Have you been looking for advice on how to publish a book or how to promote a book? If so, I’m happy that you’re here.
I’m extremely excited to share some publishing and marketing insights that I recently discussed with Rhett Power. Being a well-respected business coach and having already published several books, Rhett is the perfect person to learn from on this extremely important topic.
By the end of this post, you will have a much better understanding of what makes a great book launch and how to publish your book. Because this topic is so important to your journey as an author, I encourage you to implement the insights and strategies discussed below.
The Underrated Challenge
There’s something exciting about putting your metaphorical pen to paper and writing a book. It presents an opportunity to capture your readers’ imagination or share your unique insights on a particular topic. It can lead to everything from a bolstered reputation in your industry to massive financial gains.
If any of these dreams appeal to you, you aren’t alone. According to one study, hundreds of millions of Americans have expressed some interest in becoming authors. Yet many would-be authors find themselves on the other side of their dreams. From the lack of a book idea to simply not finding the time to finish their book, there are plenty of obstacles that trip authors up.
That being said, some of the more underrated obstacles center on the publishing and promotional side of creating a book. Many first-time (and even repeat) authors spend the majority of their time writing the book itself. Granted, this is important. Whether you are writing fiction or nonfiction, the book’s content needs to resonate with your readers.
Nonetheless, publishing and promoting your book are extremely important. Without being proactive and strategic, you’ll find that your polished manuscript is not being purchased or read by your target audience. Your ROI, whether that is in a financial sense or reputational sense, may not be as high as you expected.
Because of this, it is critical to understand how to properly publish and market your book. Even if you don’t think of yourself as a marketer or have little marketing experience, there are several strategies that you can leverage to great effect. They may take some time, but they will go a long way in helping you get eyeballs on your book.
There really is no other choice.
To learn more about how to publish a book, I had the distinct pleasure of speaking with Rhett Power. Rhett has been through the publishing process many times, having authored books like The Entrepreneur’s Book of Actions and One Million Frogs. Along with this, Rhett was voted the best small business coach in the United States. Rhett lives and breathes this topic, so I was happy to discuss the publishing process with him on Connection Loop.
Allocating Your Time as an Author
It’s undeniable that many authors are surprised by the amount of time it takes to write, publish, and market their books. What seems like a process that should only take a few months ends up taking substantially longer than you expect.
Because of this, it is extremely critical to develop a routine, process, or habit when working on a book and thinking about how to publish a book. Better yet, this routine needs to be easy to implement and most occur on a regular basis. If your routine is too complicated or easy to stray from, you’re going to find it extremely difficult to make your book dreams come true.
Developing a routine is especially true when writing your manuscript. It’s all too easy to find excuses not to write today. Work may get in the way or you may be too exhausted to sit down and type out a couple of pages. Before you know it, months have gone by and you haven’t made any progress.
For Rhett, developing a writing ritual was critical. Because it was easy for him to get distracted, Rhett recognized that it was so important to structure his time. Without doing so, he knew that he would easily go down some research rabbit holes. Doing soo, he would lose valuable writing hours and be far behind his internal deadline.
So to protect his time, Rhett blocked (and continues to block) time off. He eliminates nearly every distraction so he can focus on writing during his allocated time. As just one example, emails sent to Rhett after 10:00 am likely won’t get a response until much later in the day. This is because he blocks off time in the middle of the day for things like reading, writing, and phone calls.
No matter your preferred routines or schedule throughout your normal workday, it’s a good idea to follow Rhett’s lead. If you work a full nine-to-five job, try to block off one solid hour (in the morning or evening) where you can focus on writing. If you have a more flexible schedule, find that protected time at the most convenient point in your day. Finding this time and eliminating distractions throughout that dedicated time will help you make significant progress on your book.
A Huge Choice: Working with a Publisher vs. Self-Publishing
Before getting into the how and execution parts of the process, Rhett began by telling me that every author needs to make several important decisions along their publishing journey. These decisions seem important when you make them and rightly so. They are going to make a big difference in how you market your new book.
For instance, one of the most important decisions when contemplating how to publish a book is whether you are going to self-publish your book or work with a publisher. We now live in a world where self-publishing is a viable way to release your completed book to the world. Using Amazon Self-Publishing or some other tool, you can bypass essentially every gatekeeper. All you will need is a completed manuscript, a tool like Amazon Self-Publishing, and the time and patience to market your new book.
