Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.
In my previous post, I explained how there are only four types of authors in the world. They can be classified into these categories: Successful Authors, Unsuccessful Authors, Dead Authors, and Authors Who Play Dead. When publishers correctly identify where an author belongs, they’re better able to develop a promotional strategy that meets their sales expectations. In this post, I want to address the specific strengths and challenges that successful authors bring to the table.
The Successful Author category is defined by new and established authors who exhibit high marketing effort and exceed sales expectations. Their books generate most of a publishing house’s profits through strong-selling frontlist titles or evergreen backlist books. Successful authors are characterized by an ability to focus high levels of effort on marketing tactics that produce results. They know what to do and how to do it well. They can write a great book that attracts a wide audience. They can speak professionally, blog consistently, conduct media interviews, collect thousands of email subscribers, amass a huge following on social media, etc.
This category also includes those “lucky” authors who seemingly appear out of nowhere and hit the bestseller lists with no marketing effort. Actually, these writers exert a lot of marketing effort by honing their craft so well they can generate widespread word of mouth just by putting words on a page.
The best approach to take with successful authors is to stimulate a desire within them to keep raising the bar. Show how making the bestseller list doesn’t mean they’ve reached the finish line; it means they’ve walked through a doorway where new opportunities abound. For example, James Patterson, J.K. Rowling, and Malcolm Gladwell didn’t stop writing after their first bestsellers. They viewed their initial success as a pathway to a career with unlimited potential.
However, there is a weakness lurking that can trip up successful authors. You cannot just leave them alone and expect their success to continue. Beware of the Success Trap Syndrome (STS). STS is a problem that can cause a successful author to become complacent or develop a sense of entitlement. Consider authors you know who initially sold a lot of books, then began to rest on their laurels. Their marketing effort waned. They became snooty, difficult to work with, and expected the publisher to carry the load. STS can turn a successful author into a zombie writer who winds up in the dreaded “Authors Who Play Dead” category. More details on this scary type of author in an upcoming post.
In many publishing houses, 80% of total sales comes from just 20% of the author roster. Successful authors are rare, and publishers are wise to focus on keeping as many of their authors in this category as possible. What’s the recipe for success with successful authors? Give them more:
1. Give them more resources
Allot more of your marketing budget and personnel time to authors who’ve shown they can generate a return on investment.
2. Give them more attention
Act as a partner who wants to help them build a distinct brand and develop an expanding franchise of books that sells well into the future.
3. Give them more opportunity
Continually supply best practices and new marketing ideas that keep these authors on the cutting edge. Do not let them get complacent.
In my consulting work, I’ve witnessed what happens when a publisher neglects a successful author. That individual usually feels betrayed and becomes resentful. They believe that they worked hard to help the publisher succeed, but the publisher didn’t reciprocate. Naturally, their marketing effort starts to deflate like someone letting air out of a tire. Predictably, their sales start to stagnate. Others take matters into their own hands, jump ship, and take their success to another publisher. Can you blame them?
In contrast, I’ve consulted with publishers who openly invested in their successful authors. For instance, I worked with a mid-size house whose top-selling author was starting to lose sales to competition in her genre. We worked together to revitalize that author’s brand, build a new website to capture more readers, and develop new word of mouth tools. Those efforts helped expand the author’s audience by over 30%, and her following six books hit the New York Times bestseller list!
Successful authors already have momentum. They know what it takes to create results. In addition, they usually like to learn and continue honing their craft. It’s easier for them to implement new marketing tactics, generate a return on investment, and create exponential growth for publishers. As the old adage goes, success breeds success.
In my next post, we’ll look at the Unsuccessful Author category and discuss how many of these authors can become successful when given the proper know-how.