By Sue Richardson of independent publishers SRA Books
Many business owners now recognise what a powerful tool a book can be to help them build credibility for their brand and raise the profile and visibility of their business.
However, there are five classic mistakes that authors make when publishing that can seriously damage their business:
- Not having a clear publishing strategy
Make sure you have a clear business case for a book. Ask yourself:
- What do we want to achieve by writing and publishing this book?
- How will this book change our business?
- Who is the target audience?
- What will be our sales and marketing plan for the book?
- What is the best publishing route to take? Traditional, Independent or Self-Publish?
- What budget do we need to set for the project in order to produce a professional result?
- How will we realistically achieve a return on our investment in this book?
- Not being clear about who the book is for
This is one of the biggest reasons a book fails. Spend some time carefully defining your target audience before you start to write.
- Thinking self-publishing is a cheap (and therefore favourable) option
Most self-publishers, by definition, are not professional publishers and therefore do not have the knowledge, skills or expertise required to compete with traditionally published books. I’ve lost count of how many disappointed authors have told me they self-published, spent much more money than they had anticipated and still not ended up with a book that did what they wanted it to do.
While a book can boost your reputation – it can also damage it if not done correctly.
For example, a textile artist explained to me that she had been intending to attend a week long course with a particular feltmaker and had bought her book to check her out. However the book was completely off-putting; the binding was falling apart, and the inkjet printer she had printed the ‘book’ on was clearly running out of ink as the illustrations and text had great white lines running through it rendering it unreadable. As a result the textile artist had decided this teacher was not the one for her; if the standards set by the book were anything to go by, why would her teaching be any more professional?
- A poor cover and title
Here are the five things you should avoid:
- A picture of you (unless you have a famous face that people will instantly recognise)
- Stock images that have no relevance to the subject matter of your book
- Using anyone without book design experience to design your cover
- Clip art
- Over-branding your book – it will work against your credibility as readers may fear you are going to try and sell to them.
The rule of thumb, for your title, is to choose one that says in a nutshell exactly what the book is going to do for its reader. Your book title needs to be popping up in the right place when being searched for.
For non-fiction books, the title and subtitle are your most crucial bits of marketing copy. Whether on- or offline, you have approximately five seconds to grab the prospective reader’s attention. Once you have their initial interest and they are thinking ‘ah, here’s a book that will solve my problem’ they are more likely to read the back cover blurb and then decide to buy.
- Not using professional editors and proofreaders
Most authors of business books are not professional writers – they are business owners or experts in their field who have important messages to share.
There are some people who honestly don’t care or notice if your book is full of spelling errors and poor punctuation. If you don’t care about these things then it is likely that you will think an editor or a proofreader a complete waste of money.
However, there are plenty of people who do care, do notice and will be turned off you and your business if the book is full of mistakes. It will also make it difficult for your readers to understand what it is you’re trying to say. Be mindful of your reputation; if you produce a sloppily written book it may come back to bite you.
Using professionals to help you get it right will pay you back many times over. Working with someone whose job it is to know what is and isn’t correct takes the headache out of all of those uncertainties.
Don’t expect yourself to know it all but do pay for, and expect, a professional to guide you. That way you will be sure to produce a book that will be read, understood and, with any luck, acted upon.