But on the other hand, you can proceed with the “traditional” way of publishing a book. That is working with an agent and finding a publisher. There are certainly benefits to working with a publisher. For instance, working with a publisher, you’ll be more likely to see your book in-print in your local bookstore. If you have a pretty large profile before starting to write your book, your publisher may even give you an advance. These are real benefits that are difficult (or even impossible) to find if you are self-publishing your book.
Rhett self-published his first book. But when he was writing his second book, he had to think long and hard about which path to take. In the end, he chose to work with an agent to find a publisher. That publisher ended up being McGraw-Hill.
Rhett said that he wanted the credibility that comes with working with a publishing house and having his book appear in physical form. It was really important for him to see his second book in bookstores. He wanted to physically see the book at his local Barnes & Noble and wanted to go on a book tour. Rhett also recognized that McGraw-Hill could provide him with many important benefits. As just one example, Rhett’s publisher helped him distribute his book outside the United States. They also helped promote Rhett’s book on their blog and social media channels. Rhett wanted help in these areas when he was releasing his first self-published book, so it made his decision to work with a publisher that much easier.
The core of his decision, however, came to meeting his internal goals. He wanted to prove to himself that he could get a book published. He wanted to see that royalty check in the mail and get that internal satisfaction of having his name next to a renowned book publisher.
In the end, it comes down to understanding your strategic objectives. If the credibility and status of working with a publisher are important to you, you’ll likely want to pursue that route. On the other hand, self-publishing lets you take more control over the process. And as we’ll discuss below, it can be much faster than working with an agent and publisher.
Whichever route you choose, make sure that you are deliberate about it. By thinking about your priorities, doing your research and speaking with other authors, you’ll be able to come to the best possible decision.
Getting Publishers’ Attention
If you want to work with a publisher, the hard work is just beginning. The real question at this step of how to publish a book is how you’re going to get agents’ and publishers’ attention. After all, agents and publishers receive thousands of pitches per year. You can’t just submit a shoddy or unorganized pitch and hope to succeed.
As Rhett told me, getting a publisher involved a lot of back work. This included things like having prior writing experience and having a robust social media presence. He spent years building up a following on social networks like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. Importantly, he also spent time building up his mailing list. Every time he would go to speak at an event, Rhett would make sure to get email addresses and contacts. From there, he would put those contacts into a database and send out a regular newsletter.
Keeping those contacts active, Rhett could show prospective publishers that he already had an active audience who wanted to read his book. He made a strong case about the underlying demand for his book and how he could promote it. At the time, Rhett also had ongoing columns at Inc and Forbes, which provided him with even more credibility on how he would promote his book.
It may feel intimidating to hear this. After all, few of us have a Forbes or Inc column. We may only have a few Twitter or LinkedIn followers. Ultimately, Rhett says this shouldn’t be an insurmountable obstacle. What would-be authors do need to show, however, is that they can promote their work. They need to show publishers that they have a network behind them that can offer additional marketing help. In Rhett’s case, he had some notable people that lent credence to his book. Marshall Goldsmith and other high-profile writers and coaches helped Rhett spread the word and sell his book. Essentially, doing this lets you borrow others’ credibility and leverage it in support of your book.
Still, you may be wondering how to make these steps more actionable. As Rhett says, it all comes down to putting in the hard work and building relationships. It’s about responding to people on social media, whether it is commenting on others’ posts or engaging with their content in other ways. Over time, these actions turn into relationships. You’re able to go to those people when you need something and, in all likelihood, they’ll return the favor. It can be everything from sharing news about your book on social media to writing the foreword to your book.
That said, you’ll need to be patient, as these relationships take a long time to develop. For Rhett, it was at least one year. In fact, at the beginning, Rhett didn’t even know that he was going to write a book. Instead, he was trying to foster relationships with people that he wanted to work with and associate with—no matter where his career was precisely heading.
As Rhett says, there isn’t any magic to it. It takes concentrated and dedicated work over a long period. After developing these relationships, however, they can be an extremely powerful force in working with a publisher.
