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5 Things Authors Should Know that Publishers Won’t Tell them

Updated: Jun 11, 2020

I have seen too many authors become despondent and angry because they invest large sums of money and many hours to publish and promote their books, with little to no return on their investment. While publishing companies, retailers, publicists, marketing firms and other book promoters reap the rewards for your hard work. Lotus Sharp helps authors navigate the industry. We teach authors how to market and promote their books so they can avoid investing money on services that they do not need.

Here are 5 things that all authors should know but no publisher will ever tell them.

1. Publish for the right reason.

In his book “On Writing” (I highly recommend that all authors read this!) Stephen King says:

Writing isn't about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it's about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. It's about getting up, getting well, and getting over.”

If you want to write and publish books to get rich and famous or even to make a living, you need to first understand that the chances of that happening are very slim. Most authors do not make enough money from book sales to live off exclusively. For example[1], if an author earns £1 in royalties for every book sold, they need to sell tens of thousands of books every year to sustain themselves financially. However, it is a highly crowded and competitive market with thousands of new books published every month. As a new, unknown author, it will take time to build your brand and you'll do well to sell 300 copies in a year! So, don’t quit your day job just yet.

2. Don’t let anyone sell you a lie.

The UK publishing industry sector is worth billions of Pounds and growing. However, most authors are considered to be at the bottom of the food chain. The whole industry is unfairly skewed towards retailers, publishers, distributors and other book promotion companies. They will tell you exactly what you want to hear, to convince you to invest money with them. They comment on how wonderful your writing style is and how much promise your works shows because they know how desperate authors are for their work to be validated.

Unfortunately, the truth is, if they are not a traditional publisher investing in you, then selling contracts to authors is the money-making function of the business. These hybrid and self-publishing companies focus on selling as many contracts as possible. This means that they have not read your manuscript because they do not have the time. So, test them! The next time a company tells you that they loved your manuscript, ask them which part was their favorite? Or make up a twist that is not in the story as ask them if they saw it coming. You will soon catch them in a lie. Then ask yourself, if they are comfortable lying to you at that stage, what are the chances they will be completely honest with you in the future?

Once you have paid for a service such as publishing, marketing, or PR the company doesn’t care if you ever sell a single book. They invest their time and resources to the parts of the business that make the most profit, and that is not book sales. I have worked with many authors over the years who have invested thousands of pounds with publishers and book marketing companies who make claims that they will likely make a return on their investment, remember, they say anything to get them to sign on the dotted line! But, read the small print, and you will see that they do not make any guarantees. So, when considering if any service is worth your investment, first think about how many books you would need to sell just to break even?

Traditional publishers cannot guarantee that authors will sell a certain number of books either. While they rely solely on book sales to maintain themselves, they will likely deploy more marketing resources on their established authors, because they are more likely to sell high volumes of books. If you are an unknown author, there will be too much risk involved. So, authors must learn how to market themselves and start building a brand. Just remember that authors do not have to invest thousands of Pounds to do this. Lotus Sharp can coach you and support you on your journey through the publishing world.

3. Your journey does not begin and end on publication day

Many authors become fixated with publication day. There is this great sense of urgency and excitement in the months leading up to it. Many first-time authors don’t know what to expect. Fanfare? Fireworks? Will the Paparazzi be camped outside my house? Will my book be stocked and displayed in bookshops around the country? Will I see my book advertised on the side of a bus? However, when the “big day” arrives and none of those things happen, it can be a huge anticlimax. If you can relate to this, don’t worry, you are not alone and it is important to remember publication day is only a minor milestone in your publishing journey. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can sit back and wait for the royalties to come rolling in and the phone to start ringing. Hollywood Actor and Musician Jared Leto said, “the bridge between a dream and reality is hard work”. So, if you want your book to sell well, you need to put in some serious hard work in the year leading up to publication and in the years following it. You must also be prepared for failure because not everything you do will work, resilience is key.

Many authors focus on how many books they have sold in any given month, but that is not the most important metric when you are an unknown author. Building a brand is far more important than how many books you sell initially. This takes time, dedication, persistence and the willingness to learn.

Even if your publisher claims to offer marketing support, this will be limited in most cases. Remember, that publishers are constantly releasing new titles and the ratio of people working in the marketing team versus the number of books they have in their catalogue, will be massive. So, please don’t rely on your publisher to make the book a success, you need to do that yourself. Lotus Sharp offer affordable training courses and coaching sessions to teach authors how to market and promote their books more effectively, without spending thousands of pounds.

4. Do your research to avoid unscrupulous companies.

Before you enter into business with any publisher or invest in any service, do your research! Don’t just believe what they say on their website, of course, they want to shine the best light on themselves to convince you to hand over your hard-earned cash. Check company reviews on multiple channels such as Glassdoor and Google. If you see recurring negative themes then this should be a red flag for you to avoid them. You might say that all companies get negative press from time to time, so ask them some tough questions, if they fail to answer transparently or seem to be giving you a generic response, then please do not trust them with your book or your money. Remember there is nothing that these companies do that you cannot learn to do yourself. They need you more than you need them. Don’t be fooled into thinking that they are the only option and that your book will never see the light of day without their help because that is not true. If you are unsure if they are a genuine service or not, Lotus Sharp can help by vetting the company on your behalf. We will tell you if we think their service is worth while or not.

5. Knowledge is power

Before you even consider publishing a book you must understand the industry you are entering and what the market potential is for your book. Think of publishing a book like a company launching a new product. There will be a number of marketing activities that their marketing team do prior to the launch, to determine if there is potential demand for that product. You need to understand who your target demographic are and how to reach them. In marketing, there are several ways that we segment demographics to ensure we are as specific and targeted as we can be. Then, you need to find out how other books aimed at your target demographic have performed. Only then can you make an informed decision about what route you will take to get that product to market and promote it.

I once asked an author who their book was aimed at and they replied, “anyone who can read”. And then they wondered why their marketing efforts were not paying off or leading to any sales. But, I don’t expect all authors to be marketing experts. Most of them are not, they are teachers, builders, retired professionals, doctors, delivery drivers, etc. Lotus Sharp can help you learn how to market a book from conception, through production, publication and beyond. We cannot guarantee that you will become the next “big thing”, but we will do our best to help you sell more books, learn about the industry and support you along the way, so you don’t fall prey to Ponzi schemes and con artists. Above all, we will always be honest with you!

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[1] This number can vary depending on the terms of your contract with any publisher. If you need help understanding what the terms of any contract mean for you, please contact Lotus Sharp Author Support.

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