This is an excerpt from Writing Better Books the Agile Way. You can get a copy here.


 

The best advice I ever got was, “Nobody is coming.” Well, at least without a reason they will not.

Your inner voice may argue that if only every 1,000th person in the country bought your book, you would be a millionaire, then it is time to challenge your inner statistician. Imagine you spent the day in New York City. If only every 1,000th person you met on the street stopped you for a quick chat, your whole day would be busy. But that clearly does not happen. We spend more time on people with whom we have an emotional connection than with those whom we do not. The same applies to books.

As harsh as it sounds, nobody will take an interest in your book just because it exists. If you do nothing but write and then release your book, expect exactly zero sales.

Even if you look up your favorite books, you will discover that they might rank only around #100,000—on Amazon, this translates into roughly one copy sold per day. Even at the #10,000 rank, only around 10 books per day are sold. How can your book compete with these numbers if even your favorite book sells only a few books per day?

First, in fact, 10 books per day is a very respectable achievement. Over a year, that might add up to $20,000 depending on your book price. While you might have heard of book authors making millions, those are the exception. In addition, many book authors are also more focused on using their books as a device for marketing their professional services (see Chapter 2) than on earning money with book sales.

But you might ask, “What about all those services promising to boost your sales or even making your book the next bestseller?”

In that regard, it is best to think and act on evidence: spend only when you know it will reduce your costs or increase your sales—not because you think you might need it later or because an offer sounds attractive.

Instead of trying to invest in things that make you look like a successful author, try to find your own niche with your own audience. In the end, you will enjoy your work a lot more, as you can work creatively in your own style instead of creating second-rate copies of existing work. Ask yourself: what is the unique selling point of your books? Ask yourself how you select the books you are reading. A recommendation from a friend? A positive review on your favorite blog? A random Facebook ad with a questionable cover and unclear title? What emotional reaction will your readers have when seeing or reading your book?

The success of your book depends on finding that niche of readers who want to read exactly what you are writing. You need to be able to explain in detail how and why a reader would take an interest in your book. If not even you know exactly how an ad will engage your readers in reading about or buying your book, your audience certainly will not.

With that in mind, first focus on everything you can do that is free and spend money only when you see a clear need for something. And seeing a clear need for something implies that you have empirical evidence. To get empirical evidence, you first have to have an initial product you can show others and gather their feedback. Start with your own network, give out free copies of your book, and hope your friends and associates will find the time to review your work within a few months. For creating and advertising your book, rely on freely available resources. For example, instead of setting up an author website (because it appears that every successful author has a website), focus on free alternatives like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Google Business, YouTube, or simply your Amazon Author page. Once you get sufficient traffic on those sites, you can proceed with planning the next step based on that data, and so on.

It is also important to note that simply asking is sometimes the best course of action. For example, the designer of an infographic might be willing to share his or her work with you. Sometimes a creator simply wants to know how you want to use his or her work before agreeing that you can use it. As the saying goes, the best things in life are free; if you find a way where you both profit from the exchange, all the better. The mention of the creator and a link to his or her website or published work might be worth more than he or she could get by selling the material.

Writing Better Books the Agile Way means choosing as your next step whatever comes most quickly and with the least expense. Getting better at your work in small increments is the secret and Agile project management techniques can help you to establish a process of continuous improvement.