The Self-Publishing Force-Field Analysis
by Mary Ellen Stepanich
Some of us writers have an affinity for bookkeeping, and when we tally all the self-publishing costs against the income from our book sales, we discover a dismal truth: We make very little – if any – profit from self-publishing our books.
However, some people are successful, and the incomes from their book sales ultimately exceed the expenses. What are the secrets of being successful at self-publishing? Some people, like our group meet-up leader, Laura Orsini, know most of those secrets and the steps that lead to success. One tool that might help us new writers discover the effectiveness of those steps for our own projects is an exercise I once used in teaching effective decision-making: the Force Field Analysis.
Here’s how it works: First, identify the precise goal you are attempting to accomplish. Let’s say a self-published writer wants to make enough royalty on book sales to equal the cost of publishing plus ten percent. That’s a fairly substantial Return on Investment, especially for first-time self-published authors.
Next, write the goal at the top of a blank piece of paper or flip chart. Underscore the goal, and then draw a straight line down from the center of the horizontal line. Label the left side “Positive Forces” and the right side “Negative Forces.”
On the left side of the chart, write down the factors that contribute to the goal and will exert a positive force toward the desired end result. Then, draw an arrow from the factor toward the centerline. The longer the arrow, the more importance that factor has in achieving the goal. Conversely, write down the forces on the right side of the chart that will hinder achievement of the goal, with the strength of the negative force reflected by the length of the arrow.
When all factors have been identified, the next step is to determine actions that will eliminate the negative forces. As the old song says, “Accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative.” Once negative or hindering forces are reduced or eliminated, the positive and enabling forces will help us move toward our goal. In other words, focus on reducing the negatives, which will allow the positives to do their magic.
Each writer must identify the forces in his or her particular market. Some Positive Forces might be: good writing/story, target market awareness, knowledge of technology/graphic arts, 100,000 Twitter followers (….well, that one may be a bit overinflated). Negative Forces might include: insufficient time for marketing, lack of editing skills, and limited target market.
So, get out the flip chart or open a Word document and start brainstorming. You may discover that your self-publishing success is closer than you think.
Dr. Mary Ellen Stepanich is a retired professor of organizational behavior who always told her students at Purdue, “I’m very organized, but my behavior is a bit wonky.” She has published articles in academic journals (boring), show scripts for barbershop choruses and quartets (funny), and an award-winning radio play, “Voices from the Front,” for Sun Sounds of Arizona (heartrending). Mary Ellen lives in Peoria, Arizona, with her cat, Cookie, and blogs on her website, MaryEllenStepanich.com.