on paper. In this section, we’ll take a look at five mindset killers that guarantee an author will fail.
One question I was asked by a student was “What are the top five things an author should focus on to sell more books?” This was a great question for this individual to ask so that he could get focused and not waste his time on things that weren’t going to move him along that much.
However, this type of thinking taken to the extreme can backfire when it narrows a person’s focus too much. It would be like asking, “Which five organs in the body are the most important?” The same thing is true when it comes to writing and publishing books. If even one piece of the puzzle is missing or out of order, it can ruin the entire process.
Let’s look at the ingredients you need for a successful book.
• Great content that there’s a demand for
• Great title
• Great cover
• Great description
• Great reviews
• Putting that in front of tons of people
Keep in mind that a book could lack in one or two of these areas and still probably do well, but if you want everything working in your favor, it will have all of these bases covered.
The way struggling authors screw this up, however, is that they read that list as a linear process. The thought process is typically, “I’ll write a book, I’ll get a good cover, I’ll write a description, I’ll get some reviews, and then finally I’ll get that out in front of people and hope they buy it.”
Even though that’s how the process plays out in terms of the steps an author goes through when publishing a book, the planning process is more like military strategy. In military strategy, you work backwards from the objective you want to achieve.
What this means on a practical level is that, if my goal is to become a bestselling author, I first think about what kind of books people want, how I’m going to get it in front of them, how I’m going to capture their attention when it’s in front of them, and everything else related to my end goal before I ever sit down to write a single word.
Struggling authors write a book and then ask, “How can I make this a bestseller?” Successful authors ask, “What book will become a bestseller?” and then write that book.
You’ll notice this is similar to what Sun Tzu was talking about when it comes to preparation resulting in winning battles before the battle is actually fought. Abraham Lincoln said, “Give me six hours to cut down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
In the book publishing world, the time spent “preparing for battle” or “sharpening the axe” equates to pre-writing research. Just like Abe, you should be spending as much time in this process as you spend actually writing a book if you want things to go smoothly.
Pre-writing research is basically time spent browsing books in your niche, seeing what you like and don’t like, and figuring out any things that you can model for your own book. It can be reading reviews to discover what people like and don’t like about similar books. It can mean looking at covers to determine which catch your eye. It can be figuring out which books are selling well, and which ones aren’t in a niche.
This process of pre-writing research serves several purposes.
First of all, it prevents you from writing a book for which there is no demand. If there’s no demand, it doesn’t matter how great the content is, you probably won’t sell enough to make a good income. If you’re passionate about the subject, and it’s a labor of love, then by all means go ahead with the book. Just realize it will be very hard to market a book that a mass of people don’t feel they have a need for.
The second reason for pre-writing research is that experiential learning trumps passive learning every time. Passive learning is something like reading this book, or watching a video, or listening to an audio course on publishing and marketing. While these are helpful parts of the process to shorten the learning curve, the best learning takes place when you’re actually in the trenches doing the stuff. In this book, you’ll discover how to use experiential learning to become a master marketer without ever having to read a book on the subject.
The third purpose of pre-writing research is to gather intelligence that you’ll be referring to all throughout the publishing process. Coming up with a book title, subtitle, content, cover, and description is all made easier when you have other things to reference. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel when other people have already figured out what works.
In truth, this should really be called the pre-writing “experience” stage because it’s not just about intellectual research but rather actually engaging your emotions. If you can pretend to be a book buyer during this stage, you’ll see which emotions are triggered within you when browsing books, and what triggered the emotions.
By noting what stirs your emotions, you’ll have a better understanding of how to communicate with your audience on an emotional level. If something in the description of another book, similar to the one you’re going to write, grabs your attention and makes you really want to buy that book, doesn’t it seem like it would be a good idea to do something similar with your book’s description? This is the power of experiential learning.
An important caveat is that new authors won’t be able to figure out every step of the process until they go through it all once – and probably even multiple times. For instance, it’s helpful to be aware of the steps of marketing a book, but you can’t become a book marketing expert until you reach that stage and practice it. You’ll never master a step by thinking about it, only by doing it.
One theme I hope you take away from this book is that it’s rarely all or nothing. You can’t blindly go into something without having prepared, and at the same time you can’t ever be fully prepared for anything. This yin-yang aspect is essential to success. This means there will always be an element of having to take calculated risks. If you jump into things hastily, you’ll make mistakes. If you don’t jump into things at all, you’ll make the mistake of never getting anything done.
Once you’ve studied what other authors are doing, you can now begin to imagine what your own book will look like. Imagine going through the steps of a person buying your book. Who is the person looking for your book? How will they have found it? What kind of cover will they see? What will the title be that grabs their attention?
The more you can imagine yourself going through the process of buying your own yet-to-be-written book, the more you can reverse engineer what it takes to get to the finished product.
Before I write a single word, I spend as much time getting my book set up to be successful as I do actually writing the book. – Derek Doepker
Once an author understands the big picture process of researching a book, creating it, and then marketing it, they run into another dilemma – they feel so overwhelmed by all the individual steps that they end up failing to act. Getting overwhelmed by all the different tasks required for success can be just as dangerous as not considering them at all.
For some authors, this feeling of overwhelm means they never even get their book written. It’s not uncommon to hear about writers with a manuscript they’ve been working on for years but they’ve never gotten published. Just as common would be the author who publishes her book or even multiple books, but the process of marketing it seems so overwhelming, she simply doesn’t bother.
The reason a person feels overwhelmed is that they’re thinking about an entire process instead of just the next step. One thing to keep in mind when feeling overwhelmed is that you can’t do everything, but you can do anything one thing at a time.
Whatever you’re trying to accomplish, including writing and publishing a book, is just a series of small steps. It’s about breaking things down into a series of manageable pieces. If success is a process, then that process would consist of reaching mini-goals (taking small steps) day in and day out.
The simplest trick I’ve found to just get started is to use the three magic words for taking action – “Can I just…?”
• Can I just take five minutes to brainstorm some chapter ideas?
• Can I just review three blog articles of mine as potential content for an upcoming book?
Can I just do one thing to market my book today?
The key is to get yourself to take action, so choose something so absurdly small and easy that you can’t fail to do it. Then you can always ask, “Can I just do a little more?” If a person asks, “Can I just read two pages about book marketing?” then they can always ask, “Can I just read two more?” after they get started. You’ll find that breaking down your goals into miniature goals and posing it as a question like this will almost always resolve any resistance you have.
Keep in mind that it’s important to pick a task that is so effortlessly small that you can’t help but to complete it. “Can I just write the first sentence of my next chapter?” would be good. “Can I just write a 400-page masterpiece this afternoon?” would not be so good.
The task should also be immediately relevant. It’s certainty possible to give yourself a lot of busy work that’s not really helping you move forward. Ask yourself, “What’s my next step?” By only focusing on your next step, you’ll keep yourself from getting overwhelmed with things that might not be important until days, weeks, or even months down the road.
For instance, if an author just finished a draft of her book, she can ask “Can I just reach out to one person today to review my manuscript for feedback?” instead of “Can I just find one blogger who may recommend my book to their readers?”
This was something I had to constantly remind myself of when I was planning the contents of a new book I was going to write. I found myself taking time to seek out a cover designer, study marketing techniques, and even plan out ideas for future books. All of these things are important tasks and things that need to be done at some point, but they were taking me away from what was most important in the moment – just getting the book done!
Since we don’t want to neglect these things, it’s important to have a system in place to manage these distractions. My favorite technique is to have either a notepad or folder on my computer desktop where I file away my “to do later” ideas. I may also record ideas on my cell phone as they come to me. Later, I can refer to them down the road when I’m ready for them. What this does is allow you to “brain dump” the ideas you have into a safe place where you don’t feel like you’re going to miss out.
Whenever I find myself working on something or feeling overwhelmed, I simply ask myself, “Is this what’s most important right now?” If the answer is no, I stick it as a to-do later task and completely forget about it while I go back to work on what is most important in the present moment.
If book publishing for you is simply a hobby, then naturally this won’t apply to you. However, I’d venture to guess that anyone reading a book on why authors fail would want to achieve some level of success. In order to do this, an author must take a more business-minded approach to book publishing.
Struggling authors treat publishing as a hobby. Successful authors treat publishing as a business.
This involves three things for the author:
1. Being on their customer’s agenda rather than their own agenda.
2. Seeing time and money put into a book as an investment rather than an expense.
3. Adapting to a changing market by keeping their skills up to date.
When I say being on the customer’s agenda, what I’m referring to in a broad sense is being customer-oriented in the same way a business would place a high priority on customer service. It doesn’t mean sacrificing all of your own desires for your books or trying to be a people pleaser, but it could mean making compromises when what you want and what your readers want differ.
For instance, a non-fiction author may create a title that makes sense to themselves, but the customer can’t understand what it means. I see this quite often with authors who have cutesy clever titles that no one else understands, but they feel quite smug about how creative they were coming up with it. This failure to empathize with the customer’s perspective will sabotage much of the book’s potential no matter how great the book actually is.
The second issue is reframing expenses as investments. If an author wants to save $50 by getting a lower quality book cover, but the higher quality book cover would end up generating a $100 in additional sales each month, they didn’t really save money. Spending $50 to make $100 isn’t an expense but a profitable investment.
Another issue is with authors not wanting to invest time into their business. We all know overnight results can’t be expected. However, it’s human nature to want results as quickly as possible. The upside is that this will often motivate people to seek out more efficient ways to doing things. The downside is that people can feel entitled to quick results without having properly invested enough of themselves.
This can be especially dangerous when reading stories of “overnight” successes. The time it took me from starting to write my book, “,” until it became a published book and number one bestseller, was three weeks. This may seem extraordinary, but consider that I had written much of the material that ended up in the book over the course of the prior year. I had spent the previous two to three years studying marketing to know how to put the book together in a way that captivated readers. Finally, I had spent the previous nine years studying health and fitness information on a regular basis. So was it really three weeks to success or almost a decade? It’s important to keep this in mind when looking at the “quick” results others get.
The natural fear, of course, is that the investment of time and money won’t be profitable but will end up being a waste. This is only true if an author fails to learn from their experience. Businesses spend thousands of dollars on research just to see what will eventually turn a profit. As long as every investment you make gives you useful information going forward on how to do even better, you can recover your losses down the road. Another way of looking at it is seeing everything as an investment into your education.
Finally, businesses adapt with the times. Most of what I teach in this book is principle-based, meaning that it’s big picture stuff that won’t change over time. However, many marketing strategies, especially in today’s age, will constantly be changing. This means you must continue to invest in your education so you can stay in a state of learning and growth if you want to be a successful author. Some of the biggest businesses on the planet have failed when they didn’t adapt to changes in the marketplace – especially as technology rapidly changes the way we do business and market.
There is one simple question that has completely transformed not only my publishing success, but my business success in everything I do.
When I first got started, I would ask something like “How can I value?” That can take on any variation like, “How can I make more money?” “How can I make more sales?” “How can I get people to promote my book?”
I didn’t have much success asking these questions because I was on my own agenda. It was when I switched this question that everything changed.
