Dreaming of publishing your own book? The Head of Hay House Australia shares his advice on turning your idea into a success.
There’s something special about having a book published.
Despite all the changes in technology and the online world, nothing quite compares to the moment you hold your book in your hands. Sure, it’s not necessarily going to make you the next J.K Rowling, (or bring you a fraction of her income), but knowing that your words are out there, connecting with and inspiring people? It’s still the dream of many coaches and experts.
The thing is, book deals aren’t what they used to be. Anyone who has gone down this path will tell you that getting a book published needs to be just one part of a multiple income stream. On its own, it’s rarely your ticket to success. What you need is a solid online presence, a clear and unique message, and a hell of a lot of passion and persistence. But having a book published can be one of the best calling cards you can have: if you want to be seen as an expert in your industry, having a published book is one sure way of standing out.
How that happens, however, has gone through a lot of change in recent years.
You can choose to follow the tried-and-true path of approaching the traditional publishing houses, or you can look into self-publishing. Once considered the last resort for authors who couldn’t get a book deal, this arm of the industry has seen a huge surge in popularity – and prestige – lately. So much so, even some of the bigger names in the self-help and coaching world are choosing to go their own way with their books, rather than follow the timetable and rules of the big publishing houses.
So what do you need to consider if you want to get your work into the hands of your ideal audience?
Leon Nacson knows.
As the Managing Director of Hay House Australia, Leon started working alongside founder Louise Hay and President and CEO Reid Tracy in the late 80s, and began the Australian branch of the international publishing house in 1999. He has nurtured and supported hundreds of writers to bring their work to fruition – and was happy to share what he sees are the 6 most important elements to branding, marketing and selling your book to ensure its success.
01. There’s never been a better time to be an author
With over 300,000 new book titles published in the United States alone in 2013, you’d think the world of publishing might be a little saturated. But not according to Leon, who says that despite the volume, this is the ideal time for pursuing your book dream.
“I believe it’s the very best time in the history of writing to be an author because we have so much choice: you can go the traditional route where you can approach a publisher or you can self publish at a fraction of the cost it used to be. You don’t even have to chop down a tree to get your book out there anymore! It’s amazing what is available to you now. Even if you do decide that you want a book in people’s hands, we now have this system called print on demand, so you can print one book or ten books or five hundred books through digital printing and not have to outlay an enormous amount of money.”
“The cost of printing, warehousing and distributing books has diminished enormously because of the availability of Print on Demand. It’s very simple these days to order exactly the number of books you need when you need them from any number of printers throughout the world. There will come a time when none of the major online retailers will have books in warehouses – they will just have files and if they get an order for a book at midnight it’s printed by the morning.
It’s such a wonderful, wonderful world for anyone that wants to be an author because you’ve got all these choices it can be electronic, it can be very few books and it can be with a traditional publisher. You can go to Amazon and upload a book right now and by next week you will be an author!”
02. Self-publishing has changed
It wasn’t too long ago that self-publishing was seen as the second prize option for those who couldn’t get a ‘real’ publishing deal. Whilst your audience may not have thought of it like that, the media certainly did, and getting that all-important coverage was difficult. But that’s all changed, thanks in part to some pretty big names deciding to step away from the big publishing houses. In the world of self-help, writer and entrepreneur Danielle LaPorte is one such success story: she pulled out of a big publishing deal at the last minute to go it on her own.
“It’s really changed,” says Leon. “It used to be called ‘vanity press’ – but no one calls it that anymore. People understand that there is more than one way to get your book onto a shelf or in a handheld device and the self publishing way is a legitimate way of getting your message out there. And how self-published authors are viewed has really changed. We have had so many instances in which we have a self published author who will not go to a publishing house because they know what they want and they’re selling so many books on their website and at the back of the room when they are giving a presentation – why would they hand all of that over to a publisher? Especially if you don’t want to wait. You have to remember that we work a year in advance – we already know most of what we are publishing in 2018. So do you want to wait until 2019 to get your book out there?
