8 Important Questions to Ask Before You Publish Your Book

Press "publish" computer keyRight now, I feel like I’m drowning.

I’m in the final frenzy of preparing for the launch week of my new print business book, The Pocket Small Business Owner’s Guide to Starting Your Business on a Shoestring.

I’ve learned a lot about book marketing since my previous print book, How They Started, came out, and I’m excited to apply some of the ideas.

In going through this process, I realized there are some basic questions all authors should ask themselves if they are preparing to publish a book, whether self-published ebook, print-on-demand, or physical, traditional press, fiction or nonfiction.

These questions provide a roadmap that will clue you in on whether now is a good time to put your book out, and will steer you to use what marketing time you have productively.

Ask yourself:

1. Who will care about and buy my book?

These days, book sales are all about who you know. How big is your network? Who can you promote this book to? Most importantly, who do you know who has a big audience of their own who’d be willing to review it, interview you, or otherwise help you promote your book?

If you’ve been sitting in your garret writing and are thinking your book is so amazing and irresistible that it will sell itself (as I saw one writer boast recently on LinkedIn)…prepare to be disappointed.

I meet too many writers who write their book and then decide to start blogging to promote it. That gets the order backwards. First, start building your audience and making connections with others in your planned book niche, so that you have a way to market your book.

2. Who will blurb my book?

I saw this eye-opening comment on one of LinkedIn’s author groups recently — a new nonfiction book author wanted to know how she could get the top thought leaders in her niche to give her book some raves for the cover.

She wondered if a traditional publisher could line that up for her. The answer is no. It doesn’t work like that.

The people who blurb your book tend to be people you know well and who likely you have done favors for in the past. If you don’t know him, Bill Gates is not going to blurb your business book, and J.K. Rowling isn’t going to rave about your children’s book.

Blurbing a book is actually a big pain because you have to really read the entire book to make a coherent review comment! It’s a lot of ask as a favor of someone.

I had interviewed quite a few business-book authors over the years as a business reporter and built some relationships there that helped. But if I hadn’t attended SOBCon, I would have been hard up for book-cover blurbs on my first book — about half of them came from relationships I formed there.

3. Who will review my book?

The next thing you need is people willing to read advance copies and post Amazon and GoodReads reviews on publication day, so that readers get the idea it’s a happening tome with an active reader base.

Could you get 50 or 100 people to do that? If so, that will get your book off to a good start. Once you’ve got a nice number of reviews up, other buyers will tend to chime in and add to them.

4. What forms of marketing can I do?

Lots of writers hate talking about themselves, and hate marketing in general. But selling a book involves butt-loads of marketing. Start thinking about what types of marketing you’d be willing to dive into. Could you hit trade shows and do a book tour? Bookstore-based book talks and signings? Rent a billboard? Start thinking about what’s within your comfort zone, time availability, and budget.

Consider what marketing will make the most impact for your particular book. There are only so many hours for book marketing, and you cannot do it all.

Because I’ve been blogging and writing about business for years, I’m focusing most of my energy on tapping the blogging community. I’m submitting my book to business-book review sites, guesting on business podcasts, doing guest posts, and Skype interviews.

That comes naturally to me, and I’m well-connected there. I’m doing a bit of in-person, but since I live in a small town it’s more impactful for me to concentrate on Internet marketing, where I can reach a much larger audience.

5. Can I tap my network for marketing ideas?

The best advice I can give about book marketing is to start asking around about what you should do. You’ll learn a lot.

For instance, I did one post on Facebook and Twitter asking for suggestions and immediately got three leads of business blogs I hadn’t thought to approach, even though they were names I knew.

One of them I turned out to become an instant new best friend on Skype. We turned out to have loads in common. she introduced me to a large Skype mastermind group she’s in, and asked for a video post! You will greatly increase your marketing reach when you ask for help.

I asked one personal friend for ideas and she reminded me that — duh — our town has a daily paper, a monthly lifestyle magazine, and a regional business journal, all of which might write about my book launch event here in town. In fact, as I write this, I see the business journal has posted a release about my local book launch party. That’s a great bit of great exposure I would have probably would have forgotten to pursue without the nudge.

6. How much free time have I got?

In my case, the answer is not a ton, since I need to spend a lot of time helping Freelance Writers Den members. I have dropped some freelance clients, but still have family responsibilities, too.

Unless you can drop everything to become a book-marketing machine, you’ll need to pick and choose your promotional methods. Also, start earlier if you know you’ll need to juggle your schedule with other commitments.

For instance, I gather GoodReads does only marginally well for nonfiction books, and that you should spend an hour a day on there interacting with people to get some real traction. Given that it’s not an ideal platform for my type of book, I decided to fill out my profile and do a giveaway contest (check it out in the sidebar!), but otherwise not make this a big focus.

