Marketing is key for both authors and consultants…

As part of my commitment to get off my butt and write my book on consulting, I attended the Indie Author Publishing Conference this weekend in Phoenix. Over 120 authors and prospective authors heard from several panels of experts that included book editors, agents, publishers, legal experts, and more.

The focus was on the business end of writing. Lots of nuts and bolts stuff – how to pitch your book to agents and editors, published vs. self published, digital books, copyright issues, and much more. Learned a LOT about the ins and outs of the book business. In fact, I’ll never look at a book the same again.

A crucial message repeated throughout the conference — marketing is key! You can write the best book in the world, but without marketing it won’t go far.

As one presenter said, “Writing is an craft — publishing is a business.” It struck me that consulting and writing are similar. If you want to make a living at either, you must first treat them as businesses.

That doesn’t mean you don’t deliver quality. It was reiterated many times — you still need to write good stuff. So it is with consulting — you still need to deliver good results.

Incidentally, it is OK to write or consult as a hobby. Many do this in retirement, or as a pleasant diversion during the working years. We moonlighted for almost ten years before going full time as consultants, and enjoyed it. Even made a few bucks along the way.

But if you want to make a living at writing or consulting, you must focus on the business end of things. And the most important aspect of both businesses is the marketing! Without clients or readers, you won’t make any money.

Here were several insights gleaned on the book business:

Publishers don’t market. They print and distribute. Any marketing they provide usually ends within the first 30 days of release. After that, it is up to YOU to promote your book.

Publishers like to see a platform. If you have a blog with 100,000 new visits per month, you can get published pretty fast. Ditto 100,000 (legitimate) follower on Facebook or Twitter. Do you have an existing fan base?  Don’t worry — even a smaller following helps.

Publishers like credibility. Have you written a book? How did it do? What about magazine articles or columns? Are you known in your market?

Publishers (particularly smaller ones) serve niches. For example, we were told that books on southwest gardening often do well in Arizona. Niche marketing works! (In this case, geography and topic.)

Publishers (particularly the larger ones) often work solely with agents. You may need the connections and guidance these specialized consultants provide.

Publishers reject a lot of stuff. Even really good stuff. So don’t give up — at least right away. But be sure you have a quality product.

Finally, it also struck me that there are many consulting opportunities in the publishing business. A prime example is the the husband and wife team of Arielle Eckstut and David Sterry. They founded and run The Book Doctors, a consultancy that helps aspiring writers get published.

Both are published authors (7 for Arielle and 12 for David), plus Arielle is an agent with a respected New York book agency. They presented a session on “How to Pitch a Book” followed by the Pitchapalooza at the end of the day. Good people!

So this weekend I learned about book publishing, and that writing and consulting have a lot in common. Marketing is key for both. Now, back to the book!

P.S. Special thanks to my favorite book store – Changing Hands in Tempe AZ – the sponsor of the conference.

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