Instead of asking “How can I get value?” I asked “How can I value?”
This could mean switching “How can I get more book sales?” to “How can I create a book so valuable that tons of people will naturally want to buy it?” “How can add value to my existing readers’ lives, so that they’ll naturally be inclined to share my book?”
The difference between “What can I get?” vs. “What can I give?” is like the difference between a sales person who is only trying to make a buck off of you vs. one that is trying to figure out what’s best for you and lead you in that direction. Most people don’t appreciate the former, and that’s because we’re naturally repulsed by people who only care about their own agenda.
This question also makes it easier to frame the time and money spent as an investment. I’m not losing money when I hire an editor, for instance. I am giving them value and helping them make a living, and I am giving my readers a better reading experience. In the long run, this can, in turn, result in more sales and more money back in my pocket. The short term loss is made up for by a long term gain.
As someone reading this book, you’ve already indicated that you understand the importance of education. However, it’s important to remember that everyone will naturally slip into something a mentor of mine calls the Pride Cycle. This is where at some point you feel like you’ve learned what you need to and don’t have to continue developing your skills. The result of this pride is a fall which many “too big to fail” businesses have experienced. Authors are not immune to this either.
Sometimes I hear people say things like “I already know all that” and scoff something off. I laugh at that because I can re-read the same books several times and still get new things out of them. Remember, everything that happens in your life provides a new chance to learn and grow if you’re open to it. All this requires is the intention to see things with “fresh eyes” and to ask yourself “What is the lesson here for me?”
Many times education isn’t about learning something new, but rather refocusing on what we already know but have lost sight of. Other times it’s about unlearning all the stuff we think is important but is simply taking us off track. One of the biggest reasons why I found having a coach was helpful was not because they told me something I didn’t know, but because they kept me from getting distracted with all the things that would have taken me away from what I already knew.
Successful authors don’t stop studying publishing and marketing after going through several books and courses on the topic. Sometimes when going through trainings, I would only get one tiny little new insight or detail, but that’s all it took to make the radical difference.
Some helpful resources to continue your education are:
As an artist, I can appreciate the importance of having passion for what you do. It’s great to get fired up about how your books are going to change the world.
I’ve never had the misfortune of writing a book I wasn’t passionate about, but I also know that everything I publish is going to do well. Maybe not a #1 bestseller, but at least solid sales. The same thing is true for my mentors and fellow authors who have multiple bestselling books. How can they be so confident? Because they combine passion with learnable skills like writing effective and engaging descriptions, finding designers that will create the right type of book covers, understanding what readers want, delivering it to them, and more.
Unfortunately, there’s a lot of passionate people out there who fall flat on their faces trying to get their message out. The whole “just do what you love and the success or money will follow” attitude doesn’t help either. It’s more like “do what you love AND learn the skills, network with the right people, and continuously test and experiment until something works.”
Passion serves its purpose to help give a person motivation to learn the necessary skills and overcome the hardships they’re going to face. Passion and good intentions, however, don’t replace essential skills. While there are some stories of people who simply did what they loved without much thought and appeared to have lucky breaks, the benefit of learning the skills of being a good writer and marketer is that you can duplicate the process without relying on luck.
If you’re taking the self-published route, then that means a greater burden of responsibility falls on your shoulders to understand not only how to write (or create through outsourcing) books, but also everything else that ties into publishing and marketing that book.
Successful authors nowadays often end up learning skills like creating enticing book titles, utilizing social media, blogging, building an email list, connecting with readers, networking with other authors, and more. We live in an age where any ordinary person can become a bestselling author without an agent or publishing deal, but at the expense of bearing a greater burden of responsibility to understand marketing.
This doesn’t mean you have to be good at every step of the writing and publishing process. It could simply mean you have the skill of networking and connecting with other people who handle that stuff for you. Remember, just because an author may be very successful and they don’t worry about much besides writing doesn’t mean they didn’t have to develop the skill of creating and maintaining quality relationships with others who helped them achieve their goals.
So no matter how much an author wants to focus exclusively on writing (or anything else), at the very least they’ll need an understanding of how everything in the book publishing process works so they can get the right people on their team to take care of their weak spots.
To utilize the skills you’re going to need to be a successful author, there are four things to do:
• Identify which skills you need to develop.
• Practice those skills until you become proficient.
• Identify which skills you can delegate to others.
• Find, hire, and manage others with the skills that can complete the task.
If you’re not sure which skills you need to develop, that’s a sign you can benefit from coaching. Granted, everyone can benefit from coaching, however it’s even more important if you’re feeling overwhelmed and struggling to put all the pieces together.
The second point is that skills must be practiced. Just like you become a better writer with practice, you get better at creating captivating book titles, book descriptions that suck people in, and communication skills that make people want to work with you through practice. Reading this book or any other on how to become a better author and marketer simply opens your awareness to what can be developed. After that, it’s up to you to actually develop the skills (which isn’t always quick and easy).
One thing to keep in mind, though, is that the most successful people don’t take on everything themselves. They focus on their strengths and delegate their weaknesses to specialists. Some authors try to do too much themselves and end up shooting themselves in the foot because they end up with a weak link.
A common example of this is authors who design their own book covers when they have no graphic design skills. What this means is an author will have spent all this time creating a great book only to have it not sell well at all because they decided to do something they had no skills in whatsoever. This also ends up costing the author precious time that could be spent focusing on their strengths – like writing another book. If you save $30 on hiring a designer, but it costs you ten hours of your time, ask yourself, “Is my time really only worth $3 an hour?”
If there’s one area that I recommend every author get assistance with, it’s hiring an editor. While I’ll admit to editing some of my own books, the quality of my books that did have an editor improved significantly and allowed me to catch things I never would have on my own.
Places to find qualified works include:
Referrals and recommendations. Shoot me an email at if you’d like recommendations for designers and editors.
What do the world’s most successful people, from superstar athletes, CEOs, to bestselling authors, all have in common? I’ll give you a hint… it’s not necessarily that they’re more talented, disciplined, or smarter than everyone else.
The answer is the world’s top achievers all have a mentor or coach to assist them and point out their blind spots. Of course, if you’re reading this book, that means you’re a cut above the average person as someone who takes the time to educate themselves on a topic such as how to be a successful author. Passively reading books and studying book publishing alone, however, will not be enough when you come up against obstacles only an educated coach can help you navigate through. Even if you have an incredible amount of knowledge on a topic, sometimes it takes an outside point of view to see things you can’t see yourself when you’re too close to your own work.
A mentor’s greatest gift isn’t always his guidance, but rather the confidence he can give you to move forward and take action. I was talking to a woman who was struggling to even get started on her book. Through careful questioning, I determined that the reason she wasn’t motivated had less to do with lack of willpower and more to do with the fears that come from not knowing what to do during certain phases of the book writing process. Once I offered her some guidance, she was immediately relieved and inspired to start writing because she knew she’d have someone to turn to during times of uncertainty.
There are always times of uncertainty we all go through. We subconsciously try to avoid this unless we know we have something to lean on to get us through. A mentor allows you to leverage her greater perspective that she’s gained through experience. When I was starting my business, I hired a mentor whom I paid $2,000 a month to help me launch a product. While I could have found out the same information for much less, it was worth it to have the confidence of talking to someone who would tell me exactly what I needed to do, when to do it by, and know that I wasn’t going to waste a second on something that wasn’t effective. It also meant he could look over what I created and offer me feedback to ensure I wasn’t going to screw anything up.
Mentors save you a significant amount of time and stress. There are a lot of things you can do to keep yourself busy when writing and marketing a book, but only a handful of activities are really going to have a significant impact while other things are simply busy work. The 80/20 concept states that 80% of your results are from 20% of what you do. A mentor can help you focus only on the most important 20% tasks that deliver the greatest results.
All of these first four mistakes of not seeing the big picture, getting overwhelmed, treating it like a hobby, and lacking skills can be almost completely avoided simply by having the assistance of a coach.
The answer is obviously to seek out the guidance of a mentor or coach. This could be someone who specializes in authorship, or it could even be someone who has enough foundation in the principles of business and success that they can help you move forward. I have had multiple coaches throughout my career and will never let myself go without at least one mentor with whom I can stay in semi-regular contact to help keep me on track.
Coaching is something I offer to certain individuals. You can reach out to me at , and if I’m not a good fit, I can work to point you in the right direction of another coach.
There are a variety of courses and trainings that offer personalized assistance in the form of email support, live webinars, and Skype calls. Contact me for more details based on your goals.
Besides coaching authors, my primary business is to help people reach their health and fitness goals. If there’s one thing I’ve found that sabotages people’s success when losing weight, it’s not a lack of knowledge, it’s a lack of acting upon that knowledge.
If you look at the resolutions that people set each New Year, you’ll find this isn’t limited to fitness. So many people have big goals, like publishing a book, without taking the necessary consistent action to do so. Typically a person may say a lack of productivity is a result of not enough motivation, but all my research into this indicates something else is at play. Getting more motivation, at least as it’s typically thought of, is not the answer.
The following four mistakes will address how authors sabotage their results through poor productivity, stemming from things like bad habits, emotional fears, and lack of proper systems. Fortunately, I’ve discovered that the same methods that can help people finally take action on their weight loss goals, end procrastination, and overcome emotional hurdles like emotional eating, can also be applied to authors when it comes to being more productive with writing and marketing their books.
One of my mentors, Brandon Broadwater, taught me one of the primary keys to success is to manage your “state.” Your state consists of how you’re feeling. Whenever you’ve been in a good state, you may have felt energetic, creative, and ready to work hard. If you’ve been in a poor state, you may have felt depressed or angry, unfocused, and only have enough willpower to sit around eating ice cream. We all have times where our state is high, low, or somewhere in between.
Feeling motivated is often a result of being in a good state. My problem with the concept of motivation, however, is that from one perspective, you can never be more or less motivated – you’re as motivated as you’re ever going to be. It just may be that a person is more motivated to keep up with the Kardashians than to write a chapter in their book.
So what do you do when you’re feeling “unmotivated” because your state is low and find yourself unable to be productive? One option is to bypass your feelings, use willpower, and rely on habits to get you through. This will be covered in the next section. The second and more obvious option is to change your state.
The mistake struggling authors make is that they wait for a productive state to occur by chance instead of proactively getting themselves in the state of productivity.
There are several ways to manage your state, including physical activity and mental refocusing. Let’s take a look at some of the most effective methods I’ve found for each.
Jim Rohn says, “The bigger the why, the easier the how.” This means that the bigger and more emotionally driven your reason for being a successful author is, the more you can draw upon the passion it gives you to push through the challenging times.
You’re going to have plenty of reasons not to do the things it takes to be a successful author as they will require pushing your comfort zone. This means you must have a reason or reasons to draw upon to change than are bigger than your reasons to stay the same.
Consider the following:
Why is becoming a successful author important to me?
Don’t just stop at the first reason you come up with. Continue to ask, “Why is that important?” for each answer you can think of.
What will happen a year from now if I don’t get this done? Five years?
What else will that allow me to do? How will that impact the people I love the most?
If I only had thirty days left to live, what kind of book would I want to leave behind for the world, and how can I get it published in that time?