I think the most important sanity-saver here is realizing book marketing is a bottomless pit. In the end, you need to do all you can with the time and resources you have, and then let it go.

7. Can I do something creative?

I took a book marketing training this week, and one of the things I learned that works well in book marketing is the element of surprise or something unusual. How will you make your book stand out in the sea of new releases?

For instance, the trainer had worked with a Christian book author who did some book-signings in brewpubs, because his theme was taking Christianity to blue-collar people. I’m still brainstorming about what I might do that would be off-the-wall.

8. How does this fit with my goals?

We only have so much time in our writing careers. Each book you write leads your career in the direction of that type of subject matter. Is it something you love? Will you enjoy the opportunities that come out of this particular topic and book type?

As a longtime business writer, I jumped at the chance to boil down 20 years of business interviews into a single, handy guide full of great stories of success and failure that will help other owners stay in business. Writing about business is one of my passions and my future goal is to ghost business books for CEOs, so to me this book was in line with my plan for my writing career.

Are you writing a book? Leave a comment and tell us how you plan to publish and market it. If it’s already out, leave us a link so we can check it out.

The Pocket Small Business Owner's Guide to Starting Your Business on a ShoestringP.S. Want to be an early reader of my book and get a copy free? I’m looking for 50 readers to give me feedback for the ebook version.

(PPS. Thanks all — I now have my 50 readers signed up.)

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27 comments on “8 Important Questions to Ask Before You Publish Your Book
  1. Jassie S. says:

    Hi Carol,
    Thanks for the recommendations.I will look into them.AME refers to Author Marketing Experts.Do check it out.

    Cheers,
    Jassie
    Jassie S. recently posted…First Draft TerrorsMy Profile

  2. Jassie S. says:

    Hi Carol,
    Great post.I’m relatively new to these ideas of marketing.Tell me something; I’m writing a short novella based in the medical fiction/romance genre.Who can I market it to? This is a question which I’m pretty much stuck to and I haven’t found a creative answer to that as of yet.

    I feel bad that I only got to know about your post now through AME. Wish you all the very best with your book.

    If possible, we should have a deeper chat over this sometime, if you’re free.Do let me know, I will love to interview you sometime.

    Cheers,
    Jassie
    Jassie S. recently posted…First Draft TerrorsMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Fiction marketing is out of my wheelhouse, Jassie. I can recommend sites such as Storyfix or Writer Unboxed, or Build Book Buzz as places to go to think about marketing your novel…and not sure if you mean marketing it to publishers, or finding readers for it.

      What’s AME?

  3. Lee says:

    I’m wondering can I self publish a book to sell using my facebook groups comments by myself and others without it being touched. What implications are there if any. Thank you Regards Lee

    • Carol Tice says:

      Not completely sure what you’re asking…I think whether you can legally reproduce Facebook conversations?

      But in any case, I’d ask a copyright lawyer. My understanding is that what we write on Facebook is public domain, but I’d check carefully before trying to publish and profit from other peoples’ FB comments.

  4. Lela Rivas says:

    The key to effective book marketing is showing how you meet people’s needs, even if you write fiction. Therefore, your marketing efforts should be reader-focused, rather than self-focused. Examine all of your promotional materials, such as websites, bios, blogs, and brochures. Do they express a selfless desire to help others? Or, do they convey a sense of self-importance?

  5. This is a great post for me Carol. I’m writing a mammoth guide for freelance writers that I intend to sell on my website, and have started work on my first book too – although that’s on the back-burner for now. The biggest problem I think is the one you touched on in point 6 – marketing is a bottomless pit and it’s difficult to know which tactics are right for you and your book/product. Thanks for a bit of clarity amidst all the insanity!
    Kirsty Stuart recently posted…Is Writing Online for a Living Really for You?My Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Yeah, I was sort of driving myself nuts with that and then I went, “I’m doing what I can and what seems most valuable right now. I’ll have to learn and tweak from that later when I see results.”

      Free tip: Don’t write a mammoth guide for freelance writers! That’s what I did — 200+ pages! — and it’s not a good approach. Especially if you’re thinking ebook, price points have been driven down pretty low. It’s better to split it into multiple topics and release several small ebooks at lower prices.

      When I put mine on sale for $18 (usually $36), I had people say, “Oh, I never buy ebooks over $9.95.” So just sayin’.

      Also, mammoth ones take forever to get done and come out. It’s better for the marketing funnel to have a series of smaller releases…which is what I’m hoping to kick off later this summer.

  6. Carol,
    As usual, your post was informative, enlightening and thought provoking. I published a young adult novel in Sept 2011. It did fairly well for a while, then went flat. Last month I did my first free giveaway for 4 days. I promoted it heavily on Goodreads, LinkedIn groups and at least a dozen other sites. It resulted in 332 copies given away and…wait for it…9 sales.

