What About Success?
No one who goes through the trouble of planning, writing, editing and pubishing a book wants to see their project fail.
The short answer to the success of getting a book pubished is, “it depends.”
The longer answer is still, “it depends,” only with more details. Here are a few questions you can start by asking:
What is your definition of a successful book?
Is your definition of a successful book one that makes you a lot of money? What if you release a free eBook – how many downloads does it need to be considered ‘successful?’ Are you looking for media coverage? Do you want it to be turned into a movie?
As far as a successful book goes, you will have to figure out what this means for you.
Are you writing fiction or non-fiction?
If you’re writing fiction, you’ll want people to read it – plain and simple. You also have access to large markets of people who enjoy reading certain genres. For instance, you can appeal to the tastes of fans of romance, of YA fantasy or of horror.
If you’re writing non-fiction, you might have quite a smaller audience. A book about how to grow the perfect tomato garden won’t have as much demand as a generic YA urban fantasy. There’s just far fewer people interested in reading about growing the perfect tomato garden.
Technically, if you’re writing non-fiction you can have a successful book even if no one reads it. If your non-fiction book is related to your professional career (eg. ‘real estate’), you can introduce yourself to a potential client as the author of a book about making great real estate deals. Suddenly, you’re an expert because you wrote a book about real estate, even if no one read it. This does wonders for your credibility.
Does your book appeal to large audience or is suited for a niche one?
By the way, unless you already have a platform to market yourself, it will be far more difficult to get a non-fiction book traditionally published.
What’s your genre?
Similar to the previous question, different genres have different markets. According to a 2014 article on The Richest, romance and erotica were the most popular genres, grossing $1.44 billion. The runner-up, crime & mystery, only grossed $728.2 million.
What’s popular, what are you writing and what is their room for in the market?
If you’re looking for traditional publishers – which ones are looking for each type of genre and story? If you’re self-publishing, the only thing that matters is doing your homework and your marketing.
How much time are you devoting to marketing?
A traditional publisher may assign a publicist to you who may or may not be helpful with your marketing. If you’re self-publishing then you’re 100% on your own. You should be prepared to invest time and energy into marketing, no matter which route you’re taking.
How much money are you prepared to invest in marketing?
Similar to the previous question, how much money are you prepared to invest into marketing? This includes the cost of a website, printing materials, setting up speaking engagements, getting business cards and everything else that’s associated. Getting a book published isn’t too expensive, but there are more costs associated with the self-published route.
Traditional publishing costs less as the publisher will take care of things like cover design and editing, but you may spend more time getting to that point. And time is money.
Do you have a platform?
This is especially critical for non-fiction. A writers platform means the number of people who will buy your book if you’re ready to sell it today. Who is listening to you already?
The reason this is important for non-fiction is because as a non-fiction author you should already have some authority and an audience who is listening. They should trust you to some extent.
For a fiction author it’s not as important because you don’t have to be qualified to tell a good story, you just have to tell it.