A few weeks ago, I was afforded the opportunity to attend the Writing from the Soul workshop sponsored by Hay House Publishing. The workshop presenters were Reid Tracy, Hay House President and CEO, Nancy Levin, Hay House Events Coordinator and poet, and Dr. Wayne Dyer, author of over 40 books including, Your Erroneous Zones, The Power of Intention, and most recently, Wishes Fulfilled. Dr. Dyer also stars in the movie produced by Hay House titled The Shift.
The purpose of the workshop was to coach aspiring writers to realize and publish the book of their dreams. They promised to provide inside tips for getting a publisher’s attention as well as reviewing the pros and cons of traditional publishing versus self-publishing.
Reid Tracy, Hay House President/ CEO, brought the importance of “becoming known” to life. The main point was that in a world with no virtual boundaries, there are steps writers must take if they hope to get a publishing contract. Here are the major “take-away” points from the workshop.
- There are A LOT of aspiring writers in the world. At this workshop alone, there were 500 physical attendees and another 300 who joined by virtual streaming. Hay House is putting on another workshop by the same title in New York in a few months. Since the workshops are recorded, expect a Writing from the Soul product to be available for purchase in the coming months. The good news is Hay House is really doing us a service by teaching us the ropes of the publishing world. The tougher news is that there is plenty of competition, which is why this information is so critical.
- Writing and publishing a book is not a get-rich quick scheme. Reid Tracy shared the cold hard facts. Every year, traditional publishers add 80,000 new books to the market. Of the 80,000, only 300 produce sales over $50,000 per year. Comparatively, approximately 200,000 self-published books hit the market in a variety of formats including hard cover and eBooks and they generate even less in sales.
- Prepare emotionally for the task ahead. This treasure came directly from Wayne Dyer. He recommended making two lists. At the top of List One, write the following: “Everything I’m willing to do to make my dream come true.” At the top of the List Two, write: “Everything I’m not willing to do to make my dream come true.” To reach your goal and make your dream come true, there should be only one entry on the second list, and it should read: I’m unwilling to do anything that conflicts with others’ moral rights to do what they want to do. The first list should contain an endless list of items that show, aside from the one item on the second list, you’re willing to do anything and everything to make your dream come true.
- Social proof is the way of the world. In other words, the burden of proof, which includes selling to the public your expertise and your ability to “get known,” is on you, the author. In a global market, publishing companies won’t even look at your beautifully written document unless you’ve already built yourself a platform. It doesn’t matter what you’re trying to say or sell, you can’t do it without a lot of involvement with social media. At a minimum, you must have a Facebook fan page and garner as many followers as possible. Twitter followers are important as well, mostly because you can link your Facebook and Twitter accounts to acquire more traffic. A website is also a must. Most people set up a blog of some sort with the most crucial attribute being your ability to acquire subscribers who provide their email addresses with the hope of getting great information and an occasional freebie delivered directly to their email inbox. The point is social media is viewed as an invaluable tool in the publishing world for getting in front of as many people as possible. According to Reid Tracy, having a platform or not will most likely result in the difference between getting a publishing contract or not.
- Build a personal brand. Through all the involvement with social media, it’s important to realize that what you’re actually doing is building a personal brand for yourself. You are telling the world who you are, what your areas of interest are (This is important for identifying a target audience and potential followers), why you do what you do, and how it will benefit them. Remember, the Internet is a vast and open space. A potential fan can Google your name at any time and see content to which you’ve contributed, including blog and YouTube comments. Going public means opening yourself up to all levels of vulnerability so be smart and consistent in the content you present.
- Promote yourself. Even though there is a lot of competition in a global market, there are also a lot of opportunities. Don’t wait for the once-in-a-lifetime interview opportunity with Oprah. Start promoting yourself now. The easiest way to do this is by finding communities with a similar target population and start commenting on various blog posts. There are multiple benefits to this approach in that you have the potential to tap into a market that is already established and you can often insert a link back to your blog or Facebook page. Once you’ve identified blogs who have the potential to reach your target population, you can approach the blog owner and offer to write a guest post. Again, you’re expanding your reach and linking back to your page. You can do the same thing with YouTube and LinkedIn, both of which have rapidly growing social media audiences.
- Decide on a publishing medium. The advantage of the digital age is that you are no longer bound by the narrow opportunities offered by traditional publishing houses. In fact, you don’t have to worry about costs associated with self-publishing if you take a strictly digital route. The only disadvantage to this approach is that you will be the needle in the haystack unless you’ve established an extremely strong social media platform and have already started touring the speaking circuit. The other thing to realize with eBook publication is that most of the distributors (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Sony, etc.) require the document be formatted specifically for their devices. Rather than trying to be your own distributor, it’s a good idea to get associated with eBook publishers that help with the distribution. Hay House has their own self-publishing company called Balboa Press, but there are other online services such as Smashwords.com that will distribute your product in several different formats to all of the above named online stores except Amazon, and that’s in the works. Expect to make only a small percentage on the sale of your book compared to what the publisher or distributor makes. If you self-publish on Amazon, you can make 70% of the profit if you price your product under $9.99. If you price your book over $9.99, then you only make 35% of the profit. Why? According to Amazon market research, people don’t really want to pay more than $9.99 for an eBook. Of course, if you go with a traditional publisher, you can expect to make only 7-15% of the profits because of the production costs associated with publishing your book. This is another reason why traditional publishers want you to have your platform well established. They don’t want to have to sell your book for you, especially if you’re new to the jungle.
- Find an agent. For someone who has never published, this might seem a bit overwhelming. NEVER pay a potential agent a lot of money up-front. Remember, they are going to work for you. With that said, you want to make sure you hire someone who has experience and a record of success to prove it. Of course, if you’re an unknown, you’re not going to go prancing into one of the top agencies and get noticed. One approach is to think about the communities you’ve started to participate in as part of your platform development. Look for people who have successfully published and approach them for a referral to their agent. If the referral approach isn’t an option, the next best step is to start writing query letters to reputable companies. Reid Tracy specifically recommended looking at publishersmarketplace.com.
- Get organized. As both Reid Tray and Wayne Dyer pointed out at the workshop, not all creative people are particularly organized. Wayne noted: “It’s okay. Not all people’s brains work that way.” He said, “I know mine doesn’t.” If your brain doesn’t work that way, than it will be critical to find an editor you can work with whose brain does work that way. Why do you have to be organized? Because you have to write a book proposal that not only tells the agent what your book is about, but is also sells the book to the agent. The proposal needs to include a plan for marketing analysis and promotion (Hello platform) as well as a competitive analysis showing how your book compares to other well-known books in your niche.
- Hire an editor. I know. We all think that just because we aspire to be writers that we can write (and spell). The last thing you want to do is present your agent with a manuscript that is full of spelling or grammatical errors. A good editor will make sure that never happens. Another important role for an editor is to make sure your document makes sense. It’s a good litmus test for the general public. You might know what you mean, but if it’s not written in such a way that other people get it too, you’re doomed to failure.
- Write from your soul. Yep, this was the last lesson learned. Wayne Dyer claims that he hasn’t written any of his books. Although he’s been the muscle behind the movement of the pen, the content came from a higher place. His message: Have fun. Let the words flow through you and you might be surprised at what you find comes out in the end.