Whenever you’re feeling like you lack motivation, you can always go back and remind yourself of why you want to be a successful author. If the reason you currently have doesn’t inspire you, then spend some more time considering these questions.
In psychology, there’s a concept called “reactance.” This is that feeling of wanting to rebel against anyone telling us what to do. The problem is, we often boss ourselves around by saying things like “I have to do this” or “I can’t do that.” The research shows that this approach of taking away a sense of choice will drain your willpower.
The simple way to get around this is to present everything as a choice (which in reality it is anyway), with a “would I rather?” question. You’ll present two options, and give consequences for each.
“Would I rather sit and watch TV, not sell any copies of my book, and then feel guilty, OR could I just take ten minutes to write a guest blog post, feel great about myself, and keep my book sales going strong?”
“Would I rather not get any productive work done and feel like a sense of underachievement, OR could I just outline the first section of my next book and feel a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment?”
When you present your options as a choice in question form rather than as a command, you’ll find you’ll often naturally want to make the better decision. If you do occasionally choose the less productive option, the key is to remember it’s about consistency of choices and not any one choice. After all, there is nothing wrong with watching TV or taking a break on occasion.
To change your physiology means to change what you do with your body externally. One dangerous thing for authors is that we typically sit around in chairs for many hours on end. Research has shown that sitting and a sedentary lifestyle has high correlations with early death. [+ http://health.usnews.com/health-news/articles/2012/05/02/are-you-sitting-yourself-to-death+] Walking, on the other hand, has been correlated with higher levels of creative thinking. [+ http://news.stanford.edu/news/2014/april/walking-vs-sitting-042414.html+]
Based on both research and personal experience, working in shorter bursts such as 25 – 50 minutes with 5 – 10 minute breaks in between seems to result in the greatest level of productivity. Part of the reason is it keeps your state high – especially if you get up and walk around during your breaks to get the creative juices flowing again. Another option is to occasionally get up and do some light exercises such as jumping jacks, rebounding (jumping on a mini-trampoline), or pushups.
An area of physiology that some people don’t think about is the clothes they wear. Being someone who works from home, I find myself more productive when I actually put on nicer clothes and shoes compared to whatever I was sleeping in. While this may be personal preference, some people do notice a change in their state depending on how they’re dressed.
Yogananda has a quote that says, “Environment is stronger than willpower.” Authors and many people who can work at a computer have often intuitively discovered they work better if they go to a new environment like a coffee shop to get work done.
If you prefer to work from home, then the question is whether or not your environment has things that could be distracting you from work. Do you associate where you work as the same place as where you do things for recreation? Even if you can’t change your work place, remember you can always change your environment by doing things such as getting up and walking outside to take a break to recharge your state.
Music also plays a role in your state. A website I highly recommend is , where you can quietly play baroque music in the background while you get work done. I’ve found I am much more focused when listening to that music or alternatively, a brainwave entrainment track designed to stimulate alpha brainwave patterns to help get me in the proper state of focus.
Since your emotions drive much of your behavior, it’s important to recognize that you can sabotage your own success if you have a subconscious fear of failure, fear of success, or any other underlying emotional hang-ups that keep you from taking action. I would argue that every single person has some sort of limiting beliefs and emotions that will interfere with their productivity.
One of the most effective techniques I’ve found for dealing with this is emotional releasing. While it’s outside the scope of this book to go into detail on this, I can recommend the Sedona Method as a great resource for this. I also recommend mindfulness meditation, EFT, and any system that works on helping resolving limiting beliefs to such as hypnosis to deal with these issues.
• [+ The Sedona Method+] by [+ Hale Dwoskin+] and Jack Canfield
• Release Technique
• Mindfulness Meditation
One of the greatest challenges an author faces is getting taken off track by distractions. I can’t recall how many times I’ve found myself working on a book, and then the next moment I’m in the kitchen looking for something to eat. Then I wonder, “I’m not even hungry, so why am I in the kitchen?”
In the previous chapter I talked about the emotional component of getting into state for more productivity. The flip side of that is to use willpower to get yourself into a state of focused flow, and then continue this on a daily basis until you develop the habit of being productive and focused.
The fix here is to use willpower. The first thing to understand about willpower is that it’s a limited resource that can be drained. You’ll typically have more willpower earlier in the day, more when in a better state, and more when your stress levels are low.
The thing to keep in mind though is that you can strengthen your willpower gradually over time with practice. The key to doing this is to setup small, “can’t fail” targets that you’ll hit every single day until they become habitual. This could be something like writing 50 words a day, writing one social media post about your book a day, or sending one email out per day that helps grow your business.
By setting small targets that require little willpower, you’ll be able to force yourself to follow through on these tasks until they become habitual.
The second component is to use willpower to manage your environment, create rewards and punishments, and set deadlines.
• Schedule time to write, and treat it like you would any other job or appointment.
• Set up a system with family and roommates about your writing time. If others are a distraction, it’s your responsibility, not theirs, to manage this.
• Turn off your phone, and if necessary, disconnect your internet if these are a temptation.
• Only allow yourself to engage in other activities after a writing goal is complete. For instance, “I will only check Facebook after finishing the next chapter.”
• Give yourself daily and weekly goals and deadlines to hit with your work.
While much of this will be common sense, it’s these common sense things that many of us need to be reminded of, as it’s these things that make the biggest difference in success.
If you were raised with the attitude “Do it right or don’t do it at all,” you may suffer from perfectionism. Perfectionism is one of the biggest reasons why authors fail to get books finished. Even if a perfectionist author finishes a book, it may take him an absurdly long amount of time. He may also be hesitant to share that book for fear of judgment about his imperfect work.
Perfectionism is really a selfish trait disguised as caring about the reader’s experience. In reality, the reader doesn’t care about perfection since most reasonable people never expect something to be perfect. Instead, the reader cares about the value the author adds to their life. It’s only the author’s ego that cares whether or not something is perfect.
Of course, I’m not saying one shouldn’t strive to do things right. The intention behind the idea of “do it right or don’t do it at all” is sound, but the mistake that some people make is believing they can become a master without screwing things up in the process.
My twist on the idea is this…
Strive to get it right, but remember you don’t have to get it right the first time.
In fact, it’s next to impossible to get anything right the first time. Whether that’s the first draft of a book, the first book an author publishes, the first marketing campaign an author runs, or any other first, there are always going to be things that can be even better. You probably won’t get things totally right the second, third, fourth, or fifth time either.
I know saying that things will never be perfect is stating the obvious, but we must recognize that in order to move closer to perfection, there have to be imperfect attempts made from which we learn. It’s like shooting an arrow at a target. Sometimes you’ve got to take the shot and see where the arrow lands in order to make the necessary adjustments for the next shot to hit closer to the bulls eye.
From this perspective, there’s no need to put undue pressure on yourself to have your first draft or even your first book be a masterpiece. It probably won’t be, and more than that you won’t know all the ways to improve until you get your work out there and receive feedback on it.
Another reason why it’s important to overcome perfectionism is because every moment you delay getting your book out there, people are missing out on what you have to offer. This is especially true for authors who feel they have a message the world needs to hear. I’m not too ashamed to admit that one of my bestselling books had and still has a few spelling and grammar mistakes. While I’m well aware this makes grammar police cringe, many readers don’t care about those minor details in comparison to how much that book helped change their lives for the better.
I have to give the caveat that I’m not encouraging people to publish books with mistakes and errors. Rather, I’m encouraging people to consider that if they’re worried their book might have a couple mistakes, and that’s going to cost them a significant amount of delay in getting it published, consider whether it’s truly worth withholding the book from people who might benefit from it. My approach throughout this book help you get a healthy sense of balance in all that you do.
Ultimately, book publishing is a fix-it-as-you-go process. Another way of putting it is “fix your bike as you ride it.” If you can’t afford an editor or a great cover designer, do the best you can, and improve these things as soon as possible. If you can’t write a great book, then write a sucky book and make the second one just a bit better.
Since perfectionism is an internal trait often based on wanting approval, we can shift this by refocusing your thoughts. I’ve found the most powerful way to break through perfectionism is to remind myself that I can always improve things down the road and focus on the value I’m delivering to others.
• Can I just allow myself to get this done now, knowing that I can always make it better later?
• Can I allow myself to finish this, knowing the feedback will help me improve down the road?
• Is it more important for this to be perfect or more important for it to add value to people’s lives right now?
• When is it good enough so that the value offered is more than I ask for in return?
• Who will suffer if this doesn’t get done?
• What will happen a year from now if I don’t finish this? What will happen five years from now if this doesn’t get done?
Another key concept I keep in mind is this: Act Then Analyze
A natural tendency for some is to analyze everything before they get started. The problem with this approach is that you have nothing to analyze until you act first.
When it comes to writing a book, I’ve found for myself and many other authors that the key to getting into a state of flow is to write freely without analyzing or editing the work. You simply let the thoughts flow out on paper and then go back and analyze how to organize it, make it more succinct, and correct any mistakes.
Analyzing before or while you’re attempting the creative process will shut it down. While both action-taking and thoughtful analysis are required to produce the desired finished product, it’s important to let the right-brain creativity flow first before going to left-brain analysis.
When people work a typical job, they often have a boss making sure they get their work done. Parents have the responsibility of keeping their kids on track. Students have teachers making sure they turn in their assignments and then grading them on the quality. Under all these circumstances, an individual has someone else holding them accountable for getting their work done on time and ensuring it’s high enough quality.
Self-published authors, on the other hand, don’t have this accountability – unless they make themselves accountable. The most successful authors (and people in general) seek out others to keep themselves accountable in order to ensure their work gets done.
Despite being a fairly self-disciplined person, I work significantly harder when I have either a person or situation to keep myself accountable. This is why I have “mastermind groups” that I’m a part of. Within these groups, I will offer the people in the group money if I don’t complete a task I say I will by the next meeting.
As I write this, I’m about to leave for vacation in half a week. That means I have to finish the draft of this book and get it off to my editor before vacation. If I don’t complete it in time, it significantly delays the release date of this book. I know I will get it done, however, because I have set daily target goals to hit that will ensure that I am done with the book one day in advance of when it needs to be sent off to my editor.
I’ve found authors who don’t have someone or something (even just a self-imposed deadline) keeping them accountable are less productive than they could be. This reduces their overall level of success. If there is one single action step you can take to ensure you get your work done, it’s to have someone hold you accountable.
If you have a mentor or coach, they can become your accountability partner and help you set deadlines. If you don’t have one, you can still get a friend on board to help you stay on task. Some ideas for keeping yourself accountable include:
• Offer a pre-order of a book and set the release date forcing you to complete the book on time.
• Set deadlines for tasks and pay someone money if it’s not done on time.
• Get a mentor, coach, or join a mastermind group that you share your goals with.
• Publically announce what you’re going to do on social media, and ask people to check in with you.
• Join author groups and challenges where people are given daily assignments to complete and post in the group.
• Join a site like and use it to create punishments for failing to act.
• Create your own system of rewards and punishments for completing or not completing tasks.
