Expert Round-Up Topic: For authors who’ve already been published, what would you do differently next time?
I self-published my memoir-personal development book in the spring of 2021. I took a much more organized approach for the next book, which I started that fall. I totally winged the first one — writing and editing with almost no planning. This made revisions and marketing much harder than it needed to be.
For the next time, I hired experts in advance. The first expert was to help me outline the table of contents and talk through the arc. The second one was a Human Design for author’s expert, which supported me in what I’d write and how I’d bring my whole self to the process.
Overall, more planning, blocking my calendar, and intentional self-care like nourishing food, extra rest, and mindful movement.
My advice to nonfiction writers would be to build up a social media following before you start querying publishers, as they will often ask you about your platform. I use Instagram now to try out different writing ideas; it’s a great way to fine-tune your thoughts and see what people respond to. I would have spent more time building social media up before publishing as it’s a great tool for marketing.
ASHLEY M. KING
As an author of six nonfiction books, next time, I plan to focus more on licensing my content. As self-published authors, we are a brand and own the rights to our work. Licensing our content is a stream of income that is underutilized. The idea of licensing our work can be overwhelming, but through education and taking action, it’s very feasible.
I attended the 2022 Licensing Expo in Vegas for the first time, and it was very intimidating to me. With big brand names plastered all over the place, I was sure that I was in over my head. But I learned that with some business models, the licensor (author) can bypass the licensee and go direct to retail. Not that I am looking to land a seven-figure deal right out the gate, but I focus on faith-based content, and if I can secure licensing deals with local faith-based organizations, that would mean a great deal to me.
This is a topic that I literally talk about all the time. Ever since my chapter “What’s Eating You” got published in the book Black Therapists Rock: A Glimpse Through the Eyes of Experts, I have always said I wish I had the opportunity to wire my chapter again.
This was a nonfiction anthology comprised of chapters authored by mental health experts. It was my first published book and my first chance to tell my story to the masses. It was a story about how my childhood trauma lead to a lifetime struggle of overcoming obesity and ultimately having weight loss surgery as part of my pathway to emotional freedom. After learning more about trauma and vicarious trauma, I always look back on my published work with mixed emotions. When I wrote my story it was very detailed, as my goal was to take the reader inside my world and allow them to experience everything thought and feeling that I felt. When I let two people read my rough draft they said, “Wow, that’s heavy.” My response was, “Imagine what it was like to carry that weight.”
Three things I would’ve done differently is to (1) hire a writing coach to help me craft my story in a way that would be more beneficial for my audience. (2) I would’ve read other published works similar to the story I wanted to tell in order to influence the way I wrote, (3) I would have found more ways to collaborate with my coauthors and share our mental health stories so that others could know they are not alone.
I recently self-published my first nonfiction book, The Wunderbar World of German Idioms, on Amazon Kindle and paperback. It was one of the most enjoyable experiences for me, but was a huge learning curve. I did do a lot of research before I published the book, so I’m generally pleased with how the launch went.
However, due to budget, I feel like I took on a bit too much myself. There is so much to do when you self-publish, and when it’s the first time, you have to learn as you go. Sometimes you do need to outsource certain jobs.
I edited the book myself, both for Kindle and paperback, both of which took a lot of time (a couple of weeks to do both). I really felt my time could have been better spent promoting the book, rather than battling with Microsoft Word. So I would advise first-time publishers to hire an editor and save themselves the time and headache.
Also, due to my budget, I designed the front cover myself. Again, if you have the budget, I would advise first-timers to outsource this. I was pleased with how my front cover looks, and it seems to be well received, but again my time could have been better spent elsewhere.
I would make changes to my creative process. Though I deeply enjoy writing and loved the authoring experience, I am willing to admit that my workflow did leave room to be desired. If I could do it all over again, I would make sure that the book itself was structured and outlined ahead of time, and that I knew the direction I was taking each chapter before I even started writing. This would save me from hitting writer’s block or going off on tangents.
To that end, I’ve also come to understand the importance of drafting chapters in advance. Instead of trying to do everything perfect in the first attempt, it’s far better to prepare as much as possible before the pen even hits the paper. This means working out the prospective word count, the topics you want to cover, and even the main lessons you want to communicate to your audience. By making this a priority, you’re much more likely to produce a congruent, high-quality piece of work.
The secret is to start with the most important page of your book: the back cover. This is your marketing material and the promise to your readers. The writers I coach often sell hundreds of copies of their book while still writing it by presenting the concept to their network. Your back cover also provides the structure for your writing process. By creating an outline before you start writing, you avoid getting stuck and having to rewrite. My system gives you a completely different writing experience: with a clear structure, you don’t have to worry about what fits where. You can follow your energy and inspiration while writing instead of following the page
The biggest mistake of my career was signing with a publisher who had never published a title in my discipline before. That meant their sales team had no contacts and they had no customer base in the subject area. My book did become a best-selling title but had I gone with a different publisher, I probably could have retired on the income.
Now, I also create my own comprehensive marketing plan, which includes social media, presentations, content giveaways, a website update, and more. I no longer hold to the philosophy, If you write they will come.
If you like this blog post, you’ll love this book: The Nonfiction Book Publishing Plan by Nonfiction Authors Association CEO Stephanie Chandler!