    I dedicate one full day a week to networking. I have found most of my success on LinkedIn groups. I have had very little luck or interest in Goodreads. But perhaps I have not put enough effort into it, so I will work on that.

    I have been busily working on picture books and easy readers. I have one coming out in less than two months, and more in the illustrating and creative editing /beta reader stages.

    I have made some very good contacts and relationships with other writers and have reviewed and been reviewed, which is great experience and fun.
    I started a blog about September 2011 and have been slowly adding to it and grooming it. I like to keep my posts meaningful, and I do have two part-time jobs besides my writing. Thus, I do not post a lot or frequently, but try to put something up every month to keep the interest and gain new.

    I am determined to go to a writer’s conference this year (Wordstock in Oct in Portland, OR) and ‘mingle’ with my product. This is a new area for me and I feel a bit overwhelmed and inept about it, but I shall persevere. I would like to go to the Willamette Writers’ Conference in Portland as well, but just don’t have the funds right now.

    My goal is to become a philanthropreneur and give a portion of my earnings to reputable non-profits.

    I look forward to continuing to read your wonderful blog.

    Stacie Morrell
    Stacie Morrell recently posted…To Cliche or Not To Cliche?My Profile

  7. Ashutosh says:

    Hi Carol,

    After reading your wonderful post, I didn’t helped calling out those old days when I got my first book published. Really, its a hard work and the points that you have mentioned in your post can be a ready reckoner for anyone wishing to publish their work.

    Apart from that, I would like to add that writing is a passion and unless and until, someone can feel that passion, writing is not going to happen. There are times when you are in the mood to write and certain other times, when you aren’t in the mood. We need to respect that mood to create masterpieces with the power of our words.

    Thanks for sharing your deep thoughts.

    Ashutosh Kasera

  8. I’m working on a couple of different books at the moment. One is a “blog to book” version of the posts I wrote during the A to Z Blogging Challenge in April, called Montreal from A to Z. It’s a kind of travel guide to the city, from a personal perspective, and fits in with a lot of the stuff I’ve already published about Montreal, but skirts the more erotic angle those works have taken in order to reach a broader audience.

    I’m also working on an anthology of kick-ass female writers’ stories with a fellow writer and editor, Heather L. Nelson. Our collection will be called Damned Dames, and is set to include some heavy hitters like Aimee Bender, xTx, Roxane Gay and many more awesome ladies. We’re pretty excited about this one, and are hoping to apply for some travel grants to put together a reading. I’m also trying to think of more “off the wall” types of publicity stunts as you mentioned in the post!
    Laura Roberts recently posted…June Haiku Contest — Write your best summertime haikuMy Profile

  9. Kara says:

    Carol

    You consistently give fantastic and timely advice for all stages of writing. Thank you for sharing so generously. I really appreciate the work you do.

    Sincerely,
    Kara Norman
    Kara recently posted…Leaving HomeMy Profile

  10. Amandah says:

    I have three books published with an independent publishing company and kind of wish I could go back and redo everything.

    My lesson

    It’s important to talk about your book (create a buzz) before it’s published. Even though you have an established author/writer’s platform, your book is new. Why should people read it? How will it benefit it them? What makes your book different from similar books on the market, past and previous? I think speaking about your book before it hits the ‘online and store’ shelves is a good idea. This way you can line up reviewers and interest for your book.

    Book project

    I wrote two books in my children’s picture book series, and I am working on a ‘game’ plan for it. I’m not sure if I will:

    Create a separate website for it or use my author website.
    Self-publish
    Continue to query literary agents
    Use Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, etc.

    CLICK HERE http://savvy-writer.com/amandahs-book-publishing for information on the following books, published under the pen name Celeste Teylar.

    Books

    Media Magnetism: How to Attract the Favorable Publicity You Want and Deserve
    Color Your Life: Daily Meditations for the Creative Soul
    Your Inner Child: Daily Meditations for the Young at Heart Soul
    The Seussification of Life: Daily Meditations for the Movin’ & Groovin’ Soul

    *I’d love to review the book, but I’m not available on July 9. Darn it!
    Amandah recently posted…What’s the Secret Recipe for Making Content Viral?My Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      I highly recommend creating a book site, Amandah. I spent out of my own pocket to make one for this book after my print publisher told me they don’t do it! Sort of blew my mind…but I hopped on it and am pretty happy with the result, which of course I did on a shoestring, in keeping with the theme of my book! Cost maybe $150.

      The thing about book sites is they can persist a long time and be a steady source of SEO-driven sales if you get a good relevant URL. I think it won’t work as well from my caroltice.com site. I do have it there, but not expecting that to be where it sells from.

