Overcoming Pitfalls in Self-Publishing
Self-Publishing is a Business
by Jef Bartow
For each of us writers to become authors, we must actually get our manuscript published. So, we begin as a writer and at some point make a decision to become an author. Making this decision requires every writer to become a business person. This series of articles is about becoming a published author (i.e. business person). Secondly, these articles will focus on those of you who choose self-publishing. Most of you reading this article have already been writing. Therefore, you must first back up and evaluate your writing (manuscript) from a different perspective. You must put on business eyeglasses and look at your manuscript with a discriminating eye. As you might expect, this is the first pitfall in becoming a published author: not looking at our writing from a business perspective. Before moving ahead to address this pitfall, it is important to understand that anyone can write a book and for the right amount of money, publish it. An assumption made here is that we would like it to sell our book successfully enough to pay us back for our money invested. Beyond that, many of us would like our book to reach an audience and actually provide us an income. So what does it mean to look at our writing from a business perspective? In any business venture, the entrepreneur needs a creative idea for their product or service. Creating the invention (i.e. manuscript) is only one part of creating a successful business. First and foremost, we must define who will buy our product. For example, the finest quality and easy to use buggy whip created in the 20th century would serve no significant customer base (audience). On the other hand, the most creative and best made helmet to protect us from alien invasions may only serve a customer base sometime in the future. Avoiding our first pitfall is to put on our business eyeglasses and critically look at our writing to determine who (our target audience) will really want to read and enjoy our book. A key part of avoiding this pitfall is not to make a common mistake writers make in deciding: “everyone will like my book.” Even assuming that all children; all sci-fi fans; all those interested in spirituality, self-help, business books, cookbooks, coffee table books, etc., etc., etc. will want to buy my book is a mistake. The more specific you can be in defining your target audience, the higher potential you will have for success in selling your book. Within the arena of publishing books on spirituality, our evaluation needs to include understanding the diverse people who buy spiritual books. Since I write books on spirituality, my research shows a fast-growing book audience includes baby-boomer adults in the mainstream of life who yearn to define their spirituality beyond their religious upbringing. Conversely, another example of a breakthrough book market includes how the Harry Potter books have captured the imagination of both young people and adults, just like The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings books did in the 1960s-1970s. The second part of overcoming this pitfall is to critically review your writing to assure that it strategically and consistently addresses the wants and needs of your specifically define target audience. What this means is to methodically go through your manuscript chapter by chapter with your target audience in mind to determine how you can align/improve your manuscript. And if you don't find much to improve, then give it to two or three people in your target audience for specific feedback. Of course, that doesn't mean family, friends and relatives. To summarize this first major pitfall in self-publishing, we writers expressing our passion need to become objective detached business people in order to become successful published authors. If that seems distasteful to you, then be satisfied with your creative work and let go of any expectations of acceptance in the marketplace.