Even though the focus of this book isn’t on how to write a good book, it should be obvious that producing poor quality books that readers don’t enjoy will keep an author from having long-term success. While “good” and “bad” are subjective terms, there are certain formulae and principles that will help ensure that you create a book that your target audience will enjoy and want to share with others.
I’m going to assume that most know that books should ideally be relatively free from errors, formatted correctly, offer value to the readers, and be easy to read. There are plenty of qualified editors that can help with all of these things. What you’re about to learn in this section is the deeper psychology behind what draws people towards books, and how you can deliver exactly what your readers want with your content.
Does your book follow one of the four blueprints that virtually every single bestselling book falls into? If not, then you’re pretty much screwed from the start. That’s because readers are subconsciously expecting your book to following one of these formats, and they will be disappointed if it doesn’t.
These four blueprints almost all bestselling books follow are laid out by Robin Hoffman of . They are as follows:
2. Outline, Step-by-step
3. Three-Act Story (Hero’s Journey)
If you’d like to learn more about these, check out her interview with Tom Corson-Knowles at: [+ http://publishingprofitspodcast.com/how-to-write-a-bestselling-book-using-the-four-bestseller-blueprints-with-robin-hoffman+]
The “tips” style of non-fiction book is a collection of helpful tips, tricks, or articles. Examples of my books that follow this formula include: and [+ Weight Loss Motivation Hacks+].
The outline or step-by-step book is your typical non-fiction “how-to” book that takes readers through a linear process to get from point A to point B. Examples of my books include [+ Why You’re Stuck+] and [+ How To Stick To A Diet+].
The Three-Act Story, also referred to as the Hero’s Journey, is the basis for almost every single work of fiction, including movie screenplays. Fiction stories that do not follow this formula rarely do well.
The final type of book is an essay style which applies to non-fiction. It is the hardest to write and not something recommended for the average person, but rather for journalists and those who have done extensive study in an area. These are books that are heavily researched and are intended to influence people’s perspective on a topic. Examples would be [+ Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything (P.S.)+] by [+ Steven D. Levitt+] and [+ The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference+] by [+ Malcolm Gladwell+].
These formulae will help engage a reader on an overall level. Another aspect of bestselling books is that they typically have what I call “hooks” and “seeds.” Struggling authors typically lack these altogether or rarely use them. What happens is that their stories or information comes across as bland and doesn’t have that “suck you in” component that we associate with great books.
A hook is something that instantly engages readers and sucks them in. In a fiction story, this is any dramatic scene where the reader needs to find out what is going to happen next. It’s equally relevant for non-fiction. The title of my book “” is a hook because “you wish you knew” creates an emotion of curiosity that sucks readers in. Another example of a hook is an engaging question such as “Do you know the number one mistake authors make that kill their book sales?” These simple hooks help pull a reader along through the book and keep them turning the pages.
“Seeds” are foreshadowing of something that’s about to happen later in the book. In fiction, this is hinting at something exciting that is coming up that keeps a reader sticking around for more. In non-fiction, this can be saying something like, “Later in this book, you’ll discover my #1 marketing technique that took me to bestseller status in three days.” A seed is planted in the reader’s mind about what they’re going to discover, but they don’t know when they’re going to get it. Many of the bullet points presented at the start of this book are meant to act as hooks and seeds to engage you to want to continue reading.
I know that many creative types, particularly fiction authors, hate the idea of following formulas or blueprints. It can be perceived as predictable, boring, and restrictive to follow a set outline. The issue with this thinking is that it’s seeing things from the author’s perspective instead of the reader’s. If you’re writing as a hobby and don’t care about your book’s success, then write it however you’d like. If you’re writing to be successful, then you’ll want to consider what readers expect in their books.
To use music as an example, a baby sitting at a piano banging out notes is playing without any restrictions or rules. The problem is it will sound like crap. We’re used to music following certain rules such as being in a key, having a set tempo, structure, and more. There’s a lot of flexibility with these rules, but the structure is in place so that there is something our brains can latch onto.
Another thing to consider is that restriction can actually enhance creativity. As a music composer as well as a writer, I’ve found that when I’m given guidelines to follow for a composition, it keeps me from getting overwhelmed with options, a situation which actually shuts down creativity.
Once an author accepts that they’ll want to follow guidelines and use particular structure for writing, the next thing is mastering the system. The first and best way to do this is through experiential learning; that is, reading and analyzing the types of books that are similar to what you want to write.
I’ve spent a lot more time reading other people’s books than I have actually writing my own. I had to not only absorb what other bestselling authors were doing, but actually take time to ask myself questions like, “Why did this chapter engage me? Why did they put that story in there at that spot? Why am I starting to get bored at this part of the book? What is the difference between this book that excites me and this other book that doesn’t seem to captivate me?” It’s one thing to be an avid reader, and it’s another thing to be a student of what you read.
For fiction authors, you should be very familiar with the Hero’s Journey format. If not, you may study the work of Joseph Campbell () and any other course that teaches the Hero’s Journey, also known as the monomyth.
When it comes to hooks, a fiction author should consider engaging the reader as early in the book as possible. If it takes the reader several chapters before anything captivating happens, you may lose their attention before they continue on with the book. It’s also quite common to leave the reader at a cliffhanger when a chapter ends to compel them to keep reading the next chapter.
These techniques are fairly common sense for fiction authors, but I’ve noticed non-fiction authors rarely consider them. The easiest approach for non-fiction authors to create more captivating content is to write their book as usual, and then during the editing process, insert various hooks and seeds.
Examples of hooks for non-fiction authors:
• You’re about to discover my secret to (insert a desired benefit for the reader).
• In this chapter, you’ll learn why (insert a common problem).
• Have you ever wondered (insert a common question)?
• If you’ve ever struggled with (insert problem), then pay attention. What you’re about to read will be one of the most important things you will ever discover.
• There is one simple thing that can fix (insert problem), but before I get to that….
My hope is that you’ll use your own creative thinking and stylistic voice to hook readers in and keep them reading. Remember, the best way to learn this and any of these other concepts is by studying other bestselling authors’ books, finding what engages you, and learning to model that.
A big mistake I see entrepreneurial-minded authors make is they try to copy or imitate exactly what they see doing well. You may have seen these “knock-off” books yourself. While you should model what else is working, if you just try to copy what someone else is doing without understanding why they did it, you’ll rarely get the same results. If you consider the most successful businesses, they’re usually the trailblazers rather than the knock-off companies.
If all a person does is copy what else is successful without adding anything new, they get lost in the endless sea of “me too” books that fail to stand out and offer anything of unique value. While these types of books can sell well in the short-term, rarely will they make enough of an impression to stand the test of time.
The mistake on the opposite side of the coin is typically made by more artistic-minded authors who try to do something that’s never been done. They strive so much to create something completely original that the market doesn’t know what to make of it. They struggle because they’re having to start from scratch instead of learning to leverage the insights of people who’ve come before.
You must strike a balance by modeling what is working already so that you fit in with what’s popular, but you must also be unique enough so you stand apart from all the other books. Just like yin and yang come together to form a balanced whole, these two qualities blend together to form a middle path.
The formula for innovation is: Imitation + Creation = Innovation.
Given that innovation is both art and science and can’t necessarily be taught in a paint-by-numbers, step-by-step system, this perfect blend eludes many people. My goal is to help you find this sweet spot by learning to activate your own creativity. However, it’s ultimately a matter of getting in there and trying stuff, failing, and continuing to tweak things until something works. This is why, once again, experiential learning trumps passive learning.
In the previous chapter, you learned about the importance of imitation by following proven formulas. You’ll get better at this as you analyze and model other successful books.
The other end of the spectrum is to take a proven concept and add a twist to it so that your book stands out. This is the creative side of things. One of the best ways to tap into the creative powers of your brain is by asking questions.
Here are some questions you can ask to help stimulate creative thinking when it comes to creating a book that will stand out and offer unique value.
• What story hasn’t been written that I would want to read?
• What is missing from the stories I love?
• What would make an existing story even better?
• How can I model an existing story and make it brand new?
• If there was something that’s never been done before, what would it be?
• What value can I deliver that hasn’t already been offered?
• What is the book I wish I had when I first got into this topic?
• What book needs to be created?
• What will save people a lot of time, money, or effort?
• How can I say what’s been said before with a different voice or perspective?
I want to point out that it may take time to reflect on these questions to get your creative energy flowing. These aren’t things you ask once, come up blank, and then give up on. These are especially good questions to be asking yourself while browsing through a bookstore or looking through your own library.
When I first considered writing, I asked, “What value can I deliver that hasn’t already been offered?” I didn’t think I had anything unique to offer. I assumed that there’s nothing new under the sun, and anything I could want to talk about was already covered in more detail by another author in another book. It took some confidence building and listening to the feedback from others to realize what I have to offer as a non-fiction author isn’t new information, but a new perspective. According to what people told me, I’m able to convey a message in a conversational style that resonates with certain readers and makes what could be difficult topics easy to understand.
Realize that you don’t have to be the most creative author on the planet to offer something unique to your readers. As long as there’s something you do that’s a little different while still following the overall structure readers expect, you will likely find a niche audience who resonates with your style.
Perfectionism and people-pleasing often go hand in hand in that they’re often based on wanting approval for what we do. However, perfectionism is often focused on our own feelings about the work while people pleasing is more concerned with how others will view our work. Another way of putting it is that perfectionism is driven by what the author feels is right, while people pleasing is driven by what the author believes others feel is right.
We all intuitively understand that no matter what you do, there will always be haters out there who bash your work. One of my mentors says that if 1/3 of people don’t hate what you’re doing, you’re probably not pushing the envelope. If you consider the biggest and most successful authors, works of art, and businesses, they all have their fair share of haters.
In the world of non-fiction, one challenge is that you’re often dealing with different learning styles. If you try to appeal to people who like a lot of facts and details, you miss the boat with people who want you to get straight to the point. If you get straight to the point, some people may feel like they’re missing key details. You’ll never “get them all,” so to speak.
In the world of fiction, people’s tastes in storytelling styles vary as much as people’s tastes in different foods. If you run an Italian restaurant, you don’t need to try to cater to people who prefer Chinese food. Instead, you make the best damn Italian food you can make. While you should strive to improve your storytelling abilities, it must come with the understanding that at some point, certain people simply won’t like whatever you’re trying to do.
The challenge is that on one hand, you can’t worry about the occasional people who don’t like your work. On the other hand, you should be striving for constant, never-ending improvement, and that means listening to the feedback people give you.
So how do you balance improving your work based off the feedback of others without giving up your own sense of style in the process? The key to improving your work comes from quality feedback. Both “your book sucks” and “your book is the best thing ever” lack any real constructive insight. Neither blanket praise nor condemnation will help you improve your books, so you must learn how to dig more out from your readers. The way to do this is with high quality questions designed to get people to open up and share more about what is working and not working with your books.
If you get praise for a book, some quality questions include:
• What did you enjoy most about this book?
• Was there anything in particular you found most helpful? (Non-fiction)
• What was your favorite part and why?
• What could make this even better?
