Recently, while reading an encouraging piece about someone’s ten steps to successful book marketing, it dawned on me that there might possibly be more authors of how-to-succeed books than people who are actually successful authors. Let’s face it, how-to-succeed books are a tremendous market. We are drawn to them like bears to honey.
In a world where anyone can publish a book and place it on a retail shelf, the crux of success has shifted to marketing. What sure-fire steps can I take to position my work where it will be noticed by the most readers? There is no lack of pamphlets and essays and books out there to answer this question (two dollars, please). Can there really be so many sure-fire steps to successful marketing? I don’t think so.
Yet I continue to be drawn to these testimonials. There is a treasure hunt element to them. One day I might find THE ANSWER. One day, if I read enough step-by-step lists, I will find it; the perfect effort-free, instant, sure-fire step to entice the world’s population to read my book. After that, success will surely follow, for I know that anyone who actually reads my book will certainly love it.
Wishful thinking aside, it is important to understand when reading such lists that their success is probably not going to be your success. As human beings, we are uniquely different. My strength, your strength, is that difference. It is what sets us apart, and we need to set ourselves apart to be noticed.
Most successful authors and book marketers have become so by being innovative. They swim against the current, they turn left when the other lemmings turn right, they break the rules. This is not done arbitrarily. Their methods come as the result of introspection. Take a hard look at yourself and answer the question: what is it about me that is different from anyone else I know? Once you have answered that question, think about how you can use that trait to gain an advantage.
One such trait is hutzpah. Clive Cussler tells the story of his early writing days and his frustration (which we all share at one time or another) with finding someone to publish his books. No agent would take him on. Then he thought of a device; he wrote a letter to a publisher introducing himself as an agent. In the letter he explained that they had met at a party, and he (the publisher) had asked for his best author prospects. Clive knew that the publisher attended a great many parties and after getting a buzz on, probably would not recall every agent he met. Taking advantage of this, the faux agent (Cussler) recommended a manuscript from his best author (Cussler). And the rest is history.
Your unique trait might not be hutzpah, but you certainly have one, and it can likely be engineered in a way to elevate you above the crowd. It requires thought, and imagination.
These are unique times for authors. The publishing world is going the way of the music world, a previously tightly controlled market that imploded. It is a seismic shift that will rumble and quake for quite a while. But one thing is clear: authors are gaining much more control of their own destinies than they have ever had before. And until the rumbling stops and the fallout settles, there is no single strategy that will guarantee success for an author. The road to success for one author could well contain more potholes than pavement for another.