I don’t know about you, but my bucket list is a mile long. I’m constantly adding, revising, and crossing things off, but there are a few stubborn goals that have been on there since the beginning. One such example? Become a published author.
Getting published has always seemed like something that other people did. Important people with shiny degrees and top-notch contacts, not a random blogger from the midwest.
But with my affinity for writing and tendency for aiming high, I feel like it’s something I need to at least aspire to.
While getting published is no easy feat, it is possible. Cue Chris Guillebeau. Chris is every aspiring authors’s knight in shining armor. He’s done what we’ve all dreamt of, and he’s not holding back.
Recently, Chris sat down with our Teachable founder, Ankur Nagpal, talking about his blogging business, publishing and his new book.
And lucky for you we're sharing it. Check out this post for the exclusive interview and Chris' tips for getting published and writing a novel people love.
So who is this guy anyway?
Chris Guillebeau has authored several books, including New York Times Best Seller The $100 Startup and a newly released book, Born For This. He also blogs over at The Art of Non-Conformity, a site covering life, work, and travel.
He is living proof that with a little bit of passion and hard work, you can "turn your passions into paychecks." As followers of his blog, we were thrilled that Chris reached to us to talk about his blogging business and upcoming book.
While the interview is a guide to blogging and business as a whole, I though that Chris' insights on publishing were extremely beneficial.
That's why, with Chris' help, we're pulling back the blinds and giving you a guide to publishing a book that you will be proud of and your readers will love.
1. Content is king. Always.
Focus first on coming up with a book concept that is going to make a difference. You can employ every marketing strategy possible, but at the end of the day you are marketing a product and if the product isn’t good you aren’t going to see success.
“If your book does not create impact, even if you get in the rankings for one week, who cares?” Chris said.
You need to start with a strong idea before anything else or you are going to fall flat. This might seem intuitive, but it’s easy to lose sight of why you’re writing your book in the first place.
Decide now what sort of impact you want your book to have, and keep that mission in mind during the creation process.
This is something Chris did while penning his latest, Born for This.
I think this book is going to be a game changer. Chris walks you through navigating through your options and finding a career that you’ll be excited for. If you feel stuck, or like there's something bigger and better for you out there - chances are you're right.
One of his big missions is helping people find the intersection of joy, money, and flow so they can do work that they love everyday.
The website boasts, “[...] this book will show you how to find that one job or career that feels so right, it’s like you were born to do it.”
He’s helping you move mountains, y’all!
2. Don’t try to be everything for everyone
When you’re writing a book one of your first steps is going to be defining your ideal audience. You need to figure out who is going to want to read your book, and how you’re going to get them to buy it.
“I was thinking as a classic marketer mistake. I was thinking, "I'm going to reach all people and then put something in for this person and for this person.” Chris said talking about his first book proposal.
If you think that your target audience is "everyone", I’m going to have to send you back to the drawing boards. You’re not for everybody and that’s OK.
With that said, we need to figure out who your target audience is. It’s hard to write a book that your audience will love when you don’t even know who your audience is.
This may have been what lead to the success of $100 Startup.
Dig deep and think about what purpose your book will serve and who will benefit the most from that.
Once you have your audience in mind? Write for them.
3. Brag about yourself
Before you even have a chance of being published, you’re going to need to find a publisher that believes in you the way your mom believes in you. Anything less than that, and you’re selling yourself short. We want someone who is on your side 100% and who will fight to see you succeed.
Unfortunately, most people aren’t going to put the same blind faith into you that your mom does, so we are going to need to toot your horn.
If you have a large social media audience or have done particularly well selling a course, brag about it. Keep in mind that publishers won’t take your numbers at face value, though, and for good reason.
“If you've done really well on one social network compared to another one, then talk about the one that you have done well in and talk about not just the numbers because again, publishers have gotten a little bit burned, so talk about the engagement.”
You can check out Chris' Twitter account @chrisguillebeau.
Brag about your engagement or offer up testimonials from your followers. Tangible social proof is far more telling than a cold number of followers. Prove to your publisher that people love your content and are willing and excited to buy from you.
The more faith that publisher has in you, the harder they are going to work to see you succeed.
4. Be strategic in your marketing
For most people, popularity and notoriety isn’t something that just happens on accident. Rather, most people will commit to countless hours of hard work, a hyper focused marketing plan, and gallons of coffee.
It's smart then to devote a good amount of energy to driving presale orders before your book even launches. Why? All of your presales end up counting towards your first week’s numbers and the more popularity in your first week, the more people will hear about you. #snowball!
This might be why so many book launch parties require you to buy the book at the door.
For example, this book launch at The Strand in NYC.
5. Get creative in driving book sales
Take this one as you will, and get as creative as you’d like - the possibilities are endless. Just know that thinking outside of the box and doing something different than everyone else might just be what sets you apart.
Think about trading time for book orders.
If you’re going to speak at a bookstore, for example, it would be a good idea to waive your usual speaking fee in exchange for the bookstore putting in a set number of orders for your book. Everyone loves a good read!
From there the bookstore can pass your books out to the audience who came to see you speak. This can only serve to benefit you because now you’ve got a boost in orders and your book is now in the hands of an eager and excited audience who will be happy to promote your great work!
Personally, I think it's amazing to see a community rise up to help an upcoming author around their book launch. We were happy to interview Chris and have also worked with Pat Flynn around his launch of Will It Fly.
Of course you never want to risk your reputation or your morals by partaking in shady strategy, but there is nothing wrong with employing unconventional methods to get your book to people who are going to be excited about reading it.
6. Dream big
Having a book that you poured your heart and soul into get published is a grand feat in itself, but you've gone this far so lets try and take it a step further.
We had a New York Times Bestseller in our midst, so of course we had to ask Chris for some insight on how other up and coming authors may one day also grace the elite list.
Of course, nobody really knows how the New York Times chooses their best sellers, but it's safe to say that numbers are important. Historically, the sweet spot of sales you need to make tends to fall between 8,000 and 15,000 sales during that critical first week if you want to be considered for a slot.
“You have to have a really big week, whether it's week 1 or any other week[...]” Chris elaborated.
Of course, Chris’s expertise lies in the business and non-fiction sector, and different niches are going to have different numbers tied to them. Regardless of what your area of focus may be, do the research beforehand and come up with a tangible goal.
7. Just go for it
Like I mentioned before - a lot of people (myself included!) don’t get past the whole "adding it to the bucket list" stage of planning. Let’s be honest, you can scheme and prepare for as long as you want and still never feel ready.
There comes a time when you need to take your leap of faith and just go for it.
Whether you hope to write the next Great American Novel or the new go-to book for aspiring entrepreneurs: nothing is going to come from your dreams if you don’t start. If it’s something you really want, start coming up with a plan today so you can make it happen.
And understand that it might not happen the first time - that’s normal.
Chris talks about his early struggles - being rejected by thirteen publishers before the fourteenth finally made an offer. He didn’t have the opportunity to be choosy with publishers and he didn’t get the best deal.
Instead of letting that be the end of it, he took things into his own hands.
“I worked hard and made things a success and I went on a 50 state book tour that I put together myself with my readers. That helped show other publishers, “Oh, this guy is actually serious. He’s legit.”’
His first book was The Art of Non-Conformity.
The takeaway? Don’t roll over when things don’t go as planned after you go for it. Roll with the punches and go for it again.
Want to hear more from Chris?
Have you ever dreamt of making the leap to published author? Have you taken any action to help get there yet? Or are you still in the planning stage?