When I have asked these questions of my readers, I’m often told they enjoy my casual conversational style as if I were talking to a close friend. Because of this feedback, I make sure not to edit too much of this casual style out of my books in an attempt to be more formal. While some people may not appreciate my laid back, conversational style, those people are idiots. Just kidding of course. In reality, they’re simply not my target readers. By getting this feedback, I know what my readers like and can cater to them without worrying about the individuals who don’t care for my style.
If you’re looking for constructive feedback on how to improve your book (and you should), a great question to ask is, “How can I make this even better?”
This is a question to not only ask readers, but always to be asking yourself. The beauty of this question is that it implies the work isn’t bad, but could simply use improvement. That means I can even ask my mom this question, and she might end up telling me something besides “This is the best book ever written, and how did I get so lucky to have such an amazing son?”
It also means I can ask someone who gives a scathing critique of my book this question, and they’ll be forced to actually provide constructive ways to improve it. That’s because “How can I….” is a question that compels a person to provide an actual actionable step that can be taken for improvement. If they lack the ability to articulate what could make the book better, then perhaps they’re not someone whose critique you want to take too seriously in the first place.
Ultimately, this question will force others and yourself to look for areas of improvement without all the emotional ups and downs. The one thing to be aware of is that you will get conflicting opinions because you can’t please everyone. My biggest suggestion is to get very clear on your ultimate objective so that you’re not taken off track by those who don’t understand your books as well as you, while remaining open to understanding that each person may have a truth to offer you within their feedback.
Have you ever seen a great book that was significantly better than the competition completely fail? If you’re the author of one of these books, you may be left scratching your head as to why the best books aren’t always the best selling books.
The answer is that a book only sells as well as it is marketed. Remember that people buy a book before they’ve had a chance to read it. In other words, book sales are dictated by the perception of a good book which means authors must learn to use skills of persuasion and influence. The good news is that I’m going to show you the principles that allow you to sell more books without sleazy, spammy, or unethical sales tactics.
One of the first questions I ask an author I’m coaching is who their target audience is. It’s not unheard of for authors to think anyone and everyone should love their book, and for authors not to have even considered a target audience. More common, however, are authors who have a very broad audience such as “people who want to get over depression” or “women who enjoy romance novels.”
It’s next to impossible to market to everyone. It’s a lot easier to market to a target group and end up getting readers from outside that group in the process. To be fair though, you don’t have to know your ideal reader when you first write a book. It can often be a process of discovery as you put books out there and see who naturally gravitates towards your work. Simply understand that you’ll never maximize your marketing efforts until you know where to direct your attention.
Ideally, this is something that is determined before a book is written. That’s because the title, subtitle, cover, and contents of the book can all be tailored to resonate with the ideal reader.
To give an example, my book [+ Kindle Bestseller Secrets+] is targeted specifically to non-fiction authors who want to or are currently publishing on Kindle, are primarily concerned with making as many sales as possible, and may have read other books about Kindle publishing but are frustrated with a lack of results. Fiction authors, non-Kindle eBook authors, and hobbyists could all learn a lot from that book, but they’re not people I target in my marketing. Everything I do with that book from the title, description, and contents speaks directly to my target audience. If I wanted to speak to all authors in general, I’d write a separate book like this one.
With my book “,” I only really knew at first I wanted to target people who felt stuck in some part of their life. In other words, I was guilty of the “this book targets everyone” problem. With more contemplation, I got clear that these would be people who have read other self-help books but didn’t find them helpful or were jaded by the idea of self-help altogether. The target audience would be those who don’t want another “positive thinking” type of book but something that is real, honest, and yet not overbearing in “do this, don’t do that” advice. This is why I start off the description with “Are you pissed off that life didn’t give you an instruction manual?” The idea being that the strong emotional and slightly angry language will stand apart from similar self-help books to instantly grab the attention of those who are feeling stuck and want a no-BS solution.
The simplest strategy I’ve found for getting clearer on a target audience is to ask myself, “What books are similar to mine, and who reads them?” Even if an author has a relatively unique book, there’s a good chance they can find books in the same niche that are somewhat related.
Once an author can identify a least one or two similar books, I recommend going to and going through the “customers who bought this item also bought” section. You can also click on an author’s name and check out their author profile. From there, you can see other similar authors that Amazon displays.
After that, a good next step is to start reading the reviews of these books to get inside the mind of the readers. Checking out the authors’ websites, looking at their comments, and checking out their social media profiles will also help you get a better understanding of their audience.
For myself, this is a largely intuitive process in which you’ll likely get a feel for who the target readers are. If you prefer a more technical approach, you can type in an author’s website into and view demographics information.
The second approach to finding a target audience is to create books and see who is drawn towards them. In order to do this, you’ll need some way of seeing who is buying your books. I recommend all authors have an opt-in page on their website that connects readers to a newsletter. From there, you can gather feedback about your books by sending out surveys. The responses you get and who they’re from will help you see the types of people buying your books. For those published on Amazon kindle, the review and highlight system also gives you insight into who is reading your books.
Struggling authors try to sell their books by telling people how great it is. Successful authors get other people to sell their books by having them talk about how great it is.
One of the biggest factors in marketing and persuasion is “social proof.” “Social proof” is the concept that we look at what other people do in order to make a decision. If thousands of other people are buying a book and raving about it, then we naturally assume it must be a good book. Social proof also works because we’re not likely to trust an author to be objective if they talk about how great their book is, but if a reader or third party reviewer praises the book, then we assume they’re being honest.
Most authors understand the importance of book reviews/testimonials (I’ll use these terms interchangeably) for selling more books. Where struggling authors screw up is they either get the wrong kind of reviews, or they don’t leverage the good reviews they do get. The struggling author often ends up reaching out to family, friends, and other authors for reviews and testimonials exclusively. While there is nothing wrong with testimonials from these people, readers want to see reviews from others that are just like them.
If an author has a sci-fi novel, which do you think is more compelling?
“I loved this book! Joe is a great author and this was a real page turner for me.”
“I’m a huge sci-fi fan and am always looking for the best sci-fi books. Unfortunately, I’ve been disappointed with a lot of self-published stories and had become jaded about finding anything that wasn’t boring and predictable. Even though I hadn’t heard of this author before, I decided to give it a shot. I’m glad I did! The story engaged me from the first pages and I couldn’t put it down. Now my only problem is I can’t wait for the next book in the series! Highly recommended for any sci-fi fans out there.
Let’s say an author has a book written for busy professionals looking to get into meditation. Which of the following reviews do you think is going to help increase sales the most?
“I loved this book!! It had many great tips that anyone would find valuable for learning about meditation. It was an easy read and I would recommend it to everyone.”
“I’ve known about the benefits of meditation for a while, but struggled to incorporate it into my life because of my crazy, busy schedule. This book was a lifesaver because it showed me quick and simple meditations that I could fit into my hectic life. I especially love the five-minute meditations, which I started doing on my lunch break at work. I would recommend this book for anyone wanting to begin meditation, but who can’t find the 20 minutes at a time like other meditation books suggest.”
In these examples, you’ll notice the second review gives readers the impression, “This person is just like me! They feel like I do, and since they loved this book, I’ll probably love it too.”
Successful authors know how to both get the right testimonials and ensure it’s one of the first things people hear about. They’ll also recruit their fans to promote their books for them. Finally, successful authors make sure the popularity of their book is made known to a potential reader.
Testimonials are a great way to create social proof, and you’ll want to be sure to highlight them whenever you get them. While you can’t take an Amazon review (and likely the same with other retailers) and post it elsewhere, you can have people directly send you a testimonial praising your book and get their permission to use it in any of your marketing efforts.
For instance, I had an author, Gary Yantis, send me an email about my book [+ Kindle Bestseller Secrets+] saying, “Your book is better than all of the other ‘how to’ Kindle guidebooks put together! I own at least 50, and yours is FAR superior to ALL of the others.” With his permission, I posted this at the top of my description because it instantly grabs a person’s attention. He’s like my target audience in that he’s read a lot of books on the subject, and he says my book is far superior. This makes it the perfect testimonial.
So how do you get genuine “just like the target reader” reviews?
The first and most important way is to make sure you’re asking the right people for a review. In other words, don’t ask a 28-year-old guy like myself to review a book on dealing with postmenopausal depression. If you think that’s a joke, the sad thing is it’s not too far off from the type of review requests I’ve received.
How can you do this if you’re just starting out?
The first step to getting book reviews is to include a call to action at the end of your book. You can say whatever you’d like, but be sure to give them a reason as to why leaving a review is important. I usually say something to the effect of how leaving a review will help others learn about the benefits of this book and your feedback helps improve the quality of my books. I also revise my books to include a link directly to the Amazon listing so they can click through as soon as they’re done reading.
My favorite method is to create connections with other authorities in my niche, and leverage their audience. The simplest way to do this is with a guest blog posting that allows you to give valuable content, establish yourself as an expert, and drive traffic to your books from the people most interested in your topic. To find popular blogs on your topic, I suggest browsing , and doing a Google search for keywords in your niche and adding “blog” to search. You’ll learn more about establishing relationships in the last chapter.
Another way, which is a more long-term strategy, is to build up a list of targeted readers in your niche. I’m always building lists from my blog, guest blog posts, and my Kindle books. I offer my subscribers valuable insights and tips on an ongoing basis. Then, when I release a new book, there are usually a handful of regular readers and reviewers who jump on board to check it out. This is obviously easier over the course of time after an author has built a following, and this is why it’s important to see book publishing as a long-term business.
For more details on how to get book reviews, check out my series of articles here:
Another thing authors should do is highlight any achievements they’ve had. If I run a free promotion for one of my books and get 5,000 downloads, I will make a note on my book description page on Amazon that says “Over 5,000 copies downloaded!” because it creates an impression that this is a popular book. If a book has become a #1 bestseller, I will note that as well.
This is equally true when talking with people in person. We’re taught not to toot our own horns, but how much potential are you leaving on the table to engage a conversation if you say “I wrote a book” instead of “I wrote a bestselling book?” The latter could open many more doors for you as an author simply because people are going to assume you’re good at what you do.
Obviously, don’t claim anything that isn’t true. Realize, however, that successful people in general are willing to talk about their accomplishments because they understand that they have to always be marketing themselves. This doesn’t have to be done in a boastful way. It can be as simple as saying “I wrote a bestselling novel that was ranked in the top 10 mystery books on Amazon.”
What keeps this from sounding like boasting is that saying “I have a bestselling book” is a statement of fact, whereas “I have a great book” is a statement of personal opinion that can be questioned. Saying “I have received a lot of great reviews about this book” is fact. Saying “Everyone loves my book because it’s so awesome” is an opinion. Learn to state the praiseworthy facts about your book created from social proof, and you can shine your light as an author without turning people off.
If there is one mistake that keeps authors from being successful even if they do everything else right, it would be this one. An author can have the greatest book, the best reviews, and limitless exposure, but if they don’t grab the attention of their audience and captivate them right away, they’ll never see any sales.
Imagine walking into a book store, going up to a book shelf, and then browsing for a book. You’re going to see tens to hundreds of different books in a matter of a few minutes, all competing for your attention. Do you think you’re going to stop and check out every single book you see? Are you going to read the reviews for each one? Are you going to make a logical decision as to which book is the best one for you?
