Every month, Innovative Editing features a creative writer or non-fiction writer who caught its editorial eye. These authors can be self-published or traditionally published, Innovative Editing clients or outside recommendations.
Just, one way or the other, they do stand out! If you think you do too, then reach out right here.
This month, I have an author whose featured work is relevant for so many writers. How to Build a Loyal Readership So Your Self-Published Books Get Picked Up by Literary Agents and Trade Publishers is incredibly useful in unearthing industry secrets about writing, publishing and marketing that can put your book in the spotlight.
I would recommend this guide to any creative writer or non-fiction writer who’s even considering the self-publishing route… even if it’s just as a step toward being traditionally published.
January’s Author of the Month: Kim Staflund
Featured Title: How to Build a Loyal Readership So Your Self-Published Books Get Picked Up by Literary Agents and Trade Publishers
Genre: Business Non-Fiction
Age Appropriate: All
Bio: So many people are publishing books of all kinds nowadays, and they need guidance regarding the best practices with everything from writing to publishing to selling those books. Kim Staflund has made it her life's mission to help these people navigate this mysterious business that’s littered with acronyms, peculiar old-fashioned practices, and unforeseen pitfalls.
As a best-selling author and TESOL certified sales coach for authors – with 25 years’ experience in the North American English book publishing industry (in both the traditional and contemporary markets) – Kim can show you how to write, publish, advertise, sell, market, and publicize your book(s) using all the effective traditional and online tricks of the trade. Add her substantial advertising sales and marketing background into the mix, and you have a serious mentor in front of you who can help you achieve commercial success as an author in the traditional "bricks and mortar" bookstores as well as online.
Jeannette: Kim, I’m just going to come right out and say how informative your book was. It definitely taught me a thing or two about marketing, and you have a lot of great tips and tricks to tell about writing as well. What inspired this book idea, and what is its main purpose?
Kim: I consider myself a “sales coach for authors” more than a book publisher because my greatest goal is to help authors sell more books. I’m constantly researching and utilizing the latest book sales and marketing tactics that will give authors the greatest edge.
In 2017, I found two articles that profiled two different fiction authors and how they had earned six- and seven-figure incomes selling their books online. Then I personally spoke to two other fiction authors using the same tactics to sell literally thousands of books on a consistent basis.
That had me wondering: If it can work for fiction, can it also work for non-fiction? I asked a couple of “author marketing consultants” what they thought of this, and both were skeptical. In their opinions, it couldn’t work for non-fiction authors because they don’t typically offer multiple book products to the same pool of readers.
Hmmmm… Something inside of me disagreed with their logic. My gut was saying it would be just as easy, if not easier, to do this with non-fiction books. And sure enough, I researched some more and found two non-fiction authors using the same tactics to sell thousands of books online. That made me smile, and it inspired me to begin writing how-to guides tailored specifically to various non-fiction authors.
But, again, the process can also work for fiction authors too. Jeannette: Okay. Let’s dive right in then! You write that “… the most successful authors are the ones who treat book writing, publishing, sales, and marketing as their own business. They don’t only write; they sell their books.” I don’t want to give away all of your secrets here, but can you expound on that concept a little bit?
Kim: Even before I wrote this book, that was true. I’ve been saying it for years. The most successful authors are entrepreneurs. Always have been. Always will be.
For those who disagree, I highly recommend you read this blog post where the Big Five trade publishers themselves – Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Hachette, Macmillan, and Simon & Schuster – discuss how much time they actually spend selling their authors’ books for them. You’ll be enlightened.
Jeannette: You’re spot-on with that blog post. Authors-in-the-making too often have a utopic idea of what being traditionally published looks like. They have no idea they might be working just as hard to market themselves as if they were self-published.
I know you address this directly in the linked article above. But let’s talk about it here too since, in your book, you brought up at least one example of a self-published author who got picked up by a traditional publisher after she marketed herself well enough.
Would you say that’s a publishing world trend at this point, where the big guys want to know writers can pull their own weight before they offer anything on their end?
Kim: This is not only a recent trend. It’s always been this way for the majority of authors/writers. I strongly recommend that people read the above-mentioned blog post so they can have their eyes wide open when approaching trade publishers.
Trade publishers are looking for authors that already have their own platforms, and this book can teach you how to build yours.
Jeannette: That it can! But like I said several questions ago, I don’t want to give away all of your secrets, so let’s switch focus to the book-writing phase you also address in How to Build a Loyal Readership. As a book-writing coach myself, I cheered when you said that a writer’s “sole purpose” in writing out their first draft was to actually get it written. I’ve had too many students and clients start out absolutely awesome stories, only to fall prey to the editing bug well before they should be editing. And so they never finish their first drafts, much less ever get published.
Kim: I’ve talked about this type of procrastination in all my books because it’s such a common issue for authors. There’s so much more to procrastination than simple perfectionism. It goes much deeper than that. It’s about fear.
I dedicated a full chapter to uncovering what I believe causes fear – and how to overcome it – in my recent paperback Successful Selling Tips for Introverted Authors. Midwest Book Review touted it as “…a critically important instructional reference … informed, informative, and thoroughly ‘user friendly’ from beginning to end … a mandatory study for every novice author seeking to establish themselves in an economically supporting career…”
You can find that whole section in:
They complement what you’ll read in How to Build a Loyal Readership. If you combine the advice between the book and those two blog posts, you’ll be able to overcome your procrastination much more easily. Jeannette: If it’s okay with you, I’ll out one aspect of that advice right here: rewarding yourself along the writing way. What’s the best incentive you ever set for your writing accomplishments?
Kim: It depends on where I am in life. I’ve rewarded myself with everything from a new pair of shoes to a trip to Europe! I think we should spoil ourselves once in a while. Because writing a book is a true accomplishment.
Jeannette: And such a worthwhile one too! Oh, and speaking of worthwhile…
For the record, I know that’s a horrible transition. But I really want to squeeze this second-to-last question in here. You mention that you prefer Microsoft Word rather than Scrivener. I’m with you there, but you do know “them’s fightin’ words” for a lot of writers, right?
Kim: Lol. Yes, I think you’re right. And that’s why I invite anyone who reads my book to add a review/comment to it afterward on whether they agree or disagree with anything that’s been said. I may have 25 years’ experience in this industry, but I don’t know it all and I’m a lifelong learner. I read the comments because I’m open to other people’s opinions. I think we can all help each other.
Jeannette: That was definitely another aspect I appreciated about How to Build a Loyal Readership. Too many people in the book writing industry – editors included – are very snobbish about their opinions. But you give so much amazing, insightful and honest advice in your book.
Is there one piece of information you think stands out as being more important than all the others? Or is this one of those systems where each part builds off of the next?
Kim: There are a lot of moving parts to this type of book sales and marketing. All these things work together, and it has to be done on a consistent basis in order to see any real traction. The only one piece of advice I have is what I’ve been telling authors for years: Whether you’re self-published or trade published, authors are entrepreneurs.
Jeannette: Beautifully stated!
Kim: Jeannette, thank you so much for the opportunity to speak to your subscribers. I’m very grateful for it. And thank you for the guest post you did for the PPG Publisher’s Blog, too: “Do You Really Have What It Takes to Write a Book?”
Jeannette: That was such a fun article to write! So thank you, Kim. I had a blast putting it together.
And Innovative Editing readers, here’s the short list of e-books Kim has written, starting with the oh-so-helpful Author of the Month feature. Oh yeah, and the second two are free!