Self-publishing is about not waiting for anyone else. It’s about believing in yourself and your message.
“It’s also important to remember that publishing your own e-book or paperback can be a great way to get the attention of the big publishing houses. Don’t want to wait for the old school publishing path, or been rejected a couple of times and ready to just back yourself? Take heart that the online world is littered with success stories of authors who went out on their own – and then had the publishing world begging for more.
One of the best success stories I can share is the story of Bronnie Ware, author of ‘The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.’ Bronnie came to me with the idea of her book and I turned her down. I told her having the words regret and dying in the title, and pretty flowers on the cover, wasn’t going to work. So, she decided to self publish. Now – what do I know! That book sold millions of copies around the world, and has been translated into twenty-nine languages – including Mongolian! – and they’re now making a movie about the book!”
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“Sometimes publishers know too much and a really good book can slip through the net. So self-publishing is saying to the world I believe in myself and I don’t need anyone to invest into my dream, am going to invest in it and am going to prove to you that you don’t know everything about publishing!”
Once a book has created an audience, publishers from around the world have been known to sit up and take notice, the same way music companies have become very interested in musicians through MySpace or Youtube. So if you’re certain of and committed to your message, your courage may just get you the platform you were dreaming of after all.
03. Find your own twist on a classic
Thinking back to those English lessons at school, you may remember the number one rule to writing a good story: we need a beginning, a middle and an end. Seems straight-forward, right? But nowadays, you need a little more. If you want to stand out in that sea of hundreds and thousands of writers, you have to find your own take to a classic tale.
“It’s all about the twist. You have to find your point of difference. There have been a million books written on meditation and mindfulness and on positive thinking and healing your body, but what’s your twist on it? What makes your meditation book, for example, different? Maybe it’s that you don’t need to sit cross legged on a grassy hill in Tibet to meditate: you can do it while walking your dog. So while your subject maybe something that everyone else has written about, your take on it is completely new. It’s an obvious point to make but is something many writers don’t focus on enough – how is their story unique and different?”
Once you have your twist, make sure all of your branding and messaging revolves around that. You want to get to the point where people know what makes you different – and can easily find and understand that difference when they first come across your online marketing. Using social media is a great way to build this consistency: remind your audience of your key message and how it will affect them, and your standing as an expert will continue to grow.
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04. Create a book cover that stands the test of time – and multiple devices
So you’ve got your book written, edited and ready to share with the world: what do you put on the cover? Obviously, choosing the image and design for the front of your book is a very important decision, but Leon says that you need to consider more than just what you think suits your message: you have to consider how it will appear across a number of platforms, and how it will tie in with your long-term business plans.
“When it comes to designing the look for the cover, I tell our writers to start by walking around the biggest book shops you can find, and see what jumps out at you. Touch the books, pick them up and get a feel for them. It could be in the fishing section or the motoring section or the sport section – it doesn’t matter! If the cover speaks to you, take note. There’s something there that has sparked your imagination. Then, you have to consider things like can people read it at a glance, and is your brand and name recognisable? You might have this vision of a giant waterfall crashing down the mountain, but there’s no room for copy. Or when you do put copy on there you can’t read it from a distance. You’ve got to be able to look across the room and it’s got to work across platforms – on hand-held devices and in print. You also want people to be able to instantly recognise it as you, in case there’s another book or course you want to create in the future.”
Perhaps sadly, books are not the ticket to fame and fortune that they used to be – unless you’ve got the next ‘50 Shades of Grey’ hidden on your laptop. Nowadays, it’s all about multiple income streams, and a book should be just one part of your business plan. So how will this play into your longer term goals? And what elements can you carry through from book to e-course to events to products?