Chances are, you’re going to make split-second emotional decisions as to whether or not you want to even bother checking out a book based on only two or three things – the title, the cover, and possibly the author.
People don’t buy books, they buy the emotions a book gives them. This is equally true for non-fiction as it is for fiction. Therefore, people don’t typically buy based on logic. This means that in the first couple of seconds a person is exposed to your book, they’re making an emotional decision whether or not to continue looking into it. If you have their attention in those first few seconds, then you’ve bought yourself maybe another five to ten seconds of their attention from which they may read a little bit of the description, reviews, and perhaps glance at the table of contents. If you succeed in sustaining their attention there, you dramatically increase the chances of selling the book. However, you’ll notice all of this comes back to getting their attention in those first few seconds.
As self-published authors, we need absolutely everything to work in our favor to compete against the big-name authors and publishers who can afford to throw money at creating great looking covers and marketing campaigns. Struggling authors assume if they have a great book, it should do well. Successful authors realize the process book buyers go through and ensure they’ll suck readers in with powerful emotions.
Self-published authors often fail because they don’t have a title or cover that captivates potential readers. Titles are a bit more important for non-fiction books, while covers are equally important for both. If a title and cover do manage to grab attention, self-published authors may still fail if they don’t sustain that attention with an intriguing book description.
For both non-fiction and fiction books, the cover must grab a person’s attention. This isn’t a book on graphic design, and it doesn’t need to be. If you’re treating this as a business, you’ll seek out and pay an appropriate price to get a book cover designed.
For maximum results, the cover needs to look professional. The litmus test I have for this is, “Would I see this in a bookstore?” If the answer is no, then that’s going to be negatively affecting sales.
The one thing you’ll want to do to make the job easier for the designer is to find a few covers in your genre that mimic the effect you’re going for. Remember, ask yourself, “Does this cover grab my attention?” If so, then it’s likely a good candidate for something to model.
– Get multiple designs made for you and pick your preference.
– Cover templates for $30
– Nathaniel is my cover designer
Milk Jug Media design – One of the highest quality and affordable cover designers [+ https://www.elance.com/s/milkjugmedia/10184#backurl=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZWxhbmNlLmNvbS9yL2NvbnRyYWN0b3JzL3EtTWlsayUyMGp1ZyUyMG1lZGlhLw+]==
Fiverr offers some cover design options. These can be more hit or miss, but worth a shot in case you get lucky. These also allow you to
The second component is to have a captivating title and description for your book. As with the other things in this book, the best way to learn how to do this is with experiential learning. This is simply taking the time to go through similar books in your genre, seeing what grabs your attention, and learning to model this.
While I do offer some “shortcuts” in my training, even my VIP private students are asked to go through this process. That’s because nothing can replace the experience of putting yourself in a book buyer’s shoes in your particular niche and practice going through the buying experience. As you browse books, ask yourself:
• What titles grab my attention and why? How can I model that?
• What descriptions grab my attention and why?
• What do I glance over? Why doesn’t that grab my attention?
• What makes me want to buy a particular book? How can I incorporate that in my own book?
• Out of all the books I’m seeing, which ones jump out? Why does the cover stand out?
• If I knew nothing about this book, would I want to read this from what I see? If so, why? If not, why?
• Do I feel anything when I look at this book? If so, what emotions am I feeling? What creates those emotions?
Also realize that the “selling” doesn’t stop once a person has bought a book. Does the introduction in your book captivate readers or put them to sleep? Does the fiction novel start with a scene that generates powerful emotions instantly sucking them into the experience or is it boring backstory? Does the non-fiction book’s introduction whet the reader’s appetite for the exciting things they’re about to learn or is it more like reading an encyclopedia?
Finally, studying marketing and persuasion will help give you a better idea of what to look for. Some resources include:
• [+ My Fiverr gig+] for helping you create captivating non-fiction book titles.
• – How To Create The Most Captivating Non-Fiction Book Titles Ever Using Simple Psychological Strategies
• [+ Influence by Robert Cialdini+]
• [+ Yes!: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive+] by [+ Noah J. Goldstein+], [+ Steve J. Martin+] and [+ Robert B. Cialdini+]
I’ve yet to hear of any author who has achieved major lasting success with only a single book. Yet when talking to authors I’m coaching, they have grandiose ideas of writing a book that’s going to generate thousands of dollars each month so that they can then sit back and not worry about anything ever again.
While an author can write a single book that launches their career, even #1 NYT bestselling authors typically don’t always rest on book royalties to earn their income. Instead, their book is a gateway into other opportunities like speaking engagements, consulting services, and readers for other books in a series. Those who make a full-time living publishing books almost always have a library of books in a particular niche to get readers going from one of their books to another.
Another aspect of this mistake is that a struggling author will launch a book and then neglect to form a relationship with their readers. They won’t engage their readers through a newsletter or blog. They won’t offer other related books even if they’re by a different author. They won’t connect with their readers on social media.
This is mostly an issue for the entrepreneurial author who sees book publishing simply as a means of getting royalties. They may hop from one niche to another trying to see what works. While there’s nothing wrong with this in the short term, but it becomes an issue if the author never firmly creates a foundation in any on particular niche.
Many successful fiction authors have found that they had to publish several books in a series before something eventually took off. It was only after that when readers went back and discovered their original work. If they didn’t continue to offer something of value to the few fans they did have, they never would have built the momentum they needed to make their breakthrough.
This big-picture idea of seeing authorship as a long-term business that continuously delivers value is important for authors to grasp, so they don’t think they’re doing something wrong when they don’t have massive success after publishing a book or two. It also means that when an authors do see some success, they don’t get tempted to become complacent.
My book was a #1 bestseller and has reached the #1 spot multiple times with promotions, but it never stays there. In order to sustain rankings, I have to continuously publish new works and offer value to my existing readers on my newsletter. I can’t simply publish, see some success, and then spend the rest of my days at the beach.
I rarely give “must do” commands, but I would argue it’s an absolute must for authors is to have an email list. Having a Facebook fan page, twitter account, blog, and other social media accounts for people to connect with you on is helpful as well, but they’re not as big of a priority as an email list.
An email list will allow you to notify readers of future book releases, ask them questions and get feedback, offer them prizes for sharing your book, provide them more value such as tips or unreleased material, and more. All of this creates a greater connection with your readers, making them more likely to support your future work and spread the word about you as an author.
Steve Scott has found his email list was responsible for more sales than any other marketing effort he used that he had direct control of.
If you’re not familiar with email marketing and don’t wish to learn or outsource, a simple way to get started is with a service like and using an autoresponder like
You’ll want to offer an incentive to sign up for the email list. Options include:
• A free report or guide
• A bonus short story
• A backstory of one of the characters
• An audio book
• A video training
After joining the email list, a way to quickly build the relationship with the readers is to give them a backstory of why you got started as an author. This will build a deeper connection so they’re more likely to engage upcoming emails.
Here is a great article on how to do this also from Steve Scott:
Once you have people on a list, some questions to consider are:
• How can I serve my readers?
• How can I do something unexpectedly awesome for my readers?
• How can I express gratitude to my readers?
With fiction books, it almost goes without saying that authors should create a book series in order to keep readers engaged with the characters and an on-going story. This can mean setting out from the start to create a series rather than a one-off book.
For non-fiction authors, this can get trickier. While you may say everything that needs to be said about a topic in a particular book, you can ask yourself if there are other challenges people in this niche may have.
For instance, as a fitness author, I can talk about motivation, diets for weight loss, diets for muscle gain, improving performance, healthy recipes, workouts for busy people, and more.
The luxury of being self-published is that you can create books that are “one problem, one solution” in nature. That means tackling a specific problem in-depth and offering other books to deal with different problems the reader might have.
While other books and newsletter content are valuable for readers, an author can also offer more things for sales such as services, signed copies of books, memorabilia, physical products, affiliate products, and more to increase the revenue generated per book. The more revenue an author can generate per book, the more money they can take to invest in the marketing of that book creating exponential growth.
If you’re wondering what to offer your readers, then by this point you should know how to solve the problem. You can either ask your readers what they want or study what other successful authors have done and model that.
The greatest resource an author has isn’t their time or their money. Once I discovered this resource, it didn’t matter that I was dead broke, no one knew who I was, and I had never sold more than a handful of books in my life. I was able to become a #1 bestseller in one of the most competitive niches on the planet – weight loss. I look back and owe most of my success to tapping into this one resource.
What is this resource?
It’s an author’s relationships.
Struggling authors see other authors and authorities as competitors. Successful authors see them as companions.
A struggling author is trying to win out over their competition. They may even try to sabotage their competition by leaving bad reviews. They have a mindset of scarcity that there’s only so much to go around, and they have to secure their piece of the pie. Naturally, this toxic mindset leads to failure in the long term.
Much of my success has come from reaching out to other people in my niche, forming relationships with them, and cross-promoting each other’s work. This isn’t done with some sort of “I’ll do this for you if you do this for me” type of agreement. Rather, it comes from a genuine desire to help each other out because we recognize we’re all out to help people and add value to readers’ lives.
What’s funny is that I literally cannot think of a single person I’m competing against when it comes to selling books. Part of this is because people typically buy more than one book on a topic, so it’s not like I have to be the only book on any subject. The other reason is because the people who have helped me the most and whom I’ve been happy to help the most are the other authorities in my niche.
Ultimately, we’re after genuine relationships with authorities. These could be book authors who publish similar books, blog owners who promote or could promote books similar to yours, or anyone with a following that can recommend your books.
Remembering the principle of service, the attitude that must be adopted is “What can I give?” rather than “What can I get?” This means having a “give and receive” attitude instead of a “give and take.” The difference is subtle but important. With “give and take,” there is an expectation that the other person should do something for you. With “give and receive,” you are offering something for the other person with a willingness to receive something in return, but not an expectation.
For instance, if I take a friend out to lunch, I’m willing to let them buy me lunch next time. However, I’m not going to say “I’m only taking you out to lunch if you promise to buy me lunch next time.” I’m not opposed to purely transactional business relationships, but I consider it far better to simply focus on offering value and trusting that in some way, shape, or form, the value will be returned to me without making my generosity conditional.
While generosity can be taken too far, I’m going to assume that you’re capable of making a judgment for yourself as to how much you’re willing to give without expecting anything in return. I will also point out that, just like with a friend, if you have a pre-existing relationship with some authority, you can always ask them for a favor such as “Can you recommend my book to your followers if you enjoyed it?”
Once you’ve adopted the right attitude, you’re ready to reach out to experts or authorities to help promote your book. The challenge in connecting with authorities is that they’re often busy, and if you don’t have a prior relationship with them, it can be difficult for them to take their time to help you out. However, is this really a problem? By now you should know if you’re following the principle of giving rather than getting, then your attention needs to be on how you can help them out rather than how they can help you out.
I’ve condensed this whole process down to “Four C’s” that will grab their attention, create a genuine connection, and then inspire them to want to check out what you’re doing.
