I’m working on life bucket list item #6 (write a book). I told you about the writing part of the book, which is super fun. I mentioned the publishing parts which has its moments of fun, but is mostly asking other people to do things you can’t. The final part is telling the world that your creation exists and suggesting they check it out. Market it.
Right. Marketing. From the very beginning, I’ve been super fuzzy on the market park of the book.
Who are you talking to?
Steven King suggests writing with your “ideal reader” in mind. My ideal reader is someone who likes to read the crap that I write. That’s not really a category on Amazon though.
Honestly, I don’t know who would benefit from reading my baby. I can tell you what I did, but I’m not sure how useful my story is. I’m single with no kids and travel a lot with almost no belongings, so my experience of the world is maybe not relatable or transferable to most of you. And yeah, I made a rather healthy amount of money when I worked as a lawyer so it’s probably easy to dismiss me.
I’ve reread this quote often while writing my book.
I suggest that the only books that influence us are those for which we are ready, and which have gone a little farther down our particular path than we have got ourselves. I suggest, furthermore, that when you feel that you could almost have written the book yourself—that’s the moment when it’s influencing you. You are not influenced when you say, ‘How marvelous! What a revelation! How monumental! Oh!’ You are being extended. You are being influenced when you say ‘I might have written that myself if I hadn’t be so busy.’
– E. M. Forster, “A Book That Influenced Me,” from Two Cheers for Democracy
If you want to do this early retirement thing, at the end of the day, it has to be you who figures it out. You have to design your own life with your available resources and circumstances. I can give you a road map, but I really suck at directions.
If you’re already at the place in life where you’re doing this, then you don’t need my book. You could have written it. We know all this stuff already. And if you’re not in the place where you’re doing this, well, as a personal finance geek, I would advise you to read about it for free. Get yourself to a place where you are doing it. There’s no need to shell out any money to learn because there are a crap ton of free resources out there.
That’s not to say that I don’t love my book. I do. I deeply, madly, thoroughly, truly love this creation of mine. She’s beautiful and I tell her every day. But, I am also acutely aware of her flaws. I read somewhere recently “Don’t stop until you’re proud.” I love the idea of that, but if I adopted that mantra, I’d never do anything. That’s just not how I’m built. I love my book, but I’m not sure how good it is. I’m so antsy and ready for it to be born, but I’m also terrified of it being out in the world.
How much is a copy?
To say that I am unmotivated to market this thing would be a massive understatement. I thought about giving it away for free, but I don’t think people value something as much if they get it for nothing. You signal your own worth.
Or something. I don’t know. I’ve told you many times that I have no idea what I’m doing.
My initial impulse was to price it as low as I possibly could. If you were going to buy it, I wanted you to be happy with the purchase. I wanted to under-promise and over-deliver. I thought about my own buying habits. If I bought a book for $4.99 or under and hated it, I wouldn’t feel that annoyed. If I bought it for $4.99 or under and loved it, I would feel lucky. Gratitude and not annoyance are two traits I actively try to cultivate, so that price spoke to me.
But everything I read warned me against this impulse. Everyone I talked to chided me for this inclination. Don’t undervalue your work. People will take your advice seriously if you price it accordingly. Most people aren’t like you and have different definitions of a bargain.
Eventually, I picked a price point at which I would purchase the book if (1) the library didn’t have it or had a long waiting list for it and (2) it were a book club selection or a book I really wanted to read. $7.99.
$7.99 for the e-book, anyway. The print book is available for $12.99. I can always change these prices in the future too, I guess.
A cherry on top of the sundae that is my life would be seeing my book in libraries. Tween-Thriftygal loved the library. She volunteered there in the summers. She was a bit of a nerd. Also, if I’m being perfectly honest, I don’t know that I would buy this book if I weren’t the author. I purchase perhaps two books a year, so my bar is stupidly high. But, I would most definitely and absolutely borrow it from the library.
I plan to put it on IngramSpark and ask a few of my libraries to buy it. If you don’t want to buy it, but still want to read it, maybe you could ask your local library to get it after it’s out. There’s normally a place on their website where you can request books they don’t have in their catalog.
Are you going to make any money off it?
I hope I make money off this book because I still really like the idea of making money, of feeling secure enough to cross “be a writer” off my life bucket list, of buying more VTSAX when it inevitably drops, of donating billions to charity upon my demise, of telling my dad I have non-investment income.
I hope to make money, certainly. But not enough to make it a priority. All the marketing research I’ve done tells me to increase the value of my “brand.” Use the social medias to engage. Spread the word and build the hype. Ask every person you’ve ever met for their help. Shout at the world to pay attention to you. Other not fun-sounding stuff.
The reason I didn’t go the easier route of using a publisher who knew what they were doing was so I wouldn’t have to do these things when they asked me to. I’d rather spend my time feeling grateful for the readers I have than plotting for more. And, theoretically, I already have enough money to be happy. I don’t need this book to earn.
I’m not convinced this is the right approach. What’s the point of writing books that nobody reads? I love hearing about and discovering new books and I’m sure other people feel that way, too.
I’m afraid to do the math to see how many books I would need to sell to break even. The harsh truth is that most books do not sell many copies. Especially self-published authors. Especially first-time authors. And first-time, self-published authors who hate the idea of marketing? Well, maybe members of your family will buy a few copies.
I’m afraid to do the math, but then I did the math because how could I not? The answer is roughly 1,400 copies through Amazon e-books or 1,600 paperbacks through Amazon. Earlier this year, I turned down a publisher’s advance of $1,500. If I sell 1,700 e-books through Amazon, my decision to turn down the publisher would become a financially-sound decision and not just an emotionally-sound one.
1,700 seems like a cheeky number to request from the Universe when it’s already lent me so much, so I’m not requesting anything. The reward is in the doing.
“Write another book” is the marketing advice that I love the most. This first book might not be profitable, but maybe my ninth or seventeenth book will be. I’ve already created several lists relating to book number two. Onward and upwards!