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Tuesday, January 29, 2019

How Authors Make Tough Choices On Writing, Publishing, & Marketing Books

Image result for choices images

A recently published book, Farsighted:  How We Make the Decisions That Matter the Most by Steven Johnson, is a good book by a best-selling author on the big, life-threatening decisions that are really important to us.  It can also be used to make decisions about which book to write, who to publish with, and how to best market your book.

Authors often make choices based on:
·         Emotions:  fear, ego, passion, jealousy
·         Financial needs
·         Time constraints
·         Limited knowledge
·         Rumors
·         Trends
·         Past performance
·         Dreams, goals, and needs

Johnson says that complex decisions:
·         Require full-spectrum analysis
·         Force us to predict the future
·         Involve varied levels of uncertainty
·         Involve conflicting objectives
·         Harbor undiscovered options
·         Need to confront doubt and uncertainty
·         Require anticipating objections and obstacles

Johnson writes:  “When we look back at the trajectory of our lives, and of history itself, I think most of us would agree that the decisions that ultimately matter the most do not – or at least should not – rely heavily on, instincts and intuition to do their calculations.  They’re decisions that require slow thinking, not fast.  While they are no doubt influenced by the emotional shortcuts of our gut reactions, they rely on deliberate thought, not instant responses.  We take time in making them, precisely because they involve complex problems with multiple variables.”

Authors have to make some big decisions, even when they don’t realize the enormity of their choices or in certain cases, that they are actually making a decision by not doing something.

Their first choice is:  What should I write about?  Usually they can answer that based on why they write.  Obviously they won’t write about something unless they have a passion for the subject matter or feel inspired by their experiences or those they have met.  Other times, writers simply point their pen towards money.  They will write for hire or write about something they feel will be profitable.  

Their second choice is:  How will my book be published?  This is a choice that authors usually have made for them. Many try to get published by a big traditional publisher.  Once the rejections pile up – from literary agents or publishers – they decide to consider other options.  Plan B can be to self-publish, go print-on-demand or e-book only, hybrid publishing, or pursuing a small, indie press or a university press.

Their third choice is:  Production.  How will the book cover and interior be designed?  Which editing changes can I live with?  What should the book’s title, sub-title, page count and price be? 

Their fourth choice is:  Marketing.  How will I market this book?  What is my publicity plan, social media plan, advertising, speaking appearances, and approach to special sales and distribution?

Each step of the way, authors need to know what their options are before making a decision – and they need to know the potential rewards and pitfalls of each option.  A big factor in all decision-making moments for the author is timing.  Some decisions get made simply based on where you are at on the publishing timeline spectrum.  Others get ruled by your pocketbook.  That’s inevitable.

But all decisions should emanate from your core vision for your book – your needs, goals, and desires.  Figure out what you want to accomplish, draw a map and the small steps needed to turn a dream into a reality and focus your mind, body, spirit or resources towards the key choices you must make.

Ben Franklin took an approach to making tough decisions by using what he called “moral algebra," where a numerical value could be assigned to every option considered, where one can generate a resulting decision by placing a value on it.

Johnson said of this method:  “I suspect many of us will find this kind of calculation to be too reductive, taking a complex, emotional decision and compressing it down to a complex, emotional decision and compressing it down to a mathematical formula.  But of course, the whole process is dependent on the many steps that have preceded it:  mapping the decision, in imaging scenarios, conducting premortems, and holding charrettes.  The weights and grades only work if they’ve calculated at the end of a full-spectrum investigation of the choice at hand – Still, the same frame work can be applied without actually doing the math: list your core values, think about their relative importance to you, sketch out how each scenario might impact those values, and, based on that more narrative exercise, make your decision.”

Authors, in the end, need to be well-informed and goal-oriented in order to make strong decisions.  The key is not to let fear or greed shape your thinking process.  Let your book lead you into making the choices that will best serve you.


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Brian Feinblum’s insightful views, provocative opinions, and interesting ideas expressed in this terrific blog are his alone and not that of his employer or anyone else. You can – and should -- follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels much more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2019. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s Independent.  This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby http://blog.bookbaby.com/2013/09/the-best-book-marketing-blogs and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. Also named by WinningWriters.com as a "best resource.” He recently hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo America.

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