Thursday, October 8, 2020

How Failing Authors Can Succeed


I spoke to an author the other day who has three self-published novels floating out there, waiting to be discovered and embraced the way a person longs to be found by a stranger, purely loved for who he is. He has explored a few areas and come up empty, trying each one reluctantly and with reserve. But life doesn’t work that way. Wonderful people with lots to offer struggle desperately to find the right mate — and so many authors do not know how to woo readers and establish a loyal fan base, though they may feel deserving of it.

This author knows what he wants, but is uncertain how to get there. He feels jaded by the book industry, and doesn’t believe anything really moves the sales dial, whether it is advertising, book signings, social media, or whatever. He has not given up, but he has not exactly immersed himself into the possibilities out there.

I can understand his frustration. Book marketing is like dieting: it is hit and miss. Nothing works for everyone and not everyone works hard or smart enough to get what they want. Some people can lose hundreds of pounds while others struggle to lose and keep off 15 pounds. Some become best-selling authors while others can’t sell more than a few hundred copies. Why is that?

Well, without going too deep into the worlds of psychology, business, or publishing, here is what it takes to have a chance at publishing success. No guarantees, of course. Success is a personal thing – you define it, you dictate its terms. It is up to you to set and reach your goals. But you need to try, have the right frame of mind, and take real steps every day towards achieving your dreams. Here are the key areas to explore:


This may be the biggest factor for success. Sure, skill, knowledge, connections, and money play huge roles, too, but unless you have the right attitude to achieve, you will fail.


Skills and knowledge are absolutely needed to succeed. Raw talent, education, and your ability and desire to learn will dictate success for sure. But not everything comes with your DNA or upbringing. You can continue to educate yourself – read books, take courses, watch instructional videos, attend seminars – and improve your abilities.


Success takes work and work takes time. Do you have enough time to dedicate and devote to your passion? Craft a budget for your time – look at what needs to be done, plan out a schedule of actions and activities, and commit to them.


Money counts for a lot. It compensates for your time, ability, skill, or desire. What you won’t do, can’t do, or don’t have time to do can be made up, to a degree, with money. It buys you advertising, travel capabilities, access to influencers, and professional help with marketing and promotions. Invest in yourself.

By definition, luck is something that just happens, seemingly randomly, but we know the more situations one puts themselves into, the more chances good luck comes their way. One is lucky to win the lottery, right? But one can’t get lucky unless they buy a ticket. Go buy your ticket, many tickets – and increase your chances for luck to come your way.



People are power. Go on social media or connect at in-person gatherings (whenever they return) and build up your circle of connections. Your network introduces you to people who can help you with resources, advice, support, etc. Grow your network and you grow yourself.



Do you sound energized, passionate, and enthusiastic? People can tell a lot by how you sound and move. To lead and inspire others, you need to sound excited.


Your book’s success is dictated, to a degree, by its level of competition. It competes with other books – and lots of other things for people’s attention, money, and time. You can’t control the level of competition – but you can make sure you provide the best quality book and present it in the best possible light. Where possible, avoid writing in a crowded genre unless you can truly deliver something new, unique, or best-in-class.

Book Quality

How your book is written, edited, packaged, priced, cover-designed, and put together dictates its long-term viability. Sure, a crappy book with a great marketing campaign can get lots of readers and sales, and some very good books can get left behind unless one pulls out all of the stops. As a baseline for success, make sure you put out a quality product.


Books can only sell if someone is selling them. Sure, people can go to your web site or perhaps amazon and Barnes and Noble to get it. But can they find it in multiple forms (hardcover, trade paper, mass paper, e-books, audiobook, gift edition) at multiple price points/discounts, and in multiple ways – online, in various stores, at events, the airport, indie bookstores, etc.?

Pool of Potential Readership

How big of a pool is your readership demographic? Your book is likely not for everyone. Do you know who will likely buy it, where to find them, and what will push them to buy your book?

Dedication and Consistency

You may do everything possible to promote your book today. And tomorrow. Perhaps for a few weeks. But it is not enough. It is mindset that you must commit to – and make sure you are constantly working hard, smart, and passionately at making yourself a success.


Yes, be courageous simply by taking a risk, trying new things, saying no to some, saying yes to others, and taking action to move forward even when the outcome is neither proven nor predictable.


You must believe in yourself and act like it. Speak with energy, confidence, and a sense of urgency. People need to see and feel that you care -- and that you have a strong will.

Accept A Loss Now To Win Later

You may very well spend more money than you make from your book. You may spend countless hours and wonder if you could have done better taking a minimum wage-paying job instead. But you do this because it is a short-term investment for a long-term payoff. You are promoting a book and a brand.

Motivation & Goals

It has been proven that those with goals – and who reset them after achieving them – do well in life. But it takes some effort to feel motivation. Many are self-starters, highly motivated either out of fear of failure or a drive to succeed. What motivates you? Keep at it.


This goes both ways. Your ability to be inspired will help you be successful – and your ability to inspire others will allow you to successfully sell your book and build your brand.


Yes, sometimes doing nothing,resting the body and quieting the mind is exactly what should be prescribed. Pace yourself with timeouts and mental breaks.


You will strive higher, work harder, and overcome challenges with the support of close friends, helpful relatives, a love interest, or others. Lean in on them.

Open To Advice

See a therapist. Listen to a motivational podcast. Read an inspiring book. Hire a professional coach that can advise you not only on life but about the book industry and media landscape.

Invest In Learning

You don’t know it all. Neither do I. But we both know you can learn new things that will help improve your skill set and position you for greater success. Your education doesn’t end with formal schooling. Learn about the things you fear, are unskilled at, or really don’t know much about.

Check Your Beliefs, Assumptions, Values

Get in touch with what you really think of yourself and the world. Come to an understanding of how your beliefs may limit your actions. You are only as good as the information you have input – maybe you need to search further to find the way to succeed.

So, to be clear, there is no exact one-size-fits formula for all authors. And if an author does even half of the above, he or she still is not guaranteed success. But, if you continue to try and not give up, if you look long and hard for a yes rather than quickly accept a no, if you try something new with potential for greatness rather than tried and true for failure, and if you remain optimistic and hopeful, you increase your chances of succeeding.

Good luck to all authors – but only if you actively try!


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Brian Feinblum, the founder of BookMarketingBuzzBlog, can be reached at  His insightful views, provocative opinions, and interesting ideas expressed in this terrific blog are the product of his genius. You can – and should -- follow him on Twitter @theprexpert. He feels much more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2020. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s The Independent.  This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by BookBaby and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. Also named by as a "best resource.” He recently hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo.

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