      That question — how is your book different from competitors? Really stumped me for a long while. It was in my author guide that my publisher wanted me to fill out.

      What I came to is it’s the concise yet comprehensive guide to how to save money in your business. That’s the whole focus. Lots of other “startup owner’s guide” types that have a broader focus.

      There are other books about the lean startup process and quickly pivoting your business model to respond to market demand. But mine goes through every aspect of operations and how to save money in each, all in a short book – about 220 pages.

      • Amandah says:

        I had a feeling that it’s important to create a book site. I would like my children’s picture book website to be interactive with games and other fun stuff for kids and parents. Sadly, I’m not a web designer/developer. This one will probably cost me some money.

        Thanks Carol! I look forward to reading your book.
        Amandah recently posted…What’s the Secret Recipe for Making Content Viral?My Profile

  11. Great post, Carol! The 8 points you list and explain validated my own journey in writing, editing, publishing, and marketing my own book. Anyway, can’t wait to read your book. I especially love the first point, “Who will care about and buy my book?” It’s kind of obvious but very important to ask!!
    Miriam Hendeles recently posted…Boy Versus Girl: An Uneven RatioMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Congrats on your book, Miriam!

      I think many authors want to write about what they want to write about, and never ask, “Where’s the audience for this?” I think imagining a reader from the start makes it a better book as well.

  12. Barbara says:

    You touched on something that I’m still studying and learning! (I’ll admit it – I hate marketing, but I do it, sporadically.) I need to do a little of it every day and, now that I’m over a HUGE hump, my plan is to spend 20 minutes a day doing so.

    I have a non-fic book:
    http://www.amazon.com/Military-Retirement-Benefits-Qualify-ebook/dp/B008536UXA

    and a romance novella:
    http://www.amazon.com/Freelance-Love-ebook/dp/B00C38RZ3M

    out thus far. I have two non-fiction books written, but not formatted yet. They are also aimed at the military spouse audience. I plan to ask a relative for the graphic designs. On the romance novella, I’ve been asked for a sequel and I’m working on an outline for that.

    The first book (Military Retirement Benefits) I will be changing the title and cover image because I need to boost sales.

    I’ll be marketing the romance novellas heavily through Goodreads and blog tours – which I’m learning about.

    Thank you for reminding me that I need to get moving!

    • Carol Tice says:

      I almost didn’t do GoodReads because I know it’s better for fiction, but have been blown away by the number of people entering my contest already! And it’s got nearly a month to go…fascinated to see how many people enter.

  13. Rohi Shetty says:

    Thanks, Carol.

    I admire your meticulous attention to detail.

    You are absolutely right – book marketing, like building an online business, is a bottomless pit.

    Overwhelm is crouching around every corner, like a bloodthirsty tiger.

    I deal with this by creating a comprehensive checklist and then focusing on the next action step – or the next 4-5 action steps.

    Having ADD doesn’t help.

    Having a sense of humor does.

    “Most writers can write books faster than publishers can write checks.” Richard Curtis
    Rohi Shetty recently posted…My Ten Favorite Humorous QuotationsMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Ha! Great quote. I’m actually still waiting for the back half of my advance on this book…I’ve recently pointed out to them that if they don’t get it to me pretty soon, they won’t be able to call it an “advance” any more, as we’ll be past the publication date!

  14. Amanda says:

    I think your post is very thought provoking. I like the idea of having a creative marketing approach as that has enormous potential if done correctly. Can’t wait to see what you come up with!

    I’ve completed my first picture book manuscript for 2-5 year olds. I’m still trying to decide whether I go the traditional publishing route or self-publish. I know whichever route I take there will be lots more work for me to do. I do have my unique marketing approach worked out though and that was worked into the project from its inception months ago before I’d written a word.

    I’m looking forward to reading your book as I know it will be full of useful advice and information.
    Amanda recently posted…Testimonial: Book Outline CreationMy Profile

  15. Erika D. says:

    These are all great (and essential) questions, Carol. I’ll be sharing this post. Good luck with your book! (My story collection was published in 2011, and there’s plenty of info about it, including blurbs and reviews, on my website, http://www.erikadreifus.com.)
    Erika D. recently posted…Friday Finds for WritersMy Profile

  16. Thanks for this post! These are great. “Who will blurb my book?” That one made me cringe a little. What do you suggest if we don’t have someone to turn to to blurb our book?
    Jessica Flory recently posted…How to Ruin Your NovelMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Start networking with other authors! Follow them on Twitter, comment on their posts, ask what you can do to help them, do a Q&A with them for your blog. Review their book on Amazon. Form relationships.

      Then, it’s natural to say, “Hey, would you mind taking a look at my book for a possible blurb?”

      I think it’s almost impossible to market a book today without knowing some thought leaders for blurbs. Sort of Job One.

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