Going Forward with Self-Publishing
So with all of that said, you may start to see why some authors choose to self-publish their books. They get more control over the entire publishing process and avoid that process of getting publishers’ attention. That said, self-publishing means that you are foregoing those benefits of working with a publisher, which include enhanced credibility, seeing your book in your favorite bookstore, and additional marketing assistance.
Being on both sides of the aisle, Rhett recognized that one of the greatest benefits of self-publishing is speed. Working with a publisher, it may take anywhere from 12 to 18 months to get your book printed and on the shelf. And this is after you spend months (or even years) creating your book.
With self-publishing, however, you can significantly cut that time down. In Rhett’s case, it took him three to four months. Theoretically, you could write and self-publish at least four books in the time that it takes to release one book through a publisher.
For Rhett’s next book (which is coming out this summer), he and his coauthor Ryan Berman decided to make the strategic decision to self-publish. They didn’t want to wait 18 months for their book to hit the shelves. Rather, their topic was more timely, so they wanted to publish more quickly. Not only that, but they wanted to more quickly hit the show scene and speaking circuit. While you can certainly do so if you want to work with a publisher, you’ll find that you need to be more patient.
Ultimately, speed to market can be a crucial variable when thinking about how to publish a book. Not only do you have to gauge whether your content will be relevant in the next year or two, but you need to gauge your own patience throughout this process. If you’re the type of person that will feel demotivated or uninspired if it takes 18 months to publish your book, you may want to seriously consider self-publishing your book. The same is true if you don’t want to lose eight to ten months of media or speaking opportunities while your book is pending.
Promoting Your Book
Whether you opt for the published or self-published route, marketing is a huge part of creating a successful book. It’s very rare for any author to release their book and have a passionate audience purchase thousands of books. This idea of “if you build it, they will come” rarely works for when releasing your book. You’re going to need to work hard to spread the word about your book—no matter the topic or subject area.
Working with a publisher, you may receive some marketing help. As Rhett alluded to earlier, your publisher may put in some time to promote your book, whether that is spreading the word on social media or getting your book in some prominent bookstores. While it may be less helpful than you would expect, this type of assistance can definitely help. That being said, there’s no way of avoiding the hard work that you’ll need to do to get your work found.
Because of this, Rhett has some important insights on how to promote your book when you are self-publishing your book. I would go one step further, however, and argue that you should embrace these tactics whether you are self-publishing or working with a publisher. It’s also important to have an understanding of the economics of book sales so that you can achieve (or perhaps manage) your financial goals with your book.
To start, it is critical to manage your expectations. Rhett knew upfront that he was going to have to spend some money upfront to gain attention for his book. Ultimately, Rhett chose to spend $40,000 to $50,000 marketing the book himself. This is a significant amount and not many writers are going to spend this much on marketing costs. That said, the core insight is that you are likely going to need to spend some cash to spread the word about your book.
With that cash, Rhett went on a book tour. It was just him on the book tour, and he thought it was a good business decision to travel the country and book speaking opportunities and seminars. Rhett found that these were great opportunities to not only sell his book to interested readers, but to make connections that could be valuable in the future.
Rhett also found it useful to create a ten-page spreadsheet that helped him stay organized. It includes everything from a budget to who he wanted to contact on his book tour. He even used it to help organize launch parties for his book. However you like to stay organized, make sure that you are being proactive here.
Closely related to this is the fact that you should dig deep into your contact list. As Rhett says, it is important to pull out every single contact that you have and see if they can help you. This can be as small as sending an email on your behalf or even posting your book’s promotional video to their social media pages. Even though it may feel awkward to reach out to your contacts, take comfort in the fact that there’s really no way around this. Your contacts will essentially be your ambassadors as you build hype and enthusiasm for your book.
Finally, Rhett has been really excited about new ways for authors to promote their books. As just one example, video can be a true game-changer in promoting your new book. Using a tool like Dubb, you can create all sorts of video content that can be entertaining, educational, and drive more sales. There are plenty of product integrations, so you can easily include links to Amazon or even PDF excerpts from your book. You can even send personalized video messages to potential customers, editors, or even potential reviewers. These video messages can not only showcase the book itself, but your intelligence and passion for the subject material. Ultimately, Dubb is an outstanding way to leverage the power of video sales and marketing for your book.
The bottom line? You have to do a significant amount of legwork to promote your book. However, the tips and strategies above can help you avoid wasted time and get the most bang for your buck.
