Let me tell you a secret: this is at once the worst and the best time to try to publish a book. On the one hand, competition is fierce and the marketplace is highly competitive. On the other hand, you can be your own boss as an author and get full control of your marketing, sales, and overall creative direction.
This is why marketing can truly help you stand out from the crowd. Not too long ago, I had the pleasure to chat with the amazing Kelly Notaras for the Creative Impact Show. In her book, The Book You Were Born To Write, she explores how the book business works today — and how you can break into it. This was a goldmine for a book nerd like yours truly.
”You have a mission — if you have that book dream in your heart, you are someone’s only hope. You are the one they need to hear it from. So you must write it.” – Kelly Notaras
“When I was working in New York publishing, I remember there was a book that came out that was called the Long Tail. It was an economic theory that said that over the course of time, with the advent of the Internet, and the way you can buy basically anything that you want, it’s we’re going to start having this ultimate choice around who and where we get our information, and then also our products in that case” recalled Notaras.
“The things that I think has happened already, with the advent of print on demand digital self-publishing, is that now we can find exactly the author who resonates with us with the person’s life story that’s like ours.”
Editor, writing coach, and Hay House veteran Kelly Notaras wrote this book to dispel a lot of myths with regards to the writing and publishing process, so you can get your world-changing ideas out of your head and into a book that will help them actually change the world.
“500 years ago, most books were written by men, the vast majority, or should say most books that were published were written by men. Most of the published books are written by men. So women who are looking for self-help, personal growth, etc, had to go to men. Now, if you would rather hear it from a woman who’s walked in your shoes, and in your body, etc, you can actually go and find that same information written by someone, your age group, your gender, whatever your gender identity, your sexuality, whatever it is that you’re looking for, you can find it now.”
This is such a powerful shift that can benefit all aspiring authors, as they can feel met by books in a different way and at a different level because there are so many more out there.
“I encourage anyone and everyone to get their voice out there, as there is someone who will only hear the message from you.”
Kelly Notaras has a hell of a pedigree: she isn’t simply another business owner or entrepreneur who’s written a book or several, its author is a professional writing coach, editor, and ghostwriter. As someone who writes mainly about self-help and personal growth, I had to agree with Notaras when she pointed out that we are all saying the same thing, in a certain way.
“We’re talking about how to be happier, how to be more in love with ourselves, how to set aside the criticism, how to stop looking outside of ourselves, etc”
In one way, the idea that you are just a drop in the ocean can be discouraging at first, especially when you are approaching your very own book idea. However, Notaras reminds us that nobody is you, and that is your superpower: “we can find just the right person who can say it to us in a way that would not be reached by someone else’s book.”
All you need is a hook
What can help you be that person? What is the one thing that you can work on today, to get your book closer to that target audience that truly needs to hear from you? You got to learn how to create a powerful hook.
I appreciate that the sentiment behind sharing your message with the masses may be inspiring, but what can you do in practicality to start standing out from the crowd?
You need to have what (in marketing speech) we call a hook. Hooks are also very common as a concept in the publishing world, but it could be called an elevator pitch, or a unique value proposition, or a positioning statement. Hooks are great for non-fiction books, but I believe that a lot of fiction writers can also learn from this concept.
“It’s essentially the answer to the question ‘oh, I heard you’re writing a book, what’s your book about?’ And you say, Oh, I’m writing a book about… And then you finish that sentence.”
Kelly Notaras revealed that many people don’t know how to answer that question. They’ve already paid for coaching for their book, they’re ready to write their book, but they can’t answer the question about what their book is about. She adds how this could be a good time to work with a book coach, as they can help you get into the right hook, one that is narrowly tailored, meaning it really speaks to a specific audience.
The truth is that especially as early-stage authors, the more specific you can get around your audience, the more likely you are to find an audience because that will make you stand out from the big names everybody knows.
“For that person who hasn’t written a book, these are the very important details that you need. You’re going for a smaller audience, do not ever say ‘my book is for everybody’, because then you’re in competition with people whose names are household names.”
Refine your audience as much as possible
You want to choose a very specific audience that your book is for. Kelly Notaras uses the example of her book and her target audience to illustrate her point.
“Mine, for example, is for people writing transformational nonfiction. If you’re writing fiction, you’ll get something out of it, but really, it’s meant for people who are writing self help personal growth, inspirational memoir, that is what I’m looking for. That’s what I work with. That’s why people need it.”
There’s not a book out there that’s just for that group, and that is because she wanted to reach an audience that wasn’t yet being touched. I want you to think about that. What is the audience that falls under your niche that’s not yet being reached?
Notaras challenges you to find that niche audience that’s not actually yet being addressed directly — this is what she means when talking about narrowly tailored, high concept: “it means that you can answer what the book is about in one sentence.”
“Often at times, I’ll say to an author, so what’s your book? 20 minutes later, they still won’t be sure. That’s not gonna get us anywhere. We have to sell this book to readers if we’ve got a split second to grab their attention.”
Your hook has to be high concept, meaning they get it right away. After that, you can explore your uniqueness. You need to figure out what’s that angle you are trying to explore. What’s your niche audience? What’s that one slice of the pie that hasn’t yet been written in book form? This, however, does not mean your book should be too obscure either.
“I want you to be working in a category that actually has readers, I want there to be some books in your category. If there are not, that’s a good sign that there aren’t actually readers interested which lead to the next point, which is saleable.”
Grab that sale
Another piece of the hook puzzle lies in the idea that you want your book to be saleable. Yet, this lends a very simple question which is how do you know whether your book is saleable in the first place?
She explains that in the publishing world there’s something called Bookscan, or NPD, that allows people to look up a particular title and find out how many books have sold, yet it’s something most people do not have access to.
Kelly Notaras has a way to work around that by going to Amazon and look at the books that are in the same category. Don’t look at their sales rank, because sales rank is so volatile, but look at the number of reviews they have, because only a small fraction of readers actually leave a review. So if you’ve got hundreds of reviews, that means that book is doing really well, because that’s maybe 1% of the total sales.
“Look at reviews on Amazon to find out if your category has saleable books and which ones they are and read them” adds Notaras “I do not want you to tell me that you’re not going to read books in your category because you don’t want to copy someone. I want you to read so many books in your category, that you will never be accused of copying just one other book. As you’ve read so many, you’ve received influence from all of these different authors.”
When creating a hook you want it to be unique, specific, and saleable, but you also want it to be magnetic. “When you see it, you hear something, you’re like ‘Oh, that sounds great. I want to read that.’ Versus it falling with a thud.”
That magnetism often comes from bringing a topic that you’re interested in into a new light like there’s something brand new about it. “You want people to relate with the book as they resonate with the topic, but they have never heard that angle, that brings up that magnetism.”
Some say creating a powerful hook is an art, and I do believe that myself. However, creating powerful hooks does not have to be hard after all. Ask yourself the right questions, and create a powerful sentence that can encapsulate what the book is truly about.