Joel rarely writes for his blog any more, but it is a treat when he does. Today’s article is an excellent example of why his blog is so good: clean, concise, and useful. We can boil down the advice to the following:
Fiction authors are unknown
Fiction is marketed to a much wider audience who is initially unknown by the author. The new author needs to work very hard on becoming known. Giving away books is essential as you first get started. You need to think of yourself as a brand so that your marketing is consistent and builds on your success. To quote Joel:
The main obstacle for new fiction authors is obscurity.
You can publish, but who will know?
Fiction sales in the new self-publishing paradigm tend to build slowly and grow. The most important thing you can do is get the next book out. Trilogies and series work very well. They help you connect with readers and build fans of your writing.
You need to be careful of things like books which will be outdated before they can become popular. That has happened to both of my first two fiction releases. In addition, fiction for me is a part-time enterprise almost completely overrun by my non-fiction books and this blog. You can go to Reality Calling to see what I am doing with that aspect of my writing and publishing work.
Non-fiction authors are experts
For this reason a blog is much more important. Here you satisfy your readers with constant and continuous updates in your field. You are going to be much more focused and your niche will be much smaller than the wider public served by fiction. To quote Joel again:
The biggest challenge for nonfiction authors is identifying their readers
Unlike fiction, nonfiction is sold to a targeted segment of the market
It takes a great deal of study and continuous work in improving your skills to build your reputation in non-fiction. You need to carefully be aware of your readers—who they are and in what niche they are found. Your blog will change as this occurs.
But, again, this is a slow long-term growth. I’ve been working on my non-fiction content full-time since 1991. It is built off the digital printing & publishing coursework I developed at Albuquerque TVI in the 1990s. I wrote the first book on the all-digital commercial printing workflow in 1994 with Printing in a Digital World. The first area to take off online was my font design blog. I started it in 2006 or so after a couple of flailing (and failing) attempts using WordPress.com. By the end of 2012, it became clear that my niche is book design using InDesign. It much more directly uses the expertise I learned with a couple decades of graphic design and art direction experience within commercial printing coupled with nearly two decades teaching digital publishing. My font designs were incorporated into my work and became part of my knowledge base for typography.
This whole process has been discovery—with continuous surprises along the way. As a non-fiction author, your story will have similarities. It will not be built on your books per se. It will be based on the expertise you share in your books, blogs, speaking engagements, and so on. But popularity for this body of work is very recent for me. This blog has only begun to be popular in the past few months.
You cannot make or break your career quickly. It takes time, either way.