Alternative Monetization Strategies
When Rhett first started working with his publisher, he knew that he wasn’t going to make much money simply because he was working with a publisher. It is difficult to make a significant amount of cash from book sales alone—whether you are working with a publisher or are self-publishing. But having said this, there are exciting alternative monetization strategies that you’re free to leverage. In fact, some alternative monetization strategies may make you more money than if you were to solely rely on book sales.
As just one example, speaking gigs are a great way to monetize your book. While there are fewer in-person events right now due to Covid-19, there are plenty of conferences and other events that will pay for authors and experts to offer their insights. No matter the subject matter of your book, there are opportunities for you to speak at events or conferences.
To find speaking gigs, you can directly reach out to event organizers themselves, whether that’s through email or social media. When doing so, give a brief description of who you are, what your book is about, and how you can add value to the conference. Once you complete your first few speaking gigs, you’ll find it easier to book more in the future.
If you want to monetize and promote your book at events, you can also leverage another strategy to monetize your book. Let’s say that you’re at an event and are speaking to 200 people. When speaking to the event organizer, you can propose an alternative compensation arrangement. Specifically, you can offer to waive your speaking fee if the event organizer purchases 200 books for the audience. You can structure this arrangement so that you’re essentially getting paid the same amount as your regular fee. But by going about it this way, you can improve your author ratings on platforms like Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Rhett can attest to this technique, as it helped him get on the Amazon bestseller list and 800-CEO-Read bestseller list.
Like other products, you can also use your book as a lead magnet. The typical playbook is that you offer part of or the entire book in exchange for a prospect’s email address. Depending on what you are selling, your book can generate an extremely attractive ROI.
The ultimate lesson with alternative monetization strategies is that there are few rules. Creative or unconventional monetization strategies, in fact, can be some of the most exciting strategies when you are thinking of how to publish your book.
The Power of Bestseller Lists
Finally, one great marketing tool for your new (or soon-to-be new) book is the bestseller list. Bestseller lists are so powerful because they provide social proof. They show prospective readers that there are many other people who are finding value in your book. Because of this, more people who may have been on the fence about your book will be more inclined to actually purchase it.
There are plenty of important bestseller lists. At the top of the mountain, there are the New York Times bestseller lists for fiction and nonfiction. There are also Amazon bestseller lists for many different categories. And then, there are other lists that aren’t as well known, yet can help you sell more books. For instance, 800-CEO-Read is one of the largest business book distributors. They actually warehouse books, meaning that you’re able to keep your books there and ship them out when a reader places an order. They also have a business bestseller list, which can be a great way to show off your book to a certain subset of readers.
In terms of Amazon, many authors work hard to get on Amazon bestseller lists. In fact, some people game the system with an influx of positive reviews. If you do this enough, you can actually get to the top of a particular category. That being said, gaming the system may harm you in the long run, as Amazon can take swift action if it discovers that you’re gaming the bestseller list.
Like any other gauge of popularity, getting on any bestseller list is primarily about volume. You need to sell a lot of books. There’s no way around it. You also have to sell that large number of books in a relatively short period of time. Ultimately, much of this is about pre-selling. A few months before your book is going to be released, spend some time trying to pre-sell it to different types of readers. This will help you increase the chances of ending up on your targeted bestseller list. However, if you don’t get on your selected bestseller list, it’s not the end of the world. You certainly can still achieve your book goals, whether they are financial or reputational goals.
Answering the Question of How to Publish a Book
Writing, publishing, and marketing a book can seem daunting. There’s plenty of work to be done and much of it rests on your shoulders. However, there’s little better than actually seeing your book in the hands of your readers. There’s not only personal satisfaction in scaling this steep mountain, but there’s a greater sense of satisfaction. It’s the fact that you are creating immense value in the world.
To help make the book journey less arduous, I encourage you to follow Rhett’s advice above. Having been through the book publishing process many times, Rhett can be a great model as you are working on your book. Even though there may be some bumps along the way, I encourage you to stick with it. Your hard work will definitely pay off.
Finally, I’d also like to reiterate how Dubb can help you when you’re thinking about how to publish a book. If you’d like to learn more about how Dubb lets you leverage the power of video marketing, click here. You can also click here to register for a free trial of Dubb.