“Nowadays, you don’t just write a book to put it on a shelf and cross your fingers everybody wants to buy it. You want people to be able to recognise the colour and themes because it will match your website and match everything that you do. It’s also very important that your name is outstanding because you’re building a brand and the brand is not the book, the brand is you. No matter if it feels egotistical – you have to be prominent. That way, if your message or brand evolves, you will still be recognizable.”
05. Don’t wish for overnight success
Ok, so it sounds like a dream come true, right? You put your book out there, it’s picked up by the media around the world, and the next thing you know you’re fielding calls from Oprah. Surely that’s what we’d all want?
First of all, no-one is ever really an overnight success. The story of the years of rejection JK Rowling had to endure is well known, and whilst the above story of Bronnie Ware’s movie deal sounds like a fairytale, what we don’t see is the years of hard-work, marketing and writing that went into that success.
But according to Leon, that’s not really the success you want anyway. You want something that you can grow from a strong foundation – and build consistently.
“The first thing you have to accept is that it takes five years to be an overnight success. It is very rare that someone writes a book, gets on national television and their path is set. In fact, I would say that’s not what you should be aiming for. There’s no joy in that because you’re just a flash in the pan – and that’s not what you want to be. Look at someone like Deepak Chopra – he was a doctor and Endocrinologist, and had a very strong background in blending Eastern and Western medicine. He started by sharing his thoughts and giving lectures, and then one day, out of the blue, he gets invited on to Oprah and the rest is history. But, what we forget is the years and years of work and focus that came before that phone call.”
Build your brand, become an expert in your area and be patient. Don’t desire overnight success: desire gradual success.
“Desire a strong foundation. Make sure your name is out there, you build your platform properly, and then when people are researching a subject make sure that they can find you. If you search for your chosen area of expertise on Google and can’t see your name, then you’ve got a problem. Build a media kit, get prepared and clear on your unique message.”
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“You want to get to the point where people are looking for you, rather than you looking for them. I like to think of it as if you left the lights on in your home, with all the windows open – within a few hours every moth in your district will be all over the lights. Why do they do that? Because the light is bright and warm, they are attracted to the brightness and the warmth. You need to be that light. All you need to do is be so interesting, warm, and authentic and they will come to you. You don’t have to chase every single moth – the light bulb doesn’t run around looking for moths. You just need to be so desirable and so warm that everybody wants to talk to you and then you can choose who you want to talk to.”
06. Just keep going
Ernest Hemingway once said: “It’s none of their business that you have to learn to write. Let them think you were born that way.”
Whether you find writing easy or struggle with each word selection, the truth is: practice makes perfect. Even the very best in the world have a strong discipline around their writing practice. Start with a commitment to write just 500 words a day, and no matter what, keep on going.
“Once you have had the 10% inspirational moment, the perspiration phase comes into play. It begins by collecting all your thoughts and putting pen to paper. If possible, get yourself a white board and create a mind map. Remember – keep yours as simple as possible. Once you’ve taken the inspirational thought as far as you can, then be prepared. Self-doubt, complexity and lack of vision will creep in. At this point, remember it’s one step after the other. Take a moment to walk away, be inspired by nature, take a deep breath, take a walk outside, whatever it is that reconnects you to inspiration, and then get back to your whiteboard and start writing.
Don’t edit, don’t proof, don’t share, just write, and keep writing. Remember you’re not on a solitary journey without resources. There are many writer’s festivals and courses both online and live, which are all helpful, but first and foremost you must believe that you have thought of something worth reading. Your attitude towards your writing needs to be full of self-belief. You know you’ve discovered something original in what you have to say. The biggest selling authors all have one thing in common: they all had a winning mindset that led them to the right publisher at the right time.”
And finally, never stop writing. Write from the heart and write for yourself.
“Write as if the only person that’s going to read this is your mum and dad and your family and it doesn’t matter if no one else reads it. Once you’ve decided that’s the best you can do, then get a good editor, stay passionate and when the phone starts ringing, you’ll be ready. The the rest will be history.”
For international Writer’s Workshops, search here for dates and locations.