The Two Pillars

Two essentials for a Successful Book

First, I'm going to show you a picture. It's a picture I sketched, very roughly, that my wonderful artist, galihwindu redrew all professional and shiny like:

So yeah, this is imagery writ large. If you want to learn more about using imagery, I have a course in preparation for the start of 2017 all about using imagery in writing, to explain how you are (almost certainly) using similes wrong, and very likely metaphors too.

This image, I hope, is self-explanatory. But it has a very clear purpose so I'm going to be sure and really spell it out.

The reason for this is that many of you are missing something really important from your self-publishing activities. What you're missing is one of the two pillars. A few (though not many, I hope) may be missing both. But if you don't have both pillars, you cannot have a successful book, and this is as true for non-fiction as it is for fiction, as true for pulp, genre, ephemera as it is for highbrow or literary.

So here's the breakdown of this image:

Supported atop twin pillars is the "successful book." Success may be measured a number of ways, it's true. But if you're self-publishing, success is measured in sales, and to a lesser extent, in positive reviews. You want to get the sales and the positive reviews, you need to understand what the book is resting on.

The left-hand pillar is GREAT MARKETING. Marketing means "telling potential buyers that your product exists, and giving them a reason to buy it." I usually summarize the left-hand pillar:

They can't buy your book if they don't know it exists

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The right-hand pillar is GREAT WRITING. Great writing is writing that satisfies the reader's needs. If you provide the reader with the experience they are looking for, if you satisfy, your writing is great. I usually remind writers that:

They won't buy your next book if they aren't satisfied with this one.

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On top of each pillar is a triangular prism (that's just the name of the type of geomentric solid that I've chosen to represent an idea). The two prisms on top of the two pillars must match, must be symmetrical, because they are the twin consequences of the pillars that support them.

Marketing creates expectations - the cover image, the title, the blurb; but also your choice of genre or category, where you advertize, and to whom. All of these will give the reader an expectation of the contents of the book. An expectation that must be matched by the quality of the book's contents.​

Great writing satisfies the reader's expectations; not just for a specific level of quality, like a minimum of research or the use of a professional copy editor. Great writing is writing that matches up to the expectations that great marketing has created. But remember:

Great marketing creates expectations you know the product will meet - or (slightly) exceed.

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You don't want everyone to buy your book. You want the readers who are going to love it, and keep coming back for more.

The whole is greater...

Once you understand this necessity, and begin working on your two pillars together, you'll begin to see an immediate consequence:

  • Because you focus on satisfying readers expectations, they will enjoy your books more
  • Because you focus on creating the expectation of satisfaction, your marketing communications will become more effective
  • Because each successful book is better than the last, each subsequent book will be easier to write, and easer to sell, than the last

What I can do to make this happen for you:

My expertise is in the second pillar: in creating and telling stories that will give the reader the experience they're looking for. I teach authors how to satisfy readers and keep them coming back for more.

What if you want the other pillar?

At the moment, the first place I suggest you go is Nick Stephenson's blog all about his adventures in marketing books which he has compiled into a highly successful course teaching a tried-and-tested methodology. Much of what is in the course is available free on the blog. The advantage of taking the paid course (if you want to) is the additional help and support you get. But the blog will get you started understanding just how much there is to learn - but also how much of it has already been discovered by others.

There are plenty of other courses out there, some dedicated to authors, and others more general. No one can do all of this for you, and even if you hire people to help you still have to understand what they're doing. As I never tire of saying, you will have to learn, you will have to search.

More about that on my page telling you the six steps to self-publishing.

Do you want readers to clamor for more?

Find out exactly what I can do for you...

Do you have questions about editing

For your book or "for a friend"...

Do you want to know more first?

Explore the various ways that I help authors perfect their work.

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