Writing a Book is Only One Step on Self-Published Authors’ Book Selling Journey, Says Professional Book Consultant

by Karen Jonson

Authors Must Become Business People and View Their Books as Products to Become Successful

Colorful Book

There is a lot authors have to do to sell their books once the writing is done. Thinking like a business person and realizing your book is a product helps the book selling process considerably.

To sell books, self-published authors need to view their books as products, think like businesspeople, and overcome any mental blocks holding them back from success.

That’s just some of the advice Hannah Hempenstall shared in a question and answer session with me recently. Hanna is a book coach from Sidney, Australia. Her services range from editorial assessments, to structural editing, to mentoring authors on the book marketing process.

I asked Hannah several questions important to self-published authors. Her answers are enlightening, and offering self-published authors valuable advise for moving more effectively toward their book publishing goals.

Q. You’ve said that authors should treat their books as products. What do you mean?

A. If they choose to self-publish, it’s wise for authors to think of their books as the first step to starting a business. A book is a product that authors will need to sell.

Helping self-published authors realize that they are actually creating a product when they write a book is vital. It’s such a wake up call whenever I explain this to the authors I work with. And it really helps them realize the difference in becoming a selling author as opposed to writing a book that nobody might ever read.

It comes down to taking ownership, which is why I always start a conversation with an author by asking about the motivation for writing his or her book.

Q. What are authors’ primary motivations for writing their books in your experience?

A. Most of the authors I speak to have a greater mission – they want their words to help people. However, they also usually have a secondary desire to make money, which many authors don’t admit at first. In my opinion, if you don’t want to make money, I wonder why they are going to the effort to write and publish a book.

Q. How do their answers about their motivation impact the advice you give authors?

A. I specialize in the self-help genre, so knowing how authors want to help others is vital.

However, I also need them to tell me what makes their book different. Listening to their conviction when they discuss their subject matter is the greatest indicator of whether they can make it as an author or not.

Also, I spend a lot of my time listening for emotional cues that, if unblocked, could see them soar to heights they didn’t even know they could reach.

Q. What fears do first-time authors face?

A. That’s a great question because I think fear is at the root of every first-time author’s journey. Generally, they are scared that nobody will read their book and that their writing is not good enough.

A large part of what I do is coaching and mentoring authors to be able to own their gifts and become confident in what they’re doing. That may mean spending some more time improving their craft, or it can be as simple as helping them over come a belief that they’re not good enough.

Q. What is the first step to creating a successful book-based business, in your opinion?

A. Authors need to know whom they are going to sell their books to. One of the key messages I drum into the authors I work with is to know their audience.

I ask them who are you writing for? Not only does knowing the answer make writing easier, but also it helps authors understand that no matter how great their book is, if nobody finds it and reads it, they may as well shred their manuscript and throw it in the fire.

Q. What’s the next step?

A. Then they need to determine how they will reach their potential readers; in other words, they need to market. Writing is 20 to 30 percent of the book publishing process and marketing is the rest.

In the world of self-publishing (and often traditional publishing), marketing a book is up to author, and that means they need to know who they can sell it to, find those people, connect with them, then introduce them to their books.

That’s not an easy job. It takes time, effort, and dedication. Today, even the traditional publishers’ marketing plans for unknown authors are slim.

Q. Do traditional publishers offer authors enough marketing?

A. In my experience, marketing plans are very brief, especially for first-time mid-list authors.

If you’re already successful then money will be spent publicizing your book, because the publishers know they can recoup money spent on marketing.

But first-time authors and mid-weight authors are a higher risk and, just like any smart business model, a smaller marketing budget will be allocated. This is commonly why new authors find it so hard to get picked up by publishing houses. The cost of producing a book is huge, so factors such as your public profile, as well as the quality of your book, will be taken into account. If a publisher isn’t able to guarantee a return on what it costs to produce your book, they have to make a business decision, which is why they often say no.

Q. What should new self-published authors do to market their books?

A. In today’s book marketing game, social media is a must. I cannot say this enough. If you shy away from Facebook and Twitter, then you’re missing out on a valuable market for your book. Blogging is another must.

