Around the middle of November 2016, I published my first book, “System Upgrade v2.016.” This is not the first book I wrote in my life. The one before this was longer and more difficult to read. It was a cross-section of many philosophies, more introspective, much more complex... but, as I never got support from the inner circle of my friends, who were unable to understand it or unwilling to read it, it never got out. That had a quite negative influence on me, as I felt too insecure to even approach a publisher.
So, fast-forward many years. I’ve changed, and the way I think and write has also changed. Now, I know that I need to slow down, simplify things, give less information, and focus. The new book is much easier to read, but, again, I could not avoid squeezing in some intricate complexity and layers behind layers — additional puzzles within the narrative. While I was writing it, I sent it to a couple people, random beta readers, and I got encouraging responses. As I thought that the ideas I was writing about are important, I felt it would be selfish of me to not share it and not publish it this time.
The decision has been made. But, there was a catch. I am a first-time publishing author; rarely will publishers take an interest in first-time authors. Additionally, and I am quite certain when I say this, in the beginning, people will not care about your ideas. You can be a new Einstein or Adam Smith, but, if you do not have a background, it will be very very hard, so be prepared to walk that mile. You will walk that mile until those ideas you are trying to convey hit the heads that actually get what you saying.
Luckily, nowadays, technology has advanced. It has never been easer (ok, I will say that with a big cough! cough! that is, if you are prepared to learn all those software tools) to self-publish a book, so, I did that.
I took matters in my own hands, and I’ve done it on my own. I do not even want to mention how little I knew and how many mistakes I made...
But, my biggest mistake by far was my optimism. That ecstatic feeling when you just want to say, “Hey, world, look at this idea! Isn’t it great?”
At that time, I was convinced that the most difficult thing about book writing is the actual writing process — the process of expressing ideas in the narrative that won’t be very difficult to follow, but now I know. I learned my lesson.
Actually getting your book out there is much harder nowadays than ever before, although it looks like it should be quite the opposite, as the self-publishing process is easier than ever before. However, that is not the case.
One of the reasons for that is that we’ve built a society on ideas of competition, and the public is used to focusing on the minority on the top — the victors — regardless of the field they are working in. This effect is quite interesting, especially as, in my book, I am explaining the general issue of competition and pyramidal systems in our society, as well as what kind of mess that is creating. Ironically, now I could feel it on my own skin.
Secondly, the planet’s population has grown significantly, and the number of players has dramatically increased, but, as there can be only a small number of victors, the task of just getting on the surface has become significantly tougher. Those who are already on the surface use powerful marketing tools to stay up there.
Additionally, unlike in sports where when someone retire or dies is out of the game, in book writing those who have already succeeded in getting to the surface from the bottom of the “sea” can stay on the surface for a very long time.
Google recently announced that there are 129,864,880 books in the entire world *1, and, if you are a writer, in some sense, you are competing with all of them. I read somewhere that an average person will read around 6,000 books during her or his lifetime, but those numbers are exaggerated. 100 books a year in this day and age of increasingly fast lifestyles sounds like quite a high number. I would say that the probable number is around 200 to 500 books, at best, meaning that the chance the average person will read your book is 0.0000038, or 1 in 260,000.
Regarding that, we can envision serious implications on our society, such as shadowing those who may contribute with new fresh ideas that can be helpful for solving the real-world problems we have. As those people do not have a voice and no proper resources, they will stay on the bottom, unable to rise.
From time to time, our friends tend to be a voice of comfort — pulling out Vince Lombardy quotes and saying, “It's not whether you get knocked down, it's whether you get up.”
How to explain your struggle to them — and that it is not about you not wanting to get up, but rather that the problem is a “huge concrete block” on your neck, specially designed to keep you on the ground.
. . .
So, what are some of the things I have done wrong?
There are many things, but the following are what I have identified for now:
I have explained this in a separate post “How to ruin your book sales with the wrong title.”
Steve Ballmer, former CEO of Microsoft, among other things, is very famous for his frantic repetition of the word “developers, developers, developers.” I will do the same with the word “marketing, marketing, marketing.”
Although I am far from being successful, I can tell you with the high certainty: marketing is the part I am lacking. That is the part that all artists, coders, and designers struggling around the world in the Apple, Google, and Microsoft app stores, or any other stores, are lacking. They simply do not know how to market themselves. So, many times, if you search very deeply, in those stores, you will find amazingly good apps that have not been sold more than 5 times. The sheer volume of apps is simply preventing them from surfacing.
In nature, bee scouts have a specific behavior: in order to show the swarm where a good field, full of flowers is, which can yield a lot of honey, scout bees dance. How long, strong, and captivatingly they dance will determine whether other bees will follow.
Now, bees have two advantages: the number of “dance” competitors is smaller, and, more importantly, they do not know how to lie (as far as we know).
The major obstacle for a good marketing campaign is resources.
Big publishers have a structure (recipe) that is created to find out what is commercial, filtering out everything else, and, when they find what they need, they will put sometimes even millions into play, in order to create bestselling titles.
Struggling indie artists, on the other hand, often do not have enough resources to get through monthly expenses, and giving up those already small savings is quite a gamble; many don’t want to be involved in that game. Somewhere, I found information stating that the majority of indie authors never sell more than 100 copies of their book *2. Some of those do sell a bit more, doing so using strategies where they lose a majority of their earnings on marketing efforts.
There is also a misconception that social networks, like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, could help you with the marketing for free. Nothing is free. Most of these social networks introduced algorithmic timeline posts, and tweets do not have as significant a reach as they had only a few years ago. If you want to reach more people, well you will need to pay.
If you do not pay with money, you will pay with time, and that is the most valuable currency you will ever have.
When you publish your book, do not do it at the end or the middle of month, like I did. Try to do it at the beginning, and the 1st is the best date. Also, do a bit of research about holidays and which holiday is usually good for new book releases.
Know your public
This falls under the marketing category. You have to know, who are the people you are targeting?
Who is your audience?
For instance, at the beginning, my idea was to target everyone, as those problems concern everyone. Oh boy, how wrong was I!
If there are 5 people in a car that is speeding to its doom, it is just a complete waste of time explaining to the children in the back seat that cars need to slow down, or else.
So, yes, that was wrong. Even if your book has an impact on all people, you have to target those who can understand and even maybe help you to convey the things you are trying to do.
. . .
Among those major mistakes, probably I have made many more, like with the writing process, and who knows how many more.
In addition to all the mistakes I have made, I found something quite curious: an embedded system fault that works against all of Amazon’s writers, with exception of those on the top. I already wrote about it in the “Amazon sellers, Amazon ranking is screwing your sales” post.
So, there you go. I did not mean to scare you from pursuing you passion. Although I lost a professional year and tons of my savings, still, I could not imagine it differently. I have pursued my passion, and maybe my book is not the best book you will ever read, but it is mine, and I have done it.
So, if you ever decide to write a book, please learn from my mistakes, and one more thing: for heaven's sake, do not quit your day job. You can reduce the number of working hours, but do not go out into the wild, unprepared, and expecting that you are the one who will find Shangri-La. Yes, I know some people have done it, but, statistically, that number is negligible.
Think about it: if someone offers you the chance to gamble, where you will either get $10 million dollars or lose your right hand, knowing that the chance to win is only 0.0004%, would you play that game?
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