One of the best ways to start an introduction, either via email or in person, is with a genuine compliment about what this person does. Be sure to include specific details about what you appreciate about them and/or admire about them.
Let’s say you’re writing a book on becoming a happier person and are reaching out to an authority on depression. You’d want something like, “I read your article on battling depression, and what you said about the types of questions we ask ourselves really hit home. It has helped me become a much happier person. I find your work to be inspiring. I want to thank you for making my life and those of so many others more fulfilling.”
The compliment gets their attention and helps them see why you’ve chosen to reach out to them vs. all the other authorities on the topic. The key here is to not blow smoke, but to make sure the compliment is genuine.
The next step is to establish a connection where the authority can see how both of you are similar in some respect. This can even be done with something as simple as noticing you’re both from the same hometown, have the same hobby, or know the same person. In the case of book reviews, it’s best to stick with the fact that both of your have an interest in the same topic.
Using the book on happiness as an example, the author could state, “I’m a self-help author who, like you, is helping empower people to overcome depression and to live a more enriching life.”
Using another example of reaching out to an authority-review blog, one could state something like, “As a romance book fan and writer, I wanted to connect with you because we both share a passion for romance novels.”
No matter how you phrase it, you want to leave the person you’re connecting with feeling like both of you are just like each other in some respect. Use your own words to avoid sounding contrived.
The third step is to offer them something of value. Many times when I reach out to someone, I literally have no idea if, when, or how this person could ever help me out. Instead, I find some way to enrich their lives. If it just so happens that down the road they do something for me, then great. The contribution is done with no string attached.
If you’re offering them a free copy of your book with the hopes they’ll review or promote it, you don’t make your offer conditional on them giving you something in return. Rather, you offer them a free copy simply because you believe they and/or their followers will enjoy it. Let them know this!
Notice the difference between these two requests:
“I have a book on happiness in which I talk about the best ways to overcome depression. I am looking for honest reviews. If you are interested, I’ll send you a copy.”
“I have a book to help people become happier and overcome their depression. Inside the book, I have recommended your website as a great resource, as I consider you to be one of the foremost authorities on the topic. To thank you for all your great work, I’d be more than happy to send you a copy, if you’re interested. If you have the time to offer me any feedback, it would be an honor to learn how I can improve this book to help even more people overcome depression.”
The first approach isn’t “bad,” but it’s making a big request for this authority to take hours of their time to check out a book and leave a review when they don’t even know the author at all.
The second approach is better for a couple reasons. First of all, the focus is on helping people overcome depression and not on the author getting a review. This is something both the author and authority can relate to. If you can position yourself and your book as benefitting the authority’s followers, then you’re doing them a favor by giving them a valuable resource they’ll get to recommend. The difference in attitude is “share this with your fans to help me.” which is usually a turn-off, VS. “share this with your fans to help them,” which is appealing.
The second reason this approach works is because the author has already done something for the authority – that is, recommending the authority’s website in the book. The big thing here is that this is done with no strings attached.
The third reason this approach is better is because you’re not asking for an honest review, but rather honest feedback. Is there a difference? Yes, the simple shift in wording implies that they don’t have to go on Amazon to leave a review, but rather can give you their candid thoughts any way they want. If they check out your book and leave you positive feedback in a private message, then you can let them know a positive review posted on Amazon would be appreciated.
This last step could be considered optional, but I think it’s very helpful to incorporate. This is where you add something to your email to make them more curious about you and your work.
For instance, if something was included in the message for the book on happiness like…
“In my book, I share one thing that took me years of research to finally uncover, which turned out to be the missing link for many people to finally overcome depression. I haven’t ever heard you talk about this, so I’m not sure if you’ve even heard of it. I’d love to know your thoughts.…”
Then you can bet that the person reading that email will be very curious as to what that one thing is. This works even better on authorities who often think they’ve “seen it all,” but may in fact be missing something.
Another example is…
“I know you review a lot of thriller books on your blog, but I’m not sure you’ve seen anything like what’s in this book. I don’t want to spoil the surprise though.…”
Curiosity is one of the most powerful triggers you can use to get a person’s attention and encourage them to take action. Just think about how people will watch TV shows week after week when they’re left with a cliffhanger after each episode.
ROCKSTAR SECRET: This little golden nugget will be worth more to you (if you apply it) than anything else in this book. My “secret weapon” to making deals happen is shooting a personalized video to the people I’m reaching out to. This helps them see me as a real person, create a genuine connection, and shows that I’ve taken the time to speak to them personally rather than just copy n’ paste some email that I’ve sent to hundreds of people. This personalization is something I’ve also done to land joint venture partners that have ended up helping me make thousands of dollars. The fact that some people won’t do this gives YOU the advantage if you do it and set yourself apart from everyone else.
One thing I did with my book was offer authorities on the topic a chance to offer a bonus chapter in the back of the book. This can also be done with fiction books by letting other authors include snippets of some of their books at the end of yours to cross-promote each other.
This is a win-win-win situation because these authorities get free publicity and promotion for their website or books, the readers get more content, and I get more exposure when these authorities recommend my book to their followers. Of course, I make sure to let them know that promoting my book helps them because the better my book does, the more exposure they get.
Real Message Example #1 (Slight edits have been made from the original email).
Hey Amy! I’ve been reading your work for the past couple months, and I absolutely love it. I really appreciate how much heart and soul you pour into your work to help empower people. The message of creating change from the inside out is something that I can really resonate with.
I run a fitness blog called Excuse Proof Fitness and am also an author of the book “How To Stick To A Diet.” I’m finishing up my next book, “50 Fitness Tips You Wish You Knew” and am including a link to your blog as a recommended resource.
[_ However, I wanted to extend the offer to you that if you had five -10 minutes to send a quick tip my way, I can include it as a bonus chapter in my book with a bio about you, links back to your blog, and anything else you’d like me to link to. This is a way that I can hopefully help readers find your work, which I believe they can really benefit from. _]
Here’s a short video introducing myself so you know I’m a real person. ;)
I know you’re busy right now, so either way just let me know if there’s anything else I can do to support you. I really believe in your message and want to help get it out there to others. Thanks!
This is just one example of what can be done. I point it out so you have something to sink your teeth into, however the theme of this book is to give you principles from which you can create your own strategies.
• Who are my biggest competitors? How can I turn them into companions?
• Who is already connected to my target audience? What can I do for them?
• What value do I have to offer authorities in my niche?
• How can I serve other authors?
• How can I create win-win-win situations? (You, authority, and readers all win.)
• How can I help someone else sell more books, get more business, or be loved even more by their fans?
The stats don’t lie: it’s hard to make money as an author.
The median income for self-published authors is under $5,000*… per year! Plus, 20% of self-published authors claim to have no income at all from their writing!
Now, if you’re writing as a hobby, then that’s great – just disregard this chapter. However, 99% of the authors that I’ve interacted with are in some way interested in creating a nice income stream from their work. Are you one of them? Good.
Whether writing is your dream career or a means to an end, it can be very lucrative. However, most authors make it much more difficult on themselves than it should be by not doing a few simple things. Let me explain…
First up, let’s talk about the big picture. Derek started out this book showing the importance of seeing things from a high level when creating a stellar book. Equally – if not even more important – is seeing the big picture for how you’re going to turn your hard work into a big and continual payday. I would argue that the following question should be addressed before you even write your first words:
How are you going to make money?
As many authors find, money just doesn’t show up. A great book, as Derek has pointed out, doesn’t sell itself no matter how much we want to think that it will. So, it’s important to address this very early on if it is one of your goals.
Before I wrote Make Money, Live Wealthy, I mapped out a plan for where I was going with my businesses. I knew what I wanted out of my book, and it was definitely not about making money from royalties. As a non-fiction author, I knew that it was a much wiser decision to use the book for things that were much more valuable than book sales: opportunities, credibility, relationships, and leads. As a result, I did everything I could with my book and my launch efforts to maximize each of these, which I knew would ultimately lead to a lot of money… and they fortunately have!
- Opportunities: I immediately got opportunities to write for the biggest business websites in the world (Yahoo! Finance, Business Insider, etc.), as well as talk with some of the biggest agents in New York and international publishing companies.
- Credibility: I became 27-time #1 international bestseller in the first 3 days and stayed there at #1 for 98 days.
- Relationships: overnight, my status changed to the external world and I was able to partner with some people I had admired (Mark Anastasi, John Lee Dumas, etc.) and also interact with others I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to.
- Leads: my email list exploded from getting 1-5 new email signups per day pre-launch to often over 100 per day.
The only reason that I achieved these things is because I was clear on what I wanted from the book from the start, and I created a strategy for how to achieve each one of them. The money, for me, was going to come as a result. And it did…
Within a few weeks, I turned my small platform into multiple strong 6-figure businesses. I just so happened to make over $10,000 in royalties rather quickly, as well, but if I had focused on making money from royalties alone (and thus raising my book prices), then I would have missed out on hundreds of thousands of dollars in back-end business.
Now, here’s the trick: you have to keep people in motion after they read your book. This is the 2nd major element that I see holding authors back from making a lot of money. What do I mean by this? I mean, it’s absolutely vital to have good CTAs (call-to-action) at the right place and in the right way. Most authors unfortunately don’t have any calls to action – fiction or non-fiction.
If someone reads your book, and enjoys it (which hopefully they do!), they’re instantly ready for more. So be sure to give them more! Send them to your website or to your other books, or even to connect with you on social media. Whatever it is that you want them to do, ask them! Most don’t make it easy on the reader to go to the next step. They then lose out on this major momentum and connection they’ve created.
And that leads us to the 3rd element: testing. You want to make sure that you test as many things as you can. I’m an engineer so this is easy for me to say, but the numbers never lie. Test your CTAs, test the pricing that your audience will buy the book for (there is no one-size-fits-all), test different things on social media, etc. A small percentage improvement can and will make a huge difference over time.
There are many more elements that maybe hold people back from making much money with their books (i.e. marketing – “It’s called best seller, not best writer.” – Robert Kiyosaki), but let’s recap these three important elements that will help you be one of the lucky few that turns your masterpiece into big money:
How are you going to make money? Map things out beginning with the end in mind and then work backwards from there. At the end of the day, it’s about creating a vision and plan, developing a strategy to make that a reality, and then executing well and working hard to see it through.
Do you have more books than one? Be sure to set up your book well so that it sends them from one to the next to the next.
Do you have a back-end business and are looking for leads? Create an irresistible offer that they need to get, and strategically let them know how to get it.
The reader is hot and ready for more, so be sure to capitalize on all of your efforts by creating fans and customers for life.
Have you tested your title, subtitle, cover, pricing, Amazon page, social media campaigns, etc.? If not, you may be missing out on a HUGE opportunity. Often what we find is that even though we think something is best, it doesn’t test out to be the best by the masses. The secret to success in book sales is to first of all have success, so improving every facet as much as you can could potentially make or break the sales and earnings.
It takes a little bit of time to set things up well and learn what works, but if you’re looking to make money and/or get your book out there in the biggest way, having an optimization mentality will take you to new heights – financially and beyond.