These, and other social media platforms, are your potential avenues to becoming a bestseller. However, this doesn’t mean that authors should view social media as a sure-fire book sales avenue. One of the key things to consider is that social media is not a 100% sales avenue. It is a connection tool — and there’s a difference.

The beauty of social media is that it’s an open two-way conversation between the author and their audience. As with any book-marketing avenue, you need to be smart about it in order to make it work. Used in the right way, social media is an author’s best friend. Just like a real friend it will give you feedback on where you’re at and, if you take time to build trust by listening to your audience and offering them useful insights and new information (either from your book or on related subjects), then you can do the work to convert your social media traffic into sales.

Social media therefore allows authors to test their markets before and during a book campaign. If treated as a research and connection tool, it offers incredibly useful insights. You needn’t give away all your content, but use new media to test your market and see who wants to buy your story.

In my opinion, these elements can (and should) be implemented before you publish your book. Build your audience and connect with them. Your readers and followers are the key to the success of your book. Social media is just one of a dozen potential marketing streams, but it can be a powerful one in my opinion.

Q. What does it take to become a bestselling author?

A. This may sound controversial but I believe having the emotional capacity for success is the missing link between a great book and a bestseller.

Essentially the ingredients are great writing, a creative idea, and the courage to take yourself beyond your comfort zone. If an author is harboring an unconscious fear of success, then that is guaranteed to keep their books from rising to bestseller status.

Finding an editor or publishing consultant who you trust will help authors stay on track during times when they’re creatively blocked or trapped in doubt. The thing I love most about my job is supporting authors and helping them see where they’re blocked. I use specific tools to guide them out of that space and into a place of freedom where creativity flows and great books prevail.

Q. How do you create an editorial assessment? Why is the valuable of this process?

Hannah Hempenstall

Hannah Hempenstall specializes in helping authors learn how to become business people and view their books as their products.

A. An editorial assessment is a great way for an author to get objective and professional feedback. It can make the difference between a book that sells well and a book that just does okay or even flops. Getting feedback from a professional is a wise move at any stage of the process.

Having the courage to ask for feedback is such a worthwhile experience. Editors and publishing consultants are there to support authors to create their best books. It’s a wise investment.

I create assessments by asking some key questions:
• Who is the book’s potential reader? This is vital for determining an author’s ideal writing style and their book’s sales potential.
• What is the book’s genre? Knowing their genre helps authors gain a greater understanding of their competitors and the type of books that work or don’t.
• What are the bestselling books in your genre? This helps authors understand their book’s marketing potential and competition.
• What do you need in an editorial overview? For example, I can give them writing and style tips, find gaps in their content, and offer suggestions and feedback on the overall story itself.

Hannah Hempenstall offers self-published authors the follow services: editorial assessments, structural editing, proofreading, building character profiles (fiction), and mentoring. You can reach Hannah at hannah.hempenstall@gmail.com.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Sharon A. Lavy March 2, 2013 at 6:16 am

If you had the toolbar to share your posts, I would tweet this one today.


Karen Jonson March 5, 2013 at 1:49 pm

HI Sharon,

I’m so sorry I haven’t installed it yet. It’s on the to-do list. Please share it anyway.

Thank you for the reminder that I have to get the share bar up there.



Karen Jonson March 5, 2013 at 2:23 pm

Hi Sharon,

Thank you so much. I have it on my to-do list to add a share toolbar. Thank you for the reminder. I hope you’ll share it anyway.



Dougie Brimson March 3, 2013 at 1:12 am

An excellent article and one I would endorse 100%

This was actually one of the reasons I moved away from traditional publishing as I felt none of the four publishing houses I had previously worked with (including 2 of the big 6) had adopted this approach. Instead it was very much a case of them putting out a few press releases and chancing to hope whilst I worked feverishly to reach my readers.

These days of course, I can interact with them from day one which to me, is one of the great attractions of the ePublishing age.


Karen Jonson March 5, 2013 at 2:13 pm

Hello Dougie,

Thank you for sharing your personal experience. I am hearing more and more that traditional publishers are doing less and less promotion for authors. It’s all on the author — meanwhile, the author gets paid a small percent of book sales.



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