I mentioned in my last blog post that I was reading ‘How To Market A Book’ by Joanna Penn (@creativepenn). I finished it by the end of the first week in August. Then I wrote my review. This is what I posted on Amazon: –

Good advice – if you can afford it
It’s hard to argue with anything Joanna Penn says. If you’re just starting out on your writing journey, then this book will be a vital resource. If you have been at the game for several years you should have tackled (if not mastered) most of the basics she covers, but there are probably new tips between these covers she has spotted you can to add to your armoury.
My only reservation on giving the full five stars for this book are the financial implications involved, which are somewhat glossed over. Getting a professional cover designed, then having a full-length novel adequately edited, and formatted for publication can set you back a minimum of a thousand dollars.
There are free, and cheap promotion sites out there, as the writer points out, but they rarely deliver significant returns. Once you add in the extra costs of adverts on social media, whether Amazon, Twitter, or Facebook, then the financial commitment is significant.
In a ‘How To’ book such as this it’s necessary to cover a vast array of avenues, or ‘opportunities’, and as Ms Penn points out, you don’t have to do ALL of these things at once. Who can afford to anyway?
A newcomer needs to be aware just how much you might have to commit, if you are hell-bent on making a career out of writing. The statistics are readily available. Only a very small percentage of self-published writers are successful. Over ninety-percent will sell around fifty copies of their first book to family and friends, regardless of how many of the ‘essential’ items they tick off the list provided by writers like Joanna Penn.
You can only achieve so much by investing time too, instead of money, as she suggests, and who wants to spend virtually every waking hour searching for the right genre, the perfect set of keywords, and the promotion sites that give you a half-decent chance of a return on your investment?
The only people guaranteed to come out in front financially from a court case are the lawyers, as we are all aware. In the writing game, the cover designers, editors, book promoters, and advice experts can make a good living out of those who sweat blood trying to write the best books they possibly can. It’s a long, hard road, and although books like this appear to provide the answer, I would advise caution.
There is no magic bullet; and as in many other walks of life money talks the loudest. By all means, use this valuable resource as much as you can, but keep a running total of the rough cost of all the things you must do. Keep a close eye on your purse-strings, it can be expensive.

Now, I’m sure Joanna Penn, who lives only a few miles up the road from me, is a lovely lady. She HAS written best sellers under various pen names, so she’s more entitled than most to pass on her knowledge on how best to go about it. My point is that Joanna, and many others, will earn far more from this type of publication than perhaps only ONE PERCENT of the authors that buy into their ‘How To’ philosophy hoping to find the key to a golden future.

To support my claim that the ‘How To’ brigade are the ones really coining it in at your expense, Alex Newton (K-lytics) has just issued his detailed report on the non-fiction genre. It’s a growing market with over 780 million dollars spent in the past 12 months on self-help, skills and self-motivation books in the US alone. A healthy proportion of this sum was spent by authors hoping to learn ‘How To’ get their first best seller.

Can you be successful without it costing you a small fortune? I believe so. Your first step is to define what ‘success’ means to you. I’ll leave you to ponder that for a week or so, and then I’ll post again in early September with my suggestions for a low-cost, low-risk strategy to achieve a realistic level of book sales.

Before you ask, no, I don’t have a book to sell, nor will my suggestions cost you a cent. I clearly don’t have all the answers, or I would have achieved my own best seller by now. I merely want to share my own experiences with you, in order to save you time and money. I offer a helping hand; what have you got to lose by taking it?

Categories: The Long Hard Road