About Austin: Austin Netzley is the 27-Time #1 bestselling author of . Following a very successful book launch, Austin founded ONE Press Publishing and the marketing service for self-published authors. For more information, please visit .
Email marketing is the most effective and profitable marketing strategy today. Period.
Two weeks ago, I did a marketing test with the launch of my newest book [+ The Book Marketing Bible+].
I only promoted the book with one single email to my list.
No review requests, no social media, no blogging, no video trailer, no interviews, no word of mouth, nothing. I didn’t tell a soul I had published the book, other than
Three hours after I sent the email, here’s what happened…
The book became a #1 bestseller in Authorship!
Notice the book had ZERO reviews. Not a single review. Not a single social media post, blog post, or interview. No media, no video trailer, nothing. Just one email.
That’s the power of email.
I’ve never seen someone create a #1 bestseller with just social media, or just blogging, or just video… but anyone with an email list of more than 1,000 people knows that you can sell a lot of books with one email, and you can sell them quickly (within a few hours, you’ll usually notice a big boost in sales and Amazon sales ranking.)
That’s why email is the #1 most powerful marketing strategy in the world right now, and it’s why every author and small business owner should start building an email list.
How to Build Your Email List
If you want to start building your email list like a pro, you’re going to need an autoresponder.
There are two decent ones you can get for free: and
If you’ve got a little marketing budget, I’d recommend www.GetResponse.com or www.Aweber.com instead – starting at just $15/m, you’ll get better deliverability and customization with one of these options compared to the free autoresponders.
Derek’s Note: You can sign-up for Tom’s Email Marketing Made Easy course at no-cost as a bonus for purchasing this book. Use this special coupon here: [+ https://www.udemy.com/email-marketing-secrets/?couponCode=DDoepker+]
About Tom: Tom Corson-Knowles is the international bestselling author of , founder of , an independent publishing company specializing in digital marketing, and host of . He is also the creator of , a free training program that shows authors how to publish and market their books professionally. You can connect with Tom on and .
The job of your cover is not to look pretty. The job of your cover is to sell your book – period. That’s not to say it can’t look pretty, by the way! Pretty is good as long as it still fulfils its primary purpose of selling your book.
If you’re wondering how important the cover is the answer is very.
I’ve seen book sales increase by over 300% just by changing the cover. Exactly the same book; exactly the same title... but more than three times as many sales!
We’ll come back to this and I’ll show you how to test your covers before your book goes on sale later in this chapter.
The most important thing to consider when creating your cover is how it first appears to people on Amazon: it appears as a small thumbnail. People won’t be able to see your pretty pictures and they probably won’t be able to read your sub-title (though it they can it’s a bonus). In fact, all they are likely to be able to read – and therefore all you have to draw them in with – is your title. And, of course, the impression created by the cover itself.
Your title should be in large bold lettering so it stands out. I would recommend using all caps because that greatly increases readability. And it should definitely be in a highly contrasting color to the background field so that it stands out clearly.
Bold colors work well for the cover of your book. It’s worth spending some time on Amazon looking at search results and noticing which covers grab your attention (and why) as well as which don’t. Which colors stand out more amid the many competing thumbnails on the page?
Note that it is OK to use a white background for your cover as long as the title wording and any image that appears on it are bold and striking.
If you are using an image on your cover make sure that it is clear, bold and easy to understand. The right image can be very useful in helping to communicate to prospects what your book is about. Therefore, it’s very important that any image you use is congruent with the title of your book.
Avoid falling into what I call the “cute and clever” trap whereby you choose an image that, while relevant to the book, is esoteric. In other words, it has meaning to you (since you know the book inside out), but means nothing to prospective readers.
These things will make your book stand out in the search results. They are what will get people clicking on it and prevent it being lost in a sea of competition (the typical Amazon search results page shows at least twenty cover thumbnails).
There are lots of websites where you can go to get your covers designed and you can pay anything from $5 to several hundred dollars.
A great place to get your cover designed quickly and cheaply is on (spelt double r). As the name suggests, on fiverr you can buy services – known as gigs – for just $5. With prices starting so low the quality of what you get can vary tremendously, but some of the work is excellent. And because it’s so cheap you can afford to get a number of designs made to test and compare.
Freelance sites like and are also good places to find designers. These sites will cost considerably more than fiverr and.
The good news is it’s easy to shop around and compare the portfolios of different designers before you commit.
Amazon recommends cover dimensions of 1,563 × 2,500; however, this is not a requirement. I recommend that you consider cover dimensions of up to 1,875 × 2,500.
These dimensions will still work on Kindle, but will give you a wider looking cover. This can be an advantage if you have a lot of information that you want to include on your cover without it looking crowded, such as a longish title and sub-title together with an image that supports them. Having a wider cover will also help your thumbnail stand out amongst search results as it will appear slightly bigger on the page.
Just to be clear, I’m not saying that you should have cover dimensions of up to 1,875 × 2,500, but rather that you consider whether these dimensions would work better for the cover your book needs.
I strongly recommend split testing your covers before publishing your book. Split testing is easy to do and can have more of an impact on your sales than almost anything else in the marketing process.
Split testing is when you send traffic to two (or more) versions of an ad or web page on which you request the visitor to take a specific action such as clicking the ad or entering an email address. Normally the two versions will be identical except for one variable – that is the variable you are testing.
The best place to split test your covers is on Facebook. The process of setting your ads up is intuitive – just click the “Ads Manager” link in the left hand column of your news feed page and follow the steps as they are presented to you. It’s easy to include images and running a campaign is quick and inexpensive.
Be aware of Facebook’s 20% rule, whereby no more than 20% of your ad image can be text. You may find that you have to test the cover images rather than the complete covers.
When you set the ads up be very careful to make sure that all the variables are the same except for the images. It is possible to set one ad up and then upload a variety of images and have Facebook run a different ad for each image. It’s also possible to duplicate an existing ad and then simply change the image.
Both of these options are tempting because they save time upfront, but I don’t recommend them. That’s because Facebook tends to show whichever ads are successful initially without giving the remaining ads a fair chance. This can make it very difficult to get meaningful results. To avoid this problem set your ads up individually and put each ad in a separate ad set.
Because click through rates are low for most Facebook ads I like my ads to be seen by at least 40,000 people (the ad’s “Reach”) so that I am comfortable that I have enough data on which to make a decision.
Normally I will test around five different cover designs – one of the reasons Fiverr is such an attractive option. I’m happy to test using just basic draft designs as people only see a thumbnail version. Then, once I have a winning design I can spend more getting it worked up so that it appears more professional. For split testing five covers I would budget around $100.
What you need to look for is the click through rate (CTR) for your ads. The actual number is not important; what is important is how the ads perform relative to one another.
During one book marketing project that I did for a client I ran a series of cover split tests for a book that had already been published. After testing several designs I was able to increase in the CTR by 338% compared to the original cover. In other words, more than three times as many people were clicking on the book’s thumbnail. As you can imagine, this is having a huge impact on sales!
About John: John Tighe is the #1 bestselling author of [+ Crush It With Kindle+]. For a free video series from ‘Crush It with Kindle’ author John Tighe visit:
Amongst other things, the video series includes additional information on:
- Maximizing your Kindle royalties
- The 6 steps to a Kindle bestseller
- The incredible explosive growth of Kindle publishing
- Case studies and success stories
So, to get your bonus videos go to
[+ Kindle Bestseller Secrets: 10 Tricks Bestselling Non-Fiction Authors Use To Dominate Kindle+] by Derek Doepker
– How To Create The Most Captivating Non-Fiction Book Titles Ever Using Simple Psychological Tricks
[+ Secrets of the Six Figure Author: Mastering the Inner Game of Writing, Publishing and Marketing Books+] by Tom Corson-Knowles
Congratulations! You’ve made it through the book and now have a better understanding of why authors fail. However, realize that this knowledge by itself won’t get you anywhere. Anyone can find flaws and recognize areas of improvement. The question is, are you going to act upon this greater awareness by modeling successful authors, learning what your readers want, and being willing to have some failures on your way to success?
I’ve striven to give you the biggest pieces to the authorship puzzle in this book. While there are countless details that can be expanded upon, it is my hope that you have an idea of where you can direct your focus to be an even more successful author. If you have any questions or comments on how I can make this book even better, please contact me at , and I will be glad to assist.
If you’d like even more free marketing tips and recommendations for how to succeed as an author, get my free ‘Rockstar Marketing Secrets’ training and learn more about how I get the best types of reviews in my newsletter here:
Could A Hidden Mistake Be Sabotaging Your Self Publishing Success As An Author? Becoming a massively successful self-published author isn't easy. Even just one missing link in an otherwise perfect plan can kill your results. The easiest way to avoid these mistakes is to learn from those who have made the mistakes for you, found a way to overcome them, and can take you by the hand to show you the principles you need to follow to guarantee long-term success. Can Anyone Become A Successful Author? I was once a broke valet parker and struggling writer. Through years of study, experimentation, and a lot of mistakes, I eventually cracked the code to becoming a multiple #1 bestselling author. My own experience combined with coaching students from all over the world has revealed the hidden mistakes most authors don't even realize they're making. I hate seeing passionate authors missing out on their chance for success simply because no one took the time to share these insights. I wanted to write the book I wish I had when I first started my journey of self-publishing that would have saved me endless headaches and frustration. What All Authors Must Know This is not strictly a book on marketing strategies, how to write a better book, or a technical guide to self-publishing. Instead, this book gives you what you really need to succeed - the real world principles all successful authors follow. Inside you'll discover... • Why struggling authors sabotage any chance of success before they write a single word… and how to virtually guarantee you’ll have a bestselling book, before you even begin. • Why struggling authors spend countless hours and hundreds of dollars publishing their dream book, only to find it gets lost among all the other self-published “wannabe” books… and how you can make sure your book stands out from the competition. • Why struggling authors can have the best written book on a topic... but still fail to make it a best selling book. • Why struggling authors often never get their book or series finished… and how you hack your motivation and creative inspiration to get your book done fast. • Why struggling authors’ creativity can be what leads to their failure… and how you can combine one simple thing with creativity to give you an edge no one else has. • Why struggling self publishing authors turn off potential readers before they’ve even had a chance to read their book… and how you can utilize simple psychological tactics that practically force browsers to purchase your book. • Why struggling authors can’t create a long-term business… and how you can set things up from the start to ensure you’re thriving off of book sales for years to come. You can either unknowingly make these mistakes and wonder why you're not seeing the results you want as an author, or you can learn from a #1 best selling author and publishing coach saving yourself countless hours and headaches. After getting your copy of "Why Authors Fail," you'll never again have to worry you don't know what it takes to become the successful author you were meant to be. “If failure is not on your author's checklist then this book is a must read! A powerful, business-saving wealth of knowledge for the serious, result driven author. Derek cuts to the chase and gives you the real meat to help you avoid errors across the board, take your work to the next level and ultimately reach your success goals." - Vivian Jokotade About The Author Derek Doepker is a multiple #1 bestselling author and self publishing coach. He has assisted over 1,300 students from all over the world on self publishing, marketing, and book creation. He loves helping those who are passionate about impacting the world with their writing.