Last week we discussed the various types of authors. Unless you are writing solely for your own eyes or for a selected group of friends and family, once your writing is published, you become a business and your book becomes your product.
If you’re short on time, watch this 14-minute video on why it’s so important to treat your novel as a product and yourself as a business enterprise:
To understand the concept of the novel as a business, let’s take a look at one of the simplest and most iconic symbols in the world: the smiley face.
In 1963, advertising entrepreneur and design artist Harvey Ball was asked to develop an icon that would help Hanover Insurance (then known as State Mutual Life Assurance Company of Worcester, Massachusetts) boost morale among their employees. He developed a simple yellow button with a smile and was paid $45. Neither Ball nor Hanover Insurance trademarked the design.
Flash forward to 1972 and two French brothers, Franklin and Nicolas Loufrani, trademark the smiley face based on a simple design their father created. It is a trademark that is recognized in more than 100 countries, including the United States. Over the years, their business has become a multi-million dollar enterprise, selling more than 13 million of the smiley face around the world.
So what can you learn from the smiley face?
The smiley face is one of the simplest designs ever created. Your novel is far more complex, requiring months or perhaps years of effort. It involves characters, a plot and subplots, scenes, backdrops, and perhaps a great deal of research.
Perhaps in order to write your book, you had to develop a city or town in your imagination, or you used a real place for the setting. Perhaps your characters were based on people you knew, composites of personalities, physical characteristics and backgrounds. Your plot might have been painstakingly stitched together like a jigsaw puzzle that forms a picture as more pieces are added.
Yet the majority of authors do not look upon their book as a product, or themselves as businessmen (or women).
But the fact is, your book is a product and developing it is only the beginning. A product can be the best thing ever invented but if the consumer never sees it, never hears about it, never comes into contact with it, its purpose is limited—and so are you.
If you have gone the traditional route, you have spent time and effort to find a literary agent and/or a publisher. If you have a traditional contract, the publisher has taken the raw manuscript through the production cycle which includes the editorial stage, development of a cover, formatting the interior, and placing critical information into the distribution network so retailers, libraries and consumers can purchase it.
If you went the self-publishing route instead, you hopefully hired a professional editor and made your product the most polished it can be; you hired a professional cover designer or used a professional service; and you had the book professionally formatted for print and/or eBook.
Now you either recognize that you’re in business or you treat your book as though your work is done. The choice is yours and yours alone. You can either be Franklin and Nicolas Loufrani and recognize that your product can be marketed and sold, or you consider it as Harvey Ball did when he first designed the smiley—the job is done and you can go back to your day job now.
Let’s assume that you wrote your book in order to sell it. You want to reach the readers, you want your book read and enjoyed, and you want to earn some money for it—even make a living from it.
How do you do that?
1. Take the time to develop a plan.
2. Understand the product life cycle:
3. Develop a launch plan:
a. Generate buzz
b. Grow your platform and audience
c. Establish your distribution (self-published), understand your distribution (traditionally published).
d. Understand your reach as B2B and B2C
e. Launch your product through multiple channels
4. Understand the launch is only the beginning and establish a plan for sustained growth.
5. Know how to recognize when your sales have reached the maturity stage.
6. Develop a plan to keep your book in the growth and maturity stages as long as possible (hopefully while writing your next book).
7. Understand when your book reaches the decline stage and adjust your plan.
What not to do:
1. Do not rush the book into the market.
2. Don’t assume your book will sell itself.
3. Don’t try to market and promote without a clear plan and defined objectives.
4. Don’t assume because you don’t see immediate sales that your book is failing, you’re a failure, or your publisher has failed you.
5. Don’t expect for your book to catapult to the bestseller lists. Maybe it will but chances are, it won’t—at least not immediately.
6. Don’t give up!