Becoming a success (as you have defined it) in book publishing is more an art than a science. You can learn all the right things to do, but the application of those actions is different for every situation, person, book and target buyer. One key to moving continuously in the right direction on your path is to have a strong belief in yourself. In other words, become DEAR to yourself.
Discover yourself. Did you see the old TV show or movie, The Beverly Hillbillies? If so, you recall Jed Clampett shot into the ground and “up came the bubbling crude.” He became instantly wealthy. However, the oil was always there, and he only became wealthy after he recognized it. You, too, have hidden resources that are yet to be discovered. For example, you may think you are not good at negotiating a sale of your books to corporate buyers. But think about the last time you haggled over the price of a house or car, or the time you persuaded your boss to give you a raise. You were negotiating then. Simply apply what you already know to the art of selling your book.
Empower yourself. Develop the confidence to uncover your hidden resources and become all that you can be. Believe in yourself. Take risks. It may simply be a matter of changing the way you think about risks — they are more like adventures. Commit to your publishing adventure. While in the corporate world many years ago I was afraid to leave the secure position and start my own business. I thought that if I committed to everyone that I was going to start a business and it didn’t work, they would know I failed. Then came a layoff and I decided to listen to Robert Schuller who said, “I’d rather try something great and fail, than do nothing and succeed.”
I also listened to something Brian Tracy once said, “If it’s to be, it’s up to me.” I came to believe that my internal feedback directs my actions. These thoughts can be positive or negative and get respective results. The thought, “I am terrible at marketing,” is an affirmation and you may eventually believe it. The thought, “I am a confident, productive author in charge of the future success of my book,” is also an affirmation. Which do you think will lead to more sales?
Accept yourself. You can be successful (again, by your own definition) without being another John Grisham or Nora Roberts. Do not try to be someone you are not or attempt something you are not good at doing. For instance, if you have a publishing business and are not good at accounting or legal issues, hire professionals to help you. If, after introspection, you still believe you are not good at selling, hire someone to do it for you.
Acceptance is an inner strength that helps you deal with negativity. How do you feel when you get a bad review of your book? Do you blame the reviewer? That is like blaming the scale if you are overweight. If you believe yourself to be a good writer then you can accept criticism and learn from it. If many reviewers make the same critique, maybe they are right and you need to rewrite your material.
Respect yourself. Acceptance of your weaknesses does not mean you are weak. In fact, learning from your less-than-successful ventures (otherwise known as failures) is strength. There is really no such thing as failure — you simply create a result. For instance, during one marketing campaign I sent out 500 letters. The result was being ignored by 490 of the recipients and rejected by the other ten. I didn’t fail 500 times because I learned a different way to succeed. I sent a “thank-you” note to the ten rejections, thanking them for having the courtesy and professionalism to respond. One of those actually turned into a sale. Then I created a business-reply card and re-sent that to the other 490 and got a 33% response — and significant sales.
Negativity abounds in every publishing adventure. You will get bad reviews. Things will take longer and cost more than you planned. Sales and revenue will come more slowly than you predicted. Profits may be non-existent (or negative) for a stretch of time, particularly at the beginning of your venture. Understand those conditions will occur and plan for them. Respond with a positive attitude regardless of the situation. If you cannot control the circumstances, respond with self-respect, even to negative facts.
I have been in the book publishing business for over 30 years and have learned that there are many ups and downs. I discovered that the recurring periods of negativity do not take something out of you, they get something out of you. They do not do something to you, they do something for you — if you don’t quit. Become DEAR to yourself and make it happen.
Brian Jud is the Executive Director of the Association of Publishers for Special Sales (APSS – www.bookapss.org). He is also the author of How to Make Real Money Selling Books. Brian offers commission-based sales of books to buyers in non-bookstore markets. Contact Brian at P. O. Box 715, Avon, CT 06001-0715; (860) 675-1344; firstname.lastname@example.org or www.premiumbookcompany.com.