Writing the Book Is the Easy Part
by Marcus A. Nannini
The topic for the Phoenix Publishing and Book Promotion Meetup of January 19, 2019, was “Your Book as a Business.” I am picking up on that theme with today’s blog.
Tremendous emphasis is placed on the process of writing a book. Persons and websites dedicated to the topic are scattered across the globe. Specialized groups and paid services exist to assist with any portion of writing a book, from getting the first line written to editing and proofing the final manuscript. All serve a purpose, but in my opinion, before writing word one, the author had better have a Game Plan. I am referring to a long-term Game Plan for success, not simply a Game Plan for getting the book written.
Merriam-Webster defines game plan: (n) a strategy for achieving an objective.
The word “objective” is the key, and what follows is how I formulate my objective as a dollar amount.
Writing a book requires the expenditure of a great deal of time. For example, I have invested no fewer than 2,000 hours of my time in bringing my most recent book from initial interview to Publisher’s Final Proof. Soon I will have put another 2,000 hours into PR for the book. Yes, I have five people at the publisher dedicated to promoting my book worldwide, but it is my book and my time investment, so I will go to no end in my quest to leave no marketing opportunity overlooked. My efforts can only help sales.
Why would anyone spend so much time marketing, even with the support of a large publisher? It is part of my Game Plan, which is founded upon the money I deem my time to be worth on an hourly basis. At the start of the project, which was actually to write a magazine article, I had no idea how much time the project would consume, but I did have a monetary number I set as an hourly goal.
A professional needs to place a value on their time. Time cannot be replaced, so if I am going to expend my time in the production of a book, I’d better have a good idea of how I value the time I diverted toward the project (and away from other things) and convert it into a monetary reward.
Determine the dollar amount you believe your personal time is worth. Before doing so, bear in mind that this time you will invest has nothing to do with your job, present or past, and everything to do with the use of an irreplaceable commodity you will expend, to the exclusion of spending that time with the people important to you. With that in mind, keep the dollar amount reasonable. I value my time at $250 an hour.
Therefore, the 2,000 hours I invested, compensated at a rate of $250 an hour, will yield a result of $500,000.
$500,000 is the basic goal around which I built my Game Plan.
A goal without a Game Plan is nothing more than a meaningless number. One of the reasons I joined Phoenix Publishing and Book Promotion in the first instance was to get some help devising my Game Plan. What I learned along the way took me from self-publishing, to an indie publisher, to a large publishing house – in less than two years.
I developed a Game Plan based on the combination of help from Laura Orsini, who facilitates Phoenix Publishing and Book Promotion, and individual research. I am a researcher by trade so that part came more easily.
My Game Plan changed from what I needed to do to achieve publication in a magazine (achieved) to what I needed to do to produce a successful book (also achieved). The Game Plan evolved over time, but the financial goal remained unchanged.
As I wrote my newest book, my Game Plan was telling me:
- “I need a good title.”
- “I need a presentation to draw in a book buyer.”
- “I need to keep the reader turning the pages.”
- “I need a package a publisher will desire.”
- “I need a final product reviewers will love and bookstores will purchase.”
I went back-and-forth with the title, though the subtitle never changed and made it all the way to the published book. I was excited with both primary titles, and those titles served as marketing guides for me. The title is part of the Game Plan for converting a book into money.
As I wrote the book I envisioned the publishing houses which might be most interested in it. I researched all of them and narrowed my book pitch to the three best publishers. I do not use a literary agent so I could not directly solicit the Big Five publishers. But I did the next best thing, focusing on my top three choices, and began to draft sample synopses as I went along. By drafting the synopses in that manner I was fine-tuning my book pitch. I created a backup list of approximately 15 other publishers, but I focused on publishers that were large enough to pay an advance and which had both strong staffing and a significant market presence. Eventually all three requested the manuscript.
To write the book without an eye toward the endgame is to waste time.
I also spent time researching contacts at genre magazines, as my Game Plan included seeking out reviews from the magazine media. By the time my first draft was concluded, I had accumulated contact information for about seven genre magazines, five of which eventually asked for review copies.
My idea of a Game Plan means I hit the ground running the day my final draft was completed and ready for presentation.
As I wrote each synopsis, relevant phrases would pop up for me to use in my efforts to “hook” the attention of an Acquisitions Editor in my book pitch. From day one, I knew I would need to make my book stand out if it was going to draw attention from a publisher. That is only one reason the title is important.
My Game Plan was multifaceted and addressed just about every aspect involved in creating a commercially successful book. I even modified Chapter Titles to address the broad range of potential buyers. Again, no stone unturned. I never lost sight of the fact that the book would need to be marketed and continuously worked on my book pitches. Some nights, I would wake up and run to the laptop so I could write a potential “hook.”
I am now a few weeks away from the North American release date and a couple months away from my newest book’s release in the UK, EU, Australia, and New Zealand. As the release approaches, I have accumulated more than 15 requests for advance reviewer copies (ARCs) and spread the word to bookstores in every country that the book will be made readily available. As for my personal marketing campaign, the details are too much for a blog, but I will say I use my marketing time with the intent of it returning $250 an hour, minimum.
My Game Plan has phases, and now that I am approaching the release dates, the plan moves into the post-publication phase. I believe an author can never sit back and wait. Nor do I believe in counting on the efforts of others, even when their income (book sales) depends upon the book’s success. Nobody has more invested in a book than the author. An author should never stop pushing.
My latest book is Left for Dead at Nijmegen, the True Story of an American Paratrooper in World War II. I had an initial webpage posted long before I completed the book and believe it is a good idea for anyone writing a book to do the same. There are also Google page ranking considerations in early website publishing, so long as you update the contents frequently.
You may wonder What the heck is “Nijmegen?” My other working title was Dinner with Himmler. The problem with the Himmler title was my inability to find another eyewitness to attest to Himmler’s presence at the time and place he appears in the book. I have plenty of supporting evidence, but no third-party eyewitness. See: https://chameleonsthebook.com/where-was-heinrich-himmler.
I ran the Nijmegen title past several groups of people, and the Left for Dead… won. The publisher liked it, so it became the title I am running with. I can also say that every bookstore in the Netherlands is aware of and likely to carry the book. The city of Nijmegen celebration committee is planning on bringing the book’s hero and his wife to Nijmegen this fall.
As an aside, the sale of publishing rights in Holland, Germany, Ukraine, and Russia were always a part of the Game Plan. I also never lost sight of the movie possibilities. See: https://chameleonsthebook.com/left-for-dead-at-nijmegen-the-motion-picture/.
In summary, a Game Plan must be devised before an author writes the first word. The plan will evolve, of course, but it must remain top of mind at all times to achieve maximum results. Never set your sites low. On the other hand, don’t set totally unrealistic goals. Always, always keep your goals at the forefront of your efforts.
Marcus Nannini began his journalistic career when he published his own newspaper in the sixth grade, charging 25 cents for the privilege of reading the only printed copy of each edition. During his undergraduate years, Nannini was a paid reporter and worked three semesters as the research assistant for journalism professor and published author Richard Stocks Carlson, Ph.D. Nannini is a life-long history buff with a particular interest in World War II and the Pearl Harbor attack. His continuing curiosity over several Japanese aerial photographs and the turtling of the U.S.S. Oklahoma lead him to write Chameleons, first as a screenplay and now as a full-length novel.