Why Do Authors Always Do It Backwards?

Present word count of WIP:  23,516

Seth Godin’s Advice for Authors:

2. The best time to start promoting your book is three years before it comes out. Three years to build a reputation, build a permission asset, build a blog, build a following, build credibility and build the connections you’ll need later.

So, basically, he’s saying we need to think about selling long before we have a product to sell. Of course, most authors do it backwards. They build the product first and then think about how to sell it…when it’s probably too late to get the most for our efforts.

Then, again, we don’t pick up pen and paper (or type away at a keyboard) in the first place to make money. We do it for the love of writing and storytelling. But if you’re in this business to make a lot of sales, then it might be best to heed his advice.

With rare exceptions (like J.K. Rowling and Stephanie Meyer), it takes most authors a good 5-6 books to begin to have a real following. Why? Because it simply takes that long. Not only is each novel generally improving in quality, but over time more readers are added to their fan base as word spreads from friend to friend.

You might argue that Godin writes nonfiction, and for the nonfiction writer, platform is everything. These days, however, I’d argue that platform is becoming just as important for the fiction writer.

That’s why I’m going to keep blogging away, friending on FB, tweeting (though I need to get a lot more consistent there), writing reviews on Goodreads, Amazon and other places online, and taking every possible opportunity to attend/present at conferences and retreats (as long as I can afford it, that is).

If Godin’s right, then I can expect to be published by 2015 (traditionally, that is…of course, I’m actually hoping for some time this year with Laps). And by then, I should have at least three more manuscripts ready and available for the audience I will have built.

But, then, by 2015 who knows what publishing will look like in America? And on that note, what do you think of the new iBooks Author?

Originally posted 2012-01-20 17:07:18.

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5 thoughts on “Why Do Authors Always Do It Backwards?

  1. I’ll admit I “wrote first, promoted later” like most authors. I guess my concern with doing it the other way around is this: what if your book is realllllllly bad?

    I, for one, need to believe in something before I can “promote” it. Just because I set out to write the next great American novel, doesn’t mean I will.

    • I agree, J., you never know when you begin a story how precisely it will shake out…whether it will do you proud or not. We can only hope, right?

      I think the reason he says “three years” is because in the world of traditional big publishing it’s now almost come down to that. You sign a contract and your book doesn’t actually come out until three years later. Perhaps he’s stretching it a bit, but not much. So, you use that time not only to work on your next book, but to build up an audience for the book you’re under contract for. I should have made that clear in my posting.

  2. You’d have to really have your long-range goals firmly set to market so long before your book is ready. For first time authors I’m guessing that never happens because we often start writing that first book on a whim, without any sure plan of what we want. For later books, I can see it happening.

    • Agreed, Valerie. But that’s a good thing to do if you’re really serious about writing. I suppose it’s what separates the professionals from the hobbyists.

  3. You need both. Also if you want to be publish traditionally you have to have a platform or who is going to care that you write a book. Books need sold and that is why you have to do both. Write the book at the same time you get your name out there. :)
    Anna del C.
    Author of “The Silent Warrior Trilogy”
    http://www.annadelc.com

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