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8 Important Questions to Ask Before You Publish Your Book

Carol Tice

Press "publish" computer keyRight now, I feel like I’m drowning.

I’m in the final frenzy of preparing for the launch week of my new print business book, The Pocket Small Business Owner’s Guide to Starting Your Business on a Shoestring.

I’ve learned a lot about book marketing since my previous print book, How They Started, came out, and I’m excited to apply some of the ideas.

In going through this process, I realized there are some basic questions all authors should ask themselves if they are preparing to publish a book, whether self-published ebook, print-on-demand, or physical, traditional press, fiction or nonfiction.

These questions provide a roadmap that will clue you in on whether now is a good time to put your book out, and will steer you to use what marketing time you have productively.

Ask yourself:

1. Who will care about and buy my book?

These days, book sales are all about who you know. How big is your network? Who can you promote this book to? Most importantly, who do you know who has a big audience of their own who’d be willing to review it, interview you, or otherwise help you promote your book?

If you’ve been sitting in your garret writing and are thinking your book is so amazing and irresistible that it will sell itself (as I saw one writer boast recently on LinkedIn)…prepare to be disappointed.

I meet too many writers who write their book and then decide to start blogging to promote it. That gets the order backwards. First, start building your audience and making connections with others in your planned book niche, so that you have a way to market your book.

2. Who will blurb my book?

I saw this eye-opening comment on one of LinkedIn’s author groups recently — a new nonfiction book author wanted to know how she could get the top thought leaders in her niche to give her book some raves for the cover.

She wondered if a traditional publisher could line that up for her. The answer is no. It doesn’t work like that.

The people who blurb your book tend to be people you know well and who likely you have done favors for in the past. If you don’t know him, Bill Gates is not going to blurb your business book, and J.K. Rowling isn’t going to rave about your children’s book.

Blurbing a book is actually a big pain because you have to really read the entire book to make a coherent review comment! It’s a lot of ask as a favor of someone.

I had interviewed quite a few business-book authors over the years as a business reporter and built some relationships there that helped. But if I hadn’t attended SOBCon, I would have been hard up for book-cover blurbs on my first book — about half of them came from relationships I formed there.

3. Who will review my book?

The next thing you need is people willing to read advance copies and post Amazon and GoodReads reviews on publication day, so that readers get the idea it’s a happening tome with an active reader base.

Could you get 50 or 100 people to do that? If so, that will get your book off to a good start. Once you’ve got a nice number of reviews up, other buyers will tend to chime in and add to them.

4. What forms of marketing can I do?

Lots of writers hate talking about themselves, and hate marketing in general. But selling a book involves butt-loads of marketing. Start thinking about what types of marketing you’d be willing to dive into. Could you hit trade shows and do a book tour? Bookstore-based book talks and signings? Rent a billboard? Start thinking about what’s within your comfort zone, time availability, and budget.

Consider what marketing will make the most impact for your particular book. There are only so many hours for book marketing, and you cannot do it all.

Because I’ve been blogging and writing about business for years, I’m focusing most of my energy on tapping the blogging community. I’m submitting my book to business-book review sites, guesting on business podcasts, doing guest posts, and Skype interviews.

That comes naturally to me, and I’m well-connected there. I’m doing a bit of in-person, but since I live in a small town it’s more impactful for me to concentrate on Internet marketing, where I can reach a much larger audience.

5. Can I tap my network for marketing ideas?

The best advice I can give about book marketing is to start asking around about what you should do. You’ll learn a lot.

For instance, I did one post on Facebook and Twitter asking for suggestions and immediately got three leads of business blogs I hadn’t thought to approach, even though they were names I knew.

One of them I turned out to become an instant new best friend on Skype. We turned out to have loads in common. she introduced me to a large Skype mastermind group she’s in, and asked for a video post! You will greatly increase your marketing reach when you ask for help.

I asked one personal friend for ideas and she reminded me that — duh — our town has a daily paper, a monthly lifestyle magazine, and a regional business journal, all of which might write about my book launch event here in town. In fact, as I write this, I see the business journal has posted a release about my local book launch party. That’s a great bit of great exposure I would have probably would have forgotten to pursue without the nudge.

6. How much free time have I got?

In my case, the answer is not a ton, since I need to spend a lot of time helping Freelance Writers Den members. I have dropped some freelance clients, but still have family responsibilities, too.

Unless you can drop everything to become a book-marketing machine, you’ll need to pick and choose your promotional methods. Also, start earlier if you know you’ll need to juggle your schedule with other commitments.

For instance, I gather GoodReads does only marginally well for nonfiction books, and that you should spend an hour a day on there interacting with people to get some real traction. Given that it’s not an ideal platform for my type of book, I decided to fill out my profile and do a giveaway contest (check it out in the sidebar!), but otherwise not make this a big focus.

I think the most important sanity-saver here is realizing book marketing is a bottomless pit. In the end, you need to do all you can with the time and resources you have, and then let it go.

7. Can I do something creative?

I took a book marketing training this week, and one of the things I learned that works well in book marketing is the element of surprise or something unusual. How will you make your book stand out in the sea of new releases?

For instance, the trainer had worked with a Christian book author who did some book-signings in brewpubs, because his theme was taking Christianity to blue-collar people. I’m still brainstorming about what I might do that would be off-the-wall.

8. How does this fit with my goals?

We only have so much time in our writing careers. Each book you write leads your career in the direction of that type of subject matter. Is it something you love? Will you enjoy the opportunities that come out of this particular topic and book type?

As a longtime business writer, I jumped at the chance to boil down 20 years of business interviews into a single, handy guide full of great stories of success and failure that will help other owners stay in business. Writing about business is one of my passions and my future goal is to ghost business books for CEOs, so to me this book was in line with my plan for my writing career.

Are you writing a book? Leave a comment and tell us how you plan to publish and market it. If it’s already out, leave us a link so we can check it out.

The Pocket Small Business Owner's Guide to Starting Your Business on a ShoestringP.S. Want to be an early reader of my book and get a copy free? I’m looking for 50 readers to give me feedback for the ebook version.

(PPS. Thanks all — I